Sneak out of your five-star hotel to explore the best spots around Cape Panwa.
Although located on the far southwestern tip of Phuket, Cape Panwa is one of the most popular destinations on the island, thanks to stellar high-end resorts like Sri Panwa. Despite being remote, Cape Panwa, which has also just welcomed the Regent Phuket Cape Panwa, does offer a few must-visit attractions, from beaches, islands, waterfalls and, of course, magnificent views, while still being only 15 minutes from the center of Phuket Town.
The beaches at Cape Panwa are not ideal for swimming but are perfect for lazing about in the sun. The new hotel (see Grand Opening) has the most beautiful private beach of all the resorts in the area. White sands and idyllic blue water make this beach a great place to unwind. However, it is restricted to hotel guests. A little drive away is a beach called Ao Yon. This quiet beach is home to fishermen and a number of yachts. Local restaurants offer boat trips if you fancy a spot of fishing.
Phuket is justifiably famous for its beaches, but waterfalls are another real attraction of the island. One nearby is Ao Yon Waterfall. Situated 10 minutues from Cape Panwa, the place is rather difficult to find, situated right where Soi Ruam Jai Ao Yon ends. It also takes a little trekking to reach the spot but it’s worth it for its strong water flow, especially during rainy season. Sit right next to the fall or dangle your legs in to get massaged by nature.
Sat at the tip of the cape is the Phuket Aquarium (51 Mu 8, Sakdidej Road, 076-391-051, www.phuketaquarium.org). Though quite old now, it still acts as a valuable education center exhibiting all kinds of seawater fish species, as well as doling out knowledge on how to protect the local ecosystem. On Saturday and Sunday you can dive with the fish and help feed them from 11-11:30am. Here, they also house turtles that have been rescued from the sea and are now looked after by the aquarium officials. The aquarium is located right on the beachside and has a natural trail with different kinds of sea plants on display. The Panwa beach next to it also has a great view from afternoon till sunset when colorful longtail boats dot the beach.
Top of the Cape
Khao Khad Views Tower is located slightly out of the way, in Wichit District on Skdidej Road past through Mudong Canal, and requires you to climb a few steps or take the natural wooden bridge trail to reach the top for a 360-degree view of south Phuket and its nearby islands. But it’s more than worth it. Chalong Bay, Makham Bay, Cape Panwa and, at a distance, the Big Buddha are all visible. The best time to go is afternoon until sunset, too.
Island Day Trips
Island-hopping is a great option for visitors here for a long stay. There are two islands close to Panwa. Coral Island or Koh Hae, three kilometers southeast of Phuket, has two beaches, Banana Beach and Long Beach, where you can view the impressive coral reef with a bit of snorkeling. The island is also great for doing water sports like kayaking. Leaving from the aquarium, day trips by longtail boat take approximately 45 minutes each way and include lunch and light snacks at B1,200 roundtrip (bargain hard). Some 12 kilometers south of Phuket lies Racha Island or Koh Raya, famous for diving and snorkeling. The clear waters and white sands see day-trippers flock here, with some even staying on in the bungalows and resorts that have begun to spring up. Day trips by speedboat take around 30 minutes each way and cost B1,600 roundtrip inclusive of lunch and light snacks.
The Local Taste
When evening falls, the best choice to catch the sunset while sipping a few refreshing cocktails is Sri Panwa’s Baba Nest, an exclusive rooftop bar with a panoramic view of Phuket’s southeastern islands. Another restaurant with a similarly impressive view is The Grill at the newly-opened Regent Phuket Cape Panwa. Its rooftop dining lounge boasts an impressive wine list to match the setting, too. Craving some local food? Head to the last turn of the cape where the welcoming Keang Lay (33/1 Mu 8, Sakdidej Road, 076-391-103, open daily 11:30am-10pm) serves up tasty local bites. Try the gaeng kati pu mee hun (spicy crab red curry with rice noodles, B150) served with beansprout, boiled eggs, pineapple and basil leaves, the stir-fried smoked dried shrimp with pak miang (melinjo nuts, B100) or minced fried pork or beef with dry curry (B120). Follow up your heavy dinner with a stroll along the Panwa beachside to Kantary Café (owned by Cape Panwa) for a few sweets. This cozy café does some of the best coffee in the area and serves a variety of cheesecakes. Try the coffee frappe (B75) with a fresh fruits cheesecake (B120) and sit by the window for the calming ocean breeze.
Where to stay
Sri Panwa (88 Sakdidej Rd, 076-371-000, www.sripanwa.com) is offering special rates for Thai residents during high season starting from B19,140 for a pool suite, B29,260 for a pool villa and B32,000 for an ocean view villa.
How to get there
Budget airlines offer cheaper prices during winter, with Nok Air starting at B4,298 and AirAsia at B3,736 for a roundtrip. Proper carriers like Bangkok Airways are offering B6,090 and Thai Airways B5,900 for a roundtrip.