Self-Guided Phuket Island Hopping Itinerary 2023
Phuket island hopping is a great way to explore the best of Thailand’s beaches from a central base. Today we highlight how simple island hopping from Phuket can be and show you exactly how to visit our favorite islands off the coast of Southern Thailand on our DIY Phuket island hopping tour.
Phuket is the largest of all Thailand’s stunning islands and is also the name of the province in which Phuket Island lies.
Ever since Roger Moore brought the world’s eyes to this part of the world when filming The Man With The Golden Gun, the mere mention of the word ‘Phuket’ conjures up images of sun, sand, and swaying palm trees.
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- Getting to Phuket for your island hopping adventure
- Where is the best base in Phuket for island hopping?
- Our Phuket island hopping loop itinerary
- Stop 1 – The Phi Phi Islands
- Stop 2 – Koh Lanta
- Side trip – Koh Ha Islands
- Stop 4 – Railay
- Stop 5 – Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi
- Stop 6 – Back to Phuket
- More island hopping ideas
- Ferry hopping in Phuket FAQ
Phuket province is home to over thirty islands, but many of them are small and uninhabited.
If you want to go island-hopping in Thailand, though, Phuket is a great starting point, as the neighboring provinces of Phang-Nga and Krabi are also home to some of the kingdom’s most idyllic island destinations.
Getting to Phuket for your island hopping adventure
If you, like me, prefer the vibe of an island to the hustle and bustle of city life, then good news – it’s getting easier to fly directly to the southern islands meaning you can spend more time on the beach and less time traveling here!
Phuket International Airport has been undergoing an extensive expansion program, and it is accepting an ever-increasing number of international flights.
From Phuket airport, you literally land a stone’s throw from the beach, swooping down over the azure Andaman Sea and onto the runway.
Phuket has a lot to offer. It’s also a great starting point for your journey around the nearby islands and has plenty of activities and sights to see.
Getting a direct flight into Phuket means you can hit the beaches and feel the sea breeze on your face shortly after touching down on the tarmac.
Where is the best base in Phuket for island hopping?
But where should you stay? As the largest Thai island, there is a lot of choices, but if you are planning on island-hopping from Phuket, consider the beaches towards the south of Phuket, as that is where most of the ferries to the neighboring islands depart from.
Patong, with its bustling nightlife, is perhaps the best-known and busiest area of Phuket. It’s a great place to stay if you want a few nights of partying before exploring the quieter islands nearby.
With Jung Ceylon shopping mall and a myriad of street stalls, Patong is also a great place for some serious shopping.
If you are looking for something a little calmer, as you move farther south from Patong, the beaches become gradually quainter and more relaxed.
The next beaches down from Patong are Karon and Kata. These two beaches are a stone’s throw from each other and, whilst still offering great choices for accommodation and shopping, are a little quieter than Patong.
At the southern end of Kata is a gem of a beach known as Kata Noi — an idyllic little bay and a great spot to enjoy a sunset gin & tonic or have an afternoon cooling dip in the sea.
South of Kata, we can find the areas of Rawai and Nai Harn. Both locations are perfect if you want some chill time on white-sand beaches.
Nai Harn Beach itself is a favorite amongst the local community as it’s seldom busy and a great place for some sun worshipping or a gentle snorkel with colorful fish.
From this point, at the southwest corner of Phuket Island, it’s a short transfer to the pier at Rassada, where you hop on a ferry and head across the water to the next destination on this Andaman island-hopping loop.
Our Phuket island hopping loop itinerary
Our island hopping loop takes in seven of the most popular islands in the Andaman Sea off Phuket. We have chosen the order of travel based on the best ferry connections.
From Rassada Pier, it’s a quick journey across to the infamous Phi Phi Islands and the beginning of our suggested loop itinerary.
The best place to book your ferry ticket is usually through your hotel or through one of the small travel agencies you can find dotted along the streets.
However, if you are someone who feels more comfortable booking in advance we recommend 12Asia.go which sells tickets from a large number of operators.
If you book with these guys, your ticket price will also include a transfer from your hotel to the pier. Usually, if you book directly with the ferry company online, you will be expected to make your own way to the pier.
The ferries between Phuket and Phi Phi are large and spacious. There’s plenty of room to stretch your legs and to find a spot to enjoy a coffee in the sun.
Be careful of the sun—the breeze from the moving boat can mask the effects of the tropical sun.
Travelling from Phuket to Koh Phi Phi
Departure: Most trips to Phi Phi islands start at Rassada Pier, just 10 minutes from Phuket Town. With over 15 trips a day, it is fairly easy to arrange.
Arrival: Ton Sai Pier Koh Phi Phi or Laem Tong Beach Koh Phi Phi
Price: Ferry tickets can be as little as 450 baht per person
Travel time: Speed boat – 1 hour Ferry – 1.45 hr -3 hours
Stop 1 – The Phi Phi Islands
There are two Phi Phi Islands – Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Lay. Phi Phi Lay is uninhabited but home to Maya Bay, famed for its role in the 2000 film The Beach.
Need to know: Maya Bay has been closing regularly over the last few years to allow the site time to recover from over tourism. In 2022 Maya Bay closed for August and September. It is not confirmed if this will happen in 2023, so check before you travel.
If you want to stay on Phi Phi, you will be staying on Phi Phi Don. Phi Phi Don is a stunning island, and the vista as the ferry swoops into the pier at Ton Sai Bay is beautiful.
At certain times of the year, Phi Phi Don can get very busy, so it’s definitely a good idea to book your accommodation before you travel in high season.
And depending on your plans for your time on Phi Phi, you might want to carefully consider the location of your hotel.
If you plan to join in with beach parties, Ton Sai Bay, the main hub of the island is the perfect place to be in the thick of the action.
There is no traffic on Phi Phi; getting around is done on foot through the narrow, paved streets.
Staying in Ton Sai Bay will put you at the heart of the restaurants and shops, and in a prime location to enjoy the bars along the beachfront.
Phi Phi is a party island but has so much more to offer than this.
A short hike into the hills behind Ton Sai will take you to a stunning viewpoint, with spectacular views across the bay to Phi Phi Lay.
There is a small café at the top, and you can sit and watch the sun drop into the Andaman Sea before heading back down to enjoy the evening entertainment.
Whilst on Phi Phi, it would be a crime not to venture across to the famous Maya Bay to see ‘The Beach.’ There are plenty of organized half-day trips for this. Speak to your hotel as they should be able to arrange tickets for you.
Rent a kayak and make the 40 minute return trip to Monkey Beach or book a long-tail boat and let someone else do the hard work!
Alternatively, you can speak to the long-tail boat drivers at the beach and strike a deal for a private tour, possibly stopping off at Monkey Bay and a visit to Monkey Beach on the way.
If you would rather stay in a quieter part of Phi Phi, Long Beach is your best bet.
There are less accommodation options here, but if you plan to chill on the beach with this year’s bestseller, then Long Beach is for you.
Long Beach is also a great option if you are an early riser. If you get up around sunrise and go for a snorkel around the eastern end of the beach, you can see some small black-tipped reef sharks cruising in the shallows.
But don’t worry – these sharks are not interested in you!
Travelling from Koh Phi Phi to Koh Lanta
Departure: Ton Sai Pier Koh Phi Phi
Arrival: Koh Lanta Ban Sala Dan Pier
Price: approx $28 AUD
Travel time: 30 minutes by speed boat
Stop 2 – Koh Lanta
The next stop on our Andaman island-hopping loop is Koh Lanta Yai, to the east of Phi Phi. Koh Lanta district encompasses three main islands – Koh Lanta Yai, Koh Lanta Noi, and Koh Klang.
Your destination is Koh Lanta Yai, or Big Lanta Island. Shaped like the ubiquitous Thai chili, Koh Lanta Yai is around thirty kilometers long.
The beaches along the island’s west coast afford excellent sunset views looking back across the Andaman Sea towards Phi Phi.
The main town of Saladan sits on the northern tip of the island, and the southern tip is covered with the jungle of Koh Lanta National Park. In between are a number of beautiful beaches, each with its own character.
The most popular area to stay on Koh Lanta is perhaps Long Beach, or Phra-Ae, as it’s known to the locals.
Stretching out over 3 kilometers, Long Beach is the longest beach on Koh Lanta and is home to some great choices of accommodation to suit all budgets and needs.
Long Beach Chalet is lovely and offers budget garden lofts or deluxe Seaview villas. Nearby Layana Resort and Spa offers modern luxury. See all the options in Long Beach here.
Farther down the island is another popular area to stay in – Klong Nin. The Klong Nin area is a super-chilled place to stay and relax into the Lanta vibe.
Ideally situated as a spot to explore the island from, Klong Nin also boasts some great beach-front restaurants and bars. The beach here is also a great place for a cooling afternoon dip after your lunch.
Rawi Warin Resort And Spa offers 5-star luxury if that is what you are after. But there are plenty of more rustic properties in the Klong Nin area too.
From Klong Nin, you can also hire a bike and cut across the island to the east coast—home to Lanta Old Town and the sea gypsy village.
The sea gypsy village, also known as Sang Ka Ou to the locals, is definitely worth a morning visit, followed by lunch at one of the restaurants over the water in Old Town.
Travel from Koh Lanta to Koh Haa Islands
Departure: Koh Lanta
Arrival: Koh Haa
Price: Best to book a day tour or snorkeling/diving trip on arrival in Koh Lanta The. Sinthongchai speedboat is highly-rated.
Travel time: 30 minutes
Side trip – Koh Ha Islands
If you look out from the beaches on the west coast of Lanta, you will see a small group of five islands jutting out from the turquoise waters.
These stunning islands, called Koh Ha, meaning “five islands” in Thai, are one of Thailand’s best scuba diving and snorkeling locations.
Any of the dive centers on the island will be happy to take you out to explore this cluster of islands and its amazing marine life and hopefully bring you face-to-face with a whale shark – the ocean’s biggest fish.
From Lanta, it’s also possible to take day trips out to some of the smaller, uninhabited islands. A huge favorite amongst visitors to Lanta is the “four-island trip”.
This day trip explores four of the many islands to the south of Koh Lanta Yai. The itineraries change depending on the season, but the highlight of the trip, Koh Mook, remains a constant.
The big draw of Koh Mook is the Emerald Cave, where you snorkel through a tunnel and emerge on a beach hidden in the center of the island.
Ferry from Koh Lanta to Railay
Departure: Ban Saladan Passenger Ferry Pier in Koh Lanta
Arrival: Railay Bay Beach Jetty (Check times for the ferry to Railay)
Price: ฿550 – ฿1200
Travel time: 1-hour 15-minute ferry journey. You could book one of the local long-tail boats for this trip.
Stop 4 – Railay
Although not a true island, Railay is famed as a must-see destination in Thailand. Access to Railay is by boat transfers only, so we still get the island vibe and feel, but it is connected to the mainland near Ao Nang in Krabi Province.
Railay comprises a small cape with two beaches – one facing the sunrise, the other facing sunset.
It’s a beautiful place to stop for a night or two of relaxation and to recharge the batteries, or to enjoy its world-famous rock climbing on its limestone cliffs.
After leaving Railay, our next stop takes us back towards Phuket again – Koh Yao Yai.
Ferry from Railway to Koh Yao Yai
Departure: Railay East, Krabi
Arrival: Chong Lard Pier, Koh Yao Yai
Price: $33 (AUD)
Travel time: 1 hour by speedboat
Stop 5 – Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi
Koh Yao Yai has been growing in popularity in recent years. It’s a quiet, small island that’s situated to the east of Phuket, in the middle of Phang-Na Bay.
You can while away the hours exploring this little gem by scooter, stopping off to enjoy the beaches and sights along the way.
You will definitely want to check out the picturesque beach at Laem Had and enjoy not only its stunning views but its tranquillity too.
Koh Yao Yai is also the perfect place to be if you want a day trip to the island now known simply as “James Bond Island”. For accommodation, the most popular area, with more options and restaurants, is Loh Pared Bay.
Koh Yao Yai still has a local Thai feel and has not yet been touched by mass tourism.
It’s a perfect last stop before returning to Phuket for your flight home. Again, speak to your hotel when you are looking to buy a ticket for the short trip back to Phuket.
Ferry from Koh Yao Yai to Phuket
Departure: Chong Lard Pier, Koh Yao Yai
Arrival: Bang Rong Pier, Phuket
Price: $16 (AUD)
Travel time: 30 minutes
Stop 6 – Back to Phuket
The final ferry on this loop will bring you back to Phuket. The boat from Koh Yao Yai will bring you to Bong Rong pier in the northeast of Phuket.
Your accommodation choice on your return to Thailand’s largest island will be determined by how many days you want to spend in Phuket.
- If you plan to do some last-minute shopping before heading home, the old town of Phuket could be a brilliant choice. Phuket Town is the traditional hub of Phuket and has the Central Festival shopping mall on its doorstep.
- If you have an early morning flight from Phuket, we would recommend staying in the northern part of the island, close to the airport.
As Thailand’s most populous island, the traffic can get a little heavy at the start and end of the working day, and the journey from the south to the airport can mean a very early wake-up. A night’s stay at Nai Yang or Mai Khao (link to hotels here) will afford you a later start.
Phuket airport backs onto Mai Khao Beach, and the beach is a great spot to get some stunning photographs of the planes coming in to land before you jump on your own flight home.
More island hopping ideas
You can also visit the following spectacular islands near Phuket on day trips from your base on the main island by long-tail boat or speed boat on half-day or full-day island hopping trips:
- Coral Island – also known as Koh Hae or Ko He and home of Long Beach and Banana Beach, Coral Island is just 3km off the coast. These coral reefs are a great place to meet the local sea life.
- Racha islands – Koh Racha Noi & Koh Racha Yai just 20km south of Phuket are less visited than some others and offer gorgeous white sandy beaches and first-class diving and snorkeling.
- Coconut Island – Called Koh Maphrao in Thai, just 5 minutes by long tail boats and a good choice for a couple of hours away from the main island.
- Naka Island – Take a private island tour to this spot just a 10-minute speedboat ride away.
- Similan Islands – 9 islands make up the Similan Islands Marine Park. A snorkeling tour in season is highly recommended (Mid Oct-Mid May). Closed offseason due to weather.
- James Bond Island – located in Phang Nga Bay James bond island is one of the most popular day tours from Phuket. (GYG LINK). The rocky pinnacle that shot to fame thanks to the 1974 movie Man with the Golden Gun is a must on many visitors’ lists. Some tours offer snorkeling equipment and a chance to spend some time away from the crowds. Most visits to James Bond Island include a stop at Hong Island
- Koh Rang Yai Island – is also referred to as Richy Island and sometimes Pearl Islands because of the Pearl farm on the island. It lies 5km off the east coast.
- Surin islands – these beautiful islands with emerald green waters are part of Mu Ko Surin National Park and are a 4-hour boat trip from Khura Buri Pier in Phuket.
- Khai Nok – an uninhabited island popular for snorkeling tours
Ferry hopping in Phuket FAQ
When is the best time to visit Phuket for island hopping tours?
December to April will see calm seas and dryer weather. The months on either side can be a bit hit and miss while July to October see some islands and ferry services cut because of bad weather.
Do I need to book a tour or is island hopping something that is easy to do for yourself?
The best answer to this question comes down to how comfortable you are with spontaneity. For most of the islands, there are multiple options and you can rent a private long-tail boat at a reasonable cost. If you are on a tight schedule book things in advance.
About the author: Richard (Rich) Reardon is a freelance writer and scuba diving instructor from England and now lives in Southern Thailand. “I have spent the last twenty years travelling and working throughout South East Asia. For around half of that time, I’ve been based in Thailand. Thailand stole my heart, and I hope my writing will encourage you to find out why!”