Top Things to Do in Phuket: Hedonism, Culture and Adventure
Famous for its white-sand beaches and clear jade oceans, Phuket is actually much more than that. The towns are as diverse as they are charming. From the cultural heartland of Phuket Town, with its shrines, historic mansion houses and museums, to non-stop partying in Patong, there’s no shortage of things to see and do.
The landscape is pretty, rugged, and dramatic, all at once. The diving is top-notch, and hopping on a boat trip to discover the nearby islands is a must. Here are just a few recommendations on the very best experiences to sample while you’re here.
1. Explore the hedonistic magic of a Full Moon Party
Down on Paradise Beach every full moon, the place gets wild with a Full Moon Party that powers on until dawn. Dance under the moonlight with the sand between your toes, waves lapping at the shore, as top DJs spin tunes, fire dancers do their thing, and everyone basically loses themselves in a world of dancing and general merriment. All experienced with the bright, bold full moon glistening overhead. If you’re here to party, this is one of the biggest attractions in Thailand, and a must-do if you’re in town. There are handy shuttle buses to and from Patong running every 30 minutes, and there’s first aid on hand for added peace of mind.
2. Take in a spot of live sport – Muay Thai – Phuket-style
This place isn’t afraid to show off, and some of the shows and live sports on offer are pretty epic. The Bangla Boxing Stadium is the place to see unbelievable Muay Thai boxing in all its glory. These guys and gals don’t mess about, using their feet, knees and elbows to defeat their opponents as quickly as they can.
This visceral experience is a big part of Thai culture, and a night at the fight is not to be missed. The Bangla Boxing Stadium has the biggest Muay Thai ring in southern Thailand, and with stadium, ringside and VIP seats available, you can get as close as you dare. For added convenience, you’ll get free round-trip transfers from your hotel to the venue.
3. Get your culture on with an action-packed live show
If you like your entertainment a bit less confrontational, the Siam Niramit Phuket Experience is a popular choice. This spectacular three-act show takes you through the history and culture of Thailand via the mediums of dance, acrobatics and martial arts. There are more than 100 performers and a staggering 500+ costumes, so this is the perfect way to be entertained while you learn about the country.
To make a complete night out of it, add on the international and Thai buffet dinner, which includes both halal and veggie options. And make sure you head to the pre-show – with high-energy performances, a floating market, a light show, Thai boxing and elephant-feeding opportunities, it won’t disappoint! Shared transfers to and from the hotel are an option, too.
4. Hang out with dolphins
The Phuket Dolphin Show is a lot of fun. For 45 minutes, you can sit back and enjoy these beautiful creatures performing all manner of tricks, and even have your picture taken with them. Your Instagram followers will have some serious FOMO. It all happens at Nemo Dolphins Bay Phuket, and is an ideal activity for the whole family.
The pro trainers prepare these majestic mammals to perform some super-smart sequences and games, and they’re super-gentle and friendly when you meet them. It’s a once-in-lifetime experience, and to make it even more convenient, the shows go on three times during the day, and you can add transfers to and from the hotel. A must-do when you travel to Phuket.
5. Wander back in time on the Phuket Heritage Walk
There’s a lot more to Phuket than you might think, and you’ll see the best of its local delights on this enlightening Heritage Walk. The town used to be a big player in the international trading game, and its port was buzzing with activity back in the day. It was also a large tin mining town, which brought a lot of income to the country back in the 19th century.
You’ll learn all about this history on the walk, exploring the important places and buildings, sampling the sights, sounds and smells of the fantastic fresh food market, and discovering wonderful Chinpracha House and the Thai Hua Museum. You’ll also wander through the old town, taking in the decadent Sino-Portuguese architecture, and there’s a cheeky stop-off to enjoy a cup of Malay tea – a big love of the Chinese migrant tin miners – and even lap up some Hokkien noodles. Perfect.
6. Get on your bike with the Phuket Paradise ATV Adventure
It’s a jungle out there. And what better way to explore it than on a 200cc All Terrain Vehicle, tearing through dirt trails, across rolling hills, and taking in local rubber plantations as you do.
Along the way, you’ll get the chance to take some time to see the famous Big Buddha statue, and enjoy the epic views from there. You can choose from 30-minute, one-hour, or two-hour ATV Adventure, and even combine it with Elephant Interaction experiences or a Zipline Adventure. Kids between four and 11 can come too, but they need to be passengers only. Insurance is provided, and complimentary hotel transfers are also included.
7. Go explore with the Maya Bay and Ko Phi Phi Speedboat Tour
There are so many beautiful islands nearby to discover, it would be a shame not to try some intrepid Speedboat Day Tours from Phuket. This all-action, full-day option will see you jet over the jade waters, past the white-sand beaches, to the spectacular islands of Phi Phi.
You’ll see the majestic Maya Bay made famous by the movie The Beach, be charmed by the cheeky rascals wandering around Monkey Island, discover the spellbindingly picturesque lagoon at Pileh Cove, and pick your jaw off the floor taking in the dramatic cliffs of Nui Bay. There are tropical reefs all around these islands, all ideal for a spot of snorkelling. You’ll kick things off with a tea or coffee, and they also lay on transfers to and from your hotel.
8. Party like a player with HYPE Luxury Boat Club
This boss of a vessel wouldn’t look out of place in a hip-hop video. Throw in a few cocktails, insane views and resident DJs, and you have the best party boat in town.
You’ll be picked up from the hotel and taken to the pier, where you’ll be greeted by the HYPE Luxury Boat Club team. On board, you’ll get a welcome cocktail to kick things off, before chilling out in the comfy beanbags (or private day-bed if you’ve gone VIP), then you’re off on your cruise through the azure Andaman Sea.
As the beats play, you’ll stop off on some of Phuket’s amazing islands – including the exquisite James Bond Island – have lunch, and jump in for a snorkel. On the way back you’ll see the epic Andaman sunset from a unique perspective as the DJ keeps the tunes coming until darkness falls. Quite an experience.
9. Snorkel in style on the Racha and Coral Islands Sunset Catamaran Tour
It’s hard to find a better way of exploring the idyllic islands around Phuket. The luxury Catamaran Tour is the only way to travel, as you hop from island to island. You’ll anchor off at Racha and Coral Islands to go snorkelling and discover all the incredible marine life that populate the reefs.
Kick things off with a fuss-free hotel pick-up, and on board you’ll get a free breakfast, as well as snacks, lunch and a glass of Champagne throughout the day. The white-sand beaches along the way are ideal for sunbathing or cooling off in the Andaman waters, and there’ll be plenty of time for both. On the way back, you can just kick back with a glass of bubbly and take in the amazing sunset! It’s luxury right up to the end of the trip, where you’ll be transferred back to your hotel.
10. Cook up a storm with a Thai cuisine class
Thai cuisine is packed with great dishes, and the country has some of the best places to eat in the world. But if you like the idea of making a few yourself, give this easy cooking class a whirl.
Before you learn how to create authentic dishes like pad thai and tom yam kung, you’ll visit a market to pick up your fresh ingredients. There are drinks on hand before you start, and you can tuck in to your creations afterwards.
The classes are fairly small, so you’ll get proper hands-on attention, and the professional instructors will take you through everything step by step. If you do the full-day option, you get to make coconut milk and oil from scratch as well. All the dishes are halal and can be tailored for vegetarians if required, and there are even round-trip transfers to get you there and back.
11. Relax with a tranquil Thai massage
If you need a break from all the activities, Let’s Relax Spa can bring you back to life with some serious pampering. Massages in Phuket are a must-do, and these guys provide one of the best-value options.
They have heaps of spas around the city, so you can always find somewhere convenient, and the range of treatments is big – aromatic oil massage, herbal compress, traditional Thai massage, body scrubs – it’s all on tap. You can even combine treatments to create a fully blissed-out experience.
12. Best places to eat and drink in Phuket
If you’re in the mood for a big night out, Bangla Road is where to drink in Phuket. It’s a fun-fest of music, cheap booze and neon. All kinds of street performers and night markets add to the energy, and it’s an epic night out that goes on into the wee small hours and beyond.
For a drink with a view, some of the top bars and restaurants in Phuket are found in Kata Noi Beach, which always features in any good guide to Phuket.
There are world-class restaurants in Phuket, and the variety is something else. Seafood, Thai, international cuisine – it’s all here. For authentic Thai, one of the very best places to eat in town is Mom Tri’s Kitchen in Kata Noi, while a top Italian place is La Gritta, on Patong Beach. For super-fresh seafood with a Thai spin, try Kan Eang @Pier, which is right on Chalong Pier.
13. Smart ways of getting around
Making your way from the airport to your accommodation isn’t always straightforward. The pack of taxi drivers outside will be very keen to get your business, and that can get stressful, so it’s good to know there are other ways of getting the job done, whether that’s an airport run or just a trip out. The Car Charter is a hassle-free option, and you can book this private taxi to meet you at the airport or hotel.
Other options include grabbing a red Tuk Tuk on the street – just agree on a price first – and there’s an open-air bus that runs between 07:00 and 18:00. You can board these anywhere as there are no official stops. There are also two authorised taxi services that run from the airport, costing around THB600, although you can always try haggling for a better deal.
Go big or go home – Phuket is ready when you are.
The nightlife is legendary, the beaches are impossibly beautiful, and there’s so much going on you might need to extend the visa. The history of the area is rich, and its legacy is found all around, but nowadays this place is tailor-made for travellers looking to make the most of their time off. Activities, adventure, exploration, and some picture-perfect places to lay your hat and take in the view. And what a view it is. When you have all this, why would you bother going anywhere else?