When Phuket began taking off in the 1980s as one of Southeast Asia's great destinations, the provincial government had the good sense to put a sizable chunk of it under protection from overdevelopment. After all, it's the island's natural beautybeaches, coral reefs, jungles, and did we mention the beaches?that brought tourists here in the first place. But beaches and diving aren't Phuket's only attractions. The limestone cliffs rising out of Phang Nga Bay have been worn away by the Andaman Sea, creating caves perfect for exploring via sea kayak. On your way back to the mainland, you can eat spicy curries in a Muslim fishing village built entirely on stilts over the water. Khao Lak
and Khao Sok national parks on the Phang Nga mainland have everything from whitewater rafting to hiking, bird-watching to elephant treks. And the entire region is dotted with Buddhist temples, ranging from ornate gold-leafed wats
to temples built within caves (and often populated by playful monkeys).