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.
We have 16 places to stay in and around Ko Phayam.
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.
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.
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.