After spending two of the best New Years of my life in Phuket, I can’t help but gush about how amazing the place is. This tropical Andaman island is one loved by jet-setting families the world over (some of my best friends have even spoken fondly about their family vacations from way back when they were kiddos), and there are a number of amazing activities, eats and hotels perfect for your clan. Whether you’re meeting the tigers at FantaSea, indulging in a tropical coconut or splashing about in the lush tropical waters, Phuket’s definitely a place to cross off your bucket list, mamas. Get the scoop below!
What to Do
Phuket is absolutely lazy with amazing beaches and, really, the only problem is choosing the best ones to go to! Patong Beach is a favourite with the locals and as such it’s quite busy, though it is by all the fun downtown hubbub. On the other hand, Surin Beach is a much quieter area with a white beach and a gorgeous bay (and easy parking, hallelujah!). For something a little quieter and with great snorkeling, check out Kata Beach on the North end of Phuket.
My personal favourite however? Banana Beach. This practically deserted hidden beach is nothing short of picturesque with lush jungle foliage and intimidating rocks surrounding the secret strip of white sand. It is a bit of an effort to get to, but when we went, we booked a longtail boat that picked us up near our accommodation, took us for a spot of snorkeling first and cruised us to Banana Beach. It was easily my favourite day of the trip.
Known as Phuket’s ultimate cultural theme park, it’s hard to miss this vibrant family-friendly hotspot. Showcasing the best of Thai culture in a number of stage shows, animal encounters and buffets, this experience follows the legendary Prince of Kamala through Thailand’s rich history with no shortage of aerial acrobatics, buffets, magic and elephants to spare. (And give or take a couple of tigers!)
Phuket takes mini golf pretty seriously, mamas! Head on over to Phuket Adventure Mini Golf for some family fun amidst the perfectly manicured landscape, where you’ll see not only other families but even businessmen lining up their next teeny shot. With a covered restaurant at the side perfect for mama to keep an eye on the kiddos while she has a drink, it’s a relatively easy location to get to with a wealth of parking at the side.
Old Phuket Town
This charming little area is a remnant from Phuket’s old tin-mining days and boasts gorgeous Sino-Portugese architecture that make it distinct from the rest of the island. Even just a quick stroll around this town is the perfect cultural break and hot spots to visit are the China Inn Café and Restaurant, Thai Hua Museum and The House of the Beautiful Images coffee shop.
Phi Phi Island
Speaking of a boat cruise, make time for a day trip to Phi Phi Island. This cinematic island features in Hollywood flicks for a reason and I can still vividly remember the sight of its massive cliffs circling around our little boat before revealing a positively lush beach. Loved by tourists everywhere, the waters are crystalline and the laid-back vibe of the place is perfect for the fam to kick up their heels and catch some rays.
This gorgeous temple frequently tops Phuket tourists’ must-see lists and with good reason. Open from 7am-5pm, this Buddhist temple is about 8km south of Phuket City and is the perfect place to learn more about the religion as well as take in some prime architecture. The Grand Pagoda and one of the most important Buddhist statues in the region Poh Than Jao Wat are housed here, along with a detailed mural depicting the life of Buddha spread across the walls. Just remember to dress appropriately, take your shoes off at the entrance and be respectful mamas so as not to disturb those praying here.
What to Eat
I easily ate my weight in Thai food while I was over there, it’s just too good! If you can, be sure to make the most of the amazing seafood – we headed over to Savoey on Patong Beach where we were awed by the crazy creatures in the fish tanks; massive tiger prawns, fish as big as our heads and delicious crabs.
In terms of dishes, if you’re up for a bit of spice then a good old red or green Thai curry or spicy basil chicken Pad Kra Pao Gai is always a good shout. (Just remember to ask for something a bit milder mamas, food runs really hot here.) Crispy shrimp cakes, soft shell crab and chicken satays with creamy peanut sauce are appetiser mainstays that we’re sure your little will love, and a peanut rice noodle Pad Thai or awesome pineapple fried rice (that comes in an actual pineapple) are always crowd pleasers. Throw in a fresh coconut that comes to your table in all its tropical glory for a thirst-quencher the kiddos will remember – some places will even swap out the coconut juice for a cheeky pina colada if mama needs a little tipple!
For dessert, grab a nutella banana cupcake off one of the numerous pancake vendors around Phuket – you’ll practically trip over one every few steps in Patong. These street chefs create these thin crepe-like delicacies right in front of you with ease in a matter of minutes and always draw a large crowd for good reason.
A couple of restaurants that we absolutely loved in Phuket included Black Cat and Twin Brothers on Surin Beach. That said, stay away from Big Boss Seafood beside Black Cat. I’ve never been more miserable at a restaurant. Looking for a fancier date night option, mama? We’ve heard amazing things about Paresa Resort’s Italian Diavolo and Mom Tri’s Kitchen at Villa Royale for a romantic sunset meal you’ll never forget. (Most hotels will do a fancy sunset dinner on the beach as well, woohoo!)
Where to Stay
Allamanda Laguna Phuket
Want a little more of a hands on experience, mamas? The Allamanda’s stunning serviced apartments are a perfect getaway for families wanting to escape the hubbub of the desert city. With a number of amazing facilities set against the backdrop of charming Phuket, they’ve got a number of activities on offer for active families: elephant rides, biking and a number of water sports all set upon sparkling Andaman waters. Keep an eye on their package deals mama as well, there’s always something fun in line for families. Did we mention the hotel’s a hop skip and a jump away from the Canal Village area? Better keep your wallets in check…
I’ve spent a couple of new years in a row at this gorgeous beach resort and it’s definitely one I’m looking to visit again. This sprawling sanctuary is so big that golf carts actually take you to and from your villa and their private beach club, Xana, is always full of families enjoying a great meal and the view of white sands and crystalline waters. With a number of great activities for everybody, you can opt for family yoga classes or visit the resort’s own baby elephant Namchock. There’s a kids club perfect for a day of fun-filled activities, a romantic private dinner set up right on the beach and the resort spa comes highly recommended…
Loved by leading jetsetters such as Conde Nast Traveler, this amazing hotel has a distinctly Thai feel and is always a huge hit with families everywhere. Spread out across the perimeter of a saltwater lagoon, there’s a number of things for every member of the family: a lush award-winning spa, their amazing Thai restaurant which also offers cooking classes and even an in-resort golf course. (See if you can spot their elephant, Lucky!) Located by the beach, if you’re not feeling the saltwater then dip into their beautiful pool – the kids’ Turtle Club with a distinctly cultural spin on regular arts and crafts and little adventures is always a treat.
Indigo Pearl Phuket
At a first glance, this sleek boutique hotel doesn’t seem like a family’s first port of call, but it’s absolutely family-friendly! Loved by our travel experts Mr and Mrs. Smith, this modern yet distinctly Thai stay has a number of attractive family-features; a free kids’ club with everything from Thai language lessons to an Xbox, divided kids and adult pools and hotel bicycles you can commandeer for a day to explore the gorgeous grounds. With private pool villas like the ones above, your little waterbugs will be able to splash the day away under mamas careful eye. If you’re looking to do a little cultural exploring without the kiddos, they even have in-house babysitters readily available at a small cost.
Where to Shop
There’s really no place better to head than Patong for all your souvenir needs. Located by the beach, this thriving downtown hub is lined with little shops full of local handicrafts that’ll be perfect reminders of your tropical holiday or just gifts for your friends back home. Things that always do well with friends and family are their vibrant cloth batiks, beautifully packaged incense sets and embellished figurines. Do dip into the well-lit side street bazaars mamas, you’ll find loads of fun stalls as well as more reasonable prices (and vendors). You absolutely have to get your bartering hat on mamas and remember, always start lower than the price you actually want!
If street stalls aren’t quite your thing or you’re looking for an indoor excursion, head to super mall Jungceylon which is chock full of local fashion brands, restaurants and lifestyle boutiques that’ll make your heart sing. There’s always something fun on for the kiddos (last time we were there, there was a massive teddy bear parade which was both parts cute and terrifying) so check out their site and see if there’s anything you’d be interested in.
Have a blast in Phuket, mamas!