I had seen countless pictures of it. It looked like a paradisiac place only seen in movies and often manipulated to make us drool over the thought of “I wish I was there”. Recently, though, I visited for the first time the small island of Koh Nang Yuan in Thailand, and I must say it truly lived to all my expectations of how beautiful this place must be.
Getting there by traditional Thai long tail boat felt like traveling to a deserted exotic island waiting to be discovered. From far, I could see two small islands lying next to each other, looking almost deserted. As I got closer, my attention shifted to the turquoise water surrounding the white strips of sand that connect the islands.
I was stunned by the beauty of Koh Nang Yuan and amused by the surreal felling of walking over a submerged white coral-sand beach to reach my wood cabin, nestled almost naturally at the base of one of the islands.
Koh Nang Yuan, while considered to be one island, is actually a set of three islands, or rocky outcrops, connected by two strips of white coral-sand that serve as beach during low tide, and that disappear under the clear water when it rises.
While it looks like a paradisiac place secluded in the middle of nowhere, the truth is completely the opposite. Koh Nang Yuan is located just a 15 minutes long tail boat ride from Koh Tao – in fact, you could almost swim from the closest point of Koh Tao to Koh Nang Yuag… but don’t try it as there are strong currents!
The best way to get there is by traveling to Koh Tao –which is located on the Gulf of Thailand– and from Koh Tao taking a day trip or just hopping to overnight at Koh Nang Yuan. More on that soon…
There are many ways to get to Koh Tao, but the most common one is by taking the overnight train/bus to Chumphon and from there the morning ferry to Koh Tao.
I knew I wanted to experience Koh Nang Yuan properly, so I chose to stay there instead of taking a day trip. Best decision I made and I recommend you to do the same!
There is only one resort at Koh Nang Yuan –since it is a private island– but the price for a budget cabin is not that bad, considering the location. (My friend and I paid 1,600 Bahts for a night). One of the reasons I think staying there outweighs the accommodation price is the fact that you can enjoy the island ALL day.
You can be there with just a handful of people before and after the hoards of tourists/snorkelers/divers arrive and overrun the small beach – which in fact, are the best times to enjoy the beach since it’s low tide, there’s not such a strong current, and you can literally lie on the sand, sunbathe, relax, and read before the sandy strips are submerged by the high tide.
In case you don’t want to stay in Koh Nang Yuan, Koh Samui is only a short boat ride away. The hotels in Koh Samui are around the same price and they have more accommodation options. The sunsets, the beaches and the food are also great. But, now back to Koh Nang Yuan…
I loved swimming and relaxing at the beach while watching the sunset with barely anyone next to me. And I also loved waking up to have an early swim when there was absolutely no one else other than my friend and I. These moments were priceless. By the way, there are not many places in the world where you can say you watched the sunrise and sunset on the same beach!
I did like very much swimming on the clear waters and watching the hundreds of tropical fishes that populate these waters. On the other hand, the coral life leaves a lot to desire – probably thanks to the hundreds of snorkelers and divers who have stepped on and destroyed them.
Besides enjoying the beach, another thing you must do is to hike to the top of the smaller island – the famous viewpoint. The hike is not arduous and it doesn’t take more than 20 minutes to get to the top. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can do some light rock climbing to get to the absolute top. But be careful, as it is dangerous. (Make sure to wear sneakers of flip-flops with good grip if you decide to go to the top)
I decided to go all the way to the top barefoot, and while I did it fine, some of the big boulders on the top were quite rough on the skin, especially when I had to maneuver some pressure to reach the next boulder up. Once up, all I did was admire the environment, the mountains, and the beach from my unique bird’s eye view. It was stunning!
Other than the view and the beach, all that Koh Nang Yuan could offer was a calm environment to relax for the rest of the day; and that’s all I was hoping it would do.
Without a doubt, this has been one of the most unique places I’ve been in the world.
A few extra tips:
- Have lunch before going to Koh Nang Yuan. There’s only one restaurant there (the resort’s), so it is expensive. Take a few snacks too.
- If not staying at the resort, there is a fee of 100 Bahts per person to enter the private island.
- If staying at the resort, they have a complimentary ferry to and from Koh Tao. If going on your own for a day trip, expect to pay around 200-300 Bahts for one way. On the other hand, some snorkeling day trips can start as low as 250 Bahts with the round-trip. (But some of them don’t actually stop at the island. They just snorkel close to it.)
- Plastic bottles and cans are banned from the island, so any refreshment you take should be in other types of containers, like carton containers.
- Be careful during high tide, as currents can be strong and dangerous.
- There is a zip-line crossing between the two islands, but at the moment it is non operational. Check with the resort before going there if you’re interested in doing this activity.