Azure water laps onto powdery beaches framed by distinctive rock formations. Vibrant tropical marine life dazzles the snorkellers. Draped in jungle and overgrown rubber groves, pristine hills dare visitors to discover hidden beaches and viewpoints. No roads or motorbikes; no blaring all-night parties; limited electricity, just primitive huts in paradise. Welcome to Ko Wai.
This tiny island sits six kilometres south of Ko Chang's southerly point, reachable via an easy cruise during high season. The bigger neighbour’s pyramid-shaped mountains add to Ko Wai’s breathtaking scenery. Chang may have longer beaches, but it can’t match Wai’s picture-perfect setting and laid back atmosphere that’s ideal for those who need a break from the “real world”.
Even so, staying overnight on Ko Wai is not for everyone. Electricity is only switched on from 18:00 to 23:00 at most bungalow joints, hot water is nonexistent and food options limited. There are no ATMs, bars, convenience stores, medical facilities or police stations. WiFi is not widely available, and our AIS cell phone sparsely worked on most parts of the island. Some visitors have reported rats in the bare-bones bungalows, which rarely have fans, and the island is home to some nasty mosquitoes.
All of these are reasons why most visitors stay for only an hour or two, passing through with one of the popular boat tours offered by every Ko Chang travel office. Every day from mid morning to early afternoon, the beaches in front of Paradise and Pakarang fill with selfie-snapping, snorkel-donning tourists. Once the last of them depart, Wai reverts back to its usual, entrancingly tranquil self.
It appears that Ko Wai's rustic tranquility is here to stay. Apart from one isolated resort on the southeast coast that appeared in 2011 and caters mainly to Thai tourists, the island has hosted the same four small resorts for years, with no large-scale development taking place. The interior remains blanketed in lush forest that's accessible only by unmarked and dubiously maintained hiking trails.
It's wise to make reservations if visiting during peak season from mid December through January, when the accommodation fills up close to capacity. Though Pakarang Resort can be booked online and Paradise can be emailed, it's still best to call the others directly. All of Ko Wai's resorts shut down completely during the rainy season from May to October.
Two things you do not want to forget when visiting Ko Wai: mosquito repellent and a torch. If you need to check your email, WiFi and a pay-by-the-minute computer are available at Pakarang Resort.
By David Luekens .