In a nutshell
Koh Phayam’s laid-back atmosphere, sandy beaches with great surf and reasonable accommodation prices have drawn all sorts of travellers to discover this relatively unknown island off Thailand’s south west coast. Many who find this hidden gem choose to come back time and time again. It has developed a hippy, relaxed vibe over the years and is particularly favoured by those who enjoyed Thailand’s east coast islands pre-Full Moon Parties.
Why go to Koh Phayam
With Koh Phayam now having wifi across the island and enough generator electricity to last most of the day, it has the conveniences needed for long-term travellers and digital nomads to make it home. However, it also retains its tranquil charm that brought people here in the first place.
Although the beaches aren’t always picture-perfect with clear azure waters and powdery sand, they still have enough of a draw to persuade you to relax on the shore all day and dine with the sound of the waves by your side at night. Roam around the island to find your perfect spot or choose one of the buzzing beach resorts with music and restaurants to keep you entertained.
If you like to snorkel or dive, then there are plenty of day trips that can be done from Koh Phayam. The twin islands of Koh Surin nearby are perhaps one of the best places to snorkel, with tropical fish and colourful coral. Alternatively head to the islands of the Laem Son Marine Park. If you take a day trip here you should be able to fit in a few snorkelling spots on different islands.
Koh Phayam isn’t known for its culture and there is only one temple on the island. However, if you speak to the locals they will be more than happy to chat about the history of the island’s cashew and rubber plantations and their traditional way of life.
In March each year there is a cashew festival when the delicious nuts are harvested. Visit just before this to see the cashew trees in full bloom.
When to go to Koh Phayam
Thailand’s southwest coastline is affected quite badly by the monsoon season that runs from May-November each year. Some of the islands like Koh Phayam become inaccessible due to inclement weather preventing ferries and catamarans from travelling. Therefore, the high season falls between December and March, with peak times being around Christmas and New Year. During most of the high season you can rock up on the island and find accommodation on the spot.
If you travel during the shoulder months of November and April, accommodation may be a little harder to find. We recommend emailing hotels directly to enquire about their opening dates and availability.
Where to stay on Koh Phayam
Most of the accommodation on Koh Phayam now has electricity and wifi, but if you’d rather something a little more rustic, beach huts can still be found across the island. The majority of hotels are found nestled among nature on the hillsides near the various beaches around Koh Phayam, with the main players being Ao Yai and Ao Khao Kwai.
There are plenty of accommodation options in the backpacker category, with fairly basic bungalows being the usual go-to option. Most of these have fans and mosquito nets. For something a little more upmarket, choose somewhere like Buffalo Bay Vacation Club which boasts creature comforts like air-conditioning and 24-hour power.
Where to eat in Koh Phayam
There is no shortage of food options in Koh Phayam so travellers, digital nomads and ex-pats alike will all be able to dine out with variety for months on end. From street vendors and fisherman to restaurants and pubs, everyone on Koh Phayam plays their part in a great food and drink scene.
Local specialities of course include seafood, and the fiery salads are delicious. There are some good western offerings, too, with Italian, American and Mexican all on the menu! You can easily eat out for breakfast, lunch and dinner around Koh Phayam’s beaches and won’t have to worry about eating banana pancakes and Pad Thai at every meal.
How to get around Koh Phayam
There are no cars or songthaews on Koh Phayam so travelling on two wheels is your best option. Motorbike taxis can be found all over the island and if you want one at a specific time, your hostel or resort can usually call and book one for you. Cost will depend on the journey but, generally speaking, a ride will cost between THB70-120 one way.
If you’d prefer, you can rent your own motorbike for around THB200 per day, or if you fancy a slower pace bicycles can be rented from many resorts for around THB100.
How to get to and from Koh Phayam
In high season, there are regular ferries and catamarans from Ranong which are fairly quick and easy and get there in two hours and 45 minutes respectively. In low season, there is just one boat a day but it is important to note that they only travel on days when the weather is good and the sea conditions are smooth.
If you want to go to or from Koh Chang Noi, it is worth speaking to the locals about tides and sea conditions to see whether any of the speedboats will stop there. Alternatively, you can hire a private longtail boat, but again these routes will depend on the weather.
Is Koh Phayam Safe?
Koh Phayam has a very small-town vibe and as such is known for being a safe place to travel. Of course, where possible keep your valuables close at all times and take care when walking or using vehicles around the island. If you have any problems, there is a police station near the pier.