8 of the Best Things to do in Phuket Thailand

Phuket (pronounced poo-ket) Thailand, is a true paradise, with a little bit of something for everyone. There are beaches, islands, rainforests, mountains, and bustling city areas to explore, so some days can be spent relaxing while others are spent out on the town or immersed in nature.

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To take advantage of the beautiful landscapes around Phuket, stay as close to the beach as you can and rent a moped (if you’re a confident driver) or take advantage of the complementary rides that are provided by tours to get around. Most of the tours, food, and lodging in Thailand is very budget friendly, so splurging a little bit for the best place to stay is not going to set you back as far as it would in most places. For example, a beachfront luxury resort with all the bells and whistles goes for only about $150-250/night depending on the time of year (I recommend Beyond Resort Karon). Or for the budget-conscious traveler, there are plenty of even more affordable options; the Holiday Village and Natural Garden Resort costs $80 or less per night, and the Happy Eight Resort will only cost $50/night. 

1. Visit the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary 

Transportation: Included with tour
Time: 5.5 hours
Cost: $85-$120 per adult, ~$55 per child (4-10 years old), free for under 4 years old

The number one thing I think anyone visiting Thailand should do is visit the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. They have locations in Phuket, Chiang Mai, Pattaya, and Samui, so you have the chance to visit in several different areas of the country. Each location offers different experiences to choose from including a morning visit, afternoon visit, full day “Walk with Elephants”, overnight visit, feed and shower program, and the feed me program.

There was no way I was going to travel all the way to Thailand to spend anything less than a full day with these elephants… But if your schedule only accommodates a half day or even just a few hours, then one of the shorter programs is definitely still worth booking. In Phuket, the full day program included transportation to and from the sanctuary from our hotel, a traditional shirt that we got to pick out and keep, making elephant food in a giant mortal and pestle while learning about their diets, feeding the elephants by hand and taking plenty of pictures with them, going on a walk through the jungle with an elephant and guide, kayaking during the part of the day when the elephants were resting, lunch, learning about the sustainable products that the sanctuary creates, giving the elephants mud baths and swimming with them in the watering hole, pictures taken by a photographer during the visit, a brief cooking class to show what they’d prepared for our dinner, and the best memories ever!  

I expected to pay a ton to experience all of that, but the full day experience only cost around $120 per person, and the most expensive experience (the overnight stay in Chiang Mai) is less than $200.

2. Go Island Hopping

Transportation: Included with tour
Time: 8 hours
Cost: ~$130 per person

In addition to the great scenery in Phuket itself, there are no shortages of gorgeous islands nearby. A trip to Phuket would not be complete without visiting a few of them. The Phang Nga Bay and Beyond tour is an excellent one because it includes transportation to and from your hotel, breakfast and lunch, a trip to several different islands, including the famous James Bond Island,  and a guide that knows everything about the area and doubles as a killer photographer that will tell you how to pose to get the shots you didn’t know you needed (but you definitely do).

Our guide took us to James Bond Island first and we had it all to ourselves for a while before other tours started showing up! Then the Koh Panak Cave we saw fish with feet, which I thought were a myth up to that point. Our 3rd stop had an amazing lookout point that we were able to hike up to with only minimal difficulty and were rewarded with amazing 360° views from a better vantage point than the beach offered. Then when we were kayaking through the Hong islands, our guide made us a flower out of the reeds growing in that area. I tried to make my own reed flower, but the results were laughable – literally. We all got a good chuckle out of it. To end the day, our guide took advantage of the tides to take us to a small uninhabited island. Having the whole island to ourselves made for a perfect afternoon!

Another popular option is to go to the Phi Phi Islands. One of the Phi Phi Islands, Phi Phi Don, even has accommodations so that you can stay overnight. During the day, the Phi Phi Islands draw visitors with their stunning beaches, amazing lookout points, and the exotic marine life that you can snorkel and dive with. Then at night, the vibe flips from relaxation into party mode. There are lively parties that occur all over the island on the beaches, at the pools, and in the bars and nightclubs. Ko Phi Phi is one of the most well-known islands in Thailand though, so if you want to visit or stay on Phi Phi Don, make sure to book that part of your trip well in advance.

3. Explore the Phuket Night Markets

Transportation: Walk, or taxi required
Time: 1-2 hours
Cost: Depends on how many souvenirs you buy, but prices are good!

Night markets are vibrant places in Phuket, filled with food, drinks, handmade goods, trinkets, clothing, music, and throngs of people shopping amongst the various vendor stalls. As the name indicates, the markets materialize at night throughout Phuket.

Some of the most popular of the markets are the Phuket Sunday Street Market, Chillva Night Market, Phuket Weekend Market (Naka Market), the Indy Market, Malin Plaza, Kata Night Market, the OTOP Night Market, and Phuket Walking Street. Most are only open on specific days, so make sure to look up information for the specific market(s) you’d like to visit.

Each market has its own personality, so the more you are able to visit, the more authentic Thai products you’re able to sample and the more of Phuket you really come to know.

4. Relax on a Beach 

Transportation: Walk, or taxi required
Time: As long as you want!
Cost: $0

Whether you booked a hotel on the beach, or you opted for a different option, you can’t leave Phuket without spending some time on the pristine sands and clear waters. Even if you are staying somewhere with beach access, there are so many gorgeous options along the west and southern coast of Phuket than you may want to check out a few.

The larger beaches such as Karon, Kata, Patong, Kamala and Bang Tao are likely to be busier and have plenty of restaurants, shops, and activities such as parasailing to cater to the crowds. Other beaches such as Nai Harn, Ao Sane, Kata Noi, Freedom Beach, Banana Beach, and Nai Thon and more, are smaller and often much harder to get to. The extra effort spent getting there will be well worth it though.

5. Go on a Hike 

Transportation: Included with tours
Time: 5-6 hours for tour
Cost: $40-$70 for tours, or free on your own

It may be hard to peal yourself away from the gorgeous Thai beaches, but the jungles offer plenty of intrigue as well. There are tons of great trails all around Phuket (over 250 according to AllTrails), and a lot of them lead up to the iconic Big Buddha with 360° views of the surrounding area as a reward for your efforts. If you aren’t interested in navigating through the jungle yourself, there are guided tours to the Big Buddha, through Khao Phra Teaw Park, and plenty of other locations.

6. Visit a Temple

Transportation: Included with tour, or walk or take a taxi
Time: 0.5-2 hours
Cost: Free admission

If you choose to hike up to the Big Buddha, you may as well go inside! There is both a temple (aka “wat”) and meditation park at the base of the statue. In the meditation park, you can purchase a gold leaf that you write your aspirations on and attach in whatever space you can find, so that it becomes part of the park décor. In the temple, the monks will speak a quick blessing over anyone that would like one.

The largest Buddhist temple in Phuket is Wat Chalong, which draws millions of visitors per year. You don’t need to be Buddhist to enjoy learning about the history of the temple and admire the intricacy of the architecture and décor! Keep in mind that this is an active Buddhist temple, so visitors are expected to keep their voices down, refrain from touching the statues and artifacts, and dress according to temple dress code if you choose to go inside; that means remove your shoes and hat before entering, and make sure your clothing covers your knees, shoulders, and everything in between.

If you aren’t wearing the appropriate attire at the Big Buddha, you will be given a sarong at the entrance to wear as a long skirt or shawl. However, I didn’t see any such accommodations at Wat Chalong. Also, those are the most popular temples in Phuket, but there are many smaller temples on Phuket that won’t see near as many tourists if you are looking for a quieter experience.

7. Zipline Through the Rainforest

Transportation: Included with tour
Time: 4 hours
Cost: $50-$100

By foot is not the only option for exploring the jungle! You can also zip through the rainforest with a  Flying Hanuman Zipline Adventure. There are various courses to choose from, so you can explore some or all of the zipline platforms, sky bridges, abseils (like a repel but just in space, without a wall to push off of), rollers, sky rails, dual ziplines, and spiral staircases that Hanuman has to offer.

The views and perspective are so unique that you will want plenty of photos to remember the experience with. Flying Hanuman will let you bring your own camera or go-pro if you would like, but they also have photographers accompany each group through the jungle, and you can purchase the professional pictures that they capture at the end of your trip.

Other things provided by Hanuman are all the necessary safety equipment, guides, lockers for all your personal items while you’re in the jungle, bottled water, and pickup/drop off from most locations around Phuket. All you have to do is show up and have a great time!

8. Learn to Cook Authentic Thai Food

Transportation: Included with tour
Time: 2.5-3.5 hours
Cost: $50-$75 per person

One of the things I loved most about Thailand, was the food! I was wondering how on Earth they managed to get so much flavor into such small dishes, so I took a cooking class to find out.

When you take a cooking class at the Kata Thai Cooking School, you’ll actually start by going to a local market. Your host will buy you samples of various produce, sweets, and meats that are available while educating you about the items you’re snacking on and purchasing ingredients that you’ll be cooking later.

Once you have everything you need, the host will take you back to the school and start walking you through some Thai cooking basics. Then you’ll get started with cooking not just a single item, but three or four quintessential Thai dishes.

The host (whom are all top notch, hilarious, and do a great job of making sure everyone has a great time) will verbally guide you through all the recipes, but luckily, they also will have recipe pages printed out for everyone so you don’t have to worry about committing everything to memory! I can’t even count the number of times since my trip that I’ve gotten my Kata Cooking School recipes back out to cook delicious Thai food at home!

Putting it all Together 

Click here for a perfect 5-day Phuket itinerary that incorporates all the activities listed above! 


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