Step back in time and experience the authentic atmosphere of rural Thailand on the unspoiled islands of Koh Yao Yai (Big Long Island) and Koh Yao Noi (Little Long Island). Both islands sit in the centre of Phang Nga Bay – an idyllic destination for a honeymoon or romantic getaway holiday.
Fringed with steep jungle-clad limestone cliffs interspersed with white- and golden-sand beaches, Koh Yao offers a peaceful island escape just a short boat ride away from the crowds and bustling commercialism of nearby Phuket and Koh Phi Phi islands.
The Koh Yao islands boast a string of pretty beaches that mainly lie hidden within coves of jungle-clad headlands or nestle in front of beach resorts and budget chalets.
The best beaches on Koh Yao and Koh Yao Noi, include…
(Koh Yao Yai) – Dip your toes into this gorgeous 300m-long crescent of soft white sand that is fringed by lush jungle-clad rocky promontories.
Go swimming or snorkelling in the turquoise waters or relax in comfort at the beachfront Elixir Beach Resort Koh Yao (photo), which offers five different types of guest accommodation and a range of creature comforts including spa facilities.
Bo Le Beach is located on the southwest coast of Koh Yao Yai.
(Koh Yao Yai) – Unwind on this long crescent of soft white sand fringed by coconut plantations.
You can expect good swimming and the opportunity to watch the local Hua Tong boat fishermen.
Relax on the beach or hire a kayak and explore a string of beaches further along the coast.
Come on a day trip or stay at the beachside Yao Yai Beach Resort (photo), which offers a range of accommodation and facilities.
The best beaches on the idyllic, vegetation-covered karst islet of Ko Yao Noi, include…
(Koh Yao Noi) – Arguably the best beach on Koh Yao Noi, this gorgeous 400m-long crescent of palm-fringed powder-white sand shelves into a turquoise bay and offers wonderful views overlooking karst outcrops in Phang Nga Bay.
Nestled in lush tropical vegetation in front of the beach sits the luxury Paradise Koh Yao Boutique Beach Resort & Spa (photo), boasting a range of creature comforts.
Hike through the rainforest, cycle around the island or swim and snorkel the nearby coral reef. Paradise Beach is located on the northeast coast of Koh Yao Noi.
(Koh Yao Noi) – Discover a beautiful narrow stretch of casuarina-fringed golden sand at so-called Temple Beach or Buddha Beach, just a short walk past the pier at Tha Khao village on the northeast coast.
The beach is hidden behind a small hill with access through a small Buddhist compound of meditation huts.
The beach is also known by several other names, including Hat Sai Taew Beach and Suan Muk Kaew Beach. Stay at the nearby budget beach chalets or arrive by cycle or kayak for a day trip.
(Koh Yao Noi) – Relax on this long crescent of tree-fringed white sand that offers good swimming and spectacular views of the offshore islands.
Experience the local culture and customs of Koh Yao and watch the mainly Muslin population go about their daily life of fishing, shrimp farming, rubber tapping, rice cultivation and batik painting while exploring the lush beauty of the islands on foot, by kayak or mountain bike.
Rich in natural beauty and measuring only 12km at its longest point, Koh Yao Noi is easy to explore on the concrete and red dirt roads that weave across the island.
Here, you can cycle past tiny coconut palm-fringed villages, domed mosques, rubber-tree plantations and ricefields and reach crescents of white sand that offer good swimming and snorkelling as well as great views across to Koh Yao Yai and the towering limestone pinnacles that dot tranquil Phang Nga Bay.
Take a two-hour bike ride around the paved 17km-long ring road that runs around the southern part of Koh Yao Noi (photo), stopping off on one of the inviting beaches for a refreshing swim or to admire the stunning maritime views from the one large hill west of Tha Khoa.
Along the way look out for monkeys, pythons and various species of birds including sea eagles and the majestic oriental pied hornbill. If cycling proves too strenuous, hire a motorcycle instead.
Explore secluded coves and beaches by kayak and perhaps paddle across to Koh Yao Yai or to one of the towering islets that lie off the east coast. Sign up for a snorkelling or longtail boat excursion to some of these islands such as tiny Koh Nok, a small double-karst island about a kilometre off Koh Yao Ya.
Rock climb some of the island’s superb sea cliffs such as the Watch Tower and the Grateful Wall, which is only accessible by boat and offers 6a-class climbs, or try the 7a+ climbs on Mitt Wall.
Choose from a selection of pretty guesthouses and beach resorts such as the 4-star Paradise Koh Ya and 5-star Six Senses Hideaway Yao Noi, both of which are located on the east coast of Koh Yao Noi. Or try the luxury Elixir Resort Koh Yao on Koh Yao Yai.
The best time to visit Koh Yao is during the dry season from early-December to mid-February when the skies are clear and sunny averaging 28°C (82°F).
Koh Yao enjoys a tropical monsoon climate with warm temperatures year round spread across three distinct seasons: warm – November to February; hot – March to May; and wet – May to October.
The average temperature throughout the year remains a consistent 30°C (86°F).
The warm, dry season from November to February sees the best weather of the year with temperatures ranging between 23°C (73°F) and 31°C (87°F). December is the coolest month of the year, averaging 27°C (73°F). Seawater is warm and calm.
The hot season from March to May sees daily highs average 33°C (91°F), with the first thunderstorms arriving in April.
The southwest monsoon lasts from the end of May until the middle of October; this off-season period brings less crowds and cheaper accommodation and, as the locals are quick to point out, it doesn't rain all day – averaging about 10 rainy days a month.
More information on Koh Yao weather …
Koh Yao Yai (Big Long Island) and Koh Yao Noi (Little Long Island) sit in the centre of Phang Nga Bay, equidistant from Phuket and the Krabi mainland in Thailand. The islands themselves are just an eight-minute boat ride apart.
Both Koh Yao islands are easily reached by longtail boat from Phuket, Krabi and Phang Nga. Larger resorts provide direct transport options by prior arrangement.
The most convenient route to the Koh Yao islands is by air to Phuket Airport (HKT), followed by a bus or taxi ride to Phuket's Bang Rong Pier and a longtail boat to Koh Yao.
From some overseas destinations this requires flying into Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK), or Singapore's Changi Airport (SIN), followed by a connecting flight to Phuket.
By longtail boat, Koh Yao Noi is around 30 minutes from Bang Rong Pier on Phuket's east coast. You can also travel from Ban Tha Len in Krabi, taking 1 hour, and from Phang Nga Pier, taking 1 hour 20 minutes.
Alternatively, if you're already in Bangkok, air-conditioned buses depart Bangkok’s Southern Bus Terminal every night for Phuket Town.
Phuket is located on the west coast of Thailand around 867km (538mi) southwest of Bangkok, Thailand.
More information on how to get to Koh Yao…
Latest update: Koh Yao: 6 May, 2022