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Sports and Wellness in Thailand

Discover another country in your saddle or on your surfboard.

Photo: Daniel Ohlsson
December 2023
Many people visit Thailand because they want to sip cocktails on a beach in paradise—and who can blame them? However, there are many other experiences on offer. How about whizzing along the back roads of the Thai countryside by bike or learning to surf on gentle waves that are perfect for beginners? Of course, there is also yoga, massages, and Muay Thai (Thai boxing) for those who would prefer these activities.

Thailand is a fantastic destination for those who enjoy life and love the sun. You can eat well, drink well, and enjoy entertainment around every corner. But the country also has much more to offer.

There is a sportier and healthier side to this beautiful country, one that deserves to be discovered by more people. Here, we suggest some of the most appealing options.

Cycling Thailand
Photo: Daniel Ohlsson

Cycling on Small Roads

Anyone who has cycled in rural Thailand will tell you the same thing—if you want to get to know the locals, there’s no better way than to get on your bike and start pedaling along roads well off the tourist trail.

Whether you’re a total beginner or a cycling pro, all levels are catered to when looking for an organizer or route. Unlike watching the Thai countryside whiz by in a car or viewing it in miniature from an airplane window, cycling has exactly the right pace.

“Here, you can ride through amazing landscapes in a wonderful climate,” says Daniel Ohlsson, a Swedish photographer and journalist who has taken part in several cycling tours. “But my fondest memories are all the encounters and the fantastic hospitality. During my last tour, it was harvest time for both rambutan and mangosteen and I finished each day with several pounds of fruit from everyone we met and stopped to talk to.”

Locals cycling Thailand
Photo: Daniel Ohlsson

Although you might be cycling from Bangkok to Phuket (a popular route), you may not see a single tourist or even a car. Instead, you can expect to find undiscovered beaches, small villages, rubber plantations, and impossibly beautiful views. Plus, the roads are good and it’s not too hilly. And don’t forget the wonderfully fresh and tasty Thai food, which is extra delicious after a day in the bike saddle.

Another great aspect is the camaraderie with the other cyclists.

“When you cycle so far as a group, a special community spirit emerges. Many life stories are shared along the Thai roads—every mile creates friends for life,” says Daniel Ohlsson.

And if you’re worried about whether you can manage a cycling vacation, there are options to suit everyone, including electric bike tours.

Many bike tours to choose from

Thailand Cycle Tours

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551 Moo 1 Hin lek fai
Hua Hin
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There are many bike tour operators in Thailand, but Thailand Cycle Tours is one of the best. Go on a six-day electric bike tour along the coast to Samui, or spend eleven days in the saddle from Bangkok to Phuket. They place great emphasis on excellent accommodation and food, and a minibus is there in case anyone is too tired to cycle that day.

Surfing Thailand
Photo: Tourism Authority of Thailand

Learn to Surf

Thailand is not the place where pros go to find the best surf. However, it is a great destination for those curious about learning to surf thanks to its gentle waves, which also makes surfing in Thailand very family-friendly. Surfing is an activity that is perfect for the offseason, so your trip is easier on your wallet.

So where to start? Phuket and Khao Lak are good surfing spots in Thailand, as there are many surfing schools to enroll in. For the more adventurous, Koh Phayam in the Andaman Islands can also be added to the list. But the point of surfing in Thailand—apart from easy waves and fewer surfers—is everything else that comes with your trip. Before or after surfing, the culture, the food, and the sights are all waiting to be discovered.

Surfing on Memories Beach

Better Surf Thailand

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Memories Beach (Pakarang Beach)
Khao Lak
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This surf school is in Khao Lak where the long waves at Memories Beach are great for beginners. The best period for surfing is during the rainy season when the winds are a bit stronger, but the rest of the year is good for surfing too—you just need to check the conditions in advance. With Better Surf Thailand, you learn the basics on land first before heading into the surf, first with an instructor and then on your own.

Wellness Thailand
Photo: Tourism Authority of Thailand

Detox, Massage, and Yoga in Thailand

If you’re seeking to detox in luxury during your vacation, you’ve come to the right country. Thailand is brimming with spas and wellness retreats in a variety of price ranges. From the secluded and authenticThe Sanctuary on Koh Phangan to yoga and meditation in Krabi.

One tip for tired travelers who have just landed is to book an aromatherapy massage—it’s just the right type of massage after a long flight. However, it’s best to wait a while before trying Thai massage, according to experts, as it is a deeper type of massage.

A silent paradise

The Sanctuary

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Ban Tai
Ko Pha Ngan
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You arrive at The Sanctuary by boat because there are no roads to pollute the island. Surrounded by coconut trees on a beach in the middle of paradise, you live, practice yoga, undergo a three- to ten-day detox, and learn “connected breathwork”—all in a setting that does all it can to disconnect you from stress and everyday worries.

Muay Thai
Photo: Unsplash

Muay Thai – Thai Boxing

Many may have tried Thai boxing at home, but for those who want to step up their game, there is a huge range of Thai boxing camps in Thailand—from very simple and traditional to more luxurious, premium options.

They can be found in Bangkok or by the beach in places like Koh Samui and Krabi, but some of the most reputable camps are in the north of the country, such asSitjemam Muay Thai in Pai.

For pros and beginners

Sitjemam Muay Thai

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Mae Na Toeng
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Several professional Thai boxers and kickboxers, such as Mathias Gallo Cassarino and Silvia La Notte, have trained at this Muay Thai school in Pai. But you don’t have to be a professional to take part in the training—you can also be a beginner. Sitjemam Muay Thai limits the number of participants in its groups so that they can teach properly and assist everyone individually, and in the city of Pai, there are many other activities on offer such as rafting.

Text by Daniel Björk