What It’s Like To Stay At Anantara Koh Yao Yai, The First Luxury Property On An (Almost) Deserted Thai Island

Phuket Airport’s arrival hall is the rather unlikely location to strike up a conversation, more so after a 5am start from Bangkok. But, while waiting for our hotel transfers, bubbly Canadian couple Christine and James, fresh from a red eye across the Pacific, are bright-eyed and eagerly looking forward to their “two weeks in the sun” at Anantara Koh Yao Yai. Self-professed fans of the Thai hotel chain, the Vancouver duo has stayed at its Vienna property and “almost all of their resorts in Thailand—where there’s a beach!”.

Anantara Koh Yao Yai Resort’s Sun Loungers is the main pool.

So, what is it about Anantara that creates admirers ready to brave 24-hour journeys for their bi-yearly holidays? For one, it’s most likely the locations in which the resorts are located. Koh Yao Yai retains its slumbery snail-pace rhythms—there is just one 7-11 store on the island and barely any nightlife to speak of. Spliced between Phuket and Krabi, the island and its commerce routes veer more towards rubber and coconuts. Hospitality is a new thing, and it’s perhaps the reason Anantara decided to open shop on this sleepy isle whose vibe is more rustic laidback Malaysian village—there’s even a batik-making shop—than a rambunctious Thai party or glam weekend getaway island. This is part of Koh Yao Yai’s key selling point: its sense of quiet, lack of tourist touts, and sun. So much sun.

Swimming pool with the sea view.

Transfers to Anantara Koh Yao Yai are by private boat that runs several times a day. Handy tip: opt for a noon arrival into Phuket so you can arrive at Anantara’s waiting room by the jetty, ready to board the boat for your 3pm check-in to the resort. Otherwise, you might find yourself lounging for an extra hour or four before actually arriving at the resort. But when you actually get there, the 27-acre property, which partly resembles a stylish low-rise condominium development and a minimalist Flintstones-inspired mini township, has an easy-going, almost fun design personality. The latter is all about raised domes sprawled with large tufts of well-manicured grass that form the roofs of the extra-sized villas, semi-submerged into the land. Accommodations are roomy, designed in a casual unvarnished beige and cream wood style that’s presently all the rage in Asia, with ample room to lounge and laze, and to reflect. Case in point: the gargantuan square bathtub-slash-jacuzzi that could fit half a football team.

Terrace view of the Deluxe Sea View Suite Bedroom.

Guests staying in the villas have access to personal butlers, a recent Anantara perk. Butlers are efficient but, realistically, there isn’t much to organize on Koh Yao Yai, aside from a morning sidecar expedition or to check on timings. The retro mode of transport is apparently a thing on the island, and there is nothing quite like getting windswept while chasing sunrises (or sunsets) on one of the island’s piers. Exploring the island on a motorcycle’s appendage isn’t exactly the height of adventure, but as one rumbles on paths that wind and twirl, and steps into working rubber plantations, it’s easy to get a sense of how daily life is on the island—quite possibly a world away from where most of Anantara’s guests originate.

The Penthouse Bedroom with the sea and pool view.

Getting away from it all doesn’t always mean that mealtimes shouldn’t be memorable. At the resort’s aptly named Beach Restaurant (yes, it faces the Andaman Sea), dry-aged steaks, other varieties of meats and almost-live seafood and sushi cover all culinary bases. The interiors are in the same spirit as the rooms: there is an abundance of wood, rattan and sense of space where family and friends can meet and talk about the afternoon spent at the scene-y pool or sweating it out on the tennis courts.

The dressing room inside the Grand Sea View Family Suite.

When at Pakarang—featuring a Southern Thai and international menu—don’t let your jaw drop if, sitting at the table next to yours, are off-duty Hollywood residents who have eased into Koh Yao Yai’s unpretentious way of life that seemingly hasn’t changed for the past half a century (aside from the sidecars). Order a piquant papaya salad, crisp yet crumbly on the inside spring rolls, and nuea phad prik thai dum sor (slices of rib eye beef fried with chilli, pepper and oyster sauce), as well as a Thai tea mousse crowd-pleaser for dessert. The food is as authentic as it comes, and as for the beach vibes—well, it’s the reason guests travel 11,000 km to get away from it all.

More photos of Anantara Koh Yao Yai


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