Phuket has a number of very rewarding tours available, which are a great way to take a break from the beaches and water activities. Companies offer a variety of tours of Phuket, including its historic, cultural and natural attractions.
It’s worth getting away from your own beach if only to explore some of the others, and tours are an easy way to do this, as it can take several hours to visit them all. Each has a different character. Some are heavily developed and trafficked, while others are quieter and more exclusive. Some are large, others are small and secluded.
Patong is the most central and Karon (to the south) is equally busy and large. Beyond that are the lovelier, more refined Kata and Kata Noi. Heading northward from Patong you come across the sweeping Kamala ,which has plenty of space for all, before arriving at small, quiet Surin, which is getting a reputation as the most chic beach on the island.
Beyond that is Bang Tao Bay – whose real attraction is the nearby inland lagoons that form the large Laguna resort complex. Headlands separate each, providing great views as you pass from one to the next, but the best view is found south of Kata Noi, from where you can see four of the bays…more on Phuket beaches.
Most tours offered in Phuket take you off the island, as some of the best day trips are found offshore. A must is a boat ride to the stunning Phi Phi Islands, with their soaring cliffs, glaring white beaches and turquoise waters. Another must is magnificent Phang Nga Bay (not to be confused with Pha Nga island near Samui), with its extraordinary vertical limestone pillars. There are other offshore islands and national parks along this coast that are lesser-visited but equally arresting.
Phuket City itself is another popular choice, mainly for its authentic collection of Sino-Portuguese architecture – a legacy of the island’s important past as a tin mining centre on the Andaman coast…more on Phuket City.
On the south end of the island lies Promthep Cape (Laem Promthep). This is the southernmost point on Phuket Island and offers panoramic views of the south coast, the Andaman Sea and nearby islands. Widely considered to be ‘the only place’ to watch the sunset, Promthep Cape can be a little crowded at sundown. Another great place to watch the sun sink below the horizon is the viewpoint at the top of the hill between Nai Harn and Kata beaches (commonly known as Kata Hill).
If you’re really keen on exploring the island, a short distance south of Phuket Town is Wat Chalong; the most revered temple on the island. Tours of Phuket aren’t complete without a visit to this spectacular temple. Wat Chalong is by far the largest and most ornate of the 49 temples on Phuket.
There are several beauty spots inland and national parks that are worth seeking out. Kathu Falls is the closest of Phuket’s limited waterfalls and is found northeast of Patong over the hill pass. A bit more impressive are Ton Sai falls (reached from Thalang town), and Bang Pae Waterfall, which is on the east side of the Khao Phra Taew National Park in the Northeast of the island and includes the curious Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre.
There are some good nature trails to the various falls. If you are touring the island under your own steam you’ll find nicer parts of the island in this region, which are largely untouched by tourism, and you can discover fishing communities among the mangroves of the east coast by exploring a bit.
For the more active visitor, there are tours that include go-karting, riding ATVs, shooting ranges, wakeboarding or bungee jumping. Rather more leisurely are tours that include elephant rides or visiting farms to see how local people make a living.
Two more popular sites on Phuket tours are located on the south end of the island, on Rawai beach. Phuket Shell Museum houses over 2,000 species of shell, including the only left handed Noble Volute ever discovered and one of the world’s largest golden pearls. Also in Rawai is the Sea Gypsy village, an example of one of the oldest of Thailand’s indigenous cultures.