The best things to do in Phuket
Escape to Thailand’s original island paradise for beautiful beaches, delicious food and fascinating local culture.
- November 2021
Blissful white sands, palm trees and turquoise waters – when it comes to tropical getaways, travel cliches aren’t necessarily a bad thing. And that’s the appeal of Phuket; it’s everything you want it to be. An exotic island escape offering a fun, easygoing and relaxing beach holiday. Sure, it’s touristy, but that’s all part of the fun. Beyond the resorts there are plenty of cultural attractions, and natural wonders for those looking for some adventure. Add delicious Thai food and lively nightlife, and it’s clear why Phuket is so popular.
Hit Phuket’s stunning beaches
With more than 40 beaches, Phuket has a patch of sand to suit all types. If you’re young and extroverted, then Patong is the place to be seen, while stunning Nai Han and Bang Tao offer low-key alternatives without the jet skis. To hit the beach in style, head to Surin and Kamala, known for their swanky beach clubs. Or to get away from it all, make for Mai Khao – 17km of isolated bliss. For a bit of everything, the conjoined twin beaches of Kata and Karon are perennial favourites for their family-friendly fun, relaxed coves and long surf beaches.
Rev up for a night out on the town
While the days are all about the beaches, Phuket’s nights have long been all about partying. From chilled sunset beers to regrettable 5am nightclub dancefloor sessions, Phuket’s legendary nightlife takes in the full journey. Whether it’s a beach bar with suspiciously cheap cocktails by the bucket or a more refined drinks lists at chic beach clubs or Instagrammable rooftop bars, there’s somewhere for all tastes. And then there’s Patong, Phuket’s very own sin city, known for its infamous go-go bars.
Come for the views, stay for spiritual enlightenment at Phuket’s Big Buddha
Sitting high atop Nakkerd Hill is Phuket’s monumental 45m-tall Buddha that keeps a serene watch over the island’s south. You can’t miss it looming from vantage points across the island, but to get a true sense of its scale be sure take the climb up. Not only will you be treated to transcendental coastal views but you’ll also find a peaceful spiritual atmosphere created by Phuket’s Buddhist community who come here to pray. To ensure you leave feeling enlightened, take the time to sit for a brief meditation class offered by local monks.
Take in Phuket’s rich history at its Old Town
Once you’re done lazing by the beach, dust off the towel and head into Phuket’s Old Town for a taste of local culture. Its vibrant streets are lined with heritage Sino-Portuguese shopfronts, Taoist shrines, Buddhist temples and beautiful ornate mansions converted into restaurants, cafes, art galleries and museums. And for an insight into Phuket’s fascinating past, don’t miss Phuket Thaihua Museum or Chinpracha House, both of which feature stunning period pieces and artefacts.
Jump in a kayak to explore Ao Phang-Nga’s stunning natural scenery
Of Phuket’s many day excursions, the trip out to Ao Phang-Nga’s famous limestone karst islands is the biggest crowd pleaser. Reached by boat, this national park is home to an unforgettable landscape of craggy forested islands with vertical cliffs that rise dramatically from the ocean – most famous is Koh Tapu, which was featured in James Bond’s The Man with the Golden Gun. Once you reach the islands, you’ll be transferred into kayaks to explore the spectacular system of caves, lagoons and mangroves, home to monitor lizards and crab-eating macaques.
Treat yourself to Phuket’s delicious food
Whether you're tucking into fiery wok-fried Pad Thai streetside or Thai royal cuisine at upmarket restaurants, food is undoubtedly a highlight of any visit to Phuket. You’ll find amazing local food everywhere from street vendors, night markets and seafood shacks to Old Town mansions. Blue Elephant opens in new window makes a memorable choice both for its traditional local food and elegant mansion setting. Its cooking school lets you to take the flavours back home with you, too. For somewhere romantic, Mom Tri’s Kitchen opens in new window makes a fine choice with its delicious fragrant Thai curries paired with dreamy coastal views.