Tropical Phuket, with its miles of golden beaches, has obvious appeal as a family holiday escape. But Thailand’s largest island also holds plenty of charm beyond its sands, with many outdoor attractions and a rich cultural heritage that travellers of all ages will love to explore.
First, those beaches. With more than 30 beaches around the island, you could spend weeks in Phuket simply relaxing on the sands, but those with kids in tow may want a beach with some fun activities and a bit of shaded comfort. Kamala Beach is one of the most family friendly with its shallow bay for swimming, beachfront eateries, shops, cafés and sea-view foot massages.
And with several luxury villas in Kamala along its lush headland, discerning families looking for a private holiday hideaway are well catered to.
Kata Beach is also a fine spot for families, its powder-soft sands ideal for idling away a day and excellent surfing conditions from May through October. If the sea is too smooth for surfing, then hire some standup paddle boards, or stop at Surf House on the Kata beachfront with its continuous man-made wave offering fun flowboarding action.
Villa Amanzi in Kata Noi is a perfect holiday haven for friends and families looking to explore Kata Beach.
On the quieter northwest coast is Nai Thon Beach, an idyllic one-kilometre length of soft sand that never gets crowded. Simply relax on the sand or do some snorkelling, standup paddle or boogie boarding, with a number of low-key restaurants offering a cosy place for families and friends to dine at an unhurried pace with sea and sunset views.
Nai Thon is also home to the award-winning Malaiwana villas and residences, luxurious sea-view havens with private pools and friendly service that offer the perfect family retreat after a day at the beach.
Nai Yang Beach just to the north is another decent surfing spot and a favourite place for kite boarders and windsurfers. Not far away near the airport is Splash Jungle Water Park, offering some wet and wild fun away from the beach with waterslides, a wave pool and a lazy river.
Home to the idyllic Villa Saanti with its beachfront pool and lawn, Natai Beach could easily claim to be Phuket’s most spectacular beach, but… it’s just over the bridge north of Phuket on the mainland in picturesque Phang Nga province.
No kidding Natai is our number one beach for hidden-away barefoot luxury escapes. There are just a handful of other villas and resorts lining the sparkling sands of this 10-kilometre beach. The bold, bright and sleek Sava Beach Villas with generous sports and entertaining facilities, beachfront location and attentive service offer the ultimate Natai Beach escape for families, groups and weddings.
Few things inspire the imagination more than the sea, and a day out on Phuket’s Andaman Sea is sure to stir the senses. Discover its colourful marine life on a snorkelling trip off the beach or to a nearby island such as the Similans, Koh Khai or Raya, or families with older children could learn to dive or explore the depths on a scuba diving day trip. The Phuket Aquarium in Cape Panwa is a good stop, especially for younger kids who will delight at the sight of sea turtles, manta rays and, of course, those cute clownfish of “Finding Nemo” fame.
With its magical hidden lagoons and towering limestone karsts, Phang Nga Bay is a sea kayaker’s dream, and day trips from Phuket accommodate paddlers of all ages and abilities. Or families could try a scenic cruise around the bay aboard a vessel that suits their style and speed, from a traditional long-tail to a luxury sail or motor yacht.
Venture into Phuket’s lush interior to find some more adventurous things to do including wakeboarding on the lake at Anthem Wake Park, ziplining and treetop walks at Hanuman World, jungle trails to explore at Bang Pae Waterfall and ATV rides in the hills.
In Kata Beach, the Dino Park mini-golf is a great way to perfect those putting skills on a course that winds through a Jurassic-themed jungle setting. Try not to let the park’s “active” volcano and fearsome giant T-Rex distract you from your play! At the Phuket Adventure Mini-Golf course near Bang Tao Beach, there are no dinosaurs but plenty of family fun on offer all the same.
Long before sun-seeking tourists arrived on Phuket’s shores, the island attracted a diverse mix of people from across Asia and the legacy of these sea-faring folk still lives on in the local communities. Phuket’s Old Town is where the island’s cultural heritage is most vividly displayed, its roads lined with restored Sino-Portuguese buildings and tempting street eats from Hokkien noodle shops to hearty roti restaurants – few kids will be able to resist a taste of those sweet banana roti pancakes.
Visit the Thai Hua museum to learn about Phuket’s Chinese heritage, and see how the island’s high society lived more than a century ago at the beautifully preserved Baan Chinpracha mansion nearby. Or delight in the colourful intermingling of Phuket traditions and its modern artistic scene at the Lard Yai Sunday street market. Kids will love the chance to sample all the sweet treats on offer, such as fresh coconut ice cream or kanom krok, coconut custard.
Phuket’s evening entertainment has a family-friendly side as well with two cultural shows that will dazzle kids and adults alike. Siam Niramit near Phuket Town also stages nightly performances with a mix of dance, music and martial arts that bring Thailand’s history to life in spectacular fashion.
Whether families are seeking an action-packed tropical adventure or yearning for some long, lazy days in the sun, Phuket has plenty in store for a memorable holiday. Wherever you stay on the island, Phuket’s luxury villas are the choice accommodation, fully staffed and full of kids’ necessities and toys.