3 Days of Sun, Sea and Sumptuous Fare in PhuketBy Ana Kalaw
With its gorgeous beaches, rich melting-pot culture and world-class dining destinations, Phuket has all the attributes of the perfect tropical getaway. Whether you want to soak up the local culture, chill out on a pristine white sand stretch, visit a stunning pool club or embark on an off-the-beaten-path adventure, there are endless possibilities of things to do on Thailand’s largest island.
Phuket’s rich and fascinating history was shaped by marriages between locals and fortune-seeking Chinese immigrants who came to the island during its tin-mining boom. Their unions brought about a unique Peranakan culture that’s mostly evident in the architectural landscape and local cuisine.
While you can spend days exploring Phuket, long stays aren’t essential to experience the island’s charms. Armed with the know-how in this 72-hour guide, time-pressed travelers will be surprised by just how much they can tick off in three days.
As always, check for travel guidelines and closures before planning your trip.
Friday: A Taste of Tropical Paradise
Phuket is home to some of Thailand’s most beautiful beaches. A good introduction point — and home base — would be Patong, a crescent-shaped sandy stretch that gained notoriety in the 1970s among jet-setting party lovers.
Begin your day with coffee, baked goods and a crab omelet at Chao Leh Kitchen at Four Points by Sheraton Phuket Patong Beach Resort, a beachfront spot that looks out on Patong’s golden sands and jewel-toned waters.
Once you’ve had your fill, take a walk down the palm-tree-lined shore before flexing your haggling skills to get on a long-tail boat and embark on a trip to beautiful Freedom Beach. At this secluded cove, you can easily spend a couple of hours snorkeling and working on your tan.
From here, make your way back to Karon Noi Beach for a barbecue lunch at Le Méridien Phuket Beach Resort. Take your fill of grilled meats and seafood, including Phuket’s famed sweet lobster, and fresh salads in a relaxed alfresco setting.
More sand-and-sea options lie just a short distance from the resort. Shaded by pandanus and almond trees, Karon and Kata beaches are peaceful and blissful but still offer the chance to dive into a gamut of water activities, such as surfing, stand-up paddleboarding and even diving. Once the sun starts its descent over the ocean, stroll over to Karon-Kata Viewpoint, which offers one of Phuket’s best spots for taking in a glorious, fire-streaked sunset.
It will be time for dinner by the time you get back to Patong. Wash the sand off your hair, slip into something nice and head over to dinner at L’Arome by the Sea, an elegant dining room where talented Swiss chef Yannick Hollenstein holds court. Enjoy an aperitif on the rooftop before indulging in contemporary French fare that dazzles the eyes and satisfies the palate. Must-tries include the pan-seared Hokkaido scallops, wagyu strip loin with white asparagus and, for dessert, a soufflé made with locally sourced Chiang Mai chocolate and Chalong Bay rum.
If you still have the energy and are keen to explore Patong’s nocturnal attractions, then zip across to Bangla Road, where beer bars, live music venues and massive nightclubs set the scene for all-night ragers.
Saturday: Connect with Phuket’s Culture
Get a taste of the island’s multicultural appeal by diving into its food scene and exploring old Phuket Town. Start your day like a local by eating a breakfast of tasty dim sum. Long-standing dim sum parlors like Boon Rat and Juan Hiang have traditional bites that you can pair with hot tea or coffee. Alternatively, a hearty breakfast awaits at Krua Talad Yai at the Courtyard by Marriott Phuket Town. Tuck into khao tom moo, a traditional morning meal of soft-boiled rice and minced pork dumplings served with shredded ginger.
Breakfast ticked off, grab a taxi to Thalang Road, the old town’s main street and the best point to kick off your walking tour. This quaint street is lined with an eclectic mix of cute boutiques, trendy cafés and restaurants, and art galleries, all housed in vibrantly colored converted Sino-Portuguese shophouses.
Snap your share of selfies before wandering over to the Phuket Thai Hua Museum to learn more about the Hokkien Chinese migrants, whose customs and traditions are deeply woven into Phuket’s fascinating culture.
Just up the road is Baan Chinpracha, an old and stately Sino-colonial mansion that shares a glimpse of the life of a wealthy Phuket family in the early 1900s. The house still retains most of its original decor and furniture, including vintage Italian floor tiles and intricately carved wooden chairs, and a large kitchen with ancient stoves, clay cooking pots and kerosene lamps.
A trip down memory lane can stir up the appetite, so amble over to Dibuk Road for lunch at Lock Tian, an open-air food court bursting with delicious local dishes that feed the soul as well as the belly. There are a variety of food stalls serving a range of Malay, Chinese and Thai fare (from pork satay to fresh spring rolls), but Lock Tian’s real draw is the mee leungpad Hokkien or Hokkien-style fried noodles, a steamy dish with chewy yellow noodles, bold squid, pork barbecue, Chinese cabbage and a soft-boiled egg.
After you’ve slurped your last noodle — and washed down lunch with a refreshing palate cleanser of shaved ice with red beans and Chinese jelly — you may want to restart your walking tour, this time to Soi Romanee, a short lane branching out from Dibuk Road. Formerly Phuket’s gambling red-light district, this vibrant street is now the trendy address of quaint coffee houses, souvenir shops and fancy ice-cream parlors.
If you’re feeling energetic, ride south to Koh Siray where The Westin Siray Bay Resort & Spa, Phuket offers the perfect place to pause for a restorative mocktail in the late afternoon sunshine. The resort is also a great spot for golden hour. Settle into a beach lounger as you wait for the sunset to turn the sky into candy-colored clouds.
Your pilgrimage into Phuketian cuisine ends on a high note at Tu Kab Khao back in Phuket Town. Awarded a Bib Gourmand recognition by the Michelin Guide, this popular restaurant is an altar to the cooking prowess of the owner’s mother, whose recipes are highlighted on the menu. Not to be missed are the sen mee gaeng poo (crab curry with rice noodles) and the moo hong Phuket, a pork belly stew cooked Phuket-style.
To cap off a long day, take one for the road (and two or three for the ‘Gram) at DibukHouse, a handsome watering hole known as the most serious cocktail bar in the Old Town, run by 2018 Diageo World Class Thailand runner-up Phongsathorn “Wynn” Chaokitiwut.
Also check out Z1mplex Mixology Laboratory Bar, a tiny bar that serves some of the most innovative and photogenic shooters in Thailand. These colorful concoctions are pure art in a shot glass, combining fluid fluorescent color with intoxicating spirits. Down a couple (if you can manage to shake off these drinks’ transfixing lure) before making your way back to your hotel.
Sunday: Bliss on the Beach
It’s time to wind down and just chill after a flurry of excitement in the last two days. A trip to the northwestern part of Phuket, home to the beaches of Nai Yang and Mai Khao, will do the trick. These connecting beaches make up some of Phuket’s most breathtaking shores, pairing pristine landscapes with glamorous dining, sundowner cocktails and world-class beach clubs, to boot. The beaches are also part of Sirinat National Park, making them the ideal place to immerse yourself in nature.
Start off your lazy day on the right note by lingering over a leisurely buffet breakfast at The Andaman Kitchen at Phuket Marriott Resort and Spa, Nai Yang Beach. After you’ve had your fill of fluffy omelets, springy noodles and freshly blended juice, slap on a hat, sunscreen and sunnies for a stroll down Nai Yang Beach. Rent a beach lounger and find a spot on the silky-soft sand where you can plant yourself and enjoy the breeze in the shade of casuarina and pine trees.
If all the inactivity makes you restless, you may want to try your hand at kiteboarding. There are a few shops along Nai Yang Beach that rent out equipment and offer quick lessons, including Kiteboarding Asia. Or you may even want to venture deep into the national park, an Edenic sanctuary dripping in verdant greenery and home to curious birds with colorful plumage, monitor lizards and other tiny wildlife creatures.
You will be tempted to just idle the day away on the beach, but hunger pangs will eventually beckon. Take a tuk-tuk to Mai Khao Beach for a wholesome lunch at Sand Box Beachfront Bar & Eatery at Renaissance Phuket Resort & Spa. While you’re here, you may want to consider treating yourself to a well-deserved massage at Quan Spa.
Post-massage, all you’ll want to do is chill for the remainder of the day. Spend the afternoon at the neighboring M Beach Club at JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa. Lounge on your very own daybed, graze on small bites, take a dip in the pool and enjoy a tropical cocktail.
Then, as day turns into dusk, savor yet another iconic Phuket sunset and take a mental photograph of the sea as the descending sun casts golden streaks on its waters and its waves are kissed silver by the last light of the day.
This article was created in partnership with Time Out.