Known as Thailand's 'Pearl of the Andaman', Phuket has become one of Southeast Asia's most popular island destinations due to its idyllic beaches, mountainous jungles, infamous nightlife, and cultural flare.
Topping the charts as Thailand's largest island (Phuket is nearly the size of Singapore!), it caters to travelers of all ages, budgets, and tastes, and also serves as the perfect home base when planning day trips and excursions to other islands in the area.
Regardless of whether you're in search of one big action-packed adventure, or simply want to spend a week lounging on the beach with a coconut smoothie and good book in hand, Phuket isn't limited when it comes to options.
Below is an overview of the best that the island has to offer, not only in terms of local attractions, but also those further afield.
Due to its sheer size, Phuket is home to more than 30 beaches. Running a distance of more than two miles, Patong Beach is the most popular beach on the island, and is great for water-based activities such as jet-skiing and parasailing. It's also lined with dozens of beach-front restaurants and bars, and is minutes from the madness of Bangla Rd, making it a great choice if you want to place yourself right in the middle of all the action.
If you're looking for a quieter, more secluded option, rather opt for Karon Beach, Kata Beach, or Kata Noi Beach, the latter being the most quiet and secluded of them all. Karon Beach offers incredible snorkeling, and Kata Beach is a great option for families with small children.
Directly translated, Phuket means 'Mountain Jewel', and it's no surprise why. Because the island is so mountainous, it's become known for its many vantage points, each of which are each perfectly poised to offer panoramic views of the ocean, beaches, and jungles that surround them.
Get up early one morning and hire a taxi, rent a scooter, or join a tour and explore all of Phuket's viewpoints one by one. Aside from providing you with epic photo opportunities, this is a great way to get a feel for the island and cover quite a bit of distance in a relatively short amount of time. Not-to-miss stops include Kata Viewpoint, Windmill Viewpoint, and Khao Rang Viewpoint, the latter of which is best visited around sunset.
When one thinks of Phuket, culture is not usually the first word that comes to mind. However, the island is actually home to several temples, and Buddhist culture pulses through its local communities. One day during your stay, take a break from the beach towels and beer in order to experience a different side of Phuket.
Commonly referred to as 'The Big Buddha' (but, formally known as the Phra Puttamingmongkol Akenakkiri Buddha - say that five times fast!), this landmark is revered for its 45-meter tall, white Buddha statue, which is situated on top of a hill in Chalong and can be seen from multiple spots around the island. The area also contains a small temple, which can be visited by tourists so long as they remain cognizant of the fact that it is a religious site and remove their shoes.
Alternatively, Wat Chalong is a beautifully ornate temple complex located about five miles south of Phuket City. It's made up of several different halls and pagodas, only some of which can be visited by tourists, and one of which is thought to contain a splinter of the Lord Buddha's bone.
Again, remember to remain respectful when visiting each of the different chambers and remove your shoes upon entering. Women are required to cover their shoulders and wear pants or skirts that reach knee-level. If you're wearing a tank top or shorts, you'll be provided with a cover-up upon entry.
Finding Phuket Accommodation
Whether you're traveling on a shoestring, or are looking for a bit more luxury and comfort, the newly opened Lub d in the Patong area of Phuket over delivers. Although Lub d Patong brands itself as a hostel, it's actually more of a fresh, hip hotel that radiates a fun, youthful and social atmosphere.
This makes it an excellent choice for budget to mid-range travelers who don't want to compromise on basic amenities such as hot water, air con, and fast wifi, but would still like to meet other like-minded globetrotters and participate in social activities such as pub crawls, pool parties, and Tiger Muay Thai sessions.
Located within minutes of Phuket's notorious Bangla Rd, Lub d is within walking distance of the island's nightlife hub, though the hostel itself is situated on a relatively quiet side street. This makes it easy to enjoy the best of both worlds, as it's always easy to escape from the chaos of Patong when it gets to be too much.
In terms of accommodation, travelers can opt for a dorm or private room (and private rooms come in Twin or King), and dorms can be mixed or female-only. The female-only dorms are located in their own section of the hostel and can only be accessed using a key card, which makes them an awesome option for solo female travelers looking for a bit of added security.
All rooms come equipped with air con, USB plug outlets, and fast uncapped wifi, and both private and communal bathrooms provide quality, hot water showers. The communal bathrooms also include basic toiletries and hair drying stations fitted with blow dryers.
On top of all of the above, the hostel has an incredible Backpacker by STA travel desk, as well as an on-site restaurant and bar, a state-of-the-art co-working space, a travel planning corner, and an infinity pool. Believe it or not, Lub d Patong is also equipped with a professional Muay Thai boxing ring and individual or group lessons can be booked with an instructor.
Rates: Dorms start at just $14 per night, Junior Private En-suite Rooms start at $35 per night, and Deluxe Private En-suite Rooms start at $42 per night.
Location: 5 Sawatdirak Rd in Patong, Phuket.
Bookings: Visit their website here.
Heading Further Afield
One of the many advantages of staying at Lub d Patong is the fact that you're able to easily make use of their awesome travel desk, which is run by Backpacker by STA. Backpacker by STA works with a wide variety of trip providers, and offers a number of incredibly unique tours that allow you to see places in and around Phuket that you might never be able to experience on your own.
Backpacker by STA only partners with ethical and sustainable providers, and aims to offer authentic and locally-run small-group travel experiences.
Here are some of their very best adventure activities in and around Phuket:
Phang Nga Hong Starlight Canoe Trip
This experience is almost guaranteed to go down in the books as one of your favorite all-time travel moments, and that's not putting it lightly.
This full day trip transports you via boat to the nearby Phang Nga Islands where you and your group will board sea kayaks (along with a local guide who will help with the paddling) and set off to explore a number of sea cave systems and hidden lagoons. What makes this adventure so thrilling, is that from the outside these caves simply look like tiny, impassable crevices in the rock, yet as soon as you slip underneath them (lying down so as not to bump your head), they open up into dramatic caves that ultimately lead to hidden lagoons.
That evening, you'll enjoy a seafood dinner on the boat and then return to your kayak for an extremely special experience under the stars. It's something that's impossible to put into words, so you'll just have to experience it for yourself!
Cost: 3,950 Baht (about $110 per person, includes lunch and dinner)
Bookings: Visit the Backpacker by STA Travel Desk at Lub d Patong
Scuba Diving (or Snorkeling) in Racha Noi and Racha Yai
Get ready to experience some of clearest and warmest waters of your life!
This dive trip is an all-day excursion and will start with a morning pick-up directly from your hotel. You'll then be transported to your fully equipped dive boat in Chalong Bay, Phuket where you'll receive breakfast, a safety briefing, and an introduction to your Dive Master (or Instructor, if you're diving for the first time). From here, you'll embark on a 90-minute journey to the islands of Racha Yai and Racha Noi, where the captain will determine the best dive sites based on that day's weather and currents.
Once you slip into the warm water, an entirely new world will present itself before you. You'll find yourself instantly surrounded by various corals, anemones, and fish, and you may also be lucky enough to spot sea turtles, eels, rays, and small reef sharks. One of the sites incorporates a wreck, and (if you're dive certified), you are usually able to swim through it and observe all of the fish that hide within the shelter that it provides. Even as an experienced diver, this dive will likely rank very high on your list of best dives sites, due to its incredible visibility, pool-like conditions, and the immense amount of sea life that can be seen in such a short period of time. It's worth the cost a million times over.
If you're new to diving, but are interested in checking it out, you can sign up for a Discover Scuba Diving experience, or enroll in an actual open water certification course that can be completed over a number of days. If the idea of breathing under water doesn't appeal to you, the boat also caters to snorkelers.
Cost: 3,700 Baht (about $105 per person, includes breakfast, lunch, and gear)
Bookings: Visit the Backpacker by STA Travel Desk at Lub d Patong
Now it's your turn... what Phuket attractions did we miss!?
Travel tip shared by Jenna Becker for Travel Dudes.
This trip was created and managed in collaboration with Lub d Hostel. Travel Dudes maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site.