Few things scream ‘tropical paradise’ louder than azure-blue seas, palm trees, coconuts and endless white-sand beaches. Ticking all these boxes, Phuket is an island of utter bliss. Away from bustling Bangkok, it’s a place of sheer beauty which steadily lulls you into a slower pace of life.With a name meaning ‘mountain jewel’, it is unsurprising that Phuket is home to dramatic hills and picturesque views. The island is replete with protected areas; its national parks are havens for wildlife such as turtles and monkeys. Culturally rich, Phuket’s history as a trading port has left the town with stunning Peranakan and Portuguese architecture and a unique cuisine. Phuket Island itself is neighboured by several smaller yet equally unforgettable islands across Phang Nga Bay – all perfect for day trips.Rotate your day around traditional Thai massages, cocktails in coconuts and the oh-so-difficult decision: to swim in the sea or the pool? The island is full of things to do, but really, it’s best to stay simple, eat the essentials, see a few sights and just enjoy the sunshine and sea. We’ve compiled a concise ‘don’t miss’ list as well as our favourite places to stay, eat and drink, so you can spend the rest of your trip doing what Phuket is meant for: relaxing.
Have a massage. Every day. It doesn’t matter if it’s on the beach, in a reflexology studio or a spa, this Thai practice is good for the soul. It focuses on freeing blockages for positive energy flow, giving you a sense of balance and wellbeing.
Take a day trip out to the islands, from snorkelling with sea turtles in Phi Phi to visiting the sea villages of Phang Nga Bay, the islands around Phuket should not be overlooked. It’s an extraordinary archipelago that can’t be mistaken for anywhere other than the coast of the Andaman sea. Choose one a day or hire a private boat to tour them all.
Try mango and sticky rice with a freshly cracked iced coconut to sip on. It’s particularly pleasant served poolside post-swim (and pre-massage) or order it for breakfast – it contains fruit, after all.
Make a pitstop to sample some of the fresh fruit at Phuket’s many roadside stalls. The mischievous local cats are an added bonus.
Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas
Most of Phuket’s hotels and tourist trade sit at the bottom of the island on Patong beach. Escape the crowds and head north to the Mai Khao beach, next to the Sirinat National Park, where you’ll find Anantara’s Villas. Each of the 91 super-luxe residences have a private pool as well as access to a verdant communal bathing area on the beach edge. Head here after a morning at Anantara’s spa and order a pomelo, crab and avocado salad from one of the poolside bars along with a freshly cracked coconut. Come evening, the resort has three restaurants to chose from, each serving only the freshest seafood from the Andaman mere metres away.
Hidden behind a canopy of leaves, a hundred year old mansion houses one of Phuket’s best restaurants. Pastel-green walls, Portuguese-style tiles and vintage photos of the Thai royal family make for a homely vibe – albeit a very splendid one. The food is traditional and unpretentious – perhaps the best way to discover local specialities. On the menu you’ll find a crab and coconut-milk curry, ready to be ladled over a neat nest of vermicelli noodles. Order alongside the deep-fried sea bass with caramelised lemongrass and tamarind and, of course, a Singha beer. For a refreshing kick try a mango and squid side salad.
Tu Kab Khao
Tu Kab Khao may technically be a restaurant, but it’s the bar which truly stands out. Cocktails are made with only the freshest local fruits such as the lychee martini or house-made gin infused with rosemary and lemongrass – the perfect pairing for a bowl of piping-hot peanuts. The menu of cocktails, local beers and international wines is extensive and, if you really can’t decide what you fancy, Tu Kab Khao’s expert mixologists will craft a bespoke drink before your very eyes.