Over the years, Phuket has gained a reputation as a popular destination, more for its varied shopping and exuberant nightlife, than for what originally drew the tourists to the island: its golden sandy beaches, proximity to the nearby islands and national park, as well as succulent but inexpensive traditional Thai cuisine.
In our destination guide, we bring you the best of Phuket as it was originally intended, as a relaxing retreat, in our cases away from hectic Hong Kong, and equally enjoyed by families as by couples on a romantic getaway.
What to Do:
Explore the natural beauty that surrounds Phuket with its island hopping tours, available by scheduled tours or privately chartered yachts. Popular hotspots include Phang Nga Bay featuring James Bond Island, Phi Phi Islands with its natural lagoons, the serene Krabi coast, and the famous Similan Islands for the soft, sandy beaches and snorkeling.
Phuket's long stretch of beaches on the western coast are the ideal spot at which to soak in the sun. From uncrowded Maikhao at the north to popular Kata and Karon in the south, to luxurious Surin featuring trendy beach havens such as Catch Beach Club, a trip to the beach can last an entire day, and run well into the evening.
While all the major beaches have great views of this daily phenomenon, cocktails at sophisticated bars like Plum at Cape Sienna or Baba Nest at Sri Panwa provide a unique and elevated vantage point from which to experience this beautiful mish mash of colours.
Where to Eat:
Indigo Pearl's signature restaurant offers some of the island's best classic and modern takes on classic Thai food in an artistic setting that brings food and art one step closer. Southern Thai and local classics such as crispy fried shrimp and battered cha-plu leaves with sweet chili sauce, or “roll your own” crab and pork spring rolls offer a local twist in addition to standard classics that dominate menus as tom yum goong and panang curry.
Siam Supper Club
This bar and grill has gained an international reputation and can provide an excellent Western alternative to Thai cuisine. An ambiance that is a throwback to a more gentler age, the bar is reminiscent of Hollywood's golden era, featuring soft jazz with a L-shaped, heavy, dark-wood bar that evokes the feel of a gentleman's club. The menu features pasta and pizza, but it is the grilled steaks and meats that the restaurant is famous for.
Breeze at Cape Yamu
This fine dining beachside establishment is popular for weekend brunches in the sun, where a multitude of light courses are served up. However, lunch and dinner is equally as good, where the chef creates international classic dishes with a touch of Thai, such as milk-braised pork shoulder with king mushrooms.
Where to Stay:
Arguably more than any island retreat, Phuket has a wide range of resorts, catering to all sorts of travellers, from budget to luxury, hip to classic, family to romance:
Couples: Indigo Pearl Resort
Indigo Pearl brings R&R to Phuket in a unique environment: a hip design-conscious resort that is an homage to Phuket's tin mining industrious past. All rooms, suites and villas are decorated with the hotel's signature antique industrial-inspired artwork and locally-crafted and sourced furniture, marrying classic Thai design with chic luxury. Just seconds from Nai Yang beach on the northwestern coast, the lush jungle setting provides a relaxing retreat as well as plenty to do and indulge in. Its facilities include Coqoon Spa, a haven featuring individual pools, rainshowers and more, inspired by cocoon architecture and living, symobolising rebirth and regeneration. Its six restaurants, cafes and bars including a exclusive beach bar: a swim-up bar in the (one of two!) adults-only pool.
Family: Angsana Laguna Phuket
This resort set in Phuket's most coveted resort area, Bang Tao, is part of Asia's first all-integrated resort featuring six palm-fringed lagoons and 600 acres of parkland. Families (and children in particular) will enjoy seeing the resort's resident elephant Lucky make two daily visits to the beach, as well as offering the chance to meet and greet the elephant. At the resort, the children as just as pampered as the adults, with the Tree House Kids Club, which hosts a kids' spa!
Luxury: The Naka Island
The Naka Island presents the ultimate in privacy and luxury: a boutique all-villa resort on its own island set amid stunning beaches and coconut groves, accessible only by private speedboat. With its oversized pool villas (the smallest villa measures a staggering 350 square metres), there is plenty of space for everyone.