Located in an idyllic spot in Phang Nga bay, almost equidistant from Phuket, Phang Nga and Krabi, the island of KO YAO NOI enjoys magnificent maritime views from almost every angle and makes a refreshingly tranquil getaway. Measuring about 12km at its longest point, it’s home to some four thousand islanders, the vast majority of them Muslim, who earn their living from rubber and coconut plantations, fishing and shrimp-farming. Tourism here is low-key, not least because the beaches lack the wow factor of more sparkling nearby sands, and visitors are drawn instead by the rural ambience and lack of commercial pressures. Nonetheless, there’s decent swimming off the east coast at high tide, and at low tide too in a few places, and plenty of potential for kayaking, rock-climbing and other activities.
Most tourists stay on the east side, which has the bulk of the accommodation, at Hat Tha Khao, Hat Khlong Jaak (Long Beach), Hat Pasai and Laem Sai. Exploring the interior is a particular pleasure, either via the barely trafficked round-island road as it runs through tiny villages and the island’s diminutive town, Ban Tha Khai, or via the trails that crisscross the forested interior, where you’ve a good chance of encountering monkeys as well as cobras and even pythons, not to mention plenty of birds, including majestic oriental pied hornbills.