The best of the bunch
For a lesser-developed island on the Andaman coast, Ko Yao Noi has a good variety of places to stay. From a 500 baht a night bamboo shack to a 50,000 baht pool villa, Yao Noi has it all. Peeking into most every bungalow and resort choice on the island, we were impressed with the quality and value of the offerings here.
Most places are small scale and family-run, and where they might lack cool efficiency they usually make up for it with a warm and helpful attitude. There’s little in the rock-bottom budget price range but for moderately cheap to flashpacker budgets, Yao Noi offers many solid choices. If you’re in need of mid-priced accommodation with air-con and swimming pools, you’ll find a better range on nearby Ko Yao Yai or Ko Lanta.
At the budget end, one of our favourites is Pasai Cottage, set across the road from Pasai beach in a cluster of bungalow resorts. Its 10 fan bungalows brim with colour and character, and the staff are friendly. The attached cafe offers sea views and a good gathering spot with a traveller’s ambience. Just up the road near Tha Khao beach is Nam Tok bungalow, another friendly spot where travellers will find good company. Though Nam Tok’s cheaper huts could use some fixing up, its welcoming owner and common kitchen and bar area add to its appeal, especially for those travelling solo.
Those visiting Yao Noi and seeking a place to stay in the 800-1,500 baht range really have a wealth of choice, and we had a tough time selecting the best. But three flashpacker-budget bungalows stood out for us. We really liked Suntisook Resort, a collection of fan and air-con bungalows found across the road from Tha Khao beach, for its cheerful design touches and relaxed, family-friendly garden setting. The restaurant is good, too, and run with care by a friendly mother and daughter team.
The nearby Baan Tha Khao Bungalow is another good spot with an absolute beachfront setting and a good variety of options for travellers, from smaller beach huts for two, to a family-sized bungalow with two double beds to concrete bungalows with air-con. If you’re not desperate for a beachfront spot, then try Hill House, found in a shaded rubber-tree plantation setting up a steep hill from Tha Khao beach. Its wooden fan bungalows have generous-sized balconies, which you’ll likely spend a lot of time on to take in the spectacular sea and sunrise views.
At the top end of the range, Six Senses Yao Noi resort is not only the best on Ko Yao Noi but is rated among the best in the world – it doesn’t appear in the Travelfish accommodation list for the island only because we didn’t personally inspect it. On the bucket list! But if you have cash to burn and are looking for a romantic, pampered getaway, we’re certain you won’t go wrong there.
Among the splashier spots we did manage to visit, Koyao Bay Pavilions stands out for its barefoot luxury style and eco friendliness. From the outside, the fan-cooled beach bungalows set around the swimming pool appear modest, but inside it’s all tropical glamour, with intricate thatch roof detailing, sumptuous fabrics, polished wood floors and swish bathrooms. The attached open-air salas with private dining and living areas are a nice touch, too.
Koyao Bay’s staff and French manager give an exceptionally warm welcome, even to strangers showing up unannounced in sand-encrusted flip-flops wanting a look around. With only three beachside pavilions and three air-con pool villas, early bookings are essential. Impressive all around.
On our visit to Ko Yao Noi in late March, at the tail-end of the high season, we found quite a few rooms available so it’s not likely you’ll be stuck if you arrive without booking ahead. In the peak season months of December through February, however, you might want to at least make some inquiries beforehand just in case.
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.
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Our top 10 places to stay in and around Ko Yao Noi