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My 7 days spent island hopping from Phuket in Thailand was one of the most relaxing weeks of my life. Crystal clear, turquoise warm water, colourful sea life with an abundance of sea turtles, powder white sandy beaches backing onto dense jungle and limestone karst rocks, perfect pink-orange sunsets… Thailand is quite possibly the perfect destination for an island hopping adventure.

thailand beach with longtail boats

Home to over 1400 islands, Thailand has many picture-perfect beaches and tropical islands on offer. It’s also a great destination for nature and adventure lovers with everything from waterfall trekking to diving and rock climbing available for those who don’t want to spend their days lazing on perfect beaches, dipping in and out of the ocean when it gets too warm…

You could, of course, arrange a D.I.Y Thailand island hopping trip, but in this article, we will be talking specifically about island hopping from Phuket on a Thailand sailing holiday with Intrepid Travel.

If you’d rather organise your own Thailand island hopping adventure instead of taking a sailing trip, then you may prefer reading my 10 day Thailand Itinerary.

On an organised sailing trip like the one I took with Intrepid travel, you can fully relax as you sail between the best islands in Thailand – beautiful remote beaches and islands that are off the beaten track. Of course, you’ll still get to visit the most popular islands and beaches but there will be no need to constantly move from hostel to hotel. Each afternoon you’ll return to the boat and spend the evening eating fresh seafood as the sun goes down.

You might be surprised by how affordable a Thailand sailing holiday like this actually is…

No time to read this now? No worries, pin it for later!

Things to Know About Island Hopping from Phuket

When is the best time go island hopping from phuket?

The best time to go Island hopping would be between November and February. During these months, the weather is warm and dry without being sweltering. The weather gradually gets hotter until May when the monsoon season starts and runs until October. However, even during the rainy season, you’ll get plenty of sunshine broken up my heavy downpours.

Thailand island hopping via long tail boat

How to get to Phuket

Phuket has an international airport so it’s easy to reach Phuket. You can then organise a taxi or a transfer to Phuket centre at an affordable price.

D.I.Y Island hopping from Phuket vs Phuket Sailing Trip?

The advantages of a DIY trip are that you have complete freedom about where you travel and how long you spend in each place. It’s also a great opportunity to sample the local nightlife.

The advantages of taking a sailing trip are many. Firstly, its possibly the most relaxing way of travelling. It’s a great way to guarantee you’ll make some travel friends and it’s the best way to see a LOT in a short period of time. You’ll get to more remote beaches and see off-the-beaten-track islands.

Sometimes, if you can find a budget sailing trip, it can actually work out cheaper than taking lots of day trips on a DIY island hopping trip.

Read More| Solo Travel vs Group Travel

What to pack for island hopping in Thailand?

Here are a few backpacking essentials you’ll definitely want to pack for your island hopping Thailand holiday.

Swimwear. This kind of goes without saying! Make sure you have a few swimsuits with you as you’ll spend most of your time in the water.

Quick Dry Towel. Since you’ll be in and out of the water a lot, it would be a good idea to invest in an antibacterial, sand-free, quick dry towel. I love these fun ones from Dock and Bay.

Underwater action camera. There are some incredible snorkel and dive spots in the islands near Phuket and you’re going to want to catch it all on camera. I have a Go Pro 6 which I love. It takes incredible quality photos and videos and is very easy to use. However, if your budget won’t stretch to this, you can also get super cheap equivalents which take reasonable photos for under $50 like this one. For more advice about buying cameras, read this article.

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Kindle. The great thing about island hopping is that you’ll have plenty of opportunities to enjoy relaxing in a hammock with a book (oh yes did I mention the boat has a hammock..?!) Take as many books as you like by storing them on a Kindle. The new Kindles are even waterproof so perfect for boat trips…

Snorkel. If you take a boat trip, snorkels will usually be provided but you may prefer to take your own snorkel set.

Sarong or beach cover-up. Whilst Thailand is a conservative country and you will need to cover up if you are visiting temples, it’s not so strict on the islands. But you’ll still need to throw something over you swimsuit if you leave the beach.

A Sun Hat. Never underestimate the strength of the sun as it reflects off the water and burns you to a crisp. Wear plenty of sunscreen and wear a big hat to cover you face and neck. I love this one…

Anti-theft luggage. Luggage which is reinforced against theft will give you some peace of mind when you travel around Thailand, especially if you take any night trains. You can get some really pretty ones now so you don’t have to sacrifice style for safety. I like this one and this one.

Bug spray. There are a lot of bugs in Thailand so make sure you plaster yourself in DEET and wear long sleeves in the evenings.

Reef safe sunscreen. Did you know that most sunscreen is damaging to the delicate coral and to sea creatures? But there are environmentally friendly sunscreens out there such as this one. This is so important when you will be in and out of the water every day.

Water to go bottle. The tap water is not safe to drink in Thailand and buying bottled water is both costly (when it adds up) and bad for the environment. Investing in a Water to Go bottle will save you money as it filters the water as you drink making the tap water (or even river water) safe for drinking. You can get a discount by quoting GLOBETROTTERGP at the checkout. Get yours here. Or read my water filter bottle review.

Dry Bag. A dry bag is so useful as you can put all your valuables and photography equipment in it and know it won’t get damaged if it takes a splash! Try to get one which floats too like this one.

For a more detailed list of things to take, check out this Southeast Asia Packing List.

Island Hopping from Phuket with Intrepid Travel

Who are Intrepid Travel?

Intrepid Travel is a company which organise small group adventure travel tours worldwide. Whilst most of their trips are land-based, they do now offer marine based sailing trips including this 7-day sailing trip from Phuket.

What I love about Intrepid Travel is that they really care about the destinations they visit. They plough as much money as possible back into the communities that they visit and are dedicated to providing ethical travel experiences often in off-the-beaten-track destinations.

Group sizes are kept small so it has a personal feel compared to coach tours which I am not a fan of! It’s a great way to make some new travel friends and see a lot in a short time. I’ve travelled with Intrepid Travel a few times now, most recently on safari to Kenya, and I do feel they are one of the best tour companies for solo travellers. I will be talking about a few alternatives (Including one for keen divers) shortly so keep reading…

Find out More | Intrepid Travel Group Tours

Thailand Island hopping Itinerary with Intrepid Travel

On a Thailand Sailing trip with Intrepid Travel, you will spend your days sailing between islands and snorkel spots. Whilst transiting between locations, you can enjoy reading a book in a hammock or catching some rays on the sun deck.

The catamaran will make frequent stops so you won’t get bored. You might be kayaking through caves, swimming in emerald lagoons, meeting wild monkeys, visiting virtually deserted beaches that most day tours don’t get to or stopping at a reef to snorkel straight from the boat.

READ  The 12 Best Beaches and Islands in Thailand You Need To Visit

Whilst most of your meals will be cooked for you by the talented chef on board, you will have the occasional meal and even a few drinks at a bar on the islands.

Some of the stops are a little longer allowing you time to explore beach towns such as those at Railay beach and Koh Phi Phi Don where you can go shopping, take a short hike to a viewpoint, book a massage or just relax in a beach bar with a cocktail.

Highlights of this Thailand island hopping sailing trip

Here are a few personal highlights of my Thailand sailing holiday…

Railay Beach

Railay is not an island but it feels like one as it is only accessible buy boat being cut off from mainland by dense jungle and limestone cliffs. It actually has not one but 4 different beaches you can visit, each beautiful in its own way. The town itself is great to explore and you may want to consider booking a massage here like I did. It’s also a great location for adventure seekers and is one of the best places in Thailand for rock climbing.

Make sure you visit the ‘penis cave!’ This bizarre little cave is completely covered in symbolic wooden phallic ornaments. Women attend to pray for their fertility. It’s really quite surreal…

Thailand Railay beach with colourful long tail boats
Koh Phi Phi Don

One of the most popular places in the islands off the Andaman coast of Thailand. Sadly it’s popularity does mean it gets a little overcrowded and expensive at times. But it’s a great stop for a few hours to explore the town, visit the grogeous beaches or take a hike up to the viewpoint where you can look down on two beautiful beaches separated by a strip of dazzling white sand.

koh phi phi thailand island hopping
Phang Nga Bay

You may recognise this stunning bay with its dramatic limestone karsts jutting vertically from the emerald water as a backdrop for several films. It’s most famous for being featured in the James Bond film ‘Man with a golden gun.’ This area is great for exploring caves, lagoons and has excellent snorkelling opportunities.

Koh Phangan nga bay thailand island hopping
Koh Racha

Easily accessible from Phuket, this island is actually fairly quiet as Thai islands go. But visit quickly as it is gaining popularity! This is a great island to go if you want to escape the crowds (at least it is for now…) It’s also a great location for anyone who wants to dive. If you are a diver, you may want to check out Live Aboard boats in Thailand.

Chicken Islands

Chicken Islands are famous for the huge rock formation looks like a chicken – although I think it looks more like a turtle with it’s head out of the water! There are some great spots for snorkelling in this area.

chicken islands thailand
Koh Phanak

At Koh Phanak, you’ll have an opportunity to get out in the kayaks to explore little caves, some leading to perfect shallow lagoons. You won’t find too many tourists here so you’ll often get the caves and lagoon to yourselves.

thailand kayaking islands
Koh Hong Lagoon

At Koh Hong, you’ll find a ridiculously beautiful lagoon with shallow emerald water and perfect beaches. Great for swimming and kayaking!

Sunset looking down onto Koh Phi Phi Don island in thailand

What was the Intrepid boat like?

The Intrepid boat is a catamaran and although it’s quite small (I prefer cosy,) it’s actually very comfortable. My favourite thing was the hammock at the front of the boat. So nice to swing over the ocean as you read your book in the sunshine.

What was the food like?

The food was incredible and our chef was an absolute genius in the kitchen. Often he would cook fresh fish he caught that day. I’m not very good with spicy food but he always made sure there were different options and pointed out which ones were okay for a chilli-wimp like me…

What were the cabins like?

There are a mixture of twin, double and quad share cabins. You’ll be matched with someone of the same gender to share a room. There’s not a lot of space so I’d recommend only bringing a small soft bag with you. Intrepid can arrange for you to leave the main luggage securely on mainland.

I was lucky and ended up with a double room to myself!

What were the Intrepid crew like?

The crew were brilliant. They were so friendly. Our skipper was British and the rest of the crews were local with minimal English skills but they made sure we were really well looked after at all times.

READ  Galapagos with G Adventures Review: Budget Galapagos Cruises Exist!

How many people will be on the boat?

The maximum number of passengers is 15. There were 8 of us on my trip for the first 4 days and for the last 3 days it was just 4 of us so we had a lot of extra space. (And more opportunities to use the hammock!)

thailand sailing trip with intrepid

What is included on an Intrepid sailing trip?

Accommodation, snorkelling and kayaking activities are all included. Most meals are provided although there is one evening where you eat in a little town. 6 breakfasts, 4 lunches and 4 dinners will be included in the cost so you really won’t have to spend much else.

Flights and pre-departure accommodation will need to be organised and financed by yourself. But during the trip, I only paid for the occasional drink or massage when I was on the islands.

Where to stay in Phuket before and after departure

There is no shortage of hotels in Phuket for you to choose from. But I’ve made the process a little easier by finding 4 fabulous hostels and hotels for any budget…

If you have the time, plan a few extra days in Phuket, there’s loads to see and do from relaxing on beaches to visiting Thailand’s beautiful temples.

Shoestring. Even on a shoestring budget, you can stay somewhere really nice. The Lub D hostel at Patong beach in Phuket is super modern and stylish offering both dormitory and private rooms. They also have a lovely pool as well as a games room, cinema room and even a boxing ring for learning some Muay Thai!

Budget. The clean, bright airy rooms at the Signature Phuket Resort are a great budget option with double rooms starting from $40. It has a brilliant pool and outdoor area.

Affordable luxury. Despite the affordable price tag, the Amari Phuket is pretty luxurious with its infinity pool, spa and private beach. You can even have an outdoor bath on your verandah overlooking the ocean, filled with rose petals!

Luxury. If there’s one hotel in Phuket which just oozes class and style, its The Surin Phuket. Set on a beautiful beach with pristine white sand and turquoise water, this hotel is a little further away from Phuket town so if you want to enjoy some peace and quiet before you go island hopping from Phuket, then this is the hotel for you.

Alternative sailing trips and companies for island hopping from Phuket

G adventures

I’ve travelled extensively with G Adventures including 3 land-based tours that travelled through Thailand. I’ve also taken a sailing trip with them in the Galapagos. (Check out my budget Galapagos cruise review here.) They do a very similar island-hopping sailing trip from Phuket which you can check out here.

I’ve actually compared G Adventures with Intrepid in this article; G adventures vs Intrepid Travel. But despite a few minor differences between the companies, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend either company.

thailand beach with lone rock

Live Aboard

If you want to do a lot of diving on your Thailand sailing trip then Live Aboard is the company for you. They are one of the biggest Live aboard companies with a great reputation and lots of different styles of sailing trip available at different budgets. Many will include several dives each day.

diving in thailand corel and fish

Read More…

So hopefully you found this Thailand island hopping guide and Intrepid sailing review useful!

No matter how you choose to do it, island hopping from Phuket is bound to be a dream holiday but I personally think a sailing holiday is a brilliant way to see a lot in a short time and reach the more remote islands. When the cost of day trips, accommodation, food, drink and ferries between islands is taken into consideration, it doesn’t actually cost you much more.

Would you take a sailing trip in Thailand with Intrepid Travel?

In the meantime, here are some pretty pins for your Pinterest boards…

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