The Yao Island Archipelago runs north to south and divides Phang Nga Bay into two distinct cruising areas. To the west and north is Phang Nga Bay and to the east and south are Krabi and the mainland. They are part of Phang Nga province and served by ferry from Phuket, Phang Nga and Krabi.
Together they have a population of 14,000 mostly Sunni Muslims who live by fishing, farming and rubber. In recent years there has been some resort development mainly on the east coast of Koh Yao Noi and the south west coast of Koh Yao Yai.
We start our anchorages at the north of Koh Yao Noi, in the Northwest Bay.
It’s possible to find shelter anywhere in a comfortable depth off either coast, so we just name a few of the better locations. The east coast of Koh Yao Yai is mostly of little interest and shallow well offshore.
19 miles from Yacht haven
This is a pretty anchorage on the outer fringe of a deep bay backed by mangrove swamps and flat ground, offering protection in both seasons, with good holding on a muddy bottom. Anchor well out in the bay in 4-5 metres and allow enough swinging room to accommodate an onshore breeze.
Dinghy trips ashore are possible at high tide, where there is a beach with a few huts at the back of the bay and great trails either side of the creek. The bay dries a considerable distance from the beach at low tide so keep an eye on your timing – unless you want to do the dinghy drag.
19 miles from Yacht haven
Reasonably well sheltered, particularly in the southwest season, this anchorage is in 10-12 metres on a muddy bottom, tucked in 100 metres southwest of the small rocky outcrop.
The Paradise Koh Yao is a boutique resort, nestled in the palm trees behind the beach, with . There’s a floating dinghy jetty in the north of the bay with a marked channel giving all tide access. At the time of writing, yachties are still welcome to use the restaurant ashore.
Paradise recently developed the luxury Koh Yao Tree House Villas as a separate, but conjoined, entity.
The bay just to the north, Ao Pho Noi, is great for dinghy excursions, with several small beaches for landing and swimming against a backdrop of mangroves overhung by towering limestone cliffs.
24 miles from Yacht haven
The 56-pool-villa, ultra-luxury, Six Senses Hideaway Yao Noi is built around a small hill. Situated on a tiny crescent-shaped all-tide beach between Ao Muang and Long Beach it offers 5-star services for the cruising yachtsman. Anchorage is in 4-6 metres on mud outside the hotel moorings near the wooden jetty on the north point.
Koh Yao Island Resort is just past the southern headland; there’s a walkway through the mangroves behind the outcrop joining the properties. Always a welcoming spot to stop in both seasons in light conditions. Yachts can use their spa, restaurant and swimming pool, for a fee. The road behind leads to a supermarket, roadside bars and restaurants, including the popular Pirate Ship restaurant.
Anchor in 8-10 metres on the muddy bottom. The orange marker buoy indicates the minimum safe distance from the fringing reef. It’s not a mooring buoy.
24 miles from Yacht haven
The rustic Long Beach and Sabai Corner bungalows to the south also have small restaurants, operating all year round and offering a welcome opportunity to dine out on seafood after several days of cooking on board. However, their beaches are fringed with drying coral banks at low tide, giving limited access.
Hotels, resorts and beach clubs now line the entire length of Long Beach. The Green mini mart next to the Pyramid Bar and Restaurant has a non-halal section and sells alcoholic drinks, ice and fresh bread. There is another well-stocked supermarket 3km north near the Six Senses Resort. Best rent a motorbike with sidecar to go shopping.
Just north of Sabai Corner is the Villaguna Boutique Resort and all are served by the concrete ring road connecting the beaches and the main ferry terminal. Anchor in 4-6 metres off the southern end of the small bay.
25 miles from Yacht haven
Tucked in behind the neighbouring small islets and rocks, this spot offers limited protection in the northeast monsoon season.
To the west, a sandy spit runs out in shallow water towards some rocks. Excellent as a stopover on the way to the Koh Hong island group or Krabi, this beach is good for swimming, but the current can be strong at the third hour of the outgoing tide.
The steep path up to the top of the island has a sturdy rope to make the near vertical climb safer.
Chong Koh Yao is the passage between the Yao Islands, used extensively by local vessels en route to Phuket from the northeast of Koh Yao and the Krabi area. For pleasure vessels, even keelboats, it’s navigable with care on a mid- to rising tide. Rule of thumb: the high tide must be at least 0.5 metres more than your vessel’s draft.
The approach from the west is to favour the north coast of Koh Yao Yai heading towards the fixed white tower marker at 8°05.10N, 98°34.55E, then steer 65°towards the seaward end of the commercial jetty on Koh Yao Noi, before passing north of the visible rock. Once clear steer southeast to exit the channel.
A ferry service leaves several times daily from the jetty on Koh Yao Noi, landing on Phuket at the inlet called Bang Rong just south of Ao Po.
26 miles from Yacht haven
Good overnight holding can be found in 7-10 metres to the east of the low rock in the middle of the passage (Hin Klang Rong).
The largest village is on Koh Yao Noi, 1km in from the jetty; this is the best bet for topping up stores. Visit the little local restaurants or get a ferry to Phuket from the all-tide floating jetty.
South of this anchorage is a long sandy spit ideal for swimming at high tide. A few scenes of The Mechanic Resurrection were filmed here. It’s busy from after lunch till late afternoon with day-tripping speedboats. Three smaller fishermen villages perch on the north shore of Koh Yao Yai, one of them with a long jetty.
A visit ashore is an interesting experience, but note that the people are Muslim and women should cover up. Alcoholic beverages are not available at these north Koh Yao Yai villages (nor should they be taken ashore).
Reasonably maintained concrete and black top roads now traverse the lengths of both Koh Yaos and the islands are fast becoming popular destinations for mountain biking adventure tours from Phuket.
Three miles southeast of the channel is Koh Rang Nok. This is well worth passing by to see the cave and suspended dwelling under the rock wall on the northeast corner. The dwellings house the vigilant guardians of the culinary-valuable birds nests. There are many signs strewn around the island warning against landfall. You are strongly advised to heed them.
28 miles from Yacht haven
Just north of Laem Hua Larn (Bald Head Cape) is one of our contributor’s favourite spots. Anchor off the reef in 10 metres on a sandy bottom to get some respite from the southwest swells. There’s a beautiful beach with a panoramic view of the Koh Hong Archipelago and Krabi to the north.
26 miles from Yacht haven
Approaching this anchorage, keep well off the rocky point to the west and set your anchor on the muddy bottom in 4-6 metres. Holding is firm enough that this spot not only offers good overnight protection in the northeast monsoon, but may be used in lighter winds during the southwest season too.
There is a small Muslim fishing village on stilts in the northwest corner of the bay. Approach by dinghy using the shallow creek on the west of the bay, and please observe the usual Muslim dress code.
There is a shallow bar at the mangrove entrance but once in the river it remains deep enough for shoal draft vessels. There is another village and road connection at the bend where all the fishing pot boats are tied up.
21 miles from Yacht haven
Anchor in 5-10 metres off loh Jark concrete pier. This jetty serves the main town of Prunai a few miles east in the centre of the island.
There are a few resorts and restaurants ashore and transport can take you to town to get provisions. There is a quieter bay one mile south with a small resort off a white sandy beach.
18 miles from Yacht haven
There’s great holding in 4-7 metres off the white sandy beach in the north of the bay and south of the Santithiya Resort Jetty.
There are several shops and restaurants ashore and the main resort welcomes yachties, has a spa and one of the largest swimming pools in the region. If staying overnight, we suggest move to the southern end of the bay to avoid the all-night Karaoke party club at the small resort next to the Yao Yai Resort. Road access is just behind the beach and the main town is a few kilometres away.
17 miles from Yacht haven
Situated halfway down the west coast of Koh Yao Yai, Ao Labu is easily recognised as the bay directly east of the twin stack islands of Koh Sup. Coming from the south, the channel between Koh Nui and the headland is deep (5 metres) right up until the concrete jetty on the headland.
In the southwest season there’s good overnight anchorage in 4-5 metres behind the small island of Koh Nui or anywhere close to the jetty out of the swell. Don’t venture south of the jetty head since the bank dries. Behind the corrugated iron community is a wide creek with excellent dinghy exploration.
If coming from the north beware of the rocky outcrop a half mile north of Koh Nui and just visible at low tide.
16 miles from Yacht haven
In the northeast monsoon, there’s good holding in 5-6 metres on a muddy bottom, and excellent shelter, on a line roughly due east of the headland. There are half a dozen government moorings here, although we’ve received reports of yachts finding themselves aground at low tide on these moorings. Take care!
It’s unwise to anchor too close in; there are some coral outcrops in the bay and the recommended anchorage is perfectly sheltered. This is a favoured first or last stop for yachts chartering from Ao Po and Yacht Haven. The bay is tranquil and calm in the northeast season with few longtails and speedboats to destroy the serenity.
At very low tide the bay is shallow some distance from the beach; ashore is a long sandy beach fringed with casuarinas. In the northern corner of the bay lies the mouth of a river, extending two miles into the headland, toward a small settlement where coconut and rubber is cultivated.
This extraordinarily peaceful anchorage presents a rare opportunity for extended walks on level ground surrounding the bay or dinghy exploration up the creek.
Further north, towards the entrance of Chong Koh Yao, are a few sandy beaches with good holding and shelter from the northeast monsoon. Approximately five miles north of anchorage ‘L’, and less than two miles south of our anchorage ‘M’, is Coco Beach Resort, a facility with shore side restaurants, beach activities and an extensive water park in the sea. This is currently marketed at day trips from Phuket but, with the amount of construction going on, there may be accommodation coming soon. A great stopover if you have kids on board.
12 miles from Yacht haven
Anchor in 5-10 metres south of Laem Hia off the small sandy beach which is close to the entrance to the river meandering deep into the north of Koh Yao Yai.
While every effort has been made to ensure that the information contained in this book is accurate, the charts of anchorages are based on personal experience and satellite imagery and are intended as a guide only. They should not be used for navigation. Please refer to Official Hydrographic Charts of the respective countries.
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