Koh Phayam – the best Koh Phayam beaches and how to get to Koh Phayam
You might have been to Thailand several times and yet, you may have never heard of Koh Phayam, or considered visiting the Koh Phayam beaches. Indeed, Koh Phayam is known to be one of Thailand’s few, but best-kept secrets, due to its lack of mass tourism or package tourists, which makes for a refreshing break from Thailand’s more popular islands and beaches.
Not being particularly fond of over-developed and crowded beaches, we found ourselves in nearby Ranong, Thailand, having arrived there from Bangkok, only because we needed to cross over to Kawthoung in Myanmar to make our way to the remote Mergui archipelago. After reading about its close proximity to Ranong, and researching how to get to Koh Phayam, we decided to take a day trip there to experience the Koh Phayam beaches.
We are happy to report that we have finally found a Thai island which doesn’t follow the cliché. We look forward to returning to the relatively pristine Koh Phayam beaches, which make the island a wonderful little place to chill for a few days.
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Where is Koh Phayam?
Lets get straight to the point, Koh Phayam is far from many of the more popular Thai islands and unless you’re in the area, you might not consider it worth the effort. We can assure you however, that if you’re looking to get away from the crowds on the more developed beaches, Koh Phayam, nicknamed Hippy Island, is definitely worth going to!
Koh Phayam is a short boat ride away from Ranong, a town on the west side of Thailand bordering the tip of Myanmar. The island is particularly small and can be visited on a day trip, but we’re pretty sure that spending a few days there would be an even better idea.
How to get to Koh Phayam
With direct ferries from Ranong to Koh Phayam, getting to the Koh Phayam beaches is actually very easy, and making a day trip is perfectly possible, although we do recommend that you stay longer.
Ranong town in Thailand is nothing to write home about, and is most popular with tourists making a visa run to neighboring Myanmar. The vibe here is different to other parts of Thailand we experienced, but reminded us quite a bit of Myanmar itself.
Related: Exploring the Mergui Archipelago in Myanmar
Where to stay in Ranong
If you intend going from Ranong to Koh Phayam on a day trip, it is best to spend at least one or two nights in Ranong, to have a base to store any extra luggage you might be carrying, and also since you will want to arrive in Koh Phayam as early as possible, and in turn, leave as late as possible to make the most out of your day trip.
We really recommend Tinidee Inn in Ranong. It is situated next door to the more luxurious Tinidee Hotel and makes use of the same facilities as the hotel, including pool, restaurant and spa & massage centre. The rooms at Tinidee Inn are more affordable, but nevertheless, super comfortable and very large!
Priced at 570 THB/€17 a night for a double room with private bathroom, during our stay, we can easily say that this is one of the best budget hotels we have stayed in on our travels!
Other accommodation options in Ranong can be booked here.
Ranong to Koh Phayam
The trip from Ranong to Koh Phayam is short and simple, so experiencing the Koh Phayam beaches and the little island vibe is pretty effortless.
You can travel from Ranong to Koh Phayam by slow ferry (2 hours, twice a day at 9 am and 2.30 pm, THB 200/about €6 each way per person) or by speedboat (35 minutes, several times a day starting from 7 am – 5 pm, THB 350/about €10.50 each way per person).
The slow ferry makes the return trip from from Koh Phayam to Ranong at 8.30 am and 2 pm whilst the speedboat makes several similar return journeys between 7.30 am and 5 pm. The boats leave Ranong from the Koh Phayam Pier. We decided that we would catch the 8.30 am boat from Ranong to Koh Phayam and the 4 pm boat back from Koh Phayam to Ranong, hoping that this would give us sufficient time to explore the little island.
As always, ferry schedules are subject to change and should be checked closer to time of travel. Speedboats usually run only during peak season from November to May but at times they also run in low season, so if you’re planning on going in low season, it would be wise to confirm availability at the ticket office.
If you’re staying for only one day in Koh Phayam, it makes sense to take the more expensive, yet more efficient speed boat. We bought our tickets the night before from a little shop next door to Tinidee Inn, the hotel we were staying at, and also booked a transfer to the pier for THB 50 (about €1.50) per person each way. A car collected us promptly at 8 am in time to catch the 8.30 am speedboat from Ranong to Koh Phayam.
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How to travel across Koh Phayam
Means of transport in Koh Phayam are very limited and the best way of traveling in Koh Phayam is by renting a scooter. There are no cars on the little island, so riding is safe enough even if you are inexperienced.
Scooters or bikes can be rented opposite the main pier. We paid THB 200 (about €6) for a scooter for the day and filled it up with fuel for THB 35 (about €1). It is always wise to hang on to the business card or other contact details of the rental agency or person you rent it from. We had engine problems mid-way across the island, and had to get the scooter replaced.
Places to visit in Koh Phayam
Koh Phayam is super small and can be explored in one day, although we feel that staying longer is definitely a better option!
The most attractive parts of the island are the Koh Phayam beaches, which are less developed and more pristine than beaches on other Thai islands. There are also a couple of other noteworthy attractions to visit on your day trip.
Heading up north from the pier, the first attraction you will encounter is a little Buddhist temple with another small pier in front of it. It is worth stopping at Koh Phayam’s only temple for 10 minutes, to climb up to the Buddha images and taking a look around.
The Moken village on the west side of Buffalo bay was tricky to reach, and once we were there, we realized that it was also completely inaccessible to us (unless we wanted to swim over or wait for the low tide), being separated from the beach by a river. A bridge once connected the two, but it looked like it had collapsed a while before, with no real efforts to rebuild it. We had read somewhere that a we could make the crossing on a little boat, but there were none around!
Getting to the crossing point involved driving the scooter across vast patches of deep sand, which we really do not recommend. Walking is a much better option!
The Best Koh Phayam Beaches
There are several areas suitable for swimming along Koh Phayam’s coast, if you manage to make your way through the thick jungle vegetation and tropical mangroves.
The three main Koh Phayam beaches are the following:
Ao Kwang Peeb (Monkey Beach)
The most off the beaten track of all three Koh Phayam beaches is Ao Kwang Peeb located in the north part of the island. We also firmly believe that it is the most beautiful of the island’s beaches, and on our next visit, we intend to spend most of our time here!
Ao Kwang Peeb is very small, and is reached after a 5-minute walk from the parking area. It is generally a pretty quiet and rather isolated beach with one restaurant. There’s nothing much to do except, swim, snorkel and relax, or read a book in the shade of the overhanging trees. Pretty much our idea of the perfect beach!
Related: Spicing it up at the Banda Islands in Indonesia
Ao Kao Kwai (Buffalo Beach)
Buffalo Beach or, Ao Kao Kwai is a beautiful golden sand beach, which although busier than Ao Kwang Peeb, doesn’t feel crowded at all. This is the best spot from which to watch sunsets on Koh Phayam, and Hippy Bar is the place to chill out whilst doing so.
There are actually two parts of the bay separated by a rocky outcrop in the middle. We had a nice tea leaf salad from one of the food shacks for THB 80 (about €2.50).
Accommodation on Ao Kao Kwai in the form of bungalows is available. We recommend the Starlight Resort.
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Ao Yai is the largest of the Koh Phayam beaches and our least favourite of all three. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but the white sandy beach is easily the most popular and developed (still nothing like the beaches on other Thai islands) and probably the noisiest spot on the island. We did enjoy a couple of walks up and down the beach though which is really rather big.
Accommodation on Ao Yai can be booked online. We recommend Bamboo Bangalows.
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Where to stay in Koh Phayam
They are plenty of accommodation options in Koh Phayam depending on which part of the island you would like to stay on. Our choice would be one of the bungalows on Ao Kao Kwai, but resorts and lodges can be found on all parts of the island.
Check out the latest prices for accommodation options on Koh Phayan here.