Phuket, the largest Thai island, is one of the most well-known and most-visited in Thailand. It is most famous for its crystal-clear waters and other-worldly rock structures. And let me tell you, the views you experience there don’t disappoint! So chances are, if you’re going to Thailand, you are probably at least thinking about heading to Phuket. In this post I’ll cover a one-day Phuket, Thailand itinerary. I’ll also give my thoughts on what I loved about it and what I didn’t love so much.
Know Before You Go | Phuket
Getting There: Phuket is serviced by the Phuket International Airport. This airport offers flights to major cities within Thailand and to neighboring Asian countries. It is quite easy to find cheap flights within country (as with the rest of Thailand) – we paid just ~$125 for a multi-city route from Bangkok – Chiang Mai – Phuket – Bangkok! AND each flight included a meal :).
Where to Stay: Phuket is a province, not a city per se, and is quite spread out. The hotel areas are broken out by their accompanying beach:
- Patong Beach: This beach is centrally located, and is known for being quite lively, with many budget-friendly lodging options. We stayed here, and felt it was a great option for those short on time in Phuket, but you may want more peace if you plan to stay longer. Know that the beach itself is not as great as you’ll find off the islands, but its still quite nice.
- Kata Beach: This area is popular with students and surfers, or for those who want a little more tranquility than Patong Beach offers.
- Karon Beach: This part of Phuket is known as “Patong’s little sister” because it offers much as what you’ll find at Patong, but at a less hectic pace. This is not the best option if you like nice dining options though.
- Kamala Beach: This beach is known for quality hotels and restaurants, and for being nice and quiet. It is most popular with older tourists. Beaches that provide a similar feel include: Surin Beach, Nai Harn Beach, and Mai Khao Beach.
- Rawai Beach: If you are looking for a more local / less touristy option, this is the beach for you! There are fewer attractions and things to do here, in general.
- Phuket Town: The only area not located by a beach that I’ll cover is Phuket Town. It is the capital of Phuket, and is great for exploring the local history and culture. The only downside here is that you will be far from the beaches.
We stayed at the Banthai Beach Resort & Spa, and thought it was a fabulous hotel! It is an open-air hotel with pools located throughout the atriums. The rooms were impeccable too!
Getting Around: Getting around in Phuket is a bit more complicated than in Chiang Mai or Bangkok, simply because transportation options are more costly. Keep this in mind as you decide where to stay, as you’ll want to be in a place where you can walk to what you need. Songthaews (open air buses), vans, and taxis are all available for use. And there are ride-sharing options like Grab or Uber available as well.
When to Go: Phuket experiences a dry season from December through March, and a wet season for the rest of the year. If you are visiting to explore beaches and such, the dry season is probably your best bet.
Language Considerations: As with the rest of Thailand, the official language is Thai. Check out this post for key phrases you should learn before your visit.
Currency Situation: Check out my post on Bangkok to learn more about the Thai Bhat and worldwide exchange rates.
Morning | Island Hopping
Okay, so we all know the reason you came to Phuket is to island-hop! If you plan to do it, you should get your start early. There are many options for tours you can take, and we took the Phi Phi Island Adventure Day Trip for ours! Our day went something like this:
Start with hotel pickup between 7AM – 8AM in the morning. You’ll be driven to the docks, to meet the guides and get on your speedboat. Once aboard, off you go to the Phi Phi islands!
Stop 1: Bamboo Island – This was my favorite stop as it was the least crowded / commercial. It offers beautiful views of the surrounding islands and a serene atmosphere. Not to mention pristine waters!
Stop 2: Maya Bay – This bay offers impressive views of the surrounding rock formations, and plenty of picturesque docked boats. It is VERY busy though, and will be crowded if you don’t arrive until mid-day.
Stop 3: Pileh Lagoon – Stop here to do a bit of snorkeling in the warm waters. We swam with large schools of yellow fish and other beautiful sea creatures.
Stop 4: Phi Phi Don – Stop here to grab lunch (included) from a local eatery. (I’ll be honest – our food was average, at best, but it was included so we didn’t complain)
After your last stop, you’ll head back to the docking area and then begin the journey back to your hotel. You should be back by early-mid afternoon. Along the way, you’ll make quick stops to view Monkey Island – where you will see native monkeys in their natural habitat. You’ll also see the Viking Cave, where some locals live to collect birds nests and export to China for the birds nest soup delicacy.
One very important note about spending time outside in Phuket, the sun is really intense! Take your sunscreen and reapply often. My sister and cousin both got sunburn, which is pretty rare for black people. Consider this your friendly warning :).
Evening | Exploring Patong
After you take the time to rest at your hotel and change, get out to go explore Patong! The streets are lined with things to do, and plenty of shops. Stop to get a Thai massage (my favorite) or grab a bite to eat. For the life of me I can’t remember where we ate, but Cafe de Paris, Vista, and Naughty Nuri’s are all top rated on TripAdvisor. None of these offer the local cuisine, but this is pretty common in Phuket, as the island really caters to tourists.
After dinner, consider taking a stroll down Bangla Road to wrap up your day. This street really offers that “Vegas” feel, so it can be an acquired taste. There are shops, bars, and clubs that line the street – and plenty of solicitors to go along with it. You’ll get many offers to see ladyboy shows and/or “ping-ping” shows – which I think are something like strip shows. If you have a great sense of humor / open mind, just walking down the street can be QUITE entertaining.
Day 2 & Beyond | More Phuket
If you have more time on the island, you should spend time exploring Old Phuket Town to experience more of the local culture. Additional ideas include checking out night markets, visiting other beaches on the island, or checking out local elephant sanctuaries!
A Few Honest Musings on Phuket
I like to keep things real with my readers, so now that I’ve given you my perspectives on all that I love – the beaches, scenery, and lodging, I also want to let you know what I didn’t like. Phuket is VERY touristy, probably one of the most touristy places I’ve ever been. I went in March, during peak season, and everywhere we went was just full of people. If you are looking for a more quiet experience overall, I recommend checking out islands like Krabi or Koh Lipe.
Despite this, I would still go back to Phuket, but would still keep my trip short to explore more of the other islands. The beauty of the place really does make it worth it!
Phuket, Thailand | Final Thoughts
I hope this Phuket, Thailand itinerary helps you as you plan your trip to Thailand! As this is a short itinerary, let me know what other areas of the island you recommend. Please add in the comments below!