Escape to the lesser-known shores of Koh Yao Yai, sandwiched between Phuket and Krabi off the Andaman coast of Thailand. Here, you’ll find pristine beaches and gin-clear waters peppered with world-class scuba diving spots.
Koh Yao Yai, or Big Long Island in Thai, is one of 44 islands in the picturesque Koh Yao archipelago. While many travellers flock to tourist-friendly Phuket and Krabi, those in the know make a beeline for the unsullied beaches and wide, open spaces of Koh Yao Yai. Here, the pace of life is gentler and you get the same (or even better) food, accommodation and service standards than the main islands, all at a fraction of the price.
The beaches on Koh Yao Yai are its main draw, with the most popular being Laem Had Beach, located on the northern peninsular of the island. This is where you’ll find the spectacular Koh Yao Yai sandbank, a natural phenomenon that creates stunning curvaceous patterns in the ocean. While it might be tempting to while away your days on the sandy shores of Koh Yao Yai, there’s actually plenty to see and do during your time here.
Adventure seekers can rent a kayak to paddle out to Koh Nok, a lick of an island a short ride away, or explore the underwater world by booking a trip with a local dive centre. Scuba enthusiasts will have a field day at Phang Nga Bay, home to world-famous diving sites like Shark Point and the King Cruiser Wreck. The latter is a car ferry that sank off the coast of southern Thailand in 1997 and is now teeming with marine life such as soft corals, bigeye trevally, yellow snappers, barracudas and turtles.
For those who prefer something a bit more sedate, take a stroll through the tiny villages and plantations further inland. There is only one main road that encircles the entire island with just a few small side tracks, so no matter where you wander, you’re almost always accompanied by lush jungle scenery.
After a day of activity, reward yourself with a sumptuous seafood feast. The island is known for its fish eateries offering fresh, delicious and affordable dishes, with most clustered around the piers.
There are three main ferry piers on the island, all of which regularly run services. From Phuket, the most popular and reliable way to get to Koh Yao Yai is via ferry. The ferry departs from Bang Rong Pier in Phuket and reaches Koh Yao Noi in under 30 minutes, with several departures daily. From Krabi, you can book a speedboat or longtail boat from either Ao Nang Pier or Thalen Pier to get you to the island.