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Anantara Koh Yao Yai: A Sleepy Outdoor Paradise Just An Hour From Phuket

Thailand’s Koh Yao Yai (aptly, meaning ‘big long island’) is just half an hour from Phuket by speedboat, yet it couldn’t be further from the high energy and big crowds of its neighbour.

You’ll find the opposite here: sleepy fishing villages, dirt tracks that lead to long stretches of sandy beaches, rubber plantations and a single 7 Eleven that serves the entire island. 

The Vibe

Narrow, paved roads connect the island’s villages, and you’ll find a few makeshift shops with local people going about their daily lives. You won’t find many tourists. With a population of just eight to ten thousand, this largely Muslim fishing community is wonderfully warm and generous.

Anantara Koh Yao Yai Resort sits next to a tiny hamlet of 700 people, besides the Andaman Sea. A lush green jungle surrounds it and you enter the resort through a dramatic arched reception, with steps leading to staggering views of the ocean. 

The Rooms

Our split-level, 300 square metre penthouse suite with a lush L-shaped sofa looked across the bay, towards nearby Ko Maphrao, also known as Birds’ Nest Island thanks to the many swiftlets that call it home. The Queen-sized bed – with the same view – plus walk-through wardrobe and sunken bath are luxe, and give serious mob-wife energy. Each morning, a rooster from a nearby village ushered in the morning as the mist lifted at sunrise. The chatter of birds filled the air and a sense of calm fell on the entire island. There’s no better way to wake up after a long and restful night of sleep.

The Food + Drink

There are eight restaurants and bars here, including Thai, Japanese, and international cuisine. There’s a pool bar, beach bar and even a dedicated ‘kids’ bar’ serving snacks such as ice cream sundaes as well as child-friendly meals like mac ‘n’ cheese or fish fingers. Pakarang, the main restaurant, serves magnificent breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets of Thai and international dishes; dine inside or al fresco on vibrant dragon fruit, gorgeous papaya salads, rice served on pineapples and the freshest seafood. Adjoined Pakarang Bar whips up fresh juices, thick smoothies and excellent coffee at any time of day. On the terrace of Beach Restaurant, dine on specialty steaks, lobster and sushi to the sound of the waves lapping against Anantara’s private beach – it’s especially magical after sunset. 

The Spa

There couldn’t be a better place for a healing journey of rest, relaxation and rejuvenation than the setting of Anantara Koh Yao Yai Resort. In fact, the resort has dedicated wellness villas set apart from the rest. Surrounded by a lagoon and tropical landscape, the wellness villas offer guests a private sanctuary to practise yoga, enjoy a massage, or to work out with a personal trainer. 

If you’re staying in any of the other 148 suites, villas or penthouses, add a spa treatment to your to-do list. The 60 or 90-minute Anantara Signature Massage combines Eastern and Western techniques with Anantara’s own blend of oils. Healing hands of the therapists will stimulate circulation and deeply relax your muscles, likely sending you into a gentle sleep. Spa products, which are also in-room amenities and available to buy, are phenomenal. The aloe vera after-sun lotion was both soothing and luxurious (and easily the best after-sun product we’ve ever tried) and the jasmine-scented shampoo, conditioner and shower gel were a favourite too. 

The Little Extras

On arrival, we were greeted by smiling faces, refreshing cold drinks adorned with pandan leaves and orchids, and rice cakes from the village to banish our travel fatigue. The friendly welcome from staff continued, each and every time we saw them. And don’t miss the resort’s private dining experience; it’s ideal for special celebrations as the menu can be curated in collaboration with the chef according to likes, dislikes and any dietary requirements, and is served on a private beach by candlelight. We dined late into the night here as we talked away the hours under moonlight.

To-Do List

See the Island by Sidecar

Lame Had Beach, Koh Yao Yai

For an island of its size, Koh Yao Yai has a great deal to offer. The preferred method of travel around the island is by sidecar. We rode around, whizzing along Hong Kong Bridge to watch as the catch-of-the-day was loaded onto trucks, arrived at a rubber plantation to see the sap slowly collecting in a coconut shell, and followed a track into a forest to identify endemic flora and fauna. We also drove towards the north of the island, to white sand, coconut-palm lined Laem Had Beach. This is a refreshing opportunity to see a a truly untouched coastline; trees lay where they’ve fallen, trunks snapped by the wind, and tall grass waves in the sea breeze. 


Create a Special Souvenir at a Batik Workshop 

Batik De Kohyao is a small workshop run by a husband and wife team, visit to create unique souvenirs. Batik, one of Thailand’s traditional crafts, uses wax and dye to decorate fabrics. With classes held at a gorgeous wooden workshop overlooking the village, we lost ourselves as we painted the colours of the island on to the cloth pencilled with majestic native birds, sunset scenes and beautiful blooms. Vibrant hues of purple, pink, orange and gold filled each unique artwork which was dried overnight and delivered to the resort in time for our journey back home.


Visit Hong Island

Hong Island is a national park surrounded by a protected sea. At the suggestion of our host, we arrived early: “by 10am there will be about 500 people there,” he advised. He was right. Even at 7.30am, when our private boat pulled into the pier, we were narrowly beaten by the first boatload of tourists who poured out of a two-storey ferry. The island is breathtaking and attracts hundreds of visitors each day because of its similarity to the idyllic setting of the 2000 movie The Beach. The coast curves around a bay and the sea sparkles emerald green one moment and sapphire blue the next; through the crystal-clear water, watch as schools of fish huddle around rocks and coral. We bathed, dived and sat around under the shade of huge trees, basking in the beauty of the surroundings before walking a pier, which led to a lagoon hidden between two tall cliffs, where the water is shallow and – almost impossibly – even more beautiful. 

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