Beyond the village shops, dining on Ko Yao Yai can be expensive compared to Phuket. If you're on a tight budget, stick to the roadside stands and local food shops – there are at least a few in each village.
There are no ritzy dining spots here, but if you're looking for a place to eat with a bit more atmosphere or a scenic setting, then give these a try. Unless mentioned below, alcohol will not be on the menu.
Ban Rim Nam Restaurant
Found at Klong Hia pier in the north, this pleasant open-air spot is set on stilts over the sea. The decent sized menu has a variety of seafood offerings, plus beef curry and spicy salads, with most dishes in the 100 to 150 baht range. Great smoothies here, with chunks of fresh fruit floating at the top for added taste. Set amidst rickety wooden jetties and bobbing long-tails, Rim Nam offers superb views across Phang Nga Bay. Open daily 09:30 to 22:00.
A simple place in a white house on stilts at the small pier on Loh Poh bay, it gets busy during the sunset hours. Dining tables are set in the large covered veranda facing the sea, with views across to Ko Nui, Ko Sup and Laem Yai pier. Rimlay specialises in freshly-caught seafood, at rather high prices, though the local women running the place are so friendly you almost forgive them for it. Whole fish dishes are in the 350 baht range, while a plate of fried rice with crab or seafood will set you back 80 baht. Pleasant, but a bit pricey. Open for lunch and dinner.
White Sand Beach Restaurant
The only independent restaurant on Loh Paret beach, White Sand is a simple affair with a thatch-roofed covered dining area just back from the beach and a few tables set on the sand in the shade. The Thai and seafood dishes are in the 150 to 180 baht range, which seems expensive until you look at the menus of the nearby resort restaurants. A fine spot to base yourself for a swim and sun session if you're not staying anywhere nearby. Friendly people. Open 10:00 to 22:00.
Found at the Glow Elixir resort, Lalin welcomes outside guests seeking meals with a bit more flair to them, not to mention a scenic tropical location right on its own little west-coast beach. And you'll find booze here, including a range of cocktails. The Thai and Western menu is not cheap but servings are generous – our somtam, grilled chicken and rice order (170 baht) arrived on two large plates. The chef offers Thai cookery courses, too. Open 07:00 till 22:00. The attached Elixir Bar stays open till 01:00.
Takeaway street food is found everywhere in Thailand and Ko Yao Yai is no exception. Among the tastiest meals and snacks here are the homemade coconut tarts prepared by the village women in Prunai village. Not far away, near the mosque, we stopped by a colourful wooden stand to see what was on offer and found two women selling an unexpected, yet delicious mix: sushi rolls and fried bananas.
No Thai would ever visit Ko Yao Yai without stocking up on its local specialty: pla ching chang, or sun-dried anchovies. Eaten as a stand-alone snack, or put into a variety of local dishes to add a little salty zip to a meal, pla ching chang is a versatile little fish. During the mid-day hours you'll see long blue-netted stands drying thousands of these tiny silver fish in front of several homes across the island. The going rate was 150 baht per kilogram during our visit, available direct from the makers or at most any shop if you ask for it.