An Island of Contrasts: Discover The Different Faces of Phuket

An island retreat and the pearl of the Andaman Sea, Phuket is the epitome of a luxurious tropical beach destination. Soft sands, azure waters, and year-round sunshine, even the monsoon rains attract those looking for some quality R&R in a peaceful setting when downpours are followed by sunny spells and coastal breezes.

However, unlike some castaway-island-style vacation spots, Phuket is an island of contrasts, offering so much more than feet-in-the-sand experiences. Think gourmet dining, adrenaline-fuelled activities, culture, and some exquisitely peaceful landscapes.

Gorgeous West-Coast Beaches

Millionaires Mile is the name given to the spectacular stretch of gorgeous beaches along Phuket’s glorious west coast, so named because of the stunning coastline being dotted with high-end resorts and some of the most exclusive luxury villas in Phuket, many of which are vacation villa rentals

This sunset side of the island promises white-sand beaches and amazing views out over the turquoise waters. This priceless location takes in Nai Thon Beach at the top, in the quieter northern quarters of the island, down the coastline to the beauty spot that is Layan Beach with its nearby river and island. Next up is family-friendly Bang Tao Beach with its watersports, then the more refined Surin Beach with its upscale al fresco restaurants. Kamala Beach is yet another laid-back beauty, with green hills and shallow waters.

Stunning azure waters of the palm-fringed Surin Beach

Chilled-Out East Coast Vibes

Over on the other side of the island, a different face of Phuket is discovered that portrays a real sense of tradition and Thai culture. Less touristy, no doubt due to there being less sandy shores, the attraction here is of being able to escape and experience something a little different than picture-postcard beaches. In the South-East, panoramic views impress, while Ao Yon Beach has an old-fashioned seaside ambiance, lacking the sophistication of many beaches on the western side.

Nearby Cape Panwa is a luxury enclave, as is Ao Po up on the north-eastern side of the island. Cape Yamu, a peninsular that juts outs, is a stylish and serene setting that has changed into a lifestyle haven with chic appeal with some fantastic bars and restaurants. Because of its location, sunrise and sunset views can be appreciated too. Phuket Royal Marina and one of the island’s main piers are located on this side, as well as two elephant sanctuaries.

Related article: Top 10 Phuket Best Beaches

Hedonistic Patong & Beachclub Luxury

Patong, on the western side of the island, has built up a solid party reputation around its lovely crescent-shaped sandy beach, with plenty of bars, restaurants, and entertainment lining the sands and nearby roads. The nightlife is energetic, aimed at young holidaymakers looking for a livelier setting than many of the more island’s more relaxed resorts.

Dream Beach Club’s party atmosphere at night. Photo: Dream Beach Club Facebook

Nearby, along the same side of the island, Phuket’s beach clubs offer a mix of upmarket relaxation by day and cool tunes and a more club-like atmosphere by night. These include Layan Beach’s Dream Beach, HQ Beach Lounge and Café del Mar on Kamala Beach, plus Bliss Beach Club and XANA Beach Club on Bang Tao Beach.

Atmospheric History of Phuket Old Town

Undoubtedly one of the standout features of Phuket that elevates it beyond simply being a beautiful island retreat in the sun is the fascinating Old Phuket Town with its rich heritage as a major trading route and a history of tin-mining. At the height of activity, in the 19th and 20th centuries, striking Sino-Colonial houses were built with many Sino-Portuguese shophouses that have been turned into boutiques, cafes, and restaurants today.

Old Town Phuket’s fascinating Sino-Portuguese architecture

The influence of Thai, Malay, Chinese, Indian, and European culture over the years gives Phuket Old Town its characteristic charm. With temples, shrines, museums, and old buildings this part of the island is particularly vibrant on Sunday evenings when the dynamic Phuket Walking Street market is held.

Action-Packed Adventure

Phuket is a must for any luxury traveler looking for experiential travel that energizes and revitalizes, with a huge amount of incredible activities. Not only are the conditions perfect for sailing, with a yachting calendar of international repute, the waters of the Andaman are also perfect for a spot of island-hopping adventure, snorkeling, and scuba diving.

Couple enjoying the Andaman Sea in Phuket on a yacht

Related article: The Andaman: A Marine Wonderland

Close to shore are the Koh Khai Islands, just a 15-minute speedboat trip away, with crystal-clear waters for snorkel enthusiasts. The Racha Islands, also nearby, offer more snorkel, diving, and fishing adventures, exuding a feeling of having left Phuket far behind. Other hotspots within day-tripping reach include Coral Island, just a few kilometers away and reached by longtail boat as well as the limestone isles of the world-famous Ao Phang Nga National Park with its mangrove forests, lagoons, and sea caves. Meanwhile, the Phi Phi Islands are less than an hour by speedboat too.

Pristine Beauty of Forest Landscapes

In the North, the Phuket experience is markedly different, with fewer tourists, and a far wilder, greener habitat. Not so far from the airport, this part of the island feels a world away from Patong which is far wilder in a different sense. Khao Phra Thaeo National Park is a landscape of virgin rainforest, with walking trails, waterfalls, and the incredible Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre. The park is a wildlife sanctuary that covers 23 square kilometers, with guides available and a wonderful variety of flora and fauna.

Bang Pae Waterfall nestled within the Khao Phra Thaeo National Park. Photo: windowonphuket.com

Sirinat National Park, covering 90 square kilometers, which includes the forest landscape as well as marine area too, includes forest beaches which are beautifully preserved. These include the sands at Hat Mai Khao and Hat Nai Yang, both of which are renowned as important sea turtle nesting spots.

Dining Destination Discoveries

A standout feature of Phuket has to be the sheer array of gourmet and fine-dining restaurants, with many Michelin-rated restaurants. Currently, PRU Restaurant has scooped a Michelin star, with ingredients sourced from the working farm to create unique dishes. Other renowned restaurants include Thai dishes at the iconic Blue Elephant, located in the Old Town.

Related article: Best Luxury Restaurants in Phuket and their Cuisine Specialty

Phuket is exciting and eclectic where sunshine days lounging, sunset massages, and dining under the stars are at the heart of any stay.

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