Phuket is Thailand’s largest island just slightly smaller than Singapore. It’s one of Thailand’s many islands that is part rainforest and somewhat mountainous, located in the Andaman Sea.
Phuket is by far the most touristy of all the Thai islands, which means there is a lot to do. You can do pretty much anything you want here. I know many travel writers that did not love Phuket, but we had a great time. If you are traveling with kids, it’s sometimes best and easiest to stick to the touristy places.
5 Days in Phuket
Day 1: Street Food and Beaches
Check into your hotel, I personally recommend staying at Novotel Karon Beach. I have a few other recommendations below. Once you are settled in go enjoy the pool or hit Karon beach across the street.
Karon Beach – Karon beach is the second longest beach in Phuket. It is not near as lively as Patong beach or as quiet as Surin beach. This beach is a perfect place to play a game of beach volleyball with other tourists or snorkel with the kids.
Be sure to take a walk along Karon beach at some point.
Hotel Tip: Try to be in Phuket no later than 1 P.M. in order to check in around 2 P.M.
Street Food Tour – This evening for dinner, take the Phuket Street Food Tour. During the Phuket Street food tour one of the stops is a local market in a parking lot. All of the foods there are likely to be unidentifiable, but the whole family will have to be brave and taste the foods together. Suggested things to try are Kao Kriab Pak Mor (a gooey purple dumpling with a sweet peanut filling), a tasty little Kanom Krok (coconut pancake) or Khanom Buang (a dynamite, crunchy Thai crepe with a creamy filling). Plus, the tour takes you to Old Town.
Day 2: Cooking and Shopping
Cooking Class – Learn to cook an authentic Thai meal. One of the neatest ways to get kids to try new foods is to have them cook the food themselves! Phuket has several cooking classes that are kid-friendly if needed. The Phuket Thai Cooking Academy is a good one for kids and especially convenient for families since they provide transportation. Before the class begins, they take you to a local market where everyone shops for the ingredients they’ll be using in their Thai dishes. Kids will be amused by the seafood in the wet market. Some of the fish and squids are so fresh they are still wiggling around. Once you arrive at the school, kids and parents will learn food carving in addition to making multiple dishes. Once everything is prepared, you all get to enjoy lunch or dinner together as a family.
Shopping: Surprisingly, the shopping in Phuket is quite good. There are several places to shop, including the mall at Patong Beach, Jang Ceylon. Some fun souvenirs include: hand carved soap, keychains and magnets, massage oils, incense, cosmetics, T-shirts and clothes. We found some Adidas and Nike shirts for super cheap. They were probably knock offs, but who cares!
Dinner: If you are not completely filled up consider having dinner at Kataturk restaurant which serves delicious Turkish cuisine. Their non veg platter is brilliant, baklava is complimentary, and the owner is extremely friendly. He will likely shower you with complimentary rice, curry, baklava.
Day 3: Elephants and Beaches
Swim with Elephants – All over Thailand there will be options for encountering elephants. You can take an elephant jungle trek, go give one a bath at a sanctuary or swim with elephants in Phuket. This is an opportunity for a quick swim with two young elephants. This was one of the most incredible experiences the kids and I have ever had and I highly recommend it. The whole experience lasts less than 15 minutes, but still worth it.
Patong Beach – Patong Beach is somewhat hectic because there is so much going on. Here you can swim, jet ski, shop, dine and more. If you are looking for a night out, Patong’s nightlife is awesome. The main street here, Bangla Road, does turn into a full-on party street after 10 P.M. Keep kids away after 9:30 PM otherwise they will get an eyeful. Some fun party spots are Illuzion, Aussie Bar and Sole Mio.
Day 4: Day Trip to Phi Phi Island
Another highly recommended excursion is a boat trip to idyllic Phi-Phi Island, also the most famous island near Phuket. The tour stops at several islands (one of which is Tapu or James Bond Island, where “The Man with the Golden Gun” was filmed) along the way, giving you plenty of opportunity to snorkel in the clear emerald waters. If you so choose, you can arrange to spend the night on the beach of this remote island. What a great way to wind down before heading back home!
The island is accessible only by boat. There are many companies that can take you out there. One way is by speed boat with My Phuket Tours. It’s a long way out there even on a speed boat, which is why I recommend taking this type of transportation. Plus, sitting up front in the speed boat can be extremely fun and exciting for youngsters as they get bounced all around.
Once on Phi Phi Island, you can visit the famous beach where Leonardo DiCaprio filmed The Beach. The water is turquoise, and the beach is hemmed in by cliffs. It is quite stunning. The snorkeling is excellent in many spots around Phi Phi Island.
Another beach to visit is Monkey Beach. Here, monkeys are hanging around waiting for tourist to feed them. They are so eager for the food, the monkeys sometimes board the boats to get to it. Kids will delight in feeding them and watching them jump around. If you are part of a tour they will take you by here. They will also take you to bamboo beach. From what I observed it doesn’t matter who you take the tour with you make all the same exact stops.
Night Market: If you are not too exhausted after your day at Phi Phi Island visit a night market.
- Karon night market: Banana and Nutella Pancakes and
- Sticky rice with coconut milk and mango are two must eats here.
- Weekend Night Market at Phuket Town – Fri, Sat, Sun: Prawns and Chicken
- Kata beach night market – Sunday
Day 5: Massage and Beach Day
Thai Massage – There’s nothing quite like a Thai Massage and you have to get one before you leave. There are lots of places that offer them, including every hotel.
Beach Day – It’s your last day at the beach, so enjoy it. There is an abundance of beaches to choose from and you can’t go wrong hanging out at any of them.
- Kata Noi – This beach is found on the west part of the island just south of Karon. This is a popular place for surfing. They have surf lessons for beginners.
- Laem Phromthep – This is considered one of the best places on the island to catch the sunset.
- Surin Beach – This is a small beach.
- Tri Trang Beach – Not far from popular Patong Beach is Tri Trang Beach. Often times there are hardly any people here. Families can spread out, and the kids can roam. Because there are so few people, it is easier to keep an eye on your kids here. There are a few food options, and the hotels along the beach have bathrooms. The way we accessed this beach was by stairs. If stairs are an issue, skip this beach, because it’s a lot of stairs.
Sea Kayaking – If you do not want to spend a day at the beach go sea kayaking instead.
To get away from it all, go sea kayaking out in the breathtaking Phang Nga Bay. The bay is punctuated by towering limestone cliffs, creating a picturesque backdrop against the emerald green water. The sea kayaking tour picks you up at your hotel and transfer you to a boat, stopping at several islands.
One exhilarating stop is to explore the sea caves. Here, a guide takes you on an inflatable 3-person kayak, and enter a series of sea caves, some whose entrances are so tiny you have to lie flat in the kayak to get through them. With the help of a flashlight, you will glide through the pitch-black caves and occasionally catch a glimpse of the resident bats. Just when you thought you were lost, the cave opens up to a lagoon, and you find yourself in bright daylight surrounded by the tall limestone formations. It is truly a magical experience.
More Fun Things to do in Phuket
- Tiger Kingdom
- 6 Things to do in Phuket with kids
- Phuket FantaSea a 60 acre theme park
- Visit Big Buddha a massive Buddha statue that can be seen from many places on the island.
- Scuba dive at Similan Islands
- Rock Climb at Railay
- Phuket Gibbon Rehabilitation Project
- Khao Phra Thaew Royal Wildlife and Forest Reserve
- Take a Thai Boxing lesson
Other Places to Stay in Phuket
The main drag around Patong Beach is the most crowded and vibrant, with plenty of shops, restaurants, bars and nightclubs. The nightlife can be pretty wild, as anything goes in this funky beach town. If you prefer quieter beaches away from the crowds, Karon Beach to the south, or Kamala and Bang Tao Beaches to the north are good choices.
Thailand Travel Tips
If you are coming from the United States, you do not need a Visa.
T-Mobile works great in Thailand.
I do not recommend using a flat iron or a curling iron. They do not do well with the electricity there.
There are plenty of ATMs in the Phuket International Airport. I suggest pulling some money out before leaving the airport.
Have your hotel arrange any taxi or other transportation you may need to avoid getting over charged.
- Thai entry visa: 2000 baht per person (We did not get visas to visit Thailand.)
- Airport Transfer: 800 baht
- Scooter rent: 200 baht per day (125 cc)
- Food: 90 – 150 baht per meal per person
- Sunglasses: 100 baht
- T-shirts: 100 – 150 baht
- Hand carved soaps – 4 for 100 baht
- Magnets – 4 for 100 baht
- 2 Beach chairs and umbrella – 200 baht
- Water proof bags – 200 baht for 10kg
- Mobile covers – 100 baht
- Bermudas – 250 baht
- Hand Fans – 120 baht for 2
- Banana pancakes – 50 baht
- Nutella pancakes – 60 baht
- Leechis from the local fruit stall – 100 baht
- Sticky rice with coconut milk and mango – 120 baht
- Parasailing – 1500 baht
- Phuket Fantasea – 1850 baht per adult / 1650 baht per child
- Elephant bathing at beach – 1000 baht per person
- Island tour Phi Phi – 13000 baht for a family of four
Should You Get Travel Insurance?
Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a fan of Travelex insurance, because of the variety of options. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Unfortunately, Noah had a seizure while we were out at Phi Phi island. Thankfully, I had gotten coverage that included airlift. So, needless I always recommend getting some sort of coverage. Read more about why you should always carry travel insurance here.
If you are looking for a car rental I recommend getting the car at the airport. You can get a car rental for super cheap in Phuket.
Don’t want to rent a car there’s always a minibus or an Uber. Uber is available in Phuket. Use my Uber invite code, meagans343ue, and get a free ride up to $15.
Helpful travel guides, and blog posts