Santhiya Koh Yao Yai Resort was by far the most relaxing experience we had in Thailand. It is an eco-luxury resort comprised of 39 teakwood pool villas and 109 deluxe rooms located on the Koh Yao Yai island. We loved every minute spent there. The villa, service, and the overall experience was truly unique and very memorable. In fact, it would remain the highlight we enjoyed the most from our adventure.
The Santhiya Resort
We found this resort by looking at places to stay near Phuket and the Phi Phi islands as those were some of the main attractions we wanted to visit. It did not take long for us to choose once we saw the pictures online from this place. We booked more than 3 months in advance just to make sure (booking link). We strongly recommend not to book a room but a villa with a pool. Those are absolutely awesome! The views, the size, and the service were very impressive. The resort size-wise is enormous. It has a large pool at the lower level and one at the top. The latter has an infinity pool type view and it is right next to the Saaitara restaurant (which is where the breakfast is served).
The main Santhiya Koh Yao Yai resort attraction to us was the actual vila. You could probably easily not leave at all while staying there and still have an amazing vacation. It has everything you would imagine. Pool with an awesome view, outside showers, bathtub & plenty of other amenities to enjoy your stay. Our favorite by far was the private infinity pool. The villas are all built mainly with wood and everything inside is done with that material. You have internet and TV although the internet connection in our case was barely usable.
The Pier at Santhiya has a dual purpose. During the day it is the only way for you to get out of the island. During the later afternoon, it also becomes a bar that serves quite tasty small bites and of-course all types of alcoholic beverages. You have to reserve your spot however around breakfast time since the bar/tables get booked very quickly. The beds are nice and the sunset views breathtaking. Highly recommended.
Overall the food was very good (with some exceptions). The main bar at the lower level named “The Titan Grill” had by far the best tasting meals. The breakfast at the top-level restaurant (named “Saaitara Restaurant”) was also decent. The lower level restaurant we did not like at all. Both the main one and the buffet one we only tried once and never came back. It might have been a bad day for them that night but the quality and taste were atrocious. The Titan Grill was consistently good throughout our entire stay. It is also very close to the main pool and the pier so it was a strategic place for us :). Here is a link to the resort restaurant page.
Due to its large size of the resort you need to get one of the transport-themed pickup trucks to get to your vila. That is probably one of the main negatives about the resort. The trucks are not super comfortable and in some cases due to the road incline even dangerous. Make sure you hold on tight when getting into one of these. In the case where you are close to the top walking would take some time to get to the bottom but it is definitely doable if you want to avoid the trucks. As far as getting off the island you would need to use one of their boats. They have a specific schedule for the trips to the mainland and also a different one to attractions nearby.
At the Titan Grill, there is a reservation booth where you can book day trips to all kinds of local attractions. We visited James Bond Island, Phuket, and various other local hot spots. The prices were ok but definitely more expensive than booking in advance outside of the resort. The convenience would not be there however since you need to get a boat to the mainland and from there go back to the attraction you want. Time-wise this was much better and allowed us to experience more things per day.
James Bond Island
The insanity of that island in terms of people there was astounding. We have never seen so many tourists in one place in our entire lives. It was so bad that we had to be super creative to take any pictures. On top of that the locals, there were constantly trying to sell something and following you every step of the way. It is one of those places where you want to go in, experience it as fast as possible (take a quick photo), and get out!
On one of the day trips, we went for a few hours to Phuket. Initially, we thought that a few hours hardly would be enough but as time passed we realized that Phuket was way too touristy for us. It was so packed and busy that you felt stressed just being there without doing anything. Tons of people, boats, and noise. It absolutely seemed the place to be if you are into diving and water sports, however. Plenty of shopping opportunities as well.
Phi Phi Islands
We were not lucky enough to get closer to the Phi Phi islands. The government had closed them due to the number of tourists and mainly due to the fact that the sunscreen on them was killing the local reefs. Initially, that made zero sense to us but once we did some snorkeling there we witnessed it with our own eyes. Just imagine for a minute how many tourists had to be there daily that the sunscreen on them would actually kill the reefs under them. Just unbelievable. It just shows again how touristy the Phi Phi islands have actually become.
Fishing Village Island
One of the day trips also included a visit to a unique island on which there was a fishing village. The residents on it lived there for generations. Fishing and selling small hand made items to the visiting tourists is how they made their living. Quite an interesting experience. No roads, no cars, just boats, and small walkways. We stayed there for a few hours, just enough to get some souvenirs and move on with our daily adventure.
More Island Views, Monkeys & Caves
During the multiple day trips, we did we encountered on more than one occasion some interesting caves and their inhabitants. The monkeys were so used to the humans that they were already proficient at drinking from soda cans and opening sealed candies. They had zero fear from the boats and on one occasion they literary jumped on ours and started walking on people’s heads. Needless to say that caused some panic on the boat. The caves themselves were very nice to explore and they provided some shade and cover from the sun as well. A meal is also included as well as various drinks as part of the day trip package/price.
We also stopped for a lunch on a few smaller islands which only had a small exposed beach area. Most of these we frequent stops for other locals as well as we noticed in other boats coming and going. In some cases, we were the only boat on the island which felt quite relaxing. The provided lunches were nothing special but when you are all day exploring various islands on the sun they ended up being more than sufficient.
Santhiya Koh Yao Yai Resort was exactly the experience we were looking for in Thailand. Relaxing and full of pleasant surprises week which would remain in our memories for years to come. The resort itself was very unique and different in terms of villas and transportation. Villas were absolutely awesome, the way to get to them not so much. If you do not pay that much attention to this your stay at Santhiya would be absolutely awesome. At least it was for us and we highly recommend it based on that!
Here is a link to a booking.com hotel page in case you want to book your stay at Santhiya Koh Yao Yai Resort.