Most travelers 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 a top choice — beaches, waterfalls, markets, and an old town, there are many things to do in Phuket to keep you busy!
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 by exploring this one island.
Top Things To Do in Phuket
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 the activities in Phuket. 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.
1. Beach Bumming
Before we get into all the things to do and places to visit 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 to 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.
I could put together a whole guide on the beaches of Phuket – and maybe I will – but for now, here’s a quick list of some of my favorite beaches which feature more scenic beauty and fewer crowds: Ya Nui, Laem Singh, Pleumsuk, Nai Han Beach, Karon Beach, and Naiyang Beach. All of these are 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 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 one of the top Phuket attractions. If you really want to see a place bustling with activity, time your visit on one of the many Buddhist holidays that are celebrated in Thailand.
A visit to the Big Buddha is a free activity in Phuket, 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. Check out this highly-rated tour which takes in many of the popular sights around Phuket, including the Big Buddha.
3. Go Diving or Snorkeling
When it comes to the best things to do in Phuket for couples, families or solo travelers, 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 the 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 colorful 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.
5. Tour a Rum Distillery
While Chang beer is great and all, once in a while it’s nice 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 ($14.50) and includes a tasting plus a yummy mojito at the end. Click here for tickets.
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 one of the top places to visit in Phuket when it rains. Learn more about the cocktail workshop here.
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 a luxury sunset cruise 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 as more people are standing up against this and wanting to make a difference when they travel.
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 places to visit in Phuket that offer elephant “sanctuaries”, two that come highly recommended are the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary and Tree Tops Elephant Reserve. Note: Many places are impersonating these ethical companies. Ensure you are choosing a legitimate company that does not allow bathing the elephants, as this stresses out the animals.
At Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, 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.
8. Go Temple Hopping
Once in a while, you need to leave 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.
- Address: Wat Chalong is located about 8km from Phuket Town. Click here for directions.
- Hours: It’s open from 7AM-5PM every day.
- Note: 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.
SEE ALSO: Ayutthaya Historical Park: A Guide for Travellers
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 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. Join a Thai Cooking Class (one of the top things to do in Phuket for foodies)
One of the best things to do in Phuket (and Thailand in general) is to 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. A couple that are highly recommended include the Phuket Thai Cooking Academy class and Phuket Easy Thai Cooking class. Both include a trip to the local market to purchase ingredients, and vegetarian options are available.
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.
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 Phang Nga Bay tours, you can also head out on day 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.
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!
☞ SEE ALSO: Things To Do in Pai – Don’t Miss This Fun Town
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 alone is worth the trip. Phuket Town was once the centre of a mining boom on the island, which attracted many Chinese immigrants who left their mark on the town through their architecture (Chinese Baroque) and cuisine.
But, 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 Phuket 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 can also go 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 wakeboarders 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 of 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 the admission ticket here or a ticket which includes transportation here.
17. Treat Yourself at The 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. 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.
Check out the Oasis, which has five locations around the island. Indulge in 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++).
☞ SEE ALSO: Digital Nomad Guide to Living in Koh Samui, Thailand
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. Click here to get your tickets ahead of time (which includes hotel pick up).
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!
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 — dinner here is one of the more unusual things to do in Phuket.
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.
There are numerous restaurants on offer, but The Black Crab, Kruvit Seafood Raft, are good bets.
Of course, seafood is the top choice when eating here. Make sure you try the 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.
☞ SEE ALSO: Top Things To Do in Krabi – Thailand’s Most Picturesque Place
20. Go Chasing Waterfalls
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.
Now You Know What To Do in 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.
Images in this article are courtesy of Shutterstock. Click here to learn more about the royalty-free images and videos on offer.