It is roughly the same size as Ao Yai in total length but is split into two very distinct beaches by a third, rocky middle section.
The northern part of Ao Kwai is a mixture of sand and rocks and the water here is always deep enough for swimming. There is some (mostly dead) coral a few hundred metres offshore at the northern end and around the headland but visibility is usually very poor.
Non-motorised water sports equipment can be rented out on this beach, both from the resorts and a new small Aussie/Thai-owned watersports rental outfit. The latter has windsurfing equipment and can provide lessons for beginners.
There's very little nightlife on this beach apart from a loud party at the Hippy Bar about once a month. The sealed road stops just after Jansom Bungalows and resorts north of this are accessed by a dirt track which now has a short concrete section to help motorbike drivers negotiate a small hill without falling off.
There are far fewer facilities on this beach than on Ao Yai; no nearby shops but a massage place and restaurant have just opened on track behind the beach. Several resorts have chill out areas overlooking the beach which are good places to have a drink and admire the sunset in the evenings.
The middle section is very rocky and the sand is very silty. Furthermore, the rocks are covered in very sharp oyster shells so it's not suitable for swimming and it's advisable to have decent shoes (ie tevas rather than flipflops) even to walk this section if you want to avoid getting cut. Only one resort on this section (Contact Bungalows)
The southern end of the beach is completely different. Mostly sand, finer and whiter than elsewhere, but the tide here goes out a very long way every day and it's only deep enough for swimming for a couple of hours when the tide's right in.
This part of the beach is even quieter than the northern end of Ao Kwai, no parties here, though you can hear the massive generators from Phayam Cottages and the Buffalo Bay Vacation Club in the background.
Noise occasionally drifts across the bay from the Hippy Bar when they have a party on (about once a month). Someone somewhere recommended Vijits as an ideal place for families with small children on account of the shallow water and nice sand so sometimes wailing squabbling infants spoil the peace there too, especially during school holidays.
Both Buffalo Bay Vacation Club and Payam Cottages cater for families with small children as well, swings and roundabouts in the grounds at Payam Cottages and a playroom for children at BBVC.
Last updated on 8th February, 2012.