Phuket is glorious vacation destination that promises exciting adventures, incredible experiences, and fantastic activities. Explore beautiful landscapes from treks into the rainforest and ziplining through the trees to boat trips to paradise islands and marine wonderlands to dive and snorkel in; and be entertained with spectacular shows. Relax at chic beach clubs during the day and night or jump into the buzzing atmosphere of Phuket’s nightlife scene; delve into the island’s many night markets and explore its rich cultural heritage, meeting an elephant or two along the way.
The enduring allure of Phuket, the Jewel in the Andaman Sea, shines way beyond its fabulous beaches, marinas for yachting, luxury resorts and luxury villa accommodations, and gourmet restaurant; with many wonderful things to see and do.
1. Take a boat trip to Phang Nga Bay
Explore a beautiful and magical marine landscape of spectacular limestone karsts jutting dramatically out of the cobalt blue of the Andaman Sea and discover another world. Ao Phang Nga National Park is one of Thailand’s scenic beauties and Phang Nga Bay between Phuket, Phang Nga, and Krabi is dotted with divine islands such as the iconic James Bond Island which featured in the 007 movie The Man with the Golden Gun. The most incredible way to experience Phang Nga Bay is with a boat trip, whether a breathtaking speedboat ride or a more leisurely cruise. Home to sea caves and mangroves, the clean waters are perfect for swimming and snorkeling, with castaway beaches to drop anchor during the day.
2. Visit the Big Buddha
Looking out over the landscape, Phuket’s Big Buddha sparkles under the blue sky and is an iconic sight in the south of the island. Standing at 45 meters high with a base that is 25 meters long, the statue is covered in beautiful white jade marble that sparkles under the tropical sun. Taking about an hour to hike up the mountain, Big Buddha can also be reached by road with a short walk to the base which is one of Phuket’s most famed viewpoints. Visit at sunset and really see the beauty of Phuket from a panoramic perspective, looking out to the Andaman Sea.
3. Go Snorkeling or Diving
The clear waters of the Andaman Sea are perfect for snorkeling and diving, with November to April the calmest conditions. Local snorkel and dive beaches include Paradise Beach with its coral reef not far from the shore, Ao Sane Beach which boasts a dive center and rocky bays for underwater exploration, and Laem Ka Beach close to Rawai in the South, which is a quiet stretch of water. Boat trips and charters head out to nearby islands such as Coral Island and Racha Noi, and Racha Yai. Further away the island of Phi Phi is renowned for its coral reefs while the Similan Islands are one of the world’s top dive sites.
4. Explore Old Phuket Town
A glimpse into another side of the island, away from the beautiful beaches, Old Phuket Town is an atmospheric quarter. Quaint and wonderfully preserved Sino-Portuguese shophouses and Sino-Colonial mansions still stand, reflecting the rich tin-mining history of Phuket which stretches as far back as the 16th century. The town is home to a diversity of ethnic communities, including the Baba Chinese migrants. Today, cafés, restaurants, and interesting boutiques add to the town’s charm, with plenty of Thai and Chinese temples too. Sundays is a busy evening when Phuket Walking Street market opens on Thalang Road with handicrafts, local southern Thai foods, and a fun, family-style atmosphere.
5. Take a Thai cooking class
Sugar and spice, salty and sour; classic Thai cooking brings out the incredible intensity of flavors with perfect balance and food is at the heart of Thai culture. Learn the art of creating one of the world’s most well-loved cuisines with an interactive Thai cooking class. Think lemongrass, ginger and soy as well as coriander, chilli, and garlic. The fresh taste of Thai dishes is even more delicious and fun to make in Thailand and you can take recipes home to create long after your vacation. Phuket is home to some distinctive southern Thai curries and has its own culinary identity.
6. Go Up to the Viewpoints
As well as the views from Phuket’s Big Buddha statue, a renowned place to stop and marvel at the scenery is Karon Viewpoint which locally is called Kata Viewpoint and looks out from a hill across three pretty bays. Sunset scenes are always stunning on the western-side of the island. Perhaps the most iconic is Promthep Cape which is a peninsula on the southernmost tip. Still down in the south of the island, Windmill Viewpoint, named after the area’s wind turbine is gorgeous with the cape and Ya Nui Beach within view.
7. Enjoy Sunset at Promthep Cape
Promthep Cape promises amazing views out over the peninsula of this southernmost point of Phuket during the day. As the day comes to an end, cameras point west to capture what is considered one of the best sunset views on the island. Whilst lovely, to capture the best shot of the sun going down on another tropical vacation day in paradise walk a little down the path that leads out to the end with views out over Nai Harn Beach. A top tip is to remember to turn your flash off and to arrive in time to not only see the sunset but to experience its full natural beauty.
8. Visit Wat Chalong & Other Temples
Renowned as Phuket’s most important temple, Wat Chalong is regarded as home to healing powers. It was here in the 19th Century that one of the temple’s three most highly revered monks was said to have performed miracles using herb to help those wounded in a rebellion with Chinese tin miners, helping settle the dispute too. Phuket is home to around 30 temples, with many important Chinese shrines too such as Jui Tui Temple which is famed for its dedication to Kiu Wong, the Vegetarian God. Meanwhile, Put Jaw Temple reveres Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy in Daoism tradition. Head to Wat Khao Rang to see a large golden sitting Buddha and Wat Srisoonthorn to gaze at the huge reclining Buddha.
9. Spend a Night Out at Bangla Road
Bangla Road is the epicenter of Phuket’s nightlife in the buzzing Patong area. Whilst luxury does not spring to mind, this part of Phuket is a fun and wild enclave for partygoers and those who want to be part of a unique neighborhood on the island. Love it or hate it, you have to experience the neon-lit hedonism of bars, restaurants, live music, and big night clubs to fully decide. The upbeat and non-stop energy of this tourist hub is about vacation fun and whilst not everyone’s style, draws in many, especially those looking for some action once the sun goes down over the island’s western shore.
10. Visit the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary
Experience the wonder of Thailand’s majestic creatures. Elephants are sacred in Thai Buddhist belief and are wonderfully protected at Phuket Elephant Sanctuary. Here they roam and bathe in freshwater lagoons at what is a retirement home for old, sick, and injured elephants and those that have been exploited through tourism. Responsible Travel is about ethical elephant tourism and within the green forest grounds, on the edge of Khao Phra Thaeo National Park in the east, you can feed these gentle giants and get up close to better understand and appreciate them. Booking a scheduled tour is essential as the sanctuary does not accept visitors who turn up without a prior reservation.
11. Be Entertained at the Simon Cabaret Show
Thailand’s most famous ladyboy extravaganza, the Simon Cabaret Show is a fabulous visual spectacle of sequins and sparkles that has been playing out to rapt audiences in Phuket for over 25 years. Stylish, extravagant, and totally glamorous the show is a family-friendly display of incredible song and dance performances, with a big injection of fun and comedy. Experience Thai culture in the most theatrical musical style with big costumes and big performances in three shows per night. Family-friendly, the ‘ladies’ are true stars and meet and greet visitors in the foyer after the show signing autographs and posing for photos.
12. Be Amazed at the Phuket Trickeye Museum
A favorite amongst teens, as well as families and groups of friends, what you think you see is not what you get when you become part of the artwork at Phuket Trickeye Museum. Interactive and fun, 3D painting means that once you stand in front of certain parts of each picture it looks as if you are really there. Not only that, but you also create the narrative and become part of a three-dimensional story. You might look like you are tight-rope walking, escaping the clutches of a hungry shark or even sat inside a famous masterpiece. There is more than meets the eye and with cameras at the ready the experience is laugh-out-loud pure entertainment.
13. Feel Exhilarated with Thai Boxing (Muay Thai)
The national sport of Thailand, there is more to Muay Thai than boxing. It is a pastime that many Thais are passionate about and the sport showcases culture, history, and ritual. There are opportunities to keep fit with a Thai Boxing lesson or training campt or you can watch the action ringside at a real Muay Thai match. Patong Boxing Stadium sees fighters in the ring on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Bangla Boxing Stadium is another well-known venue that attracts international fighters with matches on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. A full-on contact martial art, watching Muay Thai is a dynamic experience though not for the faint-hearted.
14. Visit the Soi Dog Foundation
Animal-lovers can help support street dogs and cats who are looked after at Phuket’s praiseworthy Soi Dog Foundation. As well as sponsoring a dog, you can get donate medical supplies, and buy charity merchandise by visiting the foundation, just inland from Mai Khao Beach in the north-west of the island, which is open from Monday – Friday. Meet the courageous animals who are safe from harm during one of the four guided tours of the shelter each day with no need to book in advance; a rewarding way of helping the animal protection organization survive and in turn help thousands of animals every year.
15. Take a Day Trip to Koh Yao Noi
Become a castaway for a day. Meaning ‘small long island’, Koh Yao Noi is a beautifully unspoilt island in Phang Nga Bay. Undeveloped, the island is a natural beauty that boasts some of the most incredible snorkeling and dive experiences, with visitors enjoying swimming off the quiet beaches and sea kayaking too. You can reach the island with a 45-minute private or public ferry-service speedboat trip or one-hour longtail boat ride, from Bang Rong Pier in Phuket’s north east to Manoh Pier in Koh Yao Noi. To visit both Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi, , boats to leave from the quieter Rasssada Pier in the south-east of the island.
16. Spend a Day or Two in Koh Phi Phi
There is something magical about the beauty of the Krabi landscape with its paradise white-sand beaches and limestone karsts. The six Phi Phi islands are film-set stunning, with Phi Phi Don being the main island visited. Whilst the undertone of Phi Phi is laid back, the island has become an upbeat nightlife hotspot with beach parties and fire dancing. Away from the festival atmosphere at night, Phi Phi is chilled during the day. Private speedboats run the 45-minutes from Rassada Pier in Phuket’s south-east to Ao Tonsai Pier on Koh Phi Phi, with ferry services taking 90 minutes. There are also boats that continue on to Koh Lipe and Langkawi via Phi Phi and Koh Lanta.
17. Have Fun in One of The Beach Clubs in Kamala
Hip, happening, and uber-relaxing, Phuket’s beach clubs are the epitome of seaside vacation cool. Think smart, comfy loungers and private cabanas by a sparkling pool right by the sand; with gourmet food and Hollywood-style glamor. Kamala Beach, on Phuket’s western shore, is part of the island’s luxury Millionaire Mile and home to the chic and sophisticated HQ Beach Lounge with its poolside nests and laid-back, stylish simplicity during the day turning into a club vibe after dark. The iconic Café del Mar brings Ibiza-style fun and defines beach-club hedonism with a party atmosphere that creates a relaxed yet upbeat and enjoyable island vacation experience.
18. Visit Khao Sok National Park
Explore one of the world’s oldest evergreen rainforests and discover your sense of adventure in the incredible jungle landscape of Khao Sok National Park. A couple of hours north from Phuket’s airport takes you into the heart of this wild and wonderful beauty spot with its gorgeous manmade lake, caves, waterfalls, and wild animals such as elephants and tigers. Visitors can enjoy trekking as well as canoeing and boat tours, plus bamboo rafting along the Sok River with stunning views of the limestone cliffs. Organized tours and activities can really enhance a visit with guides revealing the forest’s incredibly rich diversity of flora and fauna.
19. Go to the Phuket Weekend Market
When the sun goes down the market stalls come out in Phuket, and none are as well-known as those found at the Phuket Weekend Market on Saturdays and Sundays from 4 pm. Close to Central Festival, the market sells just about everything, from clothes to souvenirs, electronics and more. With snacks galore, the atmosphere is festive and makes for a fun weekend wander. Phuket Walking Street is another Sunday market in Phuket Old Town and serves up street food with handicraft and souvenir stalls. Meanwhile, trendy Chillva Market is open daily selling wares from containers, while the Thursday and Friday Indy Market is a real mix with individuals rather than businesses setting up different stalls each week.
20. Pump it up at the Flying Hanuman
Get your adrenalin pumping as you dramatically fly through the air in incredible jungle terrain, ziplining from tree to tree at Flying Hanuman; Phuket’s top eco-adventure destination. Platforms are linked by ziplines while each course includes walking over sky bridges, leaping off abseil points, and the excitement of spiral staircases and sky rails. Also You can explore the landscape with a wilderness walk. With three different courses to choose from, fun for all the family is guaranteed; another world and a whole new experience within easy reach, close to the center of the island near Kathu Waterfall. Customized videos are a wonderful way to remember the whole day too.
21. Go Street Shopping in Patong
Patong, Phuket’s busiest and most touristy area does not do anything subtly and the shopping experience here is just that…an experience. Each night a myriad of stalls set up at the Paradise Night Market and the range of goods here makes for a fun way to spend an evening. There are always the aromas of the many food stalls to sample too. During the day, the Beach Road and small roads off this are jam-packed with vendors selling anything and everything, whilst even lounging on the beach fresh fruit, tasty snacks and deck-chair massages are just a raised-hand away. Patong also boasts many malls, such as Junk Ceylon, for those who need some air-con with their retail therapy.
Featured image by Anand Mulky