Phuket is Thailand’s largest island, off the southwest coast in the Andaman Sea. It’s home to some of Thailand’s most amazing beaches and resorts. Even if you visit for a few days, you can cover a lot of ground in this 222 sq. mile province. Phuket is connected to the mainland by a bridge, but it’s most popular (and cheap) to fly from Bangkok into the local airport. The food, activities, and accommodation are inexpensive for most westerners, which can have you vacationing or living well. If I have any advice, it’s to visit all the markets and eat all of the local food, interact with the local people, and take advantage of the adverse and unbelievable landscape!
Where to stay
Depending on what kind of vibe you are trying to have while in Phuket, there are various areas to fit your needs. Expect to pay around $15-50 USD per night for accomodation, depending on which part of Phuket you stay in, and how fancy you’re trying to be. Hotels are the best bet here, I booked mine through Airbnb.
This is where most tourists stay that are looking to party and be around other tourists – the night life is crazy. It is also likely the cheapest area to say. When I visited I stayed here, but wish I would have paid a little extra to rest my eyes in one of the more relaxed areas of Phuket, and just paid Patong a visit.
About 20 minutes south of Patong is Karon, a more chill, calm “beach town” of Phuket that offers a gorgeous beach, awesome dining options, and a fun nightlife. There is a local market here on Tuesday and Friday nights among a beautiful temple. Tourists don’t tend to flock this area as they do, Patong.
Only a few miles south of Karon is Kata, which is occupied by mostly families, and has an even more relaxed atmosphere. Again, you’ll get an amazing beach and ocean views, delicious restaurants, and a lively nightlife.
Right in the center of Phuket is the “downtown” area and capital of Phuket, where you’ll probably get the most authentic experience. This is away from the coast, but a must visit, even if you don’t stay the night. The night market there was one of my favorite that I’ve been to, with so many mouth-watering food options. Not to mention the streets of Phuket Old Town which are filled with colorful 19th century buildings, local people, and great restaurants.
I mentioned the most popular places to stay, that are most accessible to activities and amenities you’ll probably want to do/have. But take yourself wherever your heart desires – whether it be one of the many islands that surround Phuket, or local villages.
Read on for things to do in each of these areas!
Things to Do
James Bond Island
This is the famous stand alone rock formation that a lot of people think of when they think of Thailand. Visiting this will require you to book a day tour. There are tour shops and stands all over the place, especially in Patong, where you can schedule. Make sure to price shop, and negotiate! A bus or van will pick you up from your hotel and take you to the coast, where you’ll then get on a large boat that will take you out to James Bond Island. The tour will also include kayaking into some of the large caves, entertainment and food on the boat, and endless amazing views. MUST DO.
This is exactly what it sounds like it is…a massive Buddha statue. Not only is that impressive, but the panoramic views from the top make it even more worthwhile. There is no entrance fee, but depending on where you park, you may need to pay a really small fee for that. There are also awesome places to stop and take pictures on the way up/down!
Visit one of the many beaches
You can’t go to Thailand without enjoying the beaches. Most of the beaches offer snorkeling, and water sports.
- Freedom Beach – A low-key beach in the heart of Karon.
- Patong Beach – Right in the midst of the tourist hot spot of Patong is this beach, where you can always find a good time.
- Karon Beach – The largest beach in the Karon village. So quiet and beautiful!
- Kata Beach – Another quiet beach located in Karon, along the west side of Phuket.
- Laem Ka Beach – This beach is a secluded beach located on the southeast side of Phuket and is a bit more rockier than the others, but equally as pretty.
- Kamala Beach – Yet another relaxed, magnificent beach on Phuket’s west side.
There are a lot more beaches that I’m not mentioning, that are smaller and less visited.
Karon View Point
An overlook of the town of Karon and all its stunning beaches.
Find friendly puppies here too 🙂
Windmill View Point
Visit this viewpoint on the southwest side of Phuket named after the massive windmill there (not pictured). Can you see the slight earth bend?!
Just south of Windmill viewpoint is Promthep Cape, which is the tip of Phuket. The views are incredible!
Sirinat National Park
Located in the northwest of Phuket is this national park, with most of it being marine area. The most attractive to-do’s here are the beaches. I also hear you should be able to find a sea turtle or two here.
Phuket Old Town
This part of the Capital of Phuket is filled with multi-colored and art filled Sino-Portuguese shops and buildings, giving it so much character. You can easily spend a few hours just walking around, admiring the architecture and paintings.
The night market here, Chillva Market, was the most authentic one I visited in Phuket, filled with mostly local people. Try everything. Only open on Tuesday, Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays from 5pm – 11pm, so make sure to visit Phuket Town on one of those days!
As mentioned before, Patong is the largest tourist area of Phuket. There are tons of bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and shops, as well as food markets. There is a large beach here as well, which is always packed. The night life here is nothing short of wild…a pretty sexual and interesting place to see. Bangla road is what you’ll want to check out, where they offer many shows, drink specials, and spectacular people watching.
There are a few markets here that vary between being food only and selling all sorts of other things like clothes and souvenirs. If there’s one reason you visit the markets, make it be for the food!
Monkeys are prominent and abundant in Southeast Asia, so it’s very common to see them hanging in the trees or roaming the streets of the mountains. Most are very comfortable with people, some too comfortable. Monkey hill is home to a small temple, and a great place to have an interaction with a monkey. They will jump on you, take food from your hands, and try and dig in your bag 🙂 Watch yo stuff.
The most visited Wat/Temple in Phuket, and you can see why.
Bang Pae Waterfall
This is Phuket’s largest waterfall, and located in Khao Phra Thaeo National Park in Thalang, just north of Phuket Town. You can walk all the way up to the fall, and take a dip if you please!
There are a few gorgeous golf courses in Phuket that I can imagine being a great experience if you’re into that!
Kao Khad Viewpoint
Panwa Viewpoint (also known as Khao Khad Views Tower) has panoramic views out over south eastern Phuket. Although not as visited as some of the other viewpoints I’ve mentioned, it’s just as wonderful. Find shops and cafes in the area, and prepare for the some 300 steps to get to the top!
Bangla Boxing Stadium
As you may already know, Thai boxing is very popular. Watching a boxing match is something that is true to the culture, and best done with food and drink in hand!
Visit one of the islands off mainland Phuket
The islands are amazing for diving, snorkeling, and having the most relaxed experience as possible.
Rent a moped/motorbike for $5 USD per day. Usually your hotel, or a company near by can help hook you up with one. If you don’t feel comfortable driving one, there is also local transportation such as taxis (or tuk-tuks) and buses. You can essentially travel across the entire island of Phuket by moped, i.e. anywhere you’re trying to go; the only place I didn’t take myself to was James Bond Island.
Thanks for reading!
Check me out on Instagram @jet_jess_