As the largest island in Thailand, Phuket is one of the most popular destinations for tourists. That can have some drawbacks with areas like Patong Beach too busy and brash for some people’s liking. But there is so much more to Phuket than Patong Beach and with excellent transport links, Phuket makes the ideal base for a multi-centre holiday that takes in several other islands.
In this edition of our Itinerary Ideas series, we take a closer look at an island-hopping itinerary using Phuket as your base. With an international airport in Phuket and frequent boat connections between the islands, you can start and end your trip in Phuket. We suggest spending two weeks for this itinerary to look something like this:
- 5/6 days Phuket
- 1/2 days Ko Racha
- 1/2 days Phi Phi
- 2/3 days Ko Yao Noi
- 2/3 days Ko Yao Yai
Alternatively, you could opt for a twin-centre holiday by spending more time in Phuket (around 9 or 10 days) with the option to visit Phi Phi and Ko Racha as day trips. This then allows you to spend 4 or 5 days relaxing on Ko Yao Noi or Ko Yao Yai.
With a wide selection of hotels, inviting beaches and a wonderful array of dining options, Phuket is a great choice for a holiday. As we alluded to in our introduction, there is so much more to the island than Patong Beach. Don’t get us wrong, Patong is popular for a reason, but there are more beautiful beaches on the island which offer a more relaxing stay. Beaches like Mai Khao and Nai Yang Beach are perfect if you’re looking for somewhere quieter.
Wherever you choose to stay in Phuket, make time for the charming Phuket Old Town area. This is also one of the best locations on the island to sample local dishes and discover more about the local culture.
What to see and do in Phuket:
- Discover another side to Phuket
- Live Like Locals in Phuket
- 20 Phuket street foods and where to try them
- Sample the gastronomic delights of Phuket
- Get sporty in Phuket
The attractive island of Ko Racha Yai (also known as Ko Raya Yai) is a short boat ride away from the south of Phuket. Ko Racha is popular with day-trippers from Phuket, but to avoid the crowds you can stay here overnight and enjoy more time on this gorgeous little island. Luxury accommodation can be found at The Racha with its prime location overlooking Batok Bay, and at Racha Island Resort at Siam Bay.
Ko Racha is home to classic white-sand beaches and turquoise waters which are ideal for snorkelling and diving. Whether you are a novice or experienced diver, there are some outstanding dive sites in this area.
There are two islands in this area; Ko Racha Yai and Ko Racha Noi. Yai is the Thai word for big and noi means little. Accommodation can be found on Ko Racha Yai with the smaller island uninhabited. You may also see these islands referred to as the Raya Islands (Ko Raya Yai and Ko Raya Noi).
Many visitors to Phuket will visit the Phi Phi Islands as part of a day tour. However, to do the area justice it’s better to spend a night or two on the main island of Phi Phi Don. From here you can avoid the crowds by hiring a private longtail boat to Maya Bay on Phi Phi Leh or the tranquil islands of Ko Mai Phai (Bamboo Island) and Ko Yung (Mosquito Island).
Phi Phi Don is the only option for overnight accommodation on the Phi Phi Islands. That fact, combined with the compact size of the island, has led to some haphazard development in and around Tonsai Bay. However, there are better options tucked away in quieter corners of the island. Treat yourself to a stay at Zeavola or the award-winning SAii Phi Phi Island Village.
Ko Yao Noi
While islands like Phuket and Phi Phi are firm favourites with tourists, there are other islands nearby which remain delightfully low-key. The twin islands of Ko Yao Noi and Ko Yao Yai are classic examples of this and they make for a wonderful addition to this island-hopping itinerary. Yao Noi is the smaller of the two islands but has a wider choice of accommodation options. Standout luxury options include Six Senses Yao Noi and 9 Hornbills Tented Camp.
Ko Yao Yai
Just like its neighbouring island, Ko Yao Yai is a welcoming destination where most inhabitants make their living from farming rather than tourism. While the beaches might not be as impressive as Phuket, the appeal of the Yao Islands is the lack of tourists, the relaxed island lifestyle and the views out to Phang Nga Bay. On both Yao Yai and Yao Noi you can hire a bicycle to ride along the traffic-free roads and enjoy the tranquillity.
Good to know
Phuket can be visited year-round, but the best weather is generally from November to April. The rainy season runs from May to October with the wettest months being September and October. Although the rainy season does still see spells of good weather, the sea currents can be dangerous for swimming at this time of year so please take note of any warning flags on beaches.
Some boat services are temporarily suspended during the rainy season and smaller hotels and guest-houses on the islands near Phuket close for the low-season months. Maya Bay and parts of the Phi Phi National Park are usually closed during August and September.
Phuket’s international airport is located in the north of the island. Frequent flights connect Phuket with Bangkok in addition to direct services from Chiang Mai, Pattaya U-Tapao and Ubon Ratchathani.
This article is part of our Itinerary Ideas series. These particular itineraries are for anybody, but may appeal more to repeat visitors to Thailand looking to explore different destinations on their next trip or anyone seeking meaningful travel experiences. If you’re a first-time visitor to Thailand or looking for more ideas of where to go and what to do, check out these articles too:
2-week Thailand itinerary
3-week Thailand itinerary
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