Islands Around Phuket
The Thai word for island is normally written 'Koh' but is pronounced closer to 'Gaw'. Apart from the main island, Phuket province includes 39 smaller islands and islets covering a total of 70sq km. There are many more islands within easy boating distance in Phang Nga and Krabi provinces. There are so many islands that it would take months to fully explore them all. There are many beautiful beaches some of which are totally deserted. You can also find superb snorkeling and diving sites comparable to the best in the world.
Any tour shop will be able to book you on a boat trip to see the islands of your choice. It is hard to beat the organised tours in terms of price or convenience. They will collect you from your hotel, deliver you to the boat and collect you again afterwards. The disadvantage with tours is you are on a timetable and may be in a large group. If you do not want to take a tour then it is possible to visit the closer islands yourself. If there is a group of you then it may work out cheaper than taking a tour. Simply drive to the coast nearest to the island you want to visit and rent a longtail or speedboat at the beach. The driver will take you to the island you want to see and wait while you are there. The price will depend on the season, how long you go and how far you want to go.
During the rainy season, the sea may be choppy and some of the islands will be inaccessible.
Just a short distance northeast of Phuket is Phang Nga Bay in Phang Nga province. This area is a National Park famous for its spectacular scenery. There are more than 40 limestone islands that rise dramatically from the sea. The area came to world attention when it was featured in the 1974 James Bond movie 'The Man with the Golden Gun'. Apart from James Bond Island, the area has many other attractions such as the Sea Gypsy Village, hidden. caves, lagoons and beaches. A trip to Phang Nga Bay is a quite breathtaking experience.
The Phi Phi islands (pronounced pee pee) are 48km southeast of Phuket. They appear in most lists of the world's top 10 most beautiful islands. They are a stunningly beautiful combination of spectacular limestone cliffs and beautiful beaches. There is wonderful snorkeling and a lovely laid back atmosphere. You really should try to see these islands. They are a one and a half hour ferry ride from Phuket.
The Similans are a string of granite based islands approximately 100km northwest of Phuket. They are perhaps not as spectacular as the limestone scenery of Phang Nga Bay but still an impressive sight. The islands are strewn with great granite boulders and there are some glorious white sand beaches. However, the real appeal of the Similans is not the beaches and scenery. The real appeal of the Similans is what lies beneath the water. They are generally accepted as being one of the world's top ten diving sites.
These two islands lay about 18km south of Phuket. They are a beautiful location with a couple of stunning beaches and some glorious diving and snorkeling. They are moderately developed with a selection of bars and bungalow operations but they are still a quiet getaway. They are probably the closest you will find to how the Phi Phi Islands were 20 years ago.
This is the most popular of the islands just south of Phuket. It is well known for it shallow coral reefs, which are close to shore and ideal snorkel sites for novices and children. There are two good beaches on the north side of the island. Coral Island is a popular spot for day-trippers and it can be a little busy at times. However, there are quieter locations around the island if you want to escape the crowds. If you want to stay overnight there is also a very pleasant bungalow resort.
These two islands are truly an escape. They are to the east of Phuket approximately halfway between Phuket and Krabi. The local Muslim population has strived to maintain their way of life and the natural beauty of their islands while still welcoming visitors. They are wonderfully friendly people and you will rarely pass someone without seeing a smile. The attractions of these islands are the tranquility and the lovely scenery. They are also a great base from which to explore Phang Nga Bay and Krabi Bay.
Koh Rang Yai is a lovely little island off the east coast of Phuket. It is best known for its pearl farm. It has also developed into something of a mini activity center with kayaks, hiking, cycling, volleyball, football and even a small pitch-and-putt golf course. It has a lovely sandy beach on its eastern side. The water is clear and inviting. The island gets a steady flow of daytime visitors but still maintains a nice relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
These two islands are off the northeast coast of Phuket. Koh Naka Yai has some beautiful coconut palm fringed beaches and the eastern coast has great views across Phang Nga Bay. There is one small village and a couple of holiday resorts. Koh Naka Noi is mainly known for its pearl farm which is open to visitors.
Just a kilometer from Rawai Beach, this small island has two nice little sandy beaches and some good snorkeling. There is little on the island apart from some accommodation owned by the Evason Resort and Spa. They try to claim it is a private island but of course, the beaches are public. Longtail boats usually take tourists to the smaller west beach (facing Rawai) as it is not the one claimed by Evason. There is a nice restaurant at this beach. The Bon Island Restaurant has an English owner.
Just off the south coast in the middle of Chalong Bay is Koh Lon (sometimes written Koh Lone, which is more phonetically correct). This large island has several good beaches dotted around and some nice snorkeling sites.
The small resident population is mostly Muslim and make their living farming and fishing.
The main beach and all the accommodation is on the northern side of the island facing Phuket. There are several mid-range bungalow operations on the island. You can get a boat from Chalong Pier.
Baan Mai Restaurant and Cottages (4 Star)
This is a picture postcard sandy islet. A wide sandy beach surrounds a small green knoll. It is a popular day trip location. Just across the water is a smaller island, Koh Kai Nai. Between the two islands there is good snorkeling. There is no accommodation on the island. The island is east of Koh Sirey. You can book a tour or rent a boat from Koh Sirey or Laem Hin Pier.
This small island is a little further out on the way to Phi Phi. It is a forested island with a nice sandy beach and a single resort -- the Honeymoon Island Hotel. It is not one of the islands that commonly appears on the day-trip itineries. You can rent a longtail to visit but it will take an hour to get this far out. Not many people visit this island apart from those staying at the resort.
Honeymoon Island Hotel (5 Star)
Koh Lawa Yai
Just northeast of Phuket is the small island of Koh Lawa Yai. It has a couple of nice little beaches and you can easily walk around the island. The island is just within Phang Nga Bay National Park although it is distinctly different to the other islands in the park as it is a granite based island. Some of the Phang Nga tour boats include this island on their itinery. If you make your own way there, you may be charged a 200-baht national park entrance fee.
Koh Maprow (Coconut Island)
Koh Maprow is quite a large island just off the east coast of Phuket, opposite Laem Hin Pier. It has a couple of beaches although they are not very good for swimming so it has not really become a day-trip spot. However, the island has recently caught the eye of property developers. They are promoting the island as an unspoiled escape. There are several property projects on the island, including some high-end developments. There are some nice floating seafood restaurants in the sea between Phuket and Koh Maprow.
There is one very nice resort open with beachfront villas that have their own swimming pools.
The Village Coconut Island (5 Star)
Koh Tapao Yai & Noi
These two little islands are just offshore from Cape Panwa on the south east corner of Phuket. They have received some publicity recently because they are home to an unusual species of beautiful coloured hornbills. It has been suggested that the islands could be promoted as an eco-tourism location. The islands are basically uninhabited apart from a couple of rangers. Koh Tapao Yai has a couple of nice beaches and a trekking trail around the island. Koh Tapao Noi has a measuring station so strictly speaking, you need to obtain permission before visiting.
Koh Dork Mai (Flower Island)
Koh Dork Mai is a distinctive little limestone outcrop, southeast of Phuket. The rock juts vertically from the sea in a shape that many say looks rather like a tulip (Dork Mai is the Thai word for flower). You can see the island from much of the southeast coast of Phuket and the ferries to Phi Phi pass it. The island is a vertical rock so it has no beaches. It is known as a good scuba location with an excellent wall dive.
Koh Aeo is a small forested island south of Phuket, beyond Koh Lone. It does not have any beaches and therefore is of no great appeal to tourists. There have been ideas to turn the island into a monkey sanctuary but at the moment it is just a forested rock in the sea.
Koh Kaeo Yai and Noi
These two islands are just off Phuket's southwest coast, near Cape Promthep. Koh Kaeo Yai has a small beach. There is a Buddha monument on the beach and a small temple on the hill. You can see the island from the viewpoint at Cape Promthep. You can rent a longtail from Rawai Beach to go and visit. Koh Kaeo Noi is just a few hundred meters offshore from Yanui Beach. It does not have any beaches but during the dry season, you can rent a kayak for a paddle around the island. There is some lovely snorkeling off the side facing Yanui Beach.
Koh Raet (Jameirah Private Island)
Koh Raet is a small island between the northeast corner of Phuket and Koh Naka Yai. It has recently been rebranded as Jameirah Private Island. They are developing a luxury real estate project to include deluxe properties with pools, a yacht marina and even a helicopter pad. They claim the island will be strictly private and the shoreline will be patrolled to divert 'unauthorised traffic'. This is a concept that would appear to be strictly illegal under Thai law, which states that all beaches are public. If you have enough money there are ways of ignoring the law but it does seem that this project is stalling at the moment.