Phang Nga Bay
Equally impressive as Phuket and popular is the the unique karst seascape of Pha Nga Bay, made famous in the Bond movie, The Man with the Golden Gun. The renamed James Bond Island is an obligatory stop on all tours from Phuket but it’s all part of a massive theatre of pillars that dot this huge bay and must be among the most photographed in the entire Andaman.
A lunch stop at the fishing village of Koh Phan Yee, which sits in the water on stilts, serves fresh fish. Don’t forget to buy a few souvenirs and wander around this curious community. Kayaking among the caves and karst cliffs is particularly rewarding and often part of the the tours from Phuket.
If you're into diving and have only one chance to see the best, then you might want to sign up for a few days on a live-aboard dive trip to the Similan islands – West of Phuket. These are a protected marine reserves and day trips or diving excursions are the only way to have the privilege of visiting the unspoiled reefs of the area, or swim in its pristine waters.
If you haven’t quite got around to getting your dive certificate, there are plenty of courses on offer. Alternatively take tours to Hong Island, between Phuket and Krabi and simply snorkel and chill out. This remarkable island has a hidden lagoon inside, accessible through a cave tunnel at low tide only.
Hiring a car for a trip into the hinterland is also rewarding. Phuket is connected to the mainland by a short causeway and after that you’re free to roam Southern Thailand’s lush isthmus provinces. Head up to Khao Lak, an hour’s drive north, to experience a more unspoiled and wild coastline, and some wonderful coastal parks.
A bit beyond this is Khao Sok National Park with its large lake, fantastic rainforests and remarkable landscapes. You can even spend a night in the park chalets here. Thai tropical national parks are wonderful ecosystems full of waterfalls, streams, nature trails, bird life and a few animals (if you have an eagle eye).
If you’re heading out of Phuket by car you may want to spend several days exploring the region, with its rubber plantations and bizarre landscapes. Dropping in on little-visited but enchanting parks such as Sa Nang Manora Forest Park and Than Bokkharani National Park as you pass through Pha Nga en-route to Krabi town, is rewarding. All around you are more of the numerous lofty karst mounds that make the area famous for tours from Phuket.
Even though Krabi is a destination unto itself, it’s easily reachable by car from Phuket (90 minutes) and boasts some of the region’s most remarkable landscapes. But that’s a whole other destination!
You can read more about Krabi here