A tranquil island placed perfectly in-between Phuket and Krabi, Koh Yao Noi is the ideal island escape. Sundrenched beaches lapped gently by sparkling turquoise water make one heck of a backdrop for holidaymakers, paired perfectly with the island’s peaceful vibe. While other destinations may be well-known fan favourites, Koh Yao Noi offers access to a different side of Thailand, a place where rest and relaxation are King. If all that isn’t enough for you, here are 6 more reasons why you really need to visit Koh Yao Noi and a few essential travel tips based on our visit.
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1. It’s one of Thailand’s hidden gems
When you think of Thailand, destinations like Koh Samui, Phuket, Chiang Mai and Bangkok are most likely what spring to mind. Rather than being a well-known favourite among travellers, Koh Yao Noi is still relatively under-the-radar! The island feels more spacious, owing to the fact there are no high-rises, packed bars, mega-resorts, busy shopping districts, traffic jams or crowds of any sort. Instead, Koh Yao Noi is laid-back and quiet, giving visitors a sense of peace and calm. I loved how spacious the island felt, owing to there being fewer travellers. As the local population is predominantly Muslim, there are only three bars on the island (don’t worry, you can still enjoy cocktails at your hotel!) which means it attracts a different kind of traveller as opposed to party hotspots like Phuket. Koh Yao Noi truly is a peaceful island escape from the rest of the world and I could have easily spent an entire week there unwinding.
2. The locals are friendly and welcoming
Speaking of the locals, every single person we met was absolutely lovely and so welcoming. The hotel staff were so thoughtful, kind and genuinely lovely, making our stay that much more enjoyable and memorable. As we explored the island, we got the chance to meet a few local residents and each person was so open and willing to share their story, life and culture with us. The management staff at our hotel, two Swiss gentlemen, explained that visitors to the island who hire scooters and experience a breakdown need to worry. Before the guests can even think about calling for help, locals pop up, seemingly out of nowhere, to lend a hand and get the scooter back up and running. There’s a distinct sense of community and honest living on Koh Yao Noi that puts a person at ease, you feel like you can really relax and immerse yourself in local life.
3. There are lots of great things to do
Activities on Koh Yao Noi are all about relaxation but that doesn’t mean you’ll be bored! In place of loud bars and pubs, you’ll find stunning pools overlooking the Andaman Sea, the ideal spot to sip an ice-cold cocktail or fruit shake. Explore the island by scooter, driving past rice paddies and farms, waving hello at the locals. Get your heart pumping with a rock climbing adventure or take to the water for scuba diving, swimming and snorkelling. Visit Big Tree, an ancient tree towering over the jungle at over 100 metres tall. Join a Muay Thai boxing class or slow things down with yoga and meditation. Indulge at a day spa, join a Thai cooking class or simply breathe, relax and unwind by the pool.
4. You can go island hopping
Climb aboard a boat and explore the many islands of Phang Nga Bay, just as we did. Even just the boat ride out to the islands was incredible, sweeping along the coastline of Koh Yao Noi giving us a different perspective on just how beautiful it really is. We visited Kudu Island, jumping off the boat into bright turquoise waters to cool down then exploring with snorkelling gear before tucking into a picnic lunch on the beach. The islands of Thailand never cease to amaze me, they somehow manage to be even more beautiful in real life than they are in the photos and island hopping is the perfect way to experience the area.
5. The food is fantastic
It’s no secret Thai food is delicious but, you have to admit, there can be occasions when food and flavours can be watered down in tourist hotspots. On Koh Yao Noi we enjoyed absolutely delicious local food bursting with freshness and flavour! From fantastic Khao Soi to mouth-watering Pad Thai and all kinds of tropical fruit, everything we ate was delicious. We even got to visit a local farm where the lovely gentleman who runs it lets visitors try food they can pick fresh themselves. We got to wander around, picking things from trees and experiencing the real local flavours, including freshly cut coconuts with crushed lime leaves inside.
6. There’s a sense of adventure
The things I loved most about Koh Yao Noi are how peaceful the island is but also the sense of adventure I felt while I was there. With fewer travellers around it felt that much more special, as though the island were somehow ours to enjoy. With activities like island hopping on offer, not to mention whizzing about on scooters, meeting locals and exploring all the pockets of the island, I felt so happy and carefree. Not to mention, the island has a distinct sense of safety and calm to it, so you can let down your guard and immerse yourself in the world around you. To me, everything about Koh Yao Noi oozes adventure. In fact, it’s an adventure just to get there and that’s what I love! It’s unlike any other part of Thailand I’ve visited before and it’s a place I cannot wait to visit again.
Where to stay
We stayed at Cape Kudu Hotel and absolutely loved it! The resort is in the perfect location, perched just high enough on a small hill that you get picture-perfect views of the Andaman Sea. This means you always feel like you’re making the most of the beautiful location as you can always see the water and jagged islands sticking up. Right from the moment arrived, the staff were fantastic! I cannot say enough about the service at Cape Kudu, from check-in to check-out everybody was genuine, friendly and kind, taking such good care of each guest. I also loved the hotel’s approach to cutting single-use plastics and using eco-friendly options, substituting plastic straws for paper ones.
The hotel has a fantastic restaurant and bar serving delicious food and drinks, there’s also a great little cafe with ice cream, baked goodies and coffee. When it comes to accommodation options, you can choose a room type that suits you including deluxe, pool villa, the gorgeous Robinson Crusoe suite and the incredible two-bedroom Private Villa complete with TWO pools! We stayed in a deluxe room and loved it, although if I were staying for a week I’d probably opt for a Pool Villa as I love me a plunge pool! And, you guys, the decor of the hotel is unlike anything else – it’s clean and modern with a unique style that combines a beachy/Hamptons feel with classic high-end design.
If you’re planning a holiday to Koh Yao Noi, you can’t go past a stay at Cape Kudu Hotel. It really does have everything you could ever need for your stay and, I can tell you right now, it’s a holiday you won’t soon forget. Find Cape Kudu Hotel here.
How to get there
We flew from Australia to Bangkok, spending two nights exploring Thailand’s fascinating capital city. Then, we flew from Bangkok to Krabi, taking a private transfer to Ao Nang followed by a speed boat to Koh Yao Noi. Both flights were with Thai Airways and we had a really good experience! If you’re trying to decide which airline to go with, we highly recommend Thai Airways. As Koh Yao Noi is located in-between Phuket and Krabi, you could easily fly to either location then transfer to the island by speedboat or longtail boat. When it comes to getting around the island, you can look into hiring a scooter (with sidecar, if needed). If this is something you’re considering, please just make sure you have travel insurance and are confident/proficient on a scooter.
What to pack
We found the weather on Koh Yao Noi to be stunning! It was blue skies and sunny days the whole time and, in true Thailand fashion, it was very hot and humid. I strongly recommend you pack lots of light, breathable clothing. Check out my full guide on what to pack for a trip to Thailand here.
Useful travel resources for your trip to Thailand
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Agoda – our go-to site for booking hotels
Skyscanner – our go-to for booking flights
RentalCars.com – great search engine for car rentals
Motorhome Republic – our go-to site for booking RVs
Booking.com – another go-to site for booking hotels
TourRadar – great search engine for tours
Uber – our go-to transport option