Two sealed roads lead here.
The first signed turn off to Ao Yai that you see just after leaving the village is the "old road". This road is less frequently used and is often in poor repair but it's handy for getting to resorts at the southern end of the beach. The other road to Ao Yai starts at the school crossroads and takes you to more or less the centre of the beach.
The majority of resorts are located in the central section to the left on arrival and it can get quite noisy on this part of the beach because there's a party on somewhere most nights during the high season. If you're not a party person you can however escape most of the noise by staying at a resort a bit away from the main drag and the bars.
The sand at low tide on Ao Yai is rather dark and silty, but it's always deep enough to go swimming off this beach. Unfortunately the sea here often has stingers (minute jellyfish larvae) in it and swimming can be quite unpleasant at times. Sand flies can also be a problem here.
On the plus side, Ao Yai is one of the few beaches in Thailand where the waves get big enough to do some body boarding and surfing. Several resorts and bars rent out equipment and a few shops on the island sell body boards too.
During the annual Cashew Nut Festival in March, Ao Yai hosts daytime events such as island-wide football and volleyball competitions and beauty contests, and from time to time during high season other daytime beach activities get organised. Many resorts have volleyball nets for their guests for sunset matches and the relatively compact sand makes this a good jogging beach too.
The beach is so long it never gets very crowded and it's always possible to find a quiet spot all to yourself. Beach vendors, masseuses and touts haven't hit Ko Phayam yet and you may have to actually book ahead if you want a Thai massage.
Last updated on 28th December, 2011.