Finding Paradise in Phang Nga Bay

koh hong beach

Working on Koh Phi Phi for two weeks had both Dave and I exhausted and desperate for a break from our productive yet soul-destroying work routine. After deciding that we needed a digital detox and to spend a week offline on a beach, we set about trying to find the perfect island.

A few searches for “Thailand paradise” brought up the island Koh Hong repeatedly and it looked absolutely stunning. However, being protected by National Park status meant that we would be unable to stay there.

I had to keep looking.

I eventually decided on Koh Yao Noi and it was only once we arrived that I realised boat tours frequently run from the island out to Phang Nga National Park, where Koh Hong is located.

It was fate!

We hired a longtail for the day and set off to explore the National Park.

boat trip in phang nga bay

Hundreds of boat tours run to Phang Nga Bay every day from Krabi and so this collection of 42 islands can get busy extremely quickly. Koh Hong was no exception, despite the 200 baht entrance fee warding off a few people.

Wanting to avoid the crowds, we set off to Koh Hong first, which was absolutely the right decision. We were the only people there when we arrived at 8am!

And why was I so desperate to visit Koh Hong? Because it looks like this!

koh hong

I’ve used the word paradise a lot recently while talking about the Thai islands but it’s the only word that can accurately describe Koh Hong. With some of the softest white sand I’ve ever set foot on and transparent emerald-green water, having the island all to ourselves was an incredible experience.

koh hong beach
koh hong phang nga bay
koh hong phang nga bay

Within just a few hours, the hoards of tour groups were passing through and our private island suddenly became a little too crowded. We jumped back into the longtail to explore the rest of the island.

The lagoon.

On the opposite site to the beach, we discovered a hidden lagoon surrounded by striking limestone rock formations. Easing through a tiny gap in the rocks we emerged into a circular pool of water that was full of colourful tropical fish.

lagoon in koh hong

We couldn’t stay for too long – our stomachs were rumbling and we had to find somewhere to have lunch!

We raced past beautiful beach after beautiful beach, each one filled with hundreds of Koreans on tour. Eventually we found our perfect lunchtime spot – a beach with just enough room for the two of us.

beach in phang nga bay

Having lived in England my whole life, the only fish I’ve encountered are limited to the goldfish I won at my school fair that we had to keep in the kitchen sink for weeks because I didn’t want to buy a fish tank, and the scary grey beasts that lurk at the bottom of the River Thames.

So when I was half-way through my lunch and saw one of our drivers squeal excitedly and leap into the water with snorkel in hand, I knew that it wouldn’t be long until I was jumping in there too.

These fish were amazing!

They were so colourful and so pretty. They were nothing like fish that I’m used to seeing back home. And although I couldn’t figure out how to work my snorkel and spent half the time inhaling water into my lungs, it was still so exciting!

I really need to work up the courage to go diving…

tropical fish in thailand

My fish-induced hysteria had me exhausted after just a few minutes and Dave had to work quickly to get me back into the longtail through fear that I might end up collapsing with a blend of joy and fear.

The rest of my afternoon was spent calming down on a small sandbar we discovered and glaring furiously at anybody who dared to join us and shatter the illusion of owning a private island.

thailand island longtail

We didn’t have to glare for long as the darkening of the sky and rumble of thunder in the distance alerted us to the fact that our tour was now over and it was time to race the storm back to Koh Yao Noi.

We made it back just in time and the rest of our afternoon was spent lying in our hammocks and trying not to get blown across the balcony by the storm.

Cruising around Phang Nga Bay was one of the highlights of my time in Koh Yao Noi. I got to see some truly beautiful and, more importantly, unspoiled islands that I was unaware even existed in Thailand anymore.

If you ever find yourself anywhere near Phang Nga Bay, then I highly recommend paying the money to rent a boat and go exploring for the day. It’s definitely worth it.


  1. Toni
    July 2, 2012

    This is why I miss Thailand so much! :(

    • July 2, 2012

      I know, I miss it too! :(

  2. tak
    July 2, 2012

    WOW! Absolutely amazing. I can’t wait to go….just curious, how many baht to rent the long tail for the day?

    • July 2, 2012

      Hi Tak,

      I didn’t include the price as I can’t actually remember and it usually varies on how well you can bargain with the drivers ;). I think it was something like 1500 baht.

  3. Jen
    July 2, 2012

    I want to be in a hammock here now!!! xx

  4. Ali
    July 2, 2012

    This looks so awesome! Definitely looks like paradise, and you’re right, no other word to describe it. I skipped Thailand on my RTW because Andy wants to go, and now I want to go even more!

    • July 5, 2012

      Yes, you both have to head back there! Get on a second RTW! ;)

  5. Waegook Tom
    July 2, 2012

    Lauren, you’re killing me with these beach photos, especially since what I was anticipating would be a beach vacation turned into death-hiking and activities that most definitely did NOT involve relaxing on a paradise beach.

    I may well hit up here when I’m in Thailand next year. More importantly, though – is it possible to hire a cute Thai guy to row the boat for you? I’m not too big on the rowing.

    • July 5, 2012

      Tom, you need to go!!!! And of course, all the Thai guys are cute :)

  6. Jeremy Branham
    July 2, 2012

    This beach looks like a scene from a movie! The lagoon, the fish, the water, the beach – not a bad way to spend a day, a few weeks, or a permanent vacation :)

    • July 5, 2012

      I know – it was incredible! It felt like I was in a film! :D

  7. Katie
    July 2, 2012

    I’m definitely making visiting Koh Hong a priority when I get to Thailand!! Those pictures look STUNNING Lauren! Truly Paradise.

    • July 5, 2012

      Yep, it was a great place to spend a few hours :)

  8. tak
    July 3, 2012

    thanks Lauren,

    1500 baht doesn’t sound bad for a private boat and driver to show you around the whole day, especially if he knows any hidden, secluded beach areas. But I think it’s key to go early before the crowds…this worked in my favor when I wen to Ankor Wat in Cambodia. Everybody goes to Ankor Wat for the sunrise tour, but instead of spending too much time there, I moved on to the other temples on the usual rout-ine, always staying a step ahead of the crowds, and I was able to get excellent shots without any tourists @ bayon and others.

    Oh, one more thing. On my next trip, I’m determined to get my PADI diving license. Does Koh Hong offer places to dive/rent tanks once I have my certification? I dont actually plan to get certified at Koh Hong, but I would like to dive there without any tourists/groups….thanks in advance!

    • July 5, 2012

      Hey Tak – it’s actually a National Park and the island itself is only about 30 metres long! There’s an office where you pay your entrance fees and that is it. There isn’t even anywhere to get food! You’d be best going with a dive company in either Phuket or Krabi that would be able to boat out to around Phang Nga Bay :)

  9. Lindsey
    July 3, 2012

    “The rest of my afternoon was spent calming down on a small sandbar we discovered and glaring furiously at anybody who dared to join us and shatter the illusion of owning a private island.”

    I love it! It looks amazing, and great advice about arriving early!

    • July 5, 2012

      Hahaha, it’s always so annoying when you have somewhere to yourself and then 400 Japanese tourists suddenly appear and shatter the peace! :)

  10. July 3, 2012

    Beautiful photos! Sounds like the perfect place to relax and unwind. We’ll be in Thailand early next year and will definitely look into going here!

    • July 5, 2012

      I highly recommend it, Vicky! :)

  11. July 6, 2012

    Looks like a little piece of Paradise. I would love to spend a bit of time there one day.

  12. Maggy
    August 28, 2013

    Hi Lauren,

    you did exactly what we are planning to do in January 2014! I am just curious how early you can start from Phnag Nga or Krabi with a private hired log tail boat? Are there already people waiting to get hired at 6am or so? As well do you have any recommendation where to rent a private boat with driver? We definitley have to skip the crowds… :))

    LG, Maggy

    • August 28, 2013

      Hi Maggy,

      You can start as early as you want. There will be dozens and dozens of guys trying to get you to hire a longtail pretty much everywhere you go so you’ll have zero issues trying to find somebody or getting them to leave at 6am — just organise it the day before to make sure, but there’ll probably still be a few people hanging around at that time.

      I used a friend of my guesthouse owner but they’re all pretty much the same. Just tell the longtail guy when you arrive that you want to visit the islands without people on and he’ll know where to go :-)

  13. March 26, 2015

    Hi Lauren, absolutely right about tip going to Koh Hong in the early morning. I live in Koh Yao Yai and the Chong Lad Pier is the place, where you should look for longtail boat captains. Its often fishermen who makes money also like this. NP fee is currently 300 THB. The whole Phang Nga area is beautiful with lots of limestone islands and amazing rock shapes, the most famous ones are James Bond Island and Koh Panyee. Not to be confused, there is another Koh Hong in that area and I believe its not the last one :)

    Koh Yao Yai is quite big island and still absolutely unspoiled and sleepy even more that sister island Yao Noi. If you are looking for empty beaches, quiet, peace and no traffic on the road this is the right spot. It is also convenient location for diving trips to some of the best dive sites in Thailand: Shark Point, Anemone reef, King Cruiser wreck or Koh Doc Mai. All are just 20mins away by speedboat. Elixir Divers is company that will take care of you on the island for diving and tours as well.

    I just believe that Koh Yao Yai deserves more attention and promotion. I see that locals already learn how to develop and improve, but the process is so slow that it will be escape place from Phuket or Krabi for a very long time.

  14. Claudia
    April 3, 2017

    Hi Lauren, I’m so glad I found your blog after hours of researching. I accidentally booked a resort in Koh Yao Noi, but none of the agents from Phuket can drop me off the resort. Instead, I’m going to get up real early from Phuket and take the ferry to Manor Pier in Koh Yao Noi and arrive at 8:30am. Out of curiosity, in what pier did you find the boat rental?

    • April 6, 2017

      Ah, I just organised it through my guesthouse.