Cosmopolitan Phuket offers a variety of holiday experiences.
There are the bright lights of lively Patong, but also quieter beaches ideal for families, world-class resorts and romantic retreats. Phuket is the main gateway to beautiful Koh Phi Phi Leh (location of the film The Beach), Phang Nga Bay (home to James Bond Island, featured in the Man with the Golden Gun) as well as wonderful snorkelling and diving trips. Here’s a lowdown of the best places to stay on Thailand’s largest island.
We love the laidback vibes of Kamala beach, a beautiful spot with rope swings hung from palm trees, chic restaurants and street vendors rustling up delicious local dishes. When you’re not topping up your tan, there’s plenty to do in the area. Grab a board and hit the waves, head off on a jungle hike or gain some cool credentials at Ibiza-style Café Del Mar Phuket. Live the high life at boutique Paresa Phuket, a super-exclusive hideaway perched on a rocky cliff. There’s a daily shuttle down to the beach or just relax and revel in the pinch-me-perfect views from the infinity pool.
If you’re looking for somewhere secluded, beeline to Mai Khao. The seven-mile-long beach is set within a National Park with mangrove forests and coral reefs that attract an array of marine life – come between November and February and you may spot turtles nesting on the sand. SALA Phuket Mai Khao Beach Resort graces the shoreline with its coveted seafront location. Aside from the sleek aesthetics and dreamy pool villas, guests can reap the benefits of the sustainable SALA Farm with fresh organic eggs at breakfast and a garden-to-glass cocktail menu.
Flipping to the southern coast, Nai Harn beach is great for postcard views, pristine sand and crystal-clear water. You can’t miss The Nai Harn, a marble-white resort that tumbles down the cliffside, leading to some pretty spectacular views from the ocean-view rooms.
Phuket’s liveliest and most well-known resort, Patong plays host to the best of Phuket’s nightlife. Expect bright lights, exhilarating nightclubs, buzzing bars and countless market stalls as well as a large range of restaurants selling western-inspired fast food to top-end Thai. After experiencing the revelry on Bangla Road, return to the hillside haven of Amari Phuket to bask under a cherry-red sunshade by the pool and admire the panoramic views of Patong Bay.
Karon, Kata & Kata Noi
Just south of Patong, Karon beach is a far cry from its noisy neighbour, with just a couple of restaurants and resorts pitched along the sweeping gold beach. Carry on and you’ll reach Kata, Phuket’s second-largest resort. Here, streets are abuzz with massage parlours and lively restaurants. At the Walking Street Night Market, you can try all kinds of tasty street food from banana pancakes and rolled ice cream to grilled seafood and dim sum. Marina Phuket Resort rests on a jungle-covered headland between the two beaches and is ideally placed to experience both the quiet and lively sides of this locale.
For a more laidback scene, Kata Noi is away from the crowds and has a smattering of high-end hotels, including two of our favourites. Katathani Phuket Beach Resort is a family wonderland with kids’ clubs and a splash park, whereas the luxurious The Shore at Kata Thani has exquisite, cliff-hugging villas with private pools – the perfect setting for a romantic honeymoon.
Well-known for its four-mile stretch of cinnamon sand, Bang Tao Bay is home to an impressive destination resort. Set in 1000 acres, around a series of inland lagoons, the Laguna Phuket complex houses an 18-hole championship golf course, a stylish shopping centre and divine dining experiences at seven deluxe hotels, including the all-villa Banyan Tree Phuket. Guests are free to use all the facilities of all hotels and there’s a shuttle boat and bus service to effortlessly whisk you around the grounds. Experience the ultimate in opulence by staying in your own mini Thai Palace at DoublePool Villas by Banyan Tree.
Cape Panwa Hotel on the serene south-east coastline has been a go-to Kuoni favourite for years. Nestled atop a steep hill, this hidden gem offers a refreshing escape from the bustling tourist hubs. Here, choose how active or relaxed you want your days to be. Relax on a canopied day bed by the pool or take the tiny tram down the hill to the private beach for snorkelling, water sports or midday cocktails in the Bamboo bar.
Dining highlights include the fresh seafood in the Top of the Reef restaurant and Thai fine dining at the Sino-Portuguese-style mansion, Panwa House is a must. When you’re up for a change of scene, hop on the shuttle into the nearby village or take a taxi into Phuket Town for a street food feast in the Sunday night market. Families especially will love the two-bedroom Pool Villas, whereas honeymooners can hide away in the Cape Signature Suite, which has a whirlpool tub on the balcony.
Beautiful beaches and fabulous hotels, iconic day trips and vibrant nightlife; Phuket has much to offer for your Thai getaway. Read more about our Phuket holidays and talk to our experts to start planning.
This feature was updated on 20th September 2023. The information within this feature is correct to the best of our knowledge at the time of print. Feature by Heather Flanagan.