Wading into the coolness, the temperate and refreshing water rippling in waves of periwinkle as I went, I floated into a perfect little bay, surrounded by those iconic Thai rocks that jut up dramatically, perfectly framing the little beach cove.
Islets of various sizes and shapes are scattered along the horizon, like a giant walked by and dropped island-sized gumdrops along his way.
I’d read before that Koh Yao Noi was the ‘no farang’ island and while that’s not entirely true, it is a little slice of paradise that tends to attract a much smaller crowd than its neighbors.
Koh Yao Noi (and neighboring Koh Yao Yai) is a relaxed, eco-minded island with far less tourism than the bustle of Phuket or the thumping party scene of Koh Phi Phi. It tends to cater to a higher end and sporty crowd and has maintained a peaceful elegance that I hadn’t found yet in Thailand.
Here’s a video of both islands, including drone footage:
If you want an island without thumping reggae, are cool with ditching the hostels, and just want some peace and quiet in the jungle, pick Koh Yao Noi (but keep it a secret, okay?).
Things to do
For the most part, people head to Koh Yao Noi to enjoy the beach. I know I’ve already waxed poetic about it but I couldn’t get over how perfect the water was for swimming – crystal clear and not too hot and not too cold.
It’s also popular for rock climbing, though as a rock climber told me on the longtail boat out, it’s not ideal for beginners. If you have a bit of experience, though, the views while you climb are stunning.
Most visitors also rent motorbikes to explore the island’s waterfalls and many beaches with only a few other tourists, if any at all.
If you want to check out neighboring Koh Yao Yai, it’s also possible to take a longtail boat over from the south side of Koh Yao Noi for 50 baht, and worth it for an afternoon if you’re a fan of sandbar beaches like this one:
Additionally it’s easy to book an island hopping tour or to take out a kayak if you want to explore the islands nearby.
Even if you’re not usually a resort person, Koh Yao Noi is the place to splurge. Most of the resorts are smaller in size and designed to be eco-friendly with relaxation in mind. I stayed at Paradise Koh Yao for a couple of days on the island and thought it was fantastic. It’s a secluded, relaxed, and gorgeous high-end boutique resort with hillside bungalows in a dreamy setting.
While I’m not as into mega resorts, I love little hideaways like this. It feels like a well-kept secret far and away from anything else, at the end of a national park and close to the uniquely-shaped islands, making each sunrise look that much more amazing.
The beach is quiet, without the hum of motors on speedboats or beach touts.
The restaurants also serve up delicious food, with fresh ingredients and plenty of Thai-inspired dishes to choose from.
If you’re looking for something romantic, Paradise Koh Yao is perfect, though I went there with a friend and enjoyed it just the same.
Is Koh Yao Noi good for solo travelers?
While Koh Yao Noi is not a backpacker place, drawing in crowds looking for a party, it does attract rock climbers and yogis. I find that places with a common interest like a sport tend to be good for solo traveling, because whether people are alone or with others, they’re going to go there for the love of their sport.
There are also cooking classes and a few quirky coffee shops and a bar or two, so you’ll have chances to meet others.
Koh Yao Noi is easy enough to reach by longtail or speed boat from Phuket and Krabi, both of which have airports.
From Phuket, boats depart from the Bangrong pier almost hourly and cost 200 baht. From Krabi, head to the Ta Len pier and catch either a longtail or speed boat. They also depart almost hourly and cost between 150 and 200 baht depending on the speed. To get to the pier, you can take a Songthaew from Krabi town to the bus station for 30 baht, and a larger songthaew ‘bus’ from the bus station to the pier for 100 baht. Reverse the journey to come back and fly out or onwards to your next destination. If you have to hang out in for a day or more on either end of transit, here’s a nice list of Phuket things to do, and more things in Phuket beyond Patong.
After a week spent between Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi, with Yao Noi being my favorite by far for the better views, I left feeling relaxed, recharged, and happy. There’s nothing quite like a quiet jungly beach where you can swim for hours without getting cold, leave your stuff on the beach without worrying too much about it, and feel like you’ve gone back a little bit in Thai time.
I hope it stays this peaceful, because it’s on my list of places to come back to.
*Thanks to Paradise Koh Yao for hosting part of my stay. My loving feelings towards Koh Yao Noi, and Paradise, are my own.