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Hidden Beaches in Thailand

 Haad Farang (Haad Sai Yao), Koh Muk

Framed by jungle-draped limestone karsts, this small but striking bay has serene waters free of riptides, making it safe for families to splash around in the sun. As its nickname implies – farang is Thai for foreigner – you’ll find a large concentration of backpackers here. Still, with only a few sun-loungers and a couple of ramshackle food stops, it’s a far cry from the chaos of Chaweng beach on Koh Samui or Kamala on Phuket. Most of the bungalows, restaurants and Koh Muk’s near-nonexistent nocturnal scene are tucked out of sight in the adjacent woods.

Rent a sea kayak (100 baht, around £2 an hour) and paddle around the corner to Tham Morakot (the Emerald Cave), a winding stalactite-lined cavern that opens up to a sheltered cove walled by dense foliage and frequented by bands of monkeys. It is awe-inspiring, but to fully appreciate it, be sure to pack a torch to avoid slamming into cavern walls and other kayaks. To avoid congestion, make the trip in the late afternoon, after the longtail boats (from £14) carting other travellers disperse.

Perched up on one of the limestone outcroppings, the aptly named Ko Yao Viewpoint Restaurant is the best place for sundowners. Skip the saccharine cocktails in favour of an icy Chang beer and bask in the last rays of the day.

Ao Kham, Koh Muk

On the eastern side of the island, about 30 minutes walk or a speedy £1 tuk-tuk ride from Haad Farang, Ao Kham is both longer and more peaceful than its westward-facing counterpart. Luxury bungalows line the edge of the sand, but are set back far enough so as not to intrude on the panorama. In lieu of the clamour of hawkers, you’ll mostly find couples wading through the glass-clear water. Early in the morning, the speckled tracks of hermit and sandcrabs outnumber human footprints.

Sivalai Beach Resort has an extended menu of standard Thai and western dishes and is popular for evening meals. However, prices are high and the quality tends towards the mediocre. A bit further inland, Boon Chu (+66 82 268 3073) has a more local feel and affordable prices, though service is often slow. Meanwhile,Koh Mook De Tara Beach Resort has some of the more authentic dishes on the island. Though the waterfront bar’s claim of the “best margarita in the world” may sound dubious, plates such as massaman curry – with slow-braised, bone-in chicken in a rich sauce with crimson coconut oil – are excellent.

Ao Sabai, Koh Muk

Not far from the Emerald Cave is the island’s only uninhabited beach. Walled in by dramatic bluffs and a smattering of palm trees, Ao Sabai feels like a secret hideaway. It may be on the petite side and its sand is more amber in colour than postcard-perfect alabaster, but the seclusion more than makes up for it. Loll in the shallows or pack a picnic and chill out away from the crowds.

Haad Lang Kao, Koh Libong

The largest Trang island may lack the picturesque, powder sands of some of its more fashionable neighbours, but it more than makes up for it with untamed swathes of mangrove and a low-key vibe seldom found on more frequented shores. Aside from a few fishing villages that house Koh Libong’s 6,000-plus Thai-Muslim residents, there’s little here to intrude on the sublime stillness. Many visitors come here with hopes of spotting one of the dugongs that nibble on the abundant sea grasses just offshore, though sightings of the shy creatures are rare. Haad Lang Kao, a golden strip of coast covered with coarse sand and pebbles, may house all of the island’s resorts, but it still feels relatively remote. The resorts diligently remove driftwood and garbage that washes ashore, keeping these sands in better condition than some others.