Best known for its nightlife, Phuket is now tempting travellers “who want a hotel with a true sense of place and culturally authentic experiences to match”, says Austa Somvichian-Clausen in Inside Hook. There’s a new focus on environmental conservation, with ethical elephant sanctuaries and farm-to-table dining.
Places of note The Chalong Bay distillery runs cocktail-making classes using locally produced gin and rum. Watch elephants stomp around the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, home to a dozen elderly females that were once put to work in logging or the tourist trade. Explore the shops and hidden temples in Phuket City’s charming old town, then head north to Bang Rong, a small Muslim community where you can go kayaking through mangroves and tuck into fresh seafood at a floating restaurant.
Weather The driest months are November to April, when the waterfalls are in full flow and flowers are in full bloom. Rainy season runs from May to October and the hottest months are March, April and May.
Famous faces Rihanna, the Kardashian clan, Beyoncé, Mick Jagger and Kate Moss, to name but a few. Leonardo DiCaprio visited Phuket while shooting The Beach in the nearby Phi Phi islands.
To eat At the Trisara hotel, you’ll find the island’s only Michelin-starred restaurant, PRU. Book the farm experience, where you pick fresh eggs, pea flowers and other treasures, then hand them to the chef to whip up a multi-course lunch. Or grab a noodle dish at one of the many street-food stalls – the best way to sample authentic Thai food.
1 To stay
The Rosewood Hotel offers direct beach access and complete isolation, despite being close to the beach resort of Patong. It has luxurious modern rooms, a restaurant, a lotus pond and Thai cookery classes. What better place to unwind for your first week – under Thailand’s latest Covid rules, visitors must spend seven days at an accredited hotel before switching spots. Doubles from £282 a night.
2 To rent
Perfect for families, this contemporary villa has a pool with a baby-friendly area, a yoga room, outdoor seating areas and easy access to Bang Tao beach and the local amenities. Four of the five bedrooms are ensuite. Sleeps 10; from £1,498 for three nights.
3 To Airbnb
Surrounded by tropical forest, this four-bedroom villa on the serene Kata headland has an infinity pool, sea views and an outdoor dining area with a barbecue. The price includes a complimentary bar, use of snorkelling gear, baby-sitting and a housekeeping service. It’s an hour’s drive to the airport. Sleeps eight; from £2,463 for three nights.
4 To buy
This fully furnished flat in a modern development near Kamala Beach, on Phuket’s west coast, has two bedrooms and a double-height living area with floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the sea. There’s a communal pool and underground parking. It’s a half-hour drive to the airport. £241,732.