Phuket, Thailand’s largest island, is a tropical paradise known for its stunning beaches, vibrant nightlife, and rich cultural heritage. For those considering things to do in Phuket, lounging on the famous Patong Beach, with its wide stretch of sand and bustling atmosphere, and exploring the Old Town, with its well-preserved Sino-Portuguese architecture and colorful buildings, are top activities.
The island’s Big Buddha, a 45-meter-tall statue perched atop Nakkerd Hill, offers panoramic views of Phuket and is a significant religious landmark. Nearby, the Wat Chalong, the largest and most important Buddhist temple in Phuket, provides a glimpse into the island’s spiritual side, with its grand pagoda and intricate decorations.
Beyond its beaches and cultural sites, Phuket is also a gateway to the stunning Phi Phi Islands and the Phang Nga Bay, known for its dramatic limestone cliffs and emerald-green waters. For those seeking the best places to visit in Thailand, Phuket’s combination of natural beauty, cultural richness, and lively atmosphere makes it a must-visit destination.
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Attractions & Things to Do in Phuket, Thailand
1. Wat Chalong
Wat Chalong is Phuket’s most important and visited Buddhist temple, beautifully adorned with countless images of Buddha and intricate designs. It is dedicated to two highly venerated monks, Luang Pho Chaem and Luang Pho Chuang, who led the citizens of Chalong in fighting off Chinese rebellion in 1876 and helped the injured with their knowledge of herbal medicine.
Travel Tip: Dress respectfully when visiting the temple, covering shoulders and knees, and remove your shoes before entering the temple halls.
2. Phang Nga Bay
Phang Nga Bay is renowned for its stunning limestone karsts that jut vertically out of the emerald-green water. James Bond Island and Koh Panyee are two of the more famous spots in this bay.
Travel Tip: The best way to enjoy and explore these surreal landscapes is by taking a boat tour. Opt for a sea canoe tour, which allows you to enter into the beautiful caves and lagoons.
3. Old Phuket Town
Old Phuket Town is a historical area with shrines, temples (Buddhist and Chinese), ornate and beautifully preserved ‘shophouses’, quaint cafes, private and public museums, and small printing shops. It is a testament to the island’s history, where European architecture meets Chinese traditions.
Travel Tip: Visit during the morning or late afternoon to avoid the heat, and don’t miss the Sunday Street Market if you’re there on a weekend.
4. Big Buddha
The Big Buddha of Phuket is one of the island’s most significant and revered landmarks. The huge image sits on top of the Nakkerd Hills between Chalong and Kata and, at 45 meters tall, it is easily seen from far away.
Travel Tip: The site offers panoramic views, so bring a camera and visit either early in the morning or late afternoon to catch a breathtaking sunrise or sunset.
5. Similan Islands
The Similan Islands are a group of islands in the Andaman Sea that are known for their crystal-clear blue waters, white sandy beaches, and rich marine life, making them a top spot for snorkelers and divers.
Travel Tip: These islands are accessible by boat tours, which are best arranged from November to April when the seas are calmest.
6. Patong Beach
Patong Beach is Phuket’s most famous beach resort for its wide variety of activities and nightlife. The beach is full of life with people sunbathing, jet skiing, and enjoying boat rides.
Travel Tip: Patong is known for its vibrant nightlife, so make sure to explore Bangla Road when the sun goes down for a true taste of Phuket’s party scene.
7. Thai Boxing (Muay Thai)
Muay Thai or Thai Boxing is Thailand’s national sport, and Phuket is a great place to watch these exciting matches. Venues like the Patong Boxing Stadium offer regular fight nights.
Travel Tip: If you’re interested in learning the art of Muay Thai, there are numerous gyms across the island offering training sessions for all levels.
8. Phuket Elephant Sanctuary
The Phuket Elephant Sanctuary is a haven for retired and rescued elephants, where they can roam freely in a natural environment. It offers a chance to observe these majestic creatures ethically, without riding them.
Travel Tip: Book your visit in advance and be sure to wear comfortable clothes and shoes as you’ll have the chance to walk with the elephants in their habitat.
9. Phuket FantaSea
Phuket FantaSea is a cultural theme park offering elaborate shows with elephants, a buffet dinner, and a chance to learn about Thai culture in an entertaining way.
Travel Tip: It’s a popular attraction, especially for families, so it’s advisable to book your tickets in advance to ensure availability.
10. Kata Noi Beach
Kata Noi Beach is a lovely little bay along Phuket’s west coast, with soft white sand and stunning blue sea, perfect for swimming and sunbathing.
Travel Tip: Visit early in the morning to have the beach almost to yourself and stay to witness one of Phuket’s magnificent sunsets.
11. Phi Phi Islands
The Phi Phi Islands are some of Thailand’s most famous island escapes, renowned for their crystal-clear waters and dramatic cliffs. The main island, Phi Phi Don, is the only inhabited island and offers a combination of bustling nightlife and beautiful natural scenery.
Travel Tip: Try to stay overnight on Phi Phi Don to experience the island’s beauty without the day-trip crowds, and take an early morning boat trip to the surrounding islands for snorkeling.
12. Promthep Cape
Promthep Cape is one of Phuket’s most photographed and perhaps best-known locations. Every evening, large tour buses, scooters, and private cars sweep through Rawai Beach and up the island’s southernmost hill in order to watch the sunset at its peak.
Travel Tip: It can get crowded at sunset, so visit during the daytime or early morning for a quieter experience and equally stunning views.
13. Bangla Road
When the sun sets, Bangla Road gets closed to traffic and becomes alive with neon lights, loud music, and crowds of people looking to experience Phuket’s famous nightlife. Here, you’ll find a myriad of bars, pubs, clubs, and shows.
Travel Tip: While it’s an adult-oriented area, the early evening can be less intense for those wanting a taste of the atmosphere without the late-night revelry.
14. Kata Noi Viewpoint
Kata Noi Viewpoint offers spectacular views over the bays of Kata Noi, Kata Yai, and Karon, and is a popular spot for a photo opportunity.
Travel Tip: The best time to visit is early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the heat is less intense, and the light is ideal for photography.
15. Sarasin Bridge
Linking the island of Phuket to the mainland of Thailand, Sarasin Bridge offers scenic views and is a testament to the development and modern history of Phuket. The original bridge stood for over 40 years before the new one was built alongside it.
Travel Tip: Visit at dusk to enjoy a calm and beautiful sunset with less tourist traffic.
16. Rawai Village
Rawai Village, home to the Sea Gypsy community, gives visitors a glimpse of local life away from Phuket’s tourist spots. The village has a charming blend of traditional and modern, with a picturesque beachfront lined with boats.
Travel Tip: Stop by the Sea Gypsy fish market for the freshest seafood, which you can then take to a nearby restaurant to have it cooked to order.
17. Tiger Kingdom
At the Tiger Kingdom in Phuket, visitors have the unique opportunity to interact with tigers of various sizes and ages. This attraction raises mixed opinions due to the nature of human-animal interaction; however, it is marketed as a conservation site.
Travel Tip: If you choose to visit, go early in the day to avoid crowds and to see the animals when they’re most active.
18. Chalong Bay Rum Distillery
This is the place where Chalong Bay Rum, a premium local spirit, is produced. The distillery offers guided tours to see the process of rum-making and tasting sessions.
Travel Tip: Be sure to try a cocktail making class, which is not only educational but also a fun experience.
19. Ao Sane Beach
A hidden gem, Ao Sane Beach is a quiet spot perfect for snorkeling and getting away from the more crowded beaches in Phuket.
Travel Tip: Bring your snorkeling gear, and don’t forget sunscreen as there are limited shaded areas on this small beach.
20. Phuket Trickeye Museum
The Phuket Trickeye Museum is an interactive 3D painting exhibition offering fun photo opportunities with 3D paintings and scenes that range from classical to fantastical.
Travel Tip: This is a great indoor activity for families or couples, especially on a rainy day.
FAQ About Things to Do in Phuket, Thailand
What are the must-visit beaches in Phuket?
Phuket’s most famous beaches are Patong, Karon, and Kata. Each offers a unique experience, from vibrant nightlife at Patong to more relaxed and family-friendly atmospheres at Karon and Kata.
Can I visit the Phi Phi Islands from Phuket?
Yes, the Phi Phi Islands are a must-see destination while in Phuket. Day trips by speedboat or ferry are available, offering opportunities for snorkeling, swimming, and sightseeing.
Is there a cultural site that I shouldn’t miss in Phuket?
Do not miss the Big Buddha, a 45-meter-tall statue on Nakkerd Hill. It offers panoramic views of the island and is a significant cultural landmark.
Are there opportunities for scuba diving in Phuket?
Phuket is a world-renowned diving destination, with dive sites for all levels. You can explore coral reefs, marine life, and even shipwrecks through certified dive shops offering day trips and PADI courses.
What is the best way to experience local life in Phuket?
Visit the Old Phuket Town to experience its unique blend of colonial and Chinese architecture and try local street food at the night markets, such as the Phuket Weekend Market.
Can I take a Thai cooking class in Phuket?
Certainly! There are numerous Thai cooking schools in Phuket where you can learn how to prepare classic Thai dishes using traditional ingredients and techniques.
What family-friendly activities are available in Phuket?
Families can enjoy the Phuket Aquarium, visit the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, take a splash at water parks, or go for a mini-golf adventure.
Are there any natural parks to explore in Phuket?
Khao Phra Thaeo National Park is a treasure for nature lovers, offering hiking trails, waterfalls like Bang Pae and Ton Sai, and a chance to see diverse wildlife in their natural habitat.