Thailand is a beautiful country that combines modern city life with breathtaking natural landscapes and is very popular with tourists worldwide. One of the most popular Thai destinations is Phuket, the largest Thai island located in southern Thailand.
Phuket is a gorgeous island known for its beautiful natural scenery, stunning beaches, and lively nightlife. It is an island with a lot to offer with many activities, excursions, and hidden gems to discover. A great spot for any first time visitors to Thailand.
Having now visited and spent some days in phuket many times myself, I can say with certainty that Phuket is brilliant for backpackers due to its beautiful beaches, bustling nightlife and idyllic lifestyle, but also families thanks to its attractive white sand beaches and warm climate.
There are many things to see and do in Phuket, including exploring secluded islands, exciting night markets, and discovering impressive temples.
This Ultimate Phuket 5 days 4 nights Itinerary will guide you through the best things to see and do in Phuket for families, however, this itinerary is also great for all travelers to follow.
From the best beaches in the Phuket province to the top excursions, read on for my epic best Phuket itinerary, to enjoy 5 days and 4 nights on the island.
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Quick tips – where to stay in Phuket
Phuket island is Thailand’s largest island, however many of the tourist areas are located on the southwest side of the island. This brief overview will describe the most popular places to stay in phuket and our recommendations.
Patong is a lively town located on the west side of Phuket and is known for its very lively and vibrant nightlife with many bars and clubs. Patong has a large shopping mall known as the Jungceylon shopping mall, many restaurants, and the brilliant Patong beach. It is very close to lots of tourist attractions and attracts large crowds during peak times. Patong’s nightlife is an attraction for younger backpackers and solo travelers and has excellent quality low-budget accommodations.
Karon is just south of Patong but is far calmer and quieter with a mile-long stretch of golden sandy beach. There are fewer restaurants here, however, the vibe is more relaxed. Karon is a great place for families to stay and has a small temple with a night market.
Further south of Patong and Karen is the smaller bay of Kata. Kata has a trendy feel, with surfing shops and pretty cafes. The area is very laid back and relaxed, with wonderful restaurants, and is a great place to stay for couples and families.
After arriving in Phuket take time to acclimate to the warm tropical weather and rest from the journey. Our advice would be to stay in the quiet area of Karen beach, which will give you the best location for exploring the whole phuket island.
Phuket 5 days itinerary
After breakfast head out to explore the expansive and beautiful Karen beach. Enjoy time on the beach soaking up the sun or taking a dip in the crystal clear waters.
After enjoying the beach, continue your exploration of Karon by heading to the popular Karon Beach Dino Park. Here you can play a tropical game of crazy golf among giant dinosaur statues. Crazy golf is a brilliant activity for children and will keep them busy for the afternoon. There is a cafe at the Dino Park so you can grab lunch and a cold drink to cool off.
Spend the afternoon in the pretty Kata beach bay area, by either walking from Karon or taking a tuk-tuk. Kata has an idyllic beach that is great for snorkeling as the waters are shallow and crystal clear. Kata noi beach also has some wonderful bars and restaurants to enjoy including The Boathouse which overlooks the ocean and kata beach front area.
There is also a surf school in Kata, so if you are feeling sporty you could rent a surfboard and take a surf lesson in the afternoon.
Karon Temple Market is open Tuesdays and Fridays, which is a great place to support the local community. You can enjoy a freshly made smoothie, a delicious meal, or some authentic Thai street food. You can also pick up small trinkets, hand-carved soaps, and clothing. If you are feeling adventurous you can delight the children by trying some fried insects which are sold at the market. You can choose from fried crickets, beetles, and silkworms which are popular snacks in Thailand.
Morning and afternoon
While the weather is cool, head out to see some of Phuket’s amazing Thai culture such as the Big Buddha, Phuket Old Town, Thai hua museum, and some of the most spectacular viewpoints. Unless you have rented your own transport, the best way to see all the sights in one day would be to join a guided tour. This full-day Phuket Van Tour will transport you around the island, giving you a chance to see the best of the Phuket attractions in one day and have an amazing time. The tour includes
● Big Buddha Phuket is one of the largest Buddhist shrines and has an impressive 45-meter-high Buddha statue, finished in Burmese Jade Marble. At the top of the steps leading to the Big Buddha, there is also an epic view of the Andaman Sea, the bays below and the whole island.
● Wat Chalong Temple is a stunning temple and a fine example of Thai architecture. Visitors come to the temple to marvel at the intricate gold details of the temple.
● Phuket Old Town is an interesting place to wander, with its historic and colorful Sino-Portuguese buildings. There are many wonderful air-conditioned cafes to enjoy and small shops here to pick-up authentic Thai souvenirs.
● Karon, Nak-Kerd Sea, and Rang Hill Viewpoints offer amazing views across the bays and are a special place to capture the beauty of Phuket’s coastline.
Finish your phuket day off with a trip to Phuket’s ultimate cabaret show in Patong. The Simon Cabaret Show is a spectacular show of music, dance, and theater and is very popular in Phuket. Dancers will put on a glamorous show as they perform in glitzy flamboyant outfits and include traditional Korean fan dances and modern Thai-style performances. Couple the Simon Cabaret with dinner in Patong at one of the many great restaurants and finish with drinks on the beach before heading home.
Morning and Afternoon
Thailand is home to the majestic and endangered Asian elephants. There are many places in Phuket where you can meet Asian elephants but tourists should choose wisely in order to protect this beautiful animal. To ensure that your elephant experience is ethical and your visit supports the protection of Asian elephants, you should visit the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary where elephants have been rescued and are treated with respect.
This Elephant Sanctuary Trip will take you to the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary for Asian elephants located in the center of Phuket. Here you can view the beautiful elephants in their natural surroundings, watch them play, and have the opportunity to interact with the elephants up close. The trip includes taking a jungle walk with the elephants and preparing their food. You can then enjoy watching them take a mud bath and then shower them down.
A Thai lunch is included in the price of the day trip and you will be transported back to your accommodation area by 5.30 pm. The elephant sanctuary day trip is a truly special experience that will leave lasting memories for all the family.
After a long day playing with elephants, take a taxi to the Phuket Night Market – Naka Market located near Phuket Town. This is a large night-time street market selling a variety of goods. The highlight of the night market is the amazing street food which is sold very cheaply. At Naka Market, you can try authentic Pad Thai, delicious cream cakes and donuts, and tasty Thai snacks. It is a fantastic place to explore for both children and adults.
Phuket has some of the most spectacular beaches in Thailand, however, it is also very close to some of the most glorious secluded islands with the most pristine beaches. There are so many Thai islands to explore, some of which can only be accessed from Phuket and an island tour is a wonderful way to see the hidden gems of Thailand. Most island tours are accessed via boat and are usually full-day excursions. Here are the best islands to visit while staying in Phuket.
Koh Phi Phi Islands are a set of stunning secluded islands, close to Krabi but accessible from Phuket. The Phi Phi islands are a national park and the marine habitat is well protected.
Koh Phi Phi Lee was made famous by the Leonardo DiCaprio film The Beach and is known for Maya Bay and its spectacular marine life and limestone formations.
Koh Phi Phi Don is a larger populated island with a lively nightlife and is known for its Monkey Beach, where you can watch wild monkeys play.
Bamboo Island is a tiny island in the Koh Phi Phi group and has excellent snorkeling and powdery white sand.
You can take a full-day Koh Phi Phi Island Tour from Phuket, which includes a trip to the three islands mentioned above. The tour includes pick-up from your resort area and a speed boat trip over to the Phi Phi islands. You will get the chance to visit each of the islands, snorkel, swim, and explore the Viking cave of Koh Phi Phi Lee. The tour includes lunch on Koh Phi Phi Don and a return boat trip back to Phuket.
Phang Nga National Park Islands
The Phang Nga National Park Islands are some of the most stunning islands in phuket Thailand and are very popular with tourists who come to enjoy their beauty. Below are some of the popular Phang Nga bay:
Khao Phing Kan is well known as ‘James Bond Island’ as it was used as a location in the iconic James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun. This island is covered in dense forest, hidden lagoons and tall limestone formations tower in its bay.
Hong Island is popular due to its sea caves and unique limestone cliffs scenery which many people explore via kayak.
Rang Yai Island, known for its pearl farm is a small pretty island with a scenic stretch of beach.
You can take a full-day James Bond Island tour, which includes a visit to the smaller Hong island and Rang Yai island. The tour takes place on a luxury cruise boat so you can sail to the islands in style. The boat tour includes lunch and drinks, and the National Park entrance fee. You will return back to Phuket while enjoying dinner and watching the sunset over the water.
Ko He Island also known as Coral Island is another small island off the west coast of Phuket known for its excellent snorkeling. Ko He is easy to access via a boat tour from Phuket and you can often see wild dolphins and whales nearby.
Use the morning of your last day in Phuket to enjoy the beach and instead of heading to Karon, take a taxi or a tuk-tuk to the southern tip where you will find Nai Harn Beach. This beautiful unspoiled beach is a hidden gem in Phuket town and is surrounded by pretty palm trees and lush green vegetation. You can spend an undisturbed morning here and even get a beachside massage.
If you are still looking for a wonderful Thai experience you could take a Thai massage, Thai cooking class or a relax spa in the afternoon. There are many cooking classes on offer which will teach you how to make an authentic Thai meal with recipes using natural herbs and ingredients. This two-hour cooking class is the perfect way to end your trip to Phuket and take home some useful Thai cooking tips and recipes.
Enjoy your last night in Karon by visiting one of the brilliant restaurants or bars in the area. EAT Bar and Grill serves excellent steaks and seafood and is located on Karon Beach. Portosino restaurant is another brilliant restaurant located on Karon Beach that serves Indian and Thai cuisine and has an excellent cocktail menu.
Phuket is a wonderful destination to visit with many exciting attractions, exotic landscapes to explore, and things to see. If you are traveling through Thailand you should certainly consider including Phuket in your itinerary.
However, if you are unsure about where to visit in phuket Thailand you can check out our article Phuket Vs Bangkok which will give you information on traveling to each destination.
Phuket travel tips
Getting to Phuket
You can fly directly to Phuket International Airport and then take a private taxi or join a shared taxi bus to connect from the international airport to the area you are staying in.
Transport around Phuket
Taxis are a convenient and private mode of transport in Phuket and it is easy to find a taxi as there are taxi ranks wherever you go. Taxi prices have become more regulated over the years, however, to avoid big charges when you get to your destination agree on a price before traveling.
TukTuks are a popular mode of transport and there are usually many tuk-tuks that service the main roads and towns around Phuket. Taking a TukTuk is cheaper than a taxi and they look like little minivans with open sides, often decorated with lights. A tuk-tuk is a shared mode of transport and if you are only traveling a short distance a tuk-tuk is a good cheap option.
Public buses you can catch public buses from Karon to Patong and the Old Town. Ask at your hotel about where the nearest stop is and information on bus times. Public buses are quite cheap, however, expect multiple stops and an extended journey time.
Car Hire. You can hire your own car and this is a good option if you want to do your own day trips and see more areas of the island. However, Thailand is known for its lack of road safety and traffic accidents are common in Thailand. Only consider driving in Phuket city if you are a confident and experienced driver and be careful driving at night as many other road users do not always use their lights.
When to visit Phuket
● The best time to visit Phuket is during Thailand’s dry season which runs from November to February. The dry season is the best time as the temperatures are warm but not too hot and weather conditions are perfect for activities such as outdoor excursions, snorkeling, and deep-sea diving.
● The hottest time in Thailand is between April to May when the weather is at its driest and temperatures reach the mid-30s. Due to the extreme heat, it is not advisable to visit during these months.
● The monsoon season runs from May to October and heavy showers are expected daily with thunderstorms. Despite this temperatures stay high through this season and range between 25°C to 31°C. However, flooding can affect some areas.
Visa requirements to enter Thailand
The following rules apply for entry into Thailand as of November 2022
● Your passport must have at least 6 months left until the expiry date and you may be refused entry if your passport has been badly damaged or has pages missing.
● All travelers entering Thailand require a valid visa to stay in the country which can be obtained from your local Immigration Office or the Thai Immigration Website. There are several countries whose residents can enter Thailand for up to 30 days without a visa. Please check the information on the Thai Immigration Website to see which countries this applies to.
Nationals from America, Britain, Canada, Spain, France, Germany, Japan, and Portugal are among the 37 countries whose residents can enter Thailand without a visa for a maximum of 30 days.
Need a visa?
Not sure if you need a visa to visit this country? Use this nifty little tool from iVisa to check the requirements as well as lots more useful information for your trip.
Things to know while staying in Thailand
Thailand is a wonderful country, full of rich culture and unique experiences, and a place that welcomes tourists from all over the world. However, be mindful that Thailand has its own culture which visitors should be mindful to respect.
● Buddhism is the national religion of Thailand. If you decide to visit a Buddhist temple, remember to remove your shoes before entering. Anyone visiting a Buddhist temple should cover their shoulders, upper arms, and upper legs to show respect.
● Before you visit Thailand, be aware that mosquitos are a common pest. Make sure to take a strong bug repellant to wear during the day and the night, especially on day trips to the jungle and more secluded islands.
● It is taboo to speak about the Thai Royal Family, and illegal to mention anything negative. Avoid any misunderstandings by avoiding the topic.
● It is common to be approached by vendors selling tourist items when you are in the street, on the beach, and sometimes when dining in open-air restaurants. Be polite and just say ‘no thank you if you are not interested.
● Thailand has many free-roaming dogs, cats, and monkeys in popular areas in Phuket city and on the nearby islands. Avoid these animals and consider getting a rabies shot before traveling as these animals can carry viral diseases.