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One of the most relaxed and authentic islands in Thailand, lush Koh Jum island has somehow managed to retain its slow place of life and rustic charm even as many islands around it have given in to mass development. With a prime location right in the middle of three of the most popular places in Thailand – Krabi, Koh Lanta and Koh Phi Phi – it is amazing that Koh Jum still offers the kind of serene, Thai island experience that has long disappeared on so many other islands.
Of course, the relative lack of development on Koh Jum is partially because it lacks the big highlights of these other hotspots. Sure, it has lots of beaches, most of which are, let’s say, “nice”, but none that jump out at you as memorable destinations or Instagram stars.
Koh Jum is also missing that signature viewpoint, iconic cave or top snorkelling spot that draw so many visitors to Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta and even Koh Mook. Which, for island hoppers and tour groups, makes it an easy miss when there are so many other places to choose from.
But those willing to settle in and explore a bit will find Koh Jum to be a lovely, laid-back place with several long beaches to wander and peaceful spots to slow down.
For ideas on where to stay, check out 8 Outstanding Koh Jum Hotels
Even though it is spelled “Koh Jum”, it is pronounced more like “Ko Jam”, for some reason. Further complicating matters is that the northern part of the island is generally referred to as Koh Pu. All told, there are three villages on the island – Ban Koh Jum, Ban Ting Rai and Ban Koh Pu – and three different piers as well.
Most residents of Koh Jum are Muslim, although alcohol is still sold in hotels around the island, and while there are lots of small shops and restaurants, there are no chain stores (i.e. 7-Eleven) and still no ATM (although many of the hotels will accept credit cards).
There are also lots of monkeys, which shouldn’t really affect your trip planning, although considering we hadn’t been on the island more than half an hour when a huge macaque with shoulders like a linebacker snuck right into our room (while we were inside!) to attempt a daring heist of our coffee and sugar packets.
I caught him as I was emerging from the bathroom – to great alarm on both our parts – and chased/shouted him out the door, although he didn’t go far before stopping to turn back, slowly and deliberately, shooting me a look that implied I was nothing to him and on a different day he would gladly put me in my place but, alas, he had a fresh packet of instant coffee to enjoy so my humiliating beatdown would have to wait. For now.
The 11 Best Things to Do on Koh Jum
Now, not everything in Thailand needs to be about the beaches (although some might argue that). And, while we’ll get to those eventually, first we’ll go through our list of the best things to do in Koh Jum (besides relaxing on the beach).
1. Rent a Kayak
Most resorts rent out kayaks for around 500B ($US15)/half-day (although some even provide them for free) and it is a fantastic way to explore the island. Other than the stretch of beach south of Ao Si Beach it is difficult to follow the waterline on foot so heading out on a kayak allows you a whole new perspective on the beautiful coastline of Koh Jum.
2. Rent a Motorbike
With three little villages, only a handful of smooth, paved roads and loads of local charm, Koh Jum is the perfect place to tour on motorbike. And by motorbike, I mean, of course, the rather ambitious name Thais use for a little moped or scooter.
Just about every resort or restaurant will be able to rent you one for 200-300B per day. Plus fuel, although you’ll have to work pretty hard to use more than a litre on an island this size.
3. Rent a Bike
Of course, if you want to make your body work a little harder for the sights of Koh Jum, the island is also a terrific place to ride a regular bike. The roads are good, as we mentioned, and mostly flat, something that is far more noticeable when you’re powering the wheels yourself. You can usually rent a decent bike for 100-150B/day.
4. Get a Massage
Hey, maybe you’re on vacation and are mostly focused on maximizing your relaxation and overall enjoyment. Well, you’re in luck, since most resorts have a masseuse on staff, with prices usually running in the very reasonable 400B/hr range.
5. Hike up to Mount Pu
“Mount”, you ask? Yeah, well, considering this is Thailand, 422 metres above sea level is actually pretty impressive (semantics aside). Located at the far north end of the island it is pretty hard to miss – hint, it’s the big green hill.
It is difficult to find and follow the trail without a guide, though, so you’re best off hiring one of the local pros from nearby Ban Ko Pu to lead you to the best viewpoints. Half-day tours usually cost around 1,000B.
6. Sign Up for a Longtail Boat Trip
All the best longtail island tours in the area can be done from Koh Jum just as easily as from Krabi or Koh Phi Phi. The 4 Island Tour is one of the most popular, visiting the bizarre chicken head rock on Koh Kai (Chicken Island, of course), Tup Island (a small islet connected to Chicken Island) and beautiful Koh Poda.
The 4th “island” is often actually Phra Nang Beach and Phra Nang Cave, although you can always negotiate the exact itinerary with the captain before committing (700-1,000B per person depending on how many people you have).
7. Head Out on a Koh Jum Fishing Tour
There is outstanding fishing all around these islands and every hotel can arrange a private or group fishing excursion tailored to your goals and timeline. We didn’t go but were quoted 3500B for a half-day trip including lunch.
8. Take a Thai Cooking Class
Several of the resorts offer Thai cooking classes or you can stop in at Rim Tang Cooking School down near Andaman Beach. Not only is this a unique experience but you even get a meal out of it at the end (which may or may not be a benefit depending on your skill level).
9. Try Koh Phi Phi / Koh Haa Snorkelling
The snorkelling close to Koh Jum isn’t as good as on some of the other islands but most of the island tours will include a snorkelling stop or two in the best parts of Phra Nang Bay. Or you can negotiate a specific snorkelling trip to Koh Phi Phi or even the excellent reef around Koh Haa (Five Islands) near Koh Lanta.
10. Join a Koh Jum Scuba Diving Excursion
There aren’t any popular dive sites right around Koh Jum and Koh Jum Divers was shut down when we visited but you can usually join up with one of the dive shops out of Krabi or Koh Phi Phi. The best dives in the area are Hin Daeng (Red Rock) and Hin Muang (Purple Rock), a couple hours by boat from Koh Jum. Koh Haa also has good dive sites.
11. Visit the Nearby Islands
Wildly popular Koh Phi Phi may be a bit overrun but there’s a reason for that. It is still one of the most beautiful islands and areas in Thailand. Koh Lanta is practically the perfect mid-range island, with a lot of comfortable resorts and nice beaches without the overwhelming tourism you’ll find in Phuket.
Meanwhile, Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai somehow see even fewer tourists than Koh Jum and are perfect for those who prefer to get off the beaten path.
Koh Jum Beaches
What Koh Jum lacks in superstar, powdery, white sand beaches that could have made it the darling of the beach bum scene, it does have numbers on its side. Depending on where you decide to arbitrarily divide them, there are anywhere from 8-10 good beaches on Koh Jum, running in a nearly unbroken line from the north to south along the west coast.
While dreamy white sand is hard to come by, there are some very pretty Koh Jum beaches and almost all of them are great for walking.
Here are the main beaches on Koh Jum from north to south:
Banyan Bay Beach
A nice, sheltered beach with all the resort facilities right there. It is secluded and private and a good place to be when the waves are big on the west coast.
Lined by palm trees (as one might expect based on the name), this secluded gem is a beautiful place with just one resort, hills at either end and a good chance of having it all to yourself.
Also called Lubo Beach or Sunset Beach, this is where you’ll find the main concentration of true budget bungalows and cheap, basic restaurants. The beach itself is long and rocky with a little sheltered swimming area and Homeless Man Island, a bizarrely chaotic “house” built on a tiny islet that is actually just a rock anytime other than high tide.
Word is that an eccentric Thai man lives there occasionally, even though he isn’t supposed to, but no one can get rid of him. Hard to say how much of that story was lost in translation but I can tell you no sane person decorated that place.
Ao Ting Rai Beach
A rocky but very picturesque beach near Oon Lee Bungalows and Koh Jum Resort, it is a great place for exploring and watching the sunset. It also tends to be a bit quieter than many of the other beaches, although there isn’t a whole lot left of it at high tide.
This tiny little beach just north of the main set of popular beaches doesn’t have any place to stay, just a small bar (which was closed when we visited) and a particularly good swimming area.
Ao Si Beach
Also called Loma Beach, Ao Si Beach is our pick for the best beach on Koh Jum. With nice sand, lots of trees, some unobtrusive little resorts and a social vibe, it is the perfect place to spend your days on Koh Jum.
Or if you’re feeling like you need a bit of exercise, it is possible to walk on beaches all the way from here to Freedom Beach on the south coast (easier at low tide, of course).
Golden Pearl Beach
This large, photogenic beach also has an argument to be called the best beach on Koh Jum, with big open space, lots of resorts and a handy location very close to restaurants and shops. It just doesn’t quite have the charm of Ao Si Beach, in our opinion, although you really can’t go wrong either way.
Long, wide and flat, Andaman Beach feels almost desolate early in the morning before the sunbathers arrive. There are some good budget accommodation options along here and, as usual, outstanding sunsets.
Named for Freedom Resort, which is no longer open, Freedom Beach is almost less a beach than a small rocky point with some intermittent patches of sand. But it can be a bit calmer on days when the wind is coming from the west and it has very unique views of tiny Koh Pe Lat, a private island with its own little beach and even a bit of a hill. It is also for sale, apparently, in case you haven’t quite blown through your entire holiday budget yet.
Where to Stay
While Koh Jum was relatively untouched for years, now there is a diverse group of Koh Jum resorts to choose from, almost all located on the west side of the island. Despite the growing number, however, they remain relatively discreet so the island maintains its quiet charm.
Personally, we stayed at Oon Lee Bungalows, a lovely, unique place with a peaceful, off-the-beaten path location at the very end of the western “road”. They have obviously put plenty of work and thought into their collection of affordable, traditional bungalows, which don’t have A/C but occasionally boast tremendous views from the balcony hammocks.
Other good choices are the mid-range Sun Smile Beach on beautiful Ao Si Beach, the supremely relaxed Koh Jum Delight Beach with its quiet location and nice pool or the secluded and luxurious Banyan Bay Villas tucked away on a gorgeous private beach at the very northern tip of the island.
For a detailed breakdown, check out the Best Koh Jum Resorts
Where to Eat: Koh Jum Restaurants
Pretty much every hotel on Koh Jum has its own restaurant, plus there is a surprisingly good selection of other options, most of which are located along the island’s main road.
Right by the Ban Koh Jum pier is Mai Thai, a very authentic local Thai place that serves excellent fried noodles and specializes in soups from northern Thailand.
Luboa Café is another good choice in the village, with good snacks and coffee.
The Hang Out Bar is a good choice for socializing over a couple drinks and enjoying some basic Thai staples.
Pizza Classic is known for exactly what you think they’d be known for, and they do it quite well.
The Pop Up Café is a cute, atmospheric little spot off the main road that is run by the owners of OonLee Bungalows. They also rent out motorbikes, mountain bikes and have a small clothing and souvenir shop.
Peace Paradise Restaurant on North Beach has good, cheap Thai dishes and will protect your food from monkeys with a trusty wooden slingshot.
How to Get to Koh Jum
There are three piers on Koh Jum – Ban Koh Jum, Mu Tu and Ban Koh Pu – each of which have ferries, speedboats and longtails to different locations. You’d think it would be important to know which one you are arriving at or leaving from, except that Koh Jum is a small, local place and all the taxis and hotels will know exactly which pier as soon as you tell them your destination (or origin).
Krabi International Airport is the closest place you can fly to and it is possible to book a taxi/boat transfer combo for 2,000-3,000 baht (for up to 4-8 people depending on the company). Some boats leave from Klong Jilad Pier (shorter taxi ride / longer boat trip) and others depart from Laem Kruat Pier, which is a longer drive south of Krabi but you only have a short longtail transfer from there (100B/pp).
We would recommend checking 12Go Asia for the latest combo deals or asking your hotel for a recommendation. From Koh Jum to Koh Lanta or Koh Phi Phi you can book a spot on Tigerline Ferry (800B/pp) in either direction. They are comfortable and quick but, in our experience, always 30-60 minutes late.
Koh Jum Map
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How to Get Around
There are four options for getting around on Koh Jum:
There are songthaews (small trucks with benches in the back) that go anywhere on the island for 50-150B/pp.
By which, we mean a scooter or moped, which most places will rent out for 200-250B per day (plus fuel). The roads are relatively smooth and never busy, making Koh Jum an ideal place to explore by motorbike.
Many hotels and shops rent out bikes at very low prices. Koh Jum is relatively flat so this can actually be a very good choice.
The most scenic (and most expensive) option to get to some of the different beaches around the island is to hire a private longtail for the journey. Prices will vary greatly depending on who you talk to and when but, either way, this is probably more of a one-time thing than your main form of transportation.
When to Go
As a tropical island, the temperature in Koh Jum doesn’t change much throughout the year, although it does get a bit hotter from Feb-Apr (32C/24C high/low) compared to the rest of the year (29/25).
Rainy season lasts from May to October, with September-October getting the worst of it and November being a transition month when you can get a bit of anything. There is very little rain from December to April but you may see a bit more wind at that time and the combination of temperature and humidity gets gradually more oppressive throughout March and April.
Koh Jum’s charms are more subtle than the big, signature attractions of some of the busier and more touristy islands in the area, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a great place to visit. With long stretches of uncrowded sand, pristine jungle and a very local atmosphere, Koh Jum is a uniquely authentic choice in the Krabi area.
If you’re looking for someplace quiet and very “Thai” or have already been to a lot of Thai islands and want to get off the usual tourist path, Koh Jum is the perfect choice.
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