A shining island star in the blue waters of the Andaman Sea, Phuket, with its gorgeous beaches, and incredible restaurants and nightlife is the perfect place to stay. One of the biggest joys is setting out on an island-hopping adventure and experiencing the real reason this part of Thailand is so loved. It is here that you discover a spectacular natural beauty of sparkling azure sea and green-clad limestone islands and some amazing dive sites too; all within a day-trip from where you stay.
Phuket is the biggest of Thailand’s islands and the most developed in terms of catering for visitors who appreciate fine stays and gourmet food served up with their island experience. Being able to leave shore and explore the breathtaking scenery of The Andaman as island jewels are revealed along the way is marvellously exotic; a must-do pursuit during any stay in Phuket.
There are many different isles, beaches, landscapes, and marine environments you can dip into during your vacation. To help you decide, here is a lowdown of Island Hopping from Phuket possibilities to really inspire your wanderlust.
Phang Nga Bay and Islands
So beautiful and ecologically important is this Andaman Sea coastal area that it was declared to be Ao Phang Nga National Park nearly 40 years ago and is a protected conservation area; famed for its gorgeous limestone karsts, it is perfect for Phuket island-hopping. Visit Khao Phing Kan and the needle-like Ko Tapu, otherwise known collectively as James Bond Island after featuring in a 007 movie. Explore sea caves, go kayaking, swimming, snorkeling, and diving with visits to quiet island paradises such as Lawa Island, Hong Island, and Panak Island. Discover Ko Pan Yi, with its iconic fisherman’s village built on stilts.
Explore mangrove forests, caves and lagoons in a marineland of coral reefs. You really need a full day for this trip. A 30-minute speedboat ride takes you to the beautiful Koh Yao Islands, which lie south right at the mid-point between Phuket and Krabi. Sandy beaches welcome day-trippers with waters rich in coral; perfect to reach dive sites such as Shark Point and King Cruiser Wreck.
Koh Khai Islands
Just 15 minutes from Phuket by speedboat, the three Koh Khai Islands are a great taster trip that has all the must-have ingredients of any island-hopping experience; soft white-sand beaches, crystal-clear waters, and brilliant snorkeling. Koh Khai Nai and Koh Khai Nok serve up drinks and food at laid-back bars, whereas Koh Khai Nai is a snorkeling spot and does not offer any real facilities.
Whilst you cannot expect to be alone during a trip to this popular island trio, so close to Phuket, you can still find your own piece of paradise by walking further down the beaches or by finding a hidden spot.
Phi Phi Islands
A jaunty 45-minute speedboat ride gets you to the mesmerizingly beautiful islands of Phi Phi. It is difficult to imagine sands this sparklingly white or a sea as glitteringly blue, and as you approach by boat prepare to feel as if you are sailing into paradise. Phi Phi Don, the larger of the islands is less castaway than it used to be, but its lack of roads gives it a real desert-island feel all the same. The smaller of the two islands, Phi Phi Leh is uninhabited.
Maya Bay, possibly one of Thailand’s most iconic beaches and featured in the Leonardo di Caprio movie, The Beach may be closed in a bid to preserve the coral with visitor numbers expected to be limited once this area is open again. As with any trips in the region, it is important to island-hop with a company that understands the need for sustainability.
Leave Phuket in a stylish speedboat and 15 minutes later you reach Coral island, just a few kilometers southeast. You can also take a more leisurely longtail boat from Phuket’s Rawai Beach. Being so close by it is fair to say this is no secluded spot, but you can still find your own beach haven on the island’s Banana Beach and Long Beach.
Visitors come here not only because it is so close, but also because there are lots of water sports and, as the name suggests, this is a good snorkel spot with scuba diving classes available.
The Similan Islands are just about doable from Phuket and are well worth the journey up the coast of mainland Thailand and an hour or so speedboat ride across to this absolutely stunning archipelago of nine islands. West of Phuket, the Similan Islands promise world-class diving and are spectacular for snorkeling with pristine sands that are achingly beautiful for relaxing in what could be the most enchanting destination you have ever visited.
The Similan Islands Marine National Park can be appreciated from Sail Rock with its renowned viewpoint, whilst the beaches of Honeymoon Bay on Mieng Island inspire love at first sight. Explore the coral reefs on Ba Ngu Island and discover a colorful underwater world of wonder. Part of Phang Nga Province, the islands have their own distinct character and are a must-visit for serious island-hoppers who dream of gliding through the blue water toward a vision that looks like a mysterious island landscape that time forgot.
Just a 20 minute or so speedboat ride away, Ko Racha Yai is Phuket’s nearest island stunner just off the southeastern coast; renowned for its white, sandy beaches and clear waters it is a lovely snorkeling and dive spot. Just 10 km away is the island’s smaller twin, Ko Racha Noi, which is a rocky, uninhabited isle with some white-sand bays that is also a great dive and snorkel spot as well as being particularly popular for its fishing.
The Racha Islands are ideal if you want to get a feeling of island-hopping from Phuket yet really do not want to be setting sail for hours on end; an experience that is no less impressive because of its proximity to Phuket.