At first glance, Phuket may seem like a perfect island on its own, boasting beautiful beaches and exciting nightlife. However, it’s strategic location holds the key to unlocking some of the most amazing islands that Thailand has to offer. Each one is easily accessible by boat taking less than two hours or so depending on where you’d like to go. Many have perfect dive spots (if you’re an avid marine explorer), or a long stretch of beach perfect for a relaxing day. Here are eight island-hopping options that are a must-see while on holiday in Phuket.
1) Phang Nga Bay – Perfect For Nature Explorers
Phang Nga’s distinctive feature would be the limestone formations that jut out from the emerald water surrounding the bay. The best way to get there would be to hop on a boat from the northern end of Phuket. Upon arrival, there are a couple of interesting things to do.
Must-do: Hong by Starlight Kayak Tour
Spend an afternoon exploring sea caves with legendary kayak explorer John Gray. His tours have received many awards over it’s 20 years of existence and not to mention countless features in travel magazines around Asia. After exploring Phang Nga Bay for many years, no one knows the area better than John so hopping on board his carefully planned tour is guaranteed to provide not just adventure but an insight into Thai culture and eco-tourism like you’ve never experienced before.
Must-see: James Bond Island
There has never been an island more appropriately named than this one. Standing as one of the most famous attractions around the Bay, Koh Ta-Pu (Nail Island) got on the international map of recognition when it provided the backdrop for James Bond’s “The Man With The Golden Gun.” The island’s signature rocky pinnacle is currently under national park protection which prevents boats from coming too close lest they damage these ancient landmarks. The two best ways to view this island is from small boats or a beach on Koh Ping Ghan.
2) Tachai Island – Untouched Marine Life
A small, uninhabited island located halfway between Surin and Similan islands, Tachai is known for it’s undisturbed dive spots and sublime beauty. There a few things that you can do here and hopping on a speedboat will let you explore all of its hidden beauty for a day.
3 ) Rok Islands – Beach, beach and more beach!
Made up of twin islands, ‘Koh Rok Nai’ and ‘Koh Rok Nok’ a day trip will give you a flurry of things to do under the sun! Koh Rok Nok has amazing beaches like ‘Ao Man Sai’ and ‘Pha Samed Daeng’ and the perfect ending to a beautiful day at ‘Thong Cape’ viewpoint known for its alluring sunsets. Koh Rok Nai features more of the island’s inner beauty with a waterfall (active during rainy season) and dive area. Here you’ll even get to understand how important ‘Sarn Chao Bay’ is to local fishermen, as they believe the sacred shrine built there protects them from harm at sea.
Must see & do on Rok Island :
- The Lonely Beach
Walk along the white sand, leave footprints (and memories) that will last a lifetime. The crystal blue water is perfect for a swim, and you could even pack yourself a picnic to enjoy at the beach.
- The Clownfish Reef
If you were intrigued by ‘Finding Nemo’, the waters around this reef are filled with colourful fishes just like him. Snorkel through 30 metres of superb visibility and explore this splendid coral garden.
- The Five Islands
Visit these amazing island lagoons for a spectacular view of untouched nature. These rainbow coloured coral reefs offer a rare treat for the senses.
4) Koh Panyee – Rich Culture With A View
This remarkable village built over water with a giant limestone monolith guarding its rear is full of tasty treats and shops selling native handicrafts. Known for being a bustling tourist destination during the day, it transforms into a sleepy fishing town at evening time. Choose from a range of souvenir shops and restaurants where you can enjoy a seafood lunch facing the sea. The best takeaway is the friendly villagers who are proud of their heritage and will not hesitate to help you understand and appreciate rural life better.
5) Phi-Phi Islands – Light-Hearted Fun
Dubbed the superstar of Thailand’s islands, Phi-Phi provided the perfect setting for a famous Hollywood movie. The best thing is, it’s a speedboat ride away from Phuket! The perfect location for paradise goers, surrounded by white sand, vivid turquoise water, and sheer cliffs that give way to beach-fronted jungles. There are two islands, ‘Phi Phi Leh’ and ‘Phi Phi Don.’ The larger, more inhabited Phi-Phi Don attracts many visitors whereas Phi Phi Leh will give you greater tranquility and privacy as there are no inhabitants on this island. Whichever one you decide to visit, take comfort in the knowledge that very few places in this world are as laid-back as this one.
Must see and do on Phi-Phi island :
- Maya Bay
This cosy spot in Phi-Phi was the exact location where Danny Boyle filmed “The Beach.” Explore the rugged jungles behind and take a walk down memory lane.
- Monkey Beach
Spend the afternoon surrounded by cute monkeys playing in the trees and on the beach. If you’re an animal lover, you’ll love watching them while going for a swim.
- Viking Cave
Did you know that Swiftlets nest within this cave? In traditional Chinese medicine, their nests are said to have healing properties and since collecting them is no easy task, one can fetch a whopping USD$200,000.
- Pileh Cove Stop to admire these towering cliffs that surround the waters below. Jump in for a swim if you want to cool down and relax in the green waters below. It’s also the perfect opportunity to snap some amazing photos that will last a lifetime.
6) Similan Islands – A Showstopper For Ocean Lovers
Enter a gateway into a different world just 84km northwest of Phuket. Listed as one of the world’s top ten most amazing dive spots, Similan is the jewel of the Andaman Sea. Unlike the limestone formations that grace its neighbours Krabi and Phang Nga Bay, it is known for its deep rock formations covered by dense jungle. Besides the wildlife that call the island home, it’s most striking feature comes in the form of huge boulders, some of which have fallen into the sea creating a perfect base for coral growth and crevices for divers to explore.
The best way to enjoy the island’s full glory is to join a five-day diving cruise that will open your eyes to all the hidden mysteries found beneath it’s deep waters.
7) Racha Island – Sun Drenched Bonding Time
Escape into idyllic luxury at one of Racha Yai’s many bungalows and resorts. This island is perfect if you’re looking for some quality time with your family. Watch your children build sand castles or go for a romantic stroll into the sunset with your partner. A trip to this island also provides your family with the perfect opportunity to take a step into the blue, since like Similan; it also has amazing snorkel and dive sites.
8) Coral Island – A Brilliant Splash Of Colour
Every passionate marine explorer needs to make this trip. Situated 10km south of Phuket, Coral Island is littered with multicoloured coral reefs. Go in search of exotic tropical fish that are unique to this area and a short trek over a small hill will lead you to a quiet cove, the perfect hideaway from the scorching sun. There’s plenty to do here; Banana Boat, Parasailing and Sea-Walking are just a few options. If you’re an ardent foodie, the island also serves up a range of eateries serving some delicious cuisine.
Now that you understand Phuket a little better, we hope that you fall in love with it’s surrounding beauty just as much as we did. These islands bear testament to the harmonious blend of culture and nature resting within the heart of Thailand. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to leave that set route and venture off the beaten track.