Island hopping on Thailand’s Andaman Coast: from pool parties to picturesque views

From Phuket to Krabi, here’s how to spend 10 days exploring Thailand’s Andaman Coast with equal measures of Instagram-worthy views and vibrant nightlife.

Day 1: Phuket… get the (pool) party started

Phuket is the main gateway to Thailand’s Andaman Coast, with its international airport providing easy connections from Australia and many other countries. 

A great place to kick-start your island-hopping holiday is at Phuket’s Patong Beach, which comes to life each night as the main drag, Bangla Road, is transformed into a vibrant walking street. Those looking to embrace the party scene here can head to Lub d hotel’s famous pool party. Throw on your swimmers and join in on one of the many games on offer like beer pong in the pool, volleyball or ring toss, all with tasty prizes.

A night out on Bangla Rd, Patong Beach
A night out on Bangla Rd, Patong Beach © Holly O’Sullivan

Day 2: Phang Nga Bay… take a canoe to James Bond Island

The best way to explore beautiful Phang Nga Bay is by canoe. On a guided kayak tour, paddle your way past imposing limestone karst islets, explore numerous caves and tranquil inlets, and have an Instagram moment at Khao Phing Kan – better known as James Bond Island.

Back in Phuket, take a tuk-tuk to see the monolithic 45-metre Buddha statue overlooking the coast, before another evening’s foray into the madness of Patong’s Bangla Road.

Phang Nga Bay
Phang Nga Bay

Day 3: Hop over to Ko Phi Phi 

Ko Phi Phi is an hour and a half by ferry from Phuket and another popular meetup place for travellers seeking nightlife thanks to its beach bars and plenty of free pouring. Spend the day lazing on a white sandy beach or go snorkelling on the fringing coral reef. Then in the evening, barhop your way to the beach for Pad Thai and a cocktail to watch the sunset.

Day 4: Explore ‘The Beach’ and take in a Muay Thai bar

Phi Phi is probably most famous for a beach you can’t actually visit anymore. Made famous in the 2000 Leonardo DiCaprio movie, Maya Beach is closed to tourists for an indefinite period of rehabilitation but until it is reopened you can explore the bay by boat, go for a snorkel and visit some of the other (equally beautiful) remote beaches on the island.

In the evening, if you’re feeling fit, challenge yourself to a round of Muay Thai kickboxing. One of Phi Phi nightlife’s more unique features is a dedicated Muay Thai bar where you can compete and win prizes. If you’re not the competitive type, you can always just sit back and take in a few games over a beer or two. The Thai sport is also known as the ‘Art of Eight Limbs’ as it uses a combination of fists, elbows, knees and shins and can be traced back to the 18th century. 

Keep reading: Family fun in Phuket

Island hopping on Thailand's Andaman Coast: Phi Phi Island
Phi Phi Island

Day 5: Hike Phi Phi’s viewpoints

If you’re looking to exert yourself beyond white sandy beaches, spend a day hiking Phi Phi’s viewpoints. There are three stunning viewpoints to hike to, which can be climbed in succession. However, to fit all three in at a relaxed pace, you’ll want to allocate an entire day for this activity. The hike to the top can be tough, but the reward of panoramic views from the summit make it well worth the trek. 

Phi Phi Lookout
Phi Phi Lookout © Holly O’Sullivan

Day 6: Travel from Ko Phi Phi to Ko Lanta for dinner and a show

The trip from Ko Phi Phi to Ko Lanta only takes about 30 minutes by high-speed ferry, leaving plenty of time to laze on the beach and go for a swim before grabbing a tuk-tuk to find a beach-side BBQ dinner. While you’re there keep an eye out for the spectacular fire dancing shows which provide free entertainment on most nights. 

Day 7: Float to an Emerald Cave

A 4-Islands Tour from Ko Lanta will take you to the islets of Ko Muk, Ko Kradan, Ko Cheuk and Ko Ngai.  A highlight of this tour is on the island of Ko Muk, where you can float through the enchanting Morakot (Emerald) Cave into a secret hidden bay with a white sandy beach shaded by rainforest canopy. From this enchanted cave, it’s on to more turquoise waters and the white sandy beaches of other islands Ko Kradan, Ko Cheuk and Ko Ngai.

Emerald Cave, Ko Muk
Emerald Cave, Ko Muk

Read: The View, Six Senses Yao Noi: a next-level luxury villa in Thailand

Day 8: Island hop to Krabi for street food and temple views

From Ko Lanta it takes just over an hour to reach Krabi by boat, taking in some spectacular scenery along the way. Plan it so that you arrive early enough in the day to take on the 1,237 steps up to the Krabi’s Tiger Temple (Wat Tham Suea).

Tiger Temple Krabi
Tiger Temple Krabi

All those steps in the heat of the Thai tropics is not easy but it’s worth the effort to see the views at the top, overlooking the region’s mountainous landscape. The temple complex is a maze of natural caves, with the main temple atop a rocky outcrop overlooking the town below. The starting point for this walk is an experience in itself, as you pick your way through some cheeky resident monkeys. From here it’s mainly uphill, but the trail flattens out every so often, and there’s plenty of space at each corner to take a break in the shade.

In the evening head to Krabi’s night markets for a bite to eat. There are two daily night markets in Krabi Town. The first (and best) is opposite City Hotel on Soi 10 Maharat Road, with excellent street food stalls serving everything from Pad Thai to catfish curry, salads, soups and sweets. It’s also a good place to buy fresh fruit. 

Day 9: Take a longtail boat to beautiful Railay Beach

Surrounded by high limestone cliffs, Railay Beach attracts rock climbers from all over the world, so if you’re feeling active, head for the cliffs to test your agility. If you’d rather chill out, head for one of the white sandy beaches or grab a frozen cocktail at one of the beach-side reggae boat bars.

Boat restaurant on Railay Beach
Boat restaurant on Railay Beach © Shutterstock/Elena Odareeva

Day 10: Hot springs and emerald pools

The mineral-infused water of Krabi’s Hot Springs are said to have healing qualities, and they certainly provide a relaxing tranquil atmosphere, under a shady rainforest canopy. Make your way through a sequence of small pools of varying temperatures, becoming gradually cooler as you make your way from the top down. 

A trip to nearby Emerald Pool, in the Thung Teao Forest National Park, is worth it simply for the photo opportunity. A 2.7-kilometre trail takes you through beautiful virgin rainforest before reaching the crystal-clear lake for a refreshing dip.

Krabi Hot Springs
Krabi Hot Springs © Holly O’Sullivan

The author went island hopping in Thailand as a guest of Busabout on a Thai Island Hopper tour.

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