2 days 1 night at Koh Yao Yai
Koh Yao Yai overnight from Phuket, with snorkeling at Koh Hong Krabi
Last weekend we had our end of high season staff outing. Each year we have to choose a location that suits everyone in our group of about thirty people. We have a mix of ages, nationalities and interests. Some of us need to be kept active, others prefer to just relax. We all live in Phuket so we go somewhere within a couple of hours travelling distance. In previous years we have stayed in Khao Sok, Khao Lak and Koh Racha. This year we chose a Koh Yao Yai overnight trip.
Koh Yao Yai (Yao Yai Island) is a long thin island off the east coast of Phuket. It’s 30 minutes from Phuket’s Bangrong pier by speedboat. The speedboats leave regularly and cost 200 baht. You can get a slightly cheaper longtail boat (which you can also take a motorbike or bicycle on) for a little less but it takes twice as long. Some of the luxury resorts on Koh Yao pick guests up at Ao Por Grand Marina pier, or there is also a ferry that departs from Phuket town.
Koh Yao might be close to Phuket but it feels like it’s abut 20 years in the past. It’s still pretty sleepy, with very few vehicles. It’s actually part of Phang Nga province and about half way to Krabi. While most of the resorts are on the west coast coast where the best swimming beaches are, we chose to stay on the north east coast at a smallish resort called Thiwson Beach Resort (thiwsonbeach.com). The disadvantage of the location is that at low tide the beach is just mud, great for crabbing but quite a walk out if you fancy a swim. The advantage is that the views across to Krabi are spectacular.
The Thiwson is a family run resort. We stayed there over 10 years ago when it had just a few bamboo bungalows with fan cooling and part time electricity. That suited us at the time but now we’re a bit older and travel with kids we like some more comforts, so luckily the resort has developed since then. It’s not a 5 star place but it’s clean and comfortable and well priced for a medium budget. Our rooms were air conditioned, with a fridge and a TV. The bungalows are surrounded by tropical plants and fruit trees, the verandas have nice wooden furniture for sitting and relaxing. The bathrooms attached to the rooms are open to the sky. The setting is very natural and cool, it feels like a holiday on a tropical should.
Thiwson Bungalow rooms start at just 1,500 baht per night in low season, up to 6,800 baht per night for a family room on the beach front in high season. There are two pools, one on the beach front and one on the hill behind the resort. Most people will probably prefer the rooms on the beach side, but the hill top rooms are slightly newer and have a great view. They also have a very nice attached sala for relaxing in the fresh air, the fridge, TV and kettle are all outside.
The beach front restaurant has fair prices considering it’s an island (a sample of the menu is below). Beer and cocktails are available (some Koh Yao resorts do not serve alcohol as Koh Yao is a predominately Muslim Island). Breakfast is included in the room price and is a pretty decent buffet, with a choice of eggs cooked separately. Breakfast starts at 8.00 am (Phuket hotels start at 6.00 am) which indicates the laid back nature of the island. The restaurant closes at 8.00 pm and there is no nightlife of any kind outside the resort.
You can do a few tours while at Koh Yao Yai. You can tour the island by songthaew (an old pick up truck with seats in the back). It’s not the most exciting tour we’ve ever been on, a better option is to hire motorbikes or bicycles at the resort and go explore by yourself. The islands roads are mostly concrete and there are lots of turn offs to different beaches or bays.
You can also rent kayaks at the resort (200 baht per hour / 500 baht per day at time of writing).
You can also do excursions by longtail boat or speedboat to Phang Nga bay or to Koh Hong and Koh Pakbia near Krabi. All are incredibly beautiful for sightseeing and some swimming. The snorkeling at Krabi is just average, the water is pretty cloudy in that area, but our kids loved being surrounded by small fish, mostly sergeant majors.
If you are splitting your holiday between Phuket, Krabi and Phi Phi you could consider a couple of nights in Koh Yao in transit. Speedboats run between the islands in high season, see the timetables below.
We think everyone will love the laid back feel of this island and the friendly people who still wave as you go by.
Get to / get from Koh Yao Yai