With some 40 beaches to choose from around Phuket, it’s not easy to narrow down a favourite, but if I had to pick one beach, the tiny Ya Nui is a clear winner.
“Ya Nui” means “the little” in Thai southern dialect, so it’s literally called “The Little Beach”. Cute, right?
Why We Love Ya Nui Beach
Found on the southwest tip of Phuket island, the 200-metre-long Ya Nui has all the elements of an ideal beach: soft sand, swimmable waters, and coral reefs offshore for snorkelling. A cliff at one end and a small rocky headland jutting out in the middle give Ya Nui an especially scenic look, and it’s also a good spot to watch the sunset.
Ya Nui is also a real public beach. All beaches in Thailand are supposed to be public, but if someone happens to own the land approaching the beach then they can control access and essentially turn it private. Paradise Beach near Patong is a prime example of this, while other beaches that are in theory public but private in practice are Relax Bay, which is home to the big Le Meridien Phuket Beach
Another lovely beach in Phuket, Laem Singh Beach, was for a long time accessible to the public via a footpath from the road, with visitors being charged a small fee for parking at the entry. But last year the
So far, Ya Nui remains free and easy to access. Let’s hope it stays that way forever.
Things to Do at Ya Nui Beach
Ya Nui is by no means a deserted or “hidden” beach. Beachgoers laze on the sands of Ya Nui year-round, and it can get crowded during the peak months of November through March. But I actually prefer beaches with a few people around and some activity choices.
Snorkel equipment rental is available at the beach for 100 baht, as well as kayaks at 100 baht per hour for a single kayak or 200 baht per hour for a double. It’s also a popular beach for diving, and we often see groups of divers suiting up at the edge of the beach then wading in.
During the calmer months of November through May, and even on sunny days from June through October, the water is clear and inviting. You might step on a few rocks if wading in but it’s mostly soft enough to enjoy barefoot. It’s nice and shallow for kids, which is why the beach is a favourite for families.
A handful of sunbeds and umbrellas are available for rent, though we haven’t seen any for a while, with our recent visits in low season in the morning. Many just pitch their own umbrellas and sit on towels.
The only bummer we’ve found at Ya Nui is that it can get dirty when the waves wash in garbage from the sea during the southwest monsoon months of May through October. Not pleasant, but it’s a sad fact of life in modern-day Phuket!
Tsunami at Ya Nui
Ya Nui is free from development, with no hotels or restaurants on or near the sand. It wasn’t always this way. There used to be some restaurants and a few villas, but they all got wiped out in the December 2004 tsunami.
Sadly, lives were lost on Ya Nui in the tsunami, including a woman from New Zealand that we knew. Since that tragic day, the victims of the tsunami have been memorialised with plaques placed on the cliffside on Ya Nui’s edge.
A decade later, the restaurant that rebuilt there was forced by the government to move off the beach in an island-wide “beach cleaning” crackdown. Limits on the number of sunbeds were also imposed, so Ya Nui has largely returned to its natural state. The restaurant has relocated at Yanui Bungalows across the road, so you can still dine with a bit of a view and sea breezes, just at more of a distance.
What to See and Do near Ya Nui
The drive or walk to get here is spectacular, whether coming from the direction of Nai Harn Beach or doing a loop around Cape Promthep.
Cape Promthep is just one spectacular viewpoint near Ya Nui, with the Windmill Viewpoint also a short distance away. Rawai Beach, just two
If you’re staying in the north or central part of Phuket, getting to Ya Nui Beach could be cumbersome, especially if you get caught in a traffic snarl at Chalong Circle. So if you’re not up for the drive I’d recommend checking out Banana Beach instead, which is between Bangtao and Nai Thon beaches and only 10
Where to Stay in Ya Nui Beach
A few bungalows and small hotels are found within a short walk from Ya Nui, with a few options directly across the road. There’s nothing fancy to be found here – it’s all fairly low-key and chill!
The Windmill Phuket Hotel
64/27 Moo 6, Yanui Beach, Rawai
This is a friendly, family-run resort found just a five-minute walk inland from Ya Nui Beach. We’ve never stayed here but we’ve visited for its Sunday roast and enjoyed some swims with the kids in the
Ya Nui Seaview
94/10 Moo 6, Soi Ya Nui, Yanui Beach, Rawai
This small resort has only seven bungalows, so it’s best to book early if you want to nab one! The rooms are all air-conditioned and well maintained, and there’s a restaurant on site as well. Just a few steps away from the beach across the road.
Ya Nui Resort
9/25 Moo 6 Soi Ya Nui, Rawai
Found about 10 minutes by foot from Ya Nui, this place is more of an apartment style rental, with a central swimming pool and a choice of studios and 2-bedroom suites. Well located between Ya Nui and Rawai, so you’re assured of easy access to beaches and good dining spots.