For most of it’s history Koh Tao looked nothing like it did today. It was likely a stopping off point for Malay fishermen for centuries, due largely to its isolated position in the Gulf of Thailand. In the 1800s, there would have been a couple of small villages, while later on in the 1890’s King Chulalongkorn visited the island – which is marked with a monument on Sairee beach. The island remained a quiet place for decades, with a few fishing families and farmers and not much else. After the Siamese Revolution of 1932, the country moved from being an absolute monarchy to a constitutional democracy (of sorts). Koh Tao was used as a political prison in a similar way to Koh Tarutao in the South. In 1947, the prisoner inhabitants were given a Royal pardon and shipped off out of exile to the neighboring islands of Koh Phangan and Koh Samui. The island was once again abandoned. The legend then goes that two brothers from Koh Phangan sailed to Koh Tao and settled on the land that is now considered Sairee beach. They farmed and fished and lead a fairly simple lifestyle occasionally trading with those on Koh Phangan. The Vietnam war came about, which created a tourism boom in Thailand during the 1960s and 1970s for American GIs on R&R. Early backpackers began to explore the Islands in the gulf of Thailand, with dive trips originating from Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. The first full moon party being held on Phangan in the late 1980s. Gradually tourism began to increase on the Islands, and the island began to become more and more developed. First with a few simple shops and dive huts, then resorts, and later bars and other non diving related business. Larger ferry companies such as Lomprayah, Seatran and Songserm began to serve the island with overnight buses originating from Bangkok to fill the many spots on a growing dive industry. The island developed its two main areas of Sairee beach (which is now full of nightclubs, resorts and dive shops) and the sleepier “local” side of Chalok Ban Kao as well as the busy port of Mae Haad.
Koh Nang Yuan is but a 10-15 minute journey from the west side of Koh Tao.
Koh Nang Yuan starts to get busy around 9:30am and virtually clears by 4:30pm. So if you would like some time on the island with a bit of solitude, be sure to arrive early or stay late.
Koh Nang Yuan is privately owned and visitors are charged an entrance fee in order to step foot on the island.
Nang Yuan also requests that you bring no plastic onto the island.
Everything on Nang Yuan is served in reusable glass bottles.
Eating and Drinking
With it’s one resort, Nang Yuan also has just one restaurant and one beach bar. It is a resort restaurant, so food is more expensive than you would get on Koh Tao at an independent establishment. Menu offerings are somewhat limited — this is no major culinary destination. Still, it works for a quick lunch break. The beach bar is, unsurprisingly, located on the beach and is on the expensive end of Koh Tao prices.
What to Do
Koh Nang Yuan has the perfect amount of activities to keep any day tripper happy.
Without a doubt- this is the main attraction.
Depending on the day, the season, the tides and your luck, the beach can be a tiny ribbon on sand slammed with sunbathing bodies, or a wide, deserted stretch of paradise. Amazingly, it remains beautiful either way.
Ask us about tide times for the duration of your stay.
There’s really no need for exaggeration — Koh Nang Yuan simply is one of the best snorkeling spots in Thailand. The shallow reefs surrounding the island are lined with intricate soft and hard corals as well as schools of colorful parrotfish and shy angelfish. Shelter from the islands means the water is calm and clear. You will often see dive boats surrounding Nang Yuan to visit the popular dive sites of Twin Peak and Japanese Gardens, which lie just off the island and are shallow enough for snorkelers.
Just please be careful not to stand on or touch the coral. We see this everywhere we’ve been in Thailand but visitors to Nang Yaun seem to be some of the worst offenders.
Another very popular activity at Koh Nang Yuan is taking the 10-15 minute hike up to the viewpoint of the three islands’ highest peak.
Despite its short distance, the path can get steep and in the heat of day might seem pretty tricky! But the view from the top, a vista that graces postcards across the country.
By hiking the viewpoint at the end of the day right before heading back to the boat you are more likely to have a lovely abandoned beach in your photos. Not to mention, it will be cooler, and photos of yourself will be less embarrassingly sweaty.
Last but clearly not least is Koh Nang Yuan’s newest attraction: ziplining! …. the world’s first inter-island zipline!
The whole course takes about an hour, making it totally do-able during a Koh Nang Yuan day trip. There’s really nothing like it!
If you’re want to visit Koh Tao, I know it’s hard to resist the urge to spend every day diving. But schedule in an extra day and explore the topside wonder of Koh Nang Yuan. You won’t regret it!