Visiting Phuket - What to See and Do
(Phuket International Airport HKT, Thailand)
Thailand's largest island is Phuket
, the most popular beach destination in the country, with a wealth of entertainment, attractions and amenities to create a beach holiday for any budget. Its international airport ensures quick access to the dozen or so beaches, each of which have their own vibe and all of which are very pretty.
Phuket also has a decent array of activities off the beach to balance things out. There are superb golf courses, horseback riding, and treks through the tropical jungle. Butterfly gardens and marine national parks add to the options for a day of outdoor recreation.
Each beach has its own little town. Patong is the party spot, while Kata and Karon cater to families and more sedate holidaymaking. There are exclusive resorts at Nai Harn and world-class sailing in Chalong Bay. If you need a day of urban indulgence, historic Phuket Town has a neat little core of shops, cafés and local culture.
Ten things you must do in Phuket
- Kata and Karon Beaches are the prettiest on Phuket, and each has its own little town loaded with restaurants, bars and shops. This is the preferred place to stay if partying is not a major focus, because it is calmer and the hotels are a bit more upscale. Both beaches are long and have soft sand, together with shallow calm water ideal for swimming.
- Although there is very little in the way of historic attractions or Buddhist temples, Wat Chalong is the best of the few temples on the island. It sits atop a scenic bluff at the southern end of Phuket, and is worth a visit for the views alone. If this is your only stop in Thailand, then it is also a good place to check out a traditional Buddhist temple.
- Patong Beach is where the parties happen. Strung out all along this lengthy beach are several blocks of affordable guesthouses, funky bars and cheap restaurants. The beach itself is also very pleasant, with good sand, clean water and lots of water sports like parasailing and jet skiing.
- The Thalang National Museum is the only place on Phuket to learn more about the rich history of this island and its seafaring people. Sea traders, from the Indians to the Chinese, have been stopping here for centuries. The museum presents relics, art and crafts from the 9th century onwards.
- You don't need to be a kid to enjoy the Phuket Butterfly Garden and Insect World. Hundreds of different butterfly breeds are fluttering around a huge outdoor enclosure, creating endless photo opportunities and a wonderfully colourful environment.
- Intrepid beach lovers will want to rent a motorbike and cruise out to the Sirinath National Marine Park in the north-west corner of the island. It is a beautiful place, boasting Phuket's largest shallow water coral reef that is just perfect for snorkelling. Between November and February, rare Olive Ridley sea turtles come to breed on the beach, offering a chance to see these endangered creatures in action.
- The island's leading entertainment tourist attraction is Phuket Fantasea, a bizarre dinner show combined with elephant performances and traditional music and dancing. It is undeniably kitschy, but very popular due to the impressive grounds, flashy light-and-sound show and talented elephants. The dinner buffet is also pretty decent as well.
- Among the entertainment highlights of any trip to Thailand is a ladyboy show. Phuket happens to be home to one of the country's best at Simon Cabaret. This all-male revue of stunningly gorgeous transvestites features a nightly set of different burlesque performances, most of them sprinkled with lightly raunchy humour.
- One of the greatest ways to spend an afternoon is aboard a sailboat, cruising around Chalong Bay and Phang Nga Bay. The surreal limestone karsts that rise out of the placid bays here are absolutely magical, and the waters are perfect for sailing or sea kayaking. You can even learn how to sail from one of the outfitters at the marina in Chalong Bay.
- To escape the crowds of Phuket's beaches and experience a day as a tropical island castaway, book a trip over to the Yao Islands. The one-hour boat ride is worth the cost alone, and once on the island you can enjoy a noticeably calmer and quieter atmosphere where nature rules over humanity. Ferries to either island depart from the Bang Rong Pier throughout the day for pennies. It is a great day excursion if you want to see an undeveloped version of the Thai islands in the Andaman Sea.