Despite millions of people visiting Thailand each year, there are still islands untouched by mass tourism. Koh Yao Noi, meaning “Big Yao Island” is considered one of the last areas of Thailand that you can explore in a single afternoon. Situated in the middle of Phang Nga Bay, less than 4,500 people populate the island of about 12 square miles, and many of the inhabitants are of muslim faith. In 2002, Koh Yao Noi gained worldwide attention after receiving the World Legacy Award for Destination Stewardship from National Geographic Traveler magazine.
During the end of the Ayutthaya era, Koh Yao, Koh Lang and Laem Pak Pra were under Thalang, which shows that Koh Yao used to be under the government of Thalang or Phuket of now. In 1903 Koh Yao changed its status to a sub-district and later in 1988 was changed to a district of Thailand. It is believed that the early population of Koh Yao sought refuge from war in Trang and Satun provinces. Those who came from Trang settled on Koh Yao Noi while those from Satun settled on Koh Yao Yai (Noi's sister island). The main income of the population of Koh Yao are from rubber, coconut, and cashew nut plantations, fishery, and herding.
Phuket. From the airport, a taxi will take you to the pier in 25 minutes. The fare is 50 Baht for the one-hour journey, with daily departures from Phuket at 9.30 am, 12 noon and 5 pm. The boat will make a short stop on Koh Yao Yai, then cross to Koh Yao Noi, only 8 minutes away. Long-tail boats can also be hired at Ao Po pier for charter to Koh Yao.
The big activities on the island include agricultural demonstrations (rubber and fishing), kayaking, hiking, snorkelling and swimming. Koh Yao Noi does not have banking facilities. However; there is internet service, restaurants and some shops can be found on. So if your in for the exotic, there is a 7-Eleven with a “very powerful” air-conditioning, a good chance to cool down and get some sugary drinks and/or ice cream. So if you plan to stay over, remember to withdraw some cash money before you go, even though there are few opportunities to spend it!
It is important to note that the islanders are keen to preserve their traditional ways, so it's important to respect the local culture by dressing modestly and refraining from drinking alcohol outside of the restaurants/resorts catering to visitors.