Koh Yao Noi is a great place to escape for the day. It makes for a fun, relaxing trip for anyone looking to get off Phuket and get a bit closer to a more local style of life in an idyllic island setting.
Life moves at a hassle-free pace on Koh Yao Noi. The island is predominately Muslim, which means that visitors to the island should be respectful and dress modestly, understand that most establishments do not serve alcohol and that pork is not readily available. Once travellers are able to digest those facts, the unique local life of Koh Yao Noi can truly be found.
There is a small village near the island’s pier that is ripe for exploring. Charming, rustic and completely photogenic, the village is home to a myriad of small local shops, a few restaurants, tour agencies and government offices. Check out the local shops for island-grown vegetables and fresh catches of fish, squid and shrimp. Travellers can also find a few ATMs in the village as well as souvenir shops.
The local inhabitants of Koh Yao Noi are set in their traditional ways and maintain a simple lifestyle, which adds to the overall charm of the island. Local livelihoods include farming and fishing. The landscape includes beaches on the east coast, rubber plantations and rice paddies throughout the interior as well as mangrove forests on the west coast.
Navigating Koh Yao Noi is easy as there is a concrete road that circles the island. Renting a motorbike is easy and will cost a mere 200 baht for the day. Grab a helmet, hop on the motorbike and head off on a coastal cruising adventure that affords splendid views across Phang Nga Bay.
Towering coconut palm trees dot the coast of Koh Yao Noi. The island is blessed with lush tropical vegetation and surrounded by turquoise seas. It really is an idyllic location and gives one the chance to breathe in a bit of fresh air and connect with nature.
Tucked away on the northern tip of Koh Yao Noi at Ao Kian Bay, the ‘Big Tree’ is a legendary local landmark that is not to be missed when visiting the island. Awe-inspiring for its sheer size, the Big Tree is estimated to be approximately 300 years old. Over 100 meters high, the tree towers above the jungle. It is so large that it would take twenty people standing in a circle to go around its circumference.
The Big Tree is officially classified as Hopea Dipterocarpaceae, a species of lowland tropical rainforest tree. It is absolutely beautiful and a must-see for nature lovers. In addition to its beauty, local legend states that the tree is the home of the female spirit Nang Ta Kian, who will happily bring bad luck to anyone who cuts or damages it.
The Big Tree is located just behind Ao Kian Bay. There’s a small path that winds through dense vegetation which leads to the tree. The Big Tree is protected by Thai law and part of a national park, therefore visiting the tree does involve paying a small entrance fee.
There is plenty of delicious food to be found on Koh Yao Noi. Visitors to the island will definitely want to try Muslim specialities such as goat curry and roti, as well as all of the fresh seafood from the village market. Plenty of restaurants are scattered up and down the coast, so if you are looking to dine by the sea, you will be spoiled for choice.
One recommended restaurant, located on Pasai Beach, is Chicken Honey Restaurant. It’s a simple Thai place, with Muslim owners, that grills chicken, coated with a thick honey sauce, to perfection. It also offers up delicious grilled beef, spicy Thai soups and fantastic papaya salad next to the sea. Portions are ample and great for sharing while the prices are extremely affordable.
The simplest way to get to Koh Yao Noi is to find Bang Rong Pier on Phuket’s east coast. From Bang Rong Pier, there are hourly speedboats and long tail boat ferries to get to and from the island.
A speedboat takes approximately 30 minutes, while the long tail boat ferries take closer to one hour. Prices vary according the boat chosen for the trip, but are generally between 100-300 baht for a one way trip.