Phuket is of course an extremely popular Thai beach destination, in fact the first Thai destination to capture major international attention many years ago. It’s a sprawling city these days, with a number of beaches populated with hundreds of hotels and resorts.
Before our need for beach resorts became all-consuming for destinations such as this, Phuket was a tin-mining town and you can see a little of this history in Old Phuket Town, but most people come here for its white sandy beaches and year-round warm weather.
Phuket is a large island, about halfway down the west coast of the Thai Peninsula. It’s connected to the mainland by bridge, and in fact doesn’t really feel like an island.
View Dive Centres
It would be unfair to say that the sites in the area are all similar, in fact they are quite different from a terrain, and hence cover perspective, but what you might see on any dive on any day depends mainly on how hard you look. For example, we visited the same stretch of wall on Koh Dok Mai on consecutive days, and it was like a completely different dive site. There are plenty of pictures for each of the sites below which will give you a good feel for what you might see.
View Dive Sites
Where to Stay
If you’re about to board a liveaboard, it may be necessary to overnight in Phuket. We dived with Sea Bees Diving who are based (along with many other dive operators) in Chalong Bay, and have a small resort across the road from the dive shop called Palm Gardens.
Accommodation is in very comfortable 3-star bungalows situated around a swimming pool. The food is great – and served up until 10pm for those of you with lengthy transfers.
Chalong Bay is a lively little strip in the evenings, with a great many restaurants and bars, so there’s plenty of choice for après-dive drinks with your new-found dive buddies.
If you’re planning on basing yourself in Phuket, then you may want to choose somewhere near the beach – but choose your beach wisely. If you want to party all night, then Patong Beach is definitely for you, but if you’d prefer something quieter, go for one of the lesser-known beaches.
The Centara Grand Phuket is located at the northern end of Karon Beach and as such, with not many people wandering up that far, the beach is usually fairly quiet. The resort itself has two enormous pools as well, one of them adults only, as well as a water park with a fast flowing river to float along, and a patrolled beach.
There are a few dining choices here; the massive Cove Restaurant which has one of the biggest buffet spreads I’ve ever seen (especially breakfast), Mare Italian Restaurant and the Beachcomber beach club.
If you’d rather something a little off the tourist-beaten track, try one of the growing number of boutique guest houses in Old Phuket Town, the old Chinatown area. It’s an area that’s experiencing a revitalisation, with lots of interesting curio shops and cheap eats to be found among beautifully restored buildings.
To get an idea of options in Phuket check what Wego can offer.
Where to Eat
For authentic Thai food, there are quite a few cheap places to eat in Old Phuket Town – we ate in Kopitiam who serve a great selection of spicy salads and light curries.
How to Get Around
If you’re not going to spend a lot of time on land then your best option is taxi. There are plenty around – and it’s usually easiest to get your hotel (or the dive centre) to book one for you rather than hail one on the street.
There are endless activities and attractions in Phuket and it’s probably worth planning a few non-diving days to experience a few. Here are some ideas:
Beaches. Yes – this is obvious, but you may like to find one that’s less populated than say, Patong. Nai Yang Beach, in the north of the island (quite near the airport), is within a national park, loved by Thais- few foreign visitors go there. It’s a great spot for snorkelling.
Karon Beach is a lovely white sandy (patrolled) beach, lined with a great choice of cafes and restaurants. The north end is quieter.
If you’re after a more adrenalin-fueled beach, then go for Patong, where you can surf, go mad on a jetski or try parasailing. Lots of cafes, restaurants and nightclubs.
Wildlife. There are quite a few zoos and wildlife parks in Phuket, which are easy enough to find along the main highway, but off the beaten track a bit, next to Bang Pae Waterfall you’ll find The Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre which rescues injured or orphaned captive gibbons and retrains them so that they have a chance of returning to the wild.
Also nearby Bang Pae Waterfall is an Elephant Trekking adventure, but if you want a really good elephant experience, take three days of your itinerary to explore Elephant Hills.
Elephant Hills will pick up from your hotel in Phuket and take you to their tented accommodation in Khao Sok National Park. There you’ll learn how to take care of elephants, go rafting down the river, learn how to cook a Thai curry and be entertained with a display of traditional dance performed by local school kids.
Take a couple more days to extend this experience to their Rainforest camp on Cheow Larn Lake in the centre of Khao Sok National Park.
Here you’ll sleep in tents on a raft, surrounded by jungle. Dive straight into the lake for a swim or grab a kayak and go looking for monkeys and gibbons while hornbills fly overhead.
There are numerous daily flights to Phuket from Bangkok, the country’s main international gateway. Some budget airlines including Jetstar also fly direct from Sydney and other major Australian ports.
To get an idea of options to Phuket directly check what Wego can offer.