Ah, Phuket: the faded jewel in Thailand’s crown, the blossom lost to the breeze of overdevelopment. It would be all too easy to sit here and reminisce about the times of years gone by, when Phuket was still a jungle populated by sea gypsies and gibbons, but how many of us can actually lay claim to being on the island during those times? Not many of us, which is why pining for those forgotten days is a wasted effort. What does Phuket have to offer today? Still quite a lot, despite what the cynics say. Koh Maprao, better known as Coconut Island, is one jewel that still has some way to go before it starts fading. Hidden away off the East coast of Phuket is this tiny island, just begging to be explored. The island is so secluded that the small community of islanders didn’t even have electricity, until recently, garnering their power from makeshift solar panels donated by the local government.
There are no shops, although you may come across a table used to sell drinks outside the front of a house. As for restaurants, there is a small rice shop by the pier, but other than that, you have to fend for yourself. Bars and clubs? Forget about it. The closest you’ll find to that kind of activity is a group of locals kicking back with a bottle of rice whiskey.
Coconut Island is all about bikes, rubber plantations and huts. You won’t see a single parasol anywhere. It’s difficult to believe that just a few minutes away from the tourism boom of Phuket is this tiny Muslim community, making it one of Phuket’s best-kept secrets.
Spread over about 2,600 rai, Coconut Island is home to about 150 families, most of whom work on the rubber plantations which cover some 80% of the island. Hardly any tourists end up visiting Coconut Island because the place lacks just about every modern convenience known to tourism.
For that reason, unless you want to camp out on the beach, overnight stays are not really possible. There are locals with low-price rooms available, but rumor has it that he has it that they have not had a guest since years.
Although the beaches may not be as big as places such as Patong or Nai Harn, you’re treated to nothing but clear water, golden sands and captivating scenery. It is difficult to express the qualities of Coconut Island without coming off as a PR reel, but there really is nothing to fault the island for.
GOOD TO KNOW
Getting to Koh Maprao is easy enough. From Phuket Town, Laem Hin Pier is about 15 minutes away by tuk-tuk (about 150 baht). Once at the pier, a longtail boat can ferry you across to Coconut Island for 15 baht per person. The boat ride is about 15 minutes and then, after you arrive on Coconut Island, you will need to take a 20-baht motorcycle-taxi ride to your choice of beach.
The most beautiful beach on the island is Yao Beach, also known as Long Beach. Located around the back of the island, Yao Beach doesn’t live up to its name and is only about 30 meters in length, but for everything it lacks in size it makes up for with character. There are few better ways to spend a day than on your own private beach. Swim, bask in the sun, explore – what else is there to do on a desert island?
Another side to the island can be seen by hiring a bicycle from one of the locals and cycling around, mingling with the residents and seeing what there is to see. The small community on Coconut Island is not exactly used to seeing foreign faces, but you will certainly be welcomed wherever you end up going.
Other activities on Coconut Island include all the usual suspects, such as snorkeling, walking and fishing. Coconut Island certainly reflects something of the beauty that must have first attracted visitors to the island of Phuket all those years ago.
Our tip: Get in there while the island is still relatively unknown. With much of the land on Coconut Island currently on the market, it is only a matter of time before more development begins and turns the island into a super resort.
Longtail boats to and from the Coconut Island run on a loose schedule from 5:30 am until 10 pm daily.