There are many smaller islands around Phuket Island, some of which have become popular destinations, usually because of their beaches or their suitability for water activities such as diving and snorkeling. Most can be reached easily by ferry or speed boat. Generally, visitors head back to Phuket after an enjoyable day, but some have accommodations. Most of these islands are located off of the east or southeast coasts, or in the Phang Nga Bay in the north. There are few islands off of the west coast. Below is a listing of some of the more prominent islands or island groups.
Racha Island (Raya Island): Actually, there are two of them, Koh Racha Yai and Koh Racha Noi. They are located 18 kilometers due south of Phuket Island. Both have crystal clear, turquoise blue water and good diving and snorkeling sites. Koh Racha Yai is closest to Phuket. It has two wonderful powdery white sand beaches, and a rugged, hilly interior. It is moderately developed, having some bars and bungalows, although the tourist scene is dominated primarily by the Racha Resort Hotel. It is inhabited primarily by Muslim farmers and fisherman. Koh Racha Noi is smaller and uninhabited. It is not suitable for swimming. There are some good fishing sites off the coast and it is a nesting ground for various birds. Boats to Koh Racha Yai leave regularly from Rawai Beach and Chalong Beach. Boats to Koh Racha Noi can be chartered, except during monsoon season.
Coral Island: Also known as Koh Hei or Koh Hay, Coral Island is a very popular day trip destination located nine kilometers off the southeast Phuket coast. Colorful coral reefs surround the island – thus, the name!! There are two main beaches, Banana Beach and Long Beach. Diving and snorkeling are the island’s two main activities, but there is also some sailing, para-sailing, and water skiing. The island is managed by the Coral Island Resort, which owns the island’s only hotel. The island is accessible by a 15 minute speed boat trip or a 30 minute ferry from either Chalong Beach or Rawai Beach.
Ko Lon: also called Ko Lone, it is located off the southeast coast of Phuket Island in Chalong Bay, due north of Coral Island and a 20 minute ferry trip from the Chalong pier. It is large and mountainous, with a large stretch of beach in the northeast. The island is inhabited by Muslim fishermen, rubber planters and coconut farmers. It appears that there is one primary resort on the island, the Baan Mai Resort, although there are said to be some independent bungalow operations there. Transportation to Ko Lon is from the Chalong Pier.
Ko Bon: this is a small island located near and visible from the southernmost tip of Phuket Island. It is just one kilometer from Rawai Beach. It is the site of some excellent dive sites. The island itself is basically a private island managed by the Evason Phuket Resort, although the beach is supposed to be public. There is one restaurant outside of the resort. The island is somewhat famous for its manta rays.
Ko Kaeo Yai: this is a very small island off of and visible from Promthep Cape, and west of Coral Island and Lon Island. It is easily accessible from Rawai Beach. Visitors can enjoy a fine beach. There is a big Buddha statue on the beach, and a temple on the island’s highest hill.
Ko Kai Nok: a small, uninhabited island, it is a day trip destination due east of Phuket town. It has a wide, sandy beach and good snorkeling opportunities. Tour groups regularly visit the island.
Si-re Island: this large, 20 square kilometer island is situated opposite Phuket town, being separated from the mainland by a shallow swamp, and connected to it by a bridge. It is not suitable for swimming but is home to many restaurants and a large reclining Buddha statue, and offers excellent views of the Phuket mainland. It is home to a large settlement of Chao Ley, or Sea Gypsies.
Ko Ma Prao: a large and rocky island, it is located off the central east coast of Phuket Island. It is also called “Coconut” island because of a large number of coconut trees. Until recently, it had been undeveloped due to its poor beaches, but this is changing. It is home to various birds that find the rocks good places to nest. There is no regular transportation here. There are some nice floating restaurants off of its west coast.
Ko Rang Yai: this island is located northeast of Ka Ma Prao, five kilometers from the Boat Lagoon Marina. It has been developed into an outdoor activity destination. It has nice pine and coconut trees and a nice white, sandy beach. Visitors may snorkel, do kayaking, wind surfing or mountain biking, play miniature golf, swim or visit the island pearl farm. There are a few bungalows available on the island and camping is also available. Tours regularly visit the pearl farm but otherwise those who want to visit Ko Rang Yai must arrange transportation at the Boat Lagoon Marina or at the Laem Hin Pier near Phuket town.
Nakha Yai Island and Nakha Noi Island: these islands are located off the northeast coast of Phuket Island. Nakha Yai has excellent beaches fronting Phang Nga Bay and is in the process of being developed. Nakha Noi is rather barren except for a large pearl farm. These islands are still rather difficult to get to. Boats must be chartered from the Ao Po Pier, the place from which boats for destinations in the Phang Nga Bay area arrive and depart.
Koh Yao Noi and Ko Yao Yai: these are two quite large islands midway between Phuket Island and Krabi Island. They are relatively undeveloped as the beaches are considered mediocre. These islands are considered “getaways” and do not have many activities. There are some small bungalow operations on the islands. Both islands are inhabited by Muslims. Trips may be arranged at the Bang Rong Pier.
Phi Phi: the Phi Phi islands are certainly one of the most popular island destinations from Phuket Island. There are six islands – the two most popular are Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Ley - and they are around 50 kilometers off the east coast. The islands are known for their white ,sandy beaches, crystal clear water, and limestone cliffs. Most people go there for diving. There are more than 50 diving sites around the islands. Underwater geography and sea life are said to be magnificent. Dining, shopping, accommodation – some of it reasonably priced – and nightlife are available on Phi Phi Don…the other islands are largely free of development.
Phang Nga Islands: Phang Nga Province is north of Phuket Island, and to the east of Phang Nga are more than 40 small, mostly uninhabited limestone islands, some of which were featured prominently in the James Bond movie, “The Man With the Golden Gun.” Some of the islands have reasonably okay beaches but there is no organized beach industry. Tours visit these islands but for those who really want to enjoy them or explore them, it is necessary to rent a private boat. These islands are part of a national park and visitors must pay an entrance fee.
The Similan Islands: this 20 kilometer string of nine islands is located approximately 100 kilometers northwest of Phuket Island and is a Thai national park. They are considered to be a diver’s paradise, and are generally ranked among the top ten diving locations in the world. Underwater, divers and snorkelers may enjoy extensive and multicolored corals, and a wide and colorful spectrum of aquatic life. The islands themselves offer interesting granite formations along with a few average beaches. Accommodation is only available on one island in very basic bungalows or through camping. Many people who visit the Similan Islands stay on “liveaboats,” which can extend visits for up to a week. It is easy to book tours to the Similans on Phuket Island.