At the same time, it has more of the feeling of a national park than a beach resort, no doubt because it's located on a airforce base, the 53rd Air Division, just to the south of town.
There are plenty of food stalls and even a food court on the beach road, but few other services or tourist-oriented businesses.
On weekends expect something of a crowd here, but come weekdays you'll most likely have the place to yourself. Note that some areas of the base are restricted and you're not really allowed to go off exploring -- especially to the southern beach you can see from Ao Manao -- that is off limits.
To get to Ao Manao, you have to follow Sala Cheep Road and go through the gate to the military base. Slow down and acknowledge the guard -- sometimes he'll stop you and have you sign in at the office immediately to the right after entering.
You used to have to leave your passport, but not nowadays -- though it might make sense to bring it just in case the rules change. You'll receive plenty of smiles and salutes around here, though they can still be a bit sensitive about cameras.
A motorbike taxi should cost you 30 or 40 baht, or you could walk there by continuing along the beach, and check out Wat Dolak, around halfway, for its forest of stupas.
By Stuart McDonald
Last updated on 16th September, 2013.