Travelling between Phuket island and Krabi on Thailand’s Andaman coast is easy, with plenty of options for the three-hour trip by bus or boat. But if you have at least a few days to spare, taking a lesser-travelled route with stops at Ko Yao Yai and Ko Yao Noi offers a relaxed and scenic alternative.
With plenty of beaches and nature-oriented activities to be found, travellers could easily linger on the Yao islands for a week or more, but here are some ideas for a three-night journey starting from Phuket.
Day 1. Catch a ferry from Bang Rong pier on Phuket’s east coast. Boats depart several times daily. Arrive to Yao Yai’s Klong Hia pier after about 30 minutes. Once you’ve checked in to your resort or guesthouse (here are a few of our Yao Yai favourites), chill out and enjoy the peace and quiet for a bit, then hire a motorbike or bicycle and explore the island. Being only about 30 kilometres in length with one main road, Yao Yai’s best beaches, fishing villages and rural interior sights are easily reached within an hour’s drive. Try to catch the sunset at Loh Paret or Loh Jark beaches.
Day 2. Spend the morning travelling around more on your bike or try one of the local half- or full-day tours on offer including agricultural tours, mangrove kayaking, or boat trips to small islands nearby. Then catch a boat to Ko Yao Noi at Klong Hia or Chong Lad piers. If you haven’t booked a place in advance (here are our Yao Noi favourites) ask one of the songthaew drivers at the pier to take you around. Spend the rest of the day strolling around the immediate area where you’re staying, most likely a beach backed by a jungly hillside.
Day 3. As with Yao Yai, most things to do here revolve around exploring the rural landscapes and beaches of the island. Some activities to try include rock climbing, kayaking, fishing, snorkel or dive trips, even a Thai cooking class or yoga session. Or hire a bicycle or motorbike and explore on your own. The roads are rough in places but see very little traffic, even during the busier travel months of November through April. The local songthaew taxi trucks are also available for hire by the hour or the day.
Day 4. If you haven’t done this already, make sure you rise early to watch the sunrise over the sea at one of the island’s east coast beaches. Catch a ferry boat to Krabi at Tha Khao pier, which travels to Tha Len pier on the Krabi mainland, or take the speedboat ferry to Nopparat Thara from Yao Noi’s Manoh pier. Alternatively, you could charter a longtail direct to Ao Nang or Railay beaches.
Travel to both Yao Yai and Yao Noi is possible year-round, but if visiting from May through October you may be in for some rain so be sure to pack some wet-weather gear and a few good books. Regardless of when you visit, expect a tranquil scene, superb views and few crowds at both islands.
Lana Willocks is a freelance writer from Canada based in Phuket. Her love affair with Thailand began on a university exchange programme in Bangkok, then she returned to Phuket on the auspicious date of 9-9-1999 and never left.
Where to go, how long to stay there, where to go next, east or west, north or south? How long have you got? How long do you need? Itinerary planning can be almost as maddening as it is fun and here are some outlines to help you get started. Remember, don't over plan!
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