Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai
These two islands are truly an escape. They are the very southeast corner of Phang Nga province. They are south of Phang Nga Bay and lie equidistant between Phuket and Krabi. The local Muslim population has strived to maintain their way of life and the natural beauty of their islands while still welcoming visitors. They are wonderfully friendly people and you will rarely pass someone without seeing a smile. In respect to the local religion, you should dress modestly and only drink alcohol within your resort or other establishments that sell it.
The two islands are quite large. Koh Yao Noi is the smaller but more developed of the two islands at 45sq km and with a population of 4000. Koh Yao Yai is 92sq km and has a population of around 1000.
The islands remain quiet and unspoiled. The locals live a simple life with the local economy based on farming, fishing and handicrafts. The local tourist industry appeals to those who want to get away from it all. There are a few bungalow operations and some locals have set up homestays in their own homes. Some of the locals offer courses in local handicraft skills such as the art of creating Batik Cloth, a time consuming cloth dyeing process.
The beaches on Koh Yao Noi & Yai do not compare with the golden, powdery sands on the west coast of Phang Nga but they are pleasant enough. The bays are shallow but you can have a paddle or just take a stroll and enjoy the scenery. These islands are sheltered from the rainy season waves so they are good to visit even during the low season.
The lack of really good beaches is probably the main reason why these islands have escaped the clutches of the major hotel developers. The real attractions of these islands are the tranquility and the lovely scenery.
Both islands are granite based with similar landscapes to Phuket. However,
from their east coasts, you look out across the spectacular limestone islands
of Krabi. This provides a beautiful contrast and a quite lovely view.
One of the best things to do from the Koh Yao islands is to rent a boat and explore Krabi Bay. If you go direct to the boatmen, you can rent a longtail for 1500 baht or a speedboat for 5000 baht. If you book a boat through your resort or other third party, they will charge a contact fee.
There are some beautiful islands around Krabi Bay with coves, caverns, caves and stunning secluded beaches. Particularly stunning is Koh Hong. 'Hong' is the Thai word for room and refers to a geological feature where caverns within the limestone islands have collapsed and formed lagoons within the islands. Koh Hong is an amazing example of this feature. There is a narrow entrance where boats can sail into the expansive hong within the island. Koh Hong also has a stunning beach and some wonderful snorkeling.
There are many beautiful beaches around the islands in Krabi Bay and there is good snorkeling around some of the bays. Another beautiful feature is at Koh Pak Bia where a thin finger of sandy beach stretches from the island to a rock formation in the sea.
There is a scuba diving boat based from Koh Yao Noi so you can arrange a dive trip to Krabi Bay.
Another good day trip from Koh Yao Noi is a visit to Phang Nga Bay, an easy longtail boat trip to the north.
To get to Koh Yao Noi or Koh Yao Yai, you take a ferry from Bang Rong Pier at the northeast of Phuket. From Phang Nga, drive south across the bridge to Phuket and keep going south along Thepkrasattri Road. There is a small left hand turn signposted to Bang Rong Pier. If you miss it you can keep going south and turn left at Heroines Monument. Either way, you then follow the road for around 12km until you see the sign for the turn to the pier.
The word ferry is a little grandiose for what is basically, a scaled up longtail. You cannot take a car across but they will put motorbikes on the boat. The fare is 100-baht. Boats leave Bang Rong Pier at 8:30, 9:30 11:00, 12:30, 14:30, 16:00 & 17:00. The boat takes an hour to reach Koh Yao Yai and after a brief stop, it continues for the short hop to Koh Yao Noi. Boats return from Koh Yao Noi at 07:00, 07:30, 10:00, 13:30, 16:00 & 17:00.
There are usually a few tuk-tuks waiting at the piers. It is possible to rent motorbikes. The other local transport option is to take a longtail around the island to find your accommodation.
Although this side of Phuket is normally sheltered from the rainy season waves there is no guarantee of good weather. In March 2005, a storm blew up and one of these ferries sank with the loss of ten lives. The boat was heavily over-laden when the squall struck. As a result of the disaster, they have improved safety standards and they no longer allow the boats to set off overloaded. There is talk of a new large ferry starting operation but this has yet to come to fruition.
A great way to explore these islands is to do a bike tour. Our tour partners at Easy Day Thailand can arrange one day or overnight bike tours.
Most of the accommodation is on the more developed Koh Yao Noi. There are several bungalow operations along the beaches on the east coast of Koh Yao Noi. You can find basic rustic bungalows from 400-baht a night and more comfortable bungalows from 1000-baht..
At the other end of the scale, there are two absolutely stunning top-range hotels.
There are also some nice high to mid range resorts:
There are quite a few small budget bungalow operations dotted around the east coast. There are two that you can book in advance online:
The larger Koh Yao Yai island is less developed than Koh Yao Noi but there are a handful of holiday resorts including the fabulous 5 star Santhiya and the very impressive Elixir Resort::