Discovering the Koh Yao Islands

If you are looking for a getaway from the activity and crowds on the busy island of Phuket, travel a short distance into Phang Nga Bay and encounter a pair of islands with a relaxed atmosphere all of their own. Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai have located approximately equal distance from Phuket and the mainland of Krabi and, while they are becoming more developed, still provide a peaceful escape from the biggest island.

Koh Yao Islands 1
Image via Vyacheslav Argenberg / Flickr

Facilities and Amenities

Yao Noi has shops including a 7–Eleven so you can get the basics including cool drinks and snacks. You’ll also be able to use an internet service but there are no banks on the islands. If you are staying overnight or visiting for the day, make sure you bring some cash with you even though there are not many ways to spend your money!

There is a range of small restaurants and cafes so you will be able to eat lunch or dinner, have a cocktail or a snack, or simply relax with a coffee (keep in mind that the population is predominantly Muslim so alcohol is only available in the resorts and tourist restaurants). There are some great noodle shops, seafood restaurants, and pizza places – while the islands are not so developed, you won’t go hungry.

Things to Do

The islands don’t have the mainstream tour operators or activity places as the bigger island of Phuket, but that doesn’t mean you will get bored. Kayaking is a great way to spend the day – you can go on your own or take a group trip to the Koh Hong rock formations – and you can also spend some time snorkeling. Swimming is fun in the calm waters during high season. The local people also put on demonstrations of traditional activities like fishing and rubber farming, which visitors find interesting. In addition to kayaking and swimming, you can sail on organized tours around the islands and further afield – a fine way to get away from it all.

Koh Yao Islands 2
Image via Peter Hellberg / Flickr

Walking or driving around the island you will see how little has changed over the last decades and you get a real sense of peace and tranquility. You’ll see the traditional wooden houses but the roads, the rice paddies, the rubber plantations, and the exotic mangroves. The simple charms of the islands draw visitors back time and time again.

Koh Yao Yai is even more laid-back than its neighbor. Here you’ll certainly see that no one is in a hurry – the pace of life is beautifully slow. Visit the beaches on the east coast and chill out in the sunshine. Simply sitting on the beach with a book and your sunglasses on, watching nature and the world go by, is sure to be the highlight of your year.

Places to Stay

Koh Yao Noi has some special places to stay in the form of homestay programs set up by the island’s residents – here you can stay with local families in eco-friendly surroundings and get a feel for life on the islands. In addition, several resorts on the islands offer excellent quality accommodation and facilities. For example, there are the Paradise Koh Yao and Santhiya Koh Yao Yai Resort & Spa – both are eco-luxury places with spa facilities as well as the regular swimming pools and massage to soothe away your cares. If you have a lower budget, choose a guesthouse set in the hills or a small hotel by the beach, like the Tha Khao Bay View. Backpacker lodgings are also available which are great places to meet new people and enjoy a stunning place to stay at a low price.

Getting There

Get to the islands by taking the longtail ferry boats that go from Bang Rong Pier which is located on Phuket’s east coast. There are trips to the Yao Noi with a stop at Koh Yao Yai every day (check the times but they are roughly in the morning, at noon, and at 5 pm) and the journey takes around an hour. You can also charter a longtail boat as a taxi to the islands.

For more information on the islands surrounding Phuket – and Phuket itself – check out PhuketOn.

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