Wide overhead view of the entire Anantara Koh Yao Yai resort.

Anantara Koh Yao Yai Resort & Villas
Koh Yao Yai, Thailand


Bringing the luxury brand’s signature hospitality and refinement to an unspoiled island in Thailand’s Phang Nga Bay, Anantara Koh Yao Yai is a siren call for weary urbanites desperate to get away from it all. But don’t mistake it for just another shallow resort with infinity pools and pretty views; this beachfront sanctuary wears the culture and soul of its local community as a badge of honour.

The island of Koh Yao Yai is a 45-minute boat ride away from Phuket and 30 minutes from both of the neighbouring islands of Hong, making it easy to reach yet perfectly secluded. To get there, we opted for the Phuket route, arriving at the resort jetty on the eastern tip of the island where we were warmly greeted by a group of staff – smiling and waving in a very White Lotus manner – ready to buggy us up to the resort’s entrance, where a welcome glass of butterfly pea tea, Thai coconut pancakes, and cold jasmine-scented towels awaited us. Sandwiched between dense jungle and powder-soft beach, the resort sits on an 11-hectare expanse of land clad with seven curvaceous multi-storeyed buildings, golf-course-like lawns concealing villas beneath them, and scintillating pools, all interconnected by winding roads where wellness vacationers go for their morning jogs and honeymooners take twilight strolls. The staff here are also always on standby to drive you to whichever part of the resort you’d like to go – a lifesaver during those scorching afternoons.

While neighbouring Koh Yao Noi, the smaller of the Koh Yao twin islands, has hosted a few upscale resorts for some time, Anantara is among the first to venture into the virtually untouched landscape of Koh Yao Yai – and by ‘untouched’ we mean by tourism, of course: the island already hosts a small population of roughly 2,600 people sustaining themselves through fishing as well as coconut and rubber farming. As a matter of fact, during our brief journey from the jetty to the resort, we passed countless rubber trees, easily identifiable by the cups fixed around their trunks, collecting latex.

The resort offers a selection of 148 thoughtfully designed rooms, each with its unique perks and quirks. Family suites cater to guests of all ages with imaginative sleeping arrangements ranging from bunk beds to tree houses with built-in slides (good enough to make us adults envious), and grant direct access to the resort’s family pool. Villas, situated beachside, lagoon-side, or amidst verdant gardens, come with complimentary bicycles for guests to explore at their leisure. Raising the bar, the penthouses are expansive duplexes with generous living spaces, infinity pools, and jaw-dropping views. There’s even one with a glass-bottom pool directly above the lounge – just remember not to go skinny-dipping if you’re expecting guests.

We opted for a stay in one of the Beachfront Pool Villas, a 198 sqm/2,131 sqft hobbit home-like sanctuary blanketed in an eco-friendly, perfectly manicured lawn that makes it practically invisible from the main lobby. Inside, light permeates every corner thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows, revealing a spacious lounge and bedroom adorned with blonde wood furnishings, coastal chic accents, and the occasional objet d’art made from natural materials, infusing each room with a touch of local Thai charm. Our villa came complete with a kingsized bed, walk-in wardrobe, one of the biggest bathtubs we’ve ever seen, an indoor rainfall shower, and two outdoor showers leading to a pool and private garden with direct beach access. If you’re an early riser, you’ll enjoy spellbinding sunrise views over Ko Rang Nok (Bird’s Nest Island), as almost every room in the villa faces out towards the Andaman Sea.

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While you’re Out There
Away from the resort, Koh Yai Yai unfurls into an idyllic landscape of coconut palm groves and stilted villages, hugged by miles of powdery beaches where tourism remains minimal, offering travellers a glimpse into the Thailand of yesteryear. While you could explore the island solo, opting for a guided sidecar tour is the perfect opportunity to truly soak up the sights and see the fruit of Anantara’s community initiatives, like the local mosque and school they helped build. We highly recommend you stop by Batik de Kohyao to try your hand at the ancient art of Batik fabric dyeing. Founded by artist Ladamas Suden and her husband, this little gem doubles as a fashion boutique and a hub for authentic creative workshops, fuelled by the support of the resort’s visitors.

Every aspect of our accommodation felt like it was designed to foster tranquillity and wash away any lingering stress that may have followed us off the plane, a sentiment underscored by the resort’s friendly staff, mostly locals from the island, who would go the extra mile with thoughtful gestures like leaving handwritten goodnight messages on painted leaves in our room.

Anantara Koh Yao Yai has a trio of exceptional restaurants to please every palate. Pakarang, in the main dining hall, specialises in local and classic Thai cuisine, and transforms into a bustling breakfast space in the mornings, with buffets offering everything from freshly baked pastries and cold-pressed juices to dumplings and even curries. Understandably, the space occasionally got a little disorganised and cluttered at peak hours, with the staff still finding their footing – but we’re sure this will improve as time goes on.

The ambience of Beach Restaurant, with its rustic thatch-roofed pavilion and fairy light-strewn lawn, sets the stage for indulging in a medley of global dishes and the freshest catch of the day offerings. Meanwhile, Japanese Restaurant (yes, that’s its actual name) serves incredible sushi and sashimi. Of course, ‘When in Thailand, do as the Thais do,’ so our usual ritual was to head to Pakarang for an evening of al fresco dining with a view, tucking into some of our all-time favourite dishes like beef massaman curry, tom kha gai, and a more recent discovery, sweet pineapple fried rice – simply to die for. For those seeking a more intimate gastronomic experience, Anantara’s catering team can also arrange personalised ‘Dining by Design’ affairs, offering everything from picnics to candlelit dinners on the beach.

Between leisurely moments spent on the soft ivory sands that hem the resort and lazy afternoons sipping cocktails by pools as rare hornbills flew overhead, we made the most of Anantara’s wide range of experiences and excursions like after-dinner fire shows and a sunset boat cruise around the islands of Phang-nga. Our private Tibetan singing bowl meditation session with Karnsiri realigned our body and soul before a foot bath and full-body oil massage at the onsite spa, which treats guests to a comprehensive menu of Thai therapeutic practices and treatments derived from indigenous ingredients. The resort also has a hydro pool, hammam, water sports centre, and one of Thailand’s biggest kids’ clubs.

If there’s a single expression that embodies Anantara Koh Yao Yai, it’s a ‘breath of fresh air.’ It’s not the type of resort you accidentally stumble upon, but rather one you intentionally seek out when you’re finally ready to surrender to life’s purest joys by the sea. By the time you leave, you wonder why you ever settled for anything less.


Photography courtesy of Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas

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