Koh Yao Noi – which roughly translates as “small, long island” – is a Thai treasure that’s been discovered by very few tourists. It’s pure and authentic and its quiet beaches and unspoiled mangrove forests lend it an air of exclusivity. The friendly Muslim population’s main sources of income are fishing and agriculture. There is some tourism, but the development of the industry is still in its infancy. Located in between Phuket and Krabi, Koh Yao Noi is the ultimate island escape!
Full disclosure, it’s been more than a year since we visited Koh Yao Noi. After having rented an apartment on Phuket for a month, we wanted to visit a quiet part of Thailand, one we hadn’t seen yet.
We decided to take the boat to the neighboring island of Koh Yao Yai and, from there, to travel onward to Koh Yao Noi.
This turned out to be one of the best decisions we ever made, as we’re still incredibly enthusiastic about this surprisingly beautiful group of islands in the Phang Nga Bay.
Ever since we haven’t been able to stop thinking about Koh Yao Noi; we kept saying to each other things like “we still need to write about it” or “we have to show this to our readers” and “it’s so worth it”. So today, we’re taking you with us to Koh Yao Noi!
The atmosphere on Koh Yao Noi
Koh Yao Noi feels different from the more popular Thai islands – in a good way.
For example, to get from Koh Yao Yai to Koh Yao Noi, we needed the help of a boat driver, napping in a makeshift cabin on the beach.
No problem of course. Though we did have to for wait a few minutes; there were some bags of ice, vegetables, and fruit, trays of Coca-Cola, a motorbike and an entire family that had to be loaded onto the boat as well. The crossing itself cost us 50 baht. But the experience was priceless!
After arriving at the pier of Koh Yao Noi, we immediately rented two motorbikes. The rental company didn’t require our passports, copies of our passports or even a deposit. The only thing they asked us to do was to pay the four-day rental fee up front. They also requested that when we were done, we park them on the pier with the key left in the ignition.
Wow, we hadn’t seen that before. So easy-going and trusting!
The island’s interior and the west coast
Koh Yao Noi is green!
Exploring the island’s interior, you’ll mainly come across arable and livestock farms, with friendly and welcoming farmers, buffalos plowing the land and herds of cows, quizzically staring at you. We were also very surprised to encounter rice fields on the island.
Most roads undulate and are paved, though roads leading to the northeastern part of the island are unpaved and adventurous.
From a tourist perspective, Koh Yao Noi’s west coast generally isn’t that interesting. Rather than sandy beaches, it mainly consists of mangrove forests and pebbled beaches.
Traveling down the west coast, we noticed that the beaches there were mostly populated by locals who were either fishing or, in the shade of the palm trees, fixing up their long tail boats. In the afternoon, they would lie down in their fishnet-made, makeshift hammocks and relax among the palm trees.
The west coast has a spectacular view of Phang Nga Bay.
All in all, definitely worth a visit, because it’s a great way to get to know the island and its population!
Sleeping on Koh Yao Noi
The island’s east coast is quite exclusive and has stretches of beach exclusively owned by some of the most expensive resorts in all of Thailand, Six Senses Koh Yao Noi being the most expensive of all.
Hardly a coincidence; the view of the Hong Islands is uniquely beautiful!
As mentioned earlier, roads here are unpaved and adventurous. If you follow the road, you’ll end up at the Paradise KohYao Beach Resort, the most “affordable” of all of Koh Yao Noi’s resorts that have privately owned stretches of beach attached to them.
We stayed at one of the few reasonably priced mid-range options on the east coast called the Santisook Resort. Their bungalows are nice, spacious, equipped with air conditioning and come with a balcony and a hammock on the beach. A great place from which to explore the entire island.
Finally, we would like to mention Long Beach in the northeastern part of the island, which can also be reached by an adventurous dirt road. When we were there, a small restaurant and a hostel were under construction. But the beach itself was completely deserted and idyllic. Should we ever go back, we’ll definitely have another look here.
Restaurants on Koh Yao Noi
Koh Yao Noi has a few really nice restaurants that serve excellent food. While we were there, we tried to eat in as many different restaurants as possible (oh, the horror!). So here are our favorite restaurants on Koh Yao Noi:
Chaba Cafe and Gallery
The Chaba Cafe and Gallery is a trendy spot in a green garden with several seating options and a varied menu. It serves really nice fruit shakes, coffee, cake, and breakfasts – plus, there are vegetarian options as well. The perfect place for a healthy start of your day; opens every day at 9:00 AM.
Sabai Corner Restaurant
The Sabai Corner Restaurant overlooks the sea and is a great place to have a tasty Thai lunch. Stay for the entire afternoon if you want. The atmosphere and the staff here are very laid-back.
Massaman curry, Fried Rice, Morning Glory, Mango Sticky Rice, you name it. For good quality Thai food, go to Kaya, located along the main road in southeast Koh Yao Noi.
Rice Paddy Restaurant
Planning a romantic dinner? Get ready to be amazed by Rice Paddy Restaurant’s tasty food and excellent presentation. The food is a little more expensive than usual, but it’s more than worth your money. The owner will enthusiastically tell you all about his culinary creations. The menu even features crocodile meat!
Things to do on Koh Yao Noi
Besides relaxing on the beach, riding around the island on a bike or a motorbike, going out for breakfast, lunch and dinner, morning yoga on the beach or following a local cooking class, the island has even more to offer.
For instance, you can go on day trips by long tail boat to the Phang Nga Bay and/or the Hong Islands. A boat trip can be arranged at your hotel or at the pier. Make sure you head out early. This will unquestionably become one of the highlights of your trip to Thailand; the area is just insanely beautiful.
Getting to Koh Yao Noi
The easiest way to get to Koh Yao Noi is from the Bang Rong Pier in Phuket, which is about a 20-minute drive from Phuket’s international airport. Long tail boats and speedboats leave every hour from around 7:00 AM until 6:00 PM. The long tail boats take a little less than an hour to get there and are about 120 baht per person.
You can also reach it from Tha Len pier near Krabi. Long tail boats here leave once an hour in between the hours of 7:30 AM and 5:00 PM and are 120 baht per person. Speedboats from Nopparat Thara Pier in Ao Nang leave at 11:00 AM and 3:00 PM and are 650 baht per person.
Finally, it’s also possible to take the long tail boat from Ta Dan Pier near Phang Nga, which leaves once a day, at 1:00 PM, costs about 150 baht per person and takes a little under an hour and a half to get there.
The best time to visit Koh Yao Noi is anywhere between the months of November and April, which is when the sea is relatively calm, most accommodations and restaurants are open and there’s the most chance of sunshine – and the least chance of rainfall.