With an area spanning over 543km², Phuket is Thailand’s biggest and most popular island. The idyllic resort getaway, located in Southern Thailand, is known for its picturesque white sandy beaches, palm tree-lined coasts, crystal clear waters and balmy weather. Most tourists flock to the beaches in the west of the island (Patong is one of the party capitals of Asia, for instance) as well as its historic Old Town for the iconic Sino-Portuguese architecture – but there are hidden gems in Phuket that offer much more than the usual tourist magnets. Below, we head off the beaten path and check out some exciting experiences in Phuket that are worth exploring when you’re next in the island paradise.
1. Visit the The Upside Down House of Phuket
Also known as Baan Teelanka, this surprising attraction is a bright red three-storey house that is – as its name suggests – completely inverted. You enter through the roof from its attic, where a staircase takes you to the main living area of the house. You can then proceed to explore all the rooms by literally walking on the ceiling. There’s a garage with a life-sized tuk tuk within, and you can challenge your senses further with the maze-
2. Have a drink at the Chalong Bay Rum Distillery
Made entirely out of sugarcane from Thailand grown without using chemical fertilisers or pesticides, Chalong Bay’s rum is one of the purest in the world. Join one of its hourly tours (held at intervals between 11am and 6pm) to see how the magic happens and get an insight into how its famous rums go through the whole production process – from pressing and fermentation to distillation and maturation – before finally being bottled and labelled by hand. Each tour includes a Chalong Bay mojito, and you get to try both its classic and flavoured variations.
3. Visit the charming Ao Sane Beach
Ao Sane is a tiny sliver of a beach and is one of the Phuket’s best-kept secrets. Quietly hidden and only accessible if you drive through The Nai Harn Resort, it’s just 200 metres long and is a tranquil spot lined with lush trees and dotted with rocky boulders – perfect for some quiet reading and reflection. Snorkelers and divers will love the plentiful marine life underneath its emerald waters. If you’re feeling peckish after, you can stop by the beach’s sole restaurant for a casual and comforting meal.
4. Indulge in total privacy in a private villa
Instead of jostling with the madding crowd at touristy beaches, Banyan Tree Phuket offers a slice of paradise that’s perfect for those seeking some isolation. The resort’s gorgeous pool villas (ranging from a Spa Pool Villa to a 1,300 sqm one-bedroom and two-bedroom DoublePool villas) are nestled around a lagoon, allowing you to enjoy seclusion in an idyllic setting surrounded by lush greenery. The gated community, Laguna Phuket, in which it is situated has tons to offer – all within walking distance. You can play a game of golf, shop at the Canal Village Shopping Centre or relax at the Banyan Tree Spa Sanctuary. Should you require anything further, you can avail yourself to the services of your villa host, on call 24 hours a day.
5. Visit Phuket’s first interactive 3D museum
Another one of the island’s underrated hidden gems is the AR Trick Eye Museum Phuket. Located within Aquaria Phuket (another attraction worth a visit), the museum features a variety of whimsical optical illusions and props that visitors can pose with. The museum is all about interactivity – so much so that they promise visitors won’t see any “do not touch” signs! The museum has five themed zones including a “masterpiece” section with reimagined, interactive versions of popular paintings like Edvard Munch’s The Scream. A single adult ticket to the museum costs 440 THB but you can also get a package deal for 1,190 THB that includes entry to Aquaria Phuket as well.
6. Enjoy a panoramic view at Samet Nangshe Viewpoint
Located on a hilltop in Phang Nga, just a 30-minute drive from Phuket, a journey up to this spot will reward you with stunning 180-degree views of Phang Nga Bay and the dramatic limestone formations and small islands emerging from crystal clear waters. There’s an entrance fee, and you can either hike up to the top (warning, it’s a very steep climb), or hitch a ride with one of the pick ups (available for a small fee) at the bottom of the hill. If you’re up for it, try to reach there before 5.30am to witness the spectacular sunrise. You can also camp out here overnight by renting a tent or a tiny shack.
7. Go for an island getaway at Koh Yao Yai
Tourists usually make a beeline for the more popular Koh Phi Phi of The Beach fame, but if you’re looking for an undiscovered beach that is truly one of Phuket’s hidden gems, head to Koh Yao Yai. The sleepy, relatively undeveloped island, located 30 minutes away from Phuket by ferry, is lined with gorgeous quiet stretches of secluded coastline, rubber plantations, mangroves and quaint villages. The area is best explored on a scooter, and you can rent a kayak to paddle to nearby islands such as Koh Nok and Khao Phing Kan. At the end of the day, enjoy freshly grilled seafood at friendly family-fun restaurants.
8. Visit the Koh Panyi floating village
The charming Muslim fishing village – with a population of just 1,600 people – is another underrated hidden gem that’s notable for its houses and restaurants that are built on stilts. Visit Koh Panyi for a look at quaint local life: it’s fully functioning, with a mosque, school, market, souvenir shops, seafood restaurants and even a floating football pitch built from old scraps of wood and fishing rafts.
Please check the establishments’ respective websites for opening hours as well as booking requirements before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.
The information is accurate as of press time. For updated information, please refer to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website.
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