Guide to Phuket
A guide to beaches & experiences
Guide to Phuket
When planning your first trip to Phuket, it’s obvious to think that all beaches and towns are the same.
They certainly have a lot in common, but there are also big differences and you need to be aware of these differences in order to get the best out of your Phuket vacation.
Phuket is great, the beaches are many and it can be difficult to know where to start. With this guide to Phuket, you get an overview of the beaches and attractions.
The beaches of Phuket
Mai Khao Beach
Mai Khao with its 11 km, is Phuket’s longest beach and an area primarily surrounded by pines, almond trees and palm trees.
The beach is Phuket’s most peaceful beach and you can easily walk the 11 km and be lucky to meet only a few fishermen along the way.
Mai Khao is located far from everything and apart from a few luxury resorts, the area is only visited by guests going to the “Splash Jungle Water Park“.
The rest of the beach belongs to Sirinath National Park, the only place in Phuket where the “Giant Ridley” sea turtles lay their eggs every year between November and February.
In Mai Khao small town, you’ll find only a limited number of restaurants and entertainment.
If you want to get away from EVERYTHING, then Mai Khao will probably be the best area in Phuket.
→ Places to stay on Mai Khao Beach (affiliate link)
Bang Tao Beach
Bang Tao is with its 6 km Phuket’s 2nd longest beach and can be divided into 3 areas.
- The south end offers cheap and mid-range hotels around the small fishing village.
- The central part is mainly with luxury resorts spread around small lagoons.
- The northern area, which ends at Layan Beach, is almost untouched and only with a few 4-5 star resorts located on the “green hills”.
Bang Tao beach is a quiet area with a few good restaurants and bars on the beach – most of them located at the north end.
The area is ideal for those seeking peace and quiet on the beautiful beach below one of the countless palm trees.
If you want a bigger choice of restaurants and shopping, then you have to go to Patong which is a half hour drive from here.
→ Places to stay on Bang Tao Beach (affiliate link)
Surin is considered to be Phuket’s most beautiful and exclusive area. The place is popular with celebrities and many of the large villas are owned by private multimillionaires.
Surin’s small town is home to many small but exclusive and high quality shops as well as some very “trendy” beach bars.
Surin has a limited number of attractions and activities compared to other places, which is why the area is suitable for guests who dream peace and quiet.
If you want some more activities or just to eat elsewhere than in the hotels, you can go to Patong which is approx. 20 min. drive from here.
→ Places to stay on Surin Beach (affiliate link)
Kamala is close to Patong (about 15 min drive) but is a world of difference.
Kamala is known for its calm atmosphere, its relaxed pace, its many spa resorts, villas and high quality hotels.
Kamala is not the area with most activities and nightlife.
The area is very popular to retirees and those who just want to relax on the small beach.
Families with children also enjoy Kamala, as the beach is shallow and wide.
The big difference with Kamala is that the hotels are directly located on the beach, and not on the other side of the main street, as they do on most other beaches on Phuket.
→ Places to stay on Kamala Beach (affiliate link)
Patong is probably best known for the main street “Bangla Road”, which is Phuket’s absolute busiest street. Especially in terms of bars and clubs.
There is nowhere else on Phuket with such a large selection of restaurants, shops, cultural attractions and activities – and it’s year-round.
Both the Town and the entire beautiful coastline are surrounded by hotels and in all price ranges.
Along the northern coastline – towards Kamala – the most expensive hotels are located, and it’s also here you get the most beautiful sunsets.
At Patong, tourism is intense and everything is within walking distance. The town’s many small and cheap resorts, attract the guests who want the entertainment to be right outside the door.
In Patong you won’t find much of the traditional Thailand.
On the long beach, there are a myriad of activities and entertainment, and you just have to cross the main street and you are in Patong’s center.
→ Places to stay on Patong Beach (affiliate link)
Karon Beach is Phuket’s 3rd largest beach and is the beach with most luxury hotels. The area is surrounded by beautiful nature, which helps to make Karon seem more calm.
Away from hotel area on Karon – and on the northernmost part of the beach towards Patong, you will find pretty much the same attractions as in Patong with nightlife, restaurants, shopping etc., but located at a distance from where you stay.
If you stay on Karon Beach, you’ll have a large selection of restaurants and shops, but hardly as much party and entertainment, which makes the area a bit quieter and more relaxed than Patong.
→ Places to stay at Karon Beach (affiliate link)
Kata is divided into 2 beaches, Kata Yai and Kata Noi Beach.
The area is ideal for families with a good selection of restaurants, many small shops and entertainment for children.
Kata Yai, which is the largest beach, is both lively and well attended by windsurfers and divers especially. Kata Noi is smaller and a little nicer without the great entertainment and perfect as a lazy beach.
The Kata beaches, which are among Phuket’s best, are not (due to the size of the beaches) near as crowded as many of the other beaches.
There is also a little nightlife on Kata, but not at all with the same volume as on Patong.
→ Places to stay on Kata Beach (affiliate link)
Nai Harn Beach
Nai Harn beach is a small bay located at the southern end of Phuket.
Due to its numerous cliffs, the area is most popular among the locals and the range of hotels is limited.
Still, Nai Harn has a lot to offer, including several small beaches and coves that attract some sailors, snorkelers and divers.
The beach in Nai Harn is stunning and the water calm – it’s incomprehensible that the area is still almost untouched.
Nai Harn offers good local restaurants, but very few shops and attractions – on the other hand it’s from Nai Harn that you can experience some of the most beautiful views from the viewpoints.
→ Places to stay at Nai Harn Beach (affiliate link)
Rawai is located at the southernmost tip of Phuket and is (was) Phuket’s very first tourist destination.
Despite this, Rawai has managed to maintain its originality and keep in close contact with the gypsy village as well as the local fishermen who have their many “longtails boats” anchored along the beach.
The atmosphere of Rawai is quiet compared to Patong and offers only a few shops and a little nightlife, as well as an ok selection of restaurants on the beach.
At Rawai there is a wide range of hotels in all price levels. It is also from Rawai that the boats to Coral & Racha as well as the Koh Lone Islands depart.
→ Places to Stay on Rawai Beach (affiliate link)
Experiences on Phuket
The advantage of traveling to Phuket is that no matter what the weather may be, there is plenty to see and experience, both on and around Phuket.
It will be close to impossible to make a guide to Phuket with all of Phuket’s attractions and experiences – the list is long. However, if you are a first-time visitor, then there are definitely some experiences not to be missed when visiting Phuket.
Phang Nga bugten
Go on a day trip to the bay of Phang Nga (affiliate link), where you can experience the stunning limestone cliffs that rise vertically from the water. This area is also where you pass James Bond Island and Koh Panyee – the most famous places in this bay.
You can also go on a day trip from the northern end of Phuket (affiliate link), and have a wonderful day on the water as you sail around the stunning limestone cliffs and islands. Occasionally, the boat will stop at some of the beautiful beaches you come across.
Ordinary “standard” boats also depart, but these boats are far less exciting and in no way as rewarding.
Phukets gamle bydel
Visit Phuket’s Old Town, which, unlike most other major towns in Thailand, has a very special atmosphere and history.
At the rich end of the old town, you’ll find all the shrines with Buddhist and Chinese temples, beautiful and well-preserved “shophouses”, cozy cafes, private and public museums and much more.
Phuket’s ancient city is built on riches from past-century tin production. Back then metal was a valuable commodity.
In this part of town, you will alos see many beautiful mansions which are a legacy of the country’s glory days.
The best time to stroll around “Phukets Old Town” is either early morning or late afternoon when the worst heat is over.
There are plenty of restaurants and cafes to visit on a stroll through the city.
Phuket Big Buddha
Almost wherever you are on Phuket, sooner or later you will spot Phuket’s most admired and most important trademark, the Big Buddha.
A 45 m high and 25 m wide white Buddha, made of several layers of beautiful white Burmese marble, which when it shines in the sun, according to the Thais, is a symbol of hope.
The Buddha sits in his pomp and splendor and looks out over the city.
In the same place, there is also a somewhat smaller Buddha in “gold” – it’s only 12 m high and made of 22 tons of brass.
Due to the fact that most Thais are Buddhists, the temples are among the most important symbols in Thailand.
In Phuket alone you will find no less than 29 of them and Wat Chalong is one of the nicest and largest.
For centuries, the local pilgrimage has come to pray and at the same time has welcomed Westerners to learn about Buddhism.
In Phuket you will find small and large temples as well as several statues with their own history.
Koh Phi Phi
Koh Phi Phi is Thailand’s most famous island, probably because the island has been used as a movie location several times.
For some, Phi Phi is the only reason to go to Phuket. You can be almost 100% sure that most people who come to Phuket are considering whether to visit the island either on a day trip or for a few days.
From Phuket you go to Phi Phi by boat and for many it is “love at first sight”.
Phi Phi used to be a real backpacker island with lots of cheap resorts and few “charter tourists”.
This has changed radically and today there are all kinds of tourists – many though only on day trips.
There are still some cheap resorts, but expensive resorts have also emerged. Traditional Thai restaurants are definitely not the ones you find most on Phi Phi
Unfortunately, tourism on Phi Phi has been tough. Everywhere it flows with waste on land as well as in water. The time when you could find small deserted spots is long gone.
Looking for a bounty island, Koh Phi Phi is definitely not the island to go to. Instead, visit Phi Phi on a day trip (affiliate link), where you also visit other islands and get the opportunity to snorkel.
Phuket Simon Cabaret
Experience a spectacular cabaret performance with extravagant costumes and make-up that takes you to Egypt, Latin America, China and America in terms of dance and song.
Phuket Simon Cabaret is a colorful and fun experience. The cabaret has become one of Southeast Asia’s major attractions, attracting thousands of enthusiastic visitors from around the world and every night.
The professional soloists are dressed up as Tina Turner, Diana Ross, etc. and the show will surely be one of the most lavish shows you’ll ever come close to.
Most artists are boys / men who live their lives as beautiful women (the third gender) and show their talent through the cabaret performance.
It really is a great experience where you will be surprised at how talented entertainers they are.
→ Here you can buy tickets for the 75 min. long show incl. pick-up (affiliate link)
Thailand’s great passion in sports must be said to be Thai boxing.
If you are into boxing or MMA, it can be quite entertaining to experience this somewhat different boxing show.
A Thai boxing match is a good mix of entertainment, acting and drama to the sound of a wild accompaniment of clarinets, drums and shouting from a cheering audience.
Insane betting takes place around each stage before the start and at the ceremonial beginning of the matches.
Throughout the streets of Phuket, you will daily see and hear cars driving around and advertising the matches.
If you have any suggestions for other experiences to include in our Guide to Phuket – please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Weather on Phuket
What time of year is best to visit Phuket?
Phuket has a tropical monsum climate. It’s warm all year and you can go all year. BUT there are different weather conditions depending on what time of year you want to go to the island. Average facts are;
- Temperatures are always high
- The rainy season falls in the months of April to November
- The warmest month is April
- The wettest month is September
- The driest month is February
Although it’s rainy season, it doesn’t mean that the rain is pouring down throughout the days. Often there is a few hours of rain in the middle of the day, which can be a relief.
If you can live with the risk of traveling during the rainy season or just outside Phuket’s most visited months – December to March – there can be a lot of money to save.
Rejsetips til Phuket
- If you have questions about Phuket (or anything else about Thailand), you can ask them in our (relatively new) Travel Forum on Facebook
- Best search engines to search for flights on are Momondo and Skyscanner (affiliatelinks) – even when it comes to domestic tickets
- The best hotel search engines are Hotels.com (affiliate links) where you always get the lowest rates and save up for free nights with their Reward program (affiliate links).
- You can arrange tours yourself or you can useGet Your Guide or Viator (affiliate links).
- With Lonely Planet (affiliate links) you get the world’s best travel guides with lots of info and maps. Right now, when you buy 2 travel books, you get a 3rd for free.
When you see (affiliate links) in our Guide to Phuket, it means that if you book tours and / or hotels through our recommended links, we earn a small bit in commission – thank you for your support.
Phuket elephant sanctuary – Phuket's first sanctuary for elephants
Get a great insight into how elephants – after decades of being abused by the tourism industry – are being rehabilitated.
Experience the elephants in their natural surroundings and not least on their conditions.
Guide to Phuket was updated on March 25, 2020