Phuket is an incredible spot in Thailand, and one of the key stops along the Banana Pancake Trail. Phuket, the largest island in Thailand is a place filled with natural beauty and manmade beauty alike, with lots of beaches and temples to explore. There are fine white sand beaches here, palm trees, and extremely lively towns on this Thai island in the Andaman Sea. And there are lots to do here – so without further ado, let’s explore 15 of the best things to do in Phuket.
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The best things to do in Phuket
You’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to things to do in Phuket. Whether you stick to the land, head to the sea, or even just stay on the beach. There’s something for everyone in Phuket.
Visit the Big Buddha statue on Nakkerd Hills
The Big Buddha statue, formally known as “Phra Puttamingmongkol Akenakkiri,” is a 45-meter (148 feet) tall statue located on the Nakkerd Hills, offering a panoramic view of the island of Phuket. You can even climb the stairs inside the statue and take in the view from the top. It’s incredible. The statue itself is made of white marble and can be seen all across the island. There are also plenty of other temples and shrines nearby which can be explored too. It’s a must-do and must-see while in Phuket. The Klook Phuket Fun Pass will help you save on all of Phuket’s main attractions – you can grab a deal here.
Take a boat tour to see Phang Nga Bay’s limestone cliffs
Phang Nga Bay, located about 16 miles (25 kilometers) northeast of Phuket, is known for its beautiful limestone cliffs and islands that rise out of the sea. It’s truly something out of a dream. Phang Nga Bay could be described as a real-life Pandora from Avatar. A boat tour is the best way to explore the bay and see its famous landmarks like James Bond Island and Koh Panyee. (I wrote about visiting James Bond Island here) The tour will take you through sea caves, mangrove swamps, and lagoons. Exploring Phang Nga Bay is a true “pinch me” moment, and the memories will last a lifetime.
You can check boat tour options from Phuket to Phang Nga Bay here.
Go snorkeling or diving from Phuket
Phuket offers many great opportunities for snorkeling and diving, so naturally, these are two of the best things to do in Phuket. The Similan Islands and Surin Islands are two of the most popular destinations for diving and are accessible from Phuket, where you can see a wide variety of marine life, including coral, tropical fish, and even whale sharks. Swimming with whale sharks is one of the best things to do in all of Thailand, they’re so peaceful. There are also many snorkeling spots along the west coast of Phuket, where you can also see colorful coral and fish once again. Here’s some of the top places to go diving and snorkeling from Phuket
Raya Island – great as a day trip, super snorkeling, great diving. Read more here.
Go diving at three specific areas – including Koh Dok Mail from Phuket. Check availability here.
Visit Wat Chalong, the largest temple in Phuket
Wat Chalong is one of the most important Buddhist temples in Phuket. It is located in Chalong Bay, hence the name, and is a popular spot for both tourists and locals. The temple is known for its beautiful architecture and intricate carvings. You can also see several Buddha statues and a replica of the Lord Buddha’s footprint. It’s definitely worth checking out while spending time in Phuket.
Explore the old town of Phuket City
Phuket City, more commonly known as Phuket Town, is the capital of the island and offers a unique glimpse back in time, into the history of Phuket. You can experience the rich history and culture through the abundance of museums, art galleries, and street markets. There are so many things to do in Phuket Town that you definitely need to explore the old town. This awesome full day tour takes in old Phuket as well as elephant bathing, the Big Buddha and HEAPS more – its a bargain to get to see all of this for one price. Get your ticket now!
Go rock climbing at Tonsai Beach
Tonsai Beach is a popular spot for rock climbing, with routes for all skill levels. So whether you are a beginner or an expert, you’ll have a great (and scenic) climb at Tonsai. The area is known for its limestone cliffs and beautiful scenery, similar to Phang Nga Bay and the rest of Phuket. There are also several climbing schools and guides available to help you get started if you are a complete novice. It’s a great way to experience the island’s natural beauty and get some exercise at the same time. This could be a particularly good thing to do if you are not getting much exercise while backpacking in Thailand.
Island hop to nearby islands like Koh Phi Phi and Koh Yao
Phuket is surrounded by many smaller islands that are definitely worth visiting. Two of the most popular are Koh Phi Phi and Koh Yao which are famous all around the world. Koh Phi Phi is known for its beautiful beaches and crystal-clear waters, while Koh Yao is more rural, with traditional villages and lush jungle. You can take a day trip or stay overnight to fully explore these islands. If you are moving throughout Thailand in a linear line, these islands could make a great stop on the way to Koh Lanta, as they are halfway between it and Phuket. Want to know about Koh Yao Noi? Here’s our guide to it.
If you just want to head to other islands for the day, then this excellent trip explores several islands, including Phi Phi and you’ll get some great snorkeling too! Check it out here.
Take a Thai language course
One of the best things to do in Phuket is to immerse yourself in Thai culture. Therefore, to help in learning more about the local culture and communicating with the locals, taking a Thai language course is a great idea. Many language schools in Phuket offer courses for all skill levels, and you can choose between group classes or private lessons. Taking lessons is a much better way to learn than using DuoLingo!
Kayaking around Phang Nga Bay
As mentioned before, Phang Nga Bay is extraordinarily beautiful, it’s truly one of the most precious spots in the world. But there is more to it than boat tours. Kayaking offers a unique way to explore the limestone cliffs and islands. Kayaking also allows you to get up close to the cliffs and into the caves, and you can also explore the mangrove swamps and lagoons. If you enjoyed the boat tour, you will LOVE kayaking.
Take an immersive Elephant experience in Phuket
The national animal of Thailand is the elephant and there are lots of opportunities to interact with these majestic creatures throughout Thailand. Phuket offers the opportunity to go elephant trekking in the jungle, an experience that is both unique and memorable. Many tour operators offer elephant experiences that take you through the jungle. This is an opportunity to see the elephants in their natural habitat and learn about these fascinating animals.
You’ll want to check that you’re visiting with the elephants in an ethical way. This Elephant Jungle Trip is a fully immersive experience and interacts with elephants in Phuket in their own environment. It’s a great way to see these gentle giants. You can see more information here.
Admire the view from Phuket View Point
Phuket View Point is one of the best places to see the island’s natural beauty. The viewpoint is located on the top of a hill and offers panoramic views of the island. It’s truly something out of a dream. You can see the beaches, the sea, and the surrounding islands from here. The viewpoint is a great place to take photos, photos that are definitely worthy of a postcard. It’s also an amazing place to enjoy the sunset.
Take a cooking class and make traditional Thai dishes
Thai cuisine is famous all over the world, you’ll likely try and love some Thai food while in Thailand. Phuket is a great place to learn how to cook traditional Thai dishes! Many cooking schools offer classes for all skill levels, and you can choose between group classes or private lessons. The classes include a visit to a local market to buy ingredients, and you will learn how to prepare dishes like green curry, tom yum soup, and pad thai. Taking these skills home will allow you to cook delicious and authentic Thai food anywhere in the world. This is the best rated Thai cooking class in Phuket – you’ll need to book it early, its VERY popular.
Visit the Phuket Aquarium
One of the less popular things to do in Phuket amongst tourists is to visit the Phuket Aquarium, but it’s definitely worth paying a visit. The aquarium has a wide variety of marine creatures on display, including sharks, rays, and tropical fish. You can also see sea turtles and crocodiles. The aquarium has several tanks, including a tunnel tank where you can walk through and see the fish swimming above and around you. You can get a ticket to the Phuket Aquarium here.
Take a sunset cruise on a traditional Chinese junk boat
A sunset cruise on a traditional Chinese junk boat is a must-do activity in Phuket. The boats are modeled after traditional Chinese junks. As you cruise along the beautiful crystal clear waters of Phuket, take in the beautiful sunset over the horizon. It’s a sight not to forget. You’ll be able to see the island’s beautiful beaches and the surrounding islands as well as enjoy a delicious dinner and drinks on board. It’s not quite an authentic Thai experience, but it’s definitely one of the most relaxing, romantic, and picturesque things to do in Phuket.
As an alternative, this catamaran sunset cruise to coral island is glorious.
Stroll around Phuket Town Night Market
Last but by no means least is the Night Market. Phuket Town Night Market is a great place to shop for souvenirs, clothes, and local products. You will find a wide variety of street food vendors selling delicious Thai food too. Of course, it’s a great place to explore and find a bargain. The market is a great place to experience the local culture and see how the locals live. If there is one way to get an authentic Thai experience in Phuket, it’s in the Night Market.
Popular Routes in Thailand
Want to know more about different forms of transport in Thailand? Our guide to Thailand transport is here. And here’s how to travel some of the popular routes around Thailand, your options, and how we did it.
- How to go from Bangkok to Pakse (Laos)
- Going from Langkawi (Malaysia) to Koh Lipe
- How to go from Koh Tao to Krabi
- How to go from Phuket to Koh Yao Noi
- How to go from Bangkok to Koh Tao
- How to go from Bangkok to Koh Phangan
- Bangkok to Koh Kood and back
- Go from Bangkok to Koh Chang
- How to go from Bangkok to Koh Samui
- How to go from Bangkok to Ayutthaya
- How to go from Bangkok to Sukhothai
- How to go from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi
- How to travel from Krabi to Langkawi (Malaysia)
- How to go from Cambodia to Thailand
Final Words on Things to do in Phuket
And there you have it, 15 incredible things to do in Phuket. Whether you opt to see the Big Buddha, snorkel off the coast of Phuket, or take a Thai language class, you are guaranteed to have a great time. Phuket is a beautiful part of Thailand and is one of the best places in the world to relax and unwind. There are simply endless things to do, this post has only scratched the surface. Hopefully, you will have a great time exploring Phuket.
This post was written by Josh Band from A Backpacker’s World. Josh loves to write about backpacking all around the world. From Southeast Asia to Europe, and everything in between, Josh loves to explore and spend as little as possible while doing so. Who doesn’t love budget traveling, right?
Stock images in this article are courtesy Deposit Photos.
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