True Beauty on Hong Island
Often bypassed for the beaches of Phuket, Krabi, and Phi Phi Islands, Koh / Ko Hong, or Hong Island, shold be at the top of your southern Thailand travel list. Sitting within the Thanbok Kharanee National Park, there are no overnight options on Koh Hong – so it’s daytrips only to this little piece of paradise.
In those near forgotten pre-COVID days, trips to Koh Hong could be made by speedboat from Phuket and Phi Phi or by speedboat or long tail from the Krabi mainland. We tried to go to Hong Island from the gorgeous white sands of Tubkaek Beach, directly across on the mainland, but as we weren’t staying there we ended up taking a long tail from one of the piers at Noparat Thara.
Check out Tubkaek Beach, Noparat Thara and many other awesome places in Krabi – Out and About in Krabi
We reached a deal with a long tail boat driver. For 2000 Baht he gave us 8 hours, cold drinking water, life jackets and a lift to and from the island. Some operators include a meal on the boat. You can book trips online, though your accommodation, or head to the pier and strike a deal. Noparat Thara and Ao Nang are closer to Hong Island so you can expect to pay more if leaving from Krabi town. The pier at Noparat Thara was on Google Maps, well signed, had free parking, and there were several little shops. Be sure to stock-up before setting out.
It took our long tail about 40 minutes to reach the floating dock of the island. Speed boats apparently do it in 15 minutes. If Hong Island is one of many stops in your day, then the speedboat will save you time. That said, there is something charming about bouncing along in a wooden boat with a truck engine and crank shaft strapped to the back of it – just like nature intended!
The waters were perfectly clear and the sand is a contender for the title of “Softest Sand Ever”. Ropes in the water denote swimming areas and you can spot enough coral and fish that bringing your snorkel gear is worthwhile. At the height of mass tourism, these ropes kept swimmers and kayakers safe from the stream of tourist boats. Sadly, while tour operators are suffering, it is a thing of beauty to experience these beaches nearly empty. If the throngs of tourists do return and you happen to be one of them, come early to enjoy this special spot before the crowds. For us, the only thing we felt crowded by was a gaggle of pink jellyfish (seriously, don’t touch them).
As foreigners, the national park fee is 300 Baht per adult and 100 Baht per child. Our youngest two (age 2 and under), were free. With our tickets purchased and pick-up time agreed upon, our boat set out to fish and we set out to explore.
Being part of the national park, there are restaurant and washroom facilities on the island. Most of it is basic and a lot of it was closed as COVID has battered the tourists numbers. In this season, it’s best to bring what you need and support local when you can. If you find yourself in some kind of trouble, there are lifeguards and rangers nearby to assist. We also could not find a trash can so be prepared to pack out whatever rubbish you pack in.
A relatively new addition to Hong Island is the viewpoint. Serving up 360° views of the Andaman, smaller Hong islands, and Tubkaek Beach on the mainland, this is every picture-takers dream spot. The climb is a series of metal stairways and it’s a forgiving ascent with several platforms (to pause and pretend you’re enjoying the view when in fact you’re catching your breath, if needed). Apparently Thailand is awash in birds and Hong Island is a birdwatchers paradise too. One of these platforms sits in the trees with pictures and signs to help educate those of us who are avian uninformed.
It’s free. The panorama is spectacular. You should do it.
There are decisions to make upon departing Hong – do you head to the lagoon, cruise to the nearby smaller islands, or both? We opted for the lagoon only as long days and little kids are the parenting version of Russian roulette. Visiting these other islands will raise the price of your boat trip.
Hidden within Koh Hong is an other worldly lagoon. Our long tail sailed around the island until we came to an opening in the soaring limestone cliff face. The channel is about 10 meters (32.8 feet) wide and it feels like you might be sailing to Narnia (if limestone cliffs were wardrobes, that is). You emerge in the lagoon to see mangrove trees stretching from the water, birds gliding overhead, and the echo – well, that’s just fun.
After a loop of the lagoon and a pass through the mangroves, we dropped our anchor in the middle and jumped into glittering emerald waters. Other than one boat which passed through, we had this lovely lagoon to ourselves. We’ll never forget the time we had there.
Koh Hong stands apart, not just from our travels in Thailand, but around the world. Perhaps we were spoiled by the crowd-less beaches, but there’s no denying that the sand was incredible, the waters clear, and the cliffs attention-grabbing. If you made us chose between the other islands around Krabi, Phi Phi, or Hong.…well, let’s just say you’d know where to find us.