The 10 Best Party Islands in Southeast Asia

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Southeast Asia has almost too much to love. It's home to beautiful ancient temples, lush jungles, stunning beaches, amazing culinary traditions, and tons of cheap hotels. But as many tourists from around the world know, there's another reason to splurge on a flight to this corner of the world: partying really, really hard. In fact, Southeast Asia is flush with some of the world's most infamous party destinations -- and we're not talking about Bangkok, Siem Reap, and Hanoi. In fact, the islands in Southeast Asia are some of the most iconic party spots on earth. After all, there's almost nothing better than throwing down and waking up next to beaches that can cure even the worst hangover. With that in mind, we've broken down the region’s 10 best party islands.

1. Koh Phangan, Thailand

Full Moon Party; Image courtesy of Joe Stump via Flickr
Full Moon Party; Image courtesy of Joe Stump via Flickr

Are there bigger islands in Southeast Asia? Yes. Do any of them match Koh Phangan’s massive party scene? Not even close. This is — essentially — the Ibiza of the east, albeit an Ibiza with lots of delicious Thai food, cheap drinks, and a monthly bacchanal that celebrates the full moon. The full moon party here is one of the world’s most famous beach parties, and takes place once a month in Haad Rin. Can’t make it for the full moon debauchery? There are half moon parties, too. Keep in mind that the island floods with travelers at these times, so you’ll want to book well in advance. And if you’re planning on doing more than just drinking — as plenty of attendees do — be smart. Thailand’s drug laws are some of the world’s most strict.

Hotel Pick: Opt for The COAST Resort, a sharp and modern beachfront option with reasonable rates. It’s only a 10-minute walk to the party in Haad Rin. That’s close enough to make it home in one piece, if you ask us.

2. Bali, Indonesia

Potato Head Beach Club; Image courtesy of Lavinia Elysia via Flickr
Potato Head Beach Club; Image courtesy of Lavinia Elysia via Flickr

Let’s get one thing clear: There are plenty of untouched corners throughout Bali. However, for those who want to hook up and get down, Kuta and its suburbs are a magnet. The cycle in Kuta goes something like: eat, drink, beach, drink, repeat. Countless bars and clubs draw 20-, 30-, and 40-somethings who want to rave until the break of dawn. The streets around Poppies I and II are notorious for their loud late-night parties, while slightly more refined hotspots up the coast — like Potato Head and Ku De Ta — have everything from romantic sunsets to live DJs spinning late. Have some leftover energy when the sun’s up? This is one of the best places to learn how to surf in the world, so grab a board.

Hotel Pick: Situated across the street from Kuta Beach, the 80-room Alam KulKul Boutique Resort is an upscale property with plenty of amenities, including two outdoor pools, a full-service spa, two on-site restaurants, and two bars. Plus, most rooms come with balconies and walk-in tile showers; some also have plunge pools and rainfall showerheads.

3. Castaway Island, Vietnam

Ha Long Bay is one of Vietnam’s most photographed destinations — and with good reason. The stunning karst islands that dot the tranquil waters offshore are a stunning sight. While the surrounding area is a UNESCO-designated landscape, Castaway Island is known for culture of an altogether different stripe. During the day, action on the beach includes rock climbing, kayaking, and tubing. At night, travelers empty the beach-hut bungalows and congregate around bonfires on the beach, or on booze cruises through the bay. A few tour groups run programs to the area, and many hostels in Hanoi can help arrange multi-day or overnight excursions.

4. Phuket, Thailand

Phuket nightclub; Image courtesy of Ben Reeves via Flickr
Phuket nightclub; Image courtesy of Ben Reeves via Flickr

We might as well tell you now Thailand figures largely on this list, though that’s probably no surprise. While Thailand has hundreds of islands, it’s Phuket that remains one of Southeast Asia’s most storied party destinations. We’ve already told you that there’s a lot more to the island than all-night ragers, but hedonism figures largely here. You do need to be a little informed in order to find the party, though, as some corners of the island are sleepy. To get the most bang for your — well, to get the most bang in general, head to Patong Beach. You’ll find everything from sex clubs to go-go bars to full-scale nightclubs and hookups left and right. Bangla Road is the heart of the town’s seedier action, though there’s nightlife all around. When you add the lovely beachside setting to the mix, you could do far worse when picking places to stay up all night.

Hotel Pick: The Kee Resort & Spa is one of the nicer spots in town, with colorful and modern rooms, a great pool with a swim-up bar, and a prime location right in the heart of the Patong action. Yes, it can get noisy, but you’re not in Phuket to sleep, are you?

5. Koh Rong, Cambodia

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Pub Street in Siem Reap is arguably Cambodia’s backpacker party capital, but travelers who would prefer a little sea and sun with their ice-cold Angkor beer should head to Koh Rong. The vibe here is far more low key than regional party behemoths like Koh Phangan and Phuket, but for those who want to commune with backpackers spinning fire and debating travel tattoos, this is the spot. For the highest concentration of like-minded partiers, catch the boat from Sihanoukville on the mainland and head to Koh Touch. Those who want to unwind in the water during the day are also in luck, as the snorkeling offshore can be great.

6. Ko Phi Phi Don, Thailand

Fire spinning; Image courtesy of Katy Rawlings via Flickr
Fire spinning; Image courtesy of Katy Rawlings via Flickr

If a traffic-free island fringed by palm-lined beaches and lapped by turquoise seas sounds like paradise — well, we completely agree. But on Ko Phi Phi Don, that doesn’t mean that everything is quiet breezes and relaxation. Sure, while there are quiet corners in the island’s north, its two main beaches burst with energy day and night. Travelers looking for a good time throng to Tonsai Beach and Loh Dalum for all of the expected party-hard culprits: cheap beer, backpackers, fire-spinners, and plenty of reggae bars.

Hotel Pick: For simple, reliable rooms and an easy walk to the bars along Tonsai Beach, check out the Arayaburi Resort – Phi Phi Island. It also has direct beach access and a free shuttle boat into town.

7. Boracay, Philippines

Daytime fun at The District Boracay
Daytime fun at The District Boracay

White Beach, located on the skinny island of Boracay, was once a haven for those seeking a true away-from-it-all experience. However, what was once the kingdom of hippies and beach shacks has become a tried-and-true destination for tourists. With hotels ranging from huts to luxury properties, the island exerts a wide draw on travelers. Most of the wild times take place around Station 2, in the middle of the island, so plan your trip accordingly. For those who want to revel like their on Koh Phangan, the island also hosts parties timed to the lunar cycle at Area 51.

Hotel Pick: There’s a lot to like about The District Boracay, from its stylish rooms to its excellent beachfront set-up. However, it’s the easy walk to all of Station 2’s nightclubs, bars, and boutiques that make this a great spot to crash during your next beach adventure.

8. Koh Tao, Thailand

Lotus Bar; Image courtesy of Jeffery Wong via Flickr
Lotus Bar; Image courtesy of Jeffery Wong via Flickr

While its neighbor — Koh Phangan — rages until dawn, Koh Tao prefers its party a little more tame. That’s not to say it’s quiet here. In fact, organized pub crawls are known to occur several times a week. Plus, there’s a nice range of places to let loose, from reggae bars to beach bars to wild nightclubs. Those who want to sip cocktails and gaze at sunsets can head to Maya Beach Club, while travelers who want wilder times can flock to Fishbowl Beach Bar and Lotus Bar. Looking for a good drag show? Check out Queen’s Cabaret, a group of performers who are more than willing to get the audience involved. When planning where to sleep, keep in mind that most of the action on Koh Tao takes place along Sairee Beach.

Hotel Pick: Koh Tao Cabana is one of the nicer properties within an easy walk of the action along Sairee Beach, though it’s far enough from the party to remain quiet at night. The standalone villas have rustic-chic details, and the beachfront restaurant has great sunset views.

9. Gili Islands, Indonesia

Before the party begins on Gili Trawangan
Before the party begins on Gili Trawangan

There are plenty of reasons to make the trek to Indonesia’s Gili Islands, which are off of the coast of Lombok (an island with its own party-hard reputation). While not every island is meant for travelers seeking late nights, this three-island archipelago has something for everyone. Gili Meno is perfect for those who want to escape the real world, while Gili Air has a bohemian backpacker vibe. And then there’s Gili Trawangan, where you can score an inexpensive diving certification by day, and go wild at the bars, clubs, and restaurants at night. Most of the island’s wildest outposts are clustered along its east side. Keep in mind that there are no cars on Gili T (as travelers call it), which is a bonus if you’re planning on stumbling home as dawn threatens to break.

Hotel Pick: Hotel Vila Ombak is within an easy walk of the island’s restaurants and bars and sits right on its own beach. The rooms are humble, but the property has great outdoor pools and plenty to do on-site for those who need a day or two break from their partying.

10. Tioman Island, Malaysia

The beach at Salang; Image courtesy of Jorge Cancela via Flickr
The beach at Salang; Image courtesy of Jorge Cancela via Flickr

If after reading this list, you find yourself thinking you’re not quite the party person you thought you were, we’ve got an option for you, too. While Malaysia isn’t known for its rowdy nightlife outside of Kuala Lumpur, travelers whose idea of partying involves trading dive stories and backpacker tips over cold beer in beach bars are in luck. Tiny Tioman Island is the place to be. There are no nightclubs, no illicit drug trade, and little in the way of bumping DJs. Instead, head to Salang, which has a shimmering beach, great snorkeling, lots of diving outfitters, and plenty of friendly folks unwinding over sundowner cocktails. It’s easy to unwind alongside a murmuring social scene, and many travelers leave here feeling blissfully recharged.

What to Bring: Blowfish for Hangovers

Don’t let a bad hangover ruin your party experience in Southeast Asia–bring along Blowfish for Hangovers, the only FDA-approved hangover treatment on the market.

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