Phuket’s popular party beaches can lend the island an air of persistently frenetic activity. Step off the beaten tourist trail, however, and you’ll soon discover there are plenty of ways to unwind in Phuket.
1. Wat Srisoonthorn
There are more than 40 Buddhist temples scattered over the island, meaning the opportunity to reflect is never far away. Wat Srisoonthorn is one of the more hidden temples, despite the giant Buddha reclining peacefully out the front. The manicured gardens and well-maintained buildings give this temple a genteel air, however it’s the oft-forgotten statue of Buddha which makes Wat Srisoonthorn well worth a visit.
2. Radar Hill
It’s called Khao Mai Thao Sip Song in Thai, but either way Radar Hill remains firmly off the beaten path for most locals and visitors alike. This rugged 500-metre tall hill boasts stunning views over Patong and beyond, with sunsets particularly spectacular from this lofty vantage point. So named for the military radar installed on its peak, it’s not possible to drive all the way to the top, but well worth the trip nonetheless.
3. Phang Nga Bay
One of Phuket’s most picturesque backdrops looms out of Phang Nga Bay like a colossal collection of randomly scattered stones. The eye-catching karsts which jut out of the blue-green waters of the bay are one of the island’s most spectacular sights, while the bay’s limestone cliffs and caves are best explored by paddling a sea kayak through the gentle waters of what is a truly remarkable location.
4. Cense by Spa Cenvaree
It might be said that spa resorts are a dime a dozen in Phuket, however Cense by Spa Cenvaree offers a different kind of experience. A stand-alone spa situated on 160,000 square metres of vast woodland, this dedicated spa village is designed to ensure maximum relaxation. Boasting 38 single, 22 double and four VIP treatment rooms, this popular day spa has been designed with efficiency in mind.
5. Old Phuket Town
Often overlooked by visitors, the island’s bustling administrative centre Phuket City features some hidden treasures of its own. Foremost among them is Old Phuket Town, boasting more than a hundred years of history reflected in its sprawling Sino-Portuguese mansions. Take a relaxing stroll around town to admire the five distinctive 'sois' – or small side-streets – which form the core the Old Town.
6. Bang Pae Seafood Restaurant
When it comes to seafood, do as the locals do and head straight for Bang Pae Seafood Restaurant. Far removed from the tourist haunts of Patong, its distant location in Thalang helps this mangrove-covered seaside shack retain a distinctly secluded air. It’s not just the views or the laidback vibe which impresses, but also the sumptuous spread of seafood served up in the most relaxed of tropical surrounds.
7. Wat Kao Rang
Phuket boasts not one sitting Buddha statue, but two. The famous white marble statue, known as Phuket Big Buddha, is one of the island’s most famous attractions. Wat Kao Rang is less renowned but no less impressive, with the golden statue of a sitting Buddha pre-dating its better known counterpart. The lack of crowds makes Wat Kao Rang one of Phuket’s more relaxing temples, with this old Phuket City favourite an ideal place for reflection.
8. Phi Phi Islands
Though technically separate from Phuket, the Phi Phi Islands are a metaphorical stone’s throw from the island. A scattering of six tropical islands reached either by ferry or private speedboat, Phi Phi boasts some of Thailand’s most sublime beaches, with the islands experiencing a surge in popularity after featuring as the backdrop for Hollywood blockbuster, “The Beach”.
9. Cape Phromthep
Quite possibly the most photographed pocket of Phuket, Cape Phormthep is the island’s southernmost point and is famous for its dramatic, light-filled sunsets. Though it can be crowded come dusk, Cape Phromthep rewards intrepid visitors with spectacular colour-drenched vistas, as well as boasting a superb seaside restaurant – perfect for relaxing in once the crowds disperse.
10. Laem Ka Beach
Phuket’s beaches are world renowned, with the most popular attracting hordes of sun-loving tourists to their picturesque golden sands. Some are crowded with visitors year round, but others like Laem Ka Beach remain secluded, well-kept secrets exuding a decidedly chilled-out charm. Hidden from view but not lacking in amenities, Laem Ka Beach boasts the usual assortment of friendly vendors but is blissfully free of the crowds.
Words by Mike Tuckerman