Great mid-range picks
Ko Yao Yai is the largest island in Phang Nga Bay yet it has just a handful of places to stay. If you’re seeking a tranquil escape then any hotel or guesthouse on Yao Yai will do just fine since there’s no party scene here and just a scattering of visitors, even in the peak season months. If you’re on a backpacker budget, however, the pickings are slim and you’re better off going to nearby Ko Yao Noi where you’ll find a better selection of budget-to-flashpacker style bungalows. In the mid-range, however, Yao Yai is tops. Here are some of the best places to stay we found on Yao Yai.
Two excellent mid-price choices just happen to be set on one of our favourite spots on Ko Yao Yai, the Chong Lad coastline on the island’s northeast, where you’ll find great views of the karst islands of Phang Nga Bay and sunrises.
Thiwson Beach Resort is a collection of bungalows from fan rooms to large beachfront family bungalows with air-con. Formerly a budget bungalow, Thiwson has upgraded to a resort with a swimming pool and good restaurant. Most of the bungalows are in wood and are well built and cosy, and all except a few tucked away up in the hill are just a few steps from the beach.
Just down the beach is Better View Bed Breakfast & Bungalow, a great choice if you have more to spend. Like Thiwson, it has a swimming pool and restaurant, and its round thatch-roof bungalows are a notch more luxurious in design. The resort also has a tennis court, free for guests to use, just across the road.
Over on the west coast, the long-running Yao Yai Resort is our favourite for its low-key style and excellent beachfront location. On Loh Paret beach this is the best value option, since the only other choices along this stretch of sand are the luxury Santhiya and Blue Bay resorts. Though Yao Yai Resort lacks a pool, swimming is possible in the sea here all day. We’re not keen on the copious amounts of concrete used in the resort’s restaurant and bar area, which doesn’t really match the more rustic style of the bungalows, but the open-air setting is an amiable gathering place, especially at sunset.
If you’re wanting to save a few baht and don’t need to be right on the beach, we’d recommend Heimat Gardens Hotel, found a short walk inland from Loh Paret beach. Though this concrete hotel with air-con rooms isn’t exactly brimming with character, it’s super clean and welcoming, and the attached restaurant is one of the best on Yao Yai. As well, we’ve heard good things about the service here, particularly for those wanting to organise local tours and activities.
We didn’t find much to cheer about in the budget price range on Yao Yai, with the exception of Koh Yao Yai Activities Resort. Its fan and air-con bungalows are solidly built, well furnished with some colourful design flourishes and set in a shady hillside. Though it’s not on the beach, a lonely beach is just a short walk away down a path, and a photogenic little fishing village is also an easy walk away. The English-speaking owner is friendly and keen to organise trips and transport for you.
At the luxury end of the scale, Glow Elixir Koh Yao Yai is hard to beat with its unpretentious yet plush bungalows and superb out-of-the-way setting on a small white-sand beach. We found a lot of chilled, happy looking families here, and there’s a dive shop on site for those hoping to explore the surrounding seas.
All the usual resort comforts are here at Glow: fitness centre, swimming pool, landscaped gardens, and an upscale bar and restaurant that offers cooking classes. Some bungalows, or “villas” if you want to use resort-speak, have their own small private pools. We found the restaurant’s prices to be quite reasonable on an island of mostly overpriced and underwhelming dining choices – certainly worth a visit for a meal and cocktails even if you’re not staying here.
If you’re planning to visit Ko Yao Yai in the high season months of November to April, booking ahead is recommended since there are so few accommodation choices here and the better places tend to fill up quickly. If you do prefer to search for a place on arrival then you’ll need to hire a motorbike or car since there’s a fair bit of ground to cover, no public transport and limited taxi service (“taxi service” is more like hitching a ride with a passing truck). There are a few motorbike and car rental places on Yao Yai, or you could bring your bike or car over from Phuket on the ferry.
Overall, Yao Yai is just a quiet, friendly place to relax and explore, so regardless of where you end up staying it’s certain you’ll come away from the island with a more chilled frame of mind.
By Lana Willocks
Last updated on 9th August, 2014.