Luxtripper Travel Editor
The Koh Yao islands sit halfway between Krabi and Phuket, in the middle of the picturesque Phang Nga Bay, known for its striking limestone karst “cathedrals” that jut out of the clear blue water. The two islands, Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai, are part of the Ao Phang-Nga National Park, and are known as the largest islands in Thailand to remain relatively unspoilt by tourism. Koh Yao Noi is the smaller but more developed of the two, and still maintains a laid-back island atmosphere making it the ideal place for those seeking an authentic and off-the-beaten-track experience of Thailand.
Besides their secluded and intimate setting, Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai are home to excellent scuba diving and snorkelling in Thailand, with multi-coloured coral reefs and a wide variety of fish. Beginners can snorkel right off the shores of the many beaches, while boat trips can also be arranged to visit offshore reefs. Visitors can explore the interior of the islands by renting a motorbike and following the many dirt trails that wind through the jungle, some of which lead to beautiful and completely deserted beaches. The area to the north of Koh Yao Noi is particularly untouched, and a truly beautiful place to explore.
The islands’ location in the centre of the bay makes them the perfect base from which to explore the bay and the many tiny islands in the area. Koh Nok and Koh Hong are two stunning and virtually untouched islands which can easily be reached from Koh Yao Noi. While Koh Nok is the ideal place for lounging on the beach and enjoying the views of the bay, Koh Hong is a more adventurous destination with numerous chambers and hidden caves between towering limestone cliffs.
One factor that makes the Koh Yao islands stand out is that they are home to both pristine nature and high-end luxury resorts, whereas Thailand’s other “deserted” islands offer only very basic accommodation. Perhaps the best example of how luxury accommodation can coexist within a rustic and natural environment is the Six Senses Yao Noi. The resort is committed to sustainability, and strives to maintain a connection with its surrounding landscape by using natural materials and local products. They even have their own chicken farm to provide eggs for guest breakfasts.
Those seeking exciting nightlife, with numerous bars and restaurants, would be better off staying in one of the many resorts in Phuket. However, for those seeking the pristine beaches and quiet island appeal that originally made Thailand such a popular destination, it doesn’t get any better than the authentic atmosphere of the Koh Yao islands.
When to travel: November to March, when the weather is mild and there is little rain.
Luxtripper Tip: Make Thailand just one stop on a multiple destination holiday.