Thai authorities recently announced that one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations, Maya Bay, will remain indefinitely closed to the public.

Maya Bay is located near the islands of Phi Phi – about 60km from Phuket – and was shut down for the first time in June this year after its coral reef was discovered to be severely damaged. The biggest culprit? Boat anchors.

The place was initially set to reopen on Oct 1 but authorities from Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation have decided that the area needed more time to fully recover.

“Imagine having no break from tourists for nearly 20 years. This is the chance for the beach to fully recover. Four months is not enough,” Worapoj Lomlim, chief of Nopparat National Park, which Maya Bay is a part of, said in a statement.

So far, officials have managed to plant around 3,000 new coral colonies and numerous trees on the island since the closure.

Other areas being scrutinised include the Similan Islands National Park.

Similan is located about 80km away from Phuket. There are 11 islands in the cluster: Bon, Ta Chai, Huyong, Pa Yang, Pa Yan, Miang, Ha, Pa Yu, Hin Pousar, Similan and Ba Ngu.

Like Maya Bay, the islands are well known for their vast variety of marine life and pristine beaches. However, increasing tourism in recent years has caused some damage to the environment there.

To prevent full closure similar to Maya Bay, Thai authorities have taken even more steps to tackle growing environmental issues. Tourists are no longer permitted to stay overnight on the islands, except for visitors who are part of a tour operated by a handful of licensed deep-sea diving tour companies. Day trips are permitted.

Due to weather conditions, Similan Islands are only open to the public from mid-October to mid-May every year.

Of course, Thailand has hundreds more islands and beaches that you can check out. Some may be more difficult to get to, but all the extra effort is usually worth it once you’re standing on the shore, staring at a beautiful sunset.

Here are some of our choices:

Koh Yao

Koh Yao Yai is a beautiful place to visit. Photo: OLE POPHAL/Wikimedia Commons

Koh Yao comprises two sister islands – Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi – as well as a few smaller islands surrounding the area. Yao Yai is the “older sister” but in terms of development, Yao Noi is more progressive.

There are many beautiful bays and beaches on Koh Yao including Klongson, Thiwson, Maipai and Pa Sai. Activities like kayaking and snorkelling are allowed here, and there are a number of resorts and hotels to choose from, too.

However, what makes Koh Yao stand out is the fact that this place is pretty quaint, with many villagers still practising traditional methods of farming and fishing. Visitors are encouraged to check in at homestays and join in some of these activities with local hosts.

You can get to Kho Yao from Phang Nga, Krabi or Phuket.

Koh Phra Thong

One of the beaches at Koh Phra Thong. Photo: visitkhaolak.com

Phra Thong island is situated in the Mu Koh Ra-Koh Phra Thong National Park in Phang Nga Province. Crystal clear waters and a beautiful coral reef make the island a great place for folks seeking a relaxing holiday.

Inland, Koh Phra Thong is a vast plain with forests, grasslands and a peat swamp – there are no hills on this island, which is quite fascinating. You can easily trek along some of the trails where you might find wild animals and birds. If you’re lucky, you might also get to see the very rare dugong swimming around the area.

It is said that Koh Phra Thong is one of Thailand’s last unspoiled coastal destinations.

To get to the island, you need to first make your way to the Khura Buri district.

Koh Chang

Activities like kayaking are available at Koh Chang. Photo: KayakChang.com

Elephant Island (its headland is shaped like an elephant), or Koh Chang, is the third largest island in Thailand after Phuket and Samui. It is located in the Trat Province, which is near the Cambodian border.

The island is part of the Mu Koh Chang National Park and although many tourists have found their way there, it is still a charming place to check out.

Apart from having attractive beaches and bays, Koh Chang also offers other natural beauties including waterfalls, forests and mountains. The highest peak on the island is Khao Salak Phet which stands at 743m.

If you’re the adventurous type, you can try to make your way to the majestic Klong Neung waterfall, located in the south-eastern corner of the island.

Trat Province has a domestic airport, making it easier for tourists to get to the island.