Although I have been to Thailand three times, I have the impression of having barely scratched the surface of the Land Of Smiles, or its many islands. I’ve been to Koh Chang in the Gulf of Thailand (did you know that there is another Koh Chang in the Andaman Sea?), I went to Koh Tao and Koh Phangan, Phi Phi and Koh Poda Islands, and Koh Lanta. My Thai Island wish list is long: I have not visited Koh Lipe yet (the highest on my list), Koh Mook and Koh Kood, Koh Samet and Koh Mak.
So when I spontaneously decided to add a fast island I went to Thailand for my trip from Singapore a few months ago, I knew I had to go see a new island instead of going back to old favorites (sorry Koh Tao!). When I looked at the map to see which island would make the most sense, I focused on not one, but two islands: the Yao Islands. And they turned out to be two islands that have been on my Thailand wish list for years – score! The group of Koh Yao islands is composed of 44 islands in total, but only the two largest, Koh Yao Noi (Little Long Island) and Koh Yao Yai (island of Big Long), are inhabited. The smaller islands can be visited but do not have hotels or resorts. Both islands are surrounded by a number of uninhabited picturesque karstic rocks, characteristic of the Andaman Sea.
The reason the two sister islands caught my attention was their location in Phang Nga Bay, just between Krabi Thanks to their proximity to Phuket, and to many direct flights between Singapore and Phuket, I thought it would be super easy to get there. We take a taxi directly from the airport to the ferry pier in Phuket and hop on the 30 minute fast boat to Koh Yao Yai. From there we would take another ferry to Koh Yao Noi. Easy fresh air
Was it as easy as it seemed? Absolutely. And while I initially thought that it would be stressful to sneak in both islands instead of one, this was a good decision because I found the islands quite different. If you have time constraints and you only have time to visit, here is my overview on both islands and the one I liked best, including practical information on how to get to the islands. Islands and recommendations for places to stay
Koh Yao Yai: Jungle and Solitude
Koh Yao Yai was the first island we visited, and during the ride in the Songthaw (pickup truck common) from the ferry port to our hotel, the verdant jungles along the road remind me of Koh Chang. There is only one main road that surrounds almost the entire island, and some small additional side roads. No matter where you drive, you are almost always surrounded by a lush jungle landscape. From time to time, you pass a small village, but mostly there are just bunches of simple houses and maybe a simple village shop or two.
Our hotel was on the west coast of the island. the beautiful Thai sunsets, which was a shame. Our little hotel right next to the beach was lovely, but there was nothing to do other than going for walks along the beach, taking a kayak to go around the bay, or lounging at the edge of the swimming pool. As most resorts seem to be like that – small villages of bungalows along the coast, with not much surrounding them – if you want to see the island, you do not have the choice to rent a scooter. You could get by with the private songthaws (your hotel will call them for you), but honestly, it’s a limited way to get around, since they’re carrying you from A to B rather than showing you the island. After walking along the road a bit on the first day to see if we could walk anywhere (no!), I realized that I did not have anything to do with it. other choice than overcoming my fear of scooters if I wanted to see something from the island Scooter rentals cost between 250 and 300 baht ($ 7.70 to $ 9.20 ) for 24 hours, and after returning to the saddle, it did not take me long to feel confident enough. only for a cruise on the main road – fortunately, there was little traffic – but also some of the small dirt roads that led to hidden beaches. Koh Yao Yai was a little larger than expected, with a population of about 8000 inhabitants, but even in the main village of the island, it is not the same. never seemed busy.
We spent a few days on the island navigating our scooter, following random signs pointing to mysterious sights like “point of view” or “hidden beach”. We were never in the crowds – we saw one or two other tourists at most, no matter if we were walking on a beach or stopped for coffee. There was one exception, White Sand Beach, which is on the west coast of the island and is a perfect place to watch the sunset. This stretch of beach has had some of the typical wooden swings that you will find on many of Thailand’s beaches, as well as some stalls selling drinks and food. I guess it’s getting busier here during peak season, but when I visited, there was only a handful of other tourists around. The only largest village on Koh Yao Yai is  Phru Nai, – right next to White Sand Beach – where we found the Iyara coffee, a small coffee with hot and iced coffee drinks and small bites, which clearly treated Western tourists
Our main quests on the island, because it turned out that the good coffee does not It was not as easy to find as in Singapore, where we had spent the weekend before.
Other than Iyara coffee, there was the Chada Cafe, a brand new, air-conditioned, small glass container on the side of the main road, conveniently located for a quick stop of caffeine (and AC!) When our daily explorations of the island. After a few days of cruising around the island we felt as if we had seen everything there was in And as no one can get away from it. Sitting quietly (or lounging by the pool for too long), we decide that it’s time to get on the ferry to Koh Yao Noi, the small sister island of Koh Yao Yai.
Koh Yao Noi: Island Bliss & Luxury Resorts
The “ferry” turned out to be a long tail boat that we had to ourselves, and only ten minutes later we found ourselves on Koh Yao Noi. We jumped into a songthaw that took us to our hotel, a small bungalow complex conveniently located within walking distance of the main beach and tourist area. <img class = “aligncenter” src = “https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4743/39492708105_efddbca7d6_o.jpg” alt = “While the tourist area on this island felt far more developed than on Koh Yao Yai, it does not Remained that a short stretch of beach one kilometer long lined with small hotels and many bars and restaurants.The beach was separated from the restaurants by the main road around the island, which has sections that follow the shoreline.Do not be put off by the idea of having a road there, when we were there just before the start of the main season, it was anything but busy , and I can not see it getting very busy, even during the busiest months (December – March) Koh Yao Yai is so close to Koh Yao Noi that you could easily connect them with a short bridge, and yet the islands feel apart.This time we decided not to wait and have immediately rented a scooter. As soon as we arrived at our hotel, we jumped on our scooter to explore the island.
Although this island is smaller than Koh Yao Yai, it has felt more developed. There were more restaurants and cafes, and the largest village on the island was bustling every time we stopped there. It’s here that are the typical street food stands that sell meat on sticks or banana roti, something we had not really seen at Koh Yao Yai shops selling clothes and souvenirs, and Faye’s Taste Of Koh Yao, a charming restaurant serving organic food, worth a visit – for a refreshing cocktail of fruit or lemonade at least .
On our first full tour of the island through rubber trees, jungles, water buffaloes bathing in mud puddles and deserted beaches. On the west coast, we explored a fishing village on stilts, but our favorite rice paddy fields in the southeast. The green fields were beautiful on the blue sky, and there was so much peace and quiet that it was impossible not to feel completely relaxed.
With the exception of locals riding their scooter, there was almost no traffic. It was almost surreal to think that Phuket tourist was only half an hour away by boat. This serene little island gave the impression of being away from shopping malls and beaches. That being said, I must mention that Koh Yao Noi was certainly not the hidden gem. of the last virgin islands. In recent years, several hotels and resorts have sprung up on the island, including the fabulous Cape Kudu, which I marveled at every time we went up, and where I’d like to stay my next visit 🙂 However, these resorts have nothing to do with the huge seaside resorts of Phuket – they are all small and tastefully built, with the aim of s & # 39; integrate in their natural environment.
had trouble finding good food and coffee at Koh Yao Yai, there was no shortage of restaurants and cafes on this island. We struggled to adapt to all the places we wanted to try. We loved Cafe Kantary, but since it belongs to the Cape Kudu hotel, this should not be so surprising. The nearby Chaba Cafe & Gallery was our favorite place for healthy smoothies, iced coffees, breakfasts and salads – we could not get enough of this quirky little restaurant. The only disappointment was the La Luna pizzeria, which had complimentary reviews online but did not live up to our expectations (we live in NYC – hard to please our spoiled stomachs!). We preferred Thai dishes to Baan Chang and Kaya, and stopped at a street stall selling roti near the Pasai seafood restaurant for dessert. We also found a kayak rental place and renting an afternoon kayak to paddle towards Koh Nok, an uninhabited islet nearby which is famous for its views and its deserted beaches. However, the beaches were not all deserted, as several “island island” cruises stopped there, but fortunately, almost all of them left shortly after our arrival. To our surprise, C & # 39; was a vantage point at the top of the limestone cliff which forms the largest part of the island, but for it there to return, one had to climb a steep and rocky dirt road that could only be conquered with the help of ropes. If we had known from this point of view, we would have brought our shoes because it was impossible to climb barefoot – our shoes were back on the shore of Koh Yao Noi. I bet the views from the point of view are incredible. Just like on the neighboring Koh Yao Yai, there is not much to do on this small island, but that’s exactly what we wanted. We were not looking for big parties at night – a couple of beers at sunset was as “wild” as we had during our stay on the island, and we enjoyed the evening. discreet atmosphere. There are a few bars along the main beach where we were, but we have not seen any big parties like Phuket is known for. Instead of going out at night, we retreated to the hammocks on our balcony with a book, and I was usually standing up early for a lonely walk on the beach On One of our exploratory tours of the island we followed a sign to a waterfall, and one day we took advantage of the low tide in the morning to walk to Ko Nok, a small islet uninhabited in the ocean that is connected to Koh Yao Noi by a sandbank at low tide (not the same as that of Koh Nok, we also went kayaking)
It was refreshing to not having to tick a number of views, but simply jumping on our scooter to see where the road would take us, and being able to stop when we wanted it.
Koh Yao Noi Vs. Koh Yao Yai – Which island is better?
When we decided to visit the islands of Koh Yao, we thought of visiting only one. But then the curiosity to see both won, and we divided our time equally between the two islands. Looking back, I’m glad we went to both islands, although I must admit that I preferred the atmosphere on Koh Yao Noi. Although both islands are just as beautiful, I found the missing food options at Koh Yao Yai and the beaches of Koh Yao Noi a little nicer. Some people may prefer the Koh Yao Yai. but I enjoyed that on Koh Yao Noi we were able to walk to several restaurants and cafes and had a few beaches to choose from near our bungalow, while on Koh Yao Yai, we had the impression to always jump on the scooter to go anywhere, especially when we wanted to go for dinner or a drink.
One day, I caught a conversation between the lady who ran our bungalow at Koh Yao Noi and two guests who were thinking of going down to Koh. Yao Yai. She recommended going there just for a day, and I think it would be enough time to see the whole island. That said, I do not regret having spent a few nights on the island, but if I had to plan the same trip again, I would definitely spend more time on Koh Yao Noi than an equal amount of nights on both islands.
Vs Koh Yao Yai. Koh Yao Noi – Who is it?
If you want to go to a place that gives you the impression of having found the last Thai island paradise that has not been completely overrun by tourists and changed by hotels, tourist shops and chains, you will love Koh Yao Yai. For the most part, the island looks like what I imagine most Thai islands must have been twenty or thirty years ago. If you want to get a glimpse of the life of local fishermen and do not want to do much but lie by the hotel pool, you will enjoy the tranquility of this island. If you want a Thai island that is not too touristy but has some amenities catering to the needs of tourists (air-conditioned cafes, western cuisine, boutique hotels), Koh Yao We are for you. You still have the casual atmosphere like Koh Yao Yai, but the island offers a better selection in terms of beaches, hotels and food, including some upscale restaurants. Do not expect stores here – there are some shops in the main village selling clothes and souvenirs, but they can in no way be compared to Phuket’s malls.
Here are some travel information for both islands, including how to get there, the available ATMs, WiFi, and where to stay.
How to get to the islands of Koh Yao
There are ferries from Phuket as well as from Krabi to Koh Yao Noi. The two are about the same distance from the islands, but in opposite directions (Phuket to the west, Krabi to the east).
Ferries leave Phuket from Bang Rong Pie r. A taxi from the airport to the pier is THB500 (US $ 16).
Ferries run about once an hour – there are more frequent fast boats that take you to Koh Yao Yai in 30 minutes Ferries stop at Koh Yao Yai First and then continue to Koh Yao Noi (only eight minutes).
From and to Krabi, ferries stop at Tha Krao pier and cost 200 Baht. Ferries run almost every hour during the day.
It seems that almost every hotel and cafe on both islands has free Wi-Fi.
I have not found any up-to-date information on the ATM situation before my trip – but it turns out that both islands have ATMs. Koh Yao Noi had several ATMs around the island, on Koh Yao Yai it was a bit harder – two of the three ATMs available were out of order during my visit. Fortunately, the third worked!
Note that there are no banks on the islands, which means you will not be able to exchange money.
 Where to stay in Koh Yao Yai
Where to stay in Koh Yao Noi
Have you been to the islands of Koh Yao? Which one do you prefer?