Koh Phayam's Ao Yai Beach is 2.8 kilometres of tropical perfection – surely one of the most beautiful beaches on Thailand's Andaman coast – with some extra surprises thrown in. Ao Yai faces the annual Southwest Monsoon head on, and the annual pounding of the waves has formed a beach of classic tropical beauty. This beach-in-a-bay is also cut into two sections, here by a small stream that empties out over the beach. The northern sector of beach is a full two kilometres, the southern one 800 metres.

As the satellite image below our beach map shows, this beach is wide and sandy. Ao Yai bay is lucky to have no offshore reef, meaning there are no sand banks and the beach runs into relatively deep, clear water. On of the surprises here can be seen in our photo gallery – there is a surprising little surf break on the beach, one of the very few in Thailand. Only a small number of young surfers have discovered this.

The little beach bars that spill out onto the sand here are magnets for young travellers from everywhere on the planet. They come here to meet, talk and often watch the surfers perform on their boards. The Beachfront Club has included this beach on its list of Thailand's Female-friendly beaches.

Surprisingly, there are fewer bungalows on this beach than in northern Khao Kwae, though by most standards this would be considered the more beautiful beach. There are more big trees along the beach here than in the northern bay, making this a shadier and cooler place. Most bungalows are well hidden among the trees.

In 2012 the first up-market accommodation, Phayam Lodge, opened on Ao Yai North, with air-con rooms and more hotel facilities. This also has a dive boat and organizes diving trips to the Surin and other islands.

For more details of beach and accommodations at Ao Yai North see the travel info and photos at Ao Yai Beach North travel guide.

by John Everingham