Phuket is the largest island in Thailand surrounded by the Andaman Sea and home to so many attractions both on land or a short island hop away. Finding things to do in Phuket is not hard at all, and in this guide, I’m showing you where to find the best of the best.
Frequented by many party travelers looking for a good time, Phuket also has tons of tranquil spots for visitors looking for a peaceful escape. This post is going to cover both sides of the island including, as well as, where to stay and safety tips.
Psst. . . Looking for more tips for your trip to Thailand? Check out my other posts.
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How to get to Phuket from mainland Thailand
One of my fails from the trip was failing to read a map before booking our trip to Koh Tao, Thailand. I assumed all the islands were on the seaside but I was seriously wrong. Koh Tao is on the other side of the country so getting to Phuket was not the easiest.
Basically, we had to take a boat to mainland Thailand, get on a coach bus and take it to the docks where we got on another Lomprayah for a two-hour boat commute to Phuket. From there we had to arrange for a van to take us to our hotel. Needless to say, we were EXHAUSTED.
It cost $40 for the Lomprayah service to get from Koh Tao to Phuket then another $5 per person to get to our hotel once we arrived.
What about getting around the island itself?
Grab is essentially the Uber of Thailand. Be sure to download the app and use it when traveling around the island. Many drivers will hand you their personal business card with their number to rebook with you again. This is how they earn more money.
The best part about the Grab app is that you don’t have to use a credit card to reserve a ride. You can reserve then choose to pay in cash. Personally, we found it was easier to add a card to our profile and save cash for spending elsewhere.
That said, you will need a SIM card or data plan to use Grab. SIM cards are super cheap. I got 1 month of 100 GB for $30. I then used Hotspot to give my boyfriend data and had no problems as long as we were together. Just be sure to bring a portable charger with you because Hotspot will drain your battery.
Other ways to get around include scooters, private vans, buses, and tuk tuks.
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17 Best Things To Do In Phuket, Thailand
Now it’s time to get into the fun stuff! After spending 7 days in Phuket, these are all the wonderful things I enjoyed, plus a few places I wish I had seen but didn’t.
1. Spend a day on Cape Panwa
Referred to as “the last tranquil part of Phuket”, Cape Panwa is not to be missed. A hidden gem to many visitors. Cape Panwa is a great spot for anyone looking for non touristy things to do in Phuket. We stayed three nights in this area at Bandara Beach Resort which I mention down below.
Things to do in Cape Panwa
Take a mini excursion to Coral Island and/or Lone Island. The islands are both extremely close, so a mini boat ride will take all of 10-15 minutes.
There is an adorable lighthouse bar (shown above) that sits at the top of a hill and overlooks the water. They have delicious port wine and music daily. You get the Nantucket feels for sure. Drinks on average are $5 if you’re drinking port wine and imports.
Shop local at the dozens of street carts selling handmade goods.
Take a 30-minute tour through the Phuket Aquarium. Worth it or not it’s a cheap attraction if you’re on a budget and looking to be entertained. The entrance per tourist was $6.
Lunch at Eat Me. Yes, that is the name of this restaurant. It’s casual like many other places, but with pretty views of the water. For 120 Baht you can enjoy a massive seafood plate, or my personal favorite, pineapple fried rice.
Grab an afternoon smoothie at Cafe Kantary. $7.5 bought me a delicious smoothie and three sweet macarons. It was the perfect afternoon snack. This cafe bakes all their own goodies if you’re looking to take something home with you.
One of my favorite moments was walking alongside the waterfront admiring all the people sitting down – chatting and enjoying a meal amongst friends. It was a beautiful evening with a gorgeous sunset. It’s moments like that I cherish the most. Seeing how the locals spend their downtime. So relaxing.
2. Explore Old Town Phuket
Old Town Phuket is a historic area dating back to the early 1800s. Today it remains the heart and soul of the city with colorful shophouses lining the roads filled with shops, cafes, museums, and modern art galleries. The insides have changed but the outside stays giving character and pride to the city.
Endless Summer Coffee Shop is a modern cafe in the heart of Old Town. If you’re a remote worker like me, you would love this place to get some work done.
The most popular things to do in Old Town would be to taste local coffee, see the Jui Tui Shrine, stroll down Thalang Road, and visit the Thai Hua Museum.
3. Hang Out At Your Beach Resort
Spend a day at your beach resort. Phuket has some incredible beaches. It also has a ton of city infrastructure to the point of forgetting you’re even on an island. Mix it up (even if for just one night) and book a beachfront hotel night with a great pool and ocean view.
Where to Stay in Phuket: 5 Locations for Different Experiences
Phuket Graceland Resort & Spa is a four-star luxury hotel with great amenities and prime real estate; across the street from the white beaches of the Andaman Sea. Every room comes with a private balcony overlooking the beach, pool, or garden. On the property, you will find four bars and five restaurants including a Belgian Beer Cafe.
Bandara Beach Resort; a vibrant beachfront hotel that sits along the Yon Bay in the cape of Phuket. A perfect place for anyone looking to relax somewhere quiet with gorgeous views. This resort has a full-service spa and plenty of bars and restaurants offering daily deals such as BBQ dinners at the rooftop bar and more. We enjoyed a 2-for-1 happy hour at the pool and had a blast.
Grab (aka Taxi) will run you upwards of $20, so if you plan to spend most of your time in the tourist parts of Phuket this is not the hotel for you. However, if you enjoy being out on the water or hiking to viewpoints, then this is where you want to be. You can take a cheap taxi to the shops, dining, and attractions of Cape Panwa.
If you want a nice hotel in the center of party central then Holiday Inn Express Patong Beach is where you want to be. Everything around you is walkable, they have an amazing complimentary breakfast and onsite laundry facility – among other things. The rooms were clean and cozy just the way I like it. Also, hotel guests get a discount at the restaurants next door at Hotel Indigo.
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4. Trade Tuk Tuks for Mini Trucks
Of the four cities we visited in Thailand, Phuket was the only one with mini trucks rather than Tuk Tuks. Each one was decked out with attention-grabbing decor and loud music for passengers to enjoy (or not enjoy if you’re me).
By far the best one was an adorable pink Hello Kitty truck. The driver, however, was the furthest thing from Hello Kitty. I can appreciate the irony.
5. Indulge in Mango Sticky Rice
Mango sticky rice is a staple in Thai dessert. You can find this dish across Thailand at food markets and restaurants. It’s a simple dish really – made with white rice, drizzled with palm sugar and coconut milk, and fresh mangos. You have to try it! I’m not a huge fan of mangos but that rice was delicious! It’s not overly sweet which I like. No tummy aches.
6. Relax at a Traditional Thai Spa
Thailand is known around the world for its affordable spa services. Types of massage services include Thai massage, sunburn massage using coconut oil, food, head and neck, and manicures. They are literally everywhere – side by side. The only way to tell who works where are the different colored uniforms. It’s crazy how saturated the spa business is. Take advantage of competitive prices.
7. Shop at Central
Smaller than I was expecting but definitely the most modern shopping mall on Phuket with top brand names and more. It’s a multi-level shopping mall – western style. If you enjoy shopping they did have quite a few brands I’d never heard of before.
8. Prost at a Belgian Beer Cafe
The Belgian Beer Cafe at Graceland Hotel is an authentic bar with over 29 different Belgian beers to choose from (that I counted), as well as, a few frozen beer cocktails like the pink pearl whisk, which is a Hoegaarden rose draught beer with absolutely peach, peach schnapps, passion fruit, lemon juice, and mint leaves.
I didn’t try, but it was a close contender. In the end, I opted for a beer I’ve never had, Waterloo strong dark aka the beer of bravery.
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9. Get Your PADI Certification
Get your diving certification. Koh Tao May he the cheapest but Phuket is prettier according to my source (cough boyfriend told me). You do get to visit the Phi Phi Islands as part of your advanced open water diving certification.
10. Party on Phuket’s Famous Patong Beach
Patong Beach is world-famous and home to tons of parties including the Full Moon parties. If you are looking to get wild, then Patong is where you want to be.
If you prefer to chill, come during sunset. The views are amazing. They have tons of beach activities during this time including Parasailing. Can you imagine flying over the ocean, witnessing an incredible sunset?
11. Continue the Party on Bangla Walking Street
Bangla Road is a whole different kind of wild from strip clubs and rows of bars to obnoxious restaurants and street hustlers asking if you want to watch a pong show. It’s a place you need to see both in the day and at night, but no worries if you end up not liking it. Everyone is working hard to make their money and for that, I cannot judge.
Maybe I’ve outgrown the spring break party scene and dancing on top of bars. Then there was this whip. Gahhh! This guy would not stop cracking a whip. It was too much for me.
12. Walking Street Market
Attend the weekly Sunday Night Walking Market. Second to the floating market in Bangkok, I thought the shops here had the most original selection. This market is located in Old Town Phuket, so make sure to come early so that you can explore the rest of the area before sundown.
13. Hydrate with Real Coconut Water
For 30 baht you can enjoy a freshly cracked coconut. Coconut water has many health benefits and is said to be a delicious source of hydration and nutrients. Given how good it is for you, I never could bring myself to drink the boxed coconut water back home. That was until I had it straight from a coconut. It tastes way different.
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14. Monkey Hill Viewpoint
If you’re looking to make a few monkey friends, then head to Monkey Hill. You will be greeted by dozens of monkeys as they escort you to the viewpoint. You might be nervous at first, I was, but you will quickly realize they are harmless.
Just please don’t feed them. There are signs everywhere, yet I was tons of people feeding them. Even some parents allowing their little kids to throw food at the monkeys. SMH.
When you get the top of the hill you will get great views overlooking the island. I hear it’s a great place to catch the sunset if you can time it right.
15. Simon Cabaret Ladyboy Show
What better place to see the Ladyboys than Simon Cabaret? An extravagant cabaret show featuring gorgeous dresses and Ladyboys as they lip sing to classic pop hits. There is one person that truly sings. Can you guess who that is? You can get tickets and transportation online. Arrive early if you plan to get drinks at the lobby bar. You will not be able to bring then into the theater.
16. Step into the Upsidedown
Step into the upsidedown. Hmmm that’s hard to imagine. Well, imagine it. $12 will get you admissions into the Upsidedown House. It should take you between 30-40 minutes to get through the house.
Literally everything is opposite from the house itself – entering from the attic to the gift shop, where they stock the treats and soda cans upsidedown.
17. Try some local craft beer
Back to the beer. As a beer snob, I regret to inform you that most of the beer in Thailand was, errr, not good. It wasn’t until Phuket that we found ourselves a good brewery. Full Moon Brew Work is an award-winning brewery with a tap room and full service restaurant near Bangla Road, Central Mall and Patong Beach. It’s tucked away so make sure to save it in your google maps.
Other Notable Mentions
I did not have time to do everything, but here are a few more suggestions I came across that I would have liked to do and think you will too.
Learn to fly a plane
Fly your drone if you brought one
Visit Rawai and Karon beaches
Refill your prescription
Big Buddha. I know, I know. How did I not go to Big Buddha?
Phuket Safety Tips
Practice safety but don’t be alarmed by the street promoters. There was one day I ventured off alone for the afternoon and no one said a peep to me unless I walked into the store to look around.
I would always use caution and be aware of your surroundings, but I never felt unsafe in Phuket. Yes, there is a crazy party crowd around you in many places, but nothing alarming.
Don’t feed the monkeys and keep valuables stored somewhere sealed. Those monkeys are known to steal things.
What are the best islands to explore near Phuket?
Continue the adventure at one of these popular spots near Phuket.
Khao Phing Kan (aka James Bond Island)
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Recap: Best Things to do in Phuket, Thailand
Spend the day in Cape Panwa
Explore Old Town
Hang out at your beach resort
Ride in a mini truck
Eat mango sticky rice
Visit a Thai spa
Shop at Central
Grab a drink at the Belgian Beer Cafe (Graceland)
Get PADI certification
Party on Patong Beach
Walking Street Market
Hydrate with real coconut water
Hike to the top of Monkey Hill
Step into the upsidedown
Try the local craft beer
Getting to spend a week in Phuket sure was eye-opening. I’m was never an island/beach traveler until I went to Thailand. Phuket is unlike any other island in the country. It’s densely populated with busy streets – you forget you’re on an island.
For that reason alone, I encourage you to sift through the chaos and nightlife to find an authentic side of the city. Mix it up so that you can leave knowing you saw everything from the top attractions and parties on Patong to the tranquil markets and local life on the Cape.
Psst. . . Looking for more places to visit in Thailand? Check out my other posts.
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3 Days in Bangkok: Thailand’s City of Angels
10 Adorable things to do in Koh Tao for Non-Divers
Have you ever been to Phuket? What was your favorite place in town? Share in the comments below!
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