Kyle is the writer behind The Travel Runner. He’s a full-time traveler and adventurer who’s visited over 20 countries, including places like Thailand, Mexico, Vietnam, and Albania. He prefers a slower pace to his travels to explore destinations more in-depth and to get a feel for what life is actually like there. When he’s not writing, he’s usually off exploring trails with his fiancée, Kaitlyn.
Discover 12 non-touristy things to do in Phuket, Thailand. Escape the usual tourist route and find local attractions, street food, and lesser-known beaches.
Are you planning a trip to Phuket but want to avoid the crowds and tourist traps?
You’ve come to the right place. After living in Phuket for three years, I fell into my share of tourist traps. And I don’t want you to do the same. I’d much rather you find Phuket’s best-kept secrets.
Most people know Phuket for its beautiful beaches and popping nightlife. But there’s much more to the island. Explore hidden beaches, local food at small restaurants, and the thick jungle.
Phuket has all the experiences — they just need you.
So, whether you’re looking to get away from the crowds or want the best of Phuket, you’ll find it all here.
Let’s get into it.
- Explore local life in Phuket Old Town
- Head to the lesser-visited beaches
- Hop into some adventurous activities
- Catch sunrise at Samet Nangshe Viewpoint in Phang Nga Bay
- Visit the Soi Dog Foundation
- Take a Muay Thai class
- Visit the Upside Down House
- Test your fitness on The Soi
- Visit Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai
- Visit the Chalong Bay Rum Distillery
- Hike to Big Buddha
- Walk Bangla Road during the day
1. Explore local life in Phuket Old Town
If you want to experience the real Phuket, you need to explore the local life.
This is why I have trouble when people say, “Phuket is so touristy,” or, “There’s no reason to visit Phuket.” It has an amazing local scene — from restaurants to bars to hangout spots. And Phuket Town is the best place for it.
The town is a melting pot of Thai, Chinese, and Portuguese cultures, which makes it unique. Colorful Sino-Portuguese buildings line the streets, taking you back in time. And there are tons of cafes, restaurants, murals, and more for you to spend days exploring.
If you want to experience the best local markets, head to the Talad Yai Market.
The market is open every Sunday and is one of the biggest markets in Phuket. You can find everything from fresh produce to handmade crafts at the market. It’s a great place to shop for souvenirs and experience the local culture.
2. Head to the lesser-visited beaches
Phuket is famous for its stunning beaches.
But while everyone else is flocking to Patong Beach and the nearby Keemala Phuket Resort for Instagram photo ops, you need something off-the-radar and less crowded.
Here are a few of my favorites to skip the crowds:
- Ao Yon Beach: Located on the southeast coast of Phuket, Ao Yon offers an escape from the popular beaches. You’ll find more locals enjoying this beach compared to others.
- Banana Beach: My personal favorite is tucked away on the northwest coast of the island. Towering cliffs and greenery surround Banana Beach, making it feel more secluded. It’s a great place for swimming and snorkeling.
- Ao Sane Beach: Located on the island’s southwest coast, tourists often overlook Ao Sane Beach. Even though it’s right next to Nai Harn, most people don’t visit.
- Laem Singh Beach: Just a bit south of Surin and Thalang, this gorgeous beach rarely has visitors. So it’s the perfect place to get a tan in silence and swim in the Andaman Sea.
3. Hop into some adventurous activities
Phuket has plenty of adrenaline-pumping activities to offer for adventure enthusiasts.
There are plenty of activities to get your heart racing. My personal favorites are hiking in Phuket or exploring the surrounding sea.
One of the most popular adventurous activities in Phuket is hiking. You can take many different routes, ranging from the north of the island to the south. And most trails are clear and covered with other hikers, so you shouldn’t have much risk of getting lost. For some real fun, hike the Manik Trail for sunrise.
If you’re looking for water sports, Phuket doesn’t disappoint.
You can go scuba diving and explore the underwater world of Phuket. There are plenty of diving sites, each with unique marine life and landscapes. You can also go kayaking and explore the mangroves and caves around Phuket.
So, if you’re looking for adventure, Phuket has it.
4. Catch the sunrise at Samet Nangshe Viewpoint in Phang Nga Bay
Sure, this isn’t actually in Phuket.
But it’s well worth the visit at an hour and some change north of the island. You’ll understand once you get to see the sunrise from one of the best viewpoints in the area.
Orange, red, and yellow spread across the valley like a blanket covering a child. Limestone karsts silhouetted against the bright background create one of the most epic sunrises I’ve ever seen. The view only gets better as the sun rises and everything comes into view.
Plus, Samet Nangshe Boutique offers some excellent rooms, so it’s hard to go wrong.
5. Visit the Soi Dog Foundation
The Soi Dog Foundation is a non-profit organization that rescues and cares for stray dogs and cats in Thailand.
So, if you love animals, volunteering at the foundation is a great way to give back to the community and help some animals in need. I personally know people who work at the foundation, and I always admire their work. Taking some time to get to know them and the lovely animals, there is definitely a way to find some of Phuket’s off-the-beaten-path attractions.
The foundation is located in the north of Phuket in Thalang, so you can head there to get involved.
6. Take a Muay Thai class
You don’t need to be a fighter to take a Muay Thai class!
It’s simply a great workout. With the nonstop movement, high kicks, and sparring in that wicked Thai heat, it’s good the sea is never far away.
The island has many excellent gyms, starting with Tiger Muay Thai in Chalong. UFC fighters have trained here, so it’s here if you want one of the best Muay Thai classes. Some other great options are:
- Sumalee Boxing Gym
- Sinbi Muay Thai
- Revolution Muay Thai
And don’t worry if you’re a beginner! I’ve never been in a fight in my life (if you don’t count me getting beat up in fights in junior high and with my brothers 🙃). But the instructors, or Kru in Thai, are patient and ready to help all levels.
If you want a complete list of the best Muay Thai gyms in Phuket, I recommend checking Phuket 101’s list of the best gyms.
7. Visit the Upside Down House
The Upside Down House in Phuket is a unique attraction that is sure to leave an impression.
As the name suggests, the house is completely upside down, with the roof on the ground and the rooms hanging from the ceiling. It’s a fun place to take photos and experience something truly different. Most people wouldn’t even notice it sitting on the side of 4024, a bit north of Phuket Town.
It’s great for a quick stop-off and some funny pictures, but you won’t likely spend long here.
8. Test your fitness on The Soi
“The Soi” is where all of the fitness enthusiasts go.
Located in Chalong, it’s complete with tons of gyms, healthy restaurants, and supplement shops to supply a thriving fitness community. And it’s time for you to join in.
Whether you do a CrossFit workout, dine on some of the best vegetarian food in the area, or buy your new pair of Muay Thai gloves, you should test your fitness. Some of the top gyms on the island are located here, so you can have your pick. You can even mix it up with different activities like Muay Thai and yoga!
Plus, it’s a great place to meet people. From locals to long-time expats, you’ll find a good mix here to make new friends.
9. Visit Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai
Phuket isn’t the only stunning island in the area.
If you’re a fan of luxury, head to Koh Yao Yai and enjoy its beautiful resorts. Santhiya, Koh Yao Yai Village, Anantara — take your pick. You’re not short on options. Or, if you like low-key places with a more rustic feel, visit Koh Yao Noi. Fewer people, a quieter vibe, and the best place simply sit and relax for a few days (or weeks, I don’t judge).
My recommendation? Visit both!
They’re right next to each other, and you feel like you could easily swim to Yao Noi from Laem Haad Beach on Yao Yai. And each one offers a different experience! Get a bit more luxury and things to do on Koh Yao Yai, then head to Yao Noi to wind down your island trip.
Either way, you can’t go wrong with these two islands.
10. Visit the Chalong Bay Rum Distillery
This small, family-run distillery is the perfect place to learn about rum-making and sample some delicious drinks.
Located in the Chalong Bay area, the distillery offers guided tours to take you through every step of the rum-making process. From the sugar cane juice to the distilling process, you’ll get an up-close look at how it’s all done. After the tour, be sure to stick around for a tasting session. You’ll get to sample several varieties of rum, including the signature Chalong Bay Rum that’s made on-site.
Definitely try one of their delicious cocktails, like the Chalong Bay Mojito.
I hadn’t heard of Chalong Bay Rum until my second stint in Phuket, and I’m usually not a liquor fan. But Chalong Bay Rum gets a special exception.
11. Hike to Big Buddha
Everyone visits the famous Buddhist statue during their visit.
How can you not visit the most popular attraction (apart from the beaches)? But that doesn’t mean you have to be like everyone else and take a taxi or simply drive to the top!
Instead, get a nice sweat in while exploring Phuket’s jungles by hiking to Big Buddha. The hike starts in Karon, where you follow a series of signs leading you into the thick jungle. Along the way, you’ll get beautiful views out over the shore’s shallow, clear blue waters, pass an elephant camp, and be the sweatiest one at the top when you arrive!
As you arrive at Big Buddha, you’re greeted with panoramic views out over Chalong and Chalong Bay. Be sure to bring a camera because it’s a stunning view.
When my fiancee and I first moved to Phuket, we were homesick and considering returning home. But this hike changed all of that for us, and we ended up living in Phuket for a total of three years.
So, it’s safe to say I strongly recommend this hike.
If you want more information on the hike, this AllTrails map has a downloadable route for you to follow!
12. Walk Bangla Road during the day
Bangla at night is one of the best spots for partying on the island.
And it’s definitely worth a visit at night to take in the madness in all its glory. But visiting during an earlier time of the day is an interesting experience.
The bars are quiet, only a handful of shops/restaurants are open, and it’s actually peaceful. A stark contrast to how it’ll look once the sun goes down. You may even see some remnants from the previous night’s festivities!
So, if you’re looking for non-touristy things to do, it’s hard to beat visiting the biggest party road when it’s virtually empty.
Which non-touristy things sound best to you?
Phuket is a top tourist destination, but that doesn’t mean you have to stick to the typical tourist activities.
There are plenty of non-touristy activities and off-the-beaten-path attractions to explore. Whether you’re looking for that gorgeous, tranquil Wat (temple) or looking for more adventure, Phuket has something for you.
Now, I’m turning it over to you. What things sounded best to you, and will you visit? And if you have something to add to the list, drop it in the comments below!