Koh Racha Yai & Noi

Koh Racha Yai (aka Koh Raya) is 12km directly south of Phuket. You can see this striking and verdant island from Rawai on the southern shores of the largest island in Thailand. It’s a hilly promontory with two main bays, Ao Tawan Tok and Ao Siam: Ao Tawan Tok has a popular resort planted firmly on its sands, nevertheless there’s good snorkeling to the north and south sides of the beach while Ao Siam is a great place for yacht stopovers (once the day trippers have gone home, that is). It’s also good for snorkeling, and observing the colourful underwater scene. Koh Racha Noi lies to the south of Racha Yai and is uninhabited. Wild and isolated, it’s a good place for connecting with Nature and in the rainy season has all manner of interesting flotsam and jetsam on its southern-facing shore where there are good mooring places in the milder, November to May months.

The Phi Phi Islands

The Phi Phi Islands are a must-visit group of six islands lying some 46km southeast of Phuket and west of Krabi Province on the mainland. Primarily known for their idyllic sun-kissed beaches and for Phi Phi Don’s wild and energetic nightlife (it’s worth a trip ashore to explore this hedonic scene), the group is also home to Phi Phi Ley and its iconic Maya Bay – the lush backdrop to the 2000 British-American movie The Beach. Maya Bay is best visited early in the morning or late afternoon as it can get extremely crowded during the daytime hours. Getting away from the frenetic centre of the island and slowly motoring or sailing down the east coast of Phi Phi Don is a great experience; the white-sand beaches are eminently inviting and photogenic under cerulean skies – each beach lapped by the gin-clear Andaman Sea.

Phang Nga Bay

Prolific, serene and wide-ranging, Phang Nga Bay is a wonderful place to explore for those who don’t appreciate heavy seas yet who enjoy a nautical break in unforgettable towering limestone cliff surroundings. It’d be hard to describe this natural wonderland in a few words as there is so much to see: lofty rock faces rise vertically out of the waters of the bay while wildlife, in the shape of pacific frigate birds (and 88 other bird species), monitor lizards, as well as the white-hand gibbon abound. You can even explore the hollowed-out limestone karst islands with collapsed caves where life seems to have stopped a few thousand years ago. There are many stopover anchoring spots here and a night or two spent in Phang Nga Bay is an experience that will stand out as a lifetime memory. Highly recommended.

Krabi Coast & Islands

Krabi nowadays is a case of ‘catch me while you can’ because Krabi’s unhurried, laid-back, and carefree life has proven to be extremely alluring to more and more visitors each year. Krabi Province has the best of both worlds: Its islands (some 80 of them, including party island Phi Phi Don) are stunningly beautiful, often with vivid coral reefs and with limestone peaks jutting out of the Andaman Sea in eye-catching shapes and forms; its 160km-long coastline and jungle-covered interior is a veritable tropical wonderland with plenty of mangrove swamps to be explored by canoe and there’s even spectacular rock climbing at the atmospheric limestone-hemmed Railey Beach. Island-hopping off this verdant coast is a real pleasure as the diving, snorkeling and canoeing are all world class and the wonderful side to all this is that there are so many choices of destinations.

Koh Lanta

Located 70km south of Krabi Town, Koh Lanta is a world to itself. The largest of an archipelago made up of 52 islands, it’s a place where, apart from several beachside guesthouses and a couple of hotels, time has pretty much stood still – mostly in its southern part and eastern reaches. The island’s west coast is 30km long and features long and shallow-water beaches in its northern part (the most popular being Klong Dao) dotted with makeshift bars, simple guesthouses and is a prime sunset-watching spot. Towards the south of the island the beaches are rockier, smaller, and ideal for those seeking peace and calm. There’s good fishing, diving (Koh Lanta is within easy reach of prime dive spots Hin Daeng, Hin Muang, and Koh Ha), and snorkeling in the area, and it’s eminently photogenic.