A look at seven of Thailand’s best-kept island secrets
With hundreds of islands, islets and reefs to its name, Thailand is well equipped to satisfy the desires of castaways, sensation seekers and those who simply want to be pampered. Popular destinations like KohSamui, Koh Chang, Koh Tao, Koh Kood, Koh Samet and Koh Lanta offer a range of accommodation to suit most pockets but for a real getaway this summer, why not leave the tourists behind and discover some of Thailand’s best-kept island secrets?
KOH PHRA THONG, PHANG NGA
Just off Khura Buri, this island in the Andaman Sea is small – just four villages – but special, complete with undeveloped beaches and an endless brownish landscape that looks strikingly similar to the savannahs of Africa, except it’s home to bare-headed Lesser Adjutant birds rather than lions and elephants. Koh Phra Thong’s isolated beach is a draw for foreigners but an increasing number of sun-shy young Thais are being lured by the spectacular scenery.
Getting there: Phuket International Airport is your gateway to Phang Nga province. From the airport to Khura Buri district, you can get a taxi or rent a car if you prefer to be behind the wheel. Khura Buri is about a two-hour drive from Phuket on a well-paved and well-sign posted road. Koh Phra Thong is reached either from Saphan Pla Pier, seven kilometres north of Khura Buri Town or from Khura Buri Pier.
Where to stay: Mr Chuoi’s Beach Huts & Bar has thatch-roofed bungalows for Bt500-Bt1,200. The Moken Eco Village is more upmarket with a stylish cottage costing Bt2,900 per night). Visit www.MokenEcoVillage.com.
KOH KHO KHAO, PHANG NGA
This island makes Khao Lak with its long, white sand beach that serves a collection of upscale resorts feel like Phuket. According to the latest census, 725 people live on Koh Kho Khao along with hundreds of water buffaloes. During the high season, from November to February, these beasts of burden gaze at backpackers as they cycle and stroll around the small island. Most of the young visitors are seeking respite from the tourists on Khao Lak and lay down their towels on the peaceful beach on the island’s west coast. Cycling is the best way to explore Koh Kho Khao as its small paths criss-cross fields of wild flowers and water lilies. Amateur archaeologists will enjoy exploring Baan Thung Tuek historical site on the island.
Getting There: Fly to Phuket, the gateway to Andaman coast. From the airport, visitors can rent a taxi to Baan Nam Khem Pier then take a ferry to the island.
Where to Stay: With 23 beachfront rooms, C & N Kho Khao Beach Resort is an ideal place for an island hideaway. The owner, English-speaking Rungsuriya, is very informative and helpful. Visit www.CNKhoKhaoBeachResort.com.
KOH PAYAM, RANONG
Just off the coast of Ranong Province, Koh Payam is blessed by long and isolated beaches with golden sand. Ao Yai, a large bay on its Southwest side, draws the visitors for its four kilometres of beach. It’s an idyllic place to stroll and home to several species of birds including the hornbill. For a more isolated treat, opt for Ao Kwang Peep on the Western side.
Getting there: Nok Air operates flights between Bangkok and Ranong. Payam Island is about two hours on a ferry or 35 minutes on a speedboat from Ranong’s Pak Nam Pier.
Where to stay: King Paradise Resort near Ao Yai has rustic yet stylish beachfront cottages. Visit www.KingParadisePayamResort.net.
KOH LIPE, SATUN
Far and away from the crowds and city life, Lipe is a small island in the Adang-Rawi Archipelago of the Andaman Sea in Satun Province and a former home of the sea gypsies. Popular with dedicated scuba divers and snorkellers, it is famed for its beautiful reefs, crystal-clear water and icing-sugar sand and is now a hippie-chic hideaway.
Getting there: Several domestic airlines fly to the stepping off point of Hat Yai. From there, take a passenger van (a two-hour trip) to Pak Bara Pier. Lipe Island is about three hours on the ferry (Bt800/person). The first boat leaves at 11.30am and the last at 1.30pm.
Where to stay: A two-storey Breezy Bungalow at Castaway Beach Resort on Sunrise Beach. Right on the beach with uninterrupted views, you won’t find anywhere better for the magical sunrise. Low season rates start at Bt1,400.
KOH PHA, PHANG NGA
You could almost pick any island off the Phang Nga Province and treat yourself for a quiet break, but Koh Pha has the edge. This tiny islet barely bigger than tennis court is the kind of desert island you’ll find in a shipwreck comic. The islet rose from the sea following the 2004 tsunami and has nothing other than a few coconut palms. It’s an ideal place for sunbathing in extreme isolation.
Getting there: Hire a boat from Kho Khao Island and remember to make arrangements for a pick-up in the evening. Bring some water and whatever else you might need for the day..
Where to stay: The nearest hotel to Koh Pha is on Kho Khao Island.
KOH KRADAN, TRANG
With Chinese tourists flooding Thailand’s tourist destinations, finding a peaceful beach has become something of a “mission impossible”. Koh Kradan off Trang Province in the Andaman Sea is one of the exceptions, a small piece of paradise with powdery sand and excellent snorkelling on a reef just off the beach. It’s an ideal place for a holiday in a hammock. Wait until low tide and you can walk out to the reef.
Getting there: A few domestic airlines operate to Trang. Koh Kradan is an hour’s journey on a long-tailed boat from Pak Meng Pier. During the high season Phuket Ferry (www.PhuketFerry.com) operates a service between Phuket and Koh Kradan. The trip takes three hours and costs Bt1,650.
Where to stay: Reef Resort Kradan Island (www.ReefResortKradan.com) has cosy beachfront cottages.