Holidays to Phuket serve up colourful temples, jungle-backed beaches and legendary nightlife on Thailand’s largest island.

You’ve seen Phuket all over your Insta feed from your mates’ Thailand travels, and yes – it really is worth the hype. It’s impressive how much is packed into one island, from a jungle-backed coastline to bright Buddhist temples and iconic nightlife strips. There’s a reason it’s been travelled and tested by every gap year student for decades, but it’s still got that same laidback, friendly vibe with unspoiled spots waiting to be stumbled upon. Whether you stay in a hostel and have your backpacker moment or pick a five-star oceanfront resort, you’re in for the best kind of break that feels worlds away from your day-to-day life.

Why pick Phuket

Tropical beaches

Every part of Phuket’s shoreline is covered in sunworship-worthy sands, and they all bring something different to the table. Patong Beach is a key player – it backs onto the island’s liveliest resort and is lined with beach bars, plus it has a strong watersports scene, too. Kata, Karon and Kamala beaches have a more family-friendly vibe. For the desert-island feels, Nai Harn, Mai Khao and Bang Tao are some of the quietest sweeps on the coastline. Wherever you flop down, expect palm-fringed treelines, bright green shallows and sun-warmed seawater. And no, your phone’s camera isn’t going to do it justice.

Screen-ready islands

The Phi Phi and Similan Islands are all within boat-hopping distance, and score a strong 10/10 in the natural beauty department. These islands have had some serious screentime over the years – you might recognise Phang Nga Bay – AKA James Bond Island – and its limestone cliffs from The Man with the Golden Gun. Get a closer look by kayaking through sea caves and mangrove forests, and keep an eye out for monkeys. Over on Koh Phi Phi, the iconic Maya Bay had its Hollywood moment in The Beach. It's a protected area now, but you can still stop by and walk on the same sand as Leo DiCaprio. You’re welcome.

Big Buddha energy

Thailand’s got strong temple game, but the Big Buddha of Phuket is one of the best. Standing at 45 metres tall on top of a hill, you’ll be able to spot this giant statue for miles around, but it looks even better up close. Embrace the zen vibes as you walk around the sacred site, past sweet-smelling temples filled with incense and meditating monks. Then, make your way up the steps to the base of the Buddha for the most unreal panoramic view over Phuket and the Andaman Sea.

Nature’s finest

Beyond its beaches, Phuket’s covered in thick jungle that’s absolutely packed with wildlife. In the north, Khao Phra Thaeo National Park is Phuket’s last remaining rainforest. Join a hiking tour and trek past waterfalls, gibbons and rare species of birds and lizards.

Festivals and celebrations

Phuket’s cultural calendar is booked and busy with colourful festivals and celebrations…

Phuket Vegetarian Festival

What: a nine-day celebration of vegetarianism

Where: All over Phuket

When: October

Key highlights: buzzy street processions, spiritual ceremonies, and some seriously good meat-free street food.

Songkran Festival

What: Thai New Year

Where: All over Phuket

When: 13-15 April

Key highlights: lively water fights, traditional ceremonies, and street parties take over the towns.

Our pick


Take it from someone that's been there – here’s a top tip from our team:

“For a real off-the-beaten track situation, seek out Freedom Beach. Around 20 minutes’ drive south of Patong Beach, it’s a little tricky to get to, but that’s what makes it feel so secret and secluded. Most taxi drivers won’t take you the whole way as it’s down a bumpy dirt road, so you’ll need to walk the rest of the way until you reach a row of wooden shacks – there, you’ll see a sign pointing down to the beach. From here, it’s a 15-minute, downhill trek through the jungle. As you get closer to the bottom, the trees start to clear and you’ll come out onto the dreamiest sandy beach, hidden in a little bay. There are locals selling bottles of ice-cold beer and pad thai made on portable woks. The hike back up is pretty steep and long, so leave yourself plenty of time to do it before the sun sets or you’ll be doing it in the dark!”Daisy Colley

The Non-Touristy Pick

The Big Buddha can be super busy, so for a more peaceful pick, head over to Wat Chalong on the northeast corner of the island. Stroll around the leafy gardens filled with palm trees, lotus ponds and colourful dragon statues, and soak up the spiritual energy in the temples. If you fancy a meditation sesh, leave your shoes outside, sit cross-legged on the floor and let the serene vibes wash over you.

Best Places to Stay

Patong Beach

Patong’s the buzzy heart of Phuket. It’s a classic backpacker’s spot, with a thriving watersports scene, lively markets, and nightlife to rival Bangkok’s Khao San Road. Bangla Road is the main strip, serving up everything from cocktail and karaoke bars to booming nightclubs. Huge hotel complexes hug the seafront away from the centre, so you can stay near the action without being right in the middle of it all.

Kata Beach

If you’re planning a family trip, Kata Beach is a great shout. It’s nowhere near as full-on as Patong, but there’s still a lot going on. It’s got a solid surfing community, so you’re perfectly placed if you want to learn from the pros, and Ko Pu’s coral reefs 400 metres away from the shore are pure snorkelling material. When the evening rolls around, follow your nose up the main street for a fragrant curry, then its back onto the sand to watch the sunset from a beach shack.

Kamala Beach

Kamala’s got more of a traditional Thai flavour. It’s a cute little village where the locals go about their daily life, and the quiet streets are lined with peaceful villas and no-frills food spots – you know the food is going to be unreal when the restaurant is filled with Thai people. Days here move at a much slower pace – set off to the sweet Buddhist temple for a bit of culture, and flop down on the sandy beach to watch the swaying coconut palms and colourful long boats bobbing in the shallows.

Picks that don’t cost a penny

Street markets

The street markets are a huge part of Thai culture, and are a must-visit whether you’re running low on baht or just fancy a chilled evening. Most towns have one every night, and there’s a big one in Patong and Phuket Town. Row after row of jewellery, handmade crafts and clothing stalls run along the road, as well as street food vendors and pop-up bars. They’re super lively after the sun goes down when it’s much cooler, and you can often catch traditional dance performances and live music. Find a place to sit and soak up the scenes, and if you’re hungry, you can get super cheap chicken satay, spring rolls and roti – Thailand’s version of a crepe.

Getting around

Here are some of the ways you can get around Phuket…

Buses

Live like a local and catch buses – or song taew – around the island. They’re more like an open-air truck than the buses you see back home, and they’re painted different colours depending on the route. Between 6am and 6pm, there are services to all the main towns and resorts from the centre of Phuket, and it’ll cost you around 30-50 baht each time (that’s less than a pound, btw).

Ferries and boats

There are loads of boat trips to Koh Phi Phi and the Similan Islands that you can prebook online or from one of the many tourist info points in Phuket’s resorts. Most tours include pick-up and drop-off from your hotel, so you won’t need to make your own way to the marina. And if you want to scope out hidden beaches around the coastline, you can hire traditional long boats and speed boats from Patong Beach.

Taxis and tuk-tuks

You’ll see taxis and tuk-tuks everywhere on the roads, and expect to be regularly asked where you’re trying to get to. They can work out quite spenny, so if you do use one, always agree on a price before you get in to avoid a surprise at the end. Apps like Uber, Bolt and Grab are much cheaper and more reliable, and there are always plenty of drivers about.

At a Glance

  • Party in Bangla Road’s bright bars
  • Take a long boat to film-star islands
  • Tuck into pad thai and mango sticky rice

Top Destinations

TOP THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN PHUKET

BEACHES

SHOPPING

NIGHTLIFE

FOOD & DRINK