Most travellers to Thailand dedicate a good portion of their trip to exploring the country’s many islands. When it comes to the Thai islands, Phuket is most certainly a juggernaut. Not only is Phuket the largest island in Thailand, but it’s also visited by around one-third of all international visitors to the country.
It’s also the only island in Thailand to be connected to the mainland by not one, but two bridges. Sarasin (which is used for pedestrian traffic) and Thepkasattri, which is used for motor vehicles.
On such a large and popular island, it should come as no surprise that there are plenty of fun things to do in Phuket. Whether you’re looking for some R&R, adventure, or just to let your hair down and party, you’ll find it in Phuket. There’s so much going on here that you could max out your tourist visa just exploring this one island.
If you’re the kind of person who enjoys lounging on gorgeous beaches, partaking in a variety of water sports, or indulging in culinary and nightlife scenes, you’ll love a trip to Phuket Island. It’s definitely one of the top places to visit in Thailand.
With so much going on, planning a trip to Phuket can be a little intimidating. Never fear — I’ve compiled a solid list of the 21 best things to do in Phuket for you to make life easier!
Table of Contents
- 1. Beach Bumming
- 2. Visit the Big Buddha
- 3. Diving or Snorkeling
- 4. Wander Around Night Markets
- 5. Tour a Rum Distillery
- 6. Day Trip to Phang Nga Bay
- 7. Visit the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary
- 8. Go Temple Hopping
- 9. Take in the Views
- 10. Learn How to Cook Thai Food
- 11. Partake in the Nightlife
- 12. Go Island Hopping
- 13. Monkey Business on Toh Sae Hill
- 14. Explore Phuket Town
- 15. Water Sports Galore
- 16. See An Amazing Cabaret Show
- 17. Treat Yourself at a Spa
- 18. Experience Muay Thai
- 19. Dine at a Floating Restaurant
- 20. Do Go Chasing Waterfalls
- 21. Visit the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project
- Ready to Travel to Phuket?
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1. Beach Bumming
Before we get into all the exciting things to do in Phuket, let’s start out with a classic island vacation activity — beach bumming! On this huge island, you’ve got tons of choices for dipping your toes in the sand. But first, you’ll want to make sure you know which beaches come recommended and which ones are best avoided.
With the explosive development of Phuket’s coastline in recent decades, many beaches are well past their glory days. In my opinion, Patong Beach in particular should be avoided. Unless you like being bombarded with touts and almost run over by jet skis, I’d advise you give Patong a hard pass.
Now that we’ve gotten the bad news out-of-the-way, let’s move on to the good! Despite its popularity, Phuket is still home to several pristine, hidden beaches. With a little bit of effort, you’re rewarded with postcard-worthy beaches that are devoid of chain hotels and pushy vendors.
We could put together a whole guide on the beaches of Phuket – and maybe we will – but for now, here’s a quick list of some of the best beaches which feature more scenic beauty and less crowds: Ya Nui, Laem Singh, Pleumsuk, Nai Harn Beach, Karon Beach, and Nai Yang Beach are all excellent choices.
2. Visit the Big Buddha
One of the most revered landmarks in Phuket is the Big Buddha. This 45-meter tall Buddha is made of white marble and it can be seen from many points on the island. As it’s located atop the highest peak of Nakkerd Hills, you can enjoy some incredible panoramic views from here as well.
The Big Buddha is a very popular attraction, drawing over 1,500 visitors a day. If you really want to see the place bustling with activity, time your visit on one of the many Buddhist holidays that are celebrated in Thailand.
It’s free to visit the Big Buddha, but many people choose to make a donation to receive a small white tile that you can write a message on. You can get yourself here on a motorbike if you’re an experienced rider. The road up is windy and steep, so you may just want to get a taxi or sign up for a tour. Try to get here early in the morning or around sunset to beat the heat and crowds.
3. Diving or Snorkeling
When it comes to the best things to do in Phuket for couples, families or solo travellers, it’s all about getting in the water. There are some excellent opportunities for both scuba divers and snorkelers alike here. On many of the beaches in Phuket, you can simply rent a mask, snorkel, and fins to DIY. Alternatively, you can sign up for a tour to hit a few different spots and enjoy a day out at sea.
There are several dive shops in Phuket where you can sign up for a course if you’re not already certified. Once you’re ready to go, there are tons of world-class dive sites at your fingertips. With clear blue waters and an abundance of marine life, Phuket is one of the best places on the globe to go diving.
If you really want a top-notch snorkeling/diving experience, consider tacking on a trip out to the Similan Islands. Liveaboard trips depart from Phuket regularly to this incredible national park, which is considered to be the best dive site in all of Thailand.
After diving in Phuket for a while, why not check out the underwater scene on the other side of the country? Koh Tao is another world-famous diving destination, so be sure to add it to your Thailand itinerary as well.
4. Wander Around Night Markets
Back on land, there are still plenty of great things to do in Phuket. The island boasts several fantastic night markets that make for the perfect place to spend a casual evening out and about.
One of the coolest choices is definitely the Chillva Market, which makes use of colourful shipping containers as storefronts. Whether you’re shopping for souvenirs or just looking to dig into some tasty Thai street food, you’ll enjoy a stroll around. Checking out the markets is one of the top things to do in Phuket at Night.
Chillva Market: 141/2 Yaowarat Road, Phuket Town; open from 4-11PM Thursday-Saturday. Click here for directions.
5. Tour a Rum Distillery
While Chang beer is great and all, once in a while you’ve just got to drink something different in Thailand. That’s where a trip to the Chalong Bay Rum Distillery comes in. Distilled from 100% pure sugarcane, this tasty white rum is just what you need when you get sick of watered-down beer.
Tours of the distillery run every day on the hour from 2-6PM. The cost is 450 Baht ($14.20) and includes a tasting plus a yummy mojito at the end. They also run an awesome cocktail workshop on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday where you learn how to make three different drinks in addition to the guided visit of the distillery. This is actually one of the great things to do in Phuket when it rains!
Chalong Bay Distillery: 14/2 Moo 2, Palai soi 2, Tambon Chalong, Amphur Muang Phuket; open from 11AM-11PM daily
6. Day Trip to Phang Nga Bay
When travelling in Phuket, a day trip out to Phang Nga Bay is an absolute must. These stunning limestone cliffs that jut out of the sea are well worth the time and effort to reach.
If they look familiar, that’s probably because you’ve seen them in the James Bond film “The Man With the Golden Gun.” Thanks to its starring role in the 007 film, one of the rock formations has even been dubbed James Bond Island. The bay also appeared in “Star Wars: Episode III” as the backdrop for the planet Kashyyyk. How cool is that?
Most people visit Phang Nga Bay on a tour out of Phuket. Tours usually include stops at a few islands as well as a bit of snorkeling and kayaking. There are tons of options for tours depending on your budget and tastes. You can even book your own private yacht to tour the bay if you really want to live it up!
7. Visit the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary
There’s no doubt that Thailand has a major problem with animal tourism, especially when it comes to the country’s national animal. Elephants all across the country have been terribly abused for tourism and logging purposes over the years, but thankfully things are starting to change. Best of all, you can be a part of it here in Phuket!
Paying a visit to one of the elephant sanctuaries is definitely one of the most rewarding things to do in Phuket. Here you can interact with the peaceful pachyderms in an ethical way as you learn more about them. There is absolutely no elephant riding going on here, and that’s a good thing.
While there are a few such places to visit on the island, one that comes highly recommended is the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary. They run two tours a day for 3,000 Baht per person, and you can even volunteer for several days if you’re interested. Taking care of elephants is also one of the best things to do in Chiang Mai.
Phuket Elephant Sanctuary: 100, Moo 2,, Paklok, Thalang, 83110, Thailand; open 9AM-1PM and 2-5:30PM
8. Go Temple Hopping
Once in a while, you’ve got to get out of your beach chair and go do something cultural. One great option for a dose of Thai culture is a day of temple hopping. As is the case all across Thailand, Phuket is home to several different Buddhist temples.
The most important and most stunning Buddhist temple on the island is definitely Wat Chalong. There’s a lot to see in this massive complex, with the highlight being the glittering Grand Pagoda. It’s said that the pagoda houses a splinter from a bone of Buddha himself.
Wat Chalong is located about 8km from Phuket Town and is easy to find. It’s open from 7AM-5PM every day. Just be sure to wear modest attire when visiting this and any other Buddhist temple in Thailand. Save those neon singlets for the Full Moon Party, kids.
9. Take in the Views
To truly admire the beauty of Phuket, you’ll want to head to one of the island’s many viewpoints. On this rather hilly island, there are plenty of places where you can enjoy some incredible panoramic views.
In addition to the aforementioned Big Buddha, some of the best places to get an elevated perspective on Phuket include Promthep Cape at the southern tip of the island, the Karon viewpoint near the beach of the same name, and Rang Hill in Phuket Town. Be sure to come hungry if you visit the latter so you can stick around to dine at the Tunk-Ka Cafe.
10. Learn How to Cook Thai Food
One of the best things to do in Phuket – or anywhere in Thailand, for that matter – is indulge in the country’s mouth-watering cuisine. While you’re here, why not try your hand at making it yourself? There are tons of excellent cooking classes you can sign up for in Phuket so you can bring that tasty Thai food home with you!
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a longing for Thai food in places where it’s just impossible to find. By learning how to cook a few dishes yourself, you’ll never have to go without it again. You can also impress your friends by throwing a sweet dinner party and blowing their minds with your new skills.
There are plenty of great choices for cooking schools in Phuket. One that comes highly recommended is the Organic Thai Cooking School. They have several options, including vegetarian menus. Their half-day courses run 1,450 Baht per person and are well worth it.
Organic Thai Cooking School: 76/3 Moo 2, Rawai, Phuket
11. Partake in the Nightlife
If you like to party, then you’ve come to the right place! Phuket has some pretty epic nightlife regardless of what night of the week it is. From classy cocktail lounges, to chilled out reggae bars, to pulsating discos, you can find it all on this Thai island.
Most of the action after dark goes on in Patong on Bangla Road. This place is like Khao San Road in Bangkok on steroids. It can be a little intense (and definitely seedy), but it’s worth checking out at least once.
Those looking for a more laid-back experience can head to other parts of the island. Grab a drink and take in the views at the Quip Rooftop Bar in Phuket Town. Another solid choice is Ska Bar at the southern end of the gorgeous Kata Yai Beach.
Quip Bar: 5th Floor, Quip Bed & Breakfast, next to the corner of Phuket and Rasada Roads
Ska Bar: 186/12 Kata Beach Phuket
12. Go Island Hopping
Just because you’re already on an island doesn’t mean you can’t go see a few more! Heading out on a speedboat for a day of island hopping is without a doubt one of the top things to do in Phuket.
In addition to the aforementioned Phang Nga Bay tours, you can also embark on tours of the nearby Phi Phi Islands. Actually, the options are pretty much endless. There are tons of smaller islands surrounding Phuket, many of which are completely deserted. If you have a group and hire your own boat, you can choose your own adventure and make it up as you go along.
Obviously, tours vary in price depending on a lot of factors. It’s possible to get on a half-day tour that visits another island or two for $50 or less, but you can expect to pay closer to $100 or more if it’s a full day affair visiting several different islands. Island hopping is definitely one of the top things to do in Thailand – don’t miss out.
- See also: 21 Things to Do in Koh Phangan
13. Monkey Business on Toh Sae Hill
Toh Sae Hill in Phuket Town is also known as Monkey Hill, and for good reason. Around 400 macaques live in groups around the hill, and you’re sure to spot several of them.
There’s a viewpoint at the top of the hill, but you’ll actually get better views along the way if you walk up. There’s an exercise park about halfway up the hill that’s popular with locals. They even close the road to traffic at 5PM to allow people to enjoy the area free from exhaust fumes.
Join in the fun and get a good workout as you wait for a gorgeous Phuket sunset. Just keep an eye on your belongings, as the monkeys are known to snatch things like sunglasses or phones from time to time. If it happens, you’ll have to bribe them with fruit to get your stuff back!
14. Explore Phuket Town
Often overlooked by travellers who make a beeline for the beach, there are many things to do in Phuket Town if you take the time to visit. The Chinatown here alone is worth the trip. The town was once the centre of a mining boom on the island, which attracted many Chinese immigrants who left their mark on the town via their architecture and cuisine.
There’s more to see here than Chinatown. Here you’ll find the Phuket Cultural Centre and Butterfly Farm, as well as several museums, temples, and markets. You can sign up for a tour that will hit many of the highlights, or just get yourself there and pick up a copy of the free Phuket Town Treasure Map to create your own.
If you’re trying to visit Phuket on a budget – something that’s getting increasingly harder to do – you might even want to consider staying in town. Accommodation and food are much cheaper here, and you’re close to several of the island’s main attractions and plenty of beaches.
15. Water Sports Galore
Water sports are huge in Phuket, which should come as no surprise on a huge tropical island. In addition to the excellent diving and snorkeling opportunities that abound here, you’ve also got kayaking, SUPing, kite surfing, wakeboarding, sailing, fishing, surfing – the list goes on and on.
You can enjoy many water sports in Phuket right on the beach. There are plenty of vendors who rent out equipment like snorkels, kayaks, and jet skis. Of course, there are also tons of tours that will take you out for a fun day in the water. The possibilities are endless when it comes to water sports in Phuket.
Believe it or not, there are even options for water sports inland. That’s thanks to places like the Phuket Wave Park, which pulls wake boarders around a lake on a cable system. It’s suitable for all levels and is actually a great place to learn, as it’s much easier without having to deal with the wake from a boat.
16. See An Amazing Cabaret Show
One of the most entertaining things to do in Phuket, the Simon Cabaret show is an incredible performance that you’ll just have to see to believe. Billed as “Thailand’s most famous ladyboy show,” it is quite the spectacle.
This hour-long performance features extravagant costumes, incredibly talented performers, elaborate sets, and a ridiculously good light and sound system. They put a lot of time and effort into this show, which leaves well over a thousand attendees satisfied every night.
Shows take place every night at 6, 7:30, and 9PM. Tickets cost around $25 for a regular seat or $30 for a VIP seat. You can book directly through their website or with just about any tour operator on the island.
Simon Cabaret Show: 8 Sirirat Rd, Tambon Patong, Amphoe Kathu, Chang Wat Phuket
17. Treat Yourself at a Spa
While there are tons of fun things to do in Phuket, once in a while you just have to treat yourself to a relaxing day at the spa. Thankfully, your options are basically endless here for spa treatments.
In the popular tourist areas of Phuket, you can’t walk more than a few feet without being offered a massage. There seem to be spas on just about every corner here. You can even get a Thai massage right from your beach chair!
Many higher-end hotels and resorts have their own spas, but there are also tons of great local spots at a fraction of the price.
One place that comes highly recommended is Oasis. They currently have five locations around the island, so they must be doing something right. They have a variety of treatments from 30-minute aromatherapy baths (650 Baht / $20 ++) all the way up to their amazing 5-hour “Seaside Sensation” package (7,500 Baht / $235++).
18. Experience Muay Thai
Without a doubt, the most popular sport in Thailand is the traditional Muay Thai kickboxing. While you’ll see ads for Muay Thai fights all over the island, many of them are simply put on for tourists. If you want the real deal, you’ll have to head to the Patong Boxing Stadium.
Fights take place on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday night, and the place is always packed with locals and tourists alike. Regular tickets cost 1,300 Baht ($41), while ringside goes for 1,500 ($47).
If you want to get into the ring yourself, they even offer Muay Thai training. Even if you have no interest in actually fighting, training in Muay Thai is a great way to whip yourself into shape. After all that Pad Thai and all those Chang beers, maybe that’s not such a bad idea!
Patong Boxing Stadium: 2 59 Sainamyen Rd, Tambon Patong, Amphoe Kathu, Chang Wat Phuket
19. Dine at a Floating Restaurant
There’s no shortage of fantastic restaurants in Phuket to suit all budgets and tastes. For a truly unique dining experience, sit down to a meal in one of the island’s amazing floating restaurants.
To get to the floating restaurants, you’ll need to head to the Laem Hin Pier on the eastern side of the island. From here, it’s a short (and free) longtail boat ride out to the cluster of dining establishments.
Of course, seafood is the top choice when eating here. Feast on stir-fried crab meat with yellow curry, huge oysters with garlic, chili, and lime, and much, much more. If you time your visit right, you’ll be able to enjoy a boat ride back under the stars with a full and very satisfied belly.
20. Do Go Chasing Waterfalls
Sorry TLC, but chasing waterfalls is definitely one of the coolest things to do in Phuket. Most of the waterfalls on the island lie within the national parks. Spending a half-day walking out in nature to enjoy a refreshing dip in a waterfall provides a great escape from overcrowded and overdeveloped beach towns.
One of the most popular waterfalls to visit is Bang Pae. It’s located inside the Khao Phra Thaeo National Park – a protected virgin jungle in the northeast corner of the island. If you’re feeling up for a hike, you can follow an 8km-path to the Tonsai waterfall. Just be sure to ask park officials for a map before you set out.
There’s more than just waterfalls to see here. The national park is also home to several species of plants and wildlife, including wild boar and gibbons. Speaking of gibbons, we arrive at our last item on this huge list of things to do in Phuket.
21. Visit the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project
While you’re in the national park, be sure to pay a visit to the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project. Gibbons are killed by hunters and abused by people using them for photo ops with tourists, and this place is doing everything they can to rescue, rehabilitate, reintroduce, and repopulate the adorable primates.
You’re free to visit the centre and you might be lucky enough to spot a few gibbons if you do. Even if not, it’s a great place to check out to learn more about what they’re doing. They are always looking for volunteers to help out, and you can even adopt a gibbon. Most importantly, be sure to say no to photo ops with animals of any kind while you’re travelling in Thailand…and beyond.
Gibbon Rehabilitation Project: 104/3 Moo 3, Paklock, Talang, Phuket
Ready to Travel to Phuket?
As you can see, Phuket is much more than just lounging on the beach and partying. Of course, you should most definitely do both of those things when you visit this famous Thai island, but there’s a lot more going on here to fill up your days.
Whether you’re backpacking Thailand or looking for a luxury vacation, Phuket has something for you. With its abundance of beaches, outdoor activities, natural wonders, cultural sights, fine dining, and raucous nightlife, every type of traveller can enjoy a trip to Phuket.
Who knows – you might end up loving Phuket (and Thailand in general) so much that you decide to move there. Be sure to read up on the cost of living in Thailand. Chances are it’s cheaper than where you are reading this from.
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