Many people are surprised not only about the sheer quantity of places to visit in Phuket, but by just how spread out they are. Although a perception of Phuket as a tropical idyll persists, it is in fact Thailand’s largest island, and the distances between its cities, towns and beaches can be great.
Over the next several paragraphs, I’ll be giving you an overview of Phuket attractions, but also doing my best to explain them in relation to one another, and to the island’s geography. I won’t outline a detailed itinerary, but after reading this article, it should be easy enough for you to piece together your own (assuming you don’t commission one from me).
Whether you’re looking for the best beaches in Phuket, an amazing Phuket hotel or simply want general Thailand travel inspiration, you’re in the right place: Phuket starts here.
Where to Stay in Phuket
Before I get to places to visit in Phuket, I thought I’d outline some of the best areas to stay on the island, both in terms of general location and specific properties. The majority of visitors to Phuket will stay either on the island’s west coast, which runs from Phuket Airport all the way down to Cape Promthep, or in Sino-Portuguese Phuket Town, which is in the southeastern part of the island.
If you’re searching for the best Phuket resorts, most of those are near the beach—no surprise here. From the relatively secluded Anantara Mai Khao Villas, which is along a long golden stretch of sand just south of the airport, to Kalima Resort and Spa, Phuket has no shortage of amazing beach hotels. Meanwhile, my favorite boutique hotel in Phuket Town is Casa Blanca, an old-world style property that evokes a glamorous past.
The Best Places to Go in Phuket
While the array of things to do in Phuket Town isn’t quite as extensive as what you might find in, say, Penang, there’s still some excitement to be found amid its quasi-colonial shop houses—and I’m not just talking about the coffee shops and restaurants that have been opened within them. If you happen to be in town on the weekend, for example, make sure to eat or drink at the Sunday Walking Street Night Market. A more evergreen (and weather proof!) activity, meanwhile, is the interactive Phuket Trickeye Musem.
Kamala or Karon
The topic of the best Phuket beaches is one for another post, but I have a couple of personal favorites. If you’re looking for a beautiful beach with authentic local culture, look no farther than the southern spot of Kamala. Named for the Sanskrit word that means “lotus,” this flower of a beach backs up to a welcoming Muslim village. Karon, meanwhile, is slightly more modern, but no number of luxurious resorts can take away from the pure beauty of its beachfront.
Phuket Big Buddha
When it comes to places to visit in Phuket, few combine a great view with a must-visit tourist attraction like the so-called Big Buddha. Located in the middle of the island due east of Kata and Karon beaches, the Big Buddha is notable because it’s still under construction (albeit rather minor expansions, at this point) after more than 15 years. If you can time it right, this is a great place to watch sunset, since part of the viewing platform faces west toward the Andaman Sea!
Another answer to the question of where to watch the sunset in Phuket is located at the southern tip of the island, on Cape Promthep. While this can be a bit difficult to access—if you don’t have a car, you’ll need to arrange a taxi through your hotel, or take Grab and have the driver wait), this most extreme appendage of Phuket afford you a wide panorama of the sun setting into the Andaman Sea. It’s also, on account of its remoteness, somewhat less crowded than the Big Buddha (and, certainly, the shores of Patong or even Karon).
The Question of Patong
Is Patong worth visiting? I would say yes, though that assumes you won’t stay here—I think that would be a dubious decision indeed. It’s difficult to deny that Patong is convenient, whether because it’s right in the middle section of Phuket’s west coast, or due to the sheer quantity of restaurants and bars, or the proximity of everything to Patong Beach. On the other hand, Patong is about as seedy as Phuket gets, to say nothing of the fact that it’s far from the best beach in Phuket.
How Many Days Should You Spend in Phuket?
Phuket is a huge island, which might not be clear to you now, on the other side fo the world, looking on a map. As a result, if you want to explore in-depth, the “right” answer to how many days in Phuket you should spend is likely higher than you’re anticipating—I’d say a minimum of three. This will allow you a full day to lounge on whichever beach is closest to where you’re staying, a day in and around Phuket Town and a day of exploration around the island.
Or off the island. Indeed, while you could spend three days just exploring places to visit in Phuket, I imagine that a lot of you reading this will want to take day trips (which I will explain more in another articles). Whether that’s to mainstream destinations like Koh Phi Phi, to less crowded islands like Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi or even northward to hyper-local Phang Nha province—well, that’s a topic for another article as well! (Speaking of other articles, you should probably check out this one, about the best time to visit Phuket.)
Phuket vs. Krabi
Another important question to consider as you plan your Phuket paradise adventure: Is Krabi or Phuket a better choice for you? Obviously, there are other beach destinations to visit in Thailand (most notably Koh Samui), but I find a lot of travelers end up choosing between Phuket and Krabi—which makes sense, given that they are somewhat similar, and are just on opposite sides of Phang Nga Bay from one another.
On one hand, the debate is somewhat moot. Many of the best islands to visit in Thailand, from the aforementioned Koh Phi Phi to lesser-known ones, are accessible both from Phuket and Krabi. On the other hand, I personally prefer the aesthetic of Krabi’s Railay Beach to any beach in Phuket, even if (with the possible exception of Rayavadee) no hotel there is really equal in ambiance or opulence to anything you find in Phuket.
The Bottom Line
Rather than listing all the places to visit in Phuket—they’re infinite—what I’ve tried to do here is to help you narrow down the best of the best. Combining this with my thoughts on just how long you should spend in Phuket (not to mention, some awesome day trip options and whether Phuket or Krabi is the best choice for you), many travelers will be able to easily create a Phuket itinerary. On the other hand, if you would rather allow someone else to fashion the perfect Phuket trip for you, you can always commission a custom Thailand itinerary from me. I leave absolutely no stone unturned!