Raya Island (also known as the Racha Islands) in Thailand, are two of the most beautiful islands in southeast Asia. Located approximately 20 kilometres south of Phuket in southern Thailand these island sit quite majestically within the Andaman Sea. Both of these islands are heavily vegetated and home to a variety of flora and fauna including water buffalo and 2 metre long lizards. These islands are better known as Raya Yai (the big island) and Raya Noi (the small island).
These islands have been known to divers for years due to their crystal clear waters, amazing coral reefs, and white sandy beaches that are associated with these islands. Indeed many day trippers come to these islands from Phuket as they are much quieter than say Coral Island and Phi Phi Island.
These islands actually resemble the Phi Phi Islands in some respects. For example, both Raya Island and Phi Phi Island are renowned diving and beach locations, and both include a larger inhabited island and smaller uninhabited island.
However, the similarities end there in my view because Raya Yai Island is much smaller (and has less beaches) than Phi Phi Don and has only reached the level of development that Phi Phi Don had back in the early 1990s. Although, this is great if you want the beautiful island destination without the fuss and clutter that large scale development can attract.
However, when most people think of Raya Island they think of Raya Yai which is by far the most popular of the two islands. It is larger, has better beaches, better diving options, is the only one with overnight accommodation (including bungalows, hotels and the Ban Raya Resort), and has restaurants, bars and massage shops.
Racha Island Yai has five natural bays (two on the western side and three on the eastern side) and they each have a stunning white sandy beach. These bays are named: Patok or Bungalow Bay, Siam Bay (these are the largest and most popular on the western side of the island), Lar Bay, Ter Bay, and Konkare Bay (and these are much quieter being located on the eastern side of the island).
When you travel to Raya Island it is likely that you will be taken to Patok Beach which is the main arrival beach and also the busiest on the island, and has a long pier extending from the beach out into the bay. Like most of the popular Thai beaches, it has rows of banana lounges and beach umbrella's lining the perimeter. This is also the area on the island that is most developed.
While it is a beautiful beach there are usually a large number of boats within Patok Bay because this is the beach which receives most of the day tourists from Phuket. If you would like a quieter location to swim then you can walk about 10 minutes to nearby Siam Beach. Siam has a lovely 900 metre stretch of powder white sand but there are far less boats out in the bay.
However, regardless of which beach you choose to visit, once on Raya Island there are a number of activities for beach lovers to enjoy including swimming and sun baking, although snorkeling, and scuba diving among the lovely coral formations is very popular here. Although, if you like you can just relax under the shade of a beach umbrella and slowly watch the day pass by.
There are also a number of roads and walking trails which connect all the beaches together if you feel like exploring the different parts of the island and it takes about 25-30 minutes to walk from the eastern to western side of the island which is a distance of about 2 km at the widest point.
In contrast Raya Noi which is situated some 10 kilometres away from Raya Yai is far better suited for fishing and diving purposes. This island is far more rocky and less inviting, it has few easy places to reach shore, and it has no services on the island including accommodation. This island is very secluded and quiet and seems to attract a good number of private yachts for this reason.
However, as noted above, the main reason tourists visit is because this is a great diving location especially along the northern point of the island where Marbled Stingrays and Reef Sharks are frequently seen. However, it is Banana Bay and East Coast Bay which are a better diving option for beginners as they have more gentle sloping reefs and a variety of corals, reef fish (including Lion fish, Parrot fish and Trumpet fish) and turtles to swim among and enjoy.
The best way to travel to Racha Island is by taking a boat from the Chalong Pier located on the east coast of Phuket. While speedboats can do the journey in approximately 25-30 minutes the larger Ferry boats take about 1.5 hours. If you click on the booking.com site on this page just type in Racha Island for accommodation options that available on the island.
If you are already in Bangkok, Thailand the best way to travel to Phuket is by either plane or bus. Flights from Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport to Phuket's International Airport occur daily with a number of local airlines servicing the island including Nok Air, Air Asia and Thai Airways.
Being an international airport, direct flights are available to Phuket from a number of countries including Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan to name a few. There are an abundance of taxi's and mini-vans located outside the Phuket airport to transport you to your hotel.
Buses to Phuket depart Bangkok's Southern Bus Terminal daily with the journey taking approximately 13 hours.