Coral Island, also known as Koh Hay or Koh Hae, is part of a marine preserve to the southeast of Phuket. Located about 9 kilometers from Phuket, Koh Hae is easily reached by boats departing from Rawai and Chalong. The island’s two sandy beaches, Long Beach and Banana Beach, are quite busy during the high season but are ideal for swimming, snorkeling, and lounging, although the high incidence of visitors to Koh Hae has resulted in the die-off of much of the coral reefs nearest the shoreline. Most visitors to this island take a tour boat or charter their own longtail boat; the latter option runs about 1,500 Baht each way. For visitors who desire a stay on Koh Hae, the Coral Island Resort provides guest bungalows.
Koh Lon, or Koh Lone, is located just off Chalong Bay. This relatively uncrowded island features several pleasant beaches and good snorkeling; the local residents are mainly farmers and fishermen. Tour boats and longtail boats for hire depart from Chalong Pier for Koh Lon frequently; fares are approximately 300 Baht per passenger. There are a few places to stay on Koh Lon, including the Baanmai Cottages, which feature a restaurant, bar, and swimming pool. Rates here start at US$74 per night.
Koh Mai Thon, or Maiton Island, is located in between Phuket and the Phi Phi Islands. Mostly ignored as a stop on the day-trip tour boats, Koh Mai Thon offers relaxing and quiet sandy beaches and a more forested inland. The only accommodation on the island, the upscale Honeymoon Island Hotel, offers guest rooms and villas for rent as well as a restaurant, swimming pool, tennis courts, and various water sports. Most visitors to Maiton hire a longtail boat to reach the island; the trip takes approximately one hour each way and costs between 1,000 and 1,500 Baht.
Coconut Island, also known as Koh Maprow and Koh Maphrao, is relatively large but not often visited because its beaches are not ideal for swimming. Located just off the eastern coast near Laem Hin Pier, Koh Maphrao is fairly undeveloped, but several high-end resort projects are underway here. Until the larger resorts open, visitors can find accommodations in small bungalows for rent, and there are also a few restaurants within the fishing village. Bicycling and hiking on nature trails are popular pastimes on Koh Maphrao. Few tourist day-trip boats come here, but visitors find it easy to hire a longtail boat from Laem Hin Pier; the trip takes about 15 minutes each way.
Koh Phi Phi, the area’s most famous set of islands, includes six separate islands that are popular with locals and travelers alike. The largest of the Phi Phi Islands, Phi Phi Don, offers a harbor and numerous resort and hotel options as well as restaurants and bars. The other islands in this group are Phi Phi Ley, Pai, Yung, Biddah Nai and Biddah Nok; Phi Phi Ley is notable for the beautiful beach at Maya Bay, which served as a location for the film “The Beach,” and Viking Cave, which is a popular spot to explore. Most visitors reach the Phi Phi islands by way of ferry from Phuket’s Rassada Pier or Klong Jirad Pier in Krabi; one way fare is about 550 Baht for adults and 400 Baht for children under 12 years of age. Children under 4 travel on the ferries for free. Accommodations on Koh Phi Phi Don range from the very basic to luxurious resorts; the Zeavola Resort is an upscale property that rents guest rooms from about US$275 per night, while the Phi Phi Natural Resort has guest cottages available for about US$75 per night.
Koh Racha, or Racha Island, consists of two adjacent islands known as Racha Yai Island and Racha Noi Island. These beautiful islands offer spectacular beaches and excellent snorkeling and scuba diving; there are several mid-range accommodations and restaurants for visitors who want to stay overnight here. Quieter than the Phi Phi Islands, Koh Racha also features the upscale Racha Resort. Speedboats from Chalong Pier and Rawai Beach arrive and depart from Racha’s Patok Bay; longtail boat hires are also available to reach these islands, but the trip via longtail boat takes much longer. Speedboat fares run about 1,200 Baht per passenger, and the trip takes about 35 minutes each way.
Koh Panyi, also known as the Sea Gypsy Village, is located in Phang Nga Bay northeast of Phuket. Designated as a National Park, this area is well known for its spectacular scenery and also for James Bond Island, with its distinctive vertical rock formation that was featured in the film “The Man with the Golden Gun.” One of the main attractions here is the Sea Gypsy Community; originally built 200 years ago, the village is on stilts over the water, and each day tour boats bring visitors here to eat and shop. There are basic bungalows for rent in the Sea Gypsy Village area, but most visitors come just for a day visit. Limestone caves on nearby Koh Panak also draw many visitors. Numerous tour boats visit here, and longtail boats can also be hired for a visit to this area. Expect to pay between 1,500 Baht to 3,500 Baht for a round trip visit, depending on the length of the trip.
Koh Yao, comprised of two unspoiled islands officially known as Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai, are located in the Phang Nga province east of Phuket. Featuring stunning secluded beaches, limestone caves, and lagoons from collapsed caves, these islands also offer excellent snorkeling. Since the population here is predominately Muslim, visitors should plan to dress modestly when visiting here. Accommodations on Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai include basic bungalows for rent as well as the higher-end Paradise Koh Yao Resort, where guest rooms start at about US$105 per night. To reach Koh Yao, visitors can catch a ferry from Bang Rong Pier in Phuket for 100 Baht each way, or they can choose to visit as a part of an all-day speed boat tour of the area, which costs about 3,750 Baht per passenger and includes lunch.
Koh Naka Yai and Koh Naka Noi are a pair of islands near Phuket’s northeast shore. Located near Phang Nga Bay, these islands feature lovely beaches with good swimming potential. The most frequent visitors on the beaches of Koh Naka are from the tour boats en route to the popular sights of Phang Nga Bay, but most of these visitors stay for just a short day visit. The main beach offers sun loungers, jet skis, and banana boats, but the smaller secluded beach on the island’s east side is tranquil and uncrowded. Overnight accommodations include the basic Tentanakara Hotel and the very upscale Six Senses Sanctuary, which is a wellness spa resort. Tour boats visit Koh Naka Yai and Koh Naka Noi several times each day, and many visitors hire their own longtail boat and driver for about 700 Baht each way.
Koh Dok Mai, also known as Flower Island, is popular with scuba diving enthusiasts. The island is actually a vertical limestone rock and as no beach, but the underwater walls provided by the rocky island offer excellent scuba diving. Koh Dok Mai gets its name from the Thai word for tulip, as the shape of the island is similar to a tulip flower; others say that the island is named after the gorgeous flower-like coral formations under the surface of the water around the island. The area is well known for the tiger-tail seahorses which live in and near the reefs, as well. Located off of the southeast end of Phuket, the ferries to the Phi Phi Islands pass by several times daily, and the island is also visible from Phuket. It’s about an hour boat ride to reach Koh Dok Mai; as part of a dive trip that includes lunch, the cost is about 3,500 Baht per person, while non-divers pay about 2,000 Baht.
Koh Rang Yai, or Rang Yai Island, is a private island located about 15 minutes by boat from Ao Sapa in Phuket. This island is popular with day visitors for the multitude of available activities, which include hiking, bicycling, kayaking, volleyball, putt-putt golf, and relaxing on the sandy beach. A popular attraction on Koh Rang Yai is a pearl farm, which visitors can tour and purchase pearl souvenirs at the adjacent gift shop. There are several restaurants here, and overnighters can book a basic room at Coconut Village for about 400 Baht per night. To reach Koh Rang Yai, most visitors hop on a tour boat or hire a longtail boat for approximately 1,000 Baht.
Koh Bon, an island located approximately 15 minutes by boat from Rawai and Laem Ka, offers excellent snorkeling, swimming, and numerous opportunities for relaxing on the beach. Bon Island is purportedly for use by guests of the Evason Phuket and Six Senses Spa, but other visitors can also access the island. The island features a restaurant, bar, windsurfing, canoes, table tennis, and other activities. The resort’s private longtail boat provides complimentary shuttle service to and from Phuket; other day visitors can reach the non-Evason beach via their own hired longtail boat.