Ao Po lies on the north-eastern coast of Phuket. It’s a rural area of jungle-wrapped hillsides, rubber tree plantations and mangroves; it’s coast dotted with modest fishing villages. Though Ao Po remains well off the tourist track, beckoning just offshore is Phang Nga Bay with its iconic towering limestone karsts and calm emerald seas. A place that inspires travel dreams of gliding over sun-shimmered waters aboard a traditional wooden longtail boat, or sipping champagne on the deck of a luxury yacht. A place of hidden lagoons and floating villages, James Bond island and mysterious sea caves.
Ao Po’s own coastline is also fascinating places to explore. Think rugged beaches with a few wading fisherfolk casting their nets in the shallows, countless mangrove-lined inlets to explore by kayak or standup paddleboard, bustling local piers, fishing villages with golden mosque spires and colourful houses.
Having first attracted sea-faring travellers to its shores as an easy launching point to the bay, this secret sailors’ spot now attracts the superyacht set, as well as those in search of the ‘real Phuket’, away from the crowds.
Swimming isn’t ideal in the shallow waters around Ao Po, but the area’s quiet rural roads and jungly parks with waterfalls offer plenty of natural sights to explore. Or hop on a boat and find some dreamy beaches and snorkelling sights just minutes away at nearby islands.
A short drive from Ao Po is the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary and the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project – two animal rescue centres that offer a more ethical way to encounter Thailand’s fascinating wildlife. Mission Hills, Phuket’s most scenic golf course with those glorious east-coast views, is about 15 minutes away by car, while those in search of world-class sports and fitness facilities will find them at nearby Thanyapura wellness centre.
Dining in and around Ao Po is mostly a laid-back, local scene. Bang Pae Seafood, on a small beach near Bang Rong Pier, and Peang Prai near Khao Phra Thaeo national park, are two standout restaurants for Thai seafood. For more upscale dining choices and buzzing beach clubs, simply hop over to the west coast, where there are plenty of choices around Bangtao Beach.