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.
Travel time 40–60 minutes
Taxi Approximately THB 400–600
Airport bus runs every 90 minutes to Phuket Town. Fares range from THB 30 to 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), and there are 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; fares start at THB 50. 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, and are a cheaper though slower option.
All the main car hire firms have stands at the airport and Phuket is relatively easy to navigate; many of the main roads have been upgraded in recent years. Motorbikes may be tempting, but there are 10,000 motorbike accidents in Phuket each year – check you’re covered by insurance before you hop on one.Back to top