There are plenty of really memorable things to do in Phuket. The island itself has a beautiful historical old town, great viewpoints and iconic cultural attractions. It's also a good base for exploring the nearby islands and their must-see attractions. These include world-famous places like Phang Nga Bay and the Phi Phi Islands.

    The following list is our pick of the things which are definitely worth a visit while you're in Phuket. Being a place of great variety, there's something among the best things to do in Phuket for virtually every kind of traveller. Take a look below and see what sparks your interest.

    What are the best things to do in Phuket?

    Phang Nga Bay is unique. A day out here is an unforgettable experience that will definitely get you thinking. A distinctive feature of the bay is the sheer limestone cliffs that jut vertically out of the emerald-green waters. These islands are home to sheltered fauna that are possible to observe on certain tours. James Bond Island and Koh Panyee are just 2 of the more famous spots in this bay.

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    Location: Phang-Nga 82000, Thailand

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    Phi Phi Islands

    The Phi Phi Islands are Thailand's superstar archipelago, particularly famous for Maya Bay's central role in the 2000 movie The Beach. It's the topic of conversation for travellers all over Thailand. For some, it's the only reason to touchdown in Phuket. Even with all the hype, it doesn't disappoint.

    Phi Phi's beauty is a large chunk of the allure. The islands, when approached by boat, rise from the sea like a fortress. Sheer cliffs tower overhead, then give way to a beach-fringed jungle. To most, it's love at first sight.

    Location: Krabi 81000, Thailand

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    A list of the best things to do in Phuket wouldn't do without mentioning the beaches. With more than 30 to choose from, the island is understandably famous for them. There's a lot of variety available, ranging from little secluded coves to long and lively shores.

    Most of the best beaches in Phuket are along the west coast. They offer beautiful sunsets, along with their soft white sands and clear blue seas.

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    Visible from most of the south of Phuket, the Big Buddha sits atop the Nakkerd Hills and looks down over Chalong, Kata and Rawai. It cost 30 million baht to construct and is 45 metres tall. Next to it stands a smaller golden image that's actually made of solid brass and there's also a shrine near the site's car park. The drive up to the Big Buddha takes you through some beautiful jungle and the view from the top is enhanced if you take a map to identify the many, many sights.

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    Location: Soi Yot Sane 1, Karon, Muang, Phuket 83100, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 6am to 7pm

    Phone: +66 (0)81 891 3827

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    The stunning Similan Islands are surrounded by amazingly clear blue seas and pristine white-sand beaches. Heaven for island-hoppers and scuba divers, the 9 islands are about 30 km off the coast of Khaolak. They're ranked among the best dive sites in the world for their lively and colourful coral reefs and perfect visibility. For non-divers, the famous Sailing Boat Rock is on Similan No. 8 and is an iconic feature of this must-see archipelago.

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    Location: Lam Kaen, Thai Mueang, Phang-nga 82210, Thailand

    Open: From 15 October to 15 May (dates may vary each year)

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    The Andaman Sea around Phuket is littered with absolutely stunning little tropical islands. Phi Phi and the Similans certainly stand out among them, but there are others closer to Phuket which are worth visiting.

    These tiny lumps of pristine sand in wide expanses of azure blue seas are real-life desert island escapes. Enjoy sunbathing, exploring and snorkelling, as well as a general sense of getting away from it all.

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    Wat Chalong is one of Phuket's most important temples and is visited by thousands each year. It's beautifully decorated, with infinite reflections from hundreds of tiny glittering glass pieces on its many pagodas. It has an interesting history and is Phuket Island's spiritual centre.

    Wat Chalong isn't the only remarkable temple in Phuket, however. There's an impressive number of them dotted around the island, several of which are home to impressive Buddha statues. Each has its own particular charms and remarkable features, making them worth seeking out and exploring.

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    Phuket has an impressive selection of night markets to choose from. Each has its own unique charms, but all offer interesting souvenirs at low prices. They're an excellent place to try local street food and snacks, and some also have street performances and music. Being open in the evenings means that you don't get too hot while getting your shopping fix.

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    There are few things in this world to prepare you for an after-dark stroll down Patong's Bangla Road. However, a sense of humour and an open mind are essential if you're looking to have some fun. The biggest collection of nightclubs, bars, shows and general nocturnal fun in Phuket, it's pretty much an all-out assault on the senses. In spite of this, it is still very much one of the essential things to do in Phuket.

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    Location: Bangla Rd, Patong, Kathu, Phuket 83150, Thailand

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    There are many viewpoints on both the east and west coasts of Phuket, affording sunrise as well as sunset views. Everyone goes to Promthep Cape, but it doesn't make it any less spectacular. There, you'll get fabulous views over the ocean stretching as far as Phi Phi Island on a good day.

    Check out Phuket's other viewpoints, such as the '3 Beaches' hilltop view on the road between Nai Harn and Kata, or sip a cocktail at the After Beach Bar (also on the same road), while the sun slips below the western horizon.

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    With great beaches come great beach clubs, and some of Phuket's are among the best in the world. These chilled-out venues offer great music, first-class food and delightful cocktails. Just steps from the sand, and often featuring splash pools, good times are all but guaranteed. With regular special events and parties, these are among the best places to be seen and the best things to do in Phuket.

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    Sino-Portuguese splendours and funky shops in the most unlikely places will surprise and delight you in the heart of Phuket's sleepy provincial capital. Phuket Town offers much more than you think, with some excellent restaurants and local sights. The unique blend of colonial and Chinese architecture, along with a tangible quaintness, makes for a fascinating and unforgettable afternoon spent sauntering around Phuket's Old Town. Expect the unexpected and don't forget your camera.

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    Simon Cabaret Show

    Patong Beach

    Simon Cabaret is probably the biggest transvestite cabaret show in Phuket. This show features a spectacular musical floor show performed by the world-famous ladyboy cast. See for yourself – guys, can you tell the difference? And ladies – wouldn't you just die for a figure like that? Fabulous costumes, glitzy and fun are found in a fancy theatre just south of Patong.

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    Location: 8 Sirirat Rd, Patong, Kathu, Phuket 83150, Thailand

    Open: Daily at 6pm, 7.30pm and 9pm

    Phone: +66 (0)87 888 6888

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    Phuket's tourism industry is constantly evolving to keep pace with modern trends. Nowhere is that fact clearer than with the elephant sanctuaries springing up in and around the island. The sanctuaries provide a safe escape from trekking and logging camps. They also let you interact with the gentle giants in a more ethical, animal-friendly way. If you're a responsible traveller, these places should definitely be on your list of things to do in Phuket.

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    photo by Marc Dalmulder (CC BY 2.0) modified

    Actually named Koh Tapu (meaning 'Nail Island', because of it's shape), James Bond Island first found fame because of its starring role in the 1974 movie The Man With the Golden Gun. The entire area surrounding this island and its signature rocky pinnacle is indeed spectacular, though its incredible popularity means it gets a little crowded on the tiny rock in the middle of Phang Nga Bay.

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    Location: Phang Nga Bay, Phang-nga 82130, Thailand

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    Phuket is a great place to learn to dive or enjoy some fun bottom time. It's rated among the top diving destinations in the world and many of the centres in the area boast years of experience. Diving day trips from Phuket to Phi Phi Island and the Racha Islands operate throughout the year, though conditions are at their best in the high season.

    Both beginners and experienced divers will appreciate the underwater scenery at Phi Phi, the fascinating King Cruiser wreck close to Anemone Reef, and the exciting diving at Shark Point – named after the Leopard sharks which live on the sandy bottom. For world-class scuba diving and the really big fish, go for a liveaboard dive cruise to the Similan and Surin Islands in the Andaman Sea.

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    The tropical waters of the Andaman Sea are excellent for snorkelling – clear, calm, balmy and bursting with brilliant marine life. The best places to see things under the sea are generally those beaches with rocky shorelines, like Ya Nui Beach or the headland between Kata Beach and Kata Noi Beach.

    Snorkelling can be done year-round in Phuket, but the best time of year is from November to April – the high season. It's possible to rent snorkelling gear for the day at some beaches, and many shops around the island sell a range of masks, snorkels and fins.

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    In Asia, the spa culture has evolved into a concept focussing on the spiritual and natural, drawing from traditions of meditation, respect for nature and the desire to achieve physical and mental wellbeing – the key to maintaining health and beauty. Thai massage, in particular, is famous around the world for being extreme yet effective. Phuket has a dizzying array of spas to choose from when it comes to relaxing aching muscles, ranging from top-end retreats to side-street stores.

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    Phuket has a collection of fine golf courses, all of which have been designed to take full advantage of the island's tropical climate and unique topography. Many visitors come solely to play golf around the beautifully landscaped courses, which make use of the local abundance of water and trees to full effect. Many of the courses and near hotels to ensure that accompanying family members can enjoy being left to laze by the pool or on the beach.

    Standards are high, ensuring that the greens are green and the holes are challenging enough to stretch new and experienced players alike. Some of the courses have even been used for international competitions and world championships.

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    Koh Panyee is home to a Muslim fishing village on stilts and is about 20 minutes by long-tail boat from Surakul Pier in Phang Nga Province. The island features heavily on day trips to nearby James Bond Island as tourists are brought here for lunch and a wander around the village, sometimes buying souvenirs. However, once the tourists have left, the place reverts to its natural peace and tranquillity. Overnight stays here reveal the true identity of the village.

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    Location: Koh Panyee, Muang, Phang-nga 82000, Thailand

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    Koh Sirey on the east side of Phuket Town is more like a small cape than an island. Covering only about 20 sq km, most of Koh Sirey is delightfully free of construction and driving along its leafy eastside coastal road with its rubber plantations is a pleasure. It really is like Phuket several decades ago.

    Along this coast is an abalone farm that hosts a restaurant with a view out over Phuket's east coast islands and Sapam Bay. Also, Koh Sirey plays host to sea gipsies and golden Buddhas. The tiny recreation park near a mangrove swamp by the main bridge is where locals feed wild monkeys every evening.

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    Location: Rassada, Muang, Phuket 83000, Thailand

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    Flying Hanuman in Phuket is a zipline adventure park where you can soar through the sky 40 metres above a jungle. This eco-friendly attraction lets you explore the hillsides of Phuket through several obstacle courses and sky bridges.

    Flying Hanuman in Phuket offers 3 courses (journeys), all of which include a free Flying Hanuman premium collection T-shirt, and roundtrip transfer. You get to explore the adventure park's facilities, including platforms, ziplines, sky bridges, abseiling points, spiral stairways, and a wilderness walk. Note that you have to wear pulleys and safety helmets at all times.

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    Location: 89/16 Moo 6, Soi Namtok Kathu, Wichitsongkram Road, Kathu, Phuket 83120, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 8am to 6pm

    Phone: +66 (0)81 979 2332

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    Muay Thai is one of the most popular spectator sports in Thailand. While exciting enough on TV, the relentless punches, crushing elbow strikes, powerful kicks, and artful feints are even more riveting when seen live. Travellers to Phuket can enjoy Thai boxing matches at specially built stadiums on Soi Sai Namyen, in Patong.

    You can also train in Muay Thai in Phuket. There's an entire street in Chalong where almost every property is a gym, healthfood restaurant or low-cost accommodation specifically intended for those training in the art of Thai boxing. Other gyms are dotted around the island, too.

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    Thailand isn't especially famous as a surfing destination, but the best place to catch a wave here is in Phuket. During the low season, the beaches along the west coast become a haven for surfers, with a range of difficulty levels available. There are plenty of places to buy or rent boards, as well as a number of big annual surfing contests to enjoy.

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    Phuket Wake Park offers one of the most fun and challenging activities in Phuket. Whether you are a beginner or an expert, you can enjoy many exciting wakeboarding rides at this outdoor park. It has a large freshwater lake equipped with 2 Sesitec Cable systems: a short one for beginners and one that goes all around the basin.

    Located near Kathu Waterfall, its location offers exotic views of the surrounding trees and hills. You can rent wakeboards, gloves, life vests, and helmets for a small fee. Phuket Wake Park has professional instructors who provide 30 minutes of private training for those new to wakeboarding.

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    Location: 86/3 Moo 6 Wichitsongkram Road, Kathu, Phuket, 83120, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 7am to 9pm

    Phone: +66 (0)76 202 525

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    Fishing in Phuket

    Alongside great beaches, diving and nightlife, Phuket also offers world-class sport fishing and angling. Blue and black marlin, sailfish, dog-tooth tuna, giant trevally, jacks and even swordfish have been caught around Phuket, and the fishing community's firm catch-and-release policy helps ensure that future generations will have the opportunity to test themselves against these magnificent animals. Phuket's charter companies know all the best spots and will get where you want to be in comfort and style.

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    Jet skis

    Jet-skiing is one of the best ways to enjoy some fun in the ocean during your Phuket holiday. Those who love to make their own waves can head to the main beaches, where plenty of machines are for hire.

    It’s a fun and popular activity, but be aware that, beyond providing life jackets, there is little regard for safety. On Patong Beach, in particular, speedboats and jet skis can be seen navigating dangerously close to swimmers. There are also many documented cases of tourists being scammed by jet ski operators, though there are precautions you can take to prevent this.

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    Kitesurfing is one of the fastest-growing extreme sports in Phuket. The island has all it takes to be a popular location for many kitesurf enthusiasts. Beginners appreciate the shallow waters and gentle breezes of the southeast coast while over at Nai Yang and Layan beaches in northwest Phuket, more experienced kitesurfers really let rip with acrobatic stunts.

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    Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) is an exciting watersport you can enjoy during your Phuket holiday. The sport was officially recognised and attributed to the Waikiki Beachboys in Hawaii in the 1960s, but it actually dates back thousands of years, when it's practised on most rivers and coastal areas in the southern hemisphere.

    The warm and clear waters surrounding Phuket are an excellent playground for SUP, especially during high season. This cool nautical sporting activity doesn’t require any outstanding physical capacity or experience. You usually only need a few lessons to learn the proper position to balance yourself on the surfboard and to use the long-handle paddle. These companies offer stand-up paddleboarding courses, equipment rental, and tours in Phuket.

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    Surf House Phuket is every surfer’s dream: a place where you can ride the waves every day no matter what the weather conditions. With an adjacent bar and restaurant, Surf House Phuket is a world to itself and, as a result, it's tremendously popular.

    Located by the Kata/Karon administrative offices at the southern end of Kata Beach, Surf House is centred on a high-pressure wave-generating machine that throws a shallow sheet of water up a sloping ‘pool’. Beginner surfers hold onto a guiding safety rope held by a staff member and, if they happen to fall or slip, instead of falling downwards the strong water flow ensures they fall upwards.

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    Location: 4 Pakbang Road, Karon, Muang, Phuket 83100, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 9.30am to 12am

    Phone: +66 (0)81 979 7737

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    Parasailing

    Parasailing is a fun activity for those who like a dare while on holiday. In Phuket, you'll find a handful of operators on the most popular beaches providing the service but the major centre for parasailing here is Patong Beach. Prices vary depending on who you talk to. On average, people pay from about 800 baht up to 1,300 baht per ride, with a ride lasting about 5 minutes. Some operators might try to use the terms ‘short rope’ and ‘long rope’ to make the prices higher, so you might need to practice some bargaining skills before committing to any length of rope.

    Riders will get a brief about safety procedures as well as ‘getting dressed’ in a lifejacket and hooked up to a parachute. Before being pulled out to the bay by a speedboat, a support person will come along and perch above you without any security gear whatsoever. His main job is to guide the parachute and help you to land safely. They generally expect a tip for a good landing, but it's totally up to you. Please bear in mind that it's unlikely that your travel insurance company will cover you if anything goes wrong.

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    Windsurfing in Phuket

    Of the 16 beaches on the west coast of Phuket, at least 8 offer windsurfing facilities. Patong, the most developed of these, has several windsurfing shops along the beach, with lessons available for beginners. The quality of equipment and instruction varies a lot and is usually better at the big hotels.

    Phuket is a decent destination both for confirmed windsurfing enthusiasts and for people who want to try it for the first time. During the November–May northeast monsoon season, in particular, steady winds combine with flat, clean, clear seas and superb scenery to make this an intensely rewarding experience. The peak season for windsurfing in Phuket is November–February.

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    Hobie Cat sailing

    Learning to sail is a fun and relatively easy activity available in Phuket. Beach operators on all of the major beaches rent out small catamarans and dinghies, though they are most prominent towards the northern end of Kamala Beach.

    The November–May northeast monsoon season provides steady winds and flat seas, making for the best time to give sailing a try. The peak season for winds is November–February.

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    30 Minutes to Escape

    Great for families and groups of friends, 30 Minutes to Escape features 2 themed rooms to choose from, each with their own set of clues and puzzles that you must decipher in less than 30 minutes in order to win. The live-action game is filled with excitement and is a great way to engage in team-building and puzzle-solving.

    Location: 3rd Floor, Jungceylon Shopping Centre, 187/1-4 Rat-U-Thit Songroipi Rd, Patong, Kathu, Phuket 83150, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 11am to 10pm

    Phone: +66 (0)63 081 5992

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    Jungle Bungy Jump offers one of the most thrilling and challenging activities in Phuket: a 50-metre plunge above a jungle-surrounded lake. Managed and run by a professional New Zealand team, Jungle Bungy Jump is fully licensed and insured for this activity in Thailand. The entire operation is overseen by S.A.N.Z. (Standard Association of New Zealand) with whom jump masters are registered.

    The setting of Jungle Bungy Jump in Phuket is superb and inspiring: a small green lake in the middle of luxurious vegetation. On the side of the pond stand 3 bungalows: the office/front-desk/terrace, a small bar, and the area where jumpers are fitted out and equipped. Right behind the equipping area, a 50-metre tall crane overlooks the greenish waters of the lagoon.

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    Location: 61/3 Wichitsongkram, Kathu, Phuket 83120, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 9am to 6pm

    Phone: +66 (0)76 321 351

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    Football Crazy Golf Phuket is a fun mix of football and golf. Set on a 6,400-square-metre field, it offers an 18-hole, 69-par course. Fun for the whole family, this sport does not require any specific skill. As the manager of the place says, "Often, girls beat their boyfriend as they do not want to show off and are just cautious."

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    Location: 46/417 Moo 6, Prabaramee Rd, Kathu, Phuket 83120, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 9am to 7pm

    Phone: +66 (0)88 665 6414

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    Patong Go-Kart Speedway is a fun recreational racetrack at the base of Patong Hill in Phuket. The race track is 750 metres long with a series of sharp curves, smooth bends, and a long straight start/finish lane allowing acceleration. The main building, located in the centre of the track, has a front desk, bar-restaurant, and garage. It’s where you can watch the karts racing around.

    Opened in 1991, Patong Go-Kart Speedway Phuket is handled by a professional and dedicated Thai team. Anyone with a passion for motor racing should definitely check out this place.

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    Location: 118/5 Moo 7, Wichitsongkram Rd, Kathu, Phuket, 83120, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 10am to 7pm

    Phone: +66 (0)76 321 949

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    Hanuman World Phuket is an exciting but safe treetop ziplining adventure just west of Phuket Town. With 16 thrilling lines up to 400 metres in length, dodging between huge and ancient trees in dense hillside jungle, it is a great way for families and thrill-seekers to get close to nature without risking either your own safety or that of the trees around you.

    Just south of Prince of Songkla University in Phuket Town, the large adventure park also features a skywalk, allowing you to explore the forest canopy at a more sedate pace. The walk leads to a large platform with a trampoline-like sunlounger and a bar serving local fruits and juices. A ‘roller zipline’ also traverses the whole park at high speed in one long, twisting line.

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    Location: 105 Moo 4, Chao Fah Road, Wichit, Muang, Phuket 83000, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 8am to 5pm

    Phone: +66 (0)62 979 5533

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    Phuket Adventure Mini Golf

    Phuket Adventure Mini Golf is a classic 18-hole miniature golf course set in a beautifully landscaped garden near the southern end of Bangtao Beach. It's a great activity for the whole family after a long day at the beach, as the best time to play is after 5pm, when things cool down a bit.

    Phuket Adventure Mini Golf also hosts a restaurant named Off Course – a cool venue at which mini-golfers can sample Thai and international favourites (there’s even a children’s menu), enjoy a game of pool, or simply relax, sipping a cocktail while talking about the game with friends.

    Location: 72/44 Moo 3, Cherngtalay, Thalang, Phuket 83110, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 11am to 11pm

    Phone: +66 (0)76 314 345

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    Phuket Racing Kart is popular among groups of friends and families visiting Chalong who are simply looking for some thrills and even an adrenaline rush. You can have fun and get competitive as you challenge your travel mates on a race around the large 700-metre track. See who can keep their ‘fast cars’ under control and be the first to complete the circuit. There are plenty of twists and turns to test your skills.

    The electronic transponder-based system for tracking lap times is ideal for comparing your lap times. You will be shown how to operate the karts and be given a safety briefing before you get behind the wheel. Helmets are provided.

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    Location: 82/25 Patak Rd, Rawai, Muang, Phuket 83130, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 9am to 6pm

    Phone: +66 (0)76 280 130

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    Located on the Bypass Road on the northern outskirts of Phuket Town, Baan Teelanka features no less than 3 exciting attractions/activities to entertain the whole family. Baan Teelanka itself is a 3-storey house built leaning on its roof. It's adorned with a maze-shaped garden in its backyard (not so great for rainy days, obviously). The Chamber of Secrets is the third activity that could be enjoyed here, with 2 rooms from which visitors have to escape by finding clues and solving puzzles to open the doors.

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    Location: 51/11 Moo 5, Chalermprakiat Ratchakan Thi 9 Road, Rassada, Muang, Phuket 83000

    Open: Daily from 9.05am to 6.15pm

    Phone: +66 (0)84 456 5279

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    Bangla Boxing Stadium is a prominent Muay Thai arena in Patong Beach. The stadium is hard to miss: it’s a large 2-storey building with a first floor made of beige stone-like sculpted cement and features a selection of seafood restaurants. The second floor is an amphitheatre surrounding the boxing ring. At the front of the building, you can spot large statues representing Thai boxers.

    At first, the fancy aspect of the place could make you think that it’s just another tourist trap only featuring well-choreographed Muay Thai fights. But no, this is real Thai Boxing and the contestants are real champions fighting for prizes, titles and to improve their rank on the Thai Boxing scene. Fights are organised 3 times a week on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

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    Location: 150-55 Phang-Muang-Sai Kor, Patong, Kathu, Phuket 83150, Thailand

    Open: Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays from 9pm to midnight

    Phone: +66 (0)64 061 5050

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    photo by Karelj (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    Phuket has a large population of Chinese residents, who descended from immigrants from southern China a few centuries ago. Their rich culture and traditions are evident in quaint Chinese temples and shrines around the island, as well as the annual Vegetarian Festival.

    Their religion is predominantly a mixture of Buddhism, Chinese and Taoism. Red and yellow are considered lucky colours, while animals like dragons, lions and monkeys are important symbols. Phuket's Chinese shrines and temples are must-visits if you want to experience the local culture.

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    Chalong Bay Rum Distillery

    The Chalong Bay Rum Distillery was established by Thibault Spithakis and Marine Lucchini, 2 young French entrepreneurs. The first priority of the company is the production of a high-end quality white rum which has already started to gain international recognition in the spirits’ professional community.

    Chalong Bay Rum’s second facet is to organise visits of their distillery, allowing visitors to learn more about rum production and to discover the ‘backstage area’ of a successful business. The third and last facet of Chalong Bay Rum is their cocktail workshop and bar, where you can learn how to mix rum-based beverages such as Mojitos and a Ti'Punch, and then sample them. Private parties and special events can also be organised at Chalong Bay Rum.

    Location: 14/2 Moo 2, Soi Pa Lai 2, Chalong, Muang, Phuket 83130, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 11am to 11pm

    Phone: +66 (0)93 575 1119

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    Dino Park Mini golf is great fun for the whole family. Fire-breathing dragons, an active volcano, T-Rex and Brontosaurus replicas and eerie jungle sounds make for an exciting round of mini-golf! The Jurassic-themed restaurant and bar are perfect for a post-game drink or meal, too. Watch out for the hungry elephant.

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    Location: 47 Karon Road, Karon, Muang, Phuket 83100, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 10am to 11pm

    Phone: +66 (0)76 330 625

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    Khao Phra Thaeo Non-Hunting Area

    Located in the northern part of Phuket, Khao Phra Thaeo National Park is the island's last significant virgin rainforest. You can spend a morning taking a leisurely walk up by Tonsai Waterfall. There's also an 8-km trail right through the park from Bang Pae Waterfall to Tonsai.

    It's a good idea to hire a guide to explore the national park. Most of the forest's wildlife tends to stay out of sight, but your guide should be able to point out the telltale sounds of all sorts of animals. A small museum and information centre is located near the bottom of the waterfall.

    Location: Thep Krasattri, Thalang, Phuket 83110, Thailand

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    There's a saying that if you really want to get to know a country, you should visit its local markets. You can soak up a whole lot of local flavour just by walking around the local market. Thai fresh markets are cornucopias of colourful fruit and vegetables, snacks and meals, chunks of red or green curry, dried foods, unrecognisable merchandise, dodgy DVDs, bright-coloured T-shirts, jeans, hair accessories, handicrafts, secondhand shoes, name-brand copies and more.

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    Loma Park

    Loma Park, located at the north end of Patong Beach, offers a quiet spot for those looking to relax in the shade. Surrounded by local food stalls, this public playground spans around 14,000 square metres. Many festival events take place at the park year-round. It's a popular park for local families in the afternoons, as its children's recreation zone has many toboggans and swings.

    Location: 186, 15 Thawewong Rd, Patong, Kathu, Phuket 83150, Thailand

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    Images of mangrove forests rarely appear in material advertising the delights of Phuket. The short trees growing in the mud along the shore lack majesty and don’t have flowers worth talking about. But they are a crucial part of Phuket’s tropical and coastal ecology. They provide important nurseries for fish and crustaceans are remain a truly wild part of the island.

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    Toe Sae Hill is a picturesque peak in Phuket Town that everyone calls Monkey Hill. The reason why becomes fairly obvious after a few hundred metres when you come across a troupe of macaques munching away on fruit brought to them by locals. These macaques are not aggressive, but care should still be taken if you are with small children.

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    Location: Rassada, Muang, Phuket 83000, Thailand

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    Paradise Complex

    In the Paradise Complex in Patong, about half of the businesses there are run by or cater specifically to gay travellers. Many are small bars (in some cases with a cabaret show) but there are also guesthouses, massage spas, restaurants, and even travel agencies in the small but lively square. They all sit in the shadow of the Royal Paradise Hotel & Spa, which gives the square its name and sets the inclusive, welcoming tone.

    Location: Paradise Complex, Rat-U-Thit Songroipi Rd, Patong, Kathu, Phuket 83150, Thailand

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    Patong Boxing Stadium on Sainamyen Road is the real deal when it comes the Muay Thai boxing bouts. The stadium has quite an intense atmosphere, particularly as it's the one that's more popular with local sports fans. It's might even be their relatives in the ring, so be careful who you cheer for!

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    Location: 2/59 Sainamyen Rd, Patong, Kathu, Phuket 83150, Thailand

    Open: Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 9pm to late

    Phone: +66 (0)81 737 7193

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    Thai cooking classes in Phuket offer both a fun activity and a new skill. Do you love the exotic flavours of Thai food? Want to learn the secrets of authentic Thai cooking? Courses available in Phuket range from simple introductions that give you a taste of the basics of Thai cooking all the way to intensive classes that can turn you into a master chef.

    The knowledge of Thai cooking is a souvenir that will last your entire life and enable you to re-live your Phuket holiday on the rainiest of days. Thai cooking courses are taught by highly experienced and well-regarded Thai chefs who can teach you about ingredients, techniques and the all-important balance of flavours.

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    For an afternoon of fun learning about what you eat and what might eat you, the Phuket Aquarium is required viewing. Home to thousands of tropical, colourful and exotic marine creatures, the aquarium is a hit with youngsters who may not have come this close with such unusual sea life before.

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    Location: 51 Moo 8, Sakdidet Rd, Muang, Phuket 83000, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 8.30am to 4.30pm

    Phone: +66 (0)76 391 126

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    Zorbing at Rollerball is a fun and unique outdoor activity for the whole family in Phuket. Opened in 2012 and located on the hills overlooking Kalim Beach, participants at Zorbing at Rollerball descend a 190-metre track (one of the longest downhill tracks in the world) inside a flexible plastic ball that's 3 metres in diameter.

    'Hill rolling' (the official name of this activity) was invented in New Zealand by David and Andrew Akers. This recreational activity is known under several different names around the world: zorbing, globe-riding, sphereing, orbing... Phuket’s version enjoys superb views over Patong Bay as well as tons of exhilarating fun.

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    Location: Kalim Soi 7, Patong, Kathu, Phuket 83150, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 10am to 6pm

    Phone: +66 (0)89 872 6532

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    Siam Niramit Phuket is a tastefully done cultural extravaganza that adds variety and vitality to the island’s entertainment scene. Perfectly located just off the bypass in the outskirts of Phuket Town, it is set on prime lakeside land. The show features songs, dance routines and traditional martial arts.

    Just like its sister theatre in Bangkok, Siam Niramit Bangkok, the Phuket show is very well put together by a professional and inspiring team. As an audience, you simply sit back, relax and enjoy the historical perspectives of Thai arts and culture throughout this fantastic 70-minute performance.

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    Location: 55/81 Moo 5, Rassada Road, Muang, Phuket 83000, Thailand

    Open: Wendesday–Monday from 5pm with shows starting at 8.30pm (closed on Tuesdays)

    Phone: +66 (0)7633 5001-2

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    Phuket Trickeye Museum is an interactive 3D painting exhibition offering amazing photo opportunities and great fun for the whole family. Located on the corner of Montri and Phang Nga roads in a large 2-storey building, it features a gallery of about 100 painted and sculpted scenes using trompe-l’oeil (French for ‘deceive the eye’) techniques, placing visitors in hilarious unreal yet lifelike situations.

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    Location: 130/1 Phangnga Rd, Talat Yai, Muang, Phuket 83000, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 10am to 7pm

    Phone: +66 (0)76 212 806

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    Rassada Pier is the main dock for boats and ferries travelling to and from islands off the coast of Phuket, including Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, and Krabi. Located on the west coast of the island, this ferry pier is a little over 4 km southeast of Phuket Town. It's an hour-long drive to reach Rassada Pier from Phuket International Airport.

    Rassada Pier is busiest in the morning, with hundreds of day-trippers heading for Phang Nga Bay. You'll find private yachts, speedboats, and ferries offering transfers to surrounding islands. The first ferries usually leave for Krabi and Koh Lanta at 8am. If you want to stock up on snacks before your trip, there are a couple of food stalls and a snack shop close to the pier.

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    Location: Ratsada, Muang, Phuket 83000, Thailand

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    Royal Phuket Marina (RPM) is Thailand's first world-class luxury lifestyle marina and stands on over 30 hectares of prime land, right next to Phuket Boat Lagoon in Koh Kaew. With 350 berths for yachts of up to 35 metres long and 400 luxury waterfront villas, penthouses and condominiums, the marina ranks among Asia's premier boating hubs.

    It's Asia's most sophisticated and high-tech yachting infrastructure and the island's only marina with a boat lock, non-tidal deepwater basin and private moorings on the doorstep of residences. More than half of Royal Phuket Marina is devoted to leisure and shopping facilities set amid landscaped parks and gardens.

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    Location: 68 Thepkasattri Rd, Koh Kaew, Muang, Phuket 83000, Thailand

    Phone: +66 (0)76 360 811

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    Saphan Hin is a large, multipurpose park with fitness centres, a stadium, jogging trails, a software development centre, restaurants and food stalls, and a mangrove walkway. Located at the south end of Phuket Road, the park often hosts festivals and fairs throughout the year. Muay Thai kickboxing matches take place at the stadium on Friday evenings. You'll often see families enjoying picnics on the pebbled shore of Phuket Bay.

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    Location: Wichit, Muang, Phuket 83000, Thailand

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    Sea gypsies village

    It is hard to separate the sea gypsies and Rawai from each other. They have been settled in Rawai since way back – on the seafront, to the left of the pier. Most are fishing for a living but a few work as island tour guides or run small stands selling seashell souvenirs. Every day, in the early afternoon, they bring the fresh catch of the day to the Rawai fish market, where you can buy them to be prepared at restaurants just over the road.

    Location: Wiset Road, Rawai Beach, Rawai, Phuket 83130, Thailand

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    The Boat Lagoon Phuket, next to Royal Phuket Marina in Koh Kaew, was the island's first marina complex. It's surrounded by a group of condominiums, the Boat Lagoon Resort, serviced apartments and restaurants, shops and offices. Short- and long-term accommodation is available overlooking the marina.

    It has been fully operational since 1994. This circular, 180-berth lagoon was originally a tidal flat at the head of a shallow, meandering creek, Klong Tha Rua.

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    Location: 22/1 Moo 2 Thepkasattri Rd, Koh Kaew, Muang, Phuket 83000, Thailand

    Phone: +66 (0)76 239 888

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    Simon Star ladyboy cabaret show in Samkong, Phuket is definitely for everyone including families, couples and all-girl-get-together events. Some people come to see the transgender and transvestite show out of curiosity but many are simply looking for nothing but a fun night out. Either way, the Simon Star Show delivers.

    The cabaret show is very entertaining and is put together by a professional team. Without good training, there’s no way that these performers could dance, sing and carry on for over an hour on a nightly basis, usually on very high heels – and still keep a broad smile on their face.

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    Location: 52/11 Moo 6, Rassada, Muang, Phuket 83100, Thailand

    Open: Daily at 5pm, 6.30pm and 8pm

    Phone: +66 (0)76 523 192

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    Sirinat National Park

    Sirinat National Park covers an area of 90 sq km, from west of Phuket International Airport to the island's northern tip. Nai Yang, Nai Thon and Mai Khao beaches are part of this national park. There's a mangrove forest at its northern end, where saltwater swamps support unique ecosystems. A nature trail and 800-metre wooden walkway have signs indicating and explaining the various species of plants and animals.

    Location: 89/1 Moo 1, Sakhu, Thalang, Phuket 83140, Thailand

    Open: Daily

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    Splash Jungle Water Park in Mai Khao Beach is unrivalled in southern Thailand when it comes to wet and wild thrills. A great day out, particularly for children, it's home to 12 exhilarating waterslides, rides and attractions, with professional lifeguards on standby to make sure that you have fun and safe time.

    The water park is close to Phuket International Airport and guests of the attached hotel get to enjoy all of the fun for free. The ticket prices for outside guests are not too high, meaning that everyone can enjoy the fast-paced thrills and the more easy-going attractions, as well as great food and drinks in the first-class facilities.

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    Location: 65 Soi Mai Khao 4, Mai Khao, Thalang, Phuket 83110, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 10am to 5.45pm

    Phone: +66 (0)76 372 111

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    Phuket Shooting Range is the biggest attractions and activities complex in Phuket. Founded in 1989, it offers a surprisingly wide range of fun and exciting things to do. These include a shooting range, a go-kart racing track, a snake farm and show, a paintball and airsoft (BB gun) skirmish field, an archery range and ATV rides, among others.

    All these activities are located in a huge park (approx 150,000 sq m) situated some 700 metres from the Chalong Circle, on the road to Kata Beach. Drinks and snacks are available at most of the Phuket Shooting Range activities and there's an onsite café.

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    Location: 165 Patak Rd, Rawai, Muang, Phuket 83000, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 9am to 6pm

    Phone: +66 (0)76 381 667

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    Phuket has quite a long and fascinating history, which is represented and retold in the various museums dotted around the island. Highlights from the past include successfully repelling a Burmese invasion and the tin mining boom that brought in waves of immigrants from China, completely reshaping the island's culture and landscape. Sea gipsies also played their part in the formation of modern Phuket. Catch up on local history at Phuket's fascinating museums.

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    Waterfalls in Phuket give you an excellent opportunity to get back to nature and enjoy some serene, scenic surroundings. They're particularly popular with locals, who visit at the weekends to cool down in the freshwater and enjoy a picnic in the shade.

    There isn't a huge selection available in Phuket and they're not amazingly dramatic falls, but they are still worth a visit. You'll find them dotted around the island in the more rural, undeveloped areas.

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    Heroines Monument at the roundabout on Thepkasattri Road in Thalang is one of the top cultural landmarks on the island. The inspiring story of how brave Lady Chan and Lady Mook led the locals, of whom many were women, to fight against Burmese intruders and won a battle more than 2 centuries ago still has a strong impact on the psyche of local islanders. In fact, for many Thais, the story is in the same vein as the tale of Joan of Arc.

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    Location: Si Sunthon, Thalang, Phuket 83110, Thailand

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    Suriyadate Fountain

    Suriyadate Fountain at the western end of Rassada Road stands at a traffic circle with what looks like large green guns mounted on it. The water-spouting 'guns' are in fact what used to be extremely powerful water cannons that blasted topsoil and rocks away in the tin mining process. Tin mining was a big part of Phuket's history.

    Location: Rassada Rd, Talat Nuea, Muang, Phuket 83000, Thailand

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    Stephan Audiger | Compulsive Traveller

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