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Koh Phayam – 8 Things to Do on Thailand’s Best Kept Secret Island

Ah beautiful Koh Phayam, a reminder of what Thailand was like before it became just so, so, so popular! I’ll take your Koh Samui’s, Koh Changs and Koh Phangan’s and raise you my perfect Koh Phayam, an island on Thailand’s Andaman coast that the tourist boom seemed to bypass, and it’s all the better for it. I just spent 4 days at what is now my favourite Thai island.

Koh Phayam has only recently started supplying its beachside bungalows with 24-hour electricity, and the WiFi is a bit hit and miss, but if you want to know what Thailand was like 20 years ago, welcome to Koh Phayam. It’s heaven. At any given time there are probably only around 100 foreigners on the island, and given that there are about 5 amazing white-sand beaches to choose from, one of which is over 2km long, you’ll have a beach seemingly to yourself. Without the tourist hordes the prices have been kept Thai style so enjoy the cheap fruit shakes and local food for a fraction of the Koh Phi Phi prices. 

Koh Phayam Thailand
Koh Phayam Thailand

Where is Koh Phayam?

It’s on Thailand’s west coast (the opposite side to the famous Koh Phangan, Koh Samui etc), right on the Myanmar border. Koh Phayam is also about 30km from Ranong City (see below), which itself is a 9-hour drive from Bangkok or a 1-hour flight. 

How to Get to Koh Phayam:

STEP 1: GET TO RANONG

First, you have to get yourself to Ranong Thailand (the City, not the province). To get from Bangkok to Ranong you can either take a night bus, a minivan or a flight. You can book your overland tickets here. You can also take buses from Surat Thani to Ranong, and Phuket to Ranong (6 hours)

From Ranong, you go to the Pier and there are ferries from Ranong to Koh Phayam every day (also ferries to Thailand’s second Koh Chang). 

STEP 2: FERRY FROM RANONG TO KOH PHAYAM

In high season, slow ferries will take you to Koh Phayam from Ranong Pier at 09:30, 10:00 and 14:00 (200 THB, about $7) and they take two hours. You can also take a speedboat (45 minutes) at least every two hours from 09:30 to 16:30 (350THB/$11). If you come in low season, there’s just 1 way to get to Koh Phayam, the daily slow boat leaving from Ranong Pier at 09:30.

When it’s time to leave Koh Phayam, you can take the boat back to Ranong Pier in high season at 08:30, 14:00 and 15:00, with the speedboats running hourly in peak season. 

welcome to Koh Phayam
Koh Phayam Thailand

 

8 Things to do in Koh Phayam

You can’t spend ALL your time gloating about finding the one paradise island left untouched in Thailand! So check out the 8 main things to do in Koh Phayam during your time here:

1) Aow Yai (Big Bay) beach

Ao Yai: The flagship beach on the island, 2km of white sand with no ugly resorts of note. There are a couple of beach restaurants and bars (although this is certainly no party island) dotted along the stretch meaning you can spend your entire day here should you choose too. Sunset’s is spectacular here too.

Aow Yai Koh Phayam Thailand
Aow Yai Koh Phayam Thailand

2) Aow Kao Kwai (Buffalo Bay)

Aow Yai’s little brother doesn’t match up with size but it’s a great combo for privacy yet still with long stretches of white sand. Only a couple of places to eat/drink and you’d be pushed to see 10 other people in an afternoon here. Amazing. This is the perfect spot for sunset, blue skies turning orange, then pink, then red and no-one there to interrupt the moment. Possibly my best sunset experience ever

Buffalo Bay Koh Phayam Thailand
Buffalo Bay Koh Phayam Thailand

3) Take A Diving or Snorkelling Trip – especially to Koh Khang Kao and Koh Surin

Some of Thailand’s best diving is found on this coast, so it’s starting to attract the diving crew. Personally I’m not a diver though, so I stuck with snorkelling. Combine it with an island-hopping trip, and make sure to include at least one of either Koh Khang Kao or Koh Surin. More paradise is waiting for you there, and it may literally just be you on these little islands.

Koh Khang Kao
Koh Khang Kao

4) Try Kite-surfing or Surfing Lessons in Koh Phayam

Always good to try something new, and it’s pretty cheap here to do that. You can organise it through these guys

5) Wat Ko Phayam

This one is a freebie, as it’s on the pier so you can’t miss it! Wat Ko Phayam is Phayam’s only ‘proper’ temple, and you can’t visit a place in Thailand without at least one temple pic, right?

Wat Koh Phayam Thailand

6) Kayak through the Mangroves

Just off the 2nd main beach, Aow Kao Kwai, are Koh Phayam’s Mangrove forests. If you wander around the beach, you’ll be offered the chance to kayak amongst them for an hour or two, or your hotel can arrange it too. You can also arrange it through the same place as the surfing above

Koh Phayam Kayak
Koh Phayam Kayak

7) Drink at the Hippy Bar

Thai islands have a reputation for parties, but Koh Phayam is a different vibe. People don’t come here for the nightlife, but that’s not to say there aren’t a couple of cool bars to have a couple of drinks. The Hippy Bar has become the most famous bar on the island, partly because of the construction, so hit it up around sunset for a perfect atmosphere, and a banging sunset.

Koh Phayam Hippy Bar
Koh Phayam Hippy Bar

8) Drive the island and discover the 3 Best Beaches in Koh Phayam

Scooter rental in Koh Phayam is 200THB ($7 per day), and there is very little traffic. So grabbing a scooter and driving around the island is perhaps the best way to spend the day. Of course check out Aow Yai as mentioned first in the ‘things to do in Koh Phayam’ list, and Buffalow Bay, but be sure to make an extra effort to hit up Ao Kwang Peap

Ao Kwang Peep is a hidden gem of a beach within this hidden gem of an island. This is found in the extreme north of Koh Phayam, after the ‘road’ has ended you can brush up on your scooter driving skills across the dirt trek. Then a couple of hundred metres walk through the jungle to the bottom of the hill where a resourceful dude has set up a quaint Thai bar/restaurant. The beach is about 90m long, white sand (standard by this stage), crystal clear water and has great snorkelling. Don’t miss this out in your trip here.

Ao Kwang Peeb beach Koh Phayam
Ao Kwang Peeb beach Koh Phayam
Ao Yai beach Koh Phayam
Ao Yai beach

Where to stay in Koh Phayam; Koh Phayam Accommodation 

There are 3 higher-end resorts ($130 per night), the best of which is Blue Sky just at the pier where you’ll land. It’s heavenly, wifi, on the beach etc. I was splashing out and stayed here with my girlfriend for a few nights.

Backpacker accommodation is much easier to find though with bungalows all across the island, ranging from 150 baht ($5) for a basic hut with limited electricity and a fan if you’re lucky to around 1500 baht ($50) for air-con, 24 hr electricity, western bathroom etc. Ao Yai is your best bet for budget bungalows, for an extra $2 or $3 you can get it literally on the cusp of the beach.

Blue Sky Resort Koh Phayam
Blue Sky Resort Koh Phayam

Getting Around Koh Phayam:

As soon as you get off the Ranong Koh Phyam Ferry, right at the Pier, you can rent a scooter, and from then on you’re free to find accommodation, sample the different hotspots etc. If you’re not confident on a bike, motorbike taxis are all-round just look for their green or pink vests and call them over, they’ll be happy to take you wherever you need to go.

Ok, guys, that’s all you should need to be convinced to whack this on your Thailand itinerary. Just do me a favour and don’t tell too many people about it, deal?! Happy travels!

Koh Phayam Thailand
I HEART Koh Phayam, Thailand!

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44 thoughts on “Koh Phayam – 8 Things to Do on Thailand’s Best Kept Secret Island

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  4. I used to be recommended this website by means of my cousin. I’m no longer
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  5. Spent a month is Thailand (mid Jan – mid Feb 2017) & plan to go the same time in ’18. Looking for much less populated islands (than Koh Lanta, Phanag, Tao, etc., etc.) Thinking seriously about a few days on Phayam – any recommendations for bungalow on a beach? In our experience we don’t require full time electricity or hot water or party-place …. we are interested in hiking, biking, beaches & snorkelling & lots of fresh fruit!

  6. Phayam is my fav island – was already several times there. Pergect place to relax, enjoy the beach, jungle and mangrove and thats all without too many other travellers 🙂 and I found the irie islands bar at the ao yai beach – jam session and open mic! Always good musicians there – a good way to spend your time in the evening (its tuesdays and fridays!)

  7. We have been going to payam for years and cringe every time we see someone advertising about it on the Internet/

    Would you consider removing your write up?

  8. Koh Phayam is a very small Island, about 35 km2. The population consists of about 400 families. Most of the villagers are cashew nut gardeners and rubber tree cutters. The second largest occupation is tourism (resorts, guesthouses and restaurants).
    There are no cars on the Island, only motorbikes. As a result the air on the Island is very clean. Koh Phayam has a big jungle and a perfect nature. You can see thousands of birds, among them the Hornbill, everywhere on the Island.
    Now a big change for Koh Phayams wildlife and people is coming. The ICFT Green Plus from South Korea has plans for major projects on the Island. They will make an electric factory from wind, wave and sun. They plan on constructing massive wind turbines, a huge solar farm and a coral threatening wave power generator. We on Koh Phayam are in favour of power alternatives to an over reliance on generators but all three parts of this proposal will cause tremendous destruction to local wildlife, the local environment and in turn our relationship with this land we call our home. It’s not green energy if it’s killing hundreds if not thousands of our wonderfully diverse species of bird and bat life.
    The statistics for the impact on bird life and bat life from wind farm turbines alone is undeniably horrendous! This would of course include genuine threat to our Hornbill and Sea Eagle population not to mention the hundreds of species of songbirds.

    The benefits of a 200 million Baht plus investment for such a small community like Koh Phayam will be negligible.
    These constructions will have a dramatic effect on the wildlife, waters and coral reefs on and around the Island. Koh Phayams attractiveness for tourism will disappear. This will be a problem, not only for the wildlife, but for the people living on the Island as well. Our lives on our home island will be irreversibly changed.
    Forever.

    1. YES I agree with you and this is terrifying!!… so we need to do something to help this island and stopping the destruction. People on Koh Phayam made on Facebook a page Save Ko Phayam and putted there a petition, which you can sign as well. PLEASE LIKE this site and SIGN PETITION

  9. Thanks for sharing this great article. I love Koh Phayam and discovered it after a tip off from a fellow backpacker on a bus journey back to Bangkok from Surat Thani. He said it was like how the islands were years ago and I absolutely loved it when I visited a while ago. I stayed on Ao Yai and it was amazing.

  10. I went to Koh Phayam at the start of this year and LOVED it! It was one of those places that when I told people who I had met in Thailand where I was going to next they all asked ‘where’s that??’ Which is exactly why I wanted to go! I didn’t hear another English accent for about 3 days too! Definitely my favourite Thai Island!

    P.S really glad I’ve came across your blog while googling if Dubai is it’s own country! Haha it turns out I was wrong!

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  22. “Just do me a favour and don’t tell too many people about it, deal?!” DEAL! Don’t forget lil. Koh Chang too. I managed not to tell too many people, only the cool ones, lol. I am heading off in 2 weeks and can’t wait to be back there. Hope they are as local as they always are. Cheers Kelz

    1. That was exactly what I was thinking when I read this. I hope too many people don’t make the trip and invade my favorite little island!

  23. Hi Johnny! Thinking and planning on heading to Kho Phayam in the next month! (August) Do you think thats an ok time to go, seeing as it is the rainy season? Will probably be flying into Bangkok, wanting to get out of their as quick as possible too! Is it pretty easy to organise a bus to Ranong from the airport? Thanks so much for the help!

  24. Hey, thanks for this little guide, I’m off to Koh Phayam at end of September & cannot wait, looks fantastic!

  25. absolutely love the look of it here was over in Thailand for 6 months there 2 years ago and didn’t know about this place definately going here in June when i go back thanks for putting this place on the map!also if you have any more little secret gems like this one please let me know

    1. Amy macdonald can you let me in on any of your little secrets? Phuket and all the touristy places just don’t interest me!!! Thanks!x

  26. YO Johnny,

    Thinking about Thailand down the road. Fantasizing over a hut/bungalow set up by the water. Where is the best place (cheapest/ most beautiful/ near a good time) to post up and try to get some online work done (ie. i’d need internet). I know you know, give me the goods.

    Cheers,
    Nick

    1. haha hey mate, depends how much of the real thailand vrs tourists, boozing vrs serenity you’re after – any ideas?!

      1. Good question. I’d like to be on the Thai side of the spectrum. And prioritize beauty over booze, although I don’t want to be too far away from a good time..

        1. in a nutshell, the group of islands of Tao, Samui and Phangan are all boozy, off the west coast and east of Bangkok and more quiet

  27. Wow, sounds like a fantastic place! Will be in Thailand in April and am deciding where to go. Definitely interested in staying here. Thanks for posting!

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