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Islands in Thailand

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One of my girlfriends and I are traveling to Thailand for 30 days in May-June, and have a few questions. Based on my research, it seems like the weather will be better in the Gulf of Thailand islands, vs. the western islands (like Phuket or the Krabi area). We're planning on visiting Koh Tao because we want to get scuba certified, and will probably venture out from there.

If we have a week and a half to two weeks to explore the islands/beaches, does it make sense for us to just stay in the gulf and hop around, or should we make the trip over to Phuket and Ko Phi Phi (a friend of mine says we can't miss it)? We are both pretty adventurous and would like to snorkel, kayak, hike, scuba dive, etc. We will definitely go out at night but are not big partiers. We mainly want to see and do as much as possible, but don't want to cause undo stress.

Also, we have 4-7 days that we'd like to use to see a neighboring country. So far I haven't heard anything that definitively pushes me in one direction. Your thoughts?

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