The most popular beaches are Ao Yai and northern Ao Khao Kwai, both with at least a dozen places to stay and clusters of restaurants and shops on the access lanes. Southern Ao Khao Kwai is great for peace and quiet, but not for swimming at low tide. Some good options can also be found closer to the pier on the east coast, at Ao Mook and Ao Mae Mai along with some scenic inland locations. If seeking seclusion, check out Ao Kwang Peeb.
Expect rates at most resorts to jump by around 20% from mid December through January and perhaps through February. Many places are not listed on the big booking sites, so it’s often best to contact them directly to reserve a room. Also be aware that many places are very similar; we chose to feature some rather than others by the thinnest of margins. Do read to the bottom of accommodation listings to find out about similar choices in the same areas.
The bay’s northern portion hosts the bulk of Ao Khao Kwai’s places to stay, running from the dirt-cheap backpacker range to the upper flashpacker range. Most are small resorts squeezed in one after the next on a hillside that backs the beach. Unlike at South Ao Khao Kwai, it’s possible to swim here at low tide. The scene is also livelier after dark, especially around Hippy Bar at the northern end, though still subdued compared to Ao Yai.
Set at Ao Khao Kwai’s northern corner, Archan Pan Bungalows was named after the “Teacher” who rents out basic wood huts while crafting herbal remedies and maintaining fruit trees and fresh water sources for wild hornbills, monkeys and other animals. It’s a memorable option for back-to-nature types who like things as laid-back as they come. Looking more like a wizard than a... Read our full review of Archan Pan Bungalows.
One of a few flashpacker-range resorts found towards the south end of North Ao Khao Kwai, Baan Klong Kleng impressed us with personable service, a traditional Thai artistic touch and rooms that are classy and comfortable. The resort occupies a narrow strip of land with rooms built fairly close together along a tree-lined hill, with only the priciest rooms joining the sea-view restaurant... Read our full review of Baan Klong Kleng.
Whereas most of North Ao Khao Kwai’s resorts are squeezed onto narrow pieces of land, Jansom boasts a sizeable hunk of hillside with two lines of large wood bungalows all facing the sea and shaded by trees. The bungalows are far from new, with plenty of cracks and scuffs giving them a lived-in feel. Even so, we detected no major mould and the cold-water bathrooms, with psychedelic... Read our full review of Jansom Bungalows.
A short stairway runs from a great stretch of beach up to Starlight Resort, offering brick or bamboo bungalows with more style than most. The priciest bungalows face a shaded hilltop lawn culminating at a wood deck with sea-view loungers and tables near a restaurant with a book exchange and reception desk. Made of woven bamboo with high metal roofs, most of these have sea views from hammocks... Read our full review of Starlight Resort.
The south side of Buffalo Bay is separated from the north side by a long stretch of rocks and reached by a different access road. It’s quieter and less developed and the sand is whiter and finer, but there’s no swimming at low tide due to a vast swathe of flats. It’s a good option for seclusion with a location that’s central to the rest of the island.
An excellent choice for backpackers seeking a simple bungalow in a quiet setting, June Horizon embodies Ko Phayam’s quiet, artistic and relaxing character. The last resort found along the lane running behind South Ao Khao Kwai, June Horizon has a peaceful atmosphere punctuated by Tibetan prayer flags and lanterns that cast a soft glow over an open-air beachfront restaurant and bar after... Read our full review of June Horizon .
Opened in 2006, Buffalo Bay Vacation Club was one of the first places on Phayam to offer air-con, WiFi and 24-hour power—and it’s still a fine choice for families or anyone who appreciates their creature comforts. Spread over white-sandy grounds with trees, all of the fully enclosed beige concrete bungalows come with tile floors and tinted-glass doors fronting porches with wood chairs.... Read our full review of Buffalo Bay Vacation Club.
Ko Phayam’s longest beach has a great spread of accommodation running from bare-bones bamboo huts to luxury tents and cushy concrete villas. Places located around the centre of the beach (Phayam Lodge, Friends) put plenty of freestanding restaurants and other conveniences within easy walking distance, while those found in the corners (Baan Suan Kayoo, Lazy Hut) are best if you seek seclusion.
Friends serves terrific food along with luxury tents and a few bungalows in a convenient location. The attention to detail makes it one of our top picks on Phayam. Two-room tents are set on raised wood decks and sheltered by thatch roofs. Forget the images that typically come to mind when you think of a tent—these are the types you might stay in on an almost luxurious safari. Each comes... Read our full review of Friends.
Thai/French-owned Aow Yai Bungalows opened in 1986 as the first place to stay on Ko Phayam. More than three decades later, it has transformed from a basic bungalow joint to an actual resort with a wide range of accommodation in one of the more enviable locations on the island. Bungalows are spread around a vast property shaded by coconut, cashew and beach pines. The basic wood and bamboo... Read our full review of Aow Yai Bungalows.
Long-running Baan Suan Kayoo has a bunch of bamboo and wood bungalows draped in trees on a large chunk of land at the far northern end of Ao Yai. The rickety old woven bamboo huts are some of the cheapest options on the island for a private room. Those who don’t mind roughing it get a hard bed with mosquito net, attached bathroom with bucket-flush toilet and small porch. Much better are the... Read our full review of Baan Suan Kayoo.
Lazy Hut is a popular and fairly large bungalow spot located at Ao Yai’s southern end, accessible from the beach or a separate road from the east-coast village. Larger than most bungalows fetching similar rates, the cheapest huts come with thatch roofs, hardwood floors, mosquito nets draped over firm queen beds, portable fans and raised bamboo platforms with cushions and small tables. Walls... Read our full review of Lazy Hut.
A go-to choice for families or anyone who likes their comforts, Phayam Lodge has large and cushy concrete villas to go with a built-in diving and water sports outfit on a central stretch of Ao Yai. The grounds of this popular Swedish/Thai-run resort look rather sparse, with few trees growing between concrete rooms that are either freestanding or come two to a building. Inside they’re... Read our full review of Phayam Lodge.
Located a quick walk south of the village and pier on the east coast, Ao Mook is a pretty and easily overlooked beach stretching just south of some rocks and a mangrove-lined canal. You’re as likely to see fishing boats as sunbathers here.
The Thai term Sabai Sabai translates roughly as “really relaxed,” a fitting name for this mellow bungalow spot set in a quiet corner of the east coast. The cool British owner offers bungalows made of wood, thatch and bamboo, punctuated by orchids, seashells and hammocks. They’re each a little different: the cheapest little huts have mosquito nets over mattresses on the floor, cooled by... Read our full review of Sabai Sabai.
Located between a quiet east-coast beach and a mangrove-lined canal with good kayaking opportunities at high tide, The Blue Sky has exclusively air-con rooms that set the bar for luxury on Ko Phayam. The original concrete villas at this Maldives-inspired resort are built on stilts above a patch of mangroves; you can park a kayak out front and go exploring at high tide. These feature vaulted... Read our full review of The Blue Sky Resort.
This narrow east-coast beach with views to the mainland begins at Wat Ko Phayam and runs north for some distance, though most of it disappears at high tide. While not the best beach, it’s a good choice for peace and quiet.
Seclusion seekers who prefer a comfy room should consider PP Land, a classy resort set amid the snaking branches of cashew trees on the east coast. The resort does not allow children under 15 years old to stay, though its sister property, New Heaven on northern Ao Khao Kwai, was set up with families in mind. A Belgian/Thai couple with an eye for design own both places; PP Land came first in... Read our full review of PP Land Beach Resort.
At Phayam’s far northern point, Ao Kwang Peeb is a small and pretty beach backed by a jungle-clad hill. North Ao Khao Kwai is about a 10-minute walk to the south via a rugged dirt road. There’s only the one place to stay here.
This small resort isn’t a bad option if you’re looking for some of the more secluded bungalows on Ko Phayam. Set at the crest of a hill draped in jungle, a row of spacious wooden bungalows with high ceilings come with firm queen beds raised off dark-wood floors along with mosquito nets, portable fans, several windows with white cotton drapes and large open-roof bathrooms with cold-water... Read our full review of Kwangpeeb Bay Resort.
In recent years, several small resorts have opened in various inland locations around Ko Phayam. Many of these cater to long-term guests taking advantage of the cheaper rates for often better rooms than can be found on the beaches, but a couple were built on hilltops with great views.
Phuree’s seven bungalows were built almost entirely out of bamboo atop a hill with great views over an expanse of jungle and beyond to the Andaman Sea and the sunset. While Ko Phayam has several decent inland places to stay, we liked Phuree both for the design and location. Clustered around a garden with bamboo hammocks and walkways leading up to a small restaurant, all of the bungalows... Read our full review of Phuree Hut.