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The 8 Best Things to Do on Gorgeous Koh Ngai

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Tiny Koh Ngai (pronounced and sometimes written as Koh Hai) is another small Thai island (roughly 4 km by 2 km) with big views and an amazing beach. You know, you’d think this island hopping would be getting a bit monotonous but not really, as each of them have their own unique feel and interesting sights that set them apart. And despite its small size, there are still plenty of great things to do in Koh Ngai.

Of course, Koh Ngai still boasts all of the many Thailand constants as well – friendly people, good value, excellent food and they’re always hot, freakin hot. It is small and peaceful, consisting of basically just one long beach (Koh Ngai Beach / Main Beach / Long Beach) lined with half a dozen or so small resorts and a couple standalone beach bars. It has great scenery (limestone karsts), snorkelling (a bunch of fish), one hike (very specifically, one) and some seriously disturbing wildlife.

Longtail boat on beach with limestone karsts behind on Koh Ngai Thailand

There aren’t many facilities on Koh Ngai. There are little snack shop / convenience stores in a couple of the resorts (including Thanya Beach Resort) but no markets, no pharmacies and no ATM.

Best Things to Do on Koh Ngai

Despite my meagre joke attempts, there are lots of reasons to visit Koh Ngai and more than enough things to do:

1. Relax on the Beach

Beach loungers and trees with the ocean and limestone island in the background on Koh Ngai
Thanya Resort Beach

Well, that feels a bit like a bait and switch, doesn’t it? No, I get it, lying around doing, you know, not much, doesn’t sound like much of a “thing to do on Koh Ngai”. But I daresay that once you’ve spent a couple completely aimless hours lying on a Koh Ngai Beach lounger in the shade of a beautiful palm tree with the calm, turquoise water glistening in front of you and picturesque Ko Maa and other limestone karsts in the distance you’ll probably change your opinion. Or be fast asleep, like me.

Beach with hill and limestone karsts in the ocean

And even this simple activity can be varied if you feel the need to mix things up. For example, you can lie aimlessly by the pool instead. Or, perhaps, on the balcony of your room. Sometimes in the hottest part of the day, being in an air-conditioned room lying on the bed is nice. Or the lawn, maybe try the lawn!

2. Get Out on the Water

Couple kayaking near Koh Maa Thailand

Most of the resorts have kayaks and/or paddleboards for rent (or sometimes free for guests) and one of the best things to do on Koh Ngai is to head out on an early morning paddle when the water is super calm and the colours at their best.

3. Head Out Snorkelling

Like on most of the Trang Islands (the colloquial name for the islands in Trang province), there is fantastic coral and superb snorkelling around Koh Ngai. And on Koh Ngai the reef starts quite close to shore which means a relatively short swim (at high tide) or walk (at low tide) to reach it.

There is nice coral and thousands of small fish to see all along Koh Ngai Beach but the best area, in my opinion, is near the rocks at the very south end of the beach just before the pier.

There is also terrific snorkelling just off Paradise Beach. This lovely, sheltered beach is a great choice if there is a bit of wind or some waves on Main Beach.

Beach sunrise

4. Have a Beach Pub Crawl

Well, I’ve already discussed our beer preferences in great detail so, thankfully, that’s already well covered. But if you like to enjoy a casual beer, or cocktail, or fruit smoothie, it really doesn’t matter what, Koh Ngai is the perfect place to simply wander along checking out each new bar/resort along the way.

Man with beer in a chair on the beach

Thanya Resort is the first place heading north from the pier and they have a small shop where you can self-cater and find a nice spot on the beach (priced somewhere between bargain mainland grocery store prices and inflated remote island beach bar prices).

From there, you can make your way north hitting as many as 7 or 8 bars as you go, although in the interests of moderation you may want to prioritize and skip a few. Or double up, it’s your holiday, I’m not here to judge.

People enjoying the beach on Koh Ngai Thailand
Day trippers

Kaimuk Thong and Koh Hai Seafood seem to get the bulk of the day trip boats so if you’re looking for a festive atmosphere, head that way between 11 am and 1 pm. If you prefer fewer boisterous arguments, intricate photo shoots and adult chicken fights, then plan your pub crawl outside those times.

5. Hike to Paradise Beach

The only other place you can walk on Koh Ngai besides up and down the beach is on this surprisingly steep jungle trail that starts in behind Thanya Resort. This thin, jungle trail can get muddy when it rains and certain parts are steep enough that they’ve added some ropes to help you up (and down).

Woman hiking through the jungle

The 30-minute hike to Koh Ngai Paradise Beach is certainly good exercise, although most of the time you’re in the trees and won’t see much of interest. The benefit of that, though, is shade, glorious shade. Along the way you’ll pass a side trail to Ao Muang Beach but when we visited it was completely overgrown and didn’t look at all passable without a good machete (something that didn’t make the cut in our little daypack, unfortunately).

Man hiking on a brown sand beach with palm trees
Paradise Beach

When you reach the resort itself (which was still closed when we visited but probably opening soon) there is a nice restaurant, pool, playground and beautiful, little crescent beach in a picturesque, sheltered bay.

Also, if hiking’s not your thing, or maybe just not your thing when it is 30C and humid in the tropics, you could also kayak to Paradise Beach from Koh Ngai Beach or even hire a private longtail boat.

6. Check Out the Koh Ngai Viewpoints

Beyond Paradise Beach is the Koh Ngai section of Mu Koh Lanta National Park. Here you can continue your hike past some nice coastal scenery and a ranger station to check out tiny Nui Beach and rocky Coconut Beach (a bit covered in trash due to the different currents on this side, plus, obviously, lots of coconuts).

View of lush cliffs from above
Koh Ngai Viewpoint

A few minutes past the beaches are a pair of decent viewpoints at the top of a high point in the corner of the island. The views aren’t quite as open as you’d like but they are still nice and it will only take about 15 minutes to reach them from Paradise Beach, although the last part is once again quite steep with ropes to help with the climb.

7. Watch for Wildlife

We were completely unprepared for the variety and off-putting oddness of the various animals frequenting Thanya Resort. Other than the banded sea snake that Laynni saw while snorkelling (that she “didn’t like the look of”), our most memorable Koh Ngai wildlife encounter was definitely the enormous monitor lizard that occasionally walked past our hut and crossed the bridge like it was just casually heading to the neighbourhood pub as part of a sponsored joke gig (“So, this giant lizard crosses a bridge… yada yada yada …that’s not curry!”)

Easily over 2 metres long from his stubby, square jaw and menacing maw to the tip of his massive, sinuous tail, and that doesn’t even include the intensely disconcerting forked tongue that could easily add another foot or so when he was creepily lapping up ants with it (or them, I guess, don’t forget the “forked” part, I certainly can’t).

Monitor lizard on a sidewalk

Although we never got around to weighing him, he looked very heavy, like a bag of sand with legs, and walked like it, too, ponderously bringing a back leg forward and front leg back at the same time, contorting his body till they met in the middle before slowly bending back the other way, giving the other two legs their brief shot at glory.

Also, before you ask, I have no idea if it was actually a “him”. It just seems like anything that lumbering, unattractive and determined to use its tongue in all the most unappealing ways possible would just have to be male.

Of course, after that it seemed almost anticlimactic to have a hawk land on a branch just above our head on the beach and proceed to chew on some shell-thing he found in the sea before faking an attack on a nearby sleeping dog (screwing with his long-time nemesis, was my theory) before suddenly getting attacked itself in mid-air by a different, random hawk. All while I was supposed to just be “relaxing on the beach”.

Hawk in a tree

Then there was one of the several dogs that lived at the resort. The one with – how do I put this? – eyebrows. Best we could tell they were natural (he certainly seemed a bit self-conscious when I tried to tug at them). Now, I don’t know much about dogs, really, and perhaps dogs with human eyebrows are totally common and altogether unsurprising. Or maybe they’re not. I mean, give it a cigar and it’s an exact canine reincarnation of Groucho Marx.

Dog with eyebrows on the beach
“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend”

8. Go for a Massage

Massage therapists on the beach in Thailand

Most of the resorts have certified massage therapists on staff if you’re looking to take your relaxation to yet another level. Along with the physical benefits of a professional massage, their tables are all located right along the beach so you can enjoy the beach views and ambience at the same time.

Excursions

There are also a number of day trips you can take from Koh Ngai:

Emerald Cave (Koh Mook)

This unique adventure has you swimming through an 80-metre cave to eventually emerge in a small, circular clearing with a lagoon, tiny beach and just a hint of jungle. The cliffs all around you reach way up to the top of the hill, only allowing sun in the middle of the day.

Swimmers looking around in an enclosed beach at Emerald Cave in Koh Muk Thailand
Emerald Cave – Koh Mook

It is a very busy place but you are somewhat limited when it comes to missing the crowds because you can’t go at low tide (no water inside) or high tide (the water reaches the roof of the cave) so. And there is only sun on the lagoon in the middle of the day, so if that’s important to you it will shorten your window even farther.

But it is a fantastic experience, even if you end up following a chain of Chinese tourists through the cave (tied together and literally dragged by the guide), then listening to several of them vomit profusely into bushes upon arrival.

Koh Mook (Koh Muk)

Beach resort on a point with hills behind
Sivalai Resort – Koh Mook

If you have a hankering for a little bit of village life, trips to Koh Mook only take about 15 minutes by longtail or speedboat. You can visit beautiful Sivalai Beach and Charlie Beach, visit the shops and restaurants or simply wander around soaking up the local island vibes.

Check out: The Best Koh Mook Hotels and Resorts

Koh Kradan

Koh Kradan has a lot in common with Koh Ngai – it is essentially just one beach with 5 resorts spread out along it (then 2 more farther inland). The beach is gorgeous (although it is a bit small at high tide) and there is fantastic snorkelling along the reef about 200 metres offshore.

Small beach, clear water and leaning palm trees
Ao-niang Beach

Most day trips also stop in at Hat Chao Mai National Marine Park, which is a large park that actually incorporates some mainland sites and 7 different islands but, I have to say, the Koh Kradan section is a bit underwhelming. It is a decent place for a picnic, though, and the snorkelling is even better over there (and closer to shore).

Fishing Tours

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.

Koh Rok Snorkelling

Man snorkeling in turquoise water near a limestone karst
Sabay Beach snorkelling

Most of the Emerald Cave boats make a couple of snorkelling stops as well, or you can join a specific snorkelling trip to the amazing reef near Koh Rok.

Scuba Diving

There are a few dive shops working out of the resorts along the beach on Koh Ngai. They will do some local dives or you can even take a diving course (we saw people learning to dive right in the pool at Thanya Resort).

The best dives in the area are a bit farther away – Hin Daeng (Red Rock) and Hin Muang (Purple Rock), a couple hours by boat from Koh Kradan. Koh Ha (Five Islands) is also a good diving area much closer to Koh Lanta.

Where to Stay

There are only around 10 resorts on Koh Ngai, almost all of which are found in a row on Koh Ngai Beach. Much like Koh Kradan, the prices on Koh Ngai are a bit higher than you might be used to if you’ve been visiting some of the popular islands where there is more competition. Nonetheless, several of them are very nice, offering views, air-conditioning and swimming pools.

For a more detailed look at where to stay on Koh Ngai, check out: The Best Resorts on Koh Ngai

We stayed at Thanya Beach Resort and have nothing but good things to say. They were extremely friendly and helpful, always insisting they do everything for us, even calling for updates on the speedboats, and unlike many places in the area, they don’t charge a fee to pay with credit card.

Woman sitting on a balcony overlooking palm trees and the sea
Our view from the room in Thanya Resort

There is a small shop where you can buy water, beer, snacks, etc. and a dive shop on site. The resort is quite large and there is a noticeable difference between the different sets of bungalows. We stayed in one of the ones up the hill and had amazing views from our deck (and a neighbourly monitor lizard, of course).

Pool with a reflection of a palm tree at sunrise
Thanya Resort sunrise

Meanwhile, the bungalows down by the swimming pool are more convenient for the beach and restaurant. You can’t really go wrong either way, though.

Check prices and availability at Thanya Beach Resort

The other contender for best place to stay on Koh Ngai is CoCo Cottage Resort. Nice bungalows, a lovely pool and a quiet location down at the far northern end of Koh Ngai Beach.

Loungers next to a pool overlooking the beach and ocean
CoCo Cottage Resort

Check prices and availability at CoCo Cottage Resort

The cheapest place to stay on Koh Ngai is Koh Ngai Camping, where you can book large, permanent tents with mattresses and shared bathrooms on the beach for less than 1,000 baht/night, including breakfast. The restaurant is also one of the better value ones on the island.

Tent on the beach in Thailand
Koh Ngai Camping

Check prices and availability at Koh Ngai Camping

Where to Eat

Basically all the restaurants are part of resorts along the beach. While there are quite a few choices, the menus and quality are all fairly similar so it won’t feel so varied but you will still get some really good food.

Woman at a beachside table

We had many excellent meals at Thanya Resort and can also recommend Koh Hai Seafood as on overall choice and Chom View for great value.

Normally, in Thailand, I brag about the “cheap beer” too but that gets a little more debatable each visit, especially on Koh Ngai where we paid as much as 140B ($C5.50) for a large can of Singha.

How to Get There

Most people come to Koh Ngai by longtail boat from Kuang Tung Ku Pier on the mainland. To get from Bangkok to Koh Ngai, you can fly to Trang and get combined bus (1 hr) and boat (1 hr) transfers to Koh Ngai (700B per person in a shared transfer or around 2,000B for up to 8 people). You can book these privately through one of the Koh Ngai hotels or check 12Go Asia for options.

We arrived at Koh Ngai by short speedboat journey from Koh Mook and not a single person vomited on me this time – success! Between the islands, there several daily speedboats that stop in Koh Ngai along the route between Koh Lanta and Koh Lipe.

Bundhaya and Satun Pakbara are the cheapest on the short routes (300B to Koh Kradan / 350-400B to Koh Mook), while Tigerline offers slightly faster service and different times. Interestingly, it is more expensive on the short routes (750B Koh Kradan / Koh Mook) but about the same to Koh Lanta (950B as opposed to 900B).

Speedboat and longtail boat in Thailand
The big switch

When you arrive at Koh Ngai some of the boats can pull right up in front of your resort and others will transfer you to a longtail boat at the Koh Ngai dock and they will take you right to the beach in front of your Koh Ngai resort. It might also depend on what stage the tide is at when you arrive.

Koh Ngai Map

Click the star to save this map to your Google Maps – then find it under Saved/Maps (mobile) or Your Places/Maps (desktop)

How to Get Around

Walking, basically. Up the beach. Down the beach. Repeat. Then there is the path behind Thanya Resort that leads to Paradise Beach (30 min) and a pair of viewpoints in Koh Lanta National Park (15 minutes farther). And that’s basically it.

Your other options are paddleboard (good for cruising up and down the beach) and kayak (the best choice for getting to Paradise Beach).

It is also possible to hire a private longtail to take a tour around the island, possibly stopping off to snorkel on Paradise Beach.

When to Go

Small rock and sand beach
Nui Beach

As a tropical island, the temperature in Koh Ngai 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 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.

Summary

Shadow of a palm tree on the beach with Koh Maa in the background

Another basic but beautiful Thai island, the main reasons to visit Koh Ngai are to simply relax and enjoy the amazing scenery and weather. There aren’t a ton of things to do but the beach is great and, as usual, there is outstanding snorkelling and kayaking.

Bottom line, don’t come to Koh Ngai looking for nightlife, variety in restaurants or a bunch of different beaches to check out. But if you enjoy lounging on a gorgeous, shaded beach with memorable views and clear, warm water, then Koh Ngai is the perfect choice.

Other Posts You Might Like:

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Beautiful Koh Kradan: Where to Stay and What to Do

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