Your complete guide to the Koh Yao islands
Koh yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai, everything you ned to know to plan your holiday on the Koh Yao islands in the middle of the Andaman sea.
These two islands equidistant from Phuket and Krabi are a little heaven waiting to be discovered and well worth the trip if your looking for a laid back island with stunning scenery a rich culture and plenty of things to keep you occupied if you want to.
Koh Yao Yai (wide and long island) is about 3 times the size of Koh Yao Noi (long north island) but both islands offer a range of beautiful beaches, viewpoints, quaint little villages and plenty of activities in between. We would recommend you spend 2-3 days per island to take in all they have to offer.
The pair of islands are populated primarily of a local Muslim population so there are some rules to be aware of on the island.
- Alcohol is very hard to find (outside of restaurant that is) – in the Muslim faith it’s not allowed to drink alcohol so the majority of the islands population doesn’t have a need for it and therefore it’s not sold in many shops at all. If you come fo any hotel or resort they will most likely serve it on their menu or a foreign owned restaurant they will sell alcohol, but if you choose to dine at a local street side stall finding a beer to go with your pad thai will not be possible. There are 2 shops on the islands which do sell beer and spirits, they are here:
- the island is one of the safest and friendliest islands in Thailand. You can see this when you stop your motorbike and check other bikes around youi, 70% of them will have the keys in the ignition! Maybe this is due to the islands size and the fact that if one is to break a rule or a law, the community will find out. But everyone is incredibly open and trusting on both Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi.
- Motorbikes are the preferred means of transportation on both islands. You can rent them from almost every hotel and resort, so don’t worry they are easy to find. Koh Yao Noi takes about 35 minutes to ride the perimeter and Koh Yao Yai takes around 80 minutes so you can really see these islands in their entirety from the seat of your bike in a short 1-2 days if you want to. Also the roads are not very wide so driving a car can be a burden and not comfortable at times.
- Side cars – This is the island of the side car, you can see them all over the island, and they are wonderful to drive with your friend or loved sitting beside you as you buzz down a hot jungle road. The rates are between 300-600thb/day for these bikes, and most hotels will be able to arrange this easily, so it’s best you talk with the manager of your hotel arrange this.
The Koh Yao islands themselves offer a real highlight to anyones trip to Thailand and if possible should be included in your itinerary.
How to get to the The Koh Yao islands:
The Koh Yao islands are easily accessible from a number of locations, the ferry timetables we’ve listed below:
From Phuket – Bang Rong Pier to:
|Koh Yao Noi – Manoh Pier||Koh Yao Yai – Klong Hia Pier||Koh Yao Yai – Loh Jark Pier||Koh Yao Yai – Chong Lad Pier|
|07:50 by speedboat||08:30 by speedboat||07:00 by speedboat||15:00 by speedboat|
|08:40 by speedboat||09:30 by speedboat||08:00 by speedboat|
|09:15 by longtail boat||10:30 by speedboat||09:00 by speedboat|
|09:50 by speedboat||11:30 by speedboat||10:00 by speedboat|
|10:30 by speedboat||12:30 by longtail boat||11:30 by speedboat|
|11:30 by speedboat||13:30 by speedboat||12:30 by speedboat|
|12:30 by longtail boat||14:30 by speedboat||13:30 (Friday only) by speedboat|
|13:30 by speedboat||15:30 by speedboat||14:30 by speedboat|
|14:30 by speedboat||16:30 by speedboat||15:15 by speedboat|
|15:00 by speedboat||17:40 by speedboat||16:00 by speedboat|
|16:00 by speedboat||17:00 by speedboat|
|17:00 by longtail boat||17:40 by speedboat|
|17:40 by speedboat|
*Special note, there is a car ferry leaving daily from Chianwanich pier in Phuket which takes you to Lam Yai Pier on Koh Yao Yai at both 08:30 and 14:00
A 45 minute boat ride from either Phuket, Phang-Nga or Krabi the islands of Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yai Yai are very accessible. If you’re coming on foot and have a hotel transfer arranged then nothing to worry, just make sure you coordinate with your hotel which pier you will arrive at. If you are moving with a car the only car ferry leaves from Chianwanich pier daily at 08:30 and 14:00. If you are coming with a motorbikes, you need to only make sure you book a ticket on a longtail boat, the captain and staff will help get your bike on the boat and secure it property so it will be perfectly safe during the voyage.
From Krabi – Thalane Pier to:
Koh Yao Noi – Thakhao Pier
Koh Yao Yai – Chong Lad Pier
|09:00 by longtail boat||09:15 by speedboat|
|10:00 by longtail boat||10:15 by longtail boat|
|11:00 by longtail boat||11:15 by longtail boat|
|12:00 by longtail boat||13:00 by longtail boat|
|13:00 by longtail boat||14:30 by longtail boat|
|14:00 by longtail boat||16:00 by speedboat|
|15:00 by speedboat||`|
|16:00 by speedboat|
|17:30 by longtail boat|
From: Ao Nang – Noparathara pier
From: Ao Nang – Noparathara pier
|To: Koh Yao Noi – Manoh Pier 11:00 by speedboat||To: Koh Yao Yai – Chong Lad Pier 11:00 by speedboat|
From: Koh Phi Phi – Tonsai Pier
From: Koh Phi Phi – Tonsai Pier
|To: Koh Yao Noi – Manoh Pier at 15:00 by speedboat||To: Koh Yao Yai – Chong Lad Pier 15:00 by speedboat|
From: Phang-Nga Thadan Pier To: Koh Yao Noi – Sukha Pier
|13:00 by longtail boat|
When you’re looking to leave this information might help you make some plans:Hot to get off the island. Below you can see the ferry schedule
From Koh Yao Noi:
From Koh Yao Noi – Manoh Pier To Bang Rong (Phuket)
From Koh Yai Noi – Thakhao Pier to Ao Thalane (Krabi)
|06:35 by Speedboat||07:00 by longtail boat|
|07:00 by longtail boat||07:30 by longtail boat|
|07:50 by speedboat||08:30 by longtail boat|
|09:00 by speedboat||09:30 by speedboat|
|09:40 by Speedboat||10:30 by longtail boat|
|10:30 by speedboat||11:30 by speedboat|
|11:40 by speedboat||12:30 by longtail boat|
|13:30 by longtail boat||13:30 by lentil boat|
|14:00 by speedboat||14:30 by longtail boat|
|15:00 by longtail boat||16:00 by longtail boat|
|16:00 by speedboat|
|16:40 by speedboat|
From: Koh Yao Noi – Manoh Pier
From: Koh Yao Noi – Manoh Pier
|to: Ao Nang at 15:30 by speedboat||to: Koh Phi Phi – Tonsai Pier at 09:00 by speedboat|
From: Koh Yao Noi – Sukha Pier
to: Phang-Nga – Thadan Pier at 07:00 by Longtail boat
From Koh Yao Yai:
From Koh Yao Yai – Klong Hia Pier to Bang Rong Pier (Phuket)
From Koh Yao Yai – Loh Jark Pier to Chianwanich Pier (Phuket)
|06:30 by speedboat||06:20 by speedboat|
|07:30 by longtail boat||06:30 by speedboat|
|07:50 by speedboat||08:00 by speedboat|
|09:30 by speedboat||09:00 by speedboat|
|10:30 by speedboat||10:00 by speedboat|
|11:30 by speedboat||11:30 by speedboat|
|11:45 by speedboat||12:30 by speedboat|
|14:00 by speedboat||13:30 by speedboat|
|15:00 by speedboat||14:00 by speedboat (Friday only)|
|16:00 by speedboat||15:00 by speedboat|
|16:15 by speedboat|
|17:00 by speedboat|
From Koh Yao Yai Chong Lad Pier to Thalane Pier (Krabi)
From Koh Yao Yai to Ao Nang Pier (Krabi)
|06:40 by speedboat||15:30 by speedboat|
|07:40 by longtail boat|
|08:40 by longtail boat|
|09:40 by speedboat|
|13:00 by longtail boat|
|13:30 by longtail boat (Friday’s only)|
|14:00 by speedboat|
From: Koh Yao Noi – Chong Lad Pier
to: Koh Phi Phi – Tonsai Pier at 08:45 by speedboat
Where to stay on The Koh Yao islands?
Both islands have a number of different accommodation options available ranging from the simple and easy going backpacker 500-800thb/night kind of place all the way up the super luxury at 25,000+thb/night so there is a little of everything for everyone.
Here are some options we found to be good while on the island. you can visit their websites for more information or to make a reservation.
Niramaya Villa & Wellness
SItuated on Pasai beach Niramaya villas and well resort is the perfect place to rest and relax, get back these much needed hours in bed in a comfortable yet luxurious resort. The resort is beachfront on the Pasai beach giving guests options for refreshing in with the large on site swimming pool or taking a dip in the soothing salt water of the Andaman bay just a short 50 meters from the resorts entrance.
The main road running around Koh Yao Noi runs directly in front of Niramaya villas and wellness resort making it easy to grab a motorbike and head off to explore the island any time you’d like.
The resort features many wellness based classes for the healthy vacationer in mind, try our the tai-chi, yoga or meditation classes or maybe get lost exploring the many islands just off the resorts beach on one of the private boat excursions the resort staff can arrange for you. You have everything and more you need at Niramaya.
website: Niramaya Villa & Wellness
Coastal Escape – Koh Yao Noi
For those looking for some real exclusivity yet want to have the pamering and well attentive staff to take care of their every need, this might be the choice for you.
The villa features 2 bedrooms and is built over 160Sq. meters and is located on the Klong Jark beach offering stunning beachfront views of the Andaman bay right in front of the property. The villa features a large private swimming pool making it a had decision to choose between the ocean and the pool, but we’re confident you’ll find a way to make a decision.
Located in Koh Yao Noi about 2 kilometres from the Thakow pier, making access to the rest of the islands easy and fast. This is our top choice for families to stay or 2 separate couples sharing a residence.
Website: Coastal Escape – Koh Yao Noi
Koh Yao Seaview Bungalow
For those who want to enjoy the islands charm but not break the bank while doing so, this Koh Yao Seaview Bungalows is a great choice. With standard bungalows starting at only 1,000thb/night (for 2 people) you cannot go wrong.
Located close to the Thakow pier on the Thakow beach the Koh Yao Seaview Bungalows offers all of the amenities you could ask for but at a fraction of the cost. The staff can arrange motorbikes for you to use to explore the interior of Koh Yao Noi and also they can arrange transfers to and from the islands, boat trips to the surrounding beaches and islands as well as much more.
Offering an onsite reasonably priced restaurant as well as a large communal swimming pool plus the bungalows are all stand alone and private, this is truly gem on a budget.
Website: Koh Yao Seaview Bungalow
Where to eat on the Koh Yao Islands
In terms of food on both Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yai Yai, the islands are both home to a population of almost entirely Muslim people so if you’re looking for pork, this is not a good place to be… But ion you’re look for a wide range of healthy, well cooked Thai food, then these islands will be a heaven for you. You can find many local seafood restaurants all along the coastline, they vary in price and offerings but all of them are great and will satisfy your needs. Keep in mind that these are islands and therefore prices generally tend to be a slight bit higher due to the fact that a lot of the produce and food needs to be imported, so as a general rule of thumb the prices will be 15%-25% higher than mainland prices.
Some of our restaurants recommendations are:
Rice Paddy Viewpoint Restaurant
Located in Koh Yao Noi, this ideal Thai restaurants is built next to an array of rice paddies (hence the name) and therefore offers stunning views while you dine under the bamboo thatched roofs overhead.
The Rice Paddy restaurants is owned by a German and and Thai couple and therefore serves a nice variety of dishes both Western and Thai based cuisine as a fraction of the prices at most of the islands resorts. The restaurant is on top of a hill which you need to take a motorbike or car to reach the top, but from the top you can enjoy stunning views of the Phang-Nga bay below and the numerous karats jutting from the seabed. The restaurants is built surrounded by a number of large rice paddies so your get to enjoy the soothing rustle of grass as it blows in the wind while watching the beautiful sunsets off in the distance over the horizon. The restaurants offers both indoor and outdoor dining options, so you can dine under the stars or under the bamboo roof inside. We highly recommend the mango sticky rice, Hummus and falafel, Angus steak and then top it all of with sour margarita or an ice cold Singha beer.
Address: 20/14 Moo 5, Ko Yao Noi, Ko Yao District, Phang Nga 82160
Website: Rice Paddy Viewpoint Restaurant
Phone: 076 410 233
2. Ban Rim Nam Restaurant
Just as you pull off the Klong Hia pier you’ll pas by the Ban Rim Nam Restaurant on left hand side, it’s pretty hard to miss and you highly recommend you don’t miss it if you’re visiting Koh Yao Yai. The restaurants is located on the edge of the beach, built on stilts so when the tide is really it comes just up to the restaurant pier legs. The views cannot be beaten as you’re literally on the water and can enjoy a constant flow of boat traffic muddle in the channel separating Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai.
Owner operated by two local chefs Mum and Aunt have a strong focus on on seafood and Thai food, so we recommend you be in the mood for seafood if you’re coming to Ban Rim Nam. The Deep fried Shrimp with tamarind sauce, crab curry and then a mango shake. This is a Muslim restaurant so they don’t serve any alcohol, just keep that in mind if your planning to have a couple of beers with dinner, this is not the place for you.
Website: Ban Rim Nam Restaurant
Phone: 081 956 2141
What to do on The Koh Yao islands:
There are many things to keep you and your loved ones busy while enjoying your time on the Koh Yao islands. When you leave you’ll be honestly wishing you had more time. No matter what you choose to do with your team, you’ll want more of it when you’re on your off the island.
Scuba Diving is a popular activity throughout Thailand and on Koh Yao it’s no exception. The waters surrounding the islands have had little damage from large scale tourism developing in the area so many of the dive sites are still pristine and rich in marine life. You can see blue spotted sting rays, black tipped reef sharks, moral eels, clown fish and large schools of trevallies swimming all around the various reefs and much more.
Some of the popular dive sites are around Koh Hong Koh Nok. Enjoy your time under the waves
Due to the stunning rock formations throughout Southern Thailand rock climbing has become one of the main activities in the region, drawing in climbing from all around the globe to try their knuckles on porous limestone.
Most climbing on the island is done from longtail boats, it was once done as deep water soloing meaning that you climb without any ropes and when you reach your goal, you just jump from the rocks and plunge into the water below, only to climb up again and do it all over again. Since then deep water soloing is on a temporary hiatus in the region so now you’ll have to be roped up. Not to worry though, climbing up these stunning cliffs looking out over the stunning Phang-Nga bay surrounding you is quite a sight to see.
Rent a motorbike with a sidecar and explore
We don’t need to go into great detail on on this as it’s something that we recommend everyone do at sometime or another on their time in Thailand, but the Koh Yao islands offer a different feeling. The roads are more narrow, designed for motorbikes specifically. Thats not saying there are no cars here, you will find a car and truck time to time here but the vast majority of vehicles here are bikes, so join the crowd, get on a bike and explore this beautiful Andaman island and all it’s secrets. The island is an extremely friendly and trusting place meaning you don’t have to worry about their or damage to your bike, in fact when you park at a local restaurant or convenience shop take a look at other bikes parked close by, there is a good chance you will see at least 50% of them with the keys still in the ignition. It’s a testament to the local trust felt on this island. motorbikes cost between 200-250thb/day, bikes can be arranged through most of the resorts on the island, so just get in touch with the receptionist at your resort.
Throughout Koh Yao you can find modified motorbikes with sidecars attached to them, they are a slight bit more expensive to rent that a standard motorbikes but well worth the price, they offer a wonderful experience for any couple to buss the roads in a unique and fun way. Have your partner open a bottle of water and share it while you’re driving. Side car motorbikes range in price from 300-600thb/day for one you need to call:
Mina’s Cooking Classes
Thailand is home to world class cuisine, you can find Thai restaurants in nearly all major cities across the globe and for good reason, ti’s rich flavours, texture and strong aromas make for a wonderful experience for anyone’s taste buds. That being said wouldn’t it be nice to learn from the home of this fascinating and delightful cuisines homeland while your on holiday? Well as one can expect with many developing regions of Thailand, cooking classes are an ever growing activity and Koh Yao Noi is proud to unveil it’s own cooking school at Ming’s cooking classes. You can learn abut how to pick the right vegetables and mets, how to create child pasts and make curries, then make a range of dishes yourself in small classes.
Website: Mina’s Cooking Classes
Charter a private longtail boat and see the Big Tree
It is legend that there is a tree some 20 meters in circumference and is something around 700 years of age on the North side of Koh Yao Noi. The only problem is that the tree is no t accessible by land, you need to charters a private longtail boat and then venture out to see this amazing sight. Arguably one of the oldest trees in existence this is certainly something not to be missed. While you’re on the boat trip you can also stop at a number of other private beaches on both Koh Yao Noi Koh Yao Yai, Koh Nok and other local islands in the region. You pick the perfect place to send the afternoon and just enjoy your time. We recommend you bring a lunch as most longtail charters trips don’t come with any food provided but will come well stocked with water, fruits and sodas as well as snorkelling gear and life jackets. The price for a private longtail charter fo the day is around 2,000thb. You can talk with your resort receptionist or just head to one of the islands many beaches and find a local captain and negotiate with them directly.
Next time your thinking of where to adventure, think no more than The Koh Yao islands, they are all they are cracked up to be and more. You will not regret anytime spend on the Koh Yao islands, we guarantee you of that.