Koh Yao Islands
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Koh Yao Island – A Weekend in Koh Yao Noi

A Weekend in Koh Yao Noi

The Koh Yao Islands are just 5 kilometres away by boat from the east coast of Phuket. The smallest and most populated is Koh Yao Noi (Noi stands for small), and the largest but mostly uninhabited is Koh Yao Yai (Yai stands for large). Koh Yao Noi is where most people spend long weekends in one of the many hotels along the coast.

Koh Yao has a unique charm that doesn’t address everyone because there are no wide sandy beaches as you see them on the west coast of Phuket or in Koh Phi Phi and Coral Island. Instead, the island is small and naturally beautiful, very green and covered with dense tropical vegetation. A few well-paved roads allow you to drive all around the island in less than two hours by motorbike.

Visitors can admire the famous limestone rocks and cliffs of the nearby Phang Nga Bay all around the island. It is very a very unique and fascinating destination, no matter the weather. It’s not an island with wide sandy beaches, but the atmosphere is fantastic. It is so close to Phuket and yet, feels like a whole different part of Thailand.

Koh Yao Noi Thailand

What to do in Koh Yao?

Cruising around Koh Yao

Koh Yao Yai

Koh Yao is all about relaxation, exploration and local Thai food. The hotels on the island are designed to be fully enjoyed rather than just a base to sleep, as often is the case in Phuket Island. So save at least one day for a cruise or two around the fantastic Phang Nga. There are so many stunning islands to stop at, hundreds of photo opportunities you won’t find anywhere else: unique vegetation, cliff climbing, James Bond Island, Koh Panyi village on stilts and even lunch on tiny hidden sandy beaches on a deserted island.

An iconic island in Phang Nga Bay

How much better can a weekend in Thailand be? Just ask your hotel what option they can offer. Of course, the best way to spend such a fantastic day is aboard the luxury of a private speedboat, but a longtail bat ride feels a lot more Thai, not to mention a lot cheaper.

Longtail boats in Phang Nga Bay

On the island of Koh Yao Noi

Save another day to drive around the island and take the time to see how the local seems to be still as it was forever (almost). The east coast is where you will enjoy small beaches and most hotels, and the west coast is covered with mangroves.

As you drive around, don’t miss the vast area dedicated to rice fields. If you come at the right time, which should be July, the fields have this unique, intense green colour so beautiful in photos. If you are looking for a great spot to take a rice field photo, aim for the fancy Rong Na Cafe, they have superb views from the second floor.

Life here goes slow, and it is a good reminder of what we may have lost in the new century. Fishing people selling their catch by the road, weaving baskets, growing and harvesting rice. On your way around, you will drive through small villages where locals mostly go on with their life the way it seems always to have been.

Where to stay in Koh Yao?

There are dozens of hotels and bungalows for you to choose from on the island. As usual, the range goes from cheap but charming cottages near the sea to luxurious private pool villas. It is effortless to find and book.

As mentioned earlier, keep in mind that you will probably spend more time in your hotel than you did in Phuket or anywhere else. Across the years, we tried 3 different hotels in Koh Yao: Koyao Island Resort, Six Sense Yao Noi, and recently 9Hornbills tented camp.

Six Sense Yao Noi

Six Sense is the most luxurious resort on the island. The villas are superbly designed with a sustainable mindset, mostly build from wood and natural materials. Each villa is large and well designed, with a private pool, and most offer a fantastic view of the Phang Nga landscape. The spa is also excellent and adds a luxury touch to your tropical escape. Six Sense Yao Noi is probably the ultimate way to enjoy a relaxing stay on Koh Yao with your loved one.

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Koyao Island Resort

Koyao Island Resort is a set of lovely villas spread across a vast manicured land near the seaside, peppered with immense coconut trees. The beautiful thatched roofs of the villas add a unique tropical touch. The design is unique and cosy, with vast sofas in a vast open-air sitting area facing the garden and the sea beyond. Not that each villa is entirely opened and therefore offers very little privacy.

9 Hornbills

9 Hornbills is a set of spacious luxury tents built high on the hillside above Six Sense Yao Noi and part of Koyao Island Resort. Each tent comes with vast land, a large and warm private pool and jaw-dropping views on Phang Nga cliffs. The tent is superbly designed with many sitting areas, an open-air shower and a beautiful bathtub with open ocean views. With such a view and setting, the experience is truly relaxing and very unique.

Enough vegetation and wooden walls surround each tent to offer total privacy, a rare luxury considering how vast and how opened the land surrounding each villa is. There are fans and a light cooling system just for the bed, but it gets really hot during the hottest month of the year, even in the pool! (don’t bring a drone, you will not be allowed to fly it). Keep in mind that it is more glamping than a hotel stay, and the heat may not be to everyone taste.

Where to eat in Koh Yao?

You will find a good choice of restaurants along the coast and inland. Most of them serve Thai food, and some are run by expats, serving western and Italian food. The island is tiny, and you will always find a good place to eat nearby. For those who prefer not to drive out in the evening, hotels usually serve great Thai food, often served in beautiful settings, a perfect way to end a day by the ocean.

Tha Ton Do Seafood

Tha Ton Do Seafood on Koh Yao Noi

Tha Ton Do Seafood is a lovely local restaurant entirely made of wood and built on stilts in the middle of the mangrove. The chef is a very friendly and outgoing lady. She is very passionate about the food she prepares for her guests, often celebrities travelling from Bangkok. She can recommend some of her dishes and is very proud to use only ingredients grown or found on the island, including the local rice grown nearby. You can even purchase bags of dry rice to take home.
The menu is long and very well illustrated, making it easy for non-Thai speaking guests to choose from. The food and atmosphere at Tha Ton Do restaurant are so good that we enjoyed two lunches there.

Address: 46/16 Ko Yao Noi, Ko Yao District, Phang-nga 82160, Thailand
Phone: 080 536 4997
Open: 9 am – 10 pm

Cafe Kantary

Cafe Kantary
Café Kantary from Cape Kantary Hotel is a small and cosy coffee shop near the sea. As you explore the island, you can stop for a sweet treat with tea, coffee or smoothie and cool down in the air-conditioned room.
Address: Phang-Nga Rd, Talat Yai, Mueang Phuket District, Phuket 83000, Thailand
Open: 9 am – 9 pm
Phone: 076 592 600

Rong Na Cafe and Restaurant

Rong Na Cafe on Koh Yao Noi

Address: 10/3 Moo 2, Koh Yao Noi Subdistrict, Ban Ko Yao Noi, Phangnga, Thailand 82160
Open 9 am – 9 pm, closed on Wednesday
Phone: 081 892 4123

How to get to Koh Yao Noi

Ferry to Koh Yao Noi

The cheapest way to go to Koh Yao main pier is to take the ferry at Bang Rong pier on the east coast of Phuket island, a 20-minute drive from Phuket airport. It is very easy to get a taxi to get there from the airport. It departs every hour from to and costs around 200. (see map). The trip lasts 1 hour by longtail boat and 30 minutes by speedboat.

Several hotels provide private transfers from Phuket to Koh Yao Noi, but it can be rather costly (9 Hornbills charge 12,300 baht for a one-way private speedboat from Phuket airport to the hotel in Koh Yao (1 hour 15 mn), or 5,300 baht for a one-way longtail boat (1 hour 45 mn). Note that the hotels are located in the northeast part of the island, and the ride takes longer than the Koh Yao main pier, which is in the south.

Getting around the island

The island is quite small, but you will need wheels to explore it. Driving around is easy, and the traffic is light, so even without too much experience, it is a lot easier than in Phuket. Contact your hotel to rent a small 150 cc motorbike.

More photos of Koh Yao

Koh Yao Noi Map

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