There are hundreds of beaches and islands to choose from in Thailand, and while many do involve a flight to the south of the country, here are a few that are closer to Bangkok, plus some of the top draws that require longer travel. If you need a quick dose of sun, Ko Larn, which lies just offshore of Pattaya, is a great bet, with plenty of white sand and beautiful water. For solitude seekers, Ban Krut on the mainland is an excellent choice. For easy access, good resorts, and a nice small town feel, Hua Hin can't be beat. Slightly further afield, the eastern Gulf islands of Ko Mak and Ko Kood remain real tropical paradises, with pure squeaky white sand, turquoise water, and plenty of long sunsets to gaze into.
If all these are too close to home, hop one of the many budget flights now available out of Bangkok and head south to the Andaman or Gulf coasts. On the east side, Ko Tao remains lesser developed, with good diving and its cute offshore paradise island of Ko Nang Yuan. Back on the Andaman side, the rock climbing cliffs of Railay Bay are as famous as its paradise white sand beaches, worthy of an extended vacation. And then there is the grand old dame Ko Phi Phi, certainly overtouristed yet still gorgeous after all these years.