Phuket has beautiful beaches, long stretches of white sand and clear water. There are many beaches to choose from on the island as well as a huge array of day trips to nearby islands.
We had 5 nights in Phuket. Because our travel accommodation budget didn’t stretch to beach resorts, we stayed in Phuket old town instead. Staying in Phuket old town is a good choice, the old town area has some fantastic restaurants, artisan shops and restored heritage buildings. Each evening we strolled the streets doing some souvenir shopping and trying different restaurants. The food was fantastic wherever we went.
During the day we took a 30-40-minute taxi or GRAB ride to the beach.
Our first beach day we chose the well-known Patong Beach. On our first trip to Thailand 14 years ago we stayed near here so we were keen to see it again. This is a very busy beach, lots of sun loungers, Thai massage, touts selling everything from drinks to sunglasses and toys for the kids. Restaurants and bars line the beach and the streets behind. For many people it might be too busy, but it is a fun place to spend the day, soak up the atmosphere and people watch.
It is incredibly hot on the beach especially at midday so unless you arrive early for a shady spot further back or bring your own umbrella, renting loungers and an umbrella is essential if you are staying awhile.
Our 2nd beach day we headed to the slightly less busy Karon beach. Here there were busy areas of sun loungers and then large areas of clear sand. Back towards the sand banks some shade can be found under the trees, but at midday a lot of this disappears. That is the time to head for lunch! We found the water to be clearer at Karon and overall preferred it to Patong.
After lunch we headed to a busier stretch of beach for another swim. A huge school of fish swam by and for the next half an hour we were entertained swimming among them. They would move with the tide right next to us and then part around our legs until we were completed surrounded by them, but they almost never touched us. Bigger fish came to catch the little fish and they would leap through the air. Luckily we’d brought our snorkels and masks to the beach for a closer view.
On our final day we booked a snorkelling trip. There are hundreds of trips to choose from departing Phuket. Phi Phi and ‘James Bond Islands’ are popular and we had done those trips previously. We chose Khai Islands for several reasons:
- Proximity to Phuket – just 20 mins by speedboat. After hours spent on speedboats the previous week we weren’t keen for a trip that took 2 hours each way.
- Good snorkelling, the opportunity to snorkel both from the beach and the back of the boat in deeper waters. We weren’t sure how well the kids would manage snorkelling in deep water so we wanted to be sure the trip included good beach snorkelling too.
- Overall length of trip. Some trips are 10 hours, this is too much, particularly for S. Because Khai Islands are close they can be done in a half day.
We were dropped at the tiny island of Khai Nok with the whitest sand and stunning crystal-clear waters.
The fish swim right up to the shoreline and are easily see with or without a mask. Our tour arrived shortly before many other boats turned up so we had a short time with relatively few people in the water. After about an hour we hopped back on the boat for a short trip to a snorkelling spot. Most people on our tour decided to stay on the first island, so it was a just a few of us. We put life jackets on the kids and ourselves to make it easier to help them in the water. The variety of sea life under us was fantastic, we were most excited to spot Sea Urchin. L and S said this was one of the best days they’d had on the trip so far.
Back on the first island we stayed in the life jackets and swam further off shore. By this time in the afternoon so many groups had been on the beach the water was stirred up and cloudy, but not many people swim further out, so we were able to see more our there.
We found that many people didn’t seem at all interested in the fish, they were there to take selfies and do their Instagram poses, but they barely got in the water. So many people are travelling to these islands which is causing significant damage to the marine environment. Many people we saw didn’t seem to have a real interest in their surroundings, they’re just there to tick something off a list. Our tour guide told us the coral around the Kho Khai Islands used to be spectacular but tragically a lot was damaged in the 2004 tsunami. What she didn’t admit is there has also been a lot of damage due to tourism. Tourists stepping on coral and taking selfies with marine life. Too many tour boats visiting, plastic litter in the sea. Tourist activity in the area is now more restricted, but it seems like so many people don’t care and don’t follow the rules that are in place to protect the marine life.
Animal Shows and other Phuket Attractions
Many taxi drivers told us we should have stayed longer in Phuket with so many tourist things to do. Every time we got in a taxi we were offered tiger shows, trips to cashew nut factories, elephant riding, monkey shows, Phuket zoo, water parks, go karts… The trips that involve animals are not ethical. I hope that in the future Thailand will realise they have many beautiful natural and cultural attractions, and friendly people. They don’t need to create these fake, cruel shows to entertain tourists. As long as people continue to come to Thailand wanting to take selfies with tigers and snakes and ride on elephants, these attractions will continue. If you are planning a trip to Thailand please think and do your research before you book tours.
There probably wouldn’t be much harm in visiting the cashew nut factory though!
Coming up a post on our favourite spots in Phuket old town.