Entertainment is Phuket's strong suit, and visitors will find plenty to do at all hours. Between the rambunctious nightlife, kitsch amusement parks, high-octane beach activities and classier lounges, there's something for everyone to enjoy.
Families in Phuket have plenty of options during daylight hours, with most of the action on or near the beach. Banana boats, theme parks and miniature golf courses are all onsite. Larger parks like Fantasea and the Simon Cabaret are a few kilometers outside of town and require transportation.
There are festivals staged in Phuket throughout the year, not least of which is the Vegetarian Festival. But tourists can take in a cultural performance regardless of the season. The staff at hotel desks can recommend the best places to take in a Thai dance performance or traditional puppet show.
The island's headlining theme park, Phuket Fantasea puts on a grand, albeit touristy, production that's ideal for families. It's found north of Patong on Kamala Beach and features a buffet, carnival-style rides and a cultural extravaganza complete with elephants, acrobats and Thai dancers.
This part of Thailand is renowned for its world-class diving. Beginners can enroll in PADI certification courses in all of the major coastal communities. Seasoned divers are in their element, as tour leaders operate multi-day excursions to the Phi Phi and Similan islands on live-aboard boats.
Patong Beach is the liveliest, and tourists can enjoy every high-octane water sport imaginable here. Jet-skiing and banana boating are two of the most popular activities, but you'll see plenty of kite surfers, kayakers and windsurfers plying the waters. Phuket's Kata Yai Beach is one of the only Thai beaches suitable for surfing.
This energetic venue puts on two burlesque productions every evening and draws busloads of tourists. Simon Cabaret has been in operation for a long time, and all of the dancers are transsexual. These beautiful dancers are convincing, and newcomers to Thailand will likely find it hard to believe that all of them were once men.
Sphinx is another cabaret production with similarities to Simon Cabaret. In this case, not all of the dancers are transsexual. Many tourists come away especially impressed with dinner that's served with the show. Expect to see more Thais than foreigners both here and at Simon's.
Phuket's rowdiest nightlife district is in Patong, and it has everything from nightclubs and karaoke bars to seedier hostess bars and more. Patong feels a lot like the red light districts in Bangkok or Pattaya, and it appeals mainly to backpackers and single men.
During the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar, Phuket is transformed by the Vegetarian Festival. More than a time to abstain from meat, this festival is full of aesthetic rites like barefoot coal-walking and extreme self-piercings. There's nothing else quite like this in Thailand.