Phuket’s beaches have made the destination famous around the world, but a rich culture and history mean that the island offers much more than glorious coastline.
Phuket might spell 'party' to many in the large crowd winging their way to its three good-time beaches of Kata, Karong and Patong. But Thailand’s biggest island has such a dizzying blend of exotic landscapes, stunning beaches and curious cultures that you can pretty much spell Phuket anyway you want.
But a gem is most certainly what Phuket is – though maybe emerald would be the stone of choice. This almost fifty-kilometre long island is surrounded by seas that shimmer between azure, turquoise and emerald-green, and is crowned by a verdant green canopy of forested mountains. The best place to start your Phuket experience is at one of its beautiful beaches – though surprisingly many are not as crowded as you might think.
Family-friendly is written in the sands of Kamala Beach, tucked behind a hill south of Surin, and which boasts a safe, clean and quiet beach. Just north of it is the little hide-away cove of Laem Singh Beach. Once a secret haven below the cliffs, it is now immensely popular, but still holds onto its jungle-clad beauty. Take a long drive south of Patong, and you'll find the low-profile, well-ordered paradise that is Kata Noi Beach. Sun-worshippers, thrill-seekers and taste-questers are served in equal measure by its beach, buzz and great restaurants.
Drive as far down as you can, and you'll reach the iconic beauty of Promthep Cape, a dramatic rock splinter at the very southern tip of Phuket. Here, even the local Thai people crowd on the cliff-top at sunset, to capture its wide open ocean views. One of the often-missed gems of Phuket's beach scene lies nearby – Nai Harn Beach. It's another peaceful stretch of white sand that begs to be snorkelled, surfed or maybe just admired. And looking over all these neglected south-side beaches is the towering white splendour of the Big Buddha. Only erected in the last few years, this massive 46-metre high statue stares meditatively from the heights of the Nakkerd hills.
But rather than its beaches, the island of Phuket is becoming better known for the myriad of island beauties scattered around its coast. The Ao Phang Nga National Park is a staggering collection of these limestone shards, thrusting out of a calm sea. Home to some amazing marine wildlife and astonishing sea-caves, it also hosts a celebrity island. Khao Phing Kan is better known as James Bond Island, thanks to its connection to the film The Man with the Golden Gun.
And talking of celebrities, the most famous of all Phuket's island treasures are the Phi Phi Islands, 32 kilometres west, whose superlative scenery earned them the starring role in The Beach. So Phuket does do 'party', and it does do 'fun' – but it also does 'spectacle' like few other places on Earth.