Inspiration Destinations Thailand Where, What & When: An Insider Guide to Phuket

Where, What & When: An Insider Guide to Phuket

April 16, 2024
Phuket, Thailand.

Centuries ago, people flocked to Phuket to secure their wealth in tin. Now, Thailand’s largest
island attracts travellers to its mountainous jungles, stunning seafronts, and vivid Sino-Portuguese buildings in search of thrilling adventure and good times.

Considered the jewel of the Andaman Sea, visitors can dive the mineral-infused waters of Phang Nga Bay and Phi Phi Islands, stroll through the ornate Old Town and sail through the fresh jungle on high-strung ziplines.

After the sun sets and the humidity dips, the island comes alive with bright lights, spicy aromas, and melodic sounds. Tropical cocktails flow at live cabaret bars, night vendors kick into gear selling their artisan wares before hordes of people, and piping hot Chinese-Malay-influenced Thai cuisine is served up. Traverse limestone cliffs to private beaches, conquer mountains, and stumble upon flowing waterfalls – say sawasdee to the tropical trip of your dreams.

What are the best places to eat and drink?


A close up of a chef arranging a rice dish with chop sticks at one of Phuket's best restaurants, PRU - Luxury Escapes

As Phuket’s only Michelin-starred restaurant, PRU’s recently updated venue now features an interactive theatre kitchen. An ethos of “plant, raise and understand” is carried through amuse-bouches to after-dinner treats from the market seafood to the hand-picked botanicals. Helmed by Jimmy Ophorst, PRU’s “nine-plus-some” course journey takes you through Thailand’s forgotten native ingredients, shining a spotlight on traditional produce such as sweet and sour Ceylon oak and fermented tea leaves.


The light-filled interiors of Trisara's Jampa, one of Phuket's best restaurants - Luxury Escapes

See your dinner before it’s picked at Jampa’s chemical-free farm before sitting down to experience an evening of innovative zero-waste cuisine. Each course incorporates live fire cooking and changes daily based on the sea and land harvest. The hyper-seasonal menu features exclusively home-grown and
locally sourced produce, from fresh eggs and edible flowers to the Phang Nga seafood and the Chiang Mai tea.

Tambu Phuket

A couple share a cheers overlooking the mountains and ocean of Phuket while dining at one of the city's best restaurants, Tambu - Luxury Escapes

Overlooking the coastline from the rooftop of Avista Hideaway Phuket Patong, Tambu Phuket offers signature start: a chickpea based canape inspired by the setting sun that readies you for the Indian feast ahead. The restaurant takes its cues from the tented palaces of India, as passionate staff perform
liquid nitrogen-fuelled, table-side magic and deliver rich curries, traditional tandoor, and hand-cooked naan as part of the progressive charcoal-focussed menu.

Chalong Bay Rum Distillery

A group of people cheers their cocktails at Chalong Bay Distillery, one of the best places to drink in Phuket - Luxury 

In this breezy bar, surrounded by large palms and manicured grass, learn to harness the flavours of Chalong Bay Rum, named after a local coastal spot and produced exclusively from Thai sugarcane. Shake
and stir your way through a cocktail-making class led by an expert mixologist. Savour gingery mules and
lilac-hued sours championing not only the rum but also local ingredients like lemongrass, galangal and Thai basil.

Roti Taew Nam

A local vendor makes fresh roti at Roti

Take a break from wandering colourful Thalang Road for the Michelin Guide-backed local spot in Old Town that’s worth sitting streetside for. Specialising in freshly cooked fluffy roti, served with your choice of toppings or beside a rich curry, expect handmade creations focused on Thai ingredients – all for a couple of dollars.


Tucked away in Trisara’s heavenly resort, Cielo, serve up curated Mediterranean-inspired, Thai-fuelled
specialities. Taste local Phuket lobster, tart Phang Nga kefir, and Andaman whole sea bream with zings of Thai peppercorn and finger lime. Watch the chefs fire pizzas to crisp perfection as you twirl silky pasta and savour fruit sorbet and creamy pannacotta.

What are the best seasons to visit?

Phuket is the island of three seasons: the hot, the wet, and the dry.

March – May: the hot

To combat the highest temperatures of the year, throwing water and spraying hoses is commonplace for cooling down, especially during the famous Songkran festival. If you’re travelling in mid-April during the height of this celebration, it may be difficult to stay dry. Although humidity is low during the hot season,
temperatures can reach up to 35°C and the sun is out for an average of eight hours a day. You’ll want to wear sun protection, stay hydrated and keep outdoor adventures to a slow pace.

May – November: the wet

Expect heavy rainfall, high humidity, and the occasional thunderstorm during Phuket’s monsoon season. Visit the island for fewer crowds, lower prices, flourishing vegetation, and flowing waterfalls during this time. Although some beaches may be closed late wet season, earlier on in June, you can watch pro surfers catch some of the country’s best waves at the Phuket Beach Festival. Herbivores rejoice during September and October for the annual Phuket Vegetarian Festival. Previously known as the Nine Emperor Gods Festival, this Taoist celebration is one of the island’s biggest and best, incorporating fireworks, cheek-piercing rituals and plenty of meat-free cuisine.

Join the Loy Krathong festivities that land on the 12th month in the traditional Thia lunar calendar each year in November. Release krathongs – small, lotus-shaped baskets with flowers, candles, and fragrance sticks – into lakes, rivers and seas as a dedication to Buddha and the Goddess of Water, in hopes for a bright future.

December – February: the dry

The dry season is the most popular time to visit Phuket. Loved for warm temperatures, fewer showers and lower humidity. In January, Phuket’s famous Wat Chalong Buddhist temple comes alive with its annual fair. Jump on spinning carnival rides, watch cultural stage shows and wander through the festival’s bright market.

What are the best places to stay?

Katathani Phuket Beach Resort

The sparkling pool at Katathani Phuket Beach Resort overlooking the beach, one of the best places to stay in Phuket - Luxury Escapes

Lauded for its impressive beachfront location, the award-winning Katathani is one of the island’s best-loved destinations. This resort is perched along 850 metres of Kata Noi’s soft white sands where you can enjoy a cocktail at Coconut Bar, savour fresh seafood at Fisherman’s Wharf, or splash in the lagoon-style pool – all while overlooking the Andaman Sea.

Pullman Phuket Panwa Beach Resort

An aerial shot of the large lagoon pool of Pullman Phuket Panwa Beach Resort, one of the best places to stay in Phuket - Luxury Escapes

Just a short drive to Phuket Old Town, the Pullman Panwa is a luxury resort with a contemporary Thai feel right on the shores of Makham Bay. Resort amenities include two outdoor swimming pools, two spa tubs, fine diner Aqua and an attached winery – or just laze the afternoon away with a bespoke cocktail at Edge Beach Club.

The Shore at Katathani

An aerial shot of the beachfront pool at The Shore at Katathani, one of the best resorts to stay at in Phuket - Luxury Escapes

Romance is in the air at this adults-only paradise. The intimate collection of luxury pool villas hides within Phuket’s lush cliffside, overlooking the breathtaking Kata Noi Beach. Stroll hand-in-hand at sunset with your love, indulge in a couple’s massage at Serenity Spa, or share bubbly cheers at The Nest Beach Club.

Diamond Cliff Resort and Spa

A paved drive way and front building of Diamond Cliff Resort and Spa, one of Phuket's best resorts - Luxury Escapes

High up in the hills of Patong, this resort offers tranquillity just minutes from the buzzing streets below. Take advantage of one of Phuket’s most famous beaches, filled with markets, bars, and entertainment, and return to utter peace in a luxurious villa with a private pool, Thai architecture, and sparkling Andaman Sea views.

Kata Rocks

A man reclining poolside taking a photo of the sunset at Kata Rocks, one of Phuket's best resorts - Luxury Escapes

Book one of Kata Rocks’ lauded Pool Villas at this five-star coastal paradise for the private infinity pool treatment. The Dining on the Rocks experience sees guests shown to a private table on the rocky shoreline to enjoy seafood and rich carpaccio as the sun sets over the Andaman Sea. After a massage at the award-winning spa, get comfortable in the unique energy pod to achieve total relaxation.

The Nai Harn

Sun beds overlooking the ocean front at The Nai Harn, one of Phuket's best resorts - Luxury Escapes
The Nai Harn, Phuket.

On the shores of pristine Nai Harn Beach, cosy up on a cabana, cocktail in hand, as you watch the shore lap the soft sand. This award-winning location is surrounded by lush rainforest and crystal waters. Watch the tide come in from the chic rooftop lounge, or get amongst the waves with a snorkelling, swimming, or sailing adventure.

What is Phuket best known for?

Waterfronts and waterways

Phuket is home to some of Southeast Asia’s most loved beaches. Everything from scuba diving and SUPing to water skiing are found along most stretches of coast. For a beautiful beach with all the buzz of a city, Freedom Beach is Patong’s gem. Tucked between Karon and Patong beaches, Karon Noi beach is another Phuket standout with soft, white sands and virtually no one else around. Spot planes at Mai Khao, dive from stunning cliffs at Ya Nui Beach, or experience a local favourite at Banana Beach, accessible by a long-tail boat ride.

Up the adventure, while staying cool, with a waterfall adventure. Phuket is known worldwide for its waterways from the picturesque surroundings of Kathu Waterfall and Ton Ao Yon Waterfall to Bang Pae Waterfall which make for a perfect hiking day out.

Muay Thai

There’s a variety of ways you can get involved with the art of muay Thai while adventuring through Phuket. The sport is widely known as Thailand’s boxing style, using stand-up striking, sweeping and clinching techniques. Taking the island by storm, there’s a muay Thai fight every night in Phuket. Catch a regular fight night at Rawai Boxing Stadium or spend an evening at Patong Stadium or Bangla Boxing Stadium where the biggest matches in the province are held. Step into the ring yourself and join a muay Thai class at your resort, hotel or a nearby gym.


Once the sun sets, another side of Phuket comes to life. Don’t let the relaxed tropical feel of the island
fool you, the city also boasts pumping nightlife. Whether you’re looking to sit back with a cocktail
in hand or take part in the bartering culture at a bustling local market – the night-time possibilities
are endless on the island. Dance into the early morning hours at a pumping club along Bangla Road,
watch glittering live cabaret extravaganzas or move to the sounds of your favourite songs sung by the island’s best cover bands.

Out and about

Phang Nga Bay sail day out

An aerial shot of Phang Nga Bay, one of the best places to explore when in Phuket - Luxury Escapes
Phang Nga Bay, Phuket.

Spend a day sailing Phang Nga Bay over to Koh Phi Phi. Canoe through stalactite-filled caves, take a dip at secluded beaches, try fried shrimp at a magical floating village, look up at Honeymoon Lagoon’s heart-shaped canopy, and even float around the world famous James Bond Island.

Visit Old Town

A blue bus drives past Phuket's Sino-Portuguese buildings on the Old Town, one of the best places to explore in the city - Luxury Escapes
Old Town, Phuket.

Roam Thalang Road’s endless stream of brilliantly coloured Sino-Portuguese buildings, Thai-dye boutiques, whimsical cafes covered in faux flowers, fabric vendors and futuristic machines vending specialty iced coffees. Walk under strings of Chinese lanterns, over gold flecked pavements and between
cultural gems like Phuket Museum and Thai Hua Museum into Old Town gems filled with handcrafted ceramics and local art.

Ride ATVs to see Big Buddha

An aerial shot of the Big Buddha, one of the best sights to see when in Phuket - Luxury Escape
Big Buddha, Phuket.

If a visit to the gleaming Big Buddha isn’t enticing enough, add a healthy dose of adrenaline with an ATV adventure to the famous site. Climb aboard your four-wheeled iron steed and follow a local guide up winding hills, rugged roads and rocky cliffs to the tranquil top, and, subsequently, all the way back down.

Peruse the bustling markets

A crowd of people wander through a market in Phuket, one of the best activities to do in the city - Luxury Escapes
Phuket-Lard Yai Walking Street, Phuket.

Everything from local durian to the latest sneakers can be sourced at Phuket’s markets. As the sun sets make your way down the picturesque Phuket-Lard Yai Walking Street or feel the sea breeze as you barter for interesting wares at Patong Walking Street. Experience peak Phuket salesmanship at the always-bustling Chillva Market or Phuket Weekend Market – attracting both locals and first-timers for their
sheer variety.

Zipline through the jungle at Hanuman World

A man hangs from a zipline at Hanuman World, one of the best activities to do in Phuket - Luxury Escapes
Hanuman World, Phuket.

Experience the lush Phuket jungle from a height at Hanuman World. Abseil from on high, hang on to the handheld treetop coaster or zoom along ziplines through rows of Banyan trees – some of which are over
200 years old. When you’re done flinging yourself through the foliage, cool off with a speciality Three Monkeys coffee and stunning views of Phuket town poking through mountain ranges.

Traditional Thai cooking class with a market visit

A crowd of people shopping at Phuket's Downtown Market, one of the best activities to do in the city - Luxury Escapes
Downtown Market, Phuket.

Enjoy a hands-on culinary adventure at the palatial Blue Elephant creating iconic Thai dishes from scratch. Follow your foodie guide through Downtown Market and taste native foods such as durian, mangosteen,
saw coriander, purple eggplants, and dried shrimp. Return to the kitchen to dish up mouth-watering local curries, soups and salads. Finish by enjoying the fruits of your labour in the magnificent restaurant.

What are the best activities for families?

A hot spot for affordable beachside holidays, Phuket continues to attract young families and multi-generational group visits. Keep your young adventure lovers entertained with Phuket’s variety of theme and water parks. Kids can slip down water slides and splash in the artificial wave zone at Andamanda Phuket, float on buoys along the flowing rivers of Splash Jungle Phuket and enjoy Vegas-level theatrics at Phuket FantaSea’s family shows.

Perfect for a range of fitness levels, nature explorations are plentiful on the island. Hire a snorkel, wakeboard or jet ski for the day along Patong’s shores. Animal enthusiasts can enjoy a wide range of creature attractions and sightings in and around Phuket. Discover rare native species in their natural
habitats from blue-winged pittas in the tops of the Banyan trees to the land hermit crabs scuttling along the sand at sunset. Get up-close with gentle giants at the Green Elephant Sanctuary Park and brush shoulders with small fluttering beauties at Phuket Butterfly Garden & Insect World.

This article was originally featured in the third issue of Dream by Luxury Escapes magazine. Get your copy here.

About Ruby Staley
From exploring the world to kicking back with a good book, Ruby loves doing it solo. A passionate Euro enthusiast, catch her dreaming about Amsterdam or slurping down pasta a la vodka in moments between scribbling down her thoughts.

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