The ultimate tropical beach playground
Phuket is Thailand’s premier leisure playground. Distinguished by lush, jungle-clad mountains, gorgeous beaches and turquoise waters, the island’s geographical wonders are backdrops to a highly evolved pleasure zone.
Most holidaymakers head to the west coast for the photogenic and well developed beaches of Patong, Surin, Kamala, Kata and Karong. Venture farther south to Cape Panwa and you’ll discover a more laid-back destination with local life, or head north to the Laguna Phuket complex, where the cluster of hotels, restaurants and leisure attractions make it ideal for families.
Old Phuket Town, with its beautiful heritage architecture, Thai-Chinese-Indian-Malay population and flourishing dining scene, is a pleasant cultural diversion from the sand and snorkelling. No trip to Phuket is complete without an excursion to the spectacular Phang Nga Bay - its dramatic limestone outcrops and aquamarine waters are more than Instagram-worthy.
Things to do
Old Town heritage
When Baan Chinpracha (Chinpracha Mansion) was built in 1903 it was in a coconut grove at the far edge of Phuket Town. Today it’s a beautiful heritage museum right in the city centre. Nearby, The Blue Elephant opens in new window restaurant occupies an elegant former mansion and has won numerous accolades for its exquisite Royal Thai food, and they also hold cooking classes.
Over the top it may be, but Fantasea opens in new window is certainly a novel night out. Where else can you ride an elephant, eat as much as you like and enjoy a Vegas-style show in the space of a few hours? The self-proclaimed 'Ultimate Cultural Theme Park' combines circus, carnival, food and shopping and what it lacks in subtlety it makes up for in impressive entertainment.
Phuket has seen a slew of Miami-style beach bars open on the island in recent years, offering sophisticated lounging and people watching in equal measure – usually to a soundtrack spun by an international DJ. Catch opens in new window on Surin Beach has a more chic, relaxed, family-friendly party vibe especially at weekends.
Skip the tourist buses at Cape Promthep (Phuket’s most famous sunset viewpoint) and opt for the western-facing hilltop between Ya Nui and Nai Harn beaches in the south of the island. Known as Windmill Point, due to the tall windmills facing out to the sea, this is the spot for spectacular sunsets without the crowds.
Phuket is a water sports hotspot. The best diving and snorkelling are found on a short boat trip from the main island – most excursions will take you to Phang Nga Bay, home to James Bond Island. The beaches of Kata and Kamala host a burgeoning surf scene from May to October, and Phuket is an established sailing destination with the King’s Cup Regatta attracting pros from around the world every December.
Distance to Phuket Town 32km
Taxi Taxis from the airport should use their meter – expect to pay around THB 400 to Phuket Town (50 minutes away), THB 550 to Patong and THB 600 to Kata/Karon 600 (plus a THB 100 airport surcharge).
Bus A public bus opens in new window runs around every hour from the airport to Phuket Town, it takes about 80 minutes and costs THB 100.Back to top
When to go
Thailand’s weather is often described as hot (November–February), hotter (March–April) and wet (May–October), with slight regional variations. Phuket is a year-round destination, although March–April is extremely hot with temperatures shooting up to 40°C, and the months of September and October are often subject to heavy rainfall. The cool season between November and February, with its blue skies and breeze is the most enjoyable – and most popular time to visit.
There are 18 public holidays a year in Thailand, during which most businesses close, but shops and restaurants in tourist areas stay open. Songkran – the Thai New Year and the biggest holiday – falls mid-April. Phuket is famed for its lavish celebrations of the Chinese Vegetarian Festival, which falls late September or early October.Back to top
Flagging down taxis in Phuket is easy, though it can be tricky to find a driver who will use his meter. Metered fares start at THB 50 for the first 2 kilometres, THB 12 per kilometre for the next 15km and THB 10 per kilometre after that. Price boards give maximum rates for fixed-fare journeys; you can negotiate down.
Three-wheeled tuk tuks are everywhere in Patong and Phuket Town – negotiate the fare before you get on. Songthaews (converted pickup trucks that seat several passengers) run between the main resort areas and Phuket Town; they’re cheaper but slower, worth doing once just for the experience.Back to top