The location of Racha Island is in the Pearl of the Andaman Sea and is approximately 10-12 km from the South of Phuket. Known also as Raya Island, or Koh Racha, this island is the perfect getaway spot for people who want to head out to an island of peace and away from the busy Phuket lifestyle.
There are two islands included in Racha Islands, Koh Racha Yai and Koh Racha Noi. Koh Racha Yai is the more developed of the two Islands and has accommodation. And it’s the better option for visiting due to the many local amenities on the Island.
Racha Islands are known for their amazing coral reefs and clear waters. And the spectacular dive sites surrounding these islands are in a class of their own. Koh Racha is the number one dive spot in the whole of Thailand for many divers due to many reasons. First of all, it’s the amazing deep water wrecks, deep ocean boulders, and coral reefs. A perfect location in the middle of the Andaman sea, far from other islands, is another reason.
Koh Racha Yai
These recent days Koh Racha Yai has started to develop a lot more than previously. It attributes to the growing amount of tourists heading out there each year. However, the islands are still not as busy as, for example, Phi Phi Islands, and Phang Nga Bay areas.
Racha Yai Island features a small central village located near the centre of the island. Generally, the village has a calm natured tone about it, better put, nice and laid back atmosphere. This area includes a few small shops and some local places to eat, hut style. There is also a good sized general store. Most of the resorts also have mini stores where you can stock up on food, snacks, drinks, etc.
Koh Racha Yai features all the amenities you would need to sustain your needs on an island for a few days. All types of accommodation are available here – from mediocre hotels to luxury resorts. A few small bars are linked with the resorts. And of course, diving, kayaking, and snorkelling tours can be easily found.
Getting around Racha island
When you arrive on the island, you step off the boat onto soft white with the shade of gold sand. Yes, the sand can be very hot! Sandals will be a good idea if you have sensitive feet.
There is no national park fee to pay, so you won’t have to worry about that.
Getting around Racha Island is mainly on foot, through small dirt or some concrete paths. Those will take you through some amazing scenery including coconut groves, and water buffalos grazing. The green foresty feel and rocky formations throughout the island bring out the character of Koh Racha Yai. Walking from one side of the island to the other will take you about 15 mins for an average walker.
There are also motorbikes that you can rent for 200-400 baht per day if you so wish to. But the island is very short, so it’s not really worth it. You can also use boats and kayaks to circulate around the island’s shores.
Tourism on Racha Island
Racha Island is a place that many people come to for peace. When you head down to the beaches, you will find they are nothing like some of the beaches in Phuket. For example, Bungalow Bay or Siam Beach are never crowded and very clean.
They banned a few watersports from the island, including Jet skis and Para Sailing. This gives the island a safer environment to dive and snorkel around, and fewer tourists showing off on jet skis.
With all islands in the Andaman Sea, it is always a wise move to bring sunscreen and mosquito repellent. A waterproof bag is also a good idea, just in case.
Koh Racha Noi
Koh Racha Noi is about 10 kilometres south of Koh Racha Yai and is much less developed and rockier. There are not so many amenities on the island.
The waters in Koh Racha Noi are excellent for fishing. You will find so many fishing boats and fishers alike that go there, to fish off the rocks. Some travel companies advise against swimming in the emerald water, possibly due to blacktip sharks being seen roaming the area.
Racha Noi being built up of a coral reef is much more of a rocky island than its Northern sister. You can usually travel between the islands by renting a longtail boat. Koh Racha Noi has a more deserted feel to it. There are no local amenities like accommodation, restaurants and shops here. You can still buy some water, and few small essentials off the vendors spread around the island. But in essence, it’s a more natural and beautiful place nonetheless.
Travelling to Racha Island
Long-tail, speedboat or catamaran
The best way to head out to Koh Racha Yai Island is from either Chalong Pier or Rawai Beach in Phuket. Both places have many long-tail boats and speed boats waiting to take you across to any of the Islands you choose. A trip by the long tail boat to Racha Island can vary. Fishing boats and tour boats can take between 1-3 hours depending on season and sea conditions. Longtail boats usually take 2 hours or, and speed boats around 30 mins.
Usually, the sea is mostly calm on a good day, and the boat drivers know the waters well, and wouldn’t usually head out if they know it is not advisable and dangerous. Of course, the sea can be unpredictable and sometimes if it is too bad weather to return, you will stay on the Island of Racha Yai until it settles. However, this is a rare case. Always make sure when you do get on a boat, that there are life jackets available just for peace of mind.
Private yacht charter
There’s always an option for those who want privacy and custom-made tours. There’s plenty of private yacht and catamaran owners ready to rent out their boats and provide you with a special experience in Racha islands. The price depends on the size/model of the boat. For a small company of 2-8 people, a catamaran would suit better. There’s a range of options for big companies looking for a private boat party.
Apart from heading to the Island itself, there are a variety of tour packages that the tour touts will try and offer you. If you primarily just want to spend some relaxing time on Racha Island itself, then it is best for you to head down to Chalong Pier or Rawai Beach in person, speak with the boat owners/ long tail owners, and haggle with them for a good price. Obviously, the more of you, the cheaper it will be per person. A long tail boat can fit 4-6 people usually.
When you visit Racha Islands, Koh Racha Yai is the island to stay on, and Koh Racha Noi is merely a rock formation island, but still very nice to visit for a day and check out the scenery.
Racha Island Accommodation
There are a few places to stay over at Racha Island, for instance, the luxurious Racha Resort, the Rayaburi Island Resort, Ban Raya Resort and Bungalow Raya. Siam Beach also offers small bungalows for a very good rate.
The Rayaburi Island is a 3-star resort, with a very nice open air bar and restaurant, outdoor pool and includes a decent sized spa. This is located on the waterfront, and the views here are pretty exquisite.
On the other hand, you have the Racha Resort which is more luxurious, 4-5 star villa hotel. The Racha Resort is known to be the top accommodation spot on the Island. Another beachfront resort, but the individual villas are much more luxurious than the rooms elsewhere. Villas include private terraces, indoor and outdoor showers, flat screen TV (both places have WIFI as standard), and also a nice mini bar.
If you’re looking to go more private, then you can upgrade to a Suite Villa, where you will get your own private pool, sundecks and Jacuzzis. Pure relaxation, with a decent coffee machine on top! The main outdoor pool of the Racha Resort overlooks the beautiful white sandy beach. This resort does live up to its name if its quality and high class on accommodation you are looking for on the Racha Island. Gym and Spa are subsequently included here as well as other sporting activities if you so wish to indulge in.
Ban Raya Resort is a midway resort with rooms from approximately 2500 baht ($70) upwards. Ban Raya Resort has all the necessary amenities you would expect from an island accommodation. If you are on slightly more of a tight budget, then the Bungalow Raya on Koh Racha Yai offers rooms from 1500 baht ($40) upwards.
Dining on Racha Island
Most of the resorts on the Island have some excellent food menus from traditional Thai to western, Italian and more. The Racha Resort has an international cafe with some of the best coffee you will ever have! There is also a Mediterranean restaurant with some great healthy foods to choose from. Aside from the fine dining, you can get snacks beside the pool, at the pool bar and cocktail bar, while enjoying some good live music to set the relaxing mood.
The village in the middle of Racha Yai Island has two restaurants with a good selection of food, and if you are just looking to buy from a shop to take back to your room, then the small local shops or general store in the father village has more than enough to satisfy your needs.
Activities to do on Koh Racha Yai and Koh Racha Noi
Racha Islands is one of the best Diving spots in the whole of Andaman Sea due to its location South of Phuket. The quality of marine life and coral reef forest is an astonishing site for any diver to experience. It is highly popular for divers to head out here in season, and even offseason to explore the surrounding waters. If you head to the actual dive centre on Racha Island itself, it is usually a lot cheaper to get a dive package than if you were to organise a tour before arriving at the island.
For experienced divers, there are fantastic wrecks to explore, huge boulders, rock formations, and coral reefs spread throughout the surrounding of the Islands. Racha Noi is certainly more challenging of a dive spot than Racha Yai, stronger currents underneath, and deeper dive spots are here, but both are amazing if you are into your diving.
The crystal clear waters around the island are simply awesome for both snorkelling and diving. Snorkelling is excellent on these islands any time of the year. This is due to the layout of the Islands itself, and there is always a cove that is protected from the heavy currents and large waves of the Andaman ocean, so basically you can guarantee a good snorkelling trip will be had when you visit here.
The majority of snorkelling is done from speedboats, so you will head a small distance to a crystal clear location where you can put your gear on, and explore the vast marine life and coral reefs. Some tours for snorkelling will start from the bay themselves, for instance, Batok Bay and Raya Bay, as the waters around here are shallow and filled with coral forests and marine life alike. Batok Bay is one of the nicest beaches on the whole of the Island, being just over 600 metres long, this particular beach can become busier than most of the other beaches on the Island, it is the most popular.
For a more interesting water sport, there is something called Snuba, (aged eight upwards), which is a form of snorkelling with a mix of diving thrown in. This seems to be a new form (or name at least) for an activity to do on the Island. No certifications needed but you will need to be with a certified tour agent or instructor for this activity. Snuba only takes place in shallow waters.
Kayaking in the clear waters around the coves is a fantastic experience, and sometimes depending on the tides, you can reach a couple of small hidden caves. This is one of everyone’s favourite activities to do when on an island, to explore the waters. Again you can hire through a tour company or simply find it cheaper when you actually rent yourself from the locals who are on the Islands offering the service of rentals.
Conclusion of Racha Island
Racha Islands, both Koh Racha Yai and Noi are beautiful and idealistic in terms of setting, location and things to do. Racha Yai is the most popular of the two Islands because there is simply more things to do, and it offers more to the tourists who visit. While Racha Noi doesn’t offer as much, no accommodation, it’s further away, there are fewer amenities, but it has a fantastic challenging diving area, with sloppy underwater cliffs and coral reefs that are even more challenging than that of Racha Yai. If you are looking for a more peaceful Island to visit when spending time in the South of Thailand, then these Islands are perfect.