Taking a day trip to the teeny island of Koh Nang Yuan is one of my top recommendations to those heading to Koh Tao — other than go diving, of course! Koh Nang Yuan is actually made up of three little teardrops of land connected by a massive sandbar. It’s a place where post-card dreams are made: unique topography, blindingly white sand beaches, and shores teeming with fish and coral.
Due to its tiny footprint, Koh Nang Yuan is the perfect size for a day trip. Technically you can stay at the Nang Yuan Resort (the only one on the island!) but it’s fairly pricey and seems to cater mainly to Asian tourists. However, you would get to wake up to totally abandoned beaches before the day-trippers arrived. Somehow, despite having lived in Koh Tao for so many months and the short journey to get to Nang Yuan, I’ve only been three times!
I first visited in 2009, then again with my parents on Christmas Eve 2011, when the weather did not cooperate. My most recent trip with Olivia and Zoe was so blissful it convinced me it was time for another post dedicated to this special place. Thus, the Complete Guide to Koh Nang Yuan was born.
Koh Nang Yuan is but a 10-15 minute journey from the west side of Koh Tao. There are advertised speed boat times and mega-catamaran Lomprayah offers a package day trip, but the cheapest and easiest option is to charter a longtail. At anytime of day you can head to the beach and find a boat driver looking for customers. If it’s a particularly busy day head to Lotus Bar which functions as a bit of a boat-taxi stand during the day. The cost is 200B roundtrip. You must settle on a return time with your driver. At first I was suspicious of paying up front and felt I would be left on the island but they always come back! Alternatively, if you have a Thai phone you can ask them to swap numbers so you can call when you would like to go back to Koh Tao.
If you are staying in a remote area on the East or South side you may need to inquire with your resort about transport options.
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 a 100B entrance fee in order to step foot on the island. I managed to escape the fee once when I inadvertently shared a longtail with a dive instructor working on the island, but that aside, there’s no sneaking around this fee! 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 its 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
ice cream binge lunch break. The beach bar is, unsurprisingly, located on the beach and is on the expensive end of Koh Tao prices.
What to Do
So, you’re there, you’ve paid the entrance fee, you’ve refueled. What’s next? Koh Nang Yuan has the perfect amount of activities to keep any day tripper happy.
Without a doubt- this is the main attraction. Moments after arrival on my most recent trip my sis Olivia declared that it was already her favorite day of the trip — and we hadn’t even started on the banana daiquiris yet.
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.
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. Gear can be rented in the Koh Nang Yuan Resort’s Dive Shop, or of course you are free to bring your own.
Just please be careful not to stand on or touch the coral. I see this everywhere I’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, is one of the most beautiful I have ever laid eyes on.
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! Earlier this year I wrote a detailed, photo and video packed post about ziplining in Koh Tao. The course consists of two lines that go between the islands…. the world’s first inter-island zipline!
Update: The zipline on Koh Nang Yuan is no longer in operation.
The whole course takes about an hour and costs 1,000 baht, making it totally do-able during a Koh Nang Yuan day trip. There’s really nothing like it!
If you’re coming to 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!