Various images pop into your mind.
A tropical paradise.
Or a heavily traveled, popular Thai tourist destination.
Like all popular tourist spots, Phuket seems pretty darn polarizing.
Some love the place.
Others despise it.
After spending nearly a year collectively on Phuket I want to offer a fair and honest review of how I see the place.
Phuket is Thailand’s most popular tourist island.
This means some spots get a wee bit hectic on the traveler front. Toss in locals and the scene gets a wee bit touristy too.
But only a select few spots feel this way.
Kelli and I enjoy quieter, relaxed Nai Harn Beach on the southern tip of the island, away from the hustle and bustle of Patong, Kamala and Kata.
We always stay in Rawai Bay, another quiet, chill spot with 1 main strip and plenty of lodging located well off of the beaten path.
The island affords visitors a large, expansive jungle which serves as the backbone of Phuket. Meaning, few tourists, and a lot more green and wildlife. I mean real wildlife, like cobras (even King cobras) monitor lizards and a wide array of gorgeous birds and other animals guaranteed to tickle your fancy.
A few parts of the island get overrun during high season.
Most of the island is laid back.
Traffic; as the island becomes more built up traffic is an issue in some areas but rent a motorbike and you can navigate beautifully through circles and high volume areas.
Honestly guys, the folks who trash the place are usually people who taxi directly from the airport to Patong, doing zero homework beforehand, and wind up bitching and moaning about the least authentic place on the island. Their fault, for not researching the place.
As with most tourist spots these highly popular destinations usually don’t attract the cream of the crop and believe you me, Patong is no different. Good place for spending a few hours but when the night time arrives it resembles Mos Eisely of Star Wars fame.
If you avoid these heavily traveled areas you will find a whole different Phuket.
I give it a thumbs up. Tropical paradise vibe, friendly locals and although traffic and tourist volume become issues during a few weeks in the high season the overall feel of Phuket is inviting, warm and enjoyable.
For such a well-known island, Phuket offers some of the most gorgeous beaches on the face of the earth.
Imagine clear to turquoise blue waters, peaceful horseshoe-shaped coves and panoramic views of local kohs/islands or the mighty Andaman Sea.
I prefer quiet Nai Harn Beach – which sees a steady flow of tourists during high season – but you have a selection of picturesque beaches to choose from all over the island.
Big thumbs up here.
A1 eats here.
Both local fare and foreign fare are readily available on Phuket.
Kelli and I enjoy vegetarian lunches at a few of our favorite Buddhist vegetarian haunts on the island, not too far from the Chalong Circle.
We are talking delicious, nutritious, fresh Thai fare for a $2-$3 USD per plate of overflowing veggies, fake meats, curries and rice.
If you crave Western food, restaurants serving this grub dot the island. Head to Jungceylon Mall in Patong for an eclectic mix of restaurants.
Big time thumbs up on the food; Thai food fans will be in heaven as street stalls and local restaurants serving cheap, delightful fare are everywhere.
Next to Bali, Phuket is the most beautiful, popular tropical island on earth.
As you descend on the airport you are treated with jaw-dropping views of small islands, shimmering blue seas and dramatic mountain scenery.
Rent a motorbike and drive that sucker back and forth between the east and west coasts to enjoy the deep jungle backbone that is the center of the island.
One of my favorite things to do on Phuket is to ride the motorbike from Rawai Bay to Patong, crossing the island and admiring movie-worthy views of the Andaman Sea while riding along dramatic cliffs on the western side of this tropical paradise.
Of course, a few urban centers offer a different scene but create a nice mix between a little convenience and oodles of natural beauty.
Much of the island is gorgeous but you can watch a movie, do some shopping and grab a bite to eat in a few spots too. Sweet balance to me.
You should visit Phuket, Thailand.
This is a no brainer.
Phuket will never be confused with a remote, sleepy, island paradise. At least not these days.
But you can still enjoy postcard-worthy views of lush jungle mountains and an inviting ocean throughout much of the island.
If you want to bypass the more busy areas simply find a serene haven located in the northern, southern or central parts of the island (away from the coast) as these are the most chill, off the beaten path, relaxing spots in Phuket.