Great day trips from Phuket

Sublime Pearl of the Andaman land and seascapes

Jewel of the Andaman they call it? Or is it the prime jewel in Thailand’s tourism crown? Either way, Phuket is just the centre of a vast beautiful playground. And the rest of the ‘crown’ is worth exploring, even if the beaches you find yourself on seems so perfect you never want to leave. Tours of Phuket are a must.

Taking day trips from Phuket is an absolute must when visiting this Asian tropical paradise. Within a few hours drive or boat ride are a number of world class landscape attractions including the famous Phi Phi islands, the jaw—dropping Pha Nga Bay, exclusive diving off the Similan islands, the Khao Lak coast and the amazing karst-scapes of Krabi. There are lush forested national parks, curious fishing villages, fantastic waterfalls, azure waters, private little islands, exclusive beaches and pristine mangroves to seek out.

Phuket is undoubtably Thailand’s most popular and best developed island, a world class, jet-set destination that has gone very upmarket in recent decades. If you’re heading for Phuket for your next vacation you’ll invariably find yourself based at one of the half—dozen gorgeous bays that line the West Coast. From here you can either hire a car or take tours on Phuket to any one of a dozen different day trip destinations. This is the essence of a Phuket holiday and travel agents and options numerous.

For starters exploring the island itself is highly recommended. There are so many beautiful and exciting eaches. The best are clustered towards the south from Kamala, past popular Patong, and onwards to the sweeping Karon and posh Kata. Each of these is worth stopping at for a few hours to work on your tan or pick up a piquant spicy Thai papaya salad for lunch. Keep going south and you’ll end up at the undeveloped Nai Harn beach, and avoid the crowds. All the Phuket beaches have their own special character.

It takes a full hour to drive to the North of the island, which has escaped the rampant tourism development and the mangroves of the east coast offer an altogether different idea of the island. While in the area you may want to drop in on the ‘singing gibbons’ at the Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre and cool off in the Bang Phrae Waterfall of the Khao Phra Thaeo National Park. It’s one of several pretty falls on the island. Tours to this part of Phuket are unstated but rewarding.

Hop aboard a speedboat for a Phi Phi daytrip

But the best scenery is offshore, and number one on all itineraries is a trip to Phi Phi Island. This remarkable craggy butterfly—shaped island, featured in the blockbuster The Beach and Tsunami tragedy, never dissapoints. There are actually several islands, and most trips stop off for a snorkelling adventure en-route. Packed lunch is usually served once you reach Phi Phi Ley’s paradise-like Maya bay. Since no one but park rangers and campers are allowed to stay overnight, you’ll have this pristine beaches all to yourself, unlike Phuket Phi Phi Don is more drammatic and was frightfully overdeveloped before the tsunami washed it all away. The resorts are found on a small sandwich of coconut palms between two pretty bays, with towering karst cliffs all around. You’ll not want to catch your tour boat back to Phuket!

Equally impressive and popular is the the unique karst seascape of Pha Nga Bay, made famous in the Bond movie, The Man with the Golden Gun. The renamed James Bond Island is an obligatory stop on all tours from Phuket but it’s all part of a massive theatre of pillars that dot this huge bay and must be among the most photographed in the entire Andaman. A lunch stop at the fishing village of Koh Phan Yee, which sits in the water on stilts, serves fresh fish. Don’t forget to buy a few souvenirs and wander around this curious community. Kayaking among the caves and karst cliffs is particularly rewarding and often part of the the tours from Phuket.

If you into diving and have only one chance to see the best, then you might want to sign up for a few days on a live—aboard dive trip to the Similan islands — West of Phuket. These are a protected marine reserve and day trips or diving excursions are the only way to have the priviledge of visiting the unspoilt reefs of the area, or swim in its pristine waters. If you haven’t quite got around to getting your dive certificate, there are plenty of courses on offer. Alternatively take tours to Hong Island, between Phuket and Krabi and simply snorkel and chill out. This remarkable island has a hiddle lagoon inside, accessible through a cave tunnel at low tide only

Hiring a car for a trip into the hinterland is also rewarding. Phuket is connected to the mainland by a short causeway and after that you’re free to roam Southern Thailand’s lush isthmus provinces. Head up to Khao Lak, an hour’s drive north, to experience a more unspoilt and wild coastline, and some wonderful coastal parks. A bit beyond this is Khao Sok National Park with its large lake, fantastic rainforests and remarkable landscapes. You can even spend a night in the park chalets here. Thai tropical national parks are wonderful ecosystems full of waterfalls, streams, nature trails, birdlife and a few animals (if you have aneagle eye).

If you’re heading out of Phuket by car you may want to spend several days exploring the region, with its rubber plantations and bizarre landscapes. Dropping in on little—visited but enchanting parks such as Sa Nang Manora Forest Park and Than Bokkharani National Park as you pass through Pha Nga en-route to Krabi town, is rewarding. All around you are more of the numerous lofty karst mounds that make the area famous for tours from Phuket.

Even though Krabi is a destination unto itself, it’s easily reachable by car from Phuket (90 minutes) and boasts some of the region’s most remarkable landscapes. But that’s a whole other destination!

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