Are you traveling to Phuket and want to explore some of the nearby islands, but are not sure where to start? This Phuket island hopping guide features all the most popular islands that you can easily visit as a day trip from Phuket. In addition, for each of the islands featured in this Phuket island hopping guide, we included practical tips and information on how to get there.
We have recently stayed in Phuket and used it as a base to do some island hopping nearby.
Phuket gets thousands of visitors every year owing to its many exquisite beaches and diving spots off the coast where you can see beautiful coral reefs and all kinds of marine life, including turtles, fish, and even sharks. Of course, there is so much more to the province of Phuket than the beaches, for instance, the islands near Phuket. The Andaman Sea and Phang Nga Bay, these islands are some of the most scenic places in the tropics. These beautiful islands near Phuket will sweep you off your feet with their scenic beauty.
Phuket is an ideal base for island hopping in southern Thailand. In fact, the infrastructure is so good that it makes it possible to see so many amazing islands without ever having to switch hotels. So if you are short on time and want to explore the most spectacular islands on a day trip from Phuket, you’ll be glad to know that there are many amazing choices.
1. Koh Phi Phi
I’ll start with one of the most beautiful islands of the Andaman sea and our personal favorite day trip from Phuket – Phi Phi islands. The name Koh Phi Phi actually refers to not one island, but a cluster of six islands. Most day trips and tours will focus on just the two biggest islands – Ko Phi Phi Don and Ko Phi Phi Lee.
Phi Phi Don is the only inhabited island of Phi Phi islands and is a real tourist hub with busy boat piers and a big choice of restaurants, shops, and accommodations for all budgets. Despite its reputation of being a party island, it’s well worth a visit due to its stunning location.
On the quieter side of the island, you can still find white sand beaches and azure blue waters surrounded by some amazing scenery.
Koh Phi Phi Leh is an uninhabited island, probably best known for its secluded and incredibly picturesque Maya Bay, featured in the famous movie The Beach. To get here, you’ll need to take a boat. All the guided Phi Phi islands tours from Phuket visit both islands and make many stops along the way, including several snorkeling locations. The most popular stops are Pileh Lagoon, Viking Cave, Monkey Beach, and lunch on Bamboo Island.
How to visit Phi Phi islands from Phuket:
On your own. There are many ferry and speedboat connections between Phuket and Phi Phi Don. A speedboat takes about an hour (you can book a speedboat here), whereas a ferry will take 2 hours (you can book a ferry here). You can easily visit Phi Phi Don on your own. However, if you also want to see Phi Phi Leh and the stunning coastline, you’ll need to hire a local long-tail boat to get there. There are plenty of boats on both harbors of Phi Phi Don and you can just negotiate the trip and the cost once you get there.
With a tour. There are so many options when it comes to tours from Phuket to Phi Phi islands. Prices depend on the type of boat, small group vs big group, and the time of the day (early morning tours tend to be a bit more expensive). But in terms of itinerary, it’s pretty much the same.
2. Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island
The second group of islands that are a must when island-hopping from Phuket, is Phang Nga Bay Marine, National Park. There are over 100 islands in this area, but its main landmark is the so-called James Bond island.
Known for its appearance in the 1974 James Bond film ‘The Man With The Golden Gun‘, the stunning Khao Ping Kan with a 20-meter tall islet Koh Tapu, has gained the name ‘James Bond Island’. With flocks of tourists visiting the island to take in the striking scenery created by the towering vertical karsts on emerald-green water, it is best to get here early in the morning to avoid the crowds.
Just 40 kilometers off Phuket, many tour companies offer full-day and half-day tours around Phang Nga Bay. Organized day trips usually include hotel pick-ups, minivan transfers to Phang Bay and back, a long-tail boat or speedboat to James Bond Island, as well as the 200 TBH entrance fee to the national park. Organized trips also include lunch and a stop at the floating fishing village of Koh Panyee.
Other main points of interest in Phang Nga Bay are the sacred Buddha Cave Temple, Wat Tham Suwana Kuha, and Hong Island (see also as an independent day trip below). If you go on a tour, you usually have the option to explore the caves and the stunning coastline by canoe or kayak as well.
How to get to Phang Nga Bay from Phuket:
On your own. You can explore all the attractions of Phang Nga Bay by hiring a long-tail boat. If you have a car or a motorbike, you can drive to Klong Khien Pier and rent a long-tail boat for a half-day excursion. Alternatively, you can also drive to Sam Chong Seafood, a floating restaurant that serves good-value tasty food and arranges long-tail boat hires as well.
Book a tour. There is a big variety of organized tours offering island hopping at Phang Nga Bay. Here are some of the highest-rated tours you can book from Phuket:
Sunrise at Sametnangshe view point and James bond Island See Phang Nga Bay in a more unique way than the typical cruise on this tour. Begin with a very early morning departure so you can skip some of the crowds. Watch the sunrise on a hike; visit hidden lagoons by canoe; explore caves; trek into a mangrove forest; see the fight scene location from a James Bond movie, and learn about the legend of a supposedly unclaimed treasure. A boxed breakfast and lunch on a hilltop are included.
James Bond Island Canoeing 7 Point 5 Island By Speedboat This tour takes you to a place that’s been nicknamed “James Bond Island”, as it was a filming location for the 1974 James Bond movie “The Man With The Golden Gun”. Instead of organizing hotel pickup and boat tickets—enjoy a stress-free day with transfers and a speedboat ride included. Ride a canoe through caves and mangroves, enjoy a buffet lunch, and see beautiful islands along the way.
No matter how you visit, Phang Nga Bay is definitely worth a trip. Without any doubt, this is one of the absolute best day trips you can make from Phuket!
3. Ko Hong
A paradise, away from the bustle of Phuket, is one of my favorite islands in Thailand, Ko Hong. Known as Hong Island, it is located near dozens of other uninhabited islands in Phang Nga Bay.
Hong Island is one of the larger islands in the bay. On arrival, there is an additional park entry fee (300 TBH for adults / 150 TBH for children). The beach has the softest white sand with stunning views of limestone cliffs and gentle emerald waters. It is the perfect spot to lay out and relax or spend some time snorkeling.
If you come here with a tour, you then continue to the back of the island, where a small entrance leads into a lagoon in the middle of the island. It is perfect for kayaking! Dedicated Ko Hong tours spend most of their time on Hong Island. However, they also take the time to explore the nooks and corners of several other stunning islands in the area.
How to get to Ko Hong from Phuket:
On your own. It is possible to hire a private long-tail boat from a local fisherman for the day. This is a perfect option for couples, families, or groups of friends looking for a more intimate experience and more say in the time spent on the island. It is easy to find local fishermen near the main pier in Phuket or anywhere along the beach. There are often language barriers in Thailand, but with persistence, we found a local Thai person to help arrange the tour for us and negotiate a price. The tour was basic, with nothing provided (no food, water, etc…); just a long-tail boat, wind against our faces, and a smiling captain steering the boat.
With an organized tour. Tours to this part of Phang Nga Bay by long-tail boat range in cost. Prices depend if the tour is on a long-tail or a fast boat. There seem to be more tours going to Ko Hang from Krabi than from Phuket, but there are a couple of James Bond Island tours that visit Hong Island as well. You can find some Hong Island tour options here.
4. Koh Racha Yai & Koh Racha Noi
The Racha Islands, Racha Yai & Racha Noi can be found a mere 20km south of Phuket. Despite being so close to the busy Phuket, the islands are still quite off the beaten path. The laid-back atmosphere and lack of major development will give you an inkling of how Koh Phi Phi was 20 years ago.
In the Thai language “yai” means big and “noi” means small. The smaller Racha Noi island is uninhabited and has more rocks than beaches. Fishing and diving are the main attractions at Koh Racha Noi. The larger island, Koh Racha Yai, is the main attraction with gorgeous beaches, secluded bays, a few bars, and accommodations.
Crystal clear water and an abundance of sea life make for excellent diving and snorkeling, which is one of the biggest draws to the Koh Racha Yai. Patok Bay has the longest beach of brilliantly white sand and it’s here that all the boat moor. From the jetty continue up the beach and follow the track to the village in the middle of the island. The little village has hut-like restaurants and shops that stock most things you would need for a short stay.
If you continue with the dirt track up and over the hill you’ll reach the equally beautiful Siam Beach. This is the quieter side of the island where you can escape from the day-trippers on Patok Beach. If you’re lucky, you may see the huge monitor lizards and the odd water buffalo in the coconut groves. Walking from one side of the island to the other should take about 15 minutes.
How to get to Koh Racha Yai from Phuket:
On your own. Boats to Koh Racha Yai leave from Chalong Pier or Ra Wai Beach and take 35 min. You can hire a speedboat or a ferry shuttle. It is also possible to take a long-tail boat from Chalong Beach to Racha Yai, but it will take more than an hour and could be dangerous should the weather suddenly change.
Book a tour. While not as popular or well-known as the other island-hopping options from Phuket, it is possible to find organized tours to Koh Racha Yai. Most of them involve scuba diving, but there are also more relaxing tours focused on water sports, snorkeling, and beaches. Here’s one of the best-rated Koh Racha Yai tours from Phuket. It actually visits two white-sand islands near Phuket – Racha Island and Coral Island.
5. Coral Island – Koh He
Ko He (also Koh Hay or Koh Hae) or in English Coral Island, is located nearest to Phuket of all the islands in this selection. Despite that, it’s not hard to find places that are not yet completely overrun with tourists. It’s a great getaway for those looking to visit a white-sand blue-sea island near Phuket.
Coral Island is famous for its big variety of water sports and activities like diving and snorkeling. The place to be on Coral Island is the white-sand Long Beach, but it can get really crowded with day-trippers from Phuket. A better option for those looking to escape the crowds a bit more is Banana Beach, just 10-15 minutes walking distance.
How to get to Coral Island from Phuket:
On your own. You can get to Coral island by boat from Ao Chalong pier.
With a tour. You can join an organized tour that visits Racha Yai and Ko He as a day trip from Phuket.
6. Similan Islands
The Similan Islands are a group of eleven islands off the coast of Southern Thailand that can be visited on a day trip from Phuket or Khao Lak. This island archipelago is one of the best snorkeling spots in Thailand and I can highly recommend a visit if you are looking for an unforgettable island hopping experience in the Phuket area.
Depending on where you are staying in Phuket, and from which pier your tour departs, the total journey to Similan Islands by car and speedboat can take up to 2-3 hours. Journey times can become longer due to traffic and bad weather, but it’s worth the trouble.
How to get to Similan Islands from Phuket. The best way to get the most out of your visit is to take an organized day trip to the Similan Islands. If you book a tour, they will arrange everything including pick up from your hotel, drop off at the end of the day, and take you to all the best snorkeling spots in the Similan Islands.
On a 1-day trip from Phuket, you will visit 2-3 different islands. The Similan Islands have the clearest and most turquoise waters I have ever seen, paired with soft white sandy beaches. The islands are a protected national park and there is a wide variety of marine flora and fauna. If you’re lucky enough, you might even be able to snorkel with turtles!
7. Surin Islands
Surin Islands, north of Similan Islands, is an archipelago of 5 islands. They are a bit further away from Phuket than most other islands and are therefore not as widely known or visited. It’s a real paradise with natural unspoiled beauty, the way many popular Thai islands used to be some 20 years ago…
With emerald green waters, colorful coral, and lots of sea life, Surin Islands are known as one of the absolute best snorkeling and diving locations in Thailand.
How to get to Surin Islands from Phuket. Surin Islands are quite far from Phuket, so the best way to get there is by booking an organized day tour. If you rather go on your own, there are boats running from Khao Lak, but depending on the schedule you might have to stay there (camping?) for at least one night.
8. Naka Yai Island
Naka Yai island, just a stone’s throw away from mainland Phuket, is popular with day-trippers as well as honeymooners. It’s called Pearl Island and no visit would be complete without a short stop at the pearl farm.
With many wide sandy beaches, few people, and spectacular views of nearby Phang Nga Bay, it’s a perfect day trip from Phuket. There is also an exclusive resort on the island that makes me want to book a trip back to Thailand right away. Check it out – The Naka Island, A Luxury Collection Resort & Spa.
The best way to get to Naka island is by taking a long-tail boat from Ao Por Pier; it takes just 15 minutes.
Phuket island hopping – which boat to choose
Depending on which islands you are visiting, you may want to consider different options in terms of transportation.
Take local long-tail boats for shorter distances or off-the-beaten-path experiences – they are perfect for that! Believe me, you really don’t want to sit in a long-tail boat for more than an hour – 90 minutes at a time, even if the sea is very calm. Also, keep in mind that long-tail boat drivers hardly ever speak any English at all. So sometimes it might be difficult to explain where exactly you want to go.
Book speedboat tours for all bigger distances, such as visiting Similan Islands or Koh Lanta, but also Phi Phi islands and James Bond Island. It allows you to see so much more in a short time and you can spend more time sightseeing than sitting on the boat. It’s also rare that anyone gets seasick on a speedboat. But the best of all is that organized tours have set itineraries and English-speaking guides.
Book ferries only for short distances or if you have a lot of time to visit different islands. Ferry transfers are really not ideal for further day trips. Ferries are much slower, you have no flexibility, the groups are much bigger, and if the sea is rough you’ll get seasick quicker.
Private speedboat. Many companies offer the possibility to book a private speedboat for day trips near Phuket. However, for longer trips of 8-9 hours, you’ll quickly pay 800-900 EUR. Still, it might be worth looking into these options if you are visiting with a big family or a group of friends. If you look well, you might be able to find cheaper options; we didn’t find any. Long-tail boats can be a much cheaper alternative for private island hopping tours, but once again, you don’t want to do that for very big distances.
Practical tips for island-hopping day trips from Phuket
When looking into all the options for island hopping from Phuket, you will get overwhelmed with choices. If you don’t research in advance, you’ll find yourself drowning in the tour brochures and offers everywhere you go… From tour kiosks all over the place to taxi or van drivers, hotel lobby areas, and resort activity centers – everyone seems to be selling island-hopping tours in Phuket.
You might think that booking tours in Phuket itself will save you time and money, but our experience shows quite the opposite. Booking online lets you compare different offers, itineraries, and prices, and read customer reviews.
Furthermore, if you book with a reputable agency (we recommend Viator which we also used for our tours in Thailand), you have the option to cancel any tour up to 24 hours in advance. It’s also easier to get a refund in case of any problems. Try to reschedule a tour or get a refund from a local kiosk…Many tours just go even with bad weather and they don't give a refund.
Here are some resources to help you get your trip going:
Travel Essentials what's in my bag: To help you get started on packing, here are my essential travel and photography gear
Flights: WayAway to start looking for cheap flights and great deals from your home country.
Car Rental: DiscoverCars.com is a great and reliable platform to find rental cars all over the world.
Internet: Airalo is the best way to get a sim card and has reliable internet access for your trip. All you need is an Esim-compatible smartphone, install it on your phone prior to your trip, and you are all set.
Tickets & Deals: Tiqets is always my go-to website when I want to find cheaper deals for entrance tickets to tourist attractions
Klook to find the best deals for trips in Asia, somehow they are 30% cheaper than when you buy them at a local agency
Train, buses, and ferries 12Go to find your travel route for local buses, and ferries, we use them all the time as you can easily see the reviews, and the vouchers are everywhere accepted. tickets are sold for more than 5,000 destinations in 100+ countries worldwide.