Things to do in Phuket: From Muay Thai to day trips
Those free spirits who lounged on Phuket's unspoilt beaches back in the '70s will have a very different image of the place that greets visitors now. Over the years, the young free spirits grew up and disappeared, along with Phuket's anonymity. Today, Phuket is a sophisticated and strong resort, having developed rapidly and bounced back after the devastating blows dealt by the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami.
It's popular with a wide range of holidaymakers from business travellers taking a break from Bangkok, luxury lovers after the five star experience, and those just looking for a simple hotel or hostel from which to enjoy the beach. There's something to suit everyone, whatever their budget, which is part of its enduring charm.
Where to eat and drink
Patong Beach is the epicentre of Phuket, and here you'll find throngs of stalls and bright bars open late into the night, if not all night. There are great deals on food and drinks (including just about every cocktail you can imagine) to be had in the bars, but if you're really missing your creature comforts there are also familiar brands such as Subway here.
If you're after something a bit different, why not try the Pum Thai Restaurant and Cooking School. Alternatively, treat yourself to French-Mediterranean eats at Le Versace, the highest open-air lounge bar in Patong, or steak at the Rodizio Brazil Phuket. Afterwards, check out ladyboy cabaret bar Cocktails & Dreams, or if you simply feel like a good old fashioned pint, try the Irish Times Pub.
For a taste of local life, take a bus ride through the lush green hills to Phuket Town. The menus might still be in English, but the town is much sleepier and also gives you a chance to see Phuket's more authentic side.
Things to do in Phuket
By day, you can relax on the long, sandy palm-tree lined beach, have your muscles gleefully plucked by Thai masseuses or visit the many shops. If you're feeling active, consider a one-week Muay Thai boxing course at the Maximum Fitness and Combat Centre or try scuba diving with Namloo Divers.
You can also visit any of Phuket's 29 temples, including Wat Chaithararam (or Wat Chalong), which is the most revered of all. Find it easily by tuk tuk in the Chalong district near Phuket town. However, if it's just a quiet spot to chill out you're after, head to Tri Trang Beach, a mere 15 minutes by longtail boat or tuk tuk.
There are several day trips you can take from Phuket, with Koh Phi Phi and Krabi among the favourites thanks to their stunning coastlines. There are regular cheap ferry services from Phuket to these islands, which usually take a couple of hours.
Visit James Bond Island
Another popular trip is to Khao Phing Kan, also known as James Bond Island thanks to its role in the 1974 feature The Man With the Golden Gun, in Phang Na Bay.
You'll first be ferried to a Muslim fishing village called Koh Panyee, which sits on stilts in the ocean. Enjoy lunch while watching the cats and friendly faces who live there. Look down at low tide to see the thousands of colourful crabs that sit on the silt at the base of the structure.
After lunch you'll be taken to Khao Phing Kan which is actually made up of two rocky, tree covered islands, including the freestanding limestone stack called Koh Tapu. Here, you can explore, swim or simply relax - cue bond girl imitation selfies with the rock in the background, or if you're a guy, well, a nice picture of you with a rock - before heading back to Phuket.
You can easily arrange day trips in advance either through the company you've travelled to Phuket with or at one of the many travel agencies dotted around. Most companies will collect you from your hotel and take you directly to the pier.
Whether you're combining a Bangkok city break with a beach holiday, relaxing after a conference, or enjoying an exotic family escape, Phuket has all the essential elements to make the perfect beach holiday. Have you been to Phuket already or are you planning to go to Thailand? Tell us about your experience below...
More about Phuket
Get your weekly fix of holiday inspiration from some of the world's best travel writers plus save on your next trip with the latest exclusive offers
We promise not to share your details
*affiliate links: find out how we are funded and why this helps us remain free to use.