Koh Racha Yai and Koh Racha Noi
These two islands are 18km south of Phuket. The locals also know them as the Raya Islands, Raya Yai & Raya Noi. In Thai, 'yai' means big and 'noi' means small. They are a beautiful location with a couple of stunning beaches and some glorious diving and snorkeling. Koh Racha Yai is moderately developed with a selection of bars and bungalow operations but the islands are still a quiet location. They are probably the closest you will find to how the Phi Phi Islands were 20 years ago.
The larger island, Koh Racha Yai, is the main attraction. This island has the beaches and accommodation. There are two fabulous beaches and a few other small bays with secluded beaches.
The boats arrive at Patok Bay. This is a stunning enclosed bay with inviting turquoise water. The bay contains many coral formations and provides good snorkeling. There are many varieties of fish and sea fauna to enjoy. There is a lovely wide beach with powdery white sand. There is one major resort here set into the hillside. The Racha Resort is a luxurious 5-star hotel.
The boats come and go from Patok Bay all day. Speedboats shuttle visitors from Phuket. Even the fishing and dive boats often moor in the bay for lunch so their customers can enjoy the scenery and have a snorkel before resuming their activities.
There are tracks and trails around some of the island so you can walk to the other beaches. There is a track at the back of Patok Bay Beach, to the right of The Racha Resort, which leads up the hill and into the island. If you follow this track over the hill and turn left into Siam Bay, you come to the other major beach on the island. It is a beautiful long stretch of sand and much quieter than the busy beach at Patok Bay.
The new Rayaburi Resort recently opened at this beach. It is a wonderful and relaxing location. There are also a few rustic restaurants and bungalows. Looking out from Siam Bay, you see Phuket and its nearby islands in the distance.
Siam Bay is shallower than Patok Bay, so it is not well suited for boats to moor in the bay. It is therefore much quieter than Patok Bay. The shallow water also means it is not so good for snorkeling but when the tide is in, it is still pleasant to have a little snorkel around the bay. Siam Bay is a great location to just chill out on the beach. Enjoy some food and drink from the friendly local restaurants, take the odd dip in the sea and just relax.
Much of the interior of the island is steep, forested hills. You can follow the tracks around the flatter areas. You will see a few coconut plantations and water buffalos grazing peacefully. The pace of life here is slow. On the west side of the island are some small bays with little beaches. There is Lha Bay, Ter Bay and Kon Kare Bay. The beaches are quiet and picturesque. They are not great bathing beaches but there is some great snorkeling on this side of the island. Kon Kare Bay is the location of the other major resort on the island, The Ban Raya Resort and Spa. Among other attractions, they have a horse-riding club.
Do not worry about the reports on some websites that the island does not have electricity in the evenings. These reports are out of date. There is 24-hour electricity on the island. mobile phone coverage and internet access. There are a few convenience stores although they have a limited range of stock and the prices on the islands are always higher than the mainland. The nightlife on the island is quiet and laid back but there are a couple of bars that stay open late.
There are a coule of dive shops at Patok Bay. They can arrange diving and snorkeling trips. There are some very good dive sites around the islands with colourful corals, plenty of marine life and good visibility.
Racha Noi is the smaller island. It is a long thin strip of granite rock covered with forest. It does not have any significant beaches and there is no accommodation on the island. There are some good diving and snorkeling sites around this island.
Boats to the Racha islands leave from Chalong Pier or Rawai Beach.
You can hire a speedboat for a group to Racha from around 8,000-baht for a day trip. The speedboat trip to Koh Racha Yai takes 35 minutes.
At Chalong Pier, you can also find speedboats running a ferry shuttle to the Racha Islands. A return ticket costs around 1,200 baht per person. You can stay over and catch your return speedboat a day or a few days later.
We wouldn't advise making the journey in a longtail. If you hired a longtail boat from Rawai Beach, it takes more than an hour to reach Koh Racha. Even during the dry season, the weather can change rapidly and you do not want to be caught in a storm on the open sea in a longtail boat.
Want to visit Koh Racha?
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Racha Hotel (5 Star)
The biggest resort on the island is the up-market 'The Racha' at Patok Bay. This 5-star resort has many facilities including satellite TV, a swimming pool and a tennis court. The resort works hard to be eco-friendly and they help dispose of the rubbish across the whole island.
Rayaburi Resort (3 Star)
This new resort is on the quieter beach in Siam Bay. It is a good standard resort in a great location with very reasonable room rates.
Ban Raya (3.5 Star)
The other major resort is the 3.5-star Ban Raya Resort and Spa at Kon Kare Bay on the western side of the island. Among other attractions, they have a horse-riding club.
Apart from these three resorts, there are also several smaller, budget bungalow operations. There are a few bungalows around Patok Bay and Siam Bay. Between Patok Bay and Siam Bay are a couple of nice little bungalow operations The Raya Garden Resort and the Raya Father Resort both have nice little bungalows from 1,000-baht a night.
See our Accommodation section for more general advice about finding rooms.