If you need a day away from the beach, take the opportunity to visit one of Phuket’s unique animal experiences. The Phuket Aquarium on the southern tip of Cape Panwa houses a wide selection of freshwater and marine animals and corals in an immersive “tunnel tank.” You’ll be thrilled at the giant rays, sharks, octopus, and sea turtles as they swim right up to you and over your head. Colorful tropical fish and corals are also a top attraction.
Ever wanted to see crocodiles and tigers up close? At the Crocodile and Tiger World, you can watch staff tame crocs right in front of you and even bottle-feed a baby tiger. This is a farm, though, and not a sanctuary – be prepared to be offered crocodile meat and products at the gift shop.
For nature’s most fabulous insects, head to Phuket Butterfly Garden and Insect World, a conservation and education area. More than 6,000 butterflies of 40 different species are kept in the garden, and visitors can watch the entire butterfly life cycle unfold before their eyes. The other insects and arachnids that make up Insect World also offer an exciting peak into how these tiny creatures live.
Thailand's national sport, the martial art of Thai Boxing, five rounds of three minutes each, highly-trained young men fight it out in ritualized styles dating back to the Burmese wars of the 15th century. The violent spectacle is accompanied by a frenzy of audience responses, and sounds of Javanese clarinets, drums and finger cymbals throughout. Matches may be seen at Patong Boxing Stadium on Sai Namyen Road, Mondays and Thursdays, 9-11:30pm. The adjacent 60 meter-high tower of the World Bungy Jump is another option for an adrenaline rush.
The beaches are mostly safe and warm year-round – as long as there’s no sign indicating otherwise, you’ll be good to go. Numerous operators along the beaches will rent surfboards and jet-skis or take you yachting, sailing, or parasailing.
For something off the beaten path, consider a sea canoe tour. Tours come in one-day or overnight camping varieties and will take you to mangrove swamps and exciting island grottoes reachable only by canoe.
The undersea life of Phuket’s shores is spectacular and the clear blue waters and rocky reefs are ideal for diving. Snorkeling, Scuba, and SNUBA equipment are rentable from numerous operators and some guides will take you out to more secluded dive spots off nearby islands, like Coral Island, Racha Yai, Shark Point and the Khai and Phi Phi Islands. The island coasts are incredibly diverse ecosystems. Some are gentle slopes that are home to solid and soft coral forests of dazzling colors, some are rocky granite outcroppings with jungle gyms of boulders to navigate around, and some are great bases to find tropical fish, sharks, eels, octopuses, and turtles. Tell your operator what you’re hoping to see and they’ll happily take you to the best dive sites.
While there’s no officially “gay” beach in Phuket, many of the local gays and tourists hang out on a single section of Patong Beach. The cruisey gay stretch is just north of where Bangla Road intersects with Patong Beach Road. Patong is also the largest beach resort with the wildest nightlife.
This Marine National Park has 42 islands set in a shallow bay. The tall limestone pillar Koh Tapu juts from the emerald-green waters at Khao Phing Kan island ("James Bond Island" since the 1974 movie was made here), among the best known. Hong ("rooms"), collapsed cave systems are open to the sky on some islands; microcosms of plants and animals hidden by surrounding limestone walls. They can be viewed from a sea kayak, as can archaeological sites with paintings over a thousand years old. Day trips by long-tail or speedboat day trips leave from the east coast of Phuket. Chinese junk cruises, daytime and sunset tours and yacht charters are among the many other options. See Phuket.com for a list of tour operators.