Photo: Meet Ao Yai.


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Ko Wai is a wee island attracting daytrippers who come from Ko Chang to spend an hour or two lounging on the beaches and peeping at the reefs found beneath the crystal sea. When the tour boats depart, a handful of overnight guests settle into bare-bones bungalows and soak in the tranquility.

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Set six kilometres south of Ko Chang, Ko Wai stretches for just over two kilometres from east to west and is only around 500 metres across at its widest point, with no roads, motorbikes, villages, ATMs or anything else apart from five small resorts that open only in high season. Travellers seeking quietude with a selection of restaurants and other comforts should opt for Ko Mak or Ko Kut instead. If you appreciate the simple life and have time to spare, Wai makes for an easy stop while island hopping the archipelago.

Picture perfect. Photo taken in or around Ko Wai, Thailand by David Luekens.

Picture perfect. Photo: David Luekens

Ko Chang’s pyramid-shaped peaks frame a scenic outlook from most of Wai’s bungalows—you can even see the lights of Bang Bao Bay twinkling after dark. A dirt footpath runs along the north coast for a little more than a kilometre, taking you past a few small beaches, some unusual rock formations and all but one of the resorts.

Staggering amounts of tidal garbage sat piled up on the north coast when we last visited in mid February 2018, though a blogger who arrived a few weeks later reported cleaner shores. Northerly winds typically blow garbage up from Ko Chang and the mainland from rainy season until some time around January, if not a bit later. Most of the resorts attempt to clean portions of their coastlines, at least, but there’s only so much they can do.

Crystal waters. Photo taken in or around Ko Wai, Thailand by David Luekens.

Crystal waters. Photo: David Luekens

Embraced by aquamarine and azure-blue water, Ko Wai’s beaches are idyllic when not blanketed in trash. The longest, Ao Yai, consists of light-tan sand in front of Koh Wai Paradise to the northwest. Heading east from there you’ll find only pint-size portions of sand around Good Feeling. Next comes the darker sand fronting Pakarang Resort and we think this is the least attractive beach on Wai. Do head further east to find powdery khaki sand in sheltered Ao Yai Ma and another small beach with no development set a little further east.

A long coral reef lies near much of the north shore and while the snorkeling is not bad, you’ll find better visibility and a wider range of marine life off Ko Rang, a national park island with no resorts located further south near Ko Mak. If you’re trying to choose an island for a day tour from Ko Chang, we think Rang beats Wai by more than a hair. But if you don’t want to be buckled into a tour program, why not go for a night or two on Wai?

Much of the island is undeveloped. Photo taken in or around Ko Wai, Thailand by David Luekens.

Much of the island is undeveloped. Photo: David Luekens

All of Ko Wai’s resorts shut down in the rainy season from May through October. Most resorts do not offer WiFi and electricity comes from generators switched on from around 18:00 to 22:00 at the cheap spots. Bring a torch. Some visitors have reported rats in the bare-bones bungalows, which rarely have fans, and the mosquitoes are savage.

While most travellers stay put near the resorts on the north coast, a few unmarked trails lead to the undeveloped south coast and these are worth seeking out if you’re up for a walk through the jungle.

As with everywhere, trash is an increasing challenge. Photo taken in or around Ko Wai, Thailand by David Luekens.

As with everywhere, trash is an increasing challenge. Photo: David Luekens

Ignore Koh Wai Paradise’s signs marking the western end of Ao Yai as “private” and look for a trail that cuts steeply uphill just past bungalow #20. Keep straight and after some 300 metres you’ll emerge at Sunset Point, which is breathtaking at any time of day. Framed by forest, a large slope of rock tapers into dramatic cliffs where seawater smacks against the jagged shore.

Do not light campfires and be careful when putting out cigarettes around the grass that grows amid the rocks at Sunset Point. Travellers have started fires that spread quickly and damaged forest in dry season, explaining why the Paradise staff try to hide the trailhead.

Classic beach shack with a view. Photo taken in or around Ko Wai, Thailand by David Luekens.

Classic beach shack with a view. Photo: David Luekens

Rather than hiking straight across the island, you could bang a left down another path that branches east off the trail to Sunset Point and leads deeper into the forest. It eventually drops you at a sheltered south-coast bay rimmed by coconut trees—a secluded spot where you can wade into the tepid water.

Medical facilities and police are non-existent on Ko Wai; an emergency will require a trip to Trat town on the mainland. The 4G signal on our phone worked fine throughout the main north-coast trail.


What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Ko Wai.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Read up on where to eat on Ko Wai.
 Read up on how to get to Ko Wai, or book your transport online with 12Go Asia.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Ko Wai? Please read this.
 Buy a SIM card for Thailand—pick it up at the airport when you arrive.
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