Phuket, pronounced “Poo-get,” is Thailand’s largest island and with a population of 89,072 and also its second smallest province. Phuket is about 54 kilometers in length 24 kilometers wide. The Island is located on southern Thailand’s west coast facing the Andaman Sea and connected to Phang Nga Province by a pair of short road bridges.
Phuket enjoys great popularity as a travel destination. Most beaches are on the west coast, with Phuket Town to the southeast and the airport in the north. Phuket might not have the historical sites that Bangkok and Chiang Mai have but visitors can enjoy pristine beaches and crystal clear waters. Scuba diving, yachting, jet-skiing and parasailing are some popular activities on the island. Many of the world’s best dive sites are located around Phuket and nearby islands. From here divers can reach the Similan Marine National Park and the dive spots around Phi Phi Islands easily and the island has many diving schools operating daily tours to these destinations. Phuket also enjoys a reputation as a world class golfing destination with many golf courses on the island and the nearby mainland offering first rate facilities in a spectacular setting.
Over three million tourists visit Phuket annually but the island does not seem crowded due to its large size and the many smaller beaches with only few hotels. A good road network enables easy exploration from Chalong Bay and Rawai Beach in the South east coast, following Cape Prom Thep at the southern-most point and up to the western shoreline, which includes Nai Harn Beach, Kata Beach, Karon Beach, Patong Beach and Kamala Bang Tao. North of Phuket Town in Thalang a road branches off to Khao Phra Thaeo Wildlife Sanctuary. The east coast facing Phang Nga Bay is dominated by large mangrove forest inhabited by small monkeys.
Phuket can be reached easily by air from Bangkok, Koh Samui as well as an increasing number of international destinations mainly from other Asian Countries and Europe. Thai Airways also operates a daily flight from the northern province of Chiang Mai directly to the island.
There are several daily VIP buses departing from Bangkok’s Southern Bus Terminal. The bus is by far the cheapest way to travel to Phuket but the trip takes about 12 hours.
Phuket cannot be reached directly by rail. However travelers looking for a small adventure can take the train leaving Bangkok’s Hua Lampong station and traveling along the Gulf Coast to Surat Thani province from where a bus crosses the Malay Peninsula to Phuket. This is not the cheapest and by far the slowest way to travel but also the most adventurous.
On Phuket itself you can travel to along the major beaches and to Phuket town by small local busses. The most convenient way however is by Tuk Tuk. The later are small 4 wheeled, open, mostly red taxies. Prices are not fixed and you need to negotiate with the driver before you enter the vehicle. Motorcycles and jeeps are for rent at most beaches at reasonable prices if you want to discover the island by yourself. An international driver’s license is required in Thailand although seldom requested.
Ton Sai Waterfall
Located about 22 kilometers from Phuket town on the northbound Thep Kasattri Road, this small waterfall is visible across a deep, leafy trail that offers natural air-conditioning in its cool, shady areas. The waterfall flows from the slopes of limestone mountain ranges creating cascades and refreshing pools of water--perfect for a dip, but beware of strong currents during the rainy season (May-October). As well as taking the plunge, you can follow an ecology trail keeping an eye open for fascinating flora and fauna.
Near the Ton Sai Waterfall you can visit a Gibbon Sanctuary where animals which grew up as pets learn to readjust and live in the wild.
Phuket Orchid Garden & Thai Village
Located on the northbound Thepkasattri Road, about three kilometers from town, this is a tasteful, easily accessible snapshot of the many varieties of Thai cultural life. Enjoy folk dances, Thai boxing and elephant shows, with hands on participation. The handicraft center is the perfect place to pick up souvenirs and trinkets of a uniquely Thai nature; the botanical orchid farm, set in landscaped gardens, offers a taste of the exotic. Show times: 11am and 5.30pm daily.
Phuket's largest and most important Buddhist temple, located on the southern outskirts of Phuket Town, is greatly respected by the local Buddhist community. Considered the most beautiful on the island, it contains a gilt statue of Luang Por Cham, the monk who became a local hero when he helped quell the Chinese Coolie rebellion of 1876, during the reign of King Rama V. Admission to this place is free, although small donations are accepted.
Inspired by Thailand's rich and exotic heritage, Phuket FantaSea is a unique cultural complex. It showcases the charm and beauty of Thailand, while enriching ancient Thai traditions with the wonder of cutting-edge technology and special effects. The result is a stunning 140-acre theme complex offering a multitude of activities. Highlights include the festival village, the Golden Kinnaree Buffet Restaurant (a 5,000-seat restaurant offering a grand buffet of Thai and international cuisines) and a breathtaking Las Vegas-style show, which starts at 9 pm.
Island- and diving tours
Daytrips to the surrounding islands and scuba diving: Dive and snorkeling day trips and live aboard tours to Coral Island, Phi Phi Islands, Phang Nga Bay, Similan and Surin islands can be booked at numerous tour counters and dive shops at practically every beach of the island.
Patong beach is the first and main tourist beach on Phuket. Located on the west coast of the island facing the Andaman Sea Patong Bay offers a pristine sandy beach, numerous Hotels, restaurants and shopping facilities as well as a dynamic night life.
The Karon Beach is by many tourists very popular because the beach is forever long and the night life is not as loud and crowed as in Patong. Again, it has great shopping and a variety of restaurants.
Kata Beach is located south of Karon and has a beautiful beach. Two bays, Kata Noi and Kata Yai are separated by a rocky outcrop. Around the rocks and around the small island of Koh Pu, there are coral reefs with lots of colorful fish which makes it a good snorkel site. During the rainy season occur at Kata Noi dangerous currents, whereas it is safer on Kata Yai. In the northern area is the center with restaurants, travel agencies, motorbike and jeep rental, tailoring and a few diving centers. Overall, it is still one of the beaches that can be recommend on Phuket. Here it is not as boring as on the beaches near the airport and not as crowded and noisy as in Patong and Karon. It is very easy to take a taxi to Patong or Phuket Town.
Nai Harn Bay
Nai Harn is a quiet bay on Phuket’s south west coast and a real tip for families and people generally looking for the quieter side of the island. The beach is set in a beautiful bay between the Laem Prom Thep Cape and the Kata View point. Some small restaurants and a few shops are set under the pine trees along the beach.
Kamala Beach is located to the north of Patong along a small coastal road. The beach has a small village with restaurants and shops but although the beach is relatively long only view Hotels have opened here and the atmosphere is generally still very relaxed.
Still further to the north along the coast towards the Airport you can find Surin beach. Formerly a small fishing village the beach was first discovered by Phuket residents as a quiet but beautiful place to live. In the past couple of years some 4 and 5 star Hotels have opened here and the nearby Laguna Resort and Golf Club attract many visitors.