Along the north-east coast of Phuket lies Ao Po, a semi-rural area of jungle-clad hillsides, rubber tree plantations, mangroves and a coast dotted with fishing villages. Although Ao Po remains blissfully removed from the tourist track, you can see Phang Nga Bay with its iconic limestone karsts glistening across the calm emerald sea. 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.
A holiday in Ao Po is fascinating thanks to its rugged beaches where you may sight fisherfolk casting their nets in the shallows, countless mangrove-lined inlets, bustling local piers, fishing villages with golden mosque spires and colourful houses. Swimming isn't ideal in the shallow waters around Ao Po, but the area's quiet rural roads and parks with waterfalls offer you plenty of things to do around the area. Or you could just 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 an 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.