Koh Yao Yai Island Thailand

Koh Yao Yai Island: What You Need to Know Before You Go

Can you guess what Koh Yao Yai means in English? Hey, no cheating. I saw you start to open another tab on Google to find the answer.

Koh Yao Yai translates to ‘big long island.’ However, it isn’t actually that large. Despite its size, there’s plenty to see in this little tropical gem. And it’s a perfect getaway for a day trip or a longer getaway.

So, let’s dive into the details about Koh Yao Yai and why you should visit the next time you’re in the area.

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An overview of Koh Yao Yai Island, Thailand

Everyone knows about Phuket and its gorgeous viewpoints, Krabi, and the surrounding regions in southern Thailand. But, lying in the Andaman Sea between Phuket and Krabi are the small islands of Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi.

Still unknown to most people, the islands are still in the process of developing and are great if you want to get away from the crowds in Phuket and Krabi.

Koh Yao Yai has pristine beaches and beautiful aqua waters

Koh Yao Yai, in particular, offers a great option if you want delicious food, great accommodation, and other features you get in tourist hotspots, but at a discount.

I’ll cover where to stay in a separate post, but Koh Yao Yai has a laundry list of resorts and hotels. So, you won’t have to worry about snagging a room.

But, let’s highlight Koh Yao Yai, and then we’ll dive into the things to do on the island.

Where is Koh Yao Yai?

Koh Yao Yai is located 31 miles east of Phuket, 22 miles west of Krabi Town/Ao Nang, 20 miles north of Phi Phi Island, and 370 miles south of Bangkok.

Nestled in the bay between Phuket and Krabi, the island is a perfect day trip opportunity if you visit either of the two places. And you’ll want to visit Koh Yao Yai.

Idyllic white-sand beaches, roads with tall skinny coconut trees lining them, and sightings of Koh Yao Yai wildlife make this a lovely option — whether a day trip or an extended one.

Koh Yao Yai map

A map of Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi
Photo Credit: maps-thailand.com

Is Koh Yao Yai worth visiting?

Koh Yao Yai is perfect for all types of travelers. If you want to relax and do nothing but order drinks and bake in the sun, there’s a resort for you. Or, if you’re looking for an adventure trip, there are plenty of hiking/running trails, rock climbing spots, and water activities for you to do.

Koh Yao Yai will have something for you regardless of your type of traveler.

So, speaking of things to do, let’s dive into the top things to do in Koh Yao Yai 👇.

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Koh Yao Yai things to do

As I mentioned, Koh Yao Yai has tons of activities to do. So, to make this easier, I’m going to split this section up into a few different categories:

So, let’s dive into the things to do in Koh Yao Yai, Thailand.

Best beaches on Koh Yao Yai

If you’re visiting Koh Yao Yai (or southern Thailand in general) then you probably came for the beaches. And Koh Yao Yai has plenty of them for you to enjoy.

Here are some of the most notable beaches on Koh Yao Yai.

Walk on the sandbank at Laem Haad Beach

Laem Haad is Koh Yao Yai’s best beach. With a long sandbank extending far out into the ocean at low tide, it’s a perfect spot to relax on the beach and dip in the water.

The vodka-clear water is a perfect temperature and gives you a nice break from the Thai heat.

Laem Haad beach with white sands and palm trees

There is a bar nearby where you can grab some drinks or food while you’re visiting. And you’ll see the occasional speedboats pull up and dock so daytrip visitors can enjoy the area. 

But, they don’t stay long so you should mostly have this beach to yourself!

Relax with a drink at Loh Pared Beach

Loh Pared Beach is the beach closest to Santhiya, the famous resort that sits on the island’s western side.

But you don’t have to stay at Santhiya to enjoy this beach; it’s open for everyone. And it’s a gorgeous beach to check out.

Loh Pared beach with aqua waters and a long bridge into the water

Hotels, restaurants, and bars line the sand edges, offering you a place to relax, listen to music, and get drinks.

And the water is perfect for relaxing. No waves, a great temperature, and typically pretty clean. You’ll find occasional trash on this beach, but the locals try to keep it clean.

Take a mid-afternoon nap in the shade at Khlong Son Beach

Khlong Son Beach is perfect if you’re looking for a quiet getaway. 

With a long strip of white sand running along the coast and the shade of the trees reaching toward the water, it’s a great place to lay down a towel and simply relax.

The water is shallow in the area, so it’s nice if you want to simply enjoy the water and not swim. And the view is nice as you look out over the limestone islands that dot the area.

The only downside is this beach can have a lot of litter, depending when you go. A lot of litter is swept in and deposited on the beach, so it’s not always the best option.

Top Koh Yao Yai Activities

Koh Yao Yai isn’t only beaches, though. There are still other activities you can do beyond simply lying on a beach.

Here are a few I recommend.

Dine on delicious Thai cuisine

Koh Yao Yai is known for having some delicious food. Whether it’s a Thai classic, like Pad Thai or Pad Grapow, or a seafood speciality with some delicious fish or squid.

Whatever your taste preference, don’t miss out on the amazing food options across the island.

Pad Thai with a pair of chopsticks

You can go with the top recommendations, but those hidden restaurants will always blow you away with their cuisine when you least expect it.

You can’t go wrong with whatever you choose here.

Experience all Koh Yao Yai hiking has to offer

Something most people overlook is the wide options for trails on Koh Yao Yai. In fact, Koh Yao Yai is the site of a trail race with races that reach distances of 100 kilometers!

So there are hiking and running trails that wind all throughout the lush jungles on the island.

If you’re looking for an activity that removes you from the norm, then hitting the trails is a solid option.

Can’t-miss water activities

You’re obviously on a Thai island, so why not take advantage of all your water activities at your disposal?

Go snorkeling

You can rent snorkel gear almost anywhere in southern Thailand. Or, if you want to buy some, just check the local shops.

Koh Yao Yai’s coast offers some excellent snorkeling opportunities where you can see plenty of sea life. And it’s a perfect opportunity for families to do a fun activity together.

Or, if you’re looking for some better options, book a tour to Phi Phi or one of the nearby islands. There are plenty of boat tours to book, and none of them are hard to find.

Typically, you can book a speed boat or a longtail boat. A longtail provides a much slower but enjoyable experience, in my opinion.

Visit James Bond Island in Phang Nga

Okay, this isn’t technically on Koh Yao Yai, but it’s not far away. And you can easily book a speed boat to take you up to Phang Nga Bay for a quick day trip.

James Bond Island is, as you guessed, named after James Bond and the 1974 movie, “The Man With the Golden Gun,” which was shot in the area.

James Bond Island in Phang Nga with a longtail boat riding through the water

But James Bond Island isn’t the only island to visit in the area.

Tour operators offer packages that allow you to stop at multiple islands and even do some snorkeling if you wish.

So, when are you visiting Thailand’s Koh Yao Yai?

Whether you’re in Krabi or Phuket, visiting is easy. If you’re in Krabi you’ll head to the pier at Railay Beach to get a ferry from Krabi to Koh Yao Yai.

If you want to get to Koh Yao Yai from Phuket, head to Bang Rong Pier in the northeastern part of Phuket.

Either way, Koh Yao Yai is a must-visit on your next trip to Thailand. You won’t regret visiting this small “big” island.

And, if you’re not tired of islands, check out Koh Samui for more great activities!

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