Where to find Phuket's hidden gems

There’s more to Phuket than golden beaches and a tropical climate. Dig deep and you’ll unearth an array of great experiences in this Thai holiday idyll.

People walking on the street of Patong town.
  • Paul Ewart
  • August 2018

Phuket’s coastline of white sand beaches and postcard-perfect craggy rock formations are the reason it’s referred to as the Pearl of the Andaman Sea. Thailand’s largest island Phuket has long lured travellers seeking a dose of sun and sand. But there’s more to this isle than golden beaches and a tropical climate. Dig deep and you’ll unearth an array of great experiences.

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Island hop

You can still escape the crowds, despite the prolific number of tourists. For deserted coves and palm-fringed, beaches, cast off to one of the 200 or so islands off the coastline.

These scarcely populated isles are easily accessed by renting a wooden long-tail or speed boat, or joining a tour. Most tourists make a beeline for James Bond Island and Phi Phi (the latter became a stop on the backpacker trail after being used as a location for movie, The Beach, in 2000), but Phuket Sail Tours avoids the usual haunts and takes guests to hidden lagoons, deserted beaches and stalagmite- and stalactite-filled sea caves.

Be a culture vulture

You can’t find many signs of it while blissing out on the beach, but Phuket has a rich and varied history.

There is so much to see and do in Phuket that is away from the beaches.

Join one of the heritage trails operated by Phuket City Tours to get an introduction into the culturally rich island. The half-day tours guide visitors through colourful Sino-Portugese architecture, street art, temples and traditional shophouses, and allow them to get up close with locals who embody the country’s tourism catchphrase, “the land of smiles”.

A Sino-Portugese house in Phuket Old Town

New year, new you

Combat seasonal over-indulgence and welcome in 2018 with a full body detox at Phuket’s premium wellness resort, Amatara. Try a tailored healthy holiday experience that includes a personalised eating plan (including rejuvenating juice cleanses), a program of holistic therapies and an exercise plan (think yoga, TRX, cycling and Pilates, stand-up paddle boarding or aqua personal training) to leave you feeling and looking like new. The hotel also houses a 2000 square-metre destination spa, which includes the world’s first Thai Hamman.

Consider a full body detox at Phuket’s premium wellness resort Amatara.

Haute hotels

If you are after a luxury hotel experience, some of the best include seven-bedroom luxury villa The Aquila, with a private chef, its own waterfall and private secluded cove, and the relative newcomer Wyndham Grand Phuket Kalim Bay offering private six or nine-metre infinity pools.

And for serious high rollers, five-star hotel, Kata Rocks, hosts the annual Superyacht Rendezvous event.

A green turtle wants to greet you at the Similan Islands.

Into the deep

Head north-west by boat and you’ll eventually hit the pristine Similan Islands. The clear turquoise waters are consistently ranked in the top 10 diving locations in the world. The most famous is Richelieu Rock, where you can swim with whale sharks and turtles, seahorses, leopard sharks and more.