Ko Racha Yai (เกาะราชาใหญ่) and Ko Racha Noi (เกาะราชาน้อย), also known as Ko Raya Yai and Ko Raya Noi, are twin islands off the south coast of Ko Phuket. Racha Yai lies about 8 km due south of the Laem Prom Thep. Racha Noi is about 5 km SSW of Racha Yai. Known for their crystal clear blue waters these islands have been an almost exclusive paradise for divers for years. With Racha Yai's white sand beaches and expanding accommodations, Racha Yai is growing in popularity.
Ko Racha Yai with its gleaming beaches can be reached by chartered boat from Ao Chalong and Rawai. Travelling time varies by type of boat:
- Speedboats make the journey in about 20-25 minutes.
- Dive boats, fishing boats, and large boats travel time is about 1 1/2 - 3 hours depending on the season (longer in the Summer Season).
- Longtail boats can be chartered when the winds and waves are mild. Travel time in a longtail is over 2 hours in calm seas. Caution should be taken when chartering a longtail - if the weather turns you may become stranded overnight on the island or the boat may capsize.
Sightseeing and snorkelling services are available from tour operators in town. Accommodation is available. A hilltop viewpoint on the bay's south offers a magnificent view of the whole island.
Ko Racha Noi, 10 km from Raya Yai, is the result of coral reef build up, and there are more rocks than beaches. In a small bay on the west is a boat anchorage. The waters at Raya Noi are emerald green, and the fishing there is famous, but swimming is not recommended.
Racha Yai is a travel and tour option year round. When the seas and winds are too strong, boats will cancel their trips for safety reasons. During the summer season this only occurs a few times.
Once at Racha Yai your feet become your carriage. The island has a small network of dirt paths that link all of the beaches and resorts. You can easily walk from Bungalow Bay to Siam Beach and back again. It takes about 10-12 min to walk to the beaches on the other side of the island. Longtail boats are sometimes available for rent to visit other beaches if you are not inclined to walk. Motorbikes can be rented also, but distances are short.
Looking back towards Phuket from Siam Beach is one of the best things to do. Most visitors to Racha Yai come to escape the noise and distractions of Phuket and Coral Island.
Walking around some of the island's pathways you will be treated to views of wonderful coconut groves and the occasional water buffalo grazing nearby.
Racha Yai is one of the nicest islands to simply get away from everything and relax. Less boats and tourists visit this island and Jet Skis & Para sailing are officially banned.
The beaches are white powdery sand with plenty of space to spread out. The sun lounge chairs for rent are spaced a good distance apart from each other and there is only one row unlike the crowded beaches of Phuket and Coral Island where the chairs are sometimes 5-6 deep.
Chairs are also available at Lah Bay on the other side of the island, with a restaurant only a few metres from the water.
- Rustling Palms on Raya Coral Island (Thailand Travel Plan). Ko Raya is the perfect destination if you're looking to escape the more popular (and busier) Phuket. On this 4 day trip to the peaceful island of Ko Raya, you'll find picture-perfect bays, white beaches, waving coconut palms and a turquoise sea with some fantastic coral reefs. It's also a great place to learn to dive, so you can book an introductory dive during your stay.
Racha Yai is Phuket's best-known scuba diving site, with its sloping rocky reefs and its many solid coral forests. There is also Ter Bay where there is an exciting wreck at the depth of 25-35 m. The area south Racha Yai, Racha Noi, is a haven for experienced divers as the depths are greater and the currents stronger. The overall topography is strikingly different from Racha Yai with huge granite boulders. The diving in Racha Noi compared to Racha Yai is definitely more challenging, but the rewards are greater.
One of Phuket's best kept secrets is the wonderful snorkelling at Ko Racha Yai. Perhaps due to the distance from Phuket or the island's less familiar or attractive name means that there are fewer visitors to this island than almost every other island around Phuket. The physical layout of Racha Yai offers places to snorkel no matter what time of year it is. Even on days when there are large waves, there will be a protected cove to snorkel in.
Water clarity and visibility is some of the best in Phuket. The water has a turquoise colour and a lot of marine life. The depths range from a few meters to deeper. Most snorkelling is done from speedboats or from the shore in Batok Bay and Raya Bay. Walk across the island to less crowded Lah Bay, or to Kon Kare Bay.
Racha Yai's coral reefs and shallow depths make it a great location for SNUBA. Surface-supplied air is provided to the diver using an underwater breathing system developed by SNUBA International. Snuba combines the ease of snorkelling with the excitement of diving. SNUBA is popular with families, couples, and small groups looking to combine a day of snorkelling with something a little more adventurous and exciting. Ages 8+ can try SNUBA and there is no certification required to participate. Professional dive guides accompany the tours, provide instruction before and guide guests underwater. SNUBA is offered only through licensed SNUBA recreational centres.
The waters around Racha Yai and Noi are crystal clear and turquoise. Swimming near the beaches and in the bays is a great way to spend the day. The water is warm and inviting. Bungalow Bay has an area sectioned off for swimming. Use caution when swimming outside of designated swimming areas off shore as there are a number of dive boats and speedboats that come in and out of the bays. Currents inside the sheltered bays are usually not and issue, but use caution when swimming out further from shore. Ask a dive operator or instructor for advice on the current conditions.
There isn't much to purchase on Racha Yai. There is a little shop on the side of Bungalow Bay that has miscellaneous sundries. If your child has forgotten their swimsuit they even have swimsuits for sale.
There is a small village in the centre of the island, with a couple of restaurants, and the nearby Father Resort has a general store. This village also has a Dive Centre - prices are cheaper here.
Ban Raya and The Racha Resort have small mini-marts for juices, water and snacks.
- For a high-end dining experience, the Racha Resort offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
- Ban Raya has a very nice upscale restaurant set on a small hill surrounded by coconut palms and a view of the Andaman Sea.
- Siam Beach has several small bungalow-style restaurants that offer Thai food and drinks right on the beach.
- Village in centre of island (6-8 minutes walk) has two restaurants.
- Father Resort in centre of island has a restaurant, and at night a roadside cart.
- Several small bungalows on Siam Beach offer cold beverages and beach chairs.
Only Ko Racha Yai offers accommodation.
- Ban Raya Resort (Ko Racha Yai). A mid-range resort with basic amenities, e.g., restaurant, spa, swimming pool. 2,500-8,000 baht.
- Bungalow Raya (Ko Racha Yai). Budget resort on a cliff facing the ocean. 1,300-1,600 baht.
Mobile phones work on Racha Yai. Internet is available at Ban Raya and the Racha Resort.