The Ultimate Guide To Phuket: Things To Do, Extraordinary Adventures + Places To Stay
Phuket has it all. Travelers get to enjoy natural beauty, rich culture, wellness spas, perfect white beaches with plenty of adventure activities and a vibrant nightlife...
8 years ago...
... I came to Phuket for the very first time. I met a Canadian girl there, her name was Julia. She fell madly in love with a Thai guy and decided to get married and live in Thailand with him. We became Facebook friends but lost contact with each other over the last years. I almost forgot about her. Until she commented on my Instagram recently, and we started talking again with each other.
I was amazed to find out that Julia was already living for 10 years in Phuket, still married to the same guy and happier than ever, expecting her first child. "You should come and visit us in Phuket" she said. And really, I had nothing to say against it.
I was housesitting in Bangkok when she invited me, and I had nothing planned for afterwards. So why not? I looked up for flights on Kiwi and when I saw that a ticket from Bangkok to Phuket would cost only $18 I didn't think twice. OK Julia, I'm on my way, and you better show me what Phuket has to offer!
Why you should travel to Phuket
For many years I avoided Phuket due to its reputation. In the end, I decided to stop generalizing and make up my mind. And you know what? I had a blast.
Millions of visitors come to Phuket every year. Obviously, there is a reason why Phuket, also known as Pearl of the Andaman, became an extremely popular destination in South East Asia: Phuket has it all. No matter if you're the budget, luxury, yogi, family or adventure traveler. There is something for everyone.
Tourists love the large island in Southern Thailand for its natural beauty, art, culture, wellness spas, plenty of adventurous activities and an eccentric nightlife. A variety of blissful beaches, and nearby islands invite you to relax and forget all your troubles.
Top Things to do in Phuket
You want to know what to see and where to go in Phuket? Stay with me. I spent about two weeks there, a good amount of time to explore many of Phuket's attractions and sights.
Phuket is a large island that has a lot to offer for tourists and travelers. There is so much to see, plenty of things to do.... You can’t possibly experience it all in one trip. Whether you love beaches, shopping, adventuring, or drinking the night away, there is definitely something for you in the gorgeous island of Phuket.
Let's get started! If this is your first trip to Phuket, you might find this list helpful.
01 | ISLAND HOPPING
EXPLORE THE NATURAL WONDERS OF PHUKET
Island hopping is a definite must-do for Phuket travelers, it is so much fun! There are plenty of small islands in the area that are worth seeing. You can snorkel or free dive underwater and explore the vibrant colored reefs and corals.
I highly recommend to book an organized boat cruise and explore the islands, caves, and lagoons around Phuket. Some of the most popular island trips include the Raya Islands (unspoiled beaches, turquoise waters and fantastic snorkeling), Bamboo Island (superb spot for swimming and an expedition to observe the marine life), and last, but not least the famous Phi Phi Island. It is an alluring island, raised above the sea like a grand fortress, surrounded by thick jungles and sheer cliffs above.
Yummy lunch on the boat, during Island hopping with TripToPhuket.com
I went on two island trips with the guys from TripToPhuket.com, and they were absolutely amazing. Pick up at the hotel on time, safe transportation to the islands, cheerful and knowledgeable staff, plus plenty of fantastic lunch options (incl. vegan and vegetarian choices).
Make sure to check the weather forecast before you book a tour! I was there during July and many tours would not operate during rain season. If you want to get the full island experience, I highly suggest to go during the dry season from November to May.
02 | THE BIG BUDDHA
ONE OF PHUKET'S MOST FAMOUS LANDMARKS
Although Big Buddha is a fairly new structure, it has become one of Phuket’s most important religious sites and tourist attractions. The magnificent Big Buddha is located in Chalong, you can hardly miss it as this 45 meter tall marble statue is visible from half the places on the island — it's pretty amazing.
The Big Buddha rests serenely on the Nakkerd Hills, gazing over the stunning landscape of Chalong Bay and Kata Beach. There are plenty of cats strolling around and some souvenir shops when you enter the area.
The area has become pretty touristy, but I'd say this is still a cultural must see. With every step you take, you can hear the bells tinkling around you and see the flags flapping in the wind. The shrine is golden, where you pay your respects and move to the grand plateau of Buddha. There is a little corner where they do meditation, take a chance and sit with them for a bit.
03 | ELEPHANT BATHING
SPEND A DAY WITH AN ELEPHANT ON THE BEACH
That was pretty much my favorite day in Phuket: The day I met this extremely handsome fellow on the beach. We went together for a swim, but he kept spreading water on me, so I had to leave him. :) Just kidding....
You want to swim with an elephant? Splash and play with those gentle giants on the beach? My friends Julia and Not can organise this unforgettable event for you. More info and details here.
I was picked up from my hotel and brought to a beautiful semi-private beach near Patong, where I had a good hour to spend with 2 gorgeous elephants. I was terrified first, after a recent trip to Africa I considered elephants as dangerous animals. But these ones seemed soooo lovely. The smaller one, still a baby elephant followed me into the water, he was just adorable with his hair on his head...
Make sure to bring a GoPro and a selfie stick, you will get the most awesome shots!
04 | THALANG ROAD
GET LOST IN THE COLORFUL STREETS OF OLD PHUKET TOWN
Thalang Road in Old Phuket Town is a street unlike any other in Phuket. For the culture-seeker, Old Phuket Town a delightful place to wander around. Thalang Road, a Portuguese-style street, is a good place to relax on weekdays, however on Sundays between 4 and 10pm it is transformed into a kaleidoscope of color and culture!
It hosts hundreds of stalls and commercial shops who sell various kinds of street food, spices and culinary items, as well as impeccable and eye-catching handicraft from their local towns. It’s such a fantastic place to buy some unique souvenirs. I bought some arty soap and a second-hand leather purse, both together for less than $8.
Make sure to visit Thalang Road's colorful flea market on a Sunday, it's a wonderful opportunity to indulge in the sights, smells, and tastes of Thailand...
05 | WAT CHALONG TEMPLE
THE ICONIC MONUMENT TO THAILAND'S MAJOR RELIGION
The Wat Chalong, or also called Chalong Temple is one of the most visited temples in Phuket provinces.
Although this intricately designed building looks like a surreal fairy-tale book illustration, it is a very real place and open for you to visit.
Westerners can learn about Buddhism and Thai culture while locals worship. I highly recommend to explore the temple, you can enter and walk around on all three floors. Every wall and ceiling illuminate Buddha's sacred teachings and his life. There are several interesting relics and statues to see, including a splinter of the Buddha’s bone (don’t ask me how they got that).
When you visit, make sure to be respectful with your dress and behavior. Remember to take off your shoes before you enter.
06 | RELAX
PAMPER YOURSELF AND GET A MASSAGE
No doubt that Phuket is one of the world's most popular spa and wellness destinations. You can find spas and massage places literally on every corner. Do not leave Phuket without getting pampered for a half day and enjoy a selection of relaxing treatments in a tranquil oasis. I suggest to do this on your last day, a great way to finish your Phuket trip.
You can get an hour massage for as low as $10/hour, but also spend up to $100 or more in one of the luxury wellness spas. There is something for every budget. For your own health, choose a place with an excellent reputation. I booked a spa package for a couple hours and it was absolutely heavenly. From body scrub to hot oil massage, I felt like newly born afterwards. Pamper yourself, you deserve it!
07 | CAT CAFE
COFFEE, CAKES AND CATS
If you're a long-time reader of my blog (or a stalker of my private Facebook) you already know what a crazy cat lady I am. Ever since I visited cat cafes in Seoul, I can't resist whenever I spot a cat cafe. Yep, call me crazy. I know.
My friend Julia shares my love for the felines, so we went to B Cat Cafe in Phuket Town. By the way, the cat cafe is just around the corner from Thalang Road (scroll up to #4), so this is a perfect combination to do both on a Sunday (which we did).
They have some adorable kittens running around, but the Persians and Siamese cats were equally gorgeous. We ordered ice lattes and cheese cake, coffee was good, the cake was OK-ish. Well, to be honest, I came for the cats, not for the cake. So this was fun anyway. Meow!!
Make sure to read the rules before you enter, they have penalties for picking up cats.
08 | ADVENTURE TOUR
EXPLORE THE ISLAND BY ATV AND GO WHITE WATER RAFTING
Ready for some epic adventuring? Go on a White Water Rafting and ATV Tour in Phuket! Rafting through the reckless waters of Thailand is such a fun-filled activity. Beautiful scenery (and maybe a monkey or two) await you around every bend as you fly through the river!
Once you’re done riding the waves, kick up some foam on an ATV as you drive the river. Or you can trek through the dense jungles and meet an elephant on your way. How does that sound?
If you're an adventure seeker, I highly recommend this tour, you'll get a variety of activities, so you don’t have to pick just one thing to do.
09 | BANGLA ROAD
PARTY IN PATONG AFTER SUNSET
This one is for the party goers. To be honest, I'm too old for this, but I know many of my readers are still young and fresh (yes I'm talking to you)!!
The famous Bangla Road (or, as the locals know it, Soi Bangla) is the center of nightlife in Patong, Phuket. While it’s certainly not a place to take your toddlers, it’s a great destination if you’re planning a crazy party night.
The street is lined with restaurants, entertainment bars, night clubs and pretty girls offering flashing smiles and bottles of booze. At night, the entire street comes alive with neon lights and loud music. You’ll hardly know where one bar ends and the next begins!
10 | YOGA, SPA & DETOX
There are several resorts and retreats in Phuket that cater to those who are looking for a retreat with yoga, spa treatments, meditation, healthy food and possibly detox treatments. Originally,
my plan was to spend a couple days at some retreat, learn yoga and enjoy spa treatments. However the place I had in mind was fully booked during my travel period. After all,
I postponed my plans to visit a yoga retreat in September (more on that soon, I will surely blog about it).
There are quite a few places in Phuket that offer yoga and detox retreats. I was looking at the Santosa Detox and Wellness Center, and the Atmanjay Detox Yoga Wellness Resort, both of them look fabulous and also both of them had overwhelmingly positive reviews on Tripadvisor.
I had a chance to visit Santosa on a Sunday when they offer a vegan buffet. The food was extraordinary and I did regret even more that I wasn't able to do a retreat there. I hope I get a chance to visit one of them in the future. Make sure to book in advance as these places fill up quickly.
Phuket Hotels - Where to stay
There are plenty of great resorts and hotels in Phuket, in all price ranges. You can find some fantastic bargains for luxury hotels and resorts. Accommodation facilities in Phuket are affordable and comfortable.
Is Phuket on a budget possible? Absolutely! I had a quick look on Agoda, and you won't believe it, I found double rooms in Phuket for as little as $6/night (example here - book here). So if your budget is small, don't sweat, you'll find something that fits your wallet.
Here are the places I stayed during my time in Phuket:
The Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort and Spa
- from US$73/night for a double room
I was pretty thrilled when I received an invitation from Novotel Hotels & Resorts to one of their branches in Phuket. They have several hotels in Phuket, I was invited to one called Karon Beach Resort.
The Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort is a perfect place to take the whole family. Located on the west coast of Phuket, this resort is a slice of modern luxury nestled within a tropical paradise.
With childcare and kids’ play areas available, it’s a great family place as well as a honeymoon destination. Even groups of friends will find this resort an ideal vacation spot.
The Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort and Spa
I was staying at the Plunge Pool Suite and welcomed with a plate of delicious Thai desserts. The suite is spacious and accommodates easily three people. It boasts a huge master bedroom with large windows, plus a convertible couch in the living room, big enough for an adult or two kids.
Spacious bathroom with bathtub, rainforest and handheld shower. Guest can enjoy the stocked mini-bar and complimentary Wi-Fi. You also get tea and coffee making facilities during your stay. The suite also features a fantastic private plunge pool just outside the door. I used that pool every day and loved it!
Multiple amenities include several community pools including a superb water slide, wellness spa, gym, and even a lovely outdoor dining area. There are a couple of restaurants at the Novotel, I had all my meals there and was amazed by their wide selection of food. They even have a vegetarian menu. After all, a pretty fabulous stay! The resort is conveniently located within walking distance to Karon Center and Karon Beach.
The Nok-Dee Resort
- from US$73/night for a double room
My friend Julia told me about the Nok-Dee Resort, she knows I have a thing for cute designs and breath-taking views. And ... oh boy, Julia hit the jackpot with this resort. The Nok-Dee Resort is definitely among the coolest places I have ever stayed. Check out the pictures above and below!
The exotic Nok-Dee Boutique Resort is located on Kata Beach and offers one of the most stunning ocean views in Phuket. Kata Beach is less touristy than other places in Phuket, but it's certainly stunning.
If you’re going to the island of the sake of its beauty, this is the place to stay. It’s not the most kid-friendly hotel, primarily because it doesn’t really have anything for them to do, but it’s an excellent place for getting cozy with that special someone.
The Nok-Dee Boutique Resort
I was upgraded to a Deluxe Panorama Corner Room, which offered spectacular sea views on both sides. I loved the colorful interior, minimalist and modern, mixed with local Thai designs. The room can accommodate up to two people and has an ultra comfortable king sized bed. There is free Wi-Fi, and a desk where you can catch up with work.
The infinity pool is stunning and offers some fabulous panoramic views over the sea and the mountains. There is even a grassy rooftop for yoga and picnics. The authentic contemporary design restaurant offers freshly prepared cuisines (Thai and Western). I loved the big breakfast choices!
The resort also hosts a spa that offers relaxing massages, along with anti-aging treatments and herbal medicines. I had a massage during my stay and it was one of my best ones in Thailand.
The U Zenmaya Phuket Resort
- from US$95/night for a double room
Welcome to the U Zenmaya, truly a grand five star hotel, located at Kalim Beach in Kamala. I think it's perfect for couples, or families with older kids. It's pretty centrally located, a short ride away from Patong with dozens of entertaining activities to enjoy — if you can pull yourself away from this fantastic resort...
The U Zenmaya features 50 contemporary designed rooms, all with breathtaking views of the ocean. Furthermore, you can enjoy the gym, a gorgeous infinity pool, restaurant and pool bar, meeting rooms for business, a splendid library and a spa with multiple treatment rooms. I had a brilliant massage there.
Oh, one thing I need to mention: While checking in, they served me a soap menu with different luxury soaps to choose from. I found that pretty impressive. And because I can never get enough of soaps I told them I want one of each. Loved them all!
The U Zenmaya Phuket Resort
I was staying in one of their Seaview Pool Access Suites which was huge! My jaw already dropped when I saw the jacuzzi in my room, but when the staff opened the door to my terrace and I figured I had my own infinity pool right there, I wanted to jump for joy.
Well, not so fast... Actually, it wasn't my private swimming pool. I was sharing this pool with two other suites. To be honest, I didn't mind and was hoping instantly for cool neighbours. The truth was, I never saw anyone else, so it was actually like my infinity pool.
I spent my last 3 nights in Phuket at the U Zenmaya and it was a nice treat to end my little vacation in such a glamorous hotel. If you can afford this wonderful resort, stay there, you won't regret! If you can't afford it, come at least over for dinner once and enjoy the spectacular ocean views over some cocktails.
Phuket Weather - When is the best time to go?
The general climate of Phuket is hot and humid for the most part of the year. The hot weather extends from March until beginning of May, followed by monsoon till October. During the rainy season from May to October mornings and afternoons tend to be dry and sunny but usually, it rains in the evenings.
Best time to go to Phuket: The dry season lasts from November to February, it's considered as high season and many tourists choose to visit at that time. However it's also the busiest time, especially around Christmas and New Year.
You can save quite a bit of money if you go during the wet season (May-Oct), but keep in mind that some island hopping trips might be limited due to the rain.
Flights to Phuket
The easiest way to travel to Phuket is by airplane. There is an International Airport (HKT) in the north of Phuket Island, about an hour away from Phuket Town. Plenty of major airlines, but also many of the low-cost airlines offering Phuket flights. Also, during high season, there are direct chartered flights to Phuket, from Australia and Europe.
I recommend Skyscanner and Kiwi to find cheap flights to Phuket. Once you leave the Airport you have several choices of transportation to your hotel: From taxis to mini vans and local buses. I discovered that there is also a new shuttle bus connecting the Airport to Patong Beach. You can buy the ticket on the bus for 120 Baht ($4).
Ready for a trip to Phuket?
If you travel to Phuket once, you may find yourself returning over and over again! Who knows.... I wish you a fantastic trip to Phuket! If you have any other questions, please leave them in the comments. And if you've been to Phuket before, feel free to leave your travel tips below.
If you find this blog post helpful, please share it, pin it, tweet it, or bookmark it.
Thank you and happy travels!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sabrina Iovino is the founder of JustOneWayTicket.com. She's half German, half Italian and has traveled to more than 50 countries around the globe. She feels weird to write about herself in the third person, so she'll switch now. Phew...much better! Let's restart:
Hi, I'm Sab! This is my blog and I write about the things I love. Mostly.
LEAVE A COMMENT