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Authored by Jo Karnaghan

I’m not an adventurous person.  I’ve never bungee jumped, zip lined or skied.  I don’t even care for hiking much. Give me a market, a food tour or a lounge by the pool any day.  But family holidays are different. It’s a time to explore, and we always aim to try something different. We aim to place ourselves outside of our comfort zones.

That’s why we decided on canoeing around the islands of Phang Nga Bay rather than a leisurely boat ride on our recent trip to Phuket.

Canoeing Around the Islands of Phang Nga Bay Thailand

Phang Nga Bay Thailand RF

Phang Nga Bay, off the east coast of Phuket Island is definitely one of the most beautiful parts of Thailand.  That means there are plenty of tour operators, flight bookings, and options for departure points.  We boarded our ship in the village of Ao Por at the far north east of Phuket Island.  It was a pretty little village in its own right, complete with traditional fishing boats, and that gorgeous aquamarine water.

The trip out to our canoeing destination was about an hour by boat, but what a trip!  Glorious scenery, stunning rock formations and that pretty sea.  I wasn’t really sure how canoeing could improve our experience. But I was willing to give it a go! Can you canoe around the islands in Thailand?

We reached Hong Island, our first canoe stop.  Our canoes were inflatable and our guide Bobbie ordered the family in to keep everything nicely balanced.  “You here Mrs, now you Miss, you go at the front Mr.” Ay, ay, Captain!

I still wasn’t feeling adventurous, but at least I was in the canoe without any mishap!

Start of the Adventure

Canoes headed off into the coves and inlets of the island.  Despite the other canoes in the water, it was incredibly peaceful.  Just us, Bobbie and the sea.  Sensing our mood, Bobbie paddled slowly, keeping us away from the noise and boisterous water fights going on between the other canoes.  Instead, he showed us the features of the island, and told us stories of the local people’s history and beliefs about the island and the sea.

The last “room” we entered was a real treat.  A tiny little gap in the rocks, which required us to lie flat to fit through we arrived in an almost perfectly circular inlet – stunning! Best water adventures in Thailand.

We heard birdsong, and on the way back to our ship we saw crabs and fish as our little canoe hugged the island.

Off to our second and last destination, Panak Island, which was completely different.  We beached our canoe and headed off on foot through knee height water, into what looked like a cave.  Bobbie took my youngest and went ahead with a little torch to light our way.  He also had some mysterious object in his hand.

As we headed deeper into the cave we could see a soft glow in the distance.  Getting closer, the glow started to make more sense. Bobbie’s mysterious object also made sense – a coconut shell with an offering.  We added ours to the rest of the offerings.  No, it wasn’t adventurous, but it was a pretty and meaningful part of our excursion.

Deeper into the cave, and finally we emerge into the sunlight. Again we are in an almost perfectly circular inlet.  Except this time it is a mangrove.  At high tide it is possible to canoe through the caves and into the mangrove itself, but it’s low tide when we visit.

Return to Ao Por

It’s getting late as we return to Ao Por. But the beauty of our trip is not finished.  We are treated to a magnificent Thai sunset just as photogenic as any I have seen. 

Canoeing round the islands of Phang Nga Bay is wonderful trip whether you are a solo traveller, a couple or a family.  Choose your tour operator according to your taste and budget and your canoeing expedition can be as adventurous or relaxing as you want it to be.

We let Bobbie paddle us around, but many others on our ship paddled themselves with their guide for company.  I thoroughly recommend a trip that returns to Phuket in the evening.  Watching the sun set over the Bay is worth the trip alone.

I’m still not an adventurous person, but I did love my little “adventure” canoeing round the islands of Phang Nga Bay!

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Jo is the Chief Frugalista at  Originally a timid traveller with a chronic over packing problem and shoe addiction, in her 30+ years of travel, Jo has learned how to pack light and travel better.

She now spends less and travels more – usually in First Class, and loves sharing her expertise with savvy Frugalistas.  Jo’s heart is in Europe, but she loves family holidays in South East Asia, and living in Sydney Australia.

Follow Jo on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

Previous photo credits: Shark AttacksMike BehnkenEustaquio SantimanoGregg TavaresChris Davey.


  1. Nice post! We were there several years ago, staying in Ko Yao Noi (which gets few tourists and is very quiet) for five days and doing some longtail trips to some of the islands of the bay (including the above mentioned Hong island).

    It’s a beautiful area with a million tourists if you go to the wrong places…but yes, there are still a few quiet gems in between.
    Frank (bbqboy)

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Frank! I’m personally yet to get to Thailand, though with every guest post I accept my bucket list grows a little longer!!

      I’m hoping that by the time I have the chance to discover Asia I would have figured out all of the quiet gems so that we can escape the mass tourism too :)

    • i agree – there are definitely parts of Phuket that are definitely too well loved, but it’s still nice to be able to find some hidden gems and our little canoe trip was definitely one of those!

  2. Beautiful! No better way to get around an island!

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Rebecca! Canoeing is definitely a fabulous way to explore when it comes to an island destination :)

    • what I really loved was that we could get so close to everything from the canoes – little details we would have missed from a big boat

  3. This I so want to do!!! – not much else to say, great post and I want to go now!

    • Excellent!! Glad Jo’s post inspired you Joseph! Hope you can get to Thailand soon :)

    • so pleased my post has inspired you! Phuket is certainly a wonderful part of the world – hope you get there soon!

  4. Beautiful post! Canoeing in Phang Nga Bay seems like a peaceful and unique way to experience Thailand; I love the candle offerings in the caves.

    • So glad you enjoyed the post Mary :) Outdoor adventure is always the best way to explore :D

  5. You have amazing photos! Thank you for sharing!

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Joe :) Hope you have a chance to jump in a Kayak in Thailand soon!

  6. Sounds like a lovely way to spend a day.

    • Absolutely! Hope you have the chance to travel soon!

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