Phuket is so big, we’ve split it up into areas, select one of the below for detailed accommodation and food listings in that area. Sights and general overviews for Phuket as a whole can be found via the icons above. Don’t know where to start? Read an overview of Phuket’s different areas.
Off Phuket's southern coast lie a number of small islands whose pristine shores lure scuba divers and beach bums away from the mainland. Most of these isolated islands are undeveloped, but the notable exceptions are Coral Island and Ko Raya (also known as Ko Racha) which have accommodation options and restaurants.
Both islands have safe swimming, reefs teeming with aquatic life, and a sense of getting away from it all that's harder and harder to come by in Phuket proper. Coral Island is privately owned by the Coral Island Resort — the only place to stay on the island. Ko Raya is larger and, while still largely undeveloped, is home to three established resorts and a nameless bungalow operations open only during the high season.
Only a 15-minute speed boat trip from Chalong pier, Coral Island is the more commercial of the two islands. During the day, it plays host to a steady stream of daytripppers who come to enjoy the island's long white sandy beach and excellent year-round swimming.
Unfortunately, a huge influx of tourists have also brought a steady amount of garbage to the beaches which no one seems bothered to pick up. However, the snorkelling is decent and you don't have to go out very far before you start to see colourful reef fish, making this an excellent beach for kids to learn how to snorkel. Aim to snorkel near the front of the resort (in front is for guests only) — the beach is cleaner and the coral less damaged from the lack of anchored boats.
Other beach activities like diving, banana boat rides, and parasailing are available (at a price, of course). A host of souvenir shops, restaurants, and services operate along the beach. If you're aching for an oil massage, in need of a cold drink, or forgot your swimmers, all can be purchased on the island. Lots of boat operators scream into megaphones along the beaches — so much that you may want to try Ko Raya instead.
Ko Raya is a prime destination for yachties, who stay at the resorts, and divers, who typically book up all the island's cheaper rooms. Between the yachts, diving boats, and speedboats with snorkelling daytrippers, Raya's beautiful bays can get quite congested during the high season.
The beaches and bays are connected by dirt roads in a state of perpetual bumpiness due to run-off during the rainy season. It is possible to rent a 100cc motorbike, but you're better off walking. A common sight is a cart loaded with divers and their gear being towed to the beach by a tractor or ATV.
Activities on the island include snorkelling, mountain biking, and nature hikes. The resorts offer organised activities like fishing trips and horseback riding, but these will put a big dent in your wallet. For those willing to explore, rent a snorkel and mask and visit Lah Bay for some great snorkelling — giant star fish, puffer fish and rainbow trout a plenty swim here.
A small predominantly Muslim population of farmers and fishermen live on Raya, and there's even a small mosque. None of the island's restaurants serve pork and, in case you were planning to, visitors are asked not to bring any with them.
By Lana Willocks.