Phuket Travel Guide

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Updated: August 11, 2019

The 98 best hotels, restaurants, shops, bars, clubs, shows, tours, places, and things to do in Phuket, Thailand.

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Phuket Hotels

1. The Baray Villa by Sawasdee Village – Kata – $$$$

Incomparable setting, with extraordinary three-level villas featuring a medieval design. The bedroom has a domed ceiling; the bathroom, a gold-plated sink; and the lounge even features a jet pool as part of the ‘triple-pool access’. And remarkably, it’s located in the midst of downtown. • Map • +66 (0)76 330 979

2. The Vijitt Resort Phuket – Chalong – $$$$

Superlative elegance but underwhelming area. Magnificent villas, some with private pools, secluded among gardens vast enough to offer guided walks. The infinity-edged pool faces a delightful beach, and it’s so family-friendly. • Map • +66 (0)76 363 600

3. Outrigger Laguna Phuket Beach Resort – Bang Tao – $$$$

Oozing opulence and charm, one of few resorts in the area overlooking a broad beach and with an appealing Thai design. Wonderful facilities for families and sparkling pools large enough to feature spouts, waterfalls, and slides. • Map • +66 (0)76 360 600

4. Thavorn Palm Beach Resort – Karon – $$$

Oh so different from the typically bland resorts nearby, one of Phuket’s first is Thai-owned and packed with charm. With its four lagoon-style pools, it’s always popular with families, and is convenient to downtown and neighboring Kata beach. • Map • +66 (0)76 396 090

5. Mövenpick Resort & Spa Karon Beach Phuket – Karon – $$$$

Among grounds gigantic enough to need buggies, there’s a remarkable array of rooms and villas. The trio of lagoon-style pools, abundant activities, and kids club attract the same families year after year. Also, faces the beach and is convenient to facilities. • Map • +66 (0)76 396 139

6. Centara Grand Beach Resort – Karon – $$$$

Quietly hidden, with unique beach frontage, mammoth grounds, remarkable facilities, and opulent colonial-style design. Outstanding for families, with one of Phuket’s finest kids clubs. • Map • +66 (0)76 201 234

7. Mom Tri’s Villa Royale – Kata – $$$

Charismatic boutique hotel owned by a royal descendant. Perched above a rocky cove and walkable to both of Kata’s beaches. Additionally appealing are the awesome views, award-winning restaurant, and secluded beach via steps. • Map • +66 (0)76 333 568

8. JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa – Mai Khao – $$$$

The only one built within Sirinat National Park (see #58), it admirably blends into the environment and is actively involved with local ecology. Genuine seclusion and proximity to the airport, with abundant facilities offsetting the isolation. • Map • +66 (0)76 338 000

9. Holiday Inn Resort Phuket – Patong – $$$

Deceptively vast grounds facing the beach, yet unbeatably convenient. Ranges from functional motel-style rooms to an adults-only wing of luxury villas, but also impressively focused on families. • Map • +66 (0)76 370 200

10. The Chava Resort – Surin – $$$

Self-contained apartments with up to five bedrooms that are ideal for groups and families. All are airy, luxurious, and spacious, with maximum possible windows. A serene beach is only 150m across the road, and Bang Tao is close by. • Map • +66 (0)76 372 600

11. Sunwing Bangtao Beach – Bang Tao – $$$

Recently renovated, with rooms now more spacious and Thai in design. And one of the most family-focused resorts in Thailand, with a kids club, playground, games room, range of absorbing activities, and beachfront grounds vast enough for six pools. • Map • +66 (0)76 337 400

12. Wabi Sabi Boutique Hotel – Kamala – $$

Very few hotels in Kamala face the beach, so this offers the next best option: along a quiet street, within a stroll to the shops and sea. New and family-run, the service is personable and décor, likably quirky. • Map • +66 (0)76 385 470

13. Burasari Phuket – Patong – $$

Unusual but appealing design (almost Turkish), with rooms facing inwards to the elegant pools, rather than the road. Villas are opulent, secluded, and in a prime position among a plethora of facilities. Probably more suitable for the younger crowd. • Map • +66 (0)76 292 929

14. Impiana Resort Patong – Patong – $$$

So convenient, with genuine beach frontage (i.e. not facing the esplanade). Unlike several charmless high-rises nearby, the resort’s stylish one-level bungalows are scattered among flourishing tropical gardens. Attractive beachside pool and on-sand café add to the appeal. • Map • +66 (0)76 340 138

Phuket Restaurants

15. The Boathouse – Kata

Much-loved favorite among expats and tourists for Thai and western food. They also come here in droves for the excellent service and super-long wine list. Intimate, with seats inside and very close to the sea. Dinner only, but book ahead and dress up. • Map • +66 (0)76 330 015

16. Mom Tri’s Kitchen – Kata

Part of the regal Mom Tri’s Villa Royale (see #7) with award-winning local chef serving haute cuisine with Thai influences. Attracts returnees, too, for the extensive wine list and romantic terrace setting facing the cove. • Map • +66 (0)76 333 568

17. Saffron – Bang Tao

In the sophisticated Banyan Tree resort for exquisite Thai food in a cozy beachside location. Best among adjacent resorts for attentive service and pioneering menu, including several vegetarian options. • Map • +66 (0)76 372 400

18. Blue Elephant – Phuket Town

Worth a trip from the beaches, it’s inside the beautifully restored former Governor’s Mansion. Part of an international chain, it offers ‘Royal Thai’ cuisine that’s fit for a king, but pricey. Cooking classes are also available (see #49). • Map • +66 (0)76 354 355

19. Baan Rim Pa – Patong

Finding quality Thai food in a serene location is surprisingly difficult in Patong. Winning lots of awards, this restaurant exudes a tropical holiday vibe, with a breezy open-air setting and stunning views of two bays. A piano bar for cocktails adds immensely to the appeal. • Map • +66 (0)76 340 789

20. Sala Bua – Patong

Best (and about the only) place in downtown with a genuine beachfront setting. In the Impiana Resort (see #14), the Italian and French cuisine is exquisite and the gourmet pizzas, equally popular. Open early for buffet breakfast. • Map • +66 (0)76 340 138

21. Savoey Seafood Restaurant – Patong

Many return night after night for the freshest possible seafood, with the latest catch on ice trays or in tanks for selection. Super-sized lobsters as well as salads and pasta. Short walk from downtown, but seems a world away. • Map • +66 (0)76 341 171

22. On The Rock – Karon

As close to the water as possible, with the most intimate setting imaginable. Focuses on seafood, but grills and Thai food are also on the extensive menu. Book weeks ahead for a beachside table at sunset. In the Marina Phuket Resort. • Map • +66 (0)76 330 625

23. Silk Restaurant & Bar – Kamala

Fashionable décor and contemporary food, but good old-fashioned service. Popular for the inventive menu ranging from Portuguese-Style Mussels to Poached Chicken with Ginger, but leave room for the Apple Crumble. Faces a pool within the Andara Resort. • Map • +66 (0)76 338 777

24. Siam Supper Club – Bang Tao

One of few clubs that’s not in a resort, it’s casual yet swanky, and offers a modern twist on the standard European and Thai meals not found elsewhere. Popular for grills, gourmet pizzas, and pasta. The décor is intimate and the extra-long bar is suitable for live jazz on some nights. • Map • +66 (0)76 270 936

25. Phuket Yacht Club Restaurant – Chalong

A godsend for everything from coffee to sumptuous all-night dining. Menu focuses on Thai and seafood, but bangers and mash also keep patrons happy. Distant from the crowds, and with divine views, it’s also open early for a greasy breakfast. • Map • +66 (0)90 705 9466

26. Blue Manao – Kamala

Relaxed, charming, and friendly, attracting the same guests night after night for scrumptious food and pleasing prices. Numerous Asian dishes bursting with flavor, and the vibe screams Thai, not tourist. • Map • +66 (0)83 391 8509

27. Tunk Ka Café – Phuket Town

Terrific location on Rang Hill, offering the finest views in town amid a tranquil forest setting. Over three decades of serving outstanding Thai food as well as grills and seafood. Atmospheric, intimate, and renowned for its iced coffee. Lunch is quieter and cheaper. • Map • +66 (0)76 211 500

28. Aroonsom Food Park – Patong

A two-level building full of inexpensive stalls offering grills, seafood, soups, and salads. Ideal for trying local food – but don’t expect fancy tables, extensive menu, or attentive service. Always packed with locals and tourists from 4 pm daily. • Map

Best Thai Food & Drinks

29. Seafood

Unsurprisingly, some just can’t get enough of the mussels, crabs, prawns, shark, squid, and (often huge) lobsters. Choose from an ice tray, or sometimes, a tank outside the front door. Otherwise, try the sour fish gaeng choo chee pla curry; the spicy po tak seafood broth, especially popular in Phuket; or yam talay, a tangy seafood salad.

30. Curries

The overused and indistinguishable term ‘curry’ includes imported versions: massaman (thick, with peanuts, potatoes, and usually, chicken and roti bread) and penang (creamier and spicier, with rice and, more likely, meat). More authentic Thai curries are labeled according to color: red (hottest, with chilies); yellow (with turmeric); and green (mildest, with coriander and basil).

31. Som Tam

Hugely popular across Thailand is the sour som tam, more commonly known as Green Papaya Salad. An accompaniment or a full meal, the contrasting flavors are an acquired taste, but zesty. With chopped unripe papaya (or mango), spiced with garlic, lime, and chili, and served with tomatoes and sticky rice. Great for vegetarians, or served with seafood.

32. Khao Niao Mamuang

Usually just called Mango Sticky Rice, an addictively sweet concoction of mango and rice topped with palm sugar and coconut milk/cream. An ideal dessert, especially refreshing to counter any spicy or sour meals, or just as a tasty snack.

Phuket Shops & Markets

33. Thanon Ranong Market – Phuket Town

Fascinating and aromatic, the island’s Central Market is where those on cooking courses will haggle over the choicest vegetables and spices often unknown to tourists. Also, a top place for souvenirs such as shadow puppets, batik shirts, pewter mugs, and bags woven from dyed grass. • Map

34. Jungceylon – Patong

Some tourists spend more time here than at the beach. This shopping center in the middle of the town is mega enough to justify an attached resort. No shortage whatsoever of places to eat, drink, and shop, and there’s also a cinema and theater. Open from 10 am to 10 pm daily. • Map

35. Phuket Art Village – Rawai

Avoid malls selling tacky mementoes and head to this eclectic selection of the island’s finest artists. To visit more than a few requires a car/taxi, but some studios and stalls are adjacent to each other. For paintings, woodcarvings, silverware, and batik, and it’s also a hangout for musicians and other entertainers. • Map • +66 (0)84 946 2171


36. Naka Weekend Market – Phuket Town

More popular with locals than foreigners, this authentic bazaar is on the outskirts of town. Open Saturday and Sunday from 4 pm, with hundreds of stalls frantically selling clothes, souvenirs, food, and fake designer labels. Don’t buy a new pet, but do visit the Wat Naka temple opposite. • Map

37. Central Festival Phuket – near Phuket Town

This enormous shopping center is easily accessible by public transport from most beach regions. More for tourists than Thais, the three floors burst with locally-operated and internationally-known shops, cafés, and bars. Vast enough for a bowling alley and cinema complex. Open from 10 am to 10 pm daily. • Map • +66 (0)76 291 111

38. Thalang Road – Phuket Town

The antithesis of a charmless mall, this street – and its radiating sois (lanes) – in downtown is lined with shops, many restored to highlight the original Sino-Portuguese design. Wander about chic galleries, Chinese herbal shops, and fashionable boutiques; then relax at a trendy street side café. Best on Sundays (from 4 pm), when the street becomes traffic-free and overflows with stalls selling everything and anything, including food. • Map

39. Mister Singh’s Fashion Gallery – Patong

Among the several tailors across the island, this is one of the oldest and most reliable. With attentive multi-lingual staff, a vast selection, and thousands of satisfied customers. For suits, dresses, and wedding gowns far cheaper than those back home. Even free transfers and in-hotel measuring. • Map • +66 (0)76 345 037

Phuket Bars

40. On the Roof – Kamala

The top floor of the Novotel resort is a relaxed and tranquil spot for legendary sunsets, better-than-average happy hours, and soothing live music. • Map • +66 (0)76 303 700

41. Angus O’Tool’s – Karon

Most authentic among numerous Irish pubs across Phuket. Popular among expats for Guinness and anything-but-Thai food. Packed to the rafters during happy hours and for major sports on TV. • Map • +66 (0)93 696 1718

42. Stone Bar – Kata

Popular with beach-bums during the day, but more happening at night, often with live music. Eclectic décor, traffic-free location, and family-friendly, so guests return night after night. • Map • +66 (0)80 490 3354

Phuket Night Life

43. Tiger Entertainment Complex – Patong

Across three floors in the heart of the infamous Bangla Road. About 60 bars (some sleazy, but not all) packed at ground level, while upper floors offer an area for quieter meals, a nightclub, and live bands. Fascinating to watch the mayhem inside and out, but way too loud for any meaningful conversation. • Map

44. Ska Bar – Kata

This laidback and sociable place is ideal for a drink at sunset. With a fun beach vibe and noisy waves below, the open-air café serves well-priced burgers and pizza, morphs into a pulsating reggae bar after dark, and offers fire shows on some nights. • Map • +66 (0)88 753 5823

45. Thai Boxing – Patong

Almost obligatory is an evening of muay thai at Bangla Boxing Stadium or Galaxy Boxing Stadium. Obviously set up for tourists, but no less authentic, with Thai and international boxers. Trucks with megaphones cruise the streets advertising the night’s bill. • Map 1Map 2

46. Phuket Simon Cabaret Show – Patong

In stark contrast to Thai boxing, this show is hugely popular, especially among Thai and Asian tourists. An extravaganza of pretty lady-boys in flamboyant costumes, it’s very entertaining and not overly risqué. Two or three shows nightly in a special theater. • Map • +66 (0)87 888 6888

Phuket Tours & Classes

47. John Gray’s Sea Canoe

Best way to explore the extraordinary karst columns jutting from the calm sapphire waters in Phang Nga Bay (see #91). Explore hidden caves and lagoons and spot wildlife – all otherwise inaccessible. And no experience necessary. Other tours also available for up to a week. • Map • +66 (0)76 254 505

48. Blue Elephant Cooking School – Phuket Town

One of the first of a plethora of cooking courses now available across the island, and still the best. At the adorable Blue Elephant restaurant (see #18) in a renovated colonial mansion. Starts with a trip to the produce market (see #33), then guests use a world-class kitchen, and later, devour the results in the exquisite restaurant. • Map

49. Sunsail

Part of a worldwide chain offering all sorts of trips on boats large, small, and in between. Mostly skippered and customized for diving/snorkeling and island-hopping to remote beaches far from the crowds. Also, ‘bareboat’, i.e. charters by experienced sailors.

50. Just Go Phuket

Public transport is unreliable and the traffic, chaotic, so joining an organized tour makes loads of sense. Daytrips squeeze in the best of Phuket into a few hours, while there’s also an impressive range of tours around nearby islands. And numerous outdoor and adventure activities offered, too. • Map • +66 (0)81 271 6875

51. Amazing Bike Tours

Yes, an amazing range of tours on two wheels. A country-wide company, with trips around Phuket and even a 10-day excursion from Bangkok. Mountain-bikes for those who are fit, and road bikes for those who just want fun, as well as a range of adrenalin-pumping activities. • +66 (0)87 263 2031

Best Things to See in Phuket

52. Island-Hopping

A boat tour of the islands to the south is a must. Traditional long-tails can be chartered at Rawai to adorable islets with inviting names like Ko Hae (Coral Island) for swimming, snorkeling, and water-sports. No more than 30 minutes away, several can be visited in half a day. Let the boatman decide the itinerary.

53. Khao Phra Thaeo Wildlife Reserve – northeast

Far better than any zoo or elephant farm, with a divine setting within the island’s largest and only remaining rainforest. Teeming with squirrels, boars, birds, and monkeys, including gibbons under rehabilitation. Reasonably easy trails lead to several magnificent waterfalls. Guided tours also available through the information center, or join a bicycle tour (see #53). • Map

54. Wat Chalong temple – Chalong (mid-south)

Highly revered and lovingly maintained, this temple is dedicated to the island’s most venerated monks. Not the most attractive, but certainly the most accessible, it hosts major festivals, especially at Chinese New Year. Dress modestly and come early to avoid the busloads. • Map

55. Phuket Town

Escape the artificiality of the resort regions. The city is pleasingly traditional and surprisingly stylish, with bistros jostling for space with temples (Thai and Chinese), as well as colonial-era mansions built by rubber barons. With markets and abundant shops (see Shopping earlier), it’s easy to reach from the beaches by public transport. Best explored on a guided tour (see #51). • Map

56. Sirinat National Park – northwest coast

About 90 sq kms of mangrove forests, ocean, and unspoilt beaches, including Mai Khao, Nai Yang, and Nai Thon (see under Beaches later). A pristine reef just offshore and an elevated boardwalk through the forest. Also home to wildlife (such as buffaloes), abundant birds, and egg-laying turtles. The Visitors’ Center provides information about guided tours and local ecology. • Map

57. Phuket Big Buddha – near Karon

Unashamedly garish but immensely popular, this gigantic statue stands 45m above a hill offering all-round island views. Only recently finished after 10 years, it can be seen from just about anywhere in southern Phuket. A few places to eat and meditate. Dress modestly and act suitably. • Map

58. Phuket Pearl Farm – east coast

The only local company with its own pearl farm and shop (in Phuket Town). On tours with no more than four people, including hotel transfers, learn all about pearl cultivation and watch the experts at work. • Map • +66 (0)98 671 2655

59. Thalang National Museum – Thalang (mid-east)

Phuket’s premier museum houses plenty of relics and photos about the island and capital. Particularly fascinating are displays about the sea gypsies and two women who repelled a Burmese invasion, and the 1,000-year-old statue of Vishnu. (Closed for renovations in 2018.) • Map • +66 (0)76 311 426

60. Phuket Seashell Museum – Rawai

With 2,000+ specimens, including one purportedly weighing 250kg (550lbs), as well as pearls and fossils millions of years old. With labels in English, it’s better than most might imagine. Shells for sale, but please note: they are usually collected by trawling the sea floor, which significantly disrupts the local ecology. • Map • +66 (0)76 381 266

61. Laem Promthep Cape – south coast

Phuket’s most southerly point offers sublime clifftop views of the bays up the west coast and as far as Phi Phi Island. Often shoulder-to-shoulder at sunset, with a lighthouse featuring a shrine and museum, and lovely café nearby. • Map

62. Phuket FantaSea – Kamala

Part Disneyland and part Las Vegas, an unapologetically garish ‘cultural theme park’. An overdose of sensory delights, including shows featuring elephants, a buffet restaurant that can seat 4,000, and a shopping arcade. • Map • +66 (0)76 385 000

63. Phuket Thai Village – near Phuket Town

Much smaller and more low-key version of FantaSea (see above), this cultural center sells authentic mementoes, with the added attraction of admiring artisans at work. Traditional shows of dance and martial arts held twice a day, and attached is the undersized (and overpriced) Orchid Garden. • Map

Phuket Spas & Yoga Centers

64. The Baray Spa – Kata

Part of the extraordinary Sawasdee Village (see #1), this award-winning spa is secluded among tropical gardens. Offers a wonderful array of treatments, much more interesting and soothing than the usual. Rooms for couples and online specials. • Map • +66 (0)76 330 979

65. The Raintree Spa – Phuket Town

Hidden among exquisite forested gardens at the Sino House Hotel in the capital. Wonderfully relaxing, with a variety of massages and treatments superior to most beach resorts. Check online for details about the fruity ‘Secret Package’. • Map • +66 (0)76 232 054

66. Atsumi – Rawai

Exquisite option for all things healthy for the body, mind, and soul. Oasis offering classes in yoga, Thai boxing, and meditation, as well as massages, spas, and detox programs. Enjoy a complete package by staying at their luxury villas and cottages. • Map • +66 (0)81 272 0571

Phuket Beaches

67. Mai Khao – northwest coast

Alongside (and within earshot of) the airport, this powdery beach is Phuket’s longest. Surprisingly under-developed, with pines rather than palms, there is (almost) no litter and zero jet-skis. Part of the Sirinat National Park (see #58) where turtles lay eggs on most evenings from November to February. The only resort here is the JW Marriott (see #8). • Map

68. Nai Yang – northwest coast

Also within the same national park as Mai Khao (see above), it’s ideal for walks among casuarina trees, picnics on the litter-free sands, and snorkeling in the jet-ski-free sea. Curved and scenic, it’s busy with Thai families on weekends and egg-laying turtles from November to February. Unusually, camping is possible, and there are two resorts: the Indigo Pearl and Nai Yang Beach. • Map

69. Nai Thon – mid-west coast

The third among the national park’s pristine beaches is popular for the serene setting. Protection from winds, and therefore, waves, allows calm snorkeling with great visibility. Water-sports can also be organized at the Andaman White Beach Resort. The beach is not easy to find, so there are more Thais than tourists. • Map

70. Nai Harn – southwest coast

Adorable cove flanked by cliffs, ideal for snorkeling and swimming, especially by learners. The adjacent monastery owns the beachfront, ensuring an absence of noisy water-sports and a delightful undeveloped vibe. Just one resort: The Royal Phuket Yacht club. • Map

71. Laem Sing – mid-west coast

The secret is now firmly out. Beautifully positioned between the more popular Kamala and Surin beaches, but far smaller, with limited facilities and steep access path. Popular on Sundays, when locals take a picnic and listen to impromptu music. Great snorkeling and makeshift cafés. • Map

Family Fun in Phuket

72. Splash Jungle Water Park – Mai Khao

With corkscrew waterslides, wave pool, ‘river’ over 300m long, and numerous other heart-pumping rides and slides, this water park has everything to delight the youngsters. Next to the airport, it’s very handy to nearby resorts but not to the rest of Phuket. • Map • +66 (0)76 372 111

73. Phuket Aquarium – southeast coast

Part of a government-run research center, with plenty of marine life from across the region. Engaging and educational, the design and layout is especially interesting, e.g. a walk-through glass tunnel for oohing and aahing at sharks and rays, and hands-on displays for the young ones. • Map • +66 (0)76 391 126

74. Patong Go-Kart Speedway – Kathu (island centre)

A very popular activity for all ages and especially the young at heart, is screeching around a safe course in a rubbery kart while ‘accidentally’ bumping into others. Two-seaters available for child and parent, and larger buggies for off-road adventures. • Map • +66 (0)76 321 949

75. The Kids Club Phuket – Patong

Perfect for rainy days, or to leave children under supervision of guards and nannies while shopping. All sorts of slides, swings, rides, and video games, as well as futsal and trampolines. Safe, clean, and conveniently in downtown, but mostly for those under 12. • Map • +66 (0)81 085 0008

76. Dino Park – Karon

Particularly popular for its convenience (between Karon and Kata), it’s wacky enough to fascinate hard-to-please youngsters. With 18 holes of mini-golf among a prehistoric layout of ‘swamps’, ‘caves’, ‘waterfalls’, and an erupting ‘volcano’. The restaurant seems straight out of a Flintstones film set, and the bar is filled with long-suffering parents. • Map • +66 (0)76 300 625

Outdoor Activities in Phuket

77. Diving & Snorkeling

Superb snorkeling is possible just offshore around the quieter perimeters of Kata beach, but better at Nai Thon, Nai Yang, and Nai Harn (see under Beaches earlier). Stalls at these places rent equipment and can offer tips. Otherwise, join a trip to the islands of Phi Phi (see #90) or Similan (see #93), or those just off the south coast of Phuket (see #54). Scuba-diving around the wreck at Nai Thon and the world-class Similan Islands can be arranged through international-standard agencies at the resort regions.

78. Water-sports

At every beach region, all possible activities on the water can be arranged, including parasailing, water-skiing, banana boating, and jet-skiing. For island-hopping and deep-sea fishing, boats can be chartered (see #50), while experienced skippers can rent their own.

79. Elephant Rides

Some elephant camps are quite cruel, and many visitors are cautious about partaking in their exploitation, but riding on – or, better, watching and feeding – these magnificent creatures is understandably popular. Widely regarded as the most ethical is Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, which offers spine-tingling interactions with the retired and formerly abused. • Map • +66 (0)62 767 7111

80. Sea Canoeing

Unique to Phuket is canoeing on the ocean, particularly around the remarkable Phang Nga Bay (see #47). Duck under rocky arches and paddle into hidden lagoons and caves full of fireflies around the calm waters. Worth doing even if the setting wasn’t indescribably exquisite. No experience needed, and a guide can accompany the less able in a raft for two or three.

81. Horse Riding

Loads of fun along well-designed and guided trails across beaches and among forests. Available to all, from beginners to more experienced riders. Reputable agencies include the Phuket International Horse Club at Bang Tao and Phuket Riding Club at Mai Khao. • Map 1Map 2

Festivals & Events in Phuket

82. Laguna Phuket Food & Music Festival (changeable, late April) – Bang Tao

Large, new, popular, and an indulgence for the ears and mouth. In the Laguna complex of resorts, with three days of live music, food stalls, and family fun.

83. Vegetarian (Kin Jay) Festival (changeable, late September and/or early October)

Thais of Chinese ancestry arrange parades, markets, and food stalls, while the more devout perform incredible acts of bravery (or stupidity), including fire-walking and body-piercing while in trances. Celebrated by everyone for nine days, with most activities in Phuket Town.

84. Songkran (usually 13th to 15th April)

The Thai New Year is celebrated all over the country with a public holiday (or two). At this time, water is poured, dumped, and spouted over everyone for several days. Dress appropriately, and visit a temple to admire the induction of novice monks.

85. Mahga Puja (changeable, at full moon in February/March)

Second-most important Buddhist festival attracts devotees from across Thailand. Particularly impressive at Wat Chalong temple (see #56).

86. Patong Carnival (1st to 3rd November) – Patong

The streets become even more crowded with food stalls, activities, and displays celebrating the end of the wetter months and onset of the tourist season. Parades, cultural shows, and live music are also held at various locations.

87. Loi Ruea Chao Le Festival (full moon in April/May and November/December)

A traditional event where chao le sea gypsies make and then float model boats into the water as an offering, hoping to ward off future bad luck. Not a tourist attraction, but possible to witness with permission from villagers.

Short Trips from Phuket

88. Phi Phi Island – an hour by boat

Staggeringly popular daytrip, with masses unloaded on beaches of this once-idyllic island. Snorkeling and swimming, with a visit to a cave and lunch usually included. • Map

89. Phang Nga Bay

A must-do cruise on a traditional long-tail boat or Chinese-style junk-boat around the numerous limestone karst rocks up to 300m above the turquoise waters. Numerous stops include a Muslim village that floats on the sea, and the much-hyped James Bond Island (location for film scenes from the 1970s). • Map

90. Khao Lak – 1.5 to 2 hours by road

Hugely affected by the 2004 tsunami, but now mostly recovered, with a few reminders. Popular for the chain of beaches and uncrowded shops that are all so low-key compared to Phuket, but no less appealing. Easy to reach by public bus. • Map

91. Similan Islands – 1.5 hours by boat

Part of a marine park with nine islands of granite boulders so different to Phang Nga Bay. Blessed with extraordinary visibility and vibrant reefs, the islands are perennially rated as one of Asia’s premier snorkeling/diving spots. Hiking also possible onshore. Best to go on an organized boat trip. • Map

Phuket Areas

92. Patong

Phuket’s most popular region is often unpleasantly overcrowded. However, amid so much noise, traffic, and girly bars, there are several great options for families. Only a handful of resorts actually face the beach (and busy esplanade), while many hotels can be 1km or more away. Endless facilities and home to the world-class Jungceylon shopping center (see #34).
Best Stuff: Holiday Inn Resort PhuketBurasari PhuketImpiana Resort PatongBaan Rim Pa restaurant • Sala Bua restaurant • Savoey Seafood Restaurant • Aroonsom Food Park • Phuket Pearl ShopJungceylon shopping center • Mister Singh’s Fashion GalleryTiger Entertainment ComplexBangla Boxing StadiumGalaxy Boxing StadiumPhuket Simon Cabaret ShowKee Sky Lounge (ultra-trendy, for sunsets and DJs) • Aussie Bar (friendly expat hangout) • Aqua Spa (impressive setting and highly rated) • The Kids Club Phuket • Patong Carnival

93. Bang Tao

The newest area in Phuket is mainly full of 4 and 5-star resorts. Most in the southern part face the beach and are within walking distance of a main road with a limited range of shops and cafés. But those based around the manmade lakes inland feel isolated. All roads around Bang Tao are frustratingly convoluted, but the beach is extensive and uncrowded. There is almost nothing to do, however, but laze by the pool or sea.
Best Stuff: Outrigger Laguna Phuket Beach ResortSunwing Bangtao BeachAmora Beach Resort Phuket (affordable and convenient) • Saffron restaurant • Siam Supper ClubThe Bistro (ever-popular, with Scandinavian influence) • Canal Village shopping center (outdoor mall with everything needed) • Banyan Tree Gallery (elegant handicraft store) • Peppers English Pub and Sports Bar (sociable, with TV sports and happy hours) • So Thai Spa Phuket Privilege (popular, tranquil, and good-value) • Thai Sabai Massage (authentic, affordable, and hotel visits) • Phuket International Horse ClubLaguna Phuket Food & Music Festival

94. Kamala

Remarkably maintaining the vibe of a fishing village, development is happily hindered by a peculiar road layout. Parts of the beach are almost empty and most facilities are along a short stretch of a minor road. The beachside paths lined with eateries are unique. Kamala is ideal for families, but be wary of dangerous undertows.
Best Stuff: Wabi Sabi Boutique HotelKamala Resort and Spa (adults only in a quieter area) • Silk Restaurant & Bar • Blue Manao restaurant • Kamala Friday Market (goods, food, and fruit) • On the Roof bar • Phuket FantaSea cultural theme park • Chann Spa (intimate and award-winning)

95. Karon

An extended beach with empty patches alongside the esplanade that make it appear deserted. Misguided efforts have been made to beautify the beach and waterside paths, but it still lacks character – also because most facilities are along inland streets and in the north only. Dangerous swimming in the wet season (April to November), but always loved by surfers.
Best Stuff: Thavorn Palm Beach ResortMövenpick Resort & Spa Karon Beach PhuketCentara Grand Beach ResortOn The Rock restaurant • EAT Bar & Grill (also vegetarian-friendly) • Karon Market (temple grounds, Tuesdays and Saturdays) • Angus O’Tool’s bar • In Balance Spa (highly-rated and luxurious) • Dino Park mini-golf

96. Kata

Divided into two bays separated by a rocky headland. Hata Yai (Big Kata) is the main area of mid-range accommodation facing the road because the Club Med resort fronts most of the beach (which is still open to the public). The more scenic Kata Noi (Small Kata) beach is too far from its big brother to walk, and facilities are fewer, catering to a handful of resorts.
Best Stuff: The Baray Villa by Sawasdee VillageMom Tri’s Villa RoyaleThe Boathouse restaurantMom Tri’s Kitchen restaurant • Tailor Pro (best among numerous tailor shops) • Stone BarSka BarThe Baray Spa • Snorkeling

97. Phuket Town

The antithesis of a resort region, with far more Thais than tourists. Home to numerous attractions, the port with boats to regional islands, and Phuket’s bus terminal. Most beach regions can be accessed by public transport.
Best Stuff: Little Nyonya Hotel (stylish and colonial-style) • Blue Elephant restaurant • Tunk Ka Café • Thanon Ranong Market • Naka Weekend Market • Central Festival Phuket • Thalang Road for shopping • Quip Sky Bar (chic rooftop bar for views and music) • Blue Elephant Cooking SchoolPhuket Heritage Trails • Phuket Thai Village theme park & Orchid Garden • The Raintree Spa • Vegetarian Festival

98. Southern Beaches

The only remaining coast worth developing is in the south. The beach at Chalong is generally thin and gravelly, although some parts are better than others. Rawai boasts a more likable village vibe with some decent facilities, but they are spread out and cater more to resident expats. Far superior, and delightfully under-developed, is the beach at Nai Harn, dominated by a yacht club and monastery (which owns the beach).
Best Stuff: The Vijitt Resort PhuketThe Windmill Phuket Hotel (walkable to yacht club and Laem Promthep cape) • Phuket Yacht Club RestaurantRock Salt restaurant (style, choice, and beachside) • Phuket Art VillageChalong Bay Rum Distillery (local rum, tours, and tastings) • Boat rental for islands • Phuket Seashell Museum • Atsumi healing center

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