This sleepy little island of Koh Yao Noi is where we’ve landed for our first stop in South East Asia in quite some time. Well, there’s no airport here, so we had to take a speedboat to get here, but you know what I mean. This island is in Phang Nga Bay, in the Andaman Sea and it’s a perfect place to come to ease back into South East Asia and Thailand. There’s not a whole lot to do here on Koh Yao Noi, but that’s one of the attractions and it seems to be why it attracts such a mix of people. There are backpackers here, there are families with small children, couples, and a whole host of nationalities, including Thais on holiday too. Here’s our pick of the Koh Yao Noi things to do.
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Koh Yao Noi is just 30 minutes on a speedboat from Phuket Island and as I type this I can see the limestone formations that make up some of the island here in Phang Nga Bay, probably the most famous of which is James Bond Island, which we’ve visited before (I wrote about it here). The islands here in the bay, part of the Andaman Sea in Thailand were created when the glaciers thawed and left only the tops of mountains, the islands that we see today. It’s been a marine park since 1981. And it’s glorious.
The water is emerald green, and the dark green of the shrubbery on the limestone karst islands sets off the limestone, which is tinged a little pink as I watch it now, the sun going down. Watching the sunset from the east coast of the island seems a little weird, but it’s the reflection of the setting sun on the islands that’s so pretty. And so ends another lovely day on Koh Yao Noi, our last sunset, and it’s been a fabulous 6 days we’ve had here. So let me tell you what we’ve been up to. First though, some logistics.
Where to Stay on Koh Yao Noi
You can opt for five-star luxury on Koh Yao Noi, (that’s the Cape Kudu Hotel) or you can head just about next door, for a more affordable option at the Holiday Resort. There’s the Paradise Hotel in the far north for complete seclusion, or if you want to be on the west coast of the island head to the Purana Bliss.
Obviously, there are other places to stay in Koh Yao Noi, but these are our top tips.
Where’s the Best Area of Koh Yao Noi to Stay?
I think the best area of Koh Yao Noi to stay in is on the East Coast. There’s an area of the coast from the Holiday Resort down to Sabai Beach where there are a variety of places to stay, but also some great places to eat. It’s not particularly busy, but this will give you an option of different places to eat at lunchtime or on a night.
This is the east coast so you won’t get a sunset (get up for sunrise if you want though), however, the reflection of the setting sun on the limestone karst islands of Phong Nga Bay is absolutely lovely!
The five star Cape Kudu Hotel gets top billing here. It’s in a great location, has a fabulous pool, and amazing amenities. If you want luxury on Koh Yao Noi this is the place to come. Check out the Pool Villas for the absolute max in luxury.
Just along the road from Cape Kudu is where we’re staying right now. The Holiday Resort. We have a beachfront bungalow with a private deck and ocean view. The A/C is great (although we haven’t needed it most nights), the staff here are really friendly and so helpful. Check rates and availability here.
As we rode our motorbike up to the Paradise Koh Yao, I joked that it should be called the resort at the end of the world. I wasn’t far wrong. Paradise is at the northern end of Koh Yao and is delightfully private. There’s a full 250 meters of private beach, rooms, and suites with private plunge pools, kayak rentals, and yoga classes include. This is an amazing place to stay, you can see more here.
On the west coast of Koh Yao Noi, the Boutique Hotel, Purana Resort has gorgeous rooms, an infinity pool, and the most gorgeous of views. There’s a restaurant here and you can opt for hilltop villas or villas with a pool. Delightful. Check rates and availability here.
Visit James Bond Island from Koh Yao Noi
Exploring Phong Nga Bay is the top thing to do in Koh Yao Noi – and seeing James Bond Island is a big part of visiting the bay. Known locally as Ko Phing Kan, this was the movie hideout of James Bond villain Scaramanga from the 1974 James Bond movie, “The Man with the Golden Gun”. It’s an island, and the only way to get here is on a boat, but luckily the locals have you covered for that. You’ll need to take a speedboat to the famous island, and while you’re in the area, kayaking in the mangroves, swimming and relaxing on a beach as well as having lunch in a floating restaurant is quite the thing to do. There’s a floating football field here too as well as the only school, which is, yes, also floating. You can ask locally about visiting James Bond Island – but it’s just as easy to pre-book a visit and plan the perfect day out on the water. Don’t forget sunscreen, hats, and water. Check prices for James Bond Island tours from Koh Yao Noi here.
I wrote about visiting James Bond Island from Krabi here
Take a Boat Trip from Koh Yao Noi
The local mode of transport here is the famous Thai long-tail boats. They’re super easy to get into shallow waters, and that means you can use them to get to some of the small islands and their lagoons. The Hong Islands are famous for those lagoons and taking a leisurely day to explore them is one of the best things to do on Koh Yao Noi. The waters are crystal clear here, so make sure you’ve packed your snorkeling gear (although most tours will have them on board if you haven’t) and swimming stuff. Picnicking on the beach of Koh Nok is a fabulous way to enjoy lunch and the amazing scenery here before it’s time to pack up and head back to Koh Yao Noi. A perfect day in the islands of Phang Nga marine park.
Rent a Bike on Koh Yao Noi
Renting a bike is one of the best ways to get around Koh Yao Noi and get a bit of exercise. Much of the island is flat, but as you head towards the north there is “the hill” and once you get off the main roads in the north, heading, towards Long Beach, then the concrete road ends, and you’re on mud and bumps.
You can rent a bike from your hotel, and expect to pay from 250 THB a day upwards.
If you want to go a little faster and further, then ask about renting motorbikes (really, the roads are so quiet here) – and I’ve covered that and the prices in “how to get around Koh Yao Noi” later in this article.
Have a Thai Massage on Koh Yao Noi
There’s a shot of massage shops with massage beds out front between the Cape Kudu Hotel and the Sabai Beach Bungalows offering a variety of massage options. There are prices posted outside most of them. Knock yourself out. You’re on vacation!
Buy Beer and Thai Gin on Koh Yao Noi
It seems the pandemic caused a pandemic of craft gins here in Thailand. And now there are at least 4 providers selling Thai Gin. Koh Yao Noi is predominantly a Muslim community, (more than 90% of the population are Muslim) and you’ll see signs (depending on which pier you arrive at) that alcohol is not allowed in the villages and to show respect. However, most restaurants sell alcohol and there’s a small alcohol (and souvenir shop) in the center of the island. It’s usually open from 8 am until 8 pm each day and it sells beers, wines, gin (and tonic), and a host of other things, there are some unusual options too (like Chang Beer with espresso which is kind of interesting as a one-off!).
Beer is 80 THB for a large bottle of Chang. It’s also 80 THB for a small bottle of Chang. So take your pick. You can also pick up a small bottle of Thai Gin (which is extremely passable for 250 THB and a 330 ml can of Schweppes tonic for 20 THB too. Beer in a restaurant costs from 100 THB for a large Chang to 160 THB for the same bottle further down the road.
Eat Phuket Specialities and Local Food
It might be a quiet little island, but you won’t want for places to eat. The Sabai Beach bungalows do some fabulous Dinner sets for (at least) two, including an amazing Vegan set (oh broccoli I’ve missed you so much!) and while the Rice Paddy restaurant was popular with western visitors every time we walked past we eschewed it in favor of the fabulous Yao Noi Seafood – where we tucked into Papaya Salad with pickled fish (oh yes, it might be a favorite with the Thai ladies from Isaan, but we loved it too!) and the Banana blossom and shrimp salad were equally amazing.
Find the Rubber Plantations on Koh Yao Noi
If you rent a bike and head north, towards the center of the island, and follow the roads to the Paradise Resort then you’ll ride through a rubber plantation. You’ll notice it when you see the plastic pots and bags tied to the sides of the trees collecting the rubber. If you’ve never seen a rubber tree before it’s a really interesting diversion. The trees are hand cut to let the rubber seep into the coconut shells and plastic containers. Rubber is then collected, rolled into sheets, and left to dry naturally on bamboo poles.
Rubber is a big cash crop in Southern Thailand, especially here on Koh Yao Noi, where it’s much bigger than fishing when it comes to revenue. Rubber trees can’t be tapped until they’re 5-6 years old, but then you can continue tapping them for 20 25 years! Trees are cut on one side for five years and then the other for the next five years and so on. If you stay at the Sixth Sense Resort in Koh Yao Noi they often have tours of the rubber plantation.
Spot the Downed Wicker Helicopter on Koh Yao Noi
Yeah. I figured this one would catch you. And we spotted it completely by accident. There’s a wicker helicopter hiding out on Koh Yao Nao – I’ve marked it on the map for you find and here’s a photo too. I like to this this was once a successful AirBnB or it will be again.
Go Diving on Koh Yao Noi
The diving is pretty good around here, but it’s very low-key. There’s no need to prebook, and there are three dive shops on the island. Most of the diving locations around Koh Yao Noi are about 20 minutes by speedboat.
Similan Divers is a small, but professional outfit that’s about 800 meters from the Cape Kudu Hotel. You can take your PADI course with them, go freediving or simply go for a dive. They provide all equipment. And as they’re usually out diving, it’s easier to contact them via WhatsApp. (You can of course always ride up to their shop and see if they’re in). Either WhatsApp on 093 452 4455 or message them on Facebook here.
Located near the Tha Khao Pier on the North East of the Island are Elixir Divers, another well-recommended outfit.
Two dives will cost around 4,000 THB. You’ll also need to pay a National Park Fee of 600 THB if you dive the Phi Phi Islands and equipment rental is about 700 THB per person.
Find Your Own Private Beach on Koh Yao Noi
It’s an island. There are beaches all over, but if you really want to find your own, head north, towards Long Beach (see the map). You’ll need to rent a bike or motorbike to get here (or it’s a heck of a long walk), but it’s lovely up here. Bring food and drinks and make a day of it.
Check the tides – the tide goes a long way out here at Koh Yao Noi, so when it’s low tide you have to walk a heck of a long way to get a decent depth of water on the coast near the Cape Kudu Hotel area. Swimming at high tide is great, but at low tide, not so much!
There are no facilities on virtually all of Koh Yao Noi’s beaches, so bring everything you need and find a little piece of paradise.
If you’re heading to Long Beach ride up until you see a sign for “Long Beach” – which actually on Google shows as “little Long Beach”, and ignore the sign and keep riding until you get to the next sign “food drinks” to the left. Go right there and there you are the perfect private no one else there (well apart from one other couple) beach.
Map of Things to do on Koh Yao Noi
You can also see the Koh Yao Noi things to do map here.
How to Get to Koh Yao Noi
You’ll need to take a ferry – either a speedboat or a longtail boat – to get to Koh Yao Noi. Most people travel to Koh Yao Noi from Phuket or Krabi. It’s about 25 km from Phuket to Koh Yao Noi and about 45 Km from Krabi to Koh Yao Noi.
I wrote about the options to get here from Phuket here.
How to Get Around Koh Yao Noi
You have several options when it comes to getting around Koh Yao Noi. The first is to walk. This really is a laidback island and people don’t ride or drive too fast around here. The second is to rent a bicycle. There are a few hills on the island and when you get off the main roads there are some bumpy mud roads, that you might find difficult – as ever those roads are the hilly ones!!
You can also rent a scooter or motorbike. In January 2023 they cost 300 THB a day for short-term rentals and you can just ask your accommodation to rent them. We didn’t need to hand over our passports as we rented from our accommodation, the excellent Holiday Resort.
On Koh Yao Noi there are also motorbike and sidecars, which are excellent for families –and they come in the traditional Western Sidecar as well as the Thai “sidecar” options as well. Some have sunshades too. You’ll pay 650-750 THB for a motorbike and sidecar.
Then you can always get a songthaew – the Thai trucks with seating in the back. The five-star Cape Kudu Hotel has a fancy forward seating option, but all the others are side seating, facing inwards. Ask your hotel reception and they’ll call one for you. A transfer from your hotel in the Cape Kudu area to Laem Sai pier will cost 100 THB per person.
Travel Essentials for Koh Yao Noi
Need to know more before coming to the island? Here’s what we looked up before coming and confirmed when we arrived.
Is there an ATM on Koh Yao Noi
Yes, you’ll find Krung Si ATMs on Koh Yao Noi. They’re marked on Google Maps and easy to find. As a foreign debit card holder, it will cost you 220 THB for each withdrawal. (AEON Bank is the only ATM in Thailand that has cheaper withdrawal fees (at 150 THB per withdrawal) but there aren’t any of those on Koh Yao Noi). There’s an ATM right outside the 7-11 on Koh Yao Noi.
Is there a supermarket on Koh Yao Noi?
There’s a 7-11 in the center of the island. It has most things that you’ll need. There are also small local stores as well as fruit and veg shops throughout the island.
Can you buy beer on Koh Yao Noi
Yes, you can buy alcohol on Koh Yao Noi. Alcohol is available in the restaurants, and there is also a beer, wine, and alcohol shop near the 7-11 in the middle of the island.
Is there a gas station on Koh Yao Noi?
Yes. You can buy gas for your motorbike /scooter pretty much anywhere on the island you’ll easily spot the stores where it’s available, this is what you’re looking for.
Can you get laundry done on Koh Yao Noi
Yes. Hotels here all provide a service from around 70 THB per kilo for washing, drying, and folding. There are also coin-washing machines all around the island. You’ll spot them easily. Coin washing machines on Koh Yao Noi cost from 20 THB to 40 THB depending on the size of the machine/load.
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Final Words on Koh Yao Noi Things to Do
If you’re looking for a sleepy Thai island to visit with easy access, great places to stay, and a very low-key vibe, then come to Koh Yao Noi. It’s easy to get to, and there are things to do here – from diving to visiting Phong Nga marine park, finding your perfect beach, and generally exploring, but it’s also a place to really chill out and relax. That for me is the main thing to do on Koh Yao Noi – relax. And it’s been marvelous.
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