Just a ten minute boat ride from the Takua Pa area of Phang Nga province, the relatively large island of Ko Kho Khao (pronounced kaw koe cow) doesn’t look very different from the mainland. However, for those seeking a family beach destination that’s not as remote as nearby Ko Phra Thongbut not as busy as Khao Lak orPhuket, Kho Khao is worth a visit. The island’s long golden beaches are the main draw, and aesthetically these are similar to the beaches of the Khao Lak area further south. The waters are slightly murky and lack the pristine aquamarine hues of Ko Surin, to the west, but the beaches still make for great swimming, romantic walks and dazzling sunsets.
While the island still feels like something of a secret place, moreresorts are gradually popping up, and Kho Khao is increasingly included on the tourist radar, especially with Germans and Scandinavians. As of now, however, it’s still a markedly sleepy affair — the perfect place to enjoy seclusion without sacrificing quality, comfort and an adequate selection of foreigner-oriented services.
Ko Kho Khao is a large island characterised mostly by flat, grassy sand flats towards its centre and a sprawling area of mangroves and canals to the east. Historically it was one of the first landing spots for ancient settlers who later spread across the Malay peninsula, and later it was a popular stopping off point among Chinese and other traders during the Takua Pa area’s hey day as a tin mining centre.
To the northwest there’s an old, overgrown air strip that was used by the Japanese during World War II. Other low-key sights and activities include the small but pretty Toan Thong Waterfall to the northeast, a bird watching tower in the north centre, a beach elephant camp where you can ride elephants in the surf, a kayaking operation that runs excursions into the northern and eastern canals, and diving with the island’s only dive operation — Kho Khao Diving.
A paved two lane road runs straight from Baan Pak Koh all the way to the island’s northern coast, and everything on the island is located down side lanes off this road. Most of the high end resorts are situated along the southern stretch of beach known as Pak Kon with a solid mid range spot a bit further north on Bang Neang beach. At low tide it’s possible to walk along the beaches for several kilometres, but at high tide parts of the southern beach become impassable save what’s been protected by seawalls constructed by some of the resorts.
Further north is Nok Nan beach, which is the most remote stretch of sand and doesn’t feel too different than the ultra secluded beaches of Ko Kho Khao’s northern neighbour, Ko Phra Thong.
Towards the north it’s also possible to explore the dirt paths by motorbike or bicycle that wind deep into the mangrove areas to the east. The closest thing to a village would be Baan Pak Koh, but there are a few scattered clusters of homes and a couple small schools found throughout the island.
Due to its flat landscape Ko Kho Khao was devastated by the 2004 Tsunami, and many locals chose not to return and rebuild. Parts of the island have a forgotten and haunted feel, especially at night.
Unless coming by private longtail from Ko Phra Thong, virtually all visitors to Ko Kho Khao arrive at Baan Pak Koh’s Ko Koh Khao pier at the far southern point of the island after disembarking from either the longtail or car ferries that depart from Nam Khem pier across the narrow straight that separates the island from the mainland.
Immediately after arrival the island presents itself as a friendly and accessible place with an ample number of taxis, restaurants, shops, and tour companies offering motorbike rentals.
There are no hospitals or medical facilities on Ko Kho Khao, but the hospital in Takua Pa is less than a half hour away by boat and then car.
There is a small police box across the main road from the entrance to Tocala Resort.
Internet is available at a couple of the travel companies at Baan Pak Koh and also at several of the resorts.
There are a couple ATMs near the pier at Baan Pak Koh, and most large scale resorts accept VISA and Mastercard.
Ko Kho Khao is very much a seasonal destination. While a few of the higher end resorts remain open year round you can expect them to be running with skeleton staffs and most of the tourist facilities on the island to be shut down.