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The beach paradise of Thailand’s Koh Yao Noi

When it comes to beach breaks in Thailand, Lara Sage and her family choose to stay on quiet Koh Yao Noi, away from the madding crowds.

Sunset
Beautiful sunset at Paradise Koh Yao

Paradise Koh Yao has been a treasured holiday spot for my family throughout our Asian residency. Located in Phang Nga Bay, between Phuket and Krabi, its waters are an emerald green, and craggy limestone rocks protrude from the sea in all their natural splendour.

While we’ve visited this remarkable island resort many times during our children’s young lives, it’s not just families who will enjoy their stay. This is a romantic and peaceful place, and a wonderful getaway for couples.

The motto of Paradise Koh Yah is “Back to nature in comfort”, and this is reflected in the hillside vegetation that spills directly onto the beach, and in the combination of sun-kissed days and short bursts of tropical rain. This is why I go to Thailand! I go for children to play carefree games on the sand, for awe-inspiring scenery, and for space to enjoy each other’s company.

Kids on a swing
Having a blast on the beach swing

We’ve been coming here with various friends for 10 years now, and have adapted each trip to suit the ages of the various children. Most recently, we invited friends who were first-time visitors, and they remarked on the genuine experience they felt, away from the crowds that swarmed their previous holidays in other Thai destinations. Once we brought newly-weds along, and after they’d got stuck into happy hour, they became as free-spirited as the children. No surprise, really; you’ll feel the same once you’ve settle into the bar seating area made from a real longboat, or sunk into the beanbags scattered on the beach.

On this secluded stretch of sand, we can genuinely relax, assured of our children’s safety. During our visit in June, we swam for hours in the sea and shaded resort pool, or whiled away afternoons on the hammocks and swing. We also took boat trips to nearby islands by day, and, in the evenings, let the children run around with torches, hunting for crabs while we ate leisurely dinners on tables set on the beach. We indulged in an extensive selection of Western and local food and didn’t run out of options during our weeklong stay.

Drinks by the beach
An all-adults afternoon of drinks by the beach

There were countless butterflies to see, too – black with blue spots; yellow all over; orange-patterned; bright blue. It was not uncommon to see them fluttering over the water while we were out swimming and kayaking. By sheer chance we were also lucky enough to see flying squirrels, showcasing their airborne acrobatics while jumping and gliding from one palm to another over our heads. Each evening, hornbills cried their loud calls from the surrounding jungle as they flew in to roost. On a boat trip to the nearby marine reserve we watched a gigantic monitor lizard enjoying a dip in the sea and heading back into the jungle, before we too headed off to a starfish-filled lagoon among mangroves and rocky cliffs.

Adding to the natural setting, the resort spa is enhanced by the tranquillity of flowing water, and natural birdsong can be heard from within the open-air treatment salas. I particularly liked my massage bed, which overlooked bright pink water lilies. What’s more, by employing local island residents in the spa and elsewhere, Paradise Koh Yah exudes a genuine feeling of authenticity and meaningful interaction with the community.

The resort offers a variety of accommodation. I highly recommend the elevated rooms, mostly for their views and the sense of space you get from the balconies. We stayed in a Plunge Pool Deluxe Studio; various family configurations are available, including extra beds in the rooms, and units with inter-connecting doors.

Recent refurbishments include a turquoise-and-white colour scheme, which is fresh and inviting alongside sun-bleached driftwood bedside lamps and romantic mosquito-net canopies above the beds.

Pool room at Paradise Koh Yao
The gorgeous Plunge Pool Deluxe Studio

Even with daily yoga, open-air showers and refreshing sea air, I can assure you I didn’t turn into a complete Earth Mother. I also drank copious cocktails, indulged in spa treatments away from my family, turned on the in-room TV when my children needed a break from the sun, ate chocolates from the minibar, and only posted my most flattering pictures on Facebook using the complimentary Wi-Fi!

The most convenient option for reaching Paradise Koh Yao is with organised transport from the airport or any hotel in either Phuket or Krabi. Our car trip from Phuket International Airport to the nearby marina was short and pleasant, and the speedboat to the resort felt like a fun part of a holiday rather than an arduous leg of a journey. For bookings, visit paradise-kohyao.com.

This is an article that first appeared in the November 2016 edition of Expat Living. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue!

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