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First Time Visitor Guide to Phuket, Thailand

Phuket, Thailand is the hub of Thailand's activities. When planning a trip to Thailand, they offer just about everything- elephant sanctuaries, bustling nightlife, water sports, fantastic night markets, and if New Year's Eve is your favorite holiday, I recommend traveling to Patong to witness a once-in-a-lifetime celebration!

Phuket is the largest island in Thailand and resides on the West Coast amongst the Andaman Sea. It is also a great jumping off point to discover the many other small islands off the coast.

Why We Chose Patong Beach

We chose to stay near Patong Beach, a bustling beach town with resorts and nightlife that is Phuket's most popular tourist destination. Despite the fact that myself and my husband are more introverted and prefer a slower-paced lifestyle, we chose Patong for a few reasons.

For the New Years Eve Celebrations

For New Year's Eve, we happened to be in town. When we were planned our trip to Thailand, we had four days in the middle to pick where we wanted to go. I began my research because we would be planning around New Year's Eve and discovered that Patong Beach was known for enormous beach parties, festive lantern lightings, and all-around entertainment for this holiday.I decided that since this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, we might as well go big or go home, and I'm glad we did! The day following New Year's Day was much quieter, so it was surprising to see how many people came into town for this event. I would recommend doing some research on the many various holidays celebrated in Thailand before going to see if it is something you would like to participate in.

For the Limitless Tours & Activities

There are numerous activities and tours to choose from. The number of activities available on this island is limitless, and after expending so much energy preparing our three-week Asia trip, it was good to have some tours planned so we could relax and enjoy being tourists for a little. I spend hours studying and preparing our days out depending on where we go, but Asia is such a foreign region to us when it comes to travel.

For the Resort Feel

It's a wonderful resort town where you can walk everywhere. There are numerous resorts, restaurants, and nightlife options on Patong Beach. It reminds me of a cross between Cabo San Lucas and Las Vegas. We found a hotel that was far enough up the hill away from the nightly commotion of downtown but close enough to walk to everything, and the swim up bar with a view of the ocean and town was a nice perk.

For the Location

For travelers, Phuket's location is convenient to several other adjacent islands. We had previously made plans to visit the island of Koh Lipe and were pondering where we should stay. The Phi Phi Islands, as well as many other lovely Thai islands, are accessible by boat from Phuket.

Where to Stay in Phuket

We stayed at The Senses Resort + Pool Villas; our selections were limited because we booked a little later than I would have wanted. As I previously stated, we were travelling over the New Year's holiday, and most hotels in Thailand charge a resort fee for this occasion, which varies greatly from hotel to hotel.

They try to persuade you to attend their Gala Dinner or New Year's Eve Party so that they can charge your account whether you attend or not. When I looked into The Senses Resort, I discovered that they did not charge a New Year's Eve fee, which saved us a few hundred dollars, and I liked that it was up the hill from town, far enough away from the town's music and nightlife to get a good night's sleep. We like to use either HOTELS.COM , AGODA.COM, or BOOKING.COM to book our trips in Asia.

I'm a sucker for swim-up bars, so it was nice to unwind at the resort and order a few cocktails by the pool. We didn't have many beachfront resort options left, so we chose to be within walking distance of Patong Beach rather than find a resort a taxi ride away.

Patong Beach

We arrived the day before New Year's Eve, and the DJ Beach parties continue all weekend, as seen by the concert set up in the shot above. We caught sunset on the beach our first night in Patong, and it's such a bustling strip of town. There are numerous pop-up bars and food stalls, people participating in water activities, and an overall good vibe!

Grab a cheap cocktail and find a spot in the sand to enjoy the sunset.

Things to Do in Phuket

There are numerous excursions available in Thailand, particularly in Phuket. I recommend making a reservation in advance through Viator, a TripAdvisor company that offers many tours in Thailand with excellent reviews.

Phang Nga Island Tour

We scheduled a full-day excursion in the Phang Nga region that included visits to the famed James Bong Island, a tour of the Ice Cream Caves, lunch on Koh Panyi, a small fishing village constructed on stilts, beach time on a nearby island, and kayaking through limestone caves. It was a whirlwind of a day, but it was well worth it to see so much in one day!

James Bond Island

This island rose to prominence following the 1974 filming of James Bond's "The Man with the Golden Gun." Many tourists come to see the iconic rock formations and film history. Despite the fact that it is a crowded location, you can walk around the island and see the many unique rock formations and natural beauty that the island has to offer.

Koh Panyi Village

Our tour stopped for lunch on their waterfront restaurant at Koh Panyi, a muslim fishing town in the Phang Nga province, where we enjoyed a family style meal with our tour. Because the entire community is built entirely on stilts, it was a truly unique experience. We had a great time wandering around the main alleyway and seeing the various local stores.

Kayaking Limestone Caves

When our boat arrived at these incredible limestone caves, we each received our own inflatable kayak and "tour guide." We paddled past limestone caves while admiring the splendor of the sea green waters.

Visit an Elephant Sanctuary

We had a great day seeing the Elephant Sanctuary; these beautiful animals are incredible to see up close and personal! Thai elephants are also smaller than African elephants, making them far less terrifying in terms of size! We had the opportunity to make a meal for the elephants, feed them, and bathe them.

If you're curious, we didn't ride any elephants, which is something you should avoid doing while visiting. This sanctuary rescued elephants from the tourism and logging industries in order to help them live a more ethical and fulfilling life.

Visit a Night Market

So, we went to the Baanzan Night Market virtually every night because the cuisine is amazing!! We didn't have a single unpleasant dinner in Thailand, and this night market was exactly what I was looking for. Everything is quite reasonably priced, and my personal favorites were the a la carte sushi and coconut ice cream bars. DO NOT SLEEP ON THIS MARKET IF YOU ARE A TRUE FOODIE! :)

Review of Phuket from a First Time Visitor

Overall, the Patong region has everything a tourist seeking a traditional Thai experience would expect. You will make the most of your trip in Thailand as a first-time visitor, especially if you come for New Year's! You're sure to have a good time with the buzzing nightlife, beautiful beaches, endless food options, and all-around good vibes.



Rhonda Sachs Albom
Rhonda Sachs Albom
Jul 16, 2020

I have been to Bangkok but not to Phuket. This part of Thailand looks quite different than in the big city. I love the limestone formations. They remind me of the ones I have seen in Vietnam.


Jul 16, 2020

Your photos are so amazing! I really enjoyed my trip to Phang Nga Bay. Phuket is really a gorgeous place!


Diane M Evans
Diane M Evans
Jul 16, 2020

Gorgeous photos! And so much detail - it really makes me want to visit!!


Welcome to the Brittsbellavita Blog, a California based travel and adventure community geared towards inspiring others to find their "Bella Vita." I am a Licensed Drone Pilot and Content Creator with a passion for exploring the outdoors, finding hidden gems, and getting off the beaten path. I live in Northern California, and love showcasing the Golden State, West Coast, and beyond!

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