Words: Riya, travel 3Sixty° travelsmith
While there are island hopping tours from Phuket, the best choice is to spend a few nights and get a true feel for nearby islands. Here’s some intel about the best islands around Phuket:
1. KOH RACHA
Only a 30-minute speedboat ride away from Phuket, Koh Racha feels worlds away. Serene and low-key, the island’s main beach may draw daytrippers, but beaches off-the-beaten path offer a more tranquil feel. One of the pleasures of Koh Racha is being able to easily wander on foot across the island, crossing beautiful coconut groves. Koh Racha maintains a charming, rustic pace of life—dogs, chickens, and goats roam the dirt streets connecting the beaches and resorts scattered on the island. For those more interested in marine life, Koh Racha is also a perfect place to snorkel or learn how to scuba dive. Snorkeling is possible year round in Koh Racha, and the nearby reef provides a home to a wide array of ocean life.
For accommodation, The Racha is a lovely resort on the higher end of the scale and situated in a spot with stunning views.
THE RACHA 42/12-13 Moo 5, Rawai, Muang, Racha Island, Phuket
2. KOH MAPHRAO
Right off the coast of Phuket, Koh Maphrao is only a five-minute ride by longtail boat. “Ma Phrao” means coconut, and a large portion of the land on the island is occupied by a coconut plantation. Beaches are not the main draw of Koh Maphrao, as the waters are not clear in two of the island’s three beaches, but the island is still attractive as a hideaway from the crowds of Phuket without being too far from the action.
The largest and nicest beach is home to The Village Coconut Island, so travellers picking this hotel still have access to sand and ocean views.
THE VILLAGE COCONUT ISLAND 51/7 Moo 6, Coconut Island, Koh Kaew, Muang, Phuket
3. KOH YAO YAI
Koh Yao Yai is a 25-minute ride from the east side of Phuket, and offers a well-rounded array of attractions with virtually no party scene. This island is best for couples on a romantic getaway or independent travellers seeking solitude and a taste of local culture. As the population is predominantly Muslim, alcohol is available only at resorts and hotels for the most part, though there are a few bars and cafes as well. There are several attractive beaches here, but swimmers will have to time their dips according to the tides.
Santhiya Koh Yao Yai is a large resort with villas, excellent views, and an infinity pool overlooking the ocean.
SANTHIYA KOH YAO YAI 88 Moo 7, Phunai, Koh Yao, Phang Nga
4. KOH YAO NOI
The sister island of Koh Yao Yai, Koh Yao Noi is located in the same area, about 25 minutes away from Phuket. Koh Yao Noi has the usual beaches, but there are many activities in Koh Yao Noi, including some great hiking and biking, which make it an appealing choice for travellers who want to explore the outdoors and spend some time inland. Traditional wooden houses, rice paddies, and water buffalo give the island the feel of being stuck in time, as modernization is moving at a slow pace here. The traditional way of life still holds firm despite the increase in visitors.
The best place to stay on Koh Yao Noi is Coastal Escape, with an outdoor pool, a private beach, and a spa as well.
COASTAL ESCAPE 54/1-4, Moo 5, Koh Yao Noi, Koh Yao, Phang Nga
5. KOH SIMILAN
For those looking to go farther afield, Koh Similan is the best bet, at 90 minutes away from Phuket. Part of a marine national park, Koh Similan is heaven for divers, and divers flock here for abundant marine life and crystal waters. Diving in this area is ranked among the best in Southeast Asia.
As Koh Similan is part of a marine park, accommodations are limited to bungalows and campsites depending on which island in the group you choose to spend the night at. Campsites get you as close as possible to nature, helping you truly enjoy this paradise. Khao Lak Explorer Dive Center provides overnight trip packages combined with fun activities.
KHAO LAK EXPLORER DIVE CENTER 4/81 Moo 7 Khao Lak, Phang-nga
6. KOH PHI PHI
Koh Phi Phi is one of the best known island groups off of Phuket and it is popular for good reason. It is insanely beautiful, and also offers a taste of the party life with lots of choices for accommodations and bars. Travellers here will still be immersed in the tourist scene, but will probably revel in it! You can get to Koh Phi Phi by a ferry that takes two hours from Phuket; a speedboat can shorten travel time to an hour.
For accommodation, Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort is a popular option. It is situated on a pristine white sand beach and surrounded by natural beauty.
Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort 49 Moo 8, Phi Phi Island, Ao Nang, Muang Krabi, Krabi
GETTING THERE AirAsia flies to Phuket from various destinations. For flight info and fares, visit airasia.com.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Riya is a Thai girl who loves to travel. A freelance writer, she is also delighted to work with aspiring small business owners. She never stops to find new ways to enhance her productivity. To know more about Riya, follow her on Twitter and Instagram.