Phuket, Thailand’s largest island, is fringed by white-sand beaches, lapped by the clear waters of the Andaman Sea. But if you look beyond the hopping Patong Beach hotels, you’ll encounter lush rainforests, diverse wildlife and a rich cultural history.
Phuket: Island layout and beaches
Phuket’s long beaches are ideal for sunbathing, swimming and diving. Dramatic limestone rock formations, such as James Bond Island in Phang-Nga National Park
, rise out of the water along the coast. Inland, you’ll find mountainous rainforest and jungle.
The island’s most popular resort hotels are in Patong, which put guests in the heart of the action, a short stroll from dining, shopping, and entertainment.
Phuket City, on the southeast coast, is a cultural center. Further north is laid-back Mai Khao beach, home to the family-friendly Phuket beach resorts.
Off Phuket’s southeast coast, the Ko Phi Phi islands
are a base for world-class scuba diving. Phi Phi Don also has a lively nightlife scene. For a secluded getaway head to the Holiday Inn Resort Phi Phi Island, at Lam Tong Beach, and use your IHG®
Reward Club points to reserve a bungalow or studio in its exotic gardens.
Phuket’s top attractions
If you venture beyond Phuket resorts, you’ll find forest walks, responsible wildlife encounters and cultural attractions.
Phuket City’s historic Old Town is known for its restored colonial-style architecture
. Southwest is Wat Chalong
, a Buddhist temple with colorful paintings and numerous golden statues. You can enjoy panoramic island views from the Big Buddha
statue atop nearby Mount Nak-Kerd.
Khao Phra Thaeo Wildlife Park
, in northeast Phuket, has rainforest hiking trails and waterfalls. Nearby at the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project
, volunteers rehabilitate abandoned primates before releasing them into the wild.
Eating Out in Phuket
Phuket’s restaurants cater to every taste, serving Western and local food. Seafood, including fresh lobster and crab, is the emphasis at the island’s beachside restaurants.
Patong’s night market is a good place to sample Thai cuisine. Typical dishes include Khao phad gai, fried rice with chicken, egg and onion; Por Pia, fried spring rolls stuffed with pork or shrimp; and Khanom Jeen Phuket, a popular local breakfast of curry, raw and pickled vegetables and egg, served over rice noodles.
Phuket’s markets sell everything from clothing and food to luxury silks. Haggling is expected in markets, but prices are fixed in malls and department stores.
Phuket Weekend Market (Naka Market) is the island’s biggest, held on Saturdays and Sundays on Phuket City’s Chao Fa West Road, selling clothing, souvenirs and food. Phuket City’s Old Town has the Phuket Walking Street, on Thalang Road, every Sunday night. Colorful lights illuminate the colonial-style houses, while outdoor stalls sell food, handcrafts and clothing.
Royal Paradise Night Market is a lively bazaar in central Patong selling clothing and souvenirs at bargain prices.
Phuket’s evening distractions range from chic cocktail lounges and nightclubs to hedonistic bars and Thai cultural shows. Many popular beach clubs have modern seaside restaurants and bars serving sunset cocktails, with musical accompaniment.
Patong is the island’s nightlife hub, with many clubs, bars and discos. Bangla Road has the liveliest spots. Bars along Beach Road often host live bands.