Back in 2008, my wife and I went trekking through Thailand for an entire month. Part of our trip was spent island hopping in the Gulf of Thailand. We decided on a three island stop, the first being Koh Tao, the second being Koh Pha Ngan and the third being Koh Samui. We didn't reserve any hotel on the islands ahead of time. Actually, we were deliberately looking to be spontaneous and make decisions on the fly.
The funny thing about arriving in Koh Pha Ngan by ferry is that upon landing, you get mobbed by various merchants on the island. Some are trying to sell you taxi rides, others are hawking foods & beverages, others yet are selling various trinkets and lastly there's the various people trying to get you to stay at their hotel... making all sorts of promises of paradise at their establishment. We knew all about the full moon parties on Koh Pha Ngan and similar events that the island is famous for, but decided not to stay anywhere near that part of the island. Instead we were seeking something more quiet and quaint.
We had looked in a travel book and read about a nice peaceful part of the island on a beach named Haad Yao. So we tried to explain to our non-English speaking taxi driver that we just wanted to be dropped off in that general area, where we figured we would wander along a beachfront road and choose a hotel to our liking. Our idea didn't translate well with our driver. He he ended up dropping us off at a front door to the Baan Had Yao Villa Resort. Although the Baan Had Yao Villa Resort is a nice property, we didn't really like it. For one, the rooms were not right on the beach itself. I also think they still had some construction going on at the time. Lastly, we were doing the budget travel thing and I think their prices were higher than what we were looking for. So we literally dragged our luggage through the sand on the beach and fell in love with the place next door. That's when we found the Ibiza Bungalows.
There was this one cottage on the beach, not more than a stone's throw to the actual water itself. Don't remember which cottage number it was, but it was small and charming. We decided to ask if it was available. To our surprise, it was! So we checked into the property and got a great rate for it. I think we ended up paying like $15USD per night or something like that. The room itself was tiny. But the main attraction is being able to walk 10 steps from your front door and be out on a beach. In fact, you could be laying in bed and look out to the edge of the water on the beach. The rooms had no air conditioner. Just a very small bathroom and shower. I don't think that they had hot water in these cottages at the time either. But who cares when it is so hot outside! It's really a place to rest your head at night. What we liked about it is that each unit along the beach was a free standing cottage (with no shared walls). So there was no worry about hearing your next door neighbor through the walls when trying to sleep at night.
The property was very basic. They had a small kitchen which prepared food to purchase as well as a bar. They have picnic tables outside on their property which allows you to eat your food in the nice fresh air. They had these very aggressive black birds that would try to steal the food off of your place when eating outside. We had never seen anything like them before. They were relentless yet funny and memorable. The food was ok. They did make this really nice rice porridge with chicken for breakfast which was absolutely outstanding. They would put these dried garlic flakes on them. That with a nice tea (or a Singh Ha) was a great way to start the day.
This is not a resort type property. It's very down to earth and basic. We spent much of our time enjoying drinks while relaxing and unwinding on the beach. But we also felt inspired to get away from the property if we wanted to experience any adventure. One thing we really liked about this place was that they had a small fleet of motoscooters which could be rented fairly inexpensively. This was great as Haad Yao beach is really away from it all. We rented their scooters a couple of times and went out on some treks around the island. The scooters were in good mechanical shape.
Haad Yao beach is fairly long. The beach was amazing. Nice white sand, and very few people on it. During the day, there were no hawkers selling useless junk you didn't need. That's always a blessing when trying to enjoy some nice down time on the beach. The beach was studded with several small hotel properties from one end to the other. Many of the hotels along the beach had dining tables setup on the sand, that were lit up at night with torches. We had dinner at a couple of these places which served fresh fish. It was quite nice. At the north end of the beach is probably what you would call the tiny center to the Haad Yao "town" if you could even call it that. It was really just an intersection of streets with a couple of stores where you could buy miscellaneous things. We picked up some suntan lotion there and a handful of sky rocket fireworks which were legal to shoot up into the sky at night.
At the south end of the beach were a couple of nice bars. One was the Eagle Pub, which is literally right on the sand itself. It had some nice seating and incredible view down the beach at night time. A little further north at the absolute end of the beach was this curious stairwell that led up the face of a cliff. The bottom of the stairwell was washed out by the waves of the ocean when we were there. But if you wait between waves, you could run over to the stairs and climb up them. At the top of the stairs is the Haad Yao High Life Bungalows resort, which had a very picturesque bar right at the top of the stairs overlooking Haad Yao Beach on a cliffside. We spent a few hours chilling out at that bar and loving the view.
All in all, we had a very good time at Haad Yao Beach. We were in Thailand for an entire month and trying to stretch our budget out as far as it could go. I wouldn't say that the Ibiza Bungalows is the best property. However, it is a great value for what you pay for, if all you want is a very basic room on the beach. We preferred to spend our time away from the room and our money on nice meals, going out at night and having interesting daytime adventures. And for that, Ibiza serves a great purpose. If we were looking for a budget property on Haad Yao beach, we would probably stay there again.