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Phuket is the largest island in Thailand and is a tropical paradise that attracts millions of tourists every year. Needless to say, there are plenty of things to do in Phuket to keep any traveler busy!
Although known for its stunning beaches, vibrant nightlife, and access to Thailand’s most beautiful islands, Phuket offers a plethora of activities that cater to all kinds of travelers.
Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie looking for adventure or a culture enthusiast seeking to learn more about Thailand’s rich heritage, Phuket has something for everyone.
In this guide, we’ve pieced together some of our top attractions in Phuket, from exploring ancient temples and sampling local delicacies to island-hopping.
So if you’re not sure what to do in Phuket, get ready to pack your bags and embark on an unforgettable journey to this exotic destination!
- Is Phuket Worth Visiting?
- Things to Do in Phuket
- 1. Check out the Beaches
- 2. Check Out the Big Buddha
- 3. Visit The Vibrant and Chaotic Phuket Night Markets
- 4. Take in the Colorful Nightlife in Phuket
- 5. Visit Wat Chalong
- 6. Explore Phuket Old Town
- 7. Dine at La Gaetana
- 8. Have a Drink at The Brasserie, Phuket Town
- 9. Catch a Sunset on the West Coast
- 10. Check Out Phuket Vegetarian Festival
- 11. Visit During Songkran Festival, Phuket
- 12. Take Part in the Lantern Festival, Loi Kratong (Festival of Lights)
- 13. Take a Boat Tour to Maya Bay and the Phi Phi Islands
- 14. Take a Boat Tour of Phang Nga Bay
- 15. Take a Boat Tour to Raya Island, Koh Khai and Coral Islands
- 16. Take a Day Trip to the Similan Islands National Park
- 17. Eat the Local Street Food
- 18. Watch a Muay Thai Fight
- 19. Spend the Evening Watching The Simon Cabaret Show
- 20. Visit Khao Phra Thaeo National Park
- 21. See the Monkeys on Monkey Hill (Toh Sae Hill)
- 22. Visit the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary
- 23. Take a Thai Cooking Class
- Best Time to Visit Phuket
- Getting To and Around Phuket
- Where to Stay in Phuket
- Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Phuket
Planning your trip to Phuket last-minute?
Don’t forget to plan ahead when visiting Phuket! Here are some of the top tours, hotels, and useful items you may need before your trip!
Top Experiences and Tours in Phuket
- Visit the Elephant Sanctuary in Phuket (a must for animal lovers!)
- A day trip to the Phi Phi Islands (see the iconic Maya Bay!)
- Watch the Simon Cabaret Show (an unmissable thing to do at night)
Top Accommodation and Hotels in Phuket
Is Phuket Worth Visiting?
There are many reasons why Phuket is worth visiting, but for me I think Phuket is the most accessible of Thailand’s island destinations in Southeast Asia.
It’s also the gateway to a great many of the world famous beaches in Thailand, national parks and islands that come to mind when you think of Thailand.
Phuket island has a rich cultural history, especially in Phuket Town where I live. The locals there, they live at a more ‘traditional pace’ and there are many beautiful examples of Chinese Shrines and Temples.
You are seriously spoiled for choice for food options in Phuket with probably a greater variety of cuisines than anywhere else in Thailand, outside of Bangkok of course, from hawker stands, beach vendors, local noodle shops, great Thai and Seafood restaurants right up to the finest International Dining.
While the beaches and blue skies are a major draw, I think it is the range of activities on offer that makes Phuket such a great all round destination.
You’ve got famous island excursions, world class snorkeling and dive trips, boat trips, elephant sanctuaries, trekking, jungle safaris, world class golf courses, cooking classes, scuba diving, traditional Thai massage, cabaret shows, go-carting, water parks, shooting ranges.
Things to Do in Phuket
Now you know why you should add Phuket to your Thailand bucket list, it’s time to show you what to do in Phuket for any visitor!
1. Check out the Beaches
Phuket boasts of some of the world’s best beaches. The beaches of Phuket are renowned for their crystal-clear waters, white sands, and stunning views.
Whether you’re looking for adventurous water sports to relaxing beachside massages, the beaches of Phuket cater to all kinds of visitors.
Some of the must-visit beaches in Phuket include Patong Beach which is known for its parasailing and jet ski experiences in the day, and wild nightlife after sunset.
Some quieter beaches are Ao Yon, Cape Panwa, Banana Beach, Nai Harn Beach, Freedom Beach, Paradise Beach and some completely deserted beaches are Mai Khao and Layan Beach.
Some other popular beaches you might want to check out are…
At the northern end, this Phuket beach has become the ultra-hip place to hangout and you will find the trendiest bars and restaurants along this stretch of coastline.
Kata Beach and Karon Beach
For a more Phuket laid back scene I’d recommend Kata and Karon Beaches as some of the best beaches in Phuket.
There is still enough going on here to keep you interested and the beaches are some of the very best on the island.
There are also some amazing viewpoints nearby such as Karon Viewpoint, which you can visit by motorbike, car or Tuk Tuk.
Another area I like is Cherng Talay. It is a couple of beaches up from Patong and generally caters for a more discerning clientele in the high end resorts of Surin and Bangtao beaches, and of course the massive Laguna Complex of resorts.
Cherng Talay is a good place to rent a villa or apartment and it is a popular place with expats. The pace of life is very relaxed here and there are some great international restaurants, bars and beach clubs.
If you rent a motorbike or car while you are here, I’d recommend trying to find Laem Singh Beach. It is accessible by some very steep steps and is a very laid back bay with fantastic snorkeling around the rocks on the beach and has a great, relaxed vibe.
2. Check Out the Big Buddha
Sat on his mountaintop is always awe-inspiring, it is huge and can be spotted from most places in the south of the island.
It is even more impressive from the top and there are some brilliant viewpoints all the way up the mountain, not just from the summit.
3. Visit The Vibrant and Chaotic Phuket Night Markets
Stretch all the way along the beach road and just about every available space in-between.
Browsing the colourful stalls of handmade crafts, souvenirs, clothes and dubious counterfeit items is an experience that is integral to travel in Asia and they don’t come much more full on than in Patong.
4. Take in the Colorful Nightlife in Phuket
Patong has an infamous reputation for it’s ‘colorful’ nightlife and everyone should experience the beer bars, discos and go-go bars of Soi Bangla (the main strip) at least once in their life.
5. Visit Wat Chalong
The Wat, or temple, is one of the most recognizable symbols of Thailand and Wat Chalong is a shining example.
It is the largest temple in Phuket and is richly decorated with beautiful colours and countless images of Buddha and icons from Thai and Buddhist mythology.
6. Explore Phuket Old Town
Old Town Phuket is a great place to be and really gives you a glimpse of what life was like on the island 100’s of years ago when the Chinese and Europeans arrived and started mining for tin.
There are many stunning examples of Sino-Portuguese architecture and Chinese shop houses, which are still to this day operating as traditional textiles, gold and printing businesses.
Nowadays, they are also home to quaint cafes and coffee shops, clothes boutiques and some lovely restaurants, guesthouses and local bars.
7. Dine at La Gaetana
In Phuket Town, a restaurant called La Gaetana is great fun and completely eccentric, serving the best in Italian and International cuisine.
There are only about 5 tables in the place, which is a good job as the ‘very’ personalized service from the Italian Owner is exceptional, including him personally adding the finishing touches to desserts at your table, custom made wine decanters and shawls for the ladies if they feel a slight chill from the air conditioning.
8. Have a Drink at The Brasserie, Phuket Town
I really like the Brasserie in Phuket Town. It is owned by a Belgian Family and has an amazing selection of Belgian Beers and a really cool European vibe going on.
The food there is excellent and it has a separate oyster and champagne bar, which I haven’t seen anywhere else.
9. Catch a Sunset on the West Coast
Phuket has some amazing sunsets which can be seen from many viewpoints on the island’s west coast. A popular sunset spot is Promthep Cape, which is the southernmost point of the island and overlooks the ocean.
The Big Buddha is another popular sunset spot because of it’s scenic views.
If you want to avoid the crowds, the coolest place to enjoy a sunset cocktail with the other hipsters is Catch Beach Club on Surin Beach, where you can lounge about on comfy sofas listening to dubby beats and chilled out electronica, although it will set you back a few Thai Baht for the privilege.
Another popular spot is the ridge behind Kata Noi Beach and have stunning views over the Andaman sea, great seafood and a continuous stream of Bob Marley. It is easy to see why this is a popular, chilled out place to enjoy the famous Phuket sunsets.
10. Check Out Phuket Vegetarian Festival
The most bizarre experience I have ever witnessed in my life, bar none, is the Phuket Vegetarian Festival.
Don’t be fooled by the gentle sounding name, as this festival is more famous for its blood soaked, death defying acts than it is for it’s vegetarian food.
Spirit mediums in a state of trance cleans the soul by climbing ladders with rungs made of knives, walk barefoot across hot coals, perform brutal acts of self-mortification, piercing their bodies with hooks, skewers and various other sharp objects.
Some of the weirdest I have seen are cheeks pierced with AK 47 barrels and the long poles attached to ceiling fans.
The whole 9-day festival is accompanied by incessant rapid-fire explosions and clouds of smoke from Chinese Fire Crackers and is a full-on assault of the senses that leaves you wondering if you have in fact crossed over into a different realm along with the spirit mediums.
11. Visit During Songkran Festival, Phuket
One festival that you cannot miss is the Songkran Festival in April, which marks the beginning of the traditional Thai New Year.
It is basically the world’s biggest water fight and is probably the most childish fun you will ever have in your life.
The place to go for this is Bangla Road on Patong Beach. You can expect water fights and festivities to take place for three days of fun – all day and all night!
Be sure to visit the Jui Tui Shrine during Songkran, which is an ancient Chinese shrine dedicated to the God of Water.
12. Take Part in the Lantern Festival, Loi Kratong (Festival of Lights)
Loi Kratong or ‘Festival of Lights’ is one of the most important and traditional festivals in the Thai calendar, representing the close bond between Thai culture.
Loi means to ‘float’ and ‘kratong’ is a small lotus shaped float, traditionally made out of the trunk of a banana tree and decorated with folded banana leaves, flowers, candles and incense sticks.
It is a very beautiful and serene occasion that happens in November as thousands of these small candle lit boats float gently out onto the water and fire lanterns light up the whole of the night sky.
13. Take a Boat Tour to Maya Bay and the Phi Phi Islands
Maya Bay is the most popular Island Tour from Phuket and is world famous as the location of the utopian beach in the movie The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio.
I recommend visiting in the Low Season as the bay is overrun with boats and tourists in Peak Season and loses some of it’s appeal.
Plus, in the Low Season, Maya Bay can only be accessed via the back entrance due to the heavy tides and this only adds to the adventure. The boat takes you into a small lagoon where you transfer to a canoe and paddle over to a spider web rope net attached to the side of a small rock face.
After that, you walk through a small jungle to arrive on the beach in much the same way the characters did in the movie. This way, you get to experience the same impact of this beautiful bay with its’ towering limestone cliffs as they did in the film.
14. Take a Boat Tour of Phang Nga Bay
Surrounding the north and eastern coast of Phuket, is a magical place of such breathtaking natural beauty that James Bond Villain Scaramanga opted to build his secret hideout amongst the limestone outcrops and tiny islands, in the classic film The Man With The Golden Gun.
You can visit James Bond Island by boat and depending on your tour itinerary you can also enjoy island hopping in the stunning bay, snorkeling, lunch at a floating Muslim fishing village, Koh Panyee, and sea kayaking through spectacular limestone sea caves (hongs).
15. Take a Boat Tour to Raya Island, Koh Khai and Coral Islands
There are many beautiful islands close by to Phuket, which are less than a 30 mins boat ride away.
For a group of people (and depending on your budget), I’d recommend chartering a private Longtail boat, speedboat or maybe something even grander from Chalong, Rawai or Laem Ka beach.
Agree your own Phuket itinerary with your captain, but I especially like for snorkeling, swimming and beautiful white sand beaches.
16. Take a Day Trip to the Similan Islands National Park
The most stunning island tour I have ever been on is to the Similan Islands National Park. It takes a little longer to get to The Similan Islands than it does on some of the other island tours, about 3 hours, but it is well worth the extra journey time.
The snorkeling and dive sites in this area are amongst the Top 10 Dive sites on the entire planet and the natural rock formations and jungle scenery are spectacular.
17. Eat the Local Street Food
It is inexpensive, delicious and generally speaking you shouldn’t experience any major problems with food poisoning.
BBQ corn on the cob on the beach is fantastic, especially when accompanied by a fresh fruit shake and bbq chicken. Will set you back less than 120 THB.
Naka Weekend Market on the outskirts of Phuket Town is a great place to find street food and also shop for souvenirs. The prices are generally cheaper than at the markets in Patong, but you still have to bring your best bartering skills with you.
Many of the products here come from Bangkok.
It’s a rickety wooden, traditional Thai shack with an eclectic jumble of plants, waterfalls, fishponds and strange artifacts sprouting out from all corners, including fish tanks made out of old TV sets.
It has an extensive menu of Thai food, probably one of the best I have seen in Phuket and the prices are very reasonable.
18. Watch a Muay Thai Fight
Watching a Muay Thai fight is an exhilarating and unforgettable experience, but it’s not for everyone.
Known as the “Art of Eight Limbs,” or more commonly simply “Thai Boxing,” Muay Thai is a traditional martial art that originated in Thailand and has since become a global phenomenon.
Muay Thai fights in Phuket are held regularly at stadiums across the island, but the most famous one is in Patong Beach.
You can witness some of the most skilled fighters in action, both Thai fighters and international ones too.
The atmosphere at these fights is electric, with music and cheering from the crowds adding to the excitement.
19. Spend the Evening Watching The Simon Cabaret Show
If you’re looking for more cultural things to do in Phuket at night, get some tickets for the Simon Cabaret Show.
The cabaret show features some of the most talented performers who are dressed in stunning costumes, mimicking famous singers and dancers.
The show is a perfect blend of singing, dancing, and comedy, making it an enjoyable experience for all ages.
It’s a great way to spend an evening with friends or family, and the memories from the show will last a lifetime.
20. Visit Khao Phra Thaeo National Park
If you’re looking to experience the natural beauty of Phuket, then a visit to Khao Phra Thaeo National Park is a must.
The park is a protected area that covers more than 20 square kilometers and is home to an array of flora and fauna.
Visitors can explore the park’s lush rainforest, hike to scenic waterfalls such as the famous Bang Pae Waterfall, and spot rare wildlife species such as gibbons, langurs, and hornbills.
The park also offers guided tours and educational programs for visitors interested in learning more about the area’s biodiversity.
21. See the Monkeys on Monkey Hill (Toh Sae Hill)
If you’re an animal lover, a visit to Monkey Hill (Toh Sae Hill) in Phuket is one of the top things to do.
The hill is home to a large population of macaques, who roam freely around the area.
You can observe these playful creatures in their natural habitat, interacting with each other and the environment.
It’s a great opportunity to take some amazing photographs and get up close and personal with these fascinating animals.
That being said, it’s important to remember to respect the monkeys’ space and avoid feeding them as this can lead to aggressive behavior.
22. Visit the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary
If you love elephants, then you might enjoy a visit to Phuket Elephant Sanctuary.
The sanctuary offers a safe home for retired elephants that have been rescued from the tourism industry, logging industry, or other forms of exploitation.
See the elephants in their natural habitat and observe them bathing and playing.
The sanctuary also offers educational tours that shed light on the plight of Asian elephants and the importance of elephant conservation efforts.
23. Take a Thai Cooking Class
Taking a Thai cooking class in Phuket is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the local culture, learn new skills, and discover the flavors of authentic Thai cuisine.
Thailand is renowned for its spicy and aromatic food, and by taking a cooking class, you’ll get to learn the secrets of creating some of the most famous Thai dishes.
Classes often include a trip to a local market to select fresh ingredients, followed by hands-on cooking instruction from experienced chefs.
By the end of the class, you’ll have learned how to cook delicious Thai food and can take your newfound skills back home with you!
Best Time to Visit Phuket
Phuket is an all year round holiday destination, but I would generally say avoid peak season in January and February as the island beaches are overcrowded and unrecognizable from the paradise you can experience the rest of the year.
Green season from May to October is supposedly the rainy season, but it is the best time to visit Phuket as the rates are lower and the beaches are less crowded.
There is usually a daily downpour late afternoon/early evening, but most of the days are actually hot and sunny.
If you want to avoid the rain, I recommend you visit in the just after the rainy season, at the end of October. Traditionally, the rainy season in Phuket is from July to October, and the peak season when all the tourists visit is from November to February.
April and May are the hottest months of the year, and there’s also field burning in the North which brings a lot of locals to the islands to escape the polution, so they can be very crowded times to visit.
You get good weather and cheaper deals if you visit in mid-late October.
But to be honest, Thailand’s largest island is a beautiful place no matter the time of year and you can take advantage of some great weather, fantastic hotel deals and room to breath on the islands beaches.
Getting To and Around Phuket
Air Asia and other budget airlines offer cheap and regular direct flights to Phuket from a growing list of destinations including Australia, NZ, Malaysia, Hong Kong, China, Indonesia, Japan and India.
The advantage of having an International Airport in Phuket is that you no longer need to fly via Bangkok and from my experience, Air Asia is a good, reliable airline, in our experience.
Phuket Town has a main bus terminal and you can catch buses, including night buses from just about anywhere in Thailand. Boat or Ferry from Krabi, Koh Lanta and Koh Phi Phi are a good and inexpensive option, just don’t rely on them keeping to the schedule.
Travelling around by boat on the Andaman Sea is a wonderful experience and a highly recommended means of getting around all of the stunning island destinations such as Krabi, Ao Nang and the Phi Phi Islands.
If you’re traveling on a budget, I recommend you get the night bus to Phuket Town from Bangkok.
If you are backpacking around Asia and working to a tight budget, the night bus allows you to save the cost of a nights room rental.
If you prefer to be more comfortable, you can get cheap direct flights form Bangkok. If you book in advance, you can save a lot of money.
When it comes to getting around the island, I recommend hiring a scooter. Choose a rental company for the whole of your stay and agree on a good price beforehand. You can usually negotiate, especially if you’re hiring a scooter for a few days.
This is the best way to see the Island and from my experience, Phuket is a much safer place to travel round by bike than other parts of Asia, but always wear a helmet.
Avoid Tuk Tuks and taxis
Avoid the tuk tuks and taxis, especially in Patong, as they are extortionate. Public buses between the beaches are available but they come so infrequently they are practically non-existent (and also extremely slow).
If you want to see Phuket Town you can get the public bus there and back from most major beaches for about 20 or 30 Thai Baht each way but it takes a long time because it stops almost every five minutes.
Where to Stay in Phuket
Use the map below to help you find hotel accommodation and vacation rentals on the island of Phuket.
Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Phuket
I love Thailand, and particularly Phuket, because of the stunning natural environments on my doorstep, the beaches, islands, national parks and marine landscapes.
In my view, they are some of the best in the world and not many people get the opportunity to see in such beautiful surroundings.
I hope this guide helped you decide on what to do in Phuket and gave you some inspiration for attractions to add to your to do list!
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Have you visited Phuket? Can you add to these what to do in Phuket tips? Please share in the comments!