There is no way Phuket won’t come up in a conversation about Thailand – it’s usually either for its paradisiacal sandy beaches and popular attractions or the controversial parties and pub crawls that take place at Bangla Road. In any case, experiencing Phuket and all the good and bad it has to offer is an essential part of that first-time-in-Thailand-pack. Some people love it, some hate it… we think it’s a must!
If explored right, the country’s largest island has everything to become one of your favorites. So get your sunglasses as we’re about to shine a bright light on some of the BEST things to do in Phuket!
Top Things to Do in Phuket
1. Explore Phuket’s Hidden Spots
We love some hidden spots, so let’s start with that! Despite being such a large and popular island, there are still some pretty secretive places yet to be discovered by tourists here.
Freedom Beach, Banana Beach, Naithon Beach, and Yanui Beach are beautiful white sandy beaches that remain relatively uncrowded and are a treat to the eyes. The wooden stairs at Naithon Beach double as a great photo spot.
Note: to access Freedom Beach, make sure to head to this location as the way down is much easier than the trail available at The Lek Sand Beach Bar. They charge a few baht per person to go down this way.
Our local friend Pry (go check his amazing Insta: @pry.highnseek) also tipped us on a few other secret spots worth a visit:
Kamala’s Hidden Rock Ponds: these natural small pools are tucked away from the world and are worth the hike there! You can either drive up to the entry of the trail (location here) and take the 15-20 minute route down or hike all the way from the South of Kamala Beach, following this route. Note that the path back to the top of the trail can be quite challenging.
Anthony Freedom Cape at Kalim Beach: a smaller version of the famous Coconut Tree Hill in Mirissa, Sri Lanka, this area is exactly what it sounds like – a hill filled with coconuts heading down to the sea. Use this location on Google Maps to get there (the cape is located behind a very large rock sitting along the road).
2. Check Off Some Bucket List Items
Now to the “Eiffel Towers” and “Angkor Wats” of Phuket: the iconic places you absolutely can’t miss when visiting the island for the first time.
One of Phuket‘s most recognizable landmarks is a colossal white Buddha statue that sits gracefully atop Nakkerd Hill in the southern part of the island. Measuring 45 meters in height, it is considered one of the largest Buddha statues in Thailand.
The best time to visit is during sunrise and sunset, with sunrise being the less crowded. We wouldn’t recommend visiting it during early afternoons as there are almost no shadows there and the sun here offers no mercy.
Note: It is completely free to visit the Big Buddha but please follow Temple Etiquette as usual when visiting temples in Southeast Asia.
Old Phuket Town
Another must-visit is the charming area of the Old Town. Here the colorful Sino-Portuguese buildings and vibrant streets tell the story of the many immigrants who started a new life on the island back in the late 19th century.
Phuket Walking Street (or Thalang Road) and Phang Nga Road are the main arteries of the area, lined with cute little boutique shops, art galleries, great cafes, and restaurants. It is definitely one of our favorite photo spots in Phuket!
Hot tip: every Sunday from 4 to 10 PM a famous night market takes place at the Old Town. This is a great opportunity to try some of the best Thai street food ever!
Bangla Road Night Out
This large street located in Patong Beach is lined with bars, nightclubs, and all types of not-so-sure-if-this-is-legal establishments (read a wide range of adult entertainment). Known as a bit of a controversial area, some people love the chaotic nightlife here while some hate how busy it gets.
We think it’s a must-do for backpackers or whoever enjoys partying! A night out at Bangla Road is a crazy and memorable experience, especially if you’re staying at a hostel and going out for a pub crawl.
Hot tip: if you’re a big fan of clubbing, then we recommend checking out Illuzion Phuket.
Wat Chalong is a Buddhist temple that dates back to the early 19th century and is dedicated to two monks who played significant roles in Phuket‘s history, renowned for their healing abilities and their efforts to resolve local conflicts. It is the biggest and the most visited temple on the island!
3. Hit the Beach!
Although we don’t think Phuket is as paradisiacal compared to Phi Phi, Koh Lipe, or even Krabi, there are some pretty amazing beaches around the island. Some of the most popular (but still super nice!) are Karon, Nai Thon, Kata and Kata Noi, Surin, and Kamala Beach.
Fun fact: Karon Beach was featured in the 1974 James Bond film “The Man with the Golden Gun“. It served as the backdrop for a thrilling scene where James Bond goes after the villain Scaramanga.
Another great option to spend the day in is Paradise Beach, located right next to Patong Beach. On the hills that engulf the beach, you’ll find a “Secret Buddha Garden” with a collection of statues carved from stone.
Hot tip: Mai Khao Beach on the North of the Island is a famous Insta hot spot! Here you can witness airplanes flying closely overhead as they take off and land at Phuket’s International Airport, located right by the beach.
If you enjoy surfing, you might be able to catch some waves at Kalin, Kata, Nai Harn, and Surin Beach during the monsoon season.
4. Watch the Sunset from a Viewpoint
No tropical summer vacation in Phuket is complete without watching at least one fiery sunset from a viewpoint!
Some of the most popular viewpoints on the island from where you can watch the sunset are Karon, Kata Noi, and Promthep Cape Viewpoints. The Big Buddha is also a great spot.
If you’re looking to escape the tourists, we’d recommend Black Rock Viewpoint (the best!), Khao Rang Hill, Radar Hill Viewpoint, Panwa Viewpoint (Khao Khad) or Krating Cape.
5. Set Sail to Pristine Islands
Phuket Islands are a dream come true and they don’t get as nearly enough attention as they deserve – Surin Islands are our favorite in all of Thailand and most people have never even heard of it! Here are the top four islands you should visit:
Considered one of the best diving and snorkeling destinations in Phuket, this island is home to one of the clearest and bluest waters we’ve ever seen!
The Racha Islands comprise Koh Racha Noi, which remains uninhabited, and Koh Racha Yai, where you can find a few accommodation options, including the beautiful 5-star The Racha.
Hot tip: We visited the island on a boat trip with Hype Boat Club and highly recommend it! You can book this activity here.
The Similan Islands have recently gone a bit viral on social media for their resemblance to the iconic Seychelles Islands – vibrant coral reefs, crystal clear blue waters, and fine white sandy beaches but for a third of the price tag. The archipelago is stunning!
With regular underwater visibility of 30 meters, little to no development, and a traditional village of sea gypsies, Surin is your ticket to the most authentic tropical escapade! Read more about visiting this amazing island in our Surin Islands: Explore Thailand’s Best-Kept Secret post.
The closest to Phuket, Coral Island can be easily reached by taking a longtail taxi or on a half-day tour. There is a restaurant and bar on the island, with sun chairs and lots of water activities available.
6. Take a Day Trip from Phuket
Phi Phi Islands is by far the number one day trip from Phuket, but we’ll also tell you all about the lesser-known locations that you can visit on a day trip from the island!
Samet Nangshe Viewpoint
Around 85 kilometers North of Phuket, atop a hill, is one of the most stunning viewpoints in Thailand. Samet Nangshe Viewpoint offers panoramic views of Phan Nga Bay and its Avatar-like karst landscape. It is the perfect location to catch the sunrise before exploring the bay.
The best way to visit it is by hopping on a day tour. We visited the viewpoint twice and the first time we rode a scooter for three hours to get there – really don’t recommend it.
The second time was on a sponsored trip with Phuket Let’s Go and we loved everything about their tour, starting with the super comfortable minivan that picks you up and takes you back to your hotel while you take a nap or two. Their tour also includes breakfast, an early boat tour to the James Bond Island, and a kayaking adventure through the karst mountains of the bay.
Hot tip: Shoot them a DM on Instagram mentioning our blog post (@phuketletsgo) for a better price on your tour!
James Bond Island & Koh Panyi Village
Phang Nga Bay is also home to these two iconic landmarks: James Bond Island, which gained worldwide recognition after appearing in the James Bond movie, and Koh Panyi Village, a traditional fishing village built on stilts above the water with a floating football field.
Phi Phi Islands
The archipelago can be visited on a full-day tour from Phuket, which usually includes most of the Islands’ highlights, such as Maya Bay, Pileh Lagoon, and Monkey Beach.
You can also get a ferry. Ferries to the archipelago are available from Phuket, Krabi, and Koh Lanta, and can be booked online in advance or directly at the pier (we recommend booking at least one to two days in advance during peak season). We also have a full post on the 9 BEST Things to Do on Phi Phi Islands, so make sure to check that one out before you go!
Also read: Phi Phi Islands – The ULTIMATE Travel Guide
Phuket Travel Tips
Getting to Phuket
Phuket International Airport (HKT) is the main gateway to the island. It receives domestic and international flights from major cities around the world.
If you are already in Thailand, you can travel to Phuket by road. The island is connected to the mainland by a bridge making it accessible by car or bus. Buses are available from most cities including Bangkok, Krabi, and Surat Thani.
There are also ferry services available for those traveling from nearby islands or coastal areas. If you are coming from popular destinations like Phi Phi Islands or Krabi, you can take a ferry to reach Phuket. From other islands a little further away, speedboat taxis are also available.
🛵 Scooter: renting a scooter is the most common choice for exploring Phuket. You can rent a scooter for as little as 200 baht (around 5-6 euros) per day.
Note: you can rent a bike with your passport only, but the fine for driving without an international driver’s license is 1,000 baht. During peak season the police checkpoints are everywhere on the island.
🚘 Grab: the Uber of Southeast Asia, you can easily book a ride by car or even motorbike to anywhere in Thailand in a few minutes with Grab. Fares are usually fixed, providing transparency and eliminating the need for bargaining.
🚕 Songthaew: the local bus (which is actually a pick-up truck with a converted bed that can fit between 8-10 adults inside) runs along set routes and is a more affordable option (around 50-200 baht per person) for getting around.
Songthaews usually have specific colors indicating their routes, so make sure to confirm the destination before boarding. To hail a songthaew, you can simply stand at the roadside and stick out your arm to signal a songthaew to stop.