8 Must-Do Experiences on Phuket Island, Thailand
Updated: Nov 9, 2020
Of all of our hybrid travel adventures, our trip to Phuket Island is one of the most exotic and the most delicious in our memories. Spicy curries and fresh fish, white sand beaches and gold-clad temples - this Southern Thailand island is rich in culture and spectacular to explore. Active travel enthusiasts will have loads of outdoor sports and activities to choose from. And Luxury travel lovers will have no problem finding a gorgeous resort to kick back on and soak up the sun. Whether you are into outdoor beach fun, late night dancing or simply looking for a romantic getaway with your partner, you will find it on Phuket. Here are the eight Must-do experiences that made this trip stand out for us.
1. Check out Karon Beach
We are a child-free couple who were looking for a mix of romantic relaxation and active adventure. We did some research and saw that the three main beach areas had three distinct atmospheres: Patong is Party-Central; Kata is family-oriented and Karon, which was situated in between the others, had a milder nightlife reputation. So this was the choice we made and we loved it. There were many 4 and 5 star resorts to choose from but we were drawn to the location of the Hilton Arcadia Karon Beach and chose to spend our week there. It’s a gorgeous luxury hotel and the white sand beach that connects it to the water is gorgeous. The town of Karon itself is fairly tourist-friendly, easy to navigate and had a handy bazaar where I could buy beachwear and toiletries as needed. On Tuesdays and Fridays, there is a Temple Market which also sells fruits and vegetables. When we did decide to venture into Patong one evening, it was only a 15 minute taxi ride away.
2. Ride in a Tuk-Tuk (at least once)
Although there are metered taxi’s, motorbike taxis and even Uber service, a ride in an iconic Tuk-Tuk just feels like authentic Thailand. Unfortunately, one ride in these open-air 3-wheelers is probably enough, as they have become quite expensive compared to metered taxis for the same ride distance. But hey, you are on vacation. So go have some fun.
3. Eat Seafood (more than once!)
The first time we bought lunch at one of the open-air restaurants off the beach, we thought we had died and gone to heaven. We love fresh seafood and there is no better place to find it than Phuket. And because of the US currency exchange rate at the time, this beautiful bowl of steamed deliciousness, including a giant beer only set us back about $5.
4. Koh Phi Phi Island tour
On every beach vacation, we find ways to get out on the water and this was one of the tours we took on this trip. Koh Phi Phi is the second largest in the island group and famous for the movie “The Beach” starring Leonardo Dicaprio. Maya Bay, with its crystal blue waters and powder white beach can feel a bit crowded depending on when you go. But it’s still worth a visit. And if you have snorkeling equipment and can get away from the boats, the water can be as clear as glass. There are many tours to choose from including booze cruises, speed boats and private boat options. And many have combinations that include a trip to Monkey Beach (bold little buggers!) and options for cliff Jumping and snorkeling.
5. Check out Patong
Ok, so this is NOT a place for kids at night, at least not on the main drag of Bangla Road. We are not stay-up-late type people but we do like to party on occasion. We had also heard so much about Patong’s nightlife that we had to go and at least check it out. We, the typical 10pm bedtime people were out until 3am. LOL. All I can say is that Las Vegas is ‘Vanilla’ compared to Patong. With streets lined with open-air bars and an abundance of poles for ladies in go-go boots to work over, I was rubber-necking’ the entire time trying to take it all in. And the bonus was that we could simply find a good spot to sit down (with all the other rubber-neckers), grab a drink and be entertained with people-watching for hours! When we were there, no public nudity was allowed. So although the dancers and Lady-Boys walked the streets in droves in a variety of creative outfits, advertising for cabarets and strip clubs, they all were clothed. So even if you consider yourself fairly ‘square’, go have some fun for a few hours. But if you are a big partier? You’d better plan to sleep the entire next day on the beach.
6. Phang Nga Bay Hongs
This bay is famous for its hundreds of limestone cliffs and distinctive rock formation that jut out of the water. James Bond movies have been filmed near some of its most unusual landmarks. But the most interesting feature in the bay are the Hongs. These hidden realms are hidden within the large rock formations and filled with unspoiled flora and fauna. These interior 'rooms' can typically only be experienced when the tide is low enough to allow canoe access through exposed tunnels at the base of the rock. This was the most fantastic tour we took on this trip! And I highly recommend the John Gray Hong by Starlight tour if you do it. The man is legit, is an environmental advocate and has a lot of respect for Buddhist culture. On this tour, we started out mid afternoon and stayed out until after the sun set. We were fed a tasty dinner on the boat and learned about a Buddhist ceremony called Loi Katrong, which pays homage to water. Then before the sun set, we made our own floating offering called a Kratong. Made of banana leaves and orchids and including a candle and 3 sticks of incense, it represented the sinner, Bhudda, his Spirit and the Dharma. While the tide was out and water level was still low, we got in canoes (with a guide who paddled it) and entered the limestone encircled Hong. I won’t go into detail as to the rest of the ceremony. I want to save that for you. But I'll tell you that it was a ‘bio-illuminating’ experience and probably one of the most serene moments I have ever had in my life.
7. Sample the local beers
I am a firm believer that where ever you travel, sample some of the local wine, spirits or brews. It's part of a social ritual in almost every country in the world. And there is always something different about how the fruit is grown, the grains are distilled or how the hops are brewed. And you can almost taste some of the culture in each sip. Plus, it makes you feel like a local.
8. Get a Thai massage
Now when I say go get a massage, I mean go down on the beach and walk up to one of those tents where the locals are working. The first time we did this, we were a bit confused after doing the US dollar-to-Thai baht conversion in our heads for the price that was chalked out on their board (only ~$7US!). Maybe we'd only get 10 minutes? But an hour later and after being physically walked on, stretched and rolled by these diminutive, yet highly-skilled ladies, we were hooked. We tipped them well and came back three more times that week.