All Articles What to do in Phuket beyond the beaches

What to do in Phuket beyond the beaches

From rum tastings to jungle ziplines.

Michelle Neo
By Michelle Neo15 Apr 2024 3 minutes read
Sino Portuguese Colourful and decorative house in Old Phuket Town Phuket thailand
Phuket Old Town
Image: Getty Images

With long stretches of golden sands and crystal-clear waters, Phuket makes a wondrous island getaway. I’ll admit—it’s easy to get caught up in the slow beach life. But if the idea of spending your entire vacation doing nothing makes you restless, then take a step back from the beach and get out there. And by out there, I mean into Phuket’s lush jungles and unique cultural attractions.

Having been to Phuket a few times (perks of living just two hours away), I’ve roamed most of the island and found some amazing things to do in Phuket that don’t involve the sand or sea. Surprises are everywhere on this island, from ATV safaris to restaurants that earned the Michelin Bib Gourmand award. So give these recs a shot—you might just find a new favorite that’s free of sunburns.

Catch a mesmerizing cultural show

Performers on stage
Siam Niramit
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

Siam Niramit is my favorite non-beach activity in Phuket for many reasons. The 80-minute performance is a brilliant showcase of Thai culture, featuring extravagant sets and talented dancers in stunning, colorful costumes. I also love how there are plenty of pre-show activities to keep the whole crew entertained. Carve out an hour to explore the massive on-site Thai village, filled with traditional games to play and free treats to sample. Don’t miss the buffet dinner too—you’ll be spoiled with a wide array of Western, Indian, and classic Thai eats.

Tip: Before the main show commences, remember to stand up during the Thai national anthem as a sign of respect.

Fly high among the trees

Man ziplining above the trees
Group walking down steps through forest
Flying Hanuman
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

Named after Hanuman, the flying Hindu Monkey God, this family-friendly zipline adventure will send you soaring through the island’s dense forests. I highly recommend Flying Hanuman’s “FH1” package. Over three hours, you’ll experience all the good stuff—trekking through the wilderness, abseiling down 130-foot trees, and soaking up gorgeous views of Phuket Town. There are also sky bridges, but be warned: Your cheeky guides will sometimes bounce on them as you cross to amp up the thrills. Lunch is also included so you can refuel right after the adrenaline rush.

Tip: For time-pressed travelers, go for the hour-long “FH2” package. It makes a fantastic last-minute activity, provided you book at least four hours in advance.

Sip and savor Phuket’s local rum

Group cheers with cocktails
Chalong Bay Distillery
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

I bet you didn’t know this island has its own working distillery, but like I said: Phuket is full of surprises. Founded in 2012 by a French couple, the Chalong Bay Distillery produces handcrafted rum from natural Thai sugarcane using a centuries-old technique. Go behind the scenes on a guided tour, which includes a smooth mojito tasting. But if you’re a true rum enthusiast, the cocktail workshop is a must. Over a couple of hours, you’ll explore the distillery, enjoy a full-fledged tasting session, and learn to whip up three cocktails. Try visiting between January and March, when you can catch a glimpse of the staff harvesting sugarcane to make the rum.

Tip: If you plan to bring home a few bottles, buy them directly at the distillery as they’re much cheaper than buying from duty-free.

Tuck into traditional Michelin eats

Popular dishes from One Chun Cafe and Restaurant
One Chun Cafe and Restaurant
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

Nestled in a shophouse in Phuket Old Town, One Chun Cafe and Restaurant (a Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant) is famed for two things: great, affordable food and old-world charm. The rustic interior is decked with a flurry of vintage antiques, from alarm clocks to radios and TVs. The go-to order is the signature crab curry with vermicelli, packed with heaps of flavor and spice. Other dishes worth trying are the slow-braised pork belly and pad thai.

Tip: One Chun is popular with both locals and travelers, so call ahead at least a day in advance to make a reservation. If you aren’t able to secure a seat, there’s a comfy waiting area where you can hide from the tropical heat.

Meet the Big Buddha in style

Big Buddha
ATVs with Big Buddha in the distance
Big Buddha and ATVs
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

You’re bound to check out Phuket’s Big Buddha at some point, so why not do it with an action-packed twist? Hop on a powerful ATV and cruise through dirt trails up to the iconic monument, where amazing views await. You don’t need a driver’s license to operate these bikes, and each group is limited to 10 travelers for a more intimate experience. The tour guides also don’t charge for photos, so you’ll have many pics and videos to remember your adventure.

Tip: Sign up for the morning experience so you won’t get caught in the tiring afternoon sun at the Big Buddha.

Michelle Neo
Michelle (or Mich, as she prefers) aspires to eat every type of bread in the world, cuddle friendly dogs, and find rocks to climb—in no specific order.