Phuket Thailand is full of amazing things to do, whether you are looking to relax on a beach chair as the water slowly laps at your feet, or you’re looking to become one with nature in the rainforest. Temples, night markets, and a historic town all await you on the island of Phuket as well as limestone cliffs that jut out of the ocean and tower above the sparkling emerald waters. Between hikes to the impressive marble Buddha that overlooks Southern Phuket and canoes through the mangrove caves, any visitor will consider themselves the luckiest person on the planet to be able to experience the jaw-dropping beauty. We have chosen just ten of the amazing things to do while you are in Phuket but these are just the start of the epic experiences that await you here.
10. Explore Phang Nga Bay
The most amazing thing about Phang Nga Bay is the scenery, and its beauty is truly jaw-dropping. From the sheer limestone cliffs that rise vertically out of the water to the sparkling emerald green waters, this landscape is the perfect backdrop for those stunning photographs you will send home. There are many different ways to explore Phang Nga Bay but none is more amazing than by canoe.
Become one with nature as your paddle glides effortlessly through the still waters, the only sounds are the chirping of the birds, the calls of the animals, and the splash of the water. Travel through rock caves that resemble something out of an Indiana Jones movie, have lunch on a deserted island, and swim in the sandy waters. Visit a fisherman’s village, squeeze into a mangrove cave and soak up the beautiful surroundings. A visit to Phuket is not complete without exploring Phang Nga Bay and our favorite way is by canoe.
9. Climb to the Big Buddha
The Big Buddha is a staple landmark in Phuket and can be seen from pretty much everywhere in the south. The impressive 45m tall statue is layered with beautiful white marble that gleams in the sunlight. Although the Buddha has been under construction for the past 10 years and still has many more years to go; this epic statue is a true symbol of peace and hope. What makes this Buddha even better is the climb up.
The road to the Buddha has been completed but your journey to the top becomes even more amazing when you choose to hike up. Not for the weary hiker as it is a steep 4km hike from the base of the hill. Along the way, you will catch glimpses of amazing landscapes and if you have timed your hike correctly you will arrive at the top to see the sun setting over the city. Look around and you can see Chalong Bay, Phang Nga Bay, Kata Bay, and Kata Noi Bay. On the way down make sure to stop in for a nice cold beer at one of the restaurants that have popped up along the road. The Big Buddha and its enormity are truly appreciated when you are standing next to it after an epic hike up the hill.
8. Snorkel the Clear Waters
Boasting some of the clearest waters around, the area of Phuket has some incredible snorkeling conditions. Not all beaches are suitable for snorkeling and some of them are extremely overcrowded with tourists but if you can find that amazing beach with the right conditions; you will never want to get out of the water. Luckily we are here to help you with that:
Banana Beach is a well-kept secret beach in Phuket offering up great snorkeling in crystal clear waters along with large palm trees and excellent sand. Throw in a restaurant that has been around for years and only offers the freshest seafood (you often see the cooks carrying it up the beach) and you have yourself a winning beach. Ao Sane Beach is another hidden gem that not only offers great snorkeling but has a dive shop on-site where you can rent equipment and even take a lesson. The rock formations divide it into three coves creating an underwater paradise for marine life. We cannot forget about the infamous Similan Islands which by far offer the clearest water and some of the world’s greatest snorkeling. Pick a beach, grab your snorkel gear and head out to view some amazing marine life.
7. Khao Sok National Park
Although not technically located in Phuket, this national park is just too amazing to leave off our list. Southern Thailand’s largest virgin forest resides here and is older and more diverse than the Amazon Rainforest offering numerous exotic animals, plant species, and breathtaking scenery. Huge limestone cliffs, deep valleys, exciting caves, and breathtaking lakes make this destination truly amazing.
For a truly amazing opportunity head to Cheow Larn Lake located in the heart of this National Park. Here you can spend the night in one of the floating raft houses or luxury tents. Surrounded by crystal clear water that begs you to dive in, sounds of wild elephants and monkeys in the distance; you can’t get much better than that. There are plenty of tour operators offering treks throughout this forest whether you are looking to do it by foot, canoe, or even truck. We do recommend staying away from the elephant tours as the treatment of elephants in Thailand is not always the greatest. However you choose to explore this National Park; the scenery, animals, and serenity will blow you away.
6. Tour Old Phuket Town
Located away from the beaches lies a section of town that was once a hub of activity but is now considered the historical section of Phuket. Consisting of five roads and several smaller streets Phuket’s old town is teeming with fabulous architecture, Chinese temples, crumbling mansions, and culture. Explore this area on foot as it proves difficult in a car and makes sure to either grab a map of the area or join the historical walking tour.
Make sure to visit the Shrine of the Serene Light; where a beautiful garden and colorful temple welcomes you. Thalang Road offers plenty of batik shops run by local Malays and Indians and a look at some of the renovated buildings that gleam in the sunlight. A colorful Chinese shrine, a fresh food market, and the Thai Hua Museum are all found throughout this maze of roads. Hip shops, restaurants, cafes, and even bars have been popping up all over Old Phuket Town and it is worth the time to come and experience this history-rich area.
5. Visit Wat Chalong
The most important temple of the 29 Buddhist temples in Phuket is definitely worth a visit and is absolutely amazing in its beauty and meaning. This temple is dedicated to two monks who led citizens in the fight against the Chinese Rebellion in 1876 and who helped many injured people with their knowledge of herbal medicine. Please remember to dress appropriately when visiting any of the temples and respect that although many tourists come here; it is an important place of worship for the locals.
Take your time to explore this temple noticing details such as the dragons painted in vibrant colors along the staircases and the painted ceilings. Make sure to see the famous Poh Than Jao Wat statue located in the old hall of the temple along with the statue of a local that is said to have won the lottery after consulting the Poh Than Jao Wat statue. The upper level is the Grand Pagoda and is said to house a fragment of Buddha’s bone. This area is breezy, beautiful and contains many images of the Buddha and paintings that depict his life. There are many beautiful and amazing temples in Phuket and we encourage you to visit as many as you can but if you only have time for one, make sure you come here.
4. Gibbon Rehabilitation Project
Escape the ordinary and travel to the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project’s visitor center at Bang Pae waterfalls. The goal of this project and its organizers is to rehabilitate unwanted or confiscated gibbons from the pet trade and tourist industry. These highly endangered animals are often used for photos with tourists in Phuket but visiting this center will have you thinking twice about stopping to snap a picture with these cute animals.
Open daily with no admission to the center (although it is located in a national park that charges an entrance fee), and full of lively and passionate volunteers; the center is a learning opportunity for locals and visitors alike. Discover why these apes are highly endangered, what you can do to help and catch a glimpse of them from the viewing platforms. Listen to the songs that the Gibbons sing out, appreciate the hard work these volunteers do, and perhaps considering adopting one of these endangered species. A visit to the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project is a unique way for any visitor to learn, support, and appreciate the wildlife of Phuket.
3. Simon Cabaret
Simon Cabaret is the largest transvestite show in Phuket Island and you can’t travel here without seeing the famous ladyboys of Patong. From the elaborate stage designs to the brilliant costumes to the bright lights this is one grand show that is simply a must. The Simon Cabaret is often compared to a Las Vegas quality show and these performers lip-sync to popular songs and dance the night away; all while visitors try to glimpse a masculine feature on one of these very convincing looking “ladies”.
This show is suitable for kids and adults and we recommend buying your tickets ahead of time at a discounted rate. The movie-style seating in the theater along with free drinks makes it an enjoyable place to watch the show. Most visitors to Phuket will do this once and then over-the-top extravagant costumes and performances are the reason why people come to see it. Stick around after the show to grab some photos with some of the stars, just remember to tip them.
2. Visit the Night Markets
Hundreds of stalls teeming with clothes, shoes, crafts, and everything Thai; the night markets offer a break from overpriced souvenir shops and the chance to haggle with shop owners. Don’t worry, the vendors price their merchandise accordingly and fully expect locals and tourists to bargain over prices; although the Thai still get the absolute best prices. Located just outside Phuket Town visitors should come hungry and ready to spend.
The various rows of stalls are protected from the rain with tarps overhanging; which is excellent unless you are taller than about 5’8. Prepare to duck as you wander through the bracelets, earrings, shoes, cell phones, live animals, and pretty much everything else you can ever imagine that can be sold. The food is to die for here at the market and be sure to try the butter dripping corn on the cob, exotic fruits, and even some deep-fried insects; all washed down with a nice cold beer. Plenty to see, plenty to buy, and a part of the local culture all await you at the wonderful Night Markets in Phuket Town.
1. Visit a Viewpoint in Time for the Sunset
There are many lookout points in Phuket that hundreds of people travel to every day in order to catch a glimpse of the magnificent sun as it slowly sinks down and fills the sky with brilliant colors. The most famous viewpoint is Laem Phromthep and arguably offers the best sunset on the island and the flock of tourists that congregate on the hilltop each night seems to justify just that.
Although crowded we recommend heading to Laem Phromthep and heading off the beaten track to a secret location where you can enjoy the spectacular sunset in peace. The lighthouse at the top provides some peace as you climb to the top and have an elevated view away from the majority of the people. But for real peace and serenity, you will want to head down to the very south end of the viewpoint. Take the stairs that are placed in the opening of the wall that turns into a winding dirt path ending at the Southernmost tip of Phuket Island. Watch as the sky turns glorious shades of red, pink, and gold and as the sun sinks beneath the clouds you might just feel as though you have found heaven on earth. Make sure to head back before it gets really dark as the path can be hard to find.