Maybe you’ve heard about the rowdy party scene in Patong or the balmy coastline along Kata Noi Beach. Regardless of what you know about Phuket, get out and experience it for yourself. With a Phuket layover, you have just enough time to romp around this Thai island—let loose at the discos, stake out a spot in the sand, and see eye to eye with the giant Buddha statue.

From the airport to the city center

With flights to Phuket booked, you’re halfway to starting your adventure. Your flight will land at Phuket International Airport (KHT), which sits just 20 miles north of the city. Because the terminal is so close to Phuket, there are several convenient ways of arriving in the city center. If you want to do all the navigating, rent a car in Phuket and cruise down the 402. Would you rather kick back and let someone else chauffeur you around? Reserve a cab at the metered taxi stand, located outside the main terminal, or hop on the Airport Phuket Bus, which services the Phuket Bus Terminal and the first floor outside of the Arrival Hall.

Phuket in a day

Phuket is Thailand’s largest island, meaning there’s a whole lot of coastline to brag about. Whether you’re looking for a deserted oasis or a buzzing beach bash, you’ll find a shoreline that meets your layover style.

If you’re craving a calm and quiet stretch with nothing but the sound of the rolling waves and swaying palm trees, then Patong Beach is definitely not the place for you. In this beach town, music blares from go-go bars and swarms of tourists flock to the nightlife on Bangla Road. The around-the-clock, chaotic party scene hums with excitement as eager visitors pack onto the beach by day and into the clubs by night.

 

Prefer to get a little R&R while you’re in town? Dig your toes into the sand at Kata Noi Beach, a picturesque bay that’s managed to escape the tourist frenzy. Out of the spotlight and off the beaten path, Kata Noi is minimalistic, with only a few bars and hotels, but with the soft sand and blue sea, what else do you need? Rawai Beach is another tranquil spot, known for its serene coastal views. While it’s not a swimming spot, you can jump in a long-tail boat from here and cruise around the islands.

 

The beaches are lovely, but set aside some time to learn about the island’s culture at Phuket’s Big Buddha. This gigantic statue, made of white Burmese marble, sits in the Nakkerd Hills. Stand at the top and listen to the bells jingle in the wind as dharma music resonates in the background. The 360-degree view from the perch is magnificent, as you can see Chalong Bay, Kata Bay, Karon Bay, and much more.

Longing to extend your stay? We won’t judge you if you put off your next flight and book one of the Phuket hotels in town. As long as you’re sticking around, take one of the many day trips from Phuket and get to know the other islands. Go on a bike tour of Koh Yao Yai, kayak around Phang Nga Bay, or snorkel at the Racha Islands.

Viewfinder Tip: If you ride in a tuk tuk while you’re in town, agree on the fare before the ride.

Thanks to the emerald waters and lively party scene, we don’t think it’s even possible to sit inside the airport during a long layover in Phuket. Give in to the island temptations and explore Phuket before your connecting flight takes off.

What are your favorite island adventures in Phuket?