Phuket is a big peninsula which definitely needs more than only four days of exploration to be discovered in its entirety. That said, four days is an adequate length of visit for those visiting Thailand with limited time and wishing to get a bit of everything that the country has to offer, which should also ideally include Bangkok and the North of the country. Also, four days is a good length for those already living in Thailand that might have a long weekend to spare in the South.
Very well-known and explored by tourists, the difficulty in planning a trip to Phuket is not as much in what to see, but rather in what to drop from the list and not see, given the huge amount of choices and tour trips available and the limited time to invest in them. Below is a proposal it worked very well for me and a friend who was visiting Thailand. In four days you will get a little bit of each of the many things that Phuket has to offer.
Regarding locations to base ourselves in Phuket, in this trip I opted for two days at Kata beach (not too far from the crowds, not to close to them either) to enjoy the South-West beaches and some snorkeling in the islands; one day in Patong beach for some party, shopping, and for socializing with other travelers as well as with locals; and the last day in Phuket town, to visit the night market and to wander through the beautiful Sino-Portuguese colonial streets of this charming town.
It is important to point out that Phuket town is also a superb place to stay on your last day given that provides the easiest and cheapest way to reach the airport if your flight is the next day early morning.
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Day 1. Kata beach. Beach hopping.
When arriving at Phuket´s airport you can either book a taxi and head directly to Kata beach (600-800 THB) or share a shuttle van with other travelers for 200 THB. While the first option is more expensive, it will put you in Kata beach in no time (less than an hour). The shuttle van option is cheaper, but it also has a little bit of waiting for other travelers until the shuttle van is full, and more waiting in the middle of the way at a travel agency office where everybody will get distributed to their hotels (and where they will offer you some package tours, which you can gently refuse if you are not interested, without much hassle).
Kata beach is some 20-30 minutes from Patong beach. While the second one is the crowded touristic center of Phuket, the first one is a rather laid back beach that has all the conveniences of not been too far from the urban center (restaurants, shops, and so on). Kata beach makes the perfect location for spending two days not worrying about the logistics of your trip and enjoying the convenient location it offers to explore the Southwest beaches of Phuket.
Best hotel in Kata beach (Phuket) in 2017
In our opinion, the best hotel at Kata beach is The shore at Kata resort. The whole property has stunning views that can be enjoyed from both the public areas or from the privacy of the rooms.
The location is among the top ones one can have while staying in Phuket mainland and the service and attention provided by the staff are constantly praised by its guests.
Another choice for accommodation in Kata beach is The boathouse hotel. This wonderful hotel sits in a wonderful location and provides a great service with amazing views and facilities to enjoy.
I recommend you to visit first Kata Noi beach. This is a medium-size beach with some wonderful clean white sand and not so many people on it. It is my favorite to swim and to spend some time under the sun, perfect for the morning after breakfast. Most beaches in Phuket get ten times more crowded than this one –and usually dirty too. So, for a beautiful and not crowded beach, this one gets the award on this side of the peninsula.
Nai harn and Rawai beach
After having enjoyed your first contact with the sand, the ocean, and the sun, you can drive your motorbike to Nai Harn beach, which is a nice place to stop and have some fresh fruit shake from any of the many local vendors around while sitting under the palm trees. After Nai Harn beach, take again the motorbike and head Southern to Rawai beach. This is a nice place to stop for some fresh seafood lunch while enjoying the sight of the local boats in front of you with a refreshing gentle sea breeze.
Promthep Cape lighthouse
My lunches are usually at 2 pm, so once I am done is almost time for some sunset pictures. The best place for it, in my opinion, is Phra Prom and the Promthep Cape lighthouse. Many local tourists seem to agree with it, but surprisingly not many Westerners. For some reason I ignore Westerners go to a much less interesting viewpoint for watching the sunset. However, I strongly recommend Phra Prom despite the crowd. You will get the best sunset this part of Phuket has to offer.
Now, time to go back to the hotel and have dinner in one of the restaurants nearby. Try Atatürk, the Turkish one near Casa E Mare Hotel. Surprisingly it has not only Turkish, but also Thai food, and this one is a great one and at reasonable prices.
Day 2. Kata beach. Island breeze.
The second day in Kata I liked to book a trip and explore some of the islands nearby. There are two categories of tours available that fit different budgets and interests.
Day tour to Koh Racha Yai, Coral beach and/or James Bond island
Option one: short and budget-friendly tour. There are some islands that most tour operators offer, like Coral beach, Koh Racha Yai, James Bond Island, etc. These islands are the cheapest to explore since they are near the coast and you will be put in a boat with many more people.
The snorkeling in these islands is just OK, and when you get to the beach there will be dozens of other people around. It has the advantage of been a short trip from the pier since these islands are near, so you will not have to wake up too early (pick up at the hotel is around 8:30 am). These tours are also cheaper compared to longer ones, usually starting at 1,200 THB per person, and they include a basic Thai lunch. These nearby islands they also have the advantages of having restaurants and hotels on it, been convenient for those traveling with children and/or elders.
Day tour to Similian islands, Phi Phi island or Koh Lanta
Option two: long tour and nicer islands. For visiting these islands you will need to wake up very early (pick up at the hotel around 6:00 am) and the boat trip will require some 2-3 hours, depending on which islands you are going. Examples of these tours include the Similan islands –up North, in Phang Nga province-, or the group of islands in front of Koh Lanta –another province, to the South-East. These islands are usually more beautiful than the ones mentioned before, the snorkeling much better, and also less crowded, but the tour is more expensive and the transfer more tiring. Prices can start from 2,500 THB per person and lunch is also included. If you can endure the longer trip and having to rise with the sun is not an issue this is definitely the best option.
It is up to you which kind of tour you will take, depending on your preferences and your personal circumstances.
On a side note, I would drop Phi Phi Island and its surroundings out of the options for this day tour. Firstly, for Phi Phi Island is a very crowded environment and going for a day tour will be a lot of hassle and fighting elbow to elbow with crowds of another tourist D-day landing-type, and everything will be packed in one day. Secondly, given Phi Phi became itself already an urban center with all the facilities, restaurants, nightlife and so on, would make an otherwise good base camp for a future 2-3 days stand alone trip (more on partying and socializing, and less on exploring).
- Here are some ideas on what to do when you visit Bangkok.
Day 3. Patong. The city lights.
Patong is everything a sensitive person would despise of what Phuket has become: the crowds, the noise, the artificiality, the vendors harassing you, the pickpockets… Yet, it is also a wonderful place to spend a day if you are traveling with friends and want to have some fun and see all kind of characters both during the day and the night times. So, if you are traveling for a long weekend, why not spend here your Saturday and enjoy yourself?
Best hotel in Patong (Phuket) 2018
The best hotel in Patong is, no doubt, La Flora Resort with its superb rooms and services in a prime location. You will not believe that you are at the very city center of busy Patong and yet it is so quiet inside. The facilities are superb, and so are the rooms.
La Flora resort is designed to provide its guests with a luxury retreat in the middle of the city. All the details are taken care, and from here you can start exploring the town with renewed energies.
However, if you prefer to stay a little bit far from the city hassle, I recommend the U Zenmaya Resort. It offers great value for the price.
The big Buddha
After breakfast, I like to take the motorbike and go to the big Buddha and spend the morning there. The Big Buddha can be seen from many parts of the island. While it is not as impressive as the Big Buddha in Lantau (Hong Kong), or does not enjoy a wonderful-for-pictures location, like the Big Buddha in Danang (Vietnam), is still worthy of a visit. Visiting this kind of place is always special for me, as they offer some charm and tranquility that -like in the case of touristy Phuket- permits the traveler to escape for a while from the rush and the hassle of the noisy crowds.
For lunch, go back to Patong beach and spend the afternoon wandering around. It is a great moment to shop for souvenirs to bring to your family as well. There is no shortage of shops and vendors in this town, so it is your opportunity to buy whatever you may want to bring back with you.
At sunset time it is, of course, time to head to the beach front. Usually, there are not so many people at the beach as you might think –people are generally afraid of suntans in these latitudes- and Patong has a very photogenic sunset to enjoy. You can see some big cruises in the horizon line, switching on their lights as the night comes, and also some very expensive and luxury yachts, none of them my own 😉
Bangla road, where the night startsFor the nighttime, and after you have ensured your dinner, your goal should be -in my opinion- to end up dancing at Illuzion club a little bit after midnight. This club offers some impressive dance sessions and good DJs. Better than anything you can find elsewhere in Thailand, including Bangkok, whose parties and DJs are becoming more and more lame day by day. The best crowd, all ready for the party and good fun, heads there after having previous drinks somewhere else. It does not fade until 4 am, so you better make sure to go there with plenty of energies; you will definitely dance a lot! Before going to Illuzion, just make time drinking on the same street while watching some life performances. You can choose between go-go dancers or live music from local and Filipino bands. All in good fun and with plenty of company by other travelers.
Day 4. Phuket town. History and night market.
You will not wake up early on Sunday after all the party the day before at Illuzion, will you? Have lunch in Patong -why not go to I-Koong? Later on, take a shuttle van or a taxi to Phuket town. Beware of the last van to Phuket town (5o THB) is at 5 pm and after that you will have the hassle of finding a taxi, fight for a good price (starting asking price is 500 THB), and there will be a little bit of traffic jam on the way.
Best hotel in Phuket town (Phuket) in 2017
In Phuket town, I recommend to stay at The memory at On On hotel. This hotel has a great location near the night market and in the middle of the historical center and the beautiful streets. The hotel itself is like a museum, been a fully renovated historical building.
If you prefer a location right in front of the bus station for the next day going early to the airport then Pak Dee Resident offers a great value as well, although the hotel itself is not as beautiful as the previous one. Yet, walking from it to the night market and the historical center will be only 10 minutes, so it is also a good option. And here is the schedule of the airport bus for the next morning.
Phuket town’s night market
Once in Phuket town, and for the rest of your stay, it is time to relax and recall with your friends the nice moments during your trip. The night market stays “open” (is a street market really) until 10 pm when they switch off the lights –literally- and all the vendors and music rush to disappear and go home.The night market is a great place for buying original souvenirs, clothes, get a haircut or enjoy some life music. Once it closes it is the right moment to find a nice bar on the streets nearby (there are many to choose) and continue the drinking and the merrymaking until it is time to go back to the hotel and put an end to this trip.
Good night to everyone.