Phuket is among the world’s finest beach destinations, with fine white sands, nodding palm trees, glittering seas and lively towns. It has something for any taste and budget, with hundreds of hotels to choose from, a wide choice of dining and partying options. Aside from visiting the fantastic attractions of Thailand’s biggest island, you can take an exhilarating speedboat trip to the many nearby tropical paradises, including the famous Phi Phi Islands, or enjoy a serene cruise around the mystical Phang Nga Bay. Phuket is blessed with more than 30 amazing beaches to choose from. Patong Beach, Kata, Karon and Kamala have always been the most popular, but the north of the island reveals some hidden gems for travellers searching for a more romantic atmosphere.
Top Things to Do in Phuket
Far be it from us to tell you what to do in Phuket, but there are some gems that you really should not miss out on seeing, while on your visit here. And we don’t mean the kind sold at the jewellers… Phuket’s great advantage is that there’s always something to do on and off the island, whether it’s raining or shining. From the sublime to the seemingly profane, the range of activities and places to visit is remarkable for a destination of this size. Here are our Top 10 ‘Must See’ choices, built on popular vote. If you only get through half of these destinations you’ll have had an unforgettable holiday.
1 Phang Nga Bay
Phang Nga Bay is unique. A day out here is an unforgettable experience that will definitely get you thinking. A distinctive feature of the bay is the sheer limestone cliffs that jut vertically out of the emerald-green waters. These islands are home to sheltered fauna that are possible to observe on certain tours. James Bond Island and Koh Panyee are just two of the more famous spots in this bay.
2 Old Phuket Town
Sino-Portuguese splendours and funky shops in the most unlikely places will surprise and delight you in the heart of Phuket’s sleepy provincial capital. Phuket Town offers much more than you think, with some excellent restaurants and local sights. The unique blend of colonial and Chinese architecture, along with a tangible quaintness, makes for a fascinating and unforgettable afternoon spent sauntering around Phuket’s Old Town. Expect the unexpected and don’t forget your camera.
3 Bangla Road Nightlife
There are few things in this world to prepare you for an after-dark stroll down Patong’s Bangla Road. However, a sense of humour and an open mind are prerequisites if you’re looking to have some fun. The biggest collection of nightclubs, bars, shows and general nocturnal fun in Phuket, it is pretty much an all-out assault on the senses. In spite of this, it is still very much a must-do, even if it’s just to say that you have!
4 Big Buddha
Visible from most of the south of Phuket, the giant Buddha image sits on the top of the Nakkerd Hills and looks down over Chalong, Kata and Rawai. It cost 30 million baht to construct and is 45 metres tall. Next to it stands a smaller golden image that is actually made of brass and there is a shrine near the site’s car park. The drive up to the Big Buddha takes you through the ‘real’ Thailand and the view from the top is enhanced if you take a map to identify the many, many sights
5 Wat Chalong and Phuket Temples
Wat Chalong is one of Phuket’s most important temples and is visited by thousands each year. It’s beautifully decorated, with infinite reflections from hundreds of tiny gliterring glass pieces on its many pagodas. On special holidays, Wat Chalong hosts ‘country fairs,’ with a real local flavour where you can buy just about anything and snack on Thai food to your heart’s content. Wat Chalong has an interesting history and is Phuket Island’s spiritual centre. You haven’t seen Phuket if you’ve never visited this fascinating temple.
6 Simon Cabaret Show
Simon Cabaret is probably the biggest transvestite cabaret show in Phuket. This show features a spectacular musical floor show performed by the world-famous ladyboy cast. See for yourself – guys, can you tell the difference? And ladies – wouldn’t you just die for a figure like that? Fabulous costumes, glitzy and fun.
7 Spend a Day (or two) on Phi Phi Island
Phi Phi Island is Thailand’s superstar island, particularly famous for its central role in the 2000 movie The Beach. It’s the topic of conversation for travellers all over Thailand. For some, it’s the only reason to touchdown in Phuket. Even with all the hype, it doesn’t disappoint. Phi Phi’s beauty is a large chunk of the allure. The islands, when approached by boat, rise from the sea like a fortress. Sheer cliffs tower overhead, then give way to beach-fronted jungle. It’s love at first sight.
8 Phuket FantaSea Show
It’s wacky but fun and very professionally done. Trapeze artists, elephants on stage and pyrotechnics combine in a Las Vegas-style show. You’ll see nothing else like it anywhere on the planet. Combining Thai traditional myths with humour, fantasy and a loose plotline that keeps getting more and more amusing, FantaSea’s extravaganza is a highly entertaining and riveting show, worthy of its spot in the Top 10 Must See and Do in Phuket list
9 Phuket Viewpoints
There are many viewpoints on both the east and west coasts of Phuket, affording sunrise as well as sunset views. Everyone goes to Promthep Cape, but it doesn’t make it any less spectacular. There, you’ll get fabulous views over the ocean stretching as far as Phi Phi Island on a good day. Check out Phuket’s other viewpoints, such as the ‘Three Beaches’ hilltop venue on the road between Nai Harn and Kata, or sip a cocktail at the After Beach Bar (also on the same road), while the sun slips below the western horizon
10 Thai Boxing (Muay Thai)
Rapidly gaining popularity all over the world, Muay Thai is an electrifying spectacle to watch. Visit Saphan Hin Stadium in Phuket Town to see regular matches with well-trained martial arts experts. Or try Patong Beach, where you can also see the skill and dexterity of these super-fit fighters. Tradition and courtesy are at the heart of this dangerous contact sport, and a good Muay Thai participant is ultra-disciplined in spirit as well as in body. Join the spectators and feel the rush. To see regular matches with well-trained martial arts experts.