Phuket is the most popular beach destination in Thailand – it’s easy to get to, is very inexpensive and has a lot of activities night and day, bringing in the tourist crowds. The naughty nightlife and cheap prices bring in the crowds – and also turn of others in search for a quieter, more “Thai” beach vacation. But thanks to my friends living in Phuket, I discovered some of the less known and most beautiful sides of Phuket, giving you a chance to have a great trip despite the crowds!
Phuket is the most popular beach destination in Thailand and, similar to its rival Bali, offers a little bit to everybody. Russian and Chinese tour groups find it easy to reach, with lots of support in their language and great prices. Many visitors come for the raucous and naughty nightlife Patong Beach has to offer – at prices a fraction of beach destinations in Europe or the Americas!
More recently, Phuket has been trying to carve out its niche as a luxury resort destination, with high-end hotels creating a pampering oasis for luxury travelers, insulating them from the mass tourism. Combining the luxurious hotels with Thai hospitality, all offered without the hassle of traveling to more remote destinations, makes this a good alternative to high-end destinations in the Americas or Europe!
I’m not a fan of isolated luxury resorts, tour groups, shopping for souvenirs or naughty nightlife and for years preferred other Thai beaches like Ko Samed or Ko Lanta over Phuket – but, with some local insights and a little extra effort, there are still lots of good reasons to visit Phuket:
Phuket islands has a string of beautiful beaches down it’s Eastern coast. You don’t have to go very far from popular & crowded Patong Beach to find a much more peaceful beach to relax on. Yanui Beach near the Southern tip is a small, quiet beach that’ll make you forget about the crowds quickly. And just to the North, is the larger Nai Harn Beach that is a long crescent stretch of beach with beautiful sunset views for one of the most beautiful settings on Phuket. Both are public beaches open to anybody and are especially nice during the shoulder season when you share it with but a handful of people!
The easy accessibility and modern infrastructure also makes Phuket interesting for “snowbirds” or other long-term residents of all ages. It’s pretty easy to rent an apartment for a few months, a motorcycle to get around and spend a winter in a beautiful destinations at a fraction of the cost in Western countries. And it is when you stay a little longer that you also discover some of the hidden beauty: Phuket has some great little restaurants and bars outside the tourist areas: La Gaetana Is my favorite Italian restaurant in all of Thailand and delivers a great experience beyond the food. And Zimplex serves some of the most innovative cocktails I’ve found anywhere in Asia. Or, if you just want a cold beer, without the rowdy tourist crowds, check out the Chillva Market with local bands as the evening entertainment! You’ll also find fun markets mostly visited by locals, like the Sunday Walking Street – with some of the tastiest street food I’ve tried here and live music!
The Andaman Sea around Phuket also offers some of the most amazing coastline that makes for great tourism brochures and movie backdrops. From DeCaprio’s The Beach to James Bond, the islands have featured in countless movies. There are plenty of tours that will take you to those spots, but you can also visit the many other small islands that are less popular, less crowded and just as beautiful. My favorite was a boat tour that included kayaking along the coast and into breathtaking caves! Or you can go on a road trip to Ao Phang Nga National Park to see the beautiful nature without the crowds!