|Things to do OFF the Island|
Activities in the surrounding Andaman sea, and in the adjoining provinces
Here we offer ideas on how to bring diversity and interest to a holiday in Phuket, by getting off the island for a day or more
We strongly recommend every visitor to Phuket take at least one day – or more if possible - to travel off Phuket Island to experience some of the incredible beauty of the surrounding region. You can go by boat to islands of many kinds, or drive a car to the interesting and scenic provinces close by.
The easy way, of course, is to simply purchase a ticket for a day trip – though it is not likely to be the best way. By far the most popular organised day trips out of Phuket are:
Phang Nga Bay (James Bond Is)
Phi Phi Islands
Sea kayaking (in Phang Nga Bay)
Coral Island (Koh Hae)
Note: James Bond Island
is just one of the many islands in Phang Nga Bay. We have a complete page on this, and those considering a day trip there should first read this, and be warned.
Below we offer information on these tours, and many alternative ways to get around. Most of the topics below have only a brief description here, with a link to their own pages.
Choosing tours - think carefully, not all are good
There are scores of alternative tours on offer in Phuket in addition to the four most popular ones above: boat trips; pristine tropical islands; sunset cruises; eco-tours; jungle trekking, elephant rides etc. We consider only a small number of these to be quality experiences. Price is not the only factor, though generally you do get what you pay for: buy the cheapest tour and you can expect to spend the day with a crowd of other tourists seeking the cheapest way.
Few tour desks in hotels sell by quality - most sell only the tours offering the highest commissions. Many hotel tour desks refuse to offer information on other possibilities, and even deny other opportunities exist. So it is far better to check out the alternatives oneself, and personally phone the operator you are interested in for information or bookings. We try to limit the contacts provided in this web site to the better operators.
Cultural perspectives are also different, for in Asia people generally prefer going places in a happy, noisy crowd, and many agents selling tours neither understand nor cater to those tourists who want a quiet, exclusive experience.
Phang Nga Bay Day Trips (or James Bond Island)
No visit to Phuket would be really complete if one never got to see and wonder at the geographic grandeur of Phang Nga Bay. Every visitor, surely, must have seen photos of Phuket’s neighbouring bay of gigantic rock mountains rising vertically from calm, olive-green waters even before getting here. The sight of Phang Nga is dramatic, and being surrounded by these towering rocky monoliths is surely one of the highlights of a visit to Phuket. We strongly recommend a visit here. But be careful. There are two basic means of getting to Phang Nga. Check out our page on this topic for details.
James Bond IslandThis little rock in Phang Nga Bay has become a real tourist trap. Each day up to 3,000 people are dropped onto this little island, hundreds at a time, to gawk at one small piece of rock – nick-named James Bond Island after it featured in a Bond movie - jutting from the water. The beach is crowded with hawkers selling all manner of tourist stuff, including beautiful shells, many imported from Philippines and Indonesia. Before booking this tour read our page on the subject.
Koh Pannyi – also in Phang Nga Bay (or Sea Gypsy village?)Following the visit to crowded James Bond the cheaper tours shepherd their clients to Koh Pannyi island, the stilted water village seen in so many postcards. Often given the tourist name of Sea Gypsy village, it is in fact a community of Muslim fishermen, not sea gypsies. This village is indeed fascinating. It's a pity about the tourist crowds; all tours companies arrive here at the same time for lunch, bringing up to 2-3,000 people every day. Worth a visit, there are better ways to get to Pannyi than by mass tourism.
Boat cruises to Phang NgaThe boat tours to Phang Nga Bay – the kind that leave from Phuket island - usually cruise past the James Bond commotion without stopping, continuing their quiet journey through the bay of mountains. This is by far the preferable way to visit this geographically spectacular region.
Sea KayakingMany visitors consider a canoeing trip into the ‘hongs’, the hidden caves of Phang Nga, the highlight of their visit to Phuket. This mystical world of collapsed caves connected to the sea by dark tunnels has been eroded from the limestone mountains by water and time and pressure of the rising and falling seas. Numerous companies have sprung up, and it is worth looking around to avoid the cheap quickies. Sign up with one of the well-established companies, or with original company that discovered the hongs and began it all, Sea Canoe. This can be an unforgettable trip well worth the time and money.
Sea Canoe Thailand: (66 76) 212 252
Renting your own speedboat:To see the real beauty of the Andaman region surrounding Phuket one can pick up a copy of the glossy PHUKET Magazine. Interestingly, most of their beautiful images of tranquil little islands and fabulously clear waters are taken on the outlying islands, not on Phuket itself. The only way to get there is by renting a boat, and since there are few regular services. Check our pages on renting boats for more information on where to find them, and how much to pay.
Renting Traditional Longtail Boats:If one wants a cheaper route, while taking in a cultural experience, rent a traditional, wooden ‘longtail’ boat. These are slower, but are also fun. Longtails can are available on most of the major west coast beaches, or at the north end of Kata where they shelter at night. They are also available – at much better prices – from the boat pier at Chalong, or on the beach at Rawai, right at the southern tip of the island. For details see our separate page.
The Famous Phi Phi IslandsMost visitors to Phuket have seen images of the famous Phi Phi Islands, with their amazing rock walls rising vertically out of crystal waters; or of the famous twin bays with a narrow, coconut-lined spit between them.
But these twin islands are no longer off the beaten track, with thousands of people arriving each day during the high season.
But we still suggest a trip there, keeping the above in mind, for no number of tourists or bungalows can take away the dramatic beauty of the their towering mountains, rocky coves and dramatic beaches.
Koh Racha (note, this island is also called Raya)On a clear day the two Racha Islands – Big and Small – can be seen directly south of Phuket. Few people live on these islands, so there is no regular boat service to either of them. The two beaches on the closest end of Racha Yai (Big) are especially beautiful. There are a few cheap bungalows here. The best quality bungalows are found on the east coast of Racha Yai. It’s worth while leaving Phuket and spending one night here in relative simplicity, if you can. Several day tour operators take visitors here in groups diring the high season, though it’s easy to rent a boat and go at your own pace.
KrabiKrabi has become famous for its dramatic scenery and beautiful beaches. A visit to Krabi is rewarding indeed. The return trip by speedboat is relatively expensive, though it passes some of the most beautiful islands imaginable and is recommended. Most people go by road, though you can also fly from Phuket with Air Andaman.
Touring Krabi in Your Own CarRenting a car and driving oneself to Krabi can be an especially rewarding experience. The roads are good, the volume of traffic low, and the scenery quite spectacular. Accommodation is easy to find, and travelling by road in Thailand is quite safe and convenient. There are countless side roads that lead to a whole variety of surprises: cave temples, rainforest parks, isolated beaches and resorts, and quaint villages. Be careful when renting a vehicle, and consult our Driving Tours section for tips and warnings. PHUKET Magazine contains a regional map from Khao Lak in the north to Krabi, showing accommodation through this region.
Koh Yao Noi - Phang Nga Bay the Adventurous wayThose looking for an adventurous way to ‘go it alone’ into Phang Nga Bay for a few days should click here for suggestions on how to get to and from Koh Yao Noi, a beautiful island right in the middle of the Bay. There is accommodation of different levels here, the only place in the Bay like it.
Khao Lak; new destination north of Phuket
This is another beautiful place to drive to. From Phuket it takes only two hours, though there are many interesting distractions off down the side roads to stretch this out. After a long, flat drive north of Phuket the road winds up over the mountain at the tiny Khao Lak National Park, then suddenly noses out to the edge of the mountain, giving panoramic ocean views. From this mountain miles of quiet beach stretch northwards. Here many new bungalow resorts are springing up among the casaurina tees, making it very easy to find accommodation.
Khao Sok National ParkFurther afield, it takes a 3 - 4 hour drive to get to this wild, natural world of jungle and mountain. The rainforest is largely undisturbed (though many of the big animals have been killed by poachers) and a visit here can be a very special, wild experience. To really see into the heart of this natural world one needs stay overnight, preferably on the floating houses in the dam that runs through it. See out pages on this.
Coral IslandThis pretty little island just off the Southeast corner of Phuket is perfect for those who like happy, communal fun. Each day hundreds of group tourists from East Asian countries are taken here in speed boats, many to enjoy their first-ever experience in the ocean. Every kind of water sport imaginable is available here. Parasailers constantly paint the sky. Jet skis zip about. Boats roar in and out. Kids squeal in delight at the water’s edge while hundreds of red-vested adults venture to snorkel and look underwater for the first time, often crushing the coral as they go.
Restaurants do a great business here. Acres of white flesh turns red. For those who like this, or for those with little time, there’s more fun per square metre of sand than in any other part of Phuket.
This large, long island south of Krabi is the latest discovery on the backpackers trail. While few beaches here have the deep, clear water found at Phuket, the coconut village atmosphere here makes for a remote, timeless ambience.
One can get there by road from Krabi town, or take a daily ferry boat from Phi Phi. There is a basic road down the island and rough local transport. Bungalow resorts have mushroomed, and they now approach 50 establishments. The quality of rooms continues to climb as more up-market tourists follow the back-packers’ lead.