What comes to mind when you think of Phuket? Beaches, nightlife and having a blast? Or crowds, dirt, and danger? It’s hard for me to admit it, but I’ve been pigeonholing Phuket for years. And I don’t mean that in a positive sense. But I was so wrong!
I did anything to avoid Thailand’s largest and most popular island. And I was quite successful. There was even a time when we flew into Phuket International Airport and I made sure we took the bus to Phang Nga immediately. And then we rented an apartment in the center of the island.
After our first encounter with its crazy traffic, which was very interesting, I opened my eyes and my heart. I looked and I saw…gorgeous beaches, green mountains, friendly locals and a thrilling nightlife. I could see people smiling and having a good time everywhere. That’s when I realized; I like Phuket too!
Therefore an apology is in place; Phuket, I’m sorry.
As a gesture, I would love to show you the coolest sights that Phuket has to offer. Will you join me?!
1. The beaches
Do you like beaches? Then you’ll love Phuket!
Phuket has 35 different beaches – from hectic ones like Patong Beach to calm gems like Banana Beach and Laem Sing Beach. We’ve seen almost all of them and I have to say: Phuket has a beach for everyone!
I was surprised by how well maintained the beaches are. There’s hardly any trash to be found and the water is crystal clear. Most beaches are popular and have restaurants and all kinds of water activities such as paragliding and surfing.
There are beach mattresses and umbrellas for rent on the big beaches, although sunbeds aren’t allowed on the beach. However, not all beaches have these facilities, so it’s a good idea to bring your own umbrella, mat and towels!
In Phuket, you can enjoy one gorgeous view after the other.
Our favorite viewpoint is the relatively unknown Windmill Viewpoint, where you have a stunning view of the small Yanui Beach and a tiny island just off the coast.
Another beautiful viewpoint is Karon Viewpoint, from where you can see the three white sand beaches Kata Noi, Kata, and Karon in the distance. This is why the viewpoint used to be called Khao Saam Haad (three beaches hill), which makes sense to us!
Finally, Phromthep Cape is one of the most beautiful (and most romantic) places in Phuket to watch the sun go down. You won’t have this viewpoint all to yourself, but hey – wouldn’t you want to share a view this beautiful with everyone?!
3. Big Buddha
You really can’t miss it when you’re on Phuket: the Big Buddha. This 45-meter tall Buddha statue is covered in marble tiles and was built on a mountain, overlooking the island and the surrounding area.
Although construction of the statue started back in 2004 it’s still wrapped in scaffolding. Nobody knows when the temple will be completed. But it doesn’t matter because you can already enjoy 360- degree views over Kata, Karon, Chalong Bay and the surrounding Nakkerd Hills.
Don’t forget to stop for a drink or a bite at one of the viewpoint restaurants along the road on the way back.
4. The Waterfalls
Phuket has evolved rapidly in the past few years. This means a lot of the jungle has (unfortunately) been replaced by hotels, infrastructure and rubber tree plantations. Thankfully, there are still protected areas where you can retreat into nature.
Our favorite spot is the Bang Pae Waterfall, located in a beautiful nature reserve where it feels like you’re stepping into another world. An easy footpath takes you to the waterfall, where you can take a refreshing dip and jungle shower!
While you’re here, visit the small but interesting Gibbon Rehabilitation Project too, where gibbons are rescued from captivation and undergo rehabilitation until they are ready to be released back into nature.
Phuket has two other waterfalls: the Kathu Waterfall, a small waterfall worth visiting during the rainy season (June to November) when the waterfall is well filled. The climb up to the top is quite strenuous, so this waterfall isn’t for everybody.
Finally, you can visit the Ton Sai Waterfall on Phuket, a small waterfall that may not be as impressive as the nearby Bang Pae Waterfall, but it’s a nice place to spend the day cooling off out of the sun.
5. Nightlife at Soi Bangla
Phuket is known for its wild nightlife scene that lasts until the wee hours. It only takes a single nighttime walk through the infamous Bangla Street in Patong to understand why.
This street is insane. We’ve never seen this many nightclubs and bars together in one place.
The flashing neon lights, scantily dressed pole dancers and loud music mainly attract many male travelers looking for a fun night out. You won’t be able to pass through the street without being presented with a menu to a Ping-Pong show.
We’re not die-hard party animals ourselves, but we enjoyed having drinks at a ‘normal’ bar on the street and observing the madness from a distance.
6. Phuket City Old Town
Phuket’s old city center is a charming but sleepy place where there’s nothing much to do besides having good coffee in trendy cafes.
Except on Sundays! This is when the city center, Thalang Road, transforms into a lively, cozy market with live music, handcrafted gadgets, and unique food stalls, attracting both locals and tourists.
This is the perfect moment to purchase souvenirs, but also for admiring the colorful Sino-Portuguese buildings that this part of the city is known for.
The market in Phuket City Old Town is open on Sundays between 4:00 PM – 10:00 PM. Visit the market early, around 6:00 PM, when it’s not that busy yet and the setting sun produces a magical effect.
7. Chaloem Phrakiat Park
Put on your walking shoes and dive into everyday life in Phuket!
When the sun goes down, the local Chaloem Phrakiat Park comes to life. The footpaths and lawns become flooded with sporty locals enjoying this cooler moment of the day.
You can see groups of elderly ladies exercising, fanatics who know every aerobic step by heart, groups of men playing soccer, schoolgirls playing badminton, and mobs of runners chatting while they run circles around the lake.
The best thing about this park is that you won’t see any other tourists. That’s why we felt very privileged to be the only farangs (foreigners) running a few laps here. Great fun!
8. Boat trips
Because of its location, Phuket makes a great base camp for visiting islands and nature reserves nearby.
Phang Nga Bay, for example, where you spend hours sailing past huge rocks. There are many beautiful beaches, caves and mangrove forests hidden away in the bay that you can visit by kayak.
The Similan Islands are another nice trip; a gorgeous group of islands where you can do some great snorkeling or diving and admire loads of coral reefs and fish.
You can also grab a long-tail boat and spend the day on small, neighboring islands such as Coral Island, Racha Island and the Khai Islands.
Worth noting: Because of the distance between Phuket, Phang Nga Bay, and the Similan Islands, it’ll be very busy when you arrive. Take this into account. For the neighboring islands, you can avoid the crowds by leaving early (± 6:00 AM).
9. Plane spotting
OK, Mai Khao Beach isn’t Phuket’s most attractive beach– but it sure is a lot of fun!
It so happens that this beach is located right next to Phuket’s international airport, where you can do some plane spotting within close range. The planes pass right over your head at a distance of only 50 meters, which gives you the perfect chance to see these planes from up close and take some nice pictures!
It’s a lot of fun for children too!
10. Other Phuket sights
Phuket is huge, so we didn’t get to mention all of Phuket’s highlights. Here are some other cool things you can do on the island:
- Pet dogs and look after them at the Soi Dog Foundation;
- See fish at the Phuket Aquarium;
- Shop at the huge Central Festival Phuket shopping mall;
- Visit the Wat Chalong temple;
- Sing along and dance with the beautifully dressed ladyboys of the Simon Cabaret;
- Go on a snorkeling tour of the surrounding islands;
Take lifelike pictures in the 3D paintings at the Phuket Trickeye Museum.