UPDATED MAY 2016
South West Beaches a GlanceAo Yai, the fishing village on the south east coast.
Each beach has just two or three places to stay and outside of these, there are only the odd cluster of tiny shops or restaurants along the way. The resorts do organise transport and activities or you can rent motorbikes, so you need not be completely cut off, but these are very much areas to get away from it all, perhaps best for couples rather than families.
And the beaches, by the way, are simply beautiful, with long white strands, blue seas and picture postcard bays.
Ao Takian Beach
After leaving Bang Bao Beach, the road meanders for a few kilometres, passing the odd house or building, until it reaches the turnoff for Ao Takian and Ao Klong Hin, with a few shacks and noodle stalls lining the roadside just before. There are also signs for Pa Hin Sai and Klong Hin Beach Resort, so you are unlikely to scoot past.
The track forks to the left (Klong Hin Beach) or goes straight on (Ao Takian) and by taking this option, you arrive via a newly concreted road at the back of the upmarket boutique resort of Cham’s House. The original rough track continues up to the right to simple natural bungalows of Pa Hin Sai, which have more of a travellers feel.
These are the only two resorts on Ao Takian and they both lie at its northern end, together with a small wooden pier. The beach is quite rocky in places, but the sea is fine for swimming and overall, it makes for a breathtaking panaorama.
The middle section and southern end remain untouched, with coconut trees and tall grass reaching back behind as far as the eye can see, adding to a terrific sense of wild isolation. Just before the start of the concrete section to the beach and Cham’s House, there is another very degraded track which leads off to the right. This emerges out on the southern headland of Bang Bao Beach by Sand and Sea, but it should only be attempted on foot.
Klong Hin Beach
Taking the left fork option just after the turnoff from the main road, the track eventually brings you out at the northern end of Klong Hin Beach.
Set in a pretty horseshoe bay, this beach also has just two resorts, the centrally positioned Klong Hin Beach Resort, used almost exclusively by Russian tour groups and the recently renamed Montana Hut, a boutique style resort, on the southern headland after the bridge. There is also a bar and cafe on the grass at this top end.
Ao Jak (Neverland Beach)
Back on the main road, there are now more signs of life as you head down the island towards the next beach at Ao Jak. A smattering of little shops and very simple restaurants have sprung up, with two backpacker resorts set back under the trees on both sides of the road, Eve House and Rung Aroeng. They are both a good 15 to 20 minutes walk from the beach at Ao Takian, but you do get a sense of a slow development in this area.
A few kilometres further along, Ao Jak’s turning is the next thing to look out for, with its long, horribly rutted track ultimately arriving at the beach, another beautiful long sweep of powder sand and turquoise waters. The only resort, the mid-range Neverland, the name by which the area is more often called, sits right in the centre. A wide river runs behind it at the northern end, where you will also find a small homestay in a restored stilt house, Ao Jak Homestay, just by the now decaying bridge.
The southern end has a few abandoned bungalows amid the coconut plantations.
Ao Phrao Beach
A few kilometres further down the coast, the road passes Relax Restaurant and House, formerly found in Klong Chao Beach and then after a kilometre or so turns towards Ao Yai. At this crossroads, the final track leads off to Ao Phrao, passing a temple up on the hill with an accompanying monastery opposite, before dropping down to the back of the beach.
Sandy dusty paths head off through the long grass to the southern end and Sunshine Resort, mid-range bungalows, whilst Ao Phrao Resort sits in the middle of the beach. This resort featured on the Thai equivalent of Castaway and so attracts both Thai packages and Russian tour groups. Nexst door, I-Lay House has recently opened its doors, with a neat row of very reasonably priced bungalows opening out directly onto the sand.
At the northern end, the boutique guesthouse, For Rest Boutique House is located just back from the sand on the curve of the river. Also at this end, there is a small village, which sits either side of a concrete bridge spanning the klong (canal).
The Coastal Path between the Beaches
There is a little known coastal path, actually the old road, which connects Ao Phrao, Ao Jak and Klong Hin and it takes around a hour to walk. From Ao Phrao, you cross the bridge at the northern end, passing the one room school on the slope and then follow the lower track through the coconut trees, until you reach the paved path on the edge of the cape.
This will bring you out at the southern end of Ao Jak (Neverland Beach) and from there, walk the full length of the beach to the broken bridge at the far end and pick up the path once more, following it around the coast until you emerge at the southern end of Klong Hin at Montana Resort. Unfortunately, the path is no longer safe for motorbikes.
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