One of the party destinations in Thailand, and the largest island in the country, there’s no doubt that Phuket draws in the crowds. But what attracts the hordes of travelers descending on its shores? Is it the achingly beautiful beaches, the raucous nightlife or the alluring, crystal-clear waters of this tourist magnet? Let’s explore all the must-visit attractions in this bumper list of the best things to do in Phuket, filling up that bucket list before you even arrive!
Admire the Big Buddha
At 45 meters tall, the Big Buddha atop Nakkerd Hills is one of the most acclaimed landmarks on Phuket, poking its head out above the hills and visible from many parts of the island.
The third largest Buddha in Thailand – a mean feat in a country known for its gigantic Buddha statues – it’s a sight to behold. But definitely don’t just admire it from afar! Make sure you strap on those walking shoes and climb the stairs to the top where you’ll find breath-taking views of Karon, Kata and even back to Phuket’s Old Town.
Peruse Phuket Old Town
Speaking of the Old Town, you should definitely give that a whirl.
It seems that most travelers and holidaymakers will arrive into Phuket, head straight to the beach or their resort and enjoy relaxing on the sand or by the pool with cocktail grasped firmly in hand. That usually means they miss a trick by not adding at least an afternoon or evening visit into Phuket’s bustling Old Town.
Boasting one of the best night markets on the island, the Sunday Walking Street Market, you can get your fix of tasty Thai street food dishes, while trying on the local wares for size. The Old Town is also crammed with eclectic bars as well as a glut of gourmet cafes, perfect for a quick cup of coffee or, for digital nomads, an afternoon tapping away at the laptop.
Drink cocktails at the Chalong Bay Rum Distillery
Looking for something a little bit different to humdrum Thai adventure trails? Then head on down to the southwest coast of Phuket, where you’ll find the Chalong Bay Rum Distillery.
The only distillery on the island, they offer a fascinating tour several times in the afternoon where you’ll get to try a lip-smacking Chalong Bay mojito – which may be worth the trip on its own. Or, if you want a full afternoon’s worth of activities, then book yourself onto the Cocktail Workshop, where you’ll learn all manner of zesty martinis and luscious long drinks, with some of the best rum cocktails known to man…
Walk up Karon Viewpoint
Didn’t get enough of the views from the Giant Buddha? Then why not head to the equally stunning Karon View Point, for one of the best vistas on Phuket?
One of the most incredible viewing spots on the island, Karon Viewpoint can be found between Hai Harn and Kata Noi beaches, and it’s likely that you’ll be heading to one of these spots on your time on the island, so an easy must-visit place to add into your Thailand itinerary.
Check out other night markets
Alongside the wonderful Sunday Street Market in Phuket Old Town, nearly each of the main areas on Phuket has its own equivalent. And all are well worth a visit.
So whatever region of the island you are staying on, make sure you find your local night market, swing on by and try out some scrumptious street food, while filling your pockets with handmade crafts.
If you’re not sure which one to visit, some of the top night markets on Phuket to explore are Chillva Market, Patong’s Malin Plaza and the Phuket Indy Market.
Explore unbelievable beaches
You’ve probably come to Phuket to enjoy the beaches, and there are a LOT of phenomenal ones to explore.
If you want that Instagram perfect portrait with lolling longtail boats as your backdrop, then head to Kata or Karon. Prefer to hit the party side, with cracking beach bars and a full on atmosphere, then Patong is your go-to beach. Or, if you’re really looking to get away from the crowds, then check out Nai Harn or Freedom Beach.
Don’t fret if none of those do it for you, as there are over 30 (count ‘em 30) major beaches across Phuket, and then a number of other secret bays and coves to uncover.
Visit Wat Chalong
Looking to add a little culture to your time in Phuket? Then a visit to Wat Chalong should be right at the top of your list of things to do.
The temple complex is the most important Buddhist site on Phuket, dedicated to the monks who not only fought against the Chinese Rebellion in the 1800’s but who tended to the injured amongst the local residents.
More than just a gorgeous temple complex, you’ll find a mix of cultures at this site – blaring pop music and garish ads for the local boxing bouts rub shoulders with the shrines, making this quite an unusual experience.
Take a Thai Cooking Class
Another absolute must-do on any trip to Thailand is to pencil in a Thai cooking class. Think fragrant green curries, fiery red dishes and the almost comforting dishes of mango sticky rice or the gooey street snacks, khanom krok, and that’s just the start of your gourmet Thai adventure.
There are a plethora of classes available across the island, from creating the standard array of dishes to more avant garde concoctions worthy of Michelin status. But, whichever you choose, you’ll undoubtedly be taking a little bit of (very tasty) Thailand back home with you!
Go scuba diving
The Andaman Sea is awash with amazing dive sites, so book yourself in and comb some of Thailand’s incredible underwater corals and scenes. From swimming with manta rays to floating above the famous King Cruiser wreck, divers are spoilt for choice around Phuket.
Have a bit more time on your hands? Then consider a live aboard and head to the Similan Islands for potentially some of the best diving in Thailand, if not Southeast Asia.
Party the night away on Bangla Road
Of course, no list of Phuket to do’s is complete without a visit to the infamous Bangla Road. The island’s equivalent of Bangkok’s Khao San Road is where the party is at – whether you’re looking to feast on tarantulas or sample a couple of the legendary buckets, this is where everyone heads to party the night away.
Of course, alongside all these outstanding activities, you could also make your way over to Khao Lak (and the Similan Islands, even if you aren’t into diving), head out to Phang Nga Bay, also known as James Bond island or make a beeline for the beautiful Koh Yao Noi to get away from the chaos of Phuket. Base yourself on the island to visit Koh Phi Phi and the infamous Maya Bay, or go trekking in the lush surrounds of Khao Sok.
Whether you’re going to Phuket to dance with abandon, just itching to scrunch your toes in that pristine white sand or keen to hike, shop or gorge on street food, you’ll find yourself with plenty to do on this island paradise. Now, the only question remains: Which bucket list item will you tick off first?