Phuket and the surrounding archipelago offer diverse activities and attractions, whether you’re into wildlife or nightlife. Here are the Thai island’s top activities.
Phang Nga Bay
This fantasy land of jungle peaks jutting sheer out of the Andaman Sea is a tourist magnet, not least for the prospect of selfies at Ko Tapu, an islet just off the coast of Khao Phing Kan (aka James Bond Island). Trips by speedboat, Chinese junk or kayak are easily arranged through hotels and resorts.
During the day they’re all about the beach, these private sanctuaries mushrooming along the west coast to cater for discerning holiday-makers. But come afternoon, their clubby side kicks in, with cocktails and cold beers at sunset morphing into DJs, dinner and dancing.
Great for the kids, and animal-lovers of all ages, the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project operates from Khao Phra Thaeo Wildlife Sanctuary in the island’s north. The main centre opens daily at 9am, welcoming visitors to observe some very cute creatures rescued from poaching and tourism.
Koh Phi Phi
Phi Phi, the island immortalised by The Beach (2000), starring Leonardo DiCaprio, belongs to a six-strong archipelago located less than an hour’s speedboat ride from Phuket. Most tours include a visit to Maya Bay – the cliff-lined beach made famous in the film – and time for snorkelling in the rich waters.
Phuket’s main town is in the throes of gentrification, with historic shophouses and mansions being revived and reinvented as fashionable restaurants, cafés, shops and bars. Wander Thalang Road for a taste of the new-look town and don’t miss the lively market held weekend nights, 4pm until late, on central Chao Fa West Road.
SEE ALSO: Top 10 Places to Stay in Phuket
Phuket’s mountainous jungles are riddled with waterfalls – the biggest and most easily accessible include Bang Pae and Ton Sai in the north and Kathu in the centre of the island. Bring your bathers.
This modest aquarium at southern Cape Panwa gives an insight into what lies beneath the Andaman Sea. The highlight is a tunnel corridor through the main aquarium, with sea creatures gliding past on all sides and overhead. Check the outdoor turtle displays for hatchlings.
Phuket’s blessed tropical setting has inspired top-flight spa operators from Banyan Tree to Aman – and a host of imitators in their wake. Book an indulgent spa treatment for a hands-on exposure to the island’s earthly delights.
The friendly Joe’s Downstairs is a beacon of white anchored on a rocky cape above thrashing waves at Kalim Beach. It’s incredibly popular but there’s good reason for that. With a Wine Spectator-endorsed wine list, seafood galore and an always excitable crowd, it’s a great spot for an impromptu beach party.
Just 100 kilometres north of Phuket lies one of the world’s best dive sites. The Similan Islands are an idyllic group of nine granite outcrops with white sandy beaches, impossibly blue water and a spectacular submarine world of coral reefs and dizzying gorges.