Kho Yao: Phuket's Secret Island

Koh Yao are actually a pair of largely pristine, most undeveloped and peaceful of the Thai islands. Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai are situated in the middle of Phang Nga Bay, equidistant to Phuket and the Krabi mainland. Koh Yao Yai ("big Yao island") is the largest island in the Ko Yao Archipelago, and is south of its sister island, Koh Yao Noi (map below) is one of Thailand's best kept secret escapes.

Koh Yao Thaland beach cove   Koh Yao resort beach front

While the pace of development is accelerating on Koh Yao Noi, in particular, the islands remain a quiet refuge that feels far removed from the crowds and overdevelopment of Phuket. How undeveloped is it? While Phuket has hundreds of hotels and resorts, Koh Yao, the 4th largest island in Thailand has only a half-dozen resorts. For those wanting to escape the Honolulu-type development of Phuket, being confined to a resort, and backpacker scenes in other popular beach locations, Koh Yao is the perfect place and escape to Thailand's last unspoiled island.

In 2002, Koh Yao Noi gained worldwide attention after receiving the World Legacy Award for Destination Stewardship from Conservation International and National Geographic Traveler magazine for the eco-friendly home stay programs offered by its local residents. Islanders are more interested than their mainland cousins to preserve their traditional ways, and asking visitors to dress modestly and not engage in the wilder behavior typical in Thailand's other beach destinations.

Gulf of Thailand Map with Koh Yao islands

Day tripping from Koh Yao

Phang Nga National Marine Park

Phang Nga Island

A highlight of the area is stunning Phang Nga Bay, a 400-square-kilometer bay in the Strait of Malacca between the island of Phuket and the mainland of the Malay peninsula of southern Thailand. Since 1981, an extensive section of the bay has been protected as the Ao Phang Nga National Marine Park.

Mu Ko Ang Thong National Marine ParkEstablished in 1981 and covering an area of 400 sq km, Ao Phang-Nga National Park is noted for its classic karst scenery created by fault movements on the mainland that pushed massive limestone blocks into geometric patterns. As these blocks extend southwards into Ao Phang-Nga, they form over 40 islands with huge vertical cliffs. The bay itself is composed of large and small tidal channels that originally connected with the mainland fluvial system. The main tidal channels - Khlong Ko Phanyi, Khlong Phang-Nga, Khlong Bang Toi and Khlong Bo Saen - run through vast mangroves in a north-south direction and today are used by fisherfolk and island inhabitants as aquatic highways.

Hong Islands

Mu Koh Hong is a group of small limestone islands located within the Than Bok Khorani National Marine Park; the most spectacular is Koh Hong and is one of the best day trips from Krabi or Koh Yao.


After feeling like Robinson Crusoe for longer stays, you can't be totally guilty for wanting to sample some of Phuket's attractions and nightlife, which lie an hour's speedboat away.

Koh Yao Resorts

An hour offshore from the development of the Phuket and Samui, at these resorts, will be just you and the beach on this remote island, with nothing but old wooden boats bobbing in the bay and panoramic views of the sea.

Six Senses Yao Noi

A superlative Zen resort experience in Southeast Asia, equaled only by the Song Saa offshore of southern Cambodia. A paramount focus on privacy (the royal family vacations here), service, and austere yet stylish rustic resort experience overlooking the views of the spectacular karst tableau of Phang Nga Bay Marine Park just offshore. All natural materials have been used in the eco-friendly modern island architecture for which the Six Senses set the trend for in Asia many years ago.

Six Senses Yao Noi pool villa with ocean view

The hotel’s private villas are in fact luxurious tree houses. Each is built using locally harvested teak, topped with an authentic palm-thatched roof, and tastefully decorated interiors of bright textiles and mango-wood furniture, pleasantly devoid of the superfluous trappings of luxury found in other resorts.

Recreation facilities include a water sport center offering snorkeling, scuba-diving, sailing, and kayaking. There is a well-equipped gym and a specially designed Six Sense Spa village. Koh Yao Noi itself offers short escapes to the nearby rock islands, with secluded beaches and rock climbing but the 9.6 hectare (almost 24-acre) Six Senses Yao Noi is designed for tranquil relaxation foremost. The Six Senses is reached by speed boat from Phuket Airport in about an hour, or in 15 minutes by charter helicopter.

Six Senses Koh Yao Pool Villa

The resort runs private boats to Krabi and Phuket should you have interest in shopping or sightseeing further afield. However, what you should definitely devote time to is the Six Senses Spa. The spa's traditional long house is surrounded by lush gardens or enjoy a treatment in one the salas (houses) located inside the jungle atmosphere. A long menu of treatments are available but the pièce de résistance is the three-and-a-half-hour Signature Yao Noi Ritual which includes a foot soak, steam, scrub, traditional Thai massage and spicy herbal bath. For outdoor activities, yoga is offered, island biking and hiking and numerous water sports.

Dining at the Six Senses
The Dining Room offers fine dining with Organic European Cuisine and features a glass floor with a creek meandering beneath. The Living Room presents a marriage of world cuisine, with an emphasis on Thai, plus tandoori and pizza ovens, and an open grill, while the Chef’s Table offers a very personal dining experience for just eight guests. For exclusive dining, the Hilltop Reserve serves lunch and Thai dinners offering panoramic bay views. If you're on your honeymoon or feeling romantic, the ultimate in romantic gestures is organizing a champagne breakfast on your terrace, served by your butler.

Koh Yao Six Senses

Our take: The finest resort and total escape on the Andaman Sea (which sees better weather in the winter than the Gulf of Siam and Samui area), the perfect place to relax at your trip's end. The resort is a perfect place for those not interested in doing much, experienced travelers who are over superficial luxury—a rustic escape in one of the world’s most stunningly beautiful hideaways. The pool villas (above) are the top rooms to book, with best views of Phang Nga Bay from your bedroom, bathroom, and infinity pool with outdoor dining, alfresco shower, and double spa pavilion for private massages.

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The Paradise Koh Yao Noi

A longtime favorite, the laid back Paradise with its stunning ocean bay setting (above), this is a resort to truly unwind in the peace and quiet away from the crowds of Phuket. The resort is set in lush tropical foliage with a remote feel and boasts a romantic setting ideal for walks along the beach and candlelight dinners. Relax in a hammock, pamper yourself in the spa and discover Phang Nga Bay Marine Park by canoe or private boat.

Koh Yao Paradise Resort beach cove

Dining on Koh Yao

On this largely deserted island, choices are few for dining beyond your resort and local, rustic cafes. French flair and Thai flavors combine at the village restaurant Je t’Aime, where you can down proper pastis (French aniseed liqueur) before tucking into Thai-spiced lobster or a classic massama curry. This is one of the most well-liked restaurants by our past travelers.

Attractions & Activities on Koh Yao

Koh Bon Clownfish

Diving on day trips, charter, and live aboard boats can be arranged in advance through Indochina Travel. If you prefer to keep your plans more open, arrangements can be made easily through your resort's dive center, activity desk, or nearby dive centers such as Dive Asia.

Kayaking the Hong Islands
Located in the National Marine Park, the four bucolic islands of the Koh Hong group are within a half hour of Ao Nang by speedboat, or 45 mins from Koh Yao. Within the spectacular backdrop of Phang Nga Bay and stunning limestone peaks the islands are to be among the most magnificent in the Gulf.

The main island, Koh Hong is uninhabited except for bird life, white-faced gibbons, and giant monitor lizards that can be spotted on the island's large white sand beach. The highlight of Koh Hong is its large, interior hidden lagoon which can be toured by kayak at low tide by kayak. Kayaking is complimented by snorkeling the beautiful blue cove and a relaxing a picnic lunch on the island.

Koh Phi Phi
Scenic Koh Phi Phi is only a speedboat away.

Sirinath National Marine Park
A marine protected park has scenic beach and mangrove forests and some of the most pristine coral reefs found in the area.

Liveaboard cruises are active on the west coast of Thailand around Phuket, offering multi-day trips diving at beautiful dive places including the Similan Islands, Richelieu Rocks, and many other spots such as Koh Bon and Koh Tachai.

Thailand Liveaboard

Miss the world famous "lady-boys" in Bangkok? You're in luck, Phuket is home to the famous Simon Caberet just off Patong Beach. "You will arrive relaxed but will leave confuses as our performers is more of a man than you will ever be and even more of a woman too."

Koh Yao - When to go?

Although Phuket and Koh Yao have a tropical monsoon climate and is warm all year long, ideally visit February through March. The rainy, or monsoon season is from September until October. During this time it is wet and very hot. April, May, and June are off-peak season months, best for avoiding the crowds. During June and July, Koh Samui is a drier alternative to Phuket which sees heavier rain (about double than in the Gulf of Thailand). Also consider Koh Yao, in Thailand for an more remote getaway just off of Phuket with solitude and access to diving.

6 days
Warm with crisp blue skies and best weather of the year.. Warming temps to hot weather by April and May. Summer brings very hot weather with periodic rainfall. Monsoon rains arrive, with rain falling about every other day. End of November. Warm, pleasant weather, best time of year to visit in Koh Yao.
Koh Yao Climate (Low/High Temperature | Rainfall Average | Days of Rain/Drizzle per Month)

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