See more of the Phuket region; take one of the Top 12 day-trips

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There are simply so many different places to go in the Phuket region

Many people on a beachfront vacation grow tired of doing little but lazing about on the beach, in the pool, restaurant and etc. Those holidaying on a Phuket beach have a whole array activities and attractions to chase off approaching boredom, and a good array of day-trips are among those options – out in the morning, back by dark with new experiences and wider horizons.
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Here we give a brief outline of the top dozen day-trips available from Phuket, and in most cases give a link to additional information and photos about the topic.
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Phi Phi Islands – some problems, but still amazingly beautiful

The day-long boat tour of the Phi Phi islands from Phuket is one of the most popular of all day-trips sold here.  These two large, rocky islands that rise from the ocean as sheer rock walls are 48 kilometres southeast of Phuket in the open ocean.  Large tour boats take about two hours each way, and in the high season there are several departures each morning from Radsada pier close to Phuket town, returning around 5:00pm. Most tour companies pick -up and drop-off at hotels.
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The inhabited island, Phi Phi Don, has an ugly, overgrown tourist village on Ton Sai, its main harbour, which is also crowded with boats.  Each day thousands of tourists transit here, making this a busy scene. But all of this human hustle and bustle cannot destroy the major attraction here, the geographic grandeur of these mighty rock islands, and the trip here still makes a very interesting day.
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See more of the Phi Phi Islands at Phi Phi Islands; among the world's tropic beauties and more at Phi Phi; destroying the beauty .
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Phang Nga Bay – amazing, if you go the right way

Phang Nga Bay is Phuket's most famous neighbour, and many day tours are available, with the quality varying from cheap, cattle-truck tourism to excellent and exhilarating.  
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Here are two simple suggestions when choosing a trip to Phang Nga Bay; first, remember that James Bond Island tours take you to a series of tourist traps, and second, by far the best way to see Phang Nga Bay is by boat, leaving the North end of Phuket.  The boat cruises pass right through the heart of Bay's spectacular scenery, while the bus tours (James Bond tours) that first drive up to Phang Nga province miss the best of the Bay.
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We offer much more info on the possibilities and means of seeing Phang Nga Bay at Explore Phang Nga Bay and also at Phang Nga Bay by yourself . with good photos of all locations within the Bay.
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Phang Nga's famous James Bond Island – cattle-truck junkets & tourist traps

These are generally the cheap junket tours that most people buy because of the price - then don't get all they expect.  The tours are often said to include Phang Nga Bay, which is a half truth, and a 'sea gypsy' village over the water, another half truth. 
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James Bond Island is not particularly remarkable in view of its many larger and more impressive neighbours.  These tours often cruise only the edge of Phang Nga Bay, missing the most impressive parts.  And there are no sea gypsies within many miles – the water village of Koh Pannyi where thousands of tourists are taken enmasse is a one-time Muslim fishing village, now a Muslim tourist village.  The bus transport from Phuket to Phang Nga, though only an hour, is perhaps the worst part of these tours; it by-passes the heart and real beauty of the bay that visitors are coming to see.  The much more interesting, daily boat cruises pass right through the most beautiful places both going and coming.
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Read more about this at James Bond island tours, what to expect from cheap tours .
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Similan Islands – pristine, beautiful, but very far from Phuket

In the right weather the Similan Islands can be seductively beautiful. However, a day tour to these nine, low-lying islands surrounded by beautiful, turquoise waters needs careful consideration. The islands lie 90 kilometres out to sea from Phuket, and it's a two-hour plus, high speed boat ride each way. The morning trip out is generally quite pleasant, if a little boring. But when afternoon breezes stir up even small waves – as is very common – the return trip in the standard speedboat can become a long and tiresome battering, with many passengers becoming seasick and others arriving home with aching spines. You can imagine what it might be like when the seas become rough.
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The greatest beauty of the Similan Marine National Park lies underwater, making this is one of the top Scuba diving destinations in the region. The few beaches here are small, and on days without blue skies the famous turquoise waters turn grey, creating disappointment. This is an excellent destination for overnight trips in large, comfortable vessels, like live-aboard dive boats. But think very carefully before buying into such a long, open-water day-trip in a light, bouncy speedboat, especially if you have children or older people with you.
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Koh Yao Noi; rural island with empty beaches

Koh Yao Noi is the largest island high up in Phang Nga Bay. It is inhabited, with a large village in the middle, a few resorts up the east coast and a small network of rough roads and tracks connecting them.  There is a younger travellers' scene on this new destination with several bungalow resorts catering to them.  It is possible to make a day-trip here and back from Phuket by getting to Bang Rong pier by 8:00am and taking one of the early ferry boats that make the one-hour crossing.  Motorcycle taxis and tuk-tuks wait at the island jetty, making transport easy.  The east coast beaches are the biggest attraction here, though the central village is also quite interesting.

The outstanding accommodation on this island is Paradise Koh Yao resort, a 5-star establishment on a small beach at the top of the island, within the shadow of some of Phang Nga's dramatic karst towers. From this resort you can kayak into a surreal natural environment.
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See more on Koh Yao Noi at Koh Yao Noi; top island in Phang Nga Bay
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Koh Yao Yai; great for those with a boat, or bicycle

Koh Yao Yai is the large island 20 kilometres east of Phuket, and visible in clear weather.  This is an ideal island destination for those renting a longtail or speed boat for the day, for the entire island is lined with beaches with almost no habitation.  Despite that is it so close to a major tourist destination, life continues in a traditional manner here.
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The island has a narrow concrete road up the centre, with some side tracks, making it ideal for bicycling, though cyclists must take their own bike.  Motorcycles, but not bicycles, can be rented on the island.  Large jetties and villages are found in the far north and the southwest.  There are a few small beachfront bungalows and resorts here. A day trip from Phuket without a boat is possible by catching an early passenger ferry from Laem Hin jetty on Phuket's east coast.
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For more information see Koh Yao Yai, fishing & farming island , in Phang Nga Bay.
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The Racha Islands (also called Raya Islands)

This pair of beautiful tropical islands is visible from Phuket, with Racha Yai (Big Racha) some 15 kilometres directly South.  Racha Noi (Little Racha) lies another ten kilometres beyond that. There are a few resorts but no villages on the larger island, and nothing but rocky outcrops and forest on the smaller one.  These are one of the top day-trip destinations for those chartering a private boat, be it a longtail or modern cruiser.  Racha Yai's two beaches are exceptionally beautiful, and get quite a lot of day traffic through the high season.   The rocky coastlines are, however, scenic and good for diving, snorkelling and swimming, so one can drop anchor in many places to avoid the main bay and the many boats there.  
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Due to proximity, it is best to use boats out of Rawai and Chalong to get to Racha.  The trip back into Phuket can be very beautiful, even romantic, if done at sunset.
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See more information at Racha Islands- Phuket's beautiful neighbours and also renting longtail and speedboats on Phuket for day-trips.
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Krabi and back in a day – or stay overnight?

Krabi is the second most famous beach resort on Thailand's Andaman coast, with its fame propelled by the amazing beauty of its beaches and islands. It is easy to make a day trip there and back, by car. One can rent a vehicle and driver, or rent and drive oneself. It takes one and a half hours driving from the Sarasin Bridge at the top of Phuket Island.
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The road is good, traffic is light and there are ample signposts in English, making driving easy and pleasant. Krabi has many side roads that wind through scenic countryside where rubber and oil palm plantations have been carved into the hills overshadowed by towering limestone mountains. It’s worth trying a few of them. Most of Krabi's beautiful beaches and islands have to be accessed by boat, which can be chartered at the main beach and transport hub of Ao Nang. If driving to Krabi from Phuket on a day trip, there is enough time to take a 3-hour boat trip to the beautiful islands at Koh Poda, not far offshore.
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Read more at Krabi’s 8 most beautiful beaches where the photos show just how beautiful the Krabi area really is. Also, for renting boats or getting to famous Railay Beach see more Krabi info at Ao Nang Beach and transport hub .
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driving tour of Phang Nga – pleasant, relaxing, scenic

Phuket's neighbour to the north has exceptionally scenic countryside, good roads and little traffic. Taking a driving daytrip here is very easy, either by rented car or motorcycle. From Sarasin Bridge that connects Phuket to the mainland, it takes about 30 minutes to drive to Phang Nga town. There are some exceptionally pretty routes in this province, and little chance of getting seriously lost.
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Combining a driving tour of Phang Nga town and local attractions with a boat tour of Phang Nga's famous bay of vertical rock mountains is also easy. There is a small port close to the town with a government information centre and many longtail boats waiting to take visitors on Bay tours. There is a standard 3-hour boat tour, though you can also tailor the time and routes for a more individual itinerary.
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For more info see: Tour Phang Nga province and Bay yourself by car and boat
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sea kayaking in the caves & 'hongs' of Phang Nga Bay

Sea kayak tours to the caves and 'hongs' of Phang Nga Bay are advertised everywhere in Phuket, with many competing companies. Their itineraries are largely identical, with most departing from Ao Po at the northeast corner of Phuket. They head for islands with the best cave systems that are not too distant; that means Koh Panak and Koh Hong for most. Kayak trips are one of the very best ways of seeing Phang Nga Bay, and getting to understand something about this strange, ethereal world. Perhaps the only downside is the control that the tides have over access to the amazing sea caves here. It often forces kayak companies to turn up at the same cave systems at the same time – when the height of the tide allows entry. The result is, sometimes, a kayak traffic jam.
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Still, kayak tours are one of Phuket's unique offerings, and worth spending time and money on.  See more on this at Kayaking in Phang Nga Bay .
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Khao Lak – new destination & easy day's driving

Directly north of Phuket, about an hour's drive up the main highway, Khao Lak is one of Thailand's relatively new Andaman beach destinations. It began as a satellite to Phuket, providing more tranquil, getaway beaches for those who felt Phuket was getting too busy. Today it is a significant destination, with this Club qualifying over 40 beachfront resorts there. Khao Lak’s 20 kilometre coast is rather straight and generally flat, making the beaches very different to Phuket's.
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The drive from the top of Phuket takes less than an hour, and is pleasant.  It winds through a few small Thai towns and offers turn-offs on the left to beaches, and on the right to waterfalls.  There are many signposts in English.  There is an alternate route to return via Phang Nga town that is also scenic and interesting.  These roads between Phuket and Khao Lak can make an excellent, casual day out, and a good way to see rural Thailand far from the tourist beaches.  See more at Khao Lak; new Andaman beach destination .
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Koh Kai Nok, Koh Kai Nai – a final note of warning

Now we suggest where not to go – unless you love crowds and noisy beaches. The two little islands Koh Kai Nai and Kai Nok (Inner Egg Is and Outer Egg Is) were once pristine little patches of sand surrounded by clear water – as shown in our photos from about 1996. In that era just a few boats pulled in and out daily, and the beaches were largely deserted. At the end of the day footprints were the only signs that humans had trespassed. But Thais and many Asians do like crowds on the beach – cultural preferences tell them that lots of people, music and activity represent fun. Quiet, lonesome places of the kind many Westerners seek represent the opposite, morbid place to avoid at all costs.
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These two little islands are now day-trip paradises for Asian group tours, with a veritable armada of speed boats pulling into the beach each day disgorging hundreds, or thousands of people.  And there is certainly enough noise and activity to keep a bevy of group tours happy.
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by John Everingham
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