There are so many things to do in Phuket, you could spend your entire vacation exploring its beaches and having great adventures. We’ve spent months on the island during our various visits and always find something new to do.
Located in the Andaman Sea, Phuket is the largest island in Thailand. Patong is the main tourist area with nightclubs, busy beaches, restaurants, and shopping malls. Most people b-line it to Patong, but the island is so large, there are many other places to visit and things to do.
So let’s start exploring all of the best things to do in Phuket on your next trip to Thailand.
Best Things to to in Phuket
With travel slowing down due to the pandemic, Thailand could very well be that pristine destination we remember so well from the early 2000s. The beaches and islands of Phuket and Krabi have been overrun with tourists and backpackers over the past decade, but if you want to discover some of the most beautiful scenery on earth, we suggest making your way to Thailand once things open up. We are tempted to head back ourselves to re-visit all the most amazing things to do in Phuket.
Explore Phang-Nga Bay by Sea Canoe
One of the most memorable things to do in Phuket is to book a Hongs by Starlight tour with John Gray Sea Canoe. John Gray himself discovered the hongs of Thailand and this tour takes you inside the hidden lagoons and sea caves that he found in 1989. Phang Nga Bay is one of the most beautiful places in Thailand. You are surrounded by Karst islands and the calm protected waters of Ao Phang Nga National Park.
Hongs by Starlight
We loved this tour because after paddling through sea caves into high cliff lagoons, we enjoyed an afternoon basking in the sun while making our own Kratongs (floating flower arrangement) to set sail after dark.
Phuket is famous for its bioluminescence, (remember in the movie The Beach when light danced around Leonardo DiCaprio was rolling around in the water as it lit up around him?) When you paddle after dark at Phang Nga Bay, the water lights up with each stroke. It is one of the most magical things to do in Phuket.
Muay Thai Kickboxing Course
If you want to spend some time in Phuket getting to know the locals and learning a bit about Thai culture, take a Muay Thai Kickboxing Course. Raway Muay Thai is the pioneer of Thai Kickboxing courses for tourists in Thailand, and this is one of the coolest things to do in Phuket. We took a month-long course getting our butts in shape as we grappled and sparred with other tourists looking for something different in Phuket. Located in Khao Lok, Rawai Muay Thai is away from it all offering a quiet experience in Phuket.
Camp on a Private Island
The beaches of Phuket can be quite busy, so why not find a private island to go camping in complete seclusion. This is a dream trip in Phuket where you will have a personal chef make a traditional Thai meal as you relax and watch the sunset with nobody around for miles. We booked this tour with John Gray Sea Canoe, but there are other places to camp in Phuket including Naka Noi Island.
Go Beach Hopping
Phuket Island is filled with beaches, from the busy party beach of Patong to the pristine serene Panwa Beach on the East Coast. Rent a scooter (be careful, wear a helmet and try to get a bit of experience before going out to explore) and go beach hopping in Phuket to truly take in its beauty. Patong Beach is the main beach resort, but if you want to look for other beaches in Phuket, check out Freedom Beach, Kata Noi, Surin Beach, and Na Hairn Beach.
Stay at Kata Noi Beach
If you are looking for a quiet and beautiful beach to stay in Phuket, Kata Noi is a good choice. There are only three resorts on the beach, but it is close enough to Kata Beach that you can easily get to all the nightlife and restaurants
Go Island Hopping
From beach hopping to island hopping, its worth taking a day trip to explore the islands of the Andaman Sea. Exploring the islands is one of the best things to do in Phuket. There are several beautiful islands around Phuket and a day tour to explore is a must. The famous Maya Bay of the Phi Phi Islands is just a high-speed boat tour away. From James Bond Island, which was featured in The Man With the Golden Gun, to the Ratcha and Coral islands, there are countless islands around Phuket to explore.
Check out the most beautiful beaches of Thailand
One of the best places to go scuba diving in Thailand is the Similan Islands. The Similan Islands are located about 100km from Phuket, but if you want to really delve into the best scuba diving there is, book a liveaboard yacht to explore the crystal clear waters and secluded beaches.
Go Snorkeling at Maiton Private Island
Maiton Private Island is just 15 minutes from Phuket by speed boat but feels worlds away. Go snorkeling right off its shores in the coral reef shimmering int its crystal clear waters. The white sand beaches are divine and keep an eye out for dolphins and don’t miss hiking up to the Maitong Island viewpoint.
Maitong Island tour is a great snorkeling and dolphin watching day trip to Maiton Private Island. It includes a buffet lunch with traditional Thai cuisine and seafood.
If you like lookouts with stunning views, the Karon Viewpoint is a popular stop. Located near Kata Noi Beach, Karon Viewpoint offers views of either side of the island. If you go early in the morning, you will see less tourists at this popular stop on tours.
Phuket is a mountainous island, so there are many viewpoints for you to stop and take a look at throughout the day. If you have rented a motor scooter, make sure to stop at the many viewpoints in Phuket.
Another beautiful lookout is over Promthep Cape at Rawai Beach. You can make an afternoon out of it to visit The Lighthouse and museum and take in the views of Ya Nui and Nai Harn. On clear days you can see as far as Koh Phi Phi Islands. But be sure to stay for sunset to enjoy views from the restaurant.
Take a Surfing Lesson in Phuket
Surfing in Phuket is great for beginners wanting to try their hand at riding the waves. Many beaches on the west coast offer surfing lessons and board rentals. The best surfing season is during the rainy season of May to October, so you’ll see fewer crowds if you decided to visit Phuket during this time.
If you are going during the high season of November to April, book a surfing lesson on Kata Noi or Kata Beach with a private or group lesson.
Visit the Big Buddha of Phuket
The 45 meter tall white jade Buddha of Phuket is one of the most important landmarks on the island. Known as Phra Puttamingmongkol Akenakkiri Buddha, the Big Buddha sits at the top of Nakkerd Hills it offers spectacular views of the island.
Be sure to cover up as this is a religious site. No beach attire instead cover your shoulders and knees. A sarong is a good option to take with you.
Visit Wat Chalong
While we are in our cultural mode of looking for things to do in Phuket, a visit to the Buddhist temple of Wat Chalong in Chalong Bay is a must. The Wat dates back to the 1800s and has been an important places of worship to the Thai People for more than a century. Be sure to go to the Grand Pagoda, the most highlight of the wat to see a small splinter from the bone of Lord Buddha himself. (It is amazing how many pieces of Buddha are strewn across South East Asia’s temples 🙂
Sample Chalong Bay Rum Distillery
Take a distillery tour at Chalong Bay Rum Distillery. Tours are offered daily and as you sip on a mojito, learn how rum is made in Phuket all the way from harvesting the sugar cane to bottling the sprits.
Visit the Rum Distillery for details.
Visit Old Town Phuket
The old town of Phuket is an Instagram worthy stop to see its colorful Sino-Portuguese buildings. There are beautiful mansions to explore, walking streets and night markets. The most popular night market in Phuket is the Sunday walking street on Old Thanlong Road and don’t miss the Chillva Market on Yaowarat Road that has transformed old shipping containers to shops selling everything from street food to sarongs.
Browse the Night Markets of Phuket
When visiting Thailand, the streets come alive in nearly every city with night markets filled with street food options and souvenir stalls. Besides the night markets of Phuket Town, you’ll find night markets at Patong Beach, Karon Beach, and Bangtao Beach.
Patong is the main beach area of Phuket and it is worth spending a night or two. There are high-end resorts to affordable guesthouses along its 3km stretch. Or you can head to Patong to catch a movie at the cinema, go to one of its shopping malls and enjoy plenty of dining and nightlife. There is everything from Parasailing to jet skis on Patong Beach. And you’ll easily be able to find a cheap Thai massage on the beach or you might want to try your hand at windsurfing.
To escape the heat, one of our favourite things to do in Phuket is to head indoors to the shopping malls. The Jungceylon Shopping Mall is the largest in Phuket with 200 shops, and Cinema City. We always go hit up a matinee while in Thailand. Make sure you stand for the king when the national anthem comes on before the show.
Chances are you’ll be staying for at least a night or two in Patong Beach while visiting Phuket and it is worth heading to Patong at night at least once during your stay. Known as the party capital of Phuket it’s an interesting experience walking the streets. Bangla Street has the go go bars, strip clubs, and nightclubs and if you feel a bit uncomfortable going on your own, you can book a tour to go bar hopping in Phuket.
Take in a Cabaret
If you are looking for something a little more organized in Phuket for nightlife, check out the famous Simon’s Cabaret Show. The famous ladyboys of Thailand, but on a Vegas-style cabaret with elaborate sequined costumes and glittering sets.
Khuk Kak and Khao Lak Beaches
For secluded beaches on Phuket, Khuk Kak and Khao Lak Beaches are located on a long strand of sand that feels worlds away from the hustle and bustle of Patong. With beach bars and luxury resorts, it takes you away from the usual backpacker haunts of Phuket.
This was close to Rawai Muay Thai and on our days off, we enjoyed the tranquil setting and relaxation.
The JW Marriott Resort on Khao Lak Beach is a luxury resort that sits on the beach and azure waters of the Andaman Sea.
Khao Lak – Lam Ru National Park
Not too far from Khao Lak Beach is Khao Lak National Park. If you are looking for nature and waterfalls, this is a great escape on the island of Phuket. Visitors can camp on the south end of Khao Lak Beach as they explore the national park. The Ton Chung Fa Waterfall is the most visited attraction in the park. The 2.5 km trail takes you to a five-tiered waterfall that you can swim in.
A really fun way to explore Khao Lak is to take a bamboo rafting tour!
Playful monkeys scurry all over Thailand and when in Phuket, Toh Sae Hill houses 400 macaques. Keep an eye on your sunglasses and belongings, monkeys are curious creatures and love to swipe things from tourists. This is a great place to watch the sunset in Phuket.
Take a Thai Cooking Class
It is recommended in nearly all of our Thai travel guides, but a cooking course is seriously one of the best things to do in Phuket or wherever you find yourself in Thailand. It’s fun to take a cooking course in different regions of Thailand because the food varies from North to South. In the islands learn to make Tom Yum Soup along with your staple dish of Pad Thai. It’s a fun afternoon and you often get to explore the local markets for ingredients.
When you get home you can enjoy a taste of Thailand with your newfound skills.
If you want to escape the beach for a bit, Zip-lining over the jungles is one of the more adrenaline-soaked things to do in Phuket. The flying Hanuman is a jungle Arial adventure park with ziplining, abseiling, and platforms above the ground. Located between Phuket and Patong, it’s a great day adventure. https://flyinghanuman.com/
If you want something with a bit more adrenaline, Phuket Jungle Bunjy offers Bunjy Jumping over a picturesque lagoon. Bunjy Jumping was invented in New Zealand and with Kiwi owners, you know you are getting the real deal here in Phuket.
Watch the Sunset
There are plenty of places to watch the sunset in Phuket. Find a beach bar on the west coast for beautiful sunsets from the beach. Bangtao Beach is a good option. But there are plenty of lookout viewpoints to see the sunset as well.
- In Patong head to the Patong Sunset View restaurant.
- At Kata Noi Beach watch sunset from the After Beach Bar
Koh Yao Noi Island
Really, I have got to stop mentioning islands to visit. It can be an entire post unto itself. Koh Yao Noi isn’t as frequented by visitors as other islands but it is a great day trip by boat. There is a rubber tree plantation, kayaking, secluded beaches. There are places to stay on Koh Yao Noi, so if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle for a night, check out some of the hotel options here.
If you are looking for something unique to do in Phuket, The Phuket Trickeye Museum is a gallery that showcases paintings to trick the eye. Take photos of yourself as you take part in the 3D paintings where you can pose within the concept art.
Phuket Charitable Organizations
One of the toughest parts of traveling Southeast Asia is to witness the suffering of animals and children. Things have been improving since our first visit over 20 years ago, but the suffering still continues. When we first visited Thailand, we felt helpless when we saw cats and dogs suffering. But now there are organizations in Phuket working to make a difference.
There are plenty of organizations you can support when visiting Phuket. There are plenty of animal sanctuaries and child development organizations. We went with Rawai Muay Thai to their project to give children an education and help them develop skills of Muay Thai Kickboxing.
Phuket Elephant Sanctuary and Tree Tops Elephant Reserve do not allow bathing and are good elephant sanctuaries in Phuket that help elephants rescued from tourist and labor camps. You can also sponsor the cats and dogs of Phuket at the Soi Dog Foundation that have little value to people and it is simply heartbreaking to see. And there is The Gibbon Rehabilitation Project that has been running since 1992 to help gibbons that have been displaced due to urbanization.
Where to Stay in Phuket
There are several areas to stay in Phuket from Kata Beach to Phuket Town and Patong Beach. Browse the map below to find the place in Phuket that is the best for you.