It’s not particularly surprising that Phuket has become a dream holiday destination for so many people. Soft white beaches fading into seas of brilliant aquamarine are surrounded by striking karst islands of green and grey rock. As well as its famously spectacular scenery, the island is also popular for its wild nightlife and partying, all the while managing to maintain a strong sense of Thai culture.
In spite of its ever-increasing popularity, Phuket is big enough that you can still get away from the crowds and find your own corner of serenity. You might discover peace in some quiet temple tucked away on the coast or in a laid-back coffee shop in one of the towns. Inland is even less explored, promising waterfalls and wooded walks to more intrepid visitors as well as locals avoiding the crowds.
Before you head to the beach, take time to explore Phuket Town, the province’s capital. Many tourists rush to their resorts, but this colorful city offers real insight into authentic Thai life. Old-fashioned buildings with symmetrically arched facades line streets dotted with coffee shops and art galleries. Stop by the Phuket Thaihua Museum to learn about the history of the island and browse antiques in the turn-of-the-century Chyn Pracha House.
You won’t, however, be able to resist the lure of those beaches for long. Some of the best spots of coastline can be found on surrounding islands, so hop on a wooden long-tail boat heading for Koh Panyee or the Phi Phi Islands. If you’re staying on mainland Phuket, then you have endless options. Patong is the busiest, wildest beach, popular with partiers. Destinations like Bangtao, Nai Thon and Mai Khao have long stretches that are undeveloped, retaining much of their natural beauty.
Roam throughout Phuket to discover the many different sides to life on the island. Visits to religious sights such as the Big Buddha and Wat Chalong can be followed by a trip to a rum distiller or even an art village.
As one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, Phuket inevitably has instances of tourist scams, but a bit of common sense and forward planning goes a long way. You’ll need to pick one of several transport options for finding your way around Thailand’s largest island. Car hire and local buses are the best ways to travel between towns and resorts, while tuk tuks are convenient for short distance journeys. Of course, once you find your ideal beach, you may not need to travel at all as you spend days enjoying Phuket’s coastal idyll.