This article explores two of the many day trips from Phuket that you can take during your visit here.
Thailand features in one of the top spots in each traveler’s list of must-visit countries. For varying reasons though. The island of Phuket located on the South-West of Thailand fulfils almost everything that Thailand has to offer – from pristine beaches, to vibrant nightlife, to water sports and other cultural attractions – all in the backdrop of an exceptional Thai hospitality. There are multiple points of attraction in and around the city but, we strongly recommend opting for both of the island hopping trips mentioned here. While we’ve touched upon these 2 day trips in our comprehensive 5-day Phuket itinerary in a blog post, let’s explore them in depth in this article!
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1. Phi Phi Islands Tour (one of the most popular day trips from Phuket)
Contrary to popular belief, Phi Phi is actually a group of islands. The major ones are Koh Phi Phi Leh, Koh Phi Phi Don and a tiny remote one named Bamboo Island. The tour starts early in the morning from the designated pier at the edge of Phuket Island and the passengers are briefed about the itinerary along with the safety precautions. Refreshments and beverages come for free. You can optionally purchase stuffs like mobile waterproof pouch or safety beach shoes at a minimally inflated price. The catamaran boat ride starts and you’re given a precap of the trip by the guide on-board.
KOH PHI PHI LEH ISLAND
The first stop is the mesmerizing Maya Bay in Koh Phi Phi Leh Island. You de-board on a floating deck full of tourists and wait for your turn to get inside. This is done to prevent over-crowding at the bay. After receiving a green signal, you walk for a few hundred meters to set your foot on white, powdery sands overlooking clear, turquoise waters. To prevent its deprecating biodiversity, swimming is currently prohibited but you can certainly take a stroll down the beach and admire this heaven on earth. Beware of sudden gust of waves carrying hard objects like logs though!
This place became well known across the world after it was featured in the movie The Beach starring Leonardo Di Caprio which came out in the year 2000.
After Maya Bay, the boat moves to a point overlooking lush green cliffs and takes a halt for people to optionally take a swim there. This is recommended only for the people who know a bit of swimming as you have life jackets as your only life support. Others can stay back on the boat and admire the magical view while stealing a moment to capture some photographs and selfies!
The boat then moves to Loh Samah Bay where you can indulge in Snorkeling from the boat. The Snorkeling gear along with life jacket comes complementary with your tour package. These are select spots with high density of colorful aquatic life, corals and also sea urchins making it advisable to wear appropriate safety footwear. Water is mostly calm but for people new to Snorkeling, it might take a few minutes to get used to it.
Continuing on Koh Phi Phi Leh, the boat goes past the Viking Caves. As informed by our guide, these are currently privately owned and tourists are not allowed to visit inside. These appear to be a dilapidated abode standing tall with the help of slender metallic and wooden supports. Apparently, these caves house paintings carved by the Vikings when they arrived in this area and took refuge here.
The boat then moves to the next island in this island hopping day trip from Phuket!
KOH PHI PHI DON ISLAND
Koh Phi Phi Don is the larger of the two islands in Phi Phi group and the first point of interest is Monkey Island. As the name suggests, this island is full of monkey troops but of one particular kind – long tailed macaques. While you can visit the beach to get up close and personal with these mischievous creatures, it’s subject to the tide height. You can certainly observe them however, from a distance atop your boat and photograph them.
After photographing the monkeys, the boat heads to another spot where you take a lunch break (mostly a multicuisine buffet lunch) before heading away to the final destination.
This is the last spot in the first island hopping tour on this day trip from Phuket. It’s a tiny island located North-East of Koh Phi Phi Don and is a go-to spot for film-makers. We were lucky enough to witness the ongoing shooting of a Vishwak Sen film!
This island has white powdery sand on one side and is rocky on the other. It’s a perfect place to rent a beach recliner and admire the sunset while gorging upon some snacks and beverages. Our recommendation on snacks – roasted corn on the cob sold by local vendors.
2. Phang Nga Bay Tour (James Bond Island Tour)
Phang Nga bay is located between Phuket and Krabi in Adnaman Sea. This area is popular for it’s tall cliffs, emerald waters and limestone caves. Similar to the last island hopping tour, the trip starts early from a different pier in Phuket on a similar sized catamaran. Let’s commence this day trip from Phuket!
JAMES BOND ISLAND
It’s the first and the most popular spot in this island hopping day tour from Phuket. This island, particularly the needle rock shown in the picture was made popular after it featured in the James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun (1974).
You’re dropped off at a pebbled beach with backdrop of a cave-like formation. After advancing on a flight of stairs, you being to see this needle rock. Heading down a few steps further, you arrive at the very same spot where Mr. Roger Moore was filmed holding a pistol in his hand. To talk more about this place, this island is locally known as Khao Phing Kan and the limestone needle rock as Ko Ta Pu. These two collectively are known as James Bond Island.
Close to this spots is a series of small limestone caves often damp inside with flowing water from the top. You’ll also find some small souvenir shops selling local handmade crafts.
PHANG NGA BAY CAVE
Depending upon the itinerary followed by your boat company, this could either be your first or the second spot for the day. These are conspicuous limestone caves that can be entered on foot. You need a sturdy head protector which is available for you on the boat.
It’s a dark and deep tunnel-like cave with a small opening at the end that you can walk to. This cave is popularly known as Ice-cream Caves due to the long popsicle-like limestone formations hanging from the roof. The surface is usually slippery and hence, a sturdy footwear is recommended. A unique experience indeed!
PHANG NGA BAY CANOEING
After Ice-cream Caves, you are taken to a floating pier in the middle of Phang Nga Bay where you can hop on to one of the Canoes readily available with it’s boatman to take you around the area.
In the middle of the ocean, you get a panoramic view of the limestone structures all around. The boatman, although not very fluent in English, makes every effort to get you acquainted with the area. They usually are excellent photographers and keep some props ready with them, such as a hear-shaped cut leaf to photograph honeymoon couples. We were surprised to notice a photographer sitting atop a tiny rock who took photographs of the tourists which can be collected at the pier in Thailand during the return journey.
The canoe moves inside limestone caves with similar ice-cream like formations. The experience is totally different though from a canoe. You are also taken to other caves and coves with animal formations such as that of a horse’s mouth. Moving forward, you’ll also meet a limestone elephant underneath a heart-shaped canopy naturally created from the trees on top of these rocks.
KOH PANYEE VILLAGE
It’d be lunch time by the time you finish canoeing. You are taken to another aesthetic island called Koh Panyee Village for lunch. It’s a fishing village inhabited by Javanese Muslims.
Almost all the families in the village are associated with the restaurant business. Lunch is mostly multi-cuisine buffet and the view from the restaurant makes it even tastier. There’s a small shopping complex at the back where you can purchase fridge magnets, merchandise or other souvenirs.
Like we did in Phi Phi Islands, we’ll end this day trip from Phuket in a cozy little beach called Panya Beach. It’s an excellent place to sip a few drinks and get yourself photographed on nest-like structures built all along.
You can also relive your childhood memories by hopping on to one of the wooden swings hanging from the mangrove trees at the far end of the beach. A recommended activity would be Jet Skiing, given the lower price compared to that in Phuket’s Pa Tong beach and must lesser crowd!