koh yao from the beach with the sunsetting over the ocean

Updated 2022

Situated in the midst of the idyllic Phang Nga Bay region, the Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai islands are the ideal choice for the Phuket traveller looking for a less populated destination.

For reasons unknown to us, many Phuket travellers overlook these two islands on their travel itinerary. Why should they be pencilled in to your post-covid travel plans? Let’s take a look now.

Koh Yao Yai

Situated between the mega popular tourist destinations of Phuket and Krabi, lies one of Thailand’s last remaining, relatively untouched islands in Koh Yao Yai.

It contains an array of magnificent beaches, set around a myriad of coconut plantations. The quiet nature of the island caters perfectly to those looking to immerse themselves in the local culture.

As you are probably here to escape the busy nature of some of the other beach attractions in Phuket, visiting Son Bay Beach and Ao Muang Beach are a must while on the island. These two beach locations are largely untouched and provide glorious sea views all in the absence of the crowds that invade some of Thailand’s other famous beach locations.

Koh Yao Yai really gives you a sense of what Thailand was like prior to the tourism boom and its natural beauty and the friendly locals will afford you a stay to remember.

Koh Yao Noi

While slightly more popular with tourists than Koh Yao Yai, Koh Yao Noi is another great option for those looking to avoid the tourist crush. In fact, it is probably more ideal a choice for those looking for a quiet escape yet with ample activities on offer.

Amongst the most enjoyable activities is without a doubt renting a kayak for a day and venturing across to Koh Nok – a small island just a mile’s paddle away.

But it’s the laid back feeling that will live longest in your memory as the chilled vibe is something that is hard to beat, especially with the large tourist numbers present at many of the other picturesque island locations around Phuket.

Despite the growing awareness, and therefore increase in visitor traffic to Koh Yao Noi specifically, the area remains far less overrun with tourists than many of the other areas around Phuket.

What activities can you do on the Islands?

The considerable size of both Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai offer much opportunity to those who venture here in the way of fun and interesting activities.

Some of the most popular activities include fishing, kayaking, snorkeling, diving, swimming and hiking. The combination of glorious sea conditions (particularly in the summer months), an abundance of fish and leafy, hilly terrain make all these activities possible.

For the less adventurous among us, there are limited shops on Yao Noi as well as restaurants to dine at that provide local flavours in abundance.

How to get to Koh Yao

The journey to Koh Yao will depend on your intention. If you are limited by time and looking for a short stay on the island then we suggest taking a boat tour of the wider Phang Nga Bay region on one of Simba Sea Trips Phang Nga Bay boat tours. These tours provide you with not only a wide range of stops at various, additional locations but also a delicious lunch stop at Koh Yao Noi. Other locations visited along the way include James Bond Island, Koh Phanak and Treasure Island. A day that is guaranteed not to be forgotten!

For those looking to spend a night (or more) in the Koh Yao vicinity would be best served by boarding a Long-tail ferry from Bang Rong Pier (located on the east coast of Phuket). To reach the pier it is suggested you take route 4027 east and then make a right turn at the Bangrong sign. Within a few kilometres following the right-hand turn you’ll reach the Pier.

A ferry journey will set you back approximately 50 Baht and will take one-hour.

What is the overall feel that the Island provides?

The Islands can be best described as possessing a laid-back feel and this is in large part due to the local residents that inhabit the islands. They are quite traditional in their way of life and the relaxed manner in which they go about their daily lives in infectious and can’t help but rub off on visitors.

And it is easy to understand why they appear so relaxed. A mere glance of the West side of the island and you’ll see lush mangroves shadowing quaint rice fields. While to the East, you can cast your eyes out across boundless of glistening blue sea.

Despite the growing popularity of the location, you will not experience the same squeeze the you would in other popular Phuket tourist destinations such as Big Buddha and Patong Road. Instead you’ll be afforded much more space especially for those looking to avoid the alcohol-centric locales.

This in large part due to the fact that the locals don’t over-indulge in the activity and therefore the region is largely absent of bars that encourage the kind of alcohol consumption found in other popular tourist areas in Phuket.

What is the accommodation like?

Thanks to recent growth, there is ample choice of places to stay, especially in the Koh Yao Noi region. The most popular of which is the Koyao Island Resort.

This popular tourist resort is considered the first choice for most who frequent this island paradise. It features an outdoor pool, a lovely well-cared for garden, a private beach, a bar and restaurant. The resort also offers the following services for their guests:

  • bicycle rentals
  • laundry/cleaning services
  • room service
  • concierge
  • organized tours
  • free Wifi internet access

There is little wonder that it is considered one of the finest places to stay while on Koh Yao.

Important Items of Note

Drone footage of Koh Yao Noi with the ocean surrounding the idyllic lush green island

Tourists looking to stay in the region need to be aware of a number of things that relate to the island of Koh Yao.

Be respectful of the local residents

The Islanders that call the islands home are very keen to preserve their culture and continue their traditional way of life. As such, and as a visitor to the region, you should be ultra-respectful of this request. Two good tips in order to ensure that you abide by local traditions is to dress modestly while also ensuring that any and all alcohol consumption is undertaken within licensed establishments and not in the local streets and beaches.

Make sure that you come prepared

There is very limited opportunity to withdraw money once on the ko yao island region. This is because no banks operate within. This means you should ensure that you bring ample cash with you in order to make transactions that can only be performed with the use of Baht.

Avoid the wettest months of the year

In order to maximize the experience, try to avoid traveling to the region during the monsoon period when the oceans are choppy and the chance of rain is high. While flights and accommodation are no doubt cheaper during the wetter months, this is largely an indicator of why spending a little extra and traveling to the Ko Yao region in Summer is a much more enjoyable experience.