Last Updated on May 16, 2019 by Christine Kaaloa
Coming to Phuket, initially I didn’t have an itinerary plan. Phuket Island is large and I felt overwhelmed with the notion of figuring out how to get around just to sightsee it. But the annual Phuket Vegetarian Festival was my goal, so with help from a local friend- my own Phuket travel guide- to show me around this island, I set off to find the best things to do in Phuket.
Table of Contents: My Ultimate Phuket Travel Guide | 11 Best Things to Do in Phuket
- 1 Watch the Experience: Phuket Travel Guide Video
- 2 11. Best Things to Do in Phuket
- 3 11. Day Tours and Getting to Phi Phi Islands
- 4 What to Bring to Phuket
- 5 Where to Stay in Phuket
- 6 Getting around Phuket
- 7 Getting from Phuket to Ko Phi Phi and other places
- 8 Getting to and from the Airport
- 9 Book your travel now
Watch the Experience: Phuket Travel Guide Video
There’s many things to do in Phuket. There’s as many things to do as there are cities to do them in. I’m sharing what I did and what I felt was manageable and budget friendly via motorbike.
11. Best Things to Do in Phuket
1. Kata Noi Beach
Next door to the popular and busy Kata Beach (the southernmost tip of Phuket), Kata Noi Beach feels much more secluded. This is a less inhabited and beautiful beach. Located in a more resort neighborhood next to the mountainside, you’ll find more intimate hotel stays with private infinity pools dotting the mountainside. Public access to the beach is located at the end of the drive. Ocean floor is sandy, with little to no rocks. Occasionally you might see a baby elephant walking along the beach in a wedding procession; it belongs to the hotel.
Please read further about elephant camps and treatment in Thailand.
2. Laguna Beach
Laguna Beach is a beach my local friend Skye introduced me to and it’s definitely not on standard tourist map. It’s a remote and lovely powdery white sand beach with occasionally beach bars dotting the area between sand and woods. Occasionally, you’ll find tourists horse-riding alongside the beach (likely from the Phuket International Horse Club, which charges 1200 baht for an hour).
Location: Between Maan Tawan Village and Baan Thai Surin Hill (or north of Phuket Fantasea, one of the largest night show attractions in Phuket), Laguna Beach is accessible to the public by car or motorbike. You’ll need to wind through a posh community of resorts, mansions and timeshares to get to it.
3. The Big Buddha
The Big Buddha is one of Phuket’s most revered and important sites. 45 meters tall, you can see it perched on its hill from a distance. It can be reached along a lovely 6 kilometer road dotted with houses, rubber tree plantation, elephant camps and countryside.
Admission: Free. Location: Nakkerd Hills between Chalong and Kata; Chaofa road West, just 2 km from Chalong Circle
4. Wat Chalong
Wat Chalong is Phuket’s largest and most exquisite wat grounds, with ornate temples built at the start of the 19th century. The most impressive building on the grounds is the chedi, housing a splinter bone from a Buddha. The walls and ceilings have paintings on them narrating the journey of Buddha and you’ll find a life-size collection of Buddha statues . Go to the top of the chedi for a lovely aerial view of the grounds. Avoid the crowds by going on a week day.
Hours: Daily from 7 am – 5 pm. Admission: Free, although donations are welcome. Location: Wat Chalong is almost 10 kilometers South of Phuket and east of Kata Beach. It’s on the way to the Giant Buddha.
5. Herbal Sauna
Herbal Saunas are something you’ll find in Southeast Asia (I experienced my first one in Muong Noi Laos), as well as Thailand. While they can take some Google searching, you’ll find some basic local ones. They are steam rooms which utilize some herb for detoxification. It’s quite refreshing. To see how it’s done in Southeast Asia, watch the video above.
Cost: 70 baht/ $2 USD. Location: There are a handful throughout Phuket and you can find them at some resort and spas. A local friend took me to a local one that she liked visiting.
6. Thai Massage
To get a Thai Massage in Thailand is a given. The massages in Thailand are generally full body and rigorous. Your masseuse my knead, step or tug on you in various way to stretch you out as she massages. You can order anything from a half hour to hour service. A menu is provided for targetting trouble spots that need to be worked on. Prices are higher in Phuket (vs say, Bangkok), but not by much.
Cost: 250 baht / $7 USD for an hour of full body.
7. Nai Harn Beach
Nai Harn Beach has quite possibly the best balance of beauty, local atmosphere and friendly tourism. As if the drive past Nai Harn Lake wasn’t picturesque enough, it’s a beach children can love as it has a river inlet for shallow play and the ocean. There’s cafes and souvenir shops outside the beach, a massage tent on the beach and the monastery next door.
8. Nai Harn Buddhist Monastery
Located between Nai Harn Beach and the lake is the Nai Harn Buddhist Monastery. It looks like a wat with temples, diety statues (like an elephant god Erawan or Ganesh) and a room of murals and Buddhas. You’ll find a giant statue of a monk sitting off to the side as well as a tree wrapped in a silk sash bearing many little dolls and amulets.
9. The Phuket Vegetarian Festival
The Phuket Vegetarian Festival is the largest food festival in Thailand, if not all of Asia. The festival is nine days of vegetarian food, fun and festivities. Held around late September/early October, the festival is known for more dramatic festival acts and rites such as piercings, fire walking and razor ladder climbs.
10. Karon Temple Market
Located in Karon town, Karon Temple Market is a wat grounds which opens to a marketplace full of souvenirs, clothing and food. It’s quite a large market which tourists will love.
Hours: The market runs twice a week (Tuesdays and Saturdays), noon- 11pm.
11. Day Tours and Getting to Phi Phi Islands
You’ll find a wealth of tour operators offering tours to the James Bond island and Speedboat tours to the Phi Phi Islands (review). Sharing the Andaman Sea, Phuket is an ideal launching grounds for island hopping and diving. Many day tours start at around 3,000 baht. I took a speedboat tour and while I cannot recommend it as safe, it was a convenient way to explore the Phi Phi islands in a day.
Why you should Avoid Elephant Camps & Elephant Riding
You’ll find many elephant camps in Phuket. Many tourists new to Thailand will find animal tourism an exciting novelty. I participated in this on my first trip to Thailand so you could say I’m a hypocrite for offering this advice now. In retrospect, I was just clueless and ignorant about the harm I was enabling. Most tourists are. So let me just share a perspective to think about. Although the Thai have loved and used elephants throughout history, many animal lovers don’t understand how elephant camps, elephant riding and use of these animals for entertainment is harmful to the elephant. If known, it’s likely that most animal lovers would not engage in these activities to begin with!
These large and gentle creatures much be broken in order to be trained. Babies are either separated from their mothers or must work alongside them. Trainers prod and poke the elephants with bull hooks, which pierce through the elephant’s thick skin, leaving scars and hurting them. As for elephant riding, their bodies may be large, but the equivalent of carrying a human and carriage on its back is similar to a human being forced to carry 50-75 pounds of weight on their back in the hot sun for an entire day, nonstop.Some will say- but what about the poor families that this tourist attraction feeds? I would respond- humans always have the freedom of choice in their survival mechanisms. If you were robbed of all your money in Thailand, somehow, you’d find a way to survive. Humans are capable of achieving a lot under survival pressures. But captive animals do not have that choice… at all when they are captive to the slavery of humans.
Read why elephant riding should be removed from bucket list here.
Tip: If you love elephants (and animals) help save them by not participating in animal tourism. And if you do, please don’t tell me about it.
What to Bring to Phuket
For the most part, you can buy most things you’ll need in Phuket. From beach towels, sunscreen, dry bags, bikinis and more, Thailand’s tourism infrastructure is strong. Ladies, the one thing you might have difficulty finding are tampons. However, if they do exist, you might find them at 7 Elevens or thai pharmacies.
• Upset stomach, sunburn or an itch? Head to the pharmacy. Thai pharmacists are similar to country doctors and many can help prescribe medicines for your ailments. If your condition worsens, visit the nearest international hospital for medical attention. Thai hospitals are very good and inexpensive.
• Great dive launching grounds: Phuket, Ko Tao, Khao Lak (Similan Islands)
Read packing tips for diving & packing essentials for summer/beach vacation
|Recommended Essentials for Phuket . Click to Shop.|
|Havianas Flip Flops||
sport sunscreen stick
Where to Stay in Phuket
Figuring out where to stay in Phuket can be the tricky part. Popular tourist towns are Karon, Kata, Patong, Rawai and Phuket Town . Stepping off the plane, I didn’t know this. I only decided upon Phuket a week or so before and thankfully a friend offered her place in Kata, an ideal location.
Patong: My local friend advised me to avoid Patong. It’s dense with tourism, the sex industry and it’s not a great place to stay in if you want to chill.
Kata: I stayed in Kata, a smaller chill Thai resort town, with tourist shops, nightlife and restaurants. It’s nowhere near the craziness of Patong or Karon, but the town is in a beautiful mountainside location (which you want to drive up to for a lookout). Hole in the wall food cafes are a little tricky to find.
Phuket Town: If you don’t need to be near a beach but want to be in the hub of shops and restaurants, Phuket Town is central and inland. It offers inexpensive hostels over pricy resorts and hotels.
Karon: My visit through Karon was brief, but it’s a large beach town which offers a plethora of options for travelers in souvenirs, restaurants, shopping, nightlife, etc… This is where I visited the Karon Temple Market.
Getting around Phuket
If you’re looking for sightseeing freedom to roam and explore Phuket’s best beaches, the best way to get around is to rent a motorbike. This is the easiest and most convenient option. Motorbike rentals are approximately 200-300 baht. Although a few roads might be a little inclined, lanes are wide and there aren’t many cross sections to navigate. It’s not easy to get lost.
Aside from Phuket City, coastal towns neighbor one another and connect through a winding coastal road.
You can also hire taxis and motorbike taxis to get around as well as, rent a car.
Getting from Phuket to Ko Phi Phi and other places
You can get to Ko Phi Phi from Phuket by ferry from Ratsada Pier/Phuket City. Ko Phi Phi Ferries take about two hours from Phuket. Holidays will be packed so plan ahead. Boats leave either hourly or every two hours. Another alternative is to take a speed boat tour.
Ferry location: Ratsada Pier, 64/8 Land & House Park Phuket, Phuket City.
Getting to and from the Airport
Phuket Airport is located at the northern part of Phuket. Getting into town is easy. Outside arrivals , go left (towards the car park) and you’ll see a sign: “Airport Bus” . The bus goes to Phuket Bus Station 1 in Phuket Town. The bus makes local stops along the main road, including Thalang Lotus Shopping Mall and Heroines Monument. It takes around 45 minutes.
Returning to the Phuket Airport require an airport transportation (shared van or taxi) to get there. it is easiest to book reservation pickups through a tour agency. If you’re coming from a southern beach town, plan at least an hour. From Kata, it took me about an hour’s drive. Cost: Airport taxi 950 baht (from Kata district)
Book your travel now
I like to book my travels in person so I know what type of conditions to expect, however many travelers like to do it in advance through tour operators or their hostel. I’ve used the site below for occasional long distance transportation in Thailand and last-minute online reservations. It has timetables and travel options (from trains to buses) to choose from. This site might receive a slight commission but not much.
What do you think of this Phuket Travel Guide? What would you recommend as top attractions or things to do in Phuket? Let me know below in the comments section.
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