Koh Yao Noi
Thailand has few places that remain off the beaten track to travellers, and Koh Yao Noi is one of those places. This tropical island located in the middle of the Andaman Sea is a taste of the old Thailand, without the crowded beaches and modern, western influences.
Koh Yao Noi is a small island located about a half hour boat ride from Thailand’s southern province of Krabi. Having been missed by developers due to its rocky shorelines the island remains a location filled with local culture and the feel of slow, peaceful, tropical Thailand. This is great news for travellers wanting to escape the crowds as it has allowed the island to skip the westernisation that many of its counterparts have had to endure, and maintain its natural island beauty.
The island is said to appeal to honeymooners, but we think it’s also perfect for backpackers, solo travellers and those wanting a little taste of local Thai culture.
There are two main ports on the island. One located in the northeast and the other located in the south. Boats depart daily from Krabi’s Tha Len pier and Phuket’s Ban Rong pier, with services running every 1-2 hours from 7:00am to 5:00pm.
There are two options available, either the speedboat or the slow boat. The speed boat from Krabi will get you to Koh Yao Noi in 20 minutes for 200 baht, the slow boat will get you there in 1 hour for a fraction less at 120 baht.
The speed boat from Phuket will get you to Koh Yao Noi in 30 minutes for 200 baht, the slow boat will get you there in 1 hour for 120 baht.
Taking the slow boat with the locals gives you a more authentic experience and saves you a little money as well so we recommend this option, unless you’re looking to save yourself some time.
Koh Yao Noi stretches across a mere 50 square kilometres, which makes it easy to navigate by road. You can hire a motorbike for as little as 250 baht per day and access almost all parts of the island. Roads are mainly flat and tarmacked except a few dirt tracks that will lead you to some of the islands secluded beaches. There is also an option to hire a bicycle from most hotels and tourist centres for 200 – 250 baht per day.
Most of the tourist beaches are located on the southeast side of the island and are in walking distance from each other. The island is quiet, so walking is easy and safe.
What to do
Aside from lazy beach days and boat trips around the island, Koh Yao Noi also offers visitors the chance to involve themselves in local activities. Over the years this small community of only 5000 people has benefited from community-based tourism and there are a number of activities available for visitors that give an insight into the local way of life.
Spend a day with a local fisherman
70% of Koh Yao Noi’s inhabitants work in the fishing industry and the island relies on fishing as a major source of income. In the past the people of Koh Yao Noi have battled with illegal trawlers entering their land and damaging the marine ecosystems, leading them to create Fishers groups that work towards protecting the ocean and the environment. Today community based tourism initiatives have been established and you can spend a day with a local fisherman learning about the life of small-scale fishers and supporting local conservation efforts. A day tour will cost you 1500 – 2000 baht with the money providing income for the local projects and the families involved in them.
Batik Painting with the Women's Club
Located at the Tha Khao pier there is the opportunity to participate in some traditional Thai Batik painting. The local Muslim women’s club runs the Batik workshops as a way to generate income for the community and share Thai practices with their visitors. The activity involves painting on sarongs, t-shirts, greetings cards and canvases designed by the women on the island, and you are able to take your finished pieces home as a souvenir. You will need to allow 2 days for the painting to dry and be ready to take with you so ensure you do this activity at the start of your trip.
No Thailand holiday would be complete without a cooking class. Local resident Mina offers her cooking skills and expertise to visitors on the island and you can participate in a group or private course in her home on Koh Yao Noi. Learn how to make coconut milk and curry paste using fresh ingredients from her garden and spend the morning or the evening putting together a delicious, hearty Thai meal that you can enjoy for lunch or dinner.
Many of Koh Yao Noi’s beaches are not suitable for swimming due to their rocky shorelines however there are still places on the island where swimming is possible, especially at high tide. If you have a motorbike venture northeast to Paradise Beach, it’s about a 10-minute drive down a pretty rough road but the beach is stunning and great for swimming. There is also a great swimming beach located just near the Six Senses Resort. Look out for a small sign on the road, just past the sign to the resort, and follow the dirt track for about 5 minutes. To the right there will be the resort’s private beach but to the left the beach is public and often empty.
Food & drink
Koh Yao Noi is not short of locally run cafes and restaurants that serve a delicious range of Thai and International cuisines. Many of the island’s restaurants are set up in a unique Thai style, boasting bamboo interiors, low tables and comfortable Thai-style cushions. All you would want for your island getaway.
As 70% of Koh Yao Noi’s inhabitants work in the fishing industry seafood is one of the top choices for food on the island and you can find seafood on nearly every menu. The island’s population is 90% Muslim so pork isn’t available, but you can find most traditional Thai dishes made using a mix of other ingredients and locally sourced produce.
For a lovely, reasonably priced waterfront meal try Sabai Corner in the island’s south. For cheap Rotis and pretty sunsets visit the family run Gold Seafood restaurant in the northern part of Pasai Beach. For the vegetarians we recommended the Garden Café, situated in a lovely garden setting about 5 minutes drive from the centre of town. And then there are the fruit shakes, made using fresh fruit grown on the island. Don’t forget to try what’s in season, Dragonfruit, Lime and Papaya in the dry season, Lychee, Rambutan and Mango in the wet season.
When it comes to drinking, as the island is majority Muslim, alcohol is not available on parts of the island other than the touristy areas. Most of the restaurants in the tourist areas do serve alcohol and there are also some that do takeaway, including the minimart located on Klong Jark Beach. However it is important to be respectful when drinking and not to take alcohol into the local villages and towns.
There is also one 7-Eleven located in the main village, as well as a number of ATM’s that take Visa and Mastercard.
Although hotels and guesthouses don’t overrun the island there is still accommodation available for every budget.
Coconut Corner is a lovely family run business that provides bungalows at a low 600 baht per night. They are cosy, comfortable and located in the convenient location of Pasai beach. For a little more upmarket experience there are a number of hotels and lodges on the main tourist beach of Klong Jark. Most will cost you 800 – 1200 baht per room.
One other option that Koh Yao Noi offers its visitors is the chance to participate in a homestay. The Koh Yao Noi Ecotourism Club, who also run the daily fisherman tours, offers guests the chance to stay in a local Thai home, with meals provided. Mr Bao and his wife offer their home to guests for 1000 baht per night, which includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Mr Bao’s email – firstname.lastname@example.org Phone – 086 942 7999
There is a small hospital and clinic located in the main centre of town. For anything urgent we suggest getting to Phuket. There is also a pharmacy located nearby the clinic.
The Police Station is located on Pasai Beach opposite Coconut Corner Bungalows, however the island is small and safe, so crime is extremely rare.
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