For most visitors to Phuket, boat tours are high up on their to-do lists, and for good reason. The crystal clear waters and dramatic islands in the area present excellent opportunities for day tripping, and many tour boats stop for beach playtime and snorkeling. Some of the more popular boat tour destinations include Koh Phi Phi Island, Phi Phi Ley and beautiful Maya Bay, Koh Yung Island (also known as Mosquito Island), James Bond Island, and Bamboo Island. Tours vary in price depending on the boat company, the destination, and the length of trip. For a full-day boat trip with snorkeling equipment and lunch provided, budget 2,200 Baht to 3,500 Baht (about US$73 to $115) per adult (a child’s fare is usually less). Phuket Sail Tours and Charter Yachts Phuket are two of the best-known tour boat companies in Phuket, and both offer a wide variety of boat tour options.
Kok Chang Elephant Trekking Safari offers 20-minute to one-hour elephant treks through the tropical jungle near Kata Noi Bay. Many routes have scenic views of the bay and surrounding areas, but for most visitors, the chance to ride on an elephant’s back and interact with these magnificent creatures is the reason they choose this adventure. Treks range in price from 600 to 1,000 Baht (about US$20 to $33) per person, and children ages 4 through 11 are half price. Children under 4 ride for free. The Safari offers free transportation to and from many Phuket hotels and is open from 8:30 AM till 4:30 PM.
Scuba diving and snorkeling are two of the most popular activities in the clear tropical waters surrounding Phuket. Most local dive shops offer certification training for new divers, as well as tanks, equipment, and tours for experienced divers. The waters and reefs around Phuket teem with colorful sea life; it’s not unusual to see rays, sea horses, and sharks in addition to the large schools of brightly-colored fish. Many of the dive operators offer sightseeing trips as well as kayaks. As with boat tours, prices for scuba diving vary considerably depending on the length of the trip, the destination, and what equipment is needed. Phuket Pro Dive charges between 3,000 Baht and 5,600 Baht (about US$99 to $185) depending on the number of dives and the destination; The Phuket Scuba Club’s rates are 2,900 Baht to 3,600 Baht (about US$96 to $119).
Horseback riding at the Phuket Riding Club lets guests sign on for a one or two hour guided horseback tour through a rubber plantation and along Chalong Beach. Riding attire is available for visitors who neglected to pack theirs. Rates range from 800 Baht (US$26) for the one hour jungle tour to 1,500 Baht (US$50) for the two hour beach tour. Lessons are also available at the rate of 300 Baht (US$10) per hour. Operating hours are from 7:00 AM till 6:30 PM.
Kayaking tours are provided by many companies; canoes are also readily available. No experience is necessary, and the guides provide basic paddling and safety instruction prior to the outing. Prices vary according to the company, the length of the trip, and the time of year. Paddle Asia, one of the better-known kayak tour companies, offers a one-day Phang Nga Bay tour for US$138 per person. Rock and Row Thailand charges 2,450 Baht (about US$81) per person for their Phuket Coastal kayak tour.
Phuket FantaSea is a cultural theme park featuring shows, dining, shopping, and other experiences; everything is tied to Thai culture and Thai traditions. The highlight of Phuket FantaSea, an elaborate Las-Vegas style show, encompasses human and animal performers, magic, pyrotechnics, music, and other special effects. One of the two on-site restaurants, the Golden Kinaree Buffet, is the largest restaurant in Asia, featuring an assortment of Thai and other International cuisines. Phuket FantaSea is open daily except Thursday from 4:30 PM till 11:30 PM. Ticket prices are 1,900 Baht (about US$63) for the show and dinner, 1,500 Baht (about US$50) for the show alone, and 600 Baht (child price) to 800 Baht (adult price) for the buffet dinner only.
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Phuket Simon Cabaret, a colorful and extravagant nightly show, features a cast of talented “Ladyboys,” or transvestites. Performances are at 7:30 PM and 9:30 PM nightly; the admission price is 550 Baht (about US$18). Many patrons enjoy taking photos of the Ladyboys at the show’s end.
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The Phuket Aquarium showcases a variety of local sea life as a part of the Phuket Marine Biological Center (PMBC). Located on the southern tip of Phuket, the aquarium is open from 8:30 AM till 4:30 PM, with the last admission at 4:00 PM. Admission charges for foreigners are 100 Baht (about US$3) for adults and 50 Baht (about US$0.65) for children; children under 108 cm. in height are admitted free.
Golfing in Phuket offers challenging courses with breath-taking scenery and views. Two well-known courses are the Red Mountain Golf Resort and the Blue Canyon Country Club; the Red Mountain Golf Resort covers the geography of an old tin mine, and red rock lines the fairways. Caddies and carts are required here, and greens fees run 5,500 Baht (about US$181). Rental clubs are also available for 1,500 Baht (about US$50). At the Blue Canyon Country Club, golfers can choose either the Canyon Course or the Lakes Course; greens fees are approximately 6,500 Baht (about US$214) and caddies are compulsory. Carts are permitted on the Lakes Course.
Recreational golfers and children may prefer the Dino Park Mini Golf at the Marina Phuket Resort in Karon Beach; each hole features scale replicas of a variety of dinosaurs. The Dino Park Mini Golf also offers a restaurant and bar; hours are from 10 AM till midnight. Rates run approximately 240 Baht (US$8) for adult players, and there are discounts for children.
Cooking schools in Phuket provide an unusual experience not readily available in other destinations; the two most well-known are the Phuket Thai Cookery School and Pum’s Cooking School. Guests enjoy learning to cook Thai specialties such as Pad Thai, Tom kha gai, papaya salad, and penang curry, and then the second fun part begins as everyone enjoys eating the results of their work. Some classes include shopping trips to local markets to obtain ingredients for the class. Prices and times of classes vary; many cooking classes run about 1,000 Baht (about US$33) per student.
Spa experiences are an essential part of any visit to Phuket. Most hotels and resorts feature their own spas, but many visitors choose to visit one of the many day spas in the area. Prices for spa services vary widely depending on the nature of the service and the exclusivity of the spa. Sukko Spa, rated as one of Asia’s top spas, charges 1,300 Baht (about US$42) for a one-hour Thai massage; many other spas charge less, and many charge more, as well. Hours vary depending on the spa.
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Bangla Road, with the liveliest nightlife in Phuket, is a love-it or hate-it attraction. From the hundreds of Beer Bars, Discos, and Go-Go Bars to the assertive Bar Girls and Ladyboys (transvestites), just walking down the road is a show in and of itself. Soi Tiger, Seduction, Devil’s Playground, and Hollywood Disco are some of the more famous bars in the Bangla Road area; prices and hours vary considerably.
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Gibbon Rehabilitation Center is home to over 60 gibbons; most were victims of poachers or were forced into performing shows, drinking beer, or having their picture taken with tourists. Since their rescue by the Wild Animal Rescue Foundation of Thailand, these gibbons are slowly being rehabilitated, with the ultimate goal that they can someday live in the wild. Visitors can see the gibbons from a distance in the trees and hear their vocalizations to each other. Entrance is free, but donations are accepted, and the operating hours are from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM daily.
Wat Chalong, Phuket’s most significant Buddhist temple, is one of the largest and most ornate of the 29 Buddhist temples on the island. Open from 7:00 AM till 5:00 PM, Wat Chalong has a number of buildings to explore. The original portion was built between 1809 and 1842; a fragment of bone from Buddha is housed here. Some buildings require visitors to remove their shoes before entering.
The many beaches of Phuket beckon visitors with their white sand and turquoise-green waters; everyone has their favorite, so it is difficult to pick the best beaches. For some, Kata Noi Beach is the top pick, while others argue that Nai Thon beach, Nai Harn Beach, or Karon Beach deserve the title of the best beach. Laem Sing and Kamala are often mentioned as favorite beaches, as well. For many visitors, proximity to their hotel is a factor in selecting which beach to visit. Sunbeds are provided by local resorts and hotels but are generally only for the paying guests of these establishments, so if you visit another beach, bring your own towels and beach chairs.
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