Island hopping around Phuket

If you’re looking for some island-hopping adventure around the Andaman Sea, Phuket has got you covered. Some of the islands closest to Phuket are ideal for day trips where you can go snorkelling, diving, or just catch some sun before returning to Phuket. There are also several islands, like Ko Yao Noi and Ko Yao Yai, which offer a completely different experience to Phuket. This makes them a great addition to a multi-centre holiday when combined with Phuket.

Day trips from Phuket

You can easily book a tour via your hotel or any tour office to visit nearby islands like Ko Bon, Ko Hae, Ko Khai, Ko Maphrao, and Ko Racha. If you’re someone who likes to explore on your own, you can hire a boat privately for you and your family or friends to explore some of these islands. For the islands near Phuket’s south coast, you can negotiate a price and schedule with the boatmen at Chalong and Rawai.

Ko Racha

Ko Racha Yai, also known as Ko Raya Yai, is a stunning island located just a short boat ride away from the southern coast of Phuket. While it’s a popular destination for day-trippers from Phuket, staying overnight on Ko Racha allows you to fully immerse yourself in the island’s beauty. If you’re looking for a luxurious stay, you can’t go wrong with The Racha or Racha Island Resort, both of which offer fine views and quality amenities.

Video of Ko Racha

Ko Yao Noi and Ko Yao Yai

For those who are searching for a peaceful and tranquil getaway, the charming twin islands of Ko Yao Noi and Ko Yao Yai are the perfect destination. These islands are located near Phuket, but they offer a completely different atmosphere. Most of the residents on these islands still rely on fishing, farming, or rubber tree plantations for their livelihood.

While Ko Yao can be visited as part of a cycling day trip from Phuket, it is recommended to stay here for at least a couple of nights to truly experience its appeal. It’s fair to say that most of the beaches on Ko Yao don’t match up to Phuket’s high standards, but the views over the Andaman Sea can be sublime.

Video of Ko Yao Noi and Ko Yao Yai

There is no nightlife on the Ko Yao islands, making them an ideal spot for tourists seeking a slow-paced life, away from the hustle and bustle of city life. The main attraction of these islands is that they have not been over-developed, providing a perfect hideaway for visitors and residents alike where life is relaxed.

The people who live on the Ko Yao islands are mostly Thai Muslims who are welcoming to visitors. In return, tourists are kindly asked to respect the customs and way of life of the islanders. Although many of the family-owned restaurants do not serve alcohol, hotels and resorts offer cocktails and cold beers. If you would like to learn more about the local way of life, consider booking a homestay on Ko Yao Noi or joining local fishermen for a day to learn how to catch fish with the guidance of local experts.

The Ko Yao islands are a wonderful place to stay and make for a great addition to a holiday in Phuket. While the islands have a relaxed low-key atmosphere, there are also some chic and elegant accommodation options available including Cape Kudu and Six Senses on Ko Yao Noi, and Glow Elixir and Santhiya on Ko Yao Yai.

Phang Nga Bay

Phang Nga Bay is famous for its sublime scenery featuring towering limestone karsts and numerous islands. This is a popular day trip from Phuket and can easily be arranged by your hotel or tour companies in Phuket. To see a different side of Phang Nga Bay with fewer tourists, take a look at the trips arranged by John Gray Sea Canoe.

‘James Bond Island’, Phang Nga Bay
(Photo: Shutterstock)

The bay gained worldwide fame in the 1970s when it was featured in the James Bond film, The Man with the Golden Gun. One of the most iconic locations in the film is Ko Khao Ping Gan, which has since become known as ‘James Bond Island’. In the movie, the island is the hideout of the villain Scaramanga. Khao Tapu, a needle-shaped limestone karst, can also be seen in the background during the famous duel scene between Scaramanga and Bond.

A day tour to Phang Nga Bay typically includes a stop at the floating village of Ko Panyee. However, it’s important to respect the local customs of the predominantly Muslim community while visiting.

Phi Phi Islands

Located in the Andaman Sea between Phuket and Krabi, the Phi Phi Islands are a collection of six islands: Ko Phi Phi Don, Ko Phi Phi Leh, Ko Bida Nai, Ko Bida Nok, Ko Mai Phai and Ko Yung. Except for Phi Phi Don, all of the islands are uninhabited.

Video of the Phi Phi Islands

The Phi Phi Islands are one of the most popular day trip excursions from both Phuket and Krabi. To be able to experience the islands away from the crowds, it’s best to spend at least a few nights on Phi Phi Don. The middle of the island near Tonsai Pier has something of a party reputation, but there are plenty of options if you’d prefer somewhere quieter in other parts of the island with Zeavola and SAii Phi Phi Island Village both excellent choices.

Similan Islands and Surin Islands

Some of the best diving and snorkelling locations in Thailand can be found at the Similan Islands and the Surin Islands. You can’t stay on the islands overnight but serious divers can join a live-aboard boat. To visit both sets of islands you need to arrange two separate day trips.

Aerial view of Similan Island
(Photo: Shutterstock)

Similan Islands

The Similan Islands are part of the protected Mu Ko Surin National Park. Ko Similan is the biggest island in the group and divers here can expect to see moray eels, leopard sharks, and sea turtles. Some of the islands in the group are closed to tourists to protect marine life. This includes endangered green turtles who hatch their eggs on some of the more remote beaches in the islands.

Surin Islands

The Surin Islands are also part of a national park and enjoy protected status. However, there is one island here, Ko Surin Tai, which is inhabited. The island is home to the Moken community. Also known as ‘Chao Leh‘ (People of the Sea) or ‘sea gypsies’, the Moken have a close affinity with the ocean.

Aerial view of Moken village on Mu Ko Surin
(Photo: Shutterstock)

Good to know

If you’re interested in visiting these islands as part of your holiday, you could start and finish your trip in Phuket. This could make for an excellent 2-week trip. If you have more time, you can opt to travel onwards to Ko Lanta or the Krabi mainland.

Although Phuket can be visited all year round, the best weather is usually from November to April. The rainy season is from May to October with September and October statistically the wettest months. You can still see good weather in the rainy season, but more unsettled weather brings rougher seas and some boat services are temporarily suspended during the rainy season. Some of the smaller hotels and guest-houses on the islands close for the low-season months.

Phuket is home to an international airport with flight connections from South Africa via Doha, Dubai and Singapore. The island is also easy to reach from Bangkok with numerous flights each day and a journey time of only 1.5 hours. There are also direct flights to connect Phuket with Chiang Mai, Pattaya U-Tapao and Ubon Ratchathani.

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