Koh Yao is made up of two islands: Koh Yao Noi (the little one) and Koh Yao Yai (the big one). They are beautiful, quiet and rather undeveloped islands, and both can be visited and offer accommodation.
We have recently been exploring the smallest of these sister islands, Koh Yao Noi, which against all odds so far has managed to maintain several totally unspoiled beaches, despite being perfectly located between the two main tourist destinations in Thailand’s Andaman Sea: Phuket and Krabi.
It doesn’t take more than one hour to reach Koh Yao Noi from the airports of Phuket or Krabi. Therefore, it is a very accessible paradise.
Despite being next to the main beach destinations in South Thailand (Phuket and Krabi), Koh Yao Noi has managed to maintain the essence of a quiet Thai island.
In fact, it is the complete opposite of an overdeveloped booze and beach destination, so it is is ideal to disconnect.
About 4 thousand people live on the island, who make their living as fishermen, working in fruit plantations or the rubber industry… and, of course, tourism. The inhabitants of Koh Yao Noi, as in nearby Krabi, are predominantly Muslim and speak a southern dialect, although they also speak Thai.
In general, you can see that they are not burned out from tourism yet, and they are very nice to tourists even in the area where the 4 tourist shops are located, in the only small town on the island. Apart from a few hotels, when it comes to businessl life and services, in Koh Yao Noi you won’t find much more than a few local shops, a 7 Eleven, a bank and a hospital.
Koh Yao Noi’s beaches and how to get around the island
Koh Yao Noi has different beaches, some of them easily accessible via a paved road, while others can only be visited through rather bad cart tracks or by boat.
Renting a motorcycle or bicycle is the best way to get around the small island of Koh Yao Noi. The paved road is in fairly good condition and there are hardly any cars, so it is not a dangerous island to drive. The scooters rental price is around THB 200 per day, and we were not even asked to leave the passport as deposit.
Once you have rented the bike or motorcycle you can start visiting the main beaches. There’s no way to get lost. Just driving down the road you’ll reach the main beaches in the island: Koh Yao Beach, Pasai Beach and Klong Jark Beach. Depending on the tide you will have more or less sand, but the turquoise color of the water will surely compel you to take a refreshing dip.
Starting from Klong Jark Beach, the road climbs the mountain avoiding the famous Six Sense Resort, a 5* that is often mentioned in travel magazines around the world. After this luxury resort you will find a more modest one that enjoys the same 5* waters for a small fraction of the price. I will tell you about it later on this post, under the heading ‘Backpacker accommodation‘.
If you want to reach more pristine and inaccessible beaches, you can go to Hat Yao (Long Beach) or to one of my favorites —the place where we stayed—, Paradise Beach.
Paradise Koh Yao Resort
We stayed at the resort that we usually use for our clients at InThailand Travel: Paradise Koh Yao Resort. This resort is located on one of the prettiest and most isolated beaches on the island, which by land can only be reached via an uncomfortable cart track. This is an extra reason why most resort guests arrive by hotel-owned speedboats that pick them up from Phuket or Krabi.
This insulation has both advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are obvious: clients stay just a few steps from the sand of one of the prettiest beaches on the island. A beautiful white sand cove surrounded by impressive jungle-covered cliffs. At high tide, the beach is ideal for bathing and sunbathing. The main drawback is that, being isolated, you have no other option than its two restaurants for lunch and dinner and, being a 4 * resort, the prices are not Thai but European (expect to pay between € 10 and € 30 per person for each meal) .
But the resort offers transport to the only village on the island (for about 350 THB), so those who want to explore the island will also have the opportunity to do so.
In short, Paradise Koh Yao is ideal for those looking for relaxation and tranquility in a 4* eco-hotel surrounded by nature who can afford to pay for it.
In Koh Yao Noi there is accommodation in all price ranges. From 5* resorts to budget hostels. For example, there is Mr. Maitree’s small Baan Tha Khao Bungalow resort, which has several cabins about 5 meters from the sea and next to a very beautiful cove. The price? Between 600 THB (€ 16) and 1000 THB (€ 27) depending on the season.
Baan Tha Khao Bungalow also has a restaurant that offers Thai food which is not bad at all. We ate there one day, and we left with the unfulfilled desire to try one of their many hammocks hanging between palm trees in front of the sea.
Another inexpensive option, right next to Baan Tha Khao, is Koh Yao Sea View Bungalow.
When to go to Koh Yao Noi?
The best time to visit Koh Yao Noi is the same as for the entire Andaman Sea region: from November to April, and especially during the months of December and January. Anyway you can go all year. I was there in October and had a bit of everything: splendid sunshine, rain and clouds. More info on climate of Thailand.
How to get to Koh Yao Noi?
From Phuket to Koh Yao Noi: There are several boats a day from Phuket Bang Rong Pier to Koh Yao Noi Manoh Pier. Ticket costs THB 300 per person. Once on the island, to get to your hotel you can negotiate with the local moto-taxi or taxi drivers. Some hotels offer their own transfer from Phuket Airport, so don’t forget to check in advance with your hotel.
From Krabi to Koh Yao Noi: There are several boats a day from Krabi’s Thalen Pier to Koh Yao Noi’s Tha Khao Pier. Ticket costs about THB 300 per person. Again, once on the island you can take a moto-taxis or taxis to your hotel. And again, some hotels offer their own transfer from Krabi Airport.