If you are staying in Phuket and want to rent out a scooter for the day for a full blown Phuket day trip, here’s what you need to know. The tropical Thai island has a lot to offer, such as beaches, waterfalls and fascinating architecture. But what is the best Phuket itinerary for your scooter roadtrip? Here’s the one I covered quite a lot of ground with and that was really quite easy to do.
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Puket One Day Trip Itinerary
Phuket Monkey Encounters and Grand Views
There are plenty Thai islands to choose from, such as Koh Samui or Koh Phangan, so why Phuket? For one, there are direct flights from Bangkok to Phuket and you have a beautifully compact island with tropical forests, beaches and wonderful architecture. You can enjoy nature and parties at the same time.
The city of Phuket is not a party hotspot as other cities on the Thai island. For me, that made it the ideal base to start any day trips from Phuket from. I really am not a party animal and didn’t come to see a Full Moon Party in Thailand either. I prefer full sun explorations!
Phuket Town itself is well worth a visit. First, check out Old Town. Especially along Thalang Road you will see the beautiful 19th century Sino Portuguese architectural style of former colonial days. Pastel colours, ornamental details and plenty of local souvenir shops make this an attraction morning stroll.
Plus, if you’re a foodie or coffee lover, there are stylish coffee shops everywhere. I personally prefer to sip my Thai Tea as I look out for the street art in the sois (narrow lanes) of Phuket Old Town. My fave place for local food is opposite the official Thailand Tourism office (which is next to Queen Sirikit Park) in an inconspicuous lane.
If you’re into museums, you can visit the former home of a colonial merchant, Phuket Thai Hua Museum. Or step into a local wat (temple), such as Wat Mongolnimit. Just make sure you are appropriately dressed.
After you are done walking around Old Town (an hour is plenty), drive up Monkey Hill , the highest hill in town, to Khao Toh Sae Viewpoint. From here, you have a nice view over the eastern part of the city (great for sunrises).
Even better are the many monkeys chilling along the road. Just hide everything lose that can be stolen. Monkeys are cheeky. They might even end up sitting on your new scooter and hiss at you when you come close. (But don’t worry, they lose interest quickly.)
Kathu Waterfalls and Lakes
From Monkey Hill or Phuket Old Town, you can follow the main roads past the shopping malls and towards Kathu. At one one, you will branch off slightly to the left and then just follow the road. There are some signs pointing to Kathu Waterfall but it helped me a lot to have my free Maps.Me app with me. (It can be used offline if you’ve download the map first.)
You can park your scooter by a small bridge and then climb up the stone stairs to the lower end of Kathu Waterfall. There are seating areas around in case you want to set up a little picnic or eat your morning snack.
But don’t forget to follow the stairs all the way to the top. It’s not that challenging and there are two stops to see more of Kathu Waterfall. The path is clearly laid out and not challenging. Just be prepared for mosquitoes and possibly snakes if it has rained. (Removing them gently but swiftly with a stick is a good idea.)
I wasn’t happy with just one waterfall. Since the other nearby Phuket waterfall was off limits (private property), I drive all the way down to the Bang Wad Reservoir and Dam. It is a lesser known place of recreation. There were only a few local joggers about.
I saw two tiny waterfalls west of the upper dammed lake and they were nothing much to show for. Don’t come just to see those. The ride following the outline of the lakes, however, was pretty nice.
The road was perfectly new and you saw glimpses of the shoreline. Surrounded by lush tropical forests, this was a nice ride in itself. (Good for practicing scooting too if you need to warm up a little first.)
West Phuket Beach Hopping
After that, I drove back to Prabaramee Road and over to Patong Beach. Patong is THE place for partying in Phuket. There are tons of flashy bars, entertainment options, tacky souvenir strips and water sports activities.
The beach is typically well visited, even when I visited in shoulder season. Also, you will be constantly offered boat tours. This isn’t a place for chilling out, in m opinion. For that, take the scooter to the little peninsula to the South.
It has several small beaches, Tri Trang Beach, which is more a rugged coastline than a sandy beach. I have seen people fishing here. It makes for scenic photos.
Another ten minute ride away and over the hill lies Paradise Beach next to Paradise Beach Backpackers Hostel. Merlin Beach is part of the local Phuket Marriott Resort & Spa in case you want to enjoy a private beach.
Another popular (and touristy) Phuket beach is Karon Beach, the second largest beach in Phuket. Less Ping Pong party mile and more grand hotel stretch, Karon Beach seemed just a little less busy but it might have been only my impression.
A little more southern, opt for Kata Beach to find a little more peace. Here are no sun chairs and plenty of beachside activity tour guides hassling you. The bay is much smaller than with the previous beaches but lined by beautiful green terraces and seaside homes at Kata Rocks. By the way, Kata Beach is divided in Biga Kata (Kata Yai) and Small Kata (Kata Noi).
Southeastern Phuket Beaches
There are plenty more beaches in Phuket in the south. But also there are only so many hours you have in the day. So to catch the golden hour rays, my Phuket scooter trip lead to Rawai Beach. It was low tide and locals were picking crabs from the bare rocks and beach puddles.
You can take the ladders down to the beach during low tide and see the tour boats idly lie on the sand. A few islands can be spotted in the distance and you can visit them with boat tours.
Stroll a while along the Rawai Beach Promenade and along the pier. Alternatively, you can drive up to Chalong Bay to see yet another Pier but even more yachts and boats parked in the harbour for sunset.
Day Trip Boat Tours in Phuket
- Phi Phi Day Trip & Khai Nok Island – This takes up an entire day in itself. Plus, transportation and pickup are sorted for you. Just relax and put on your snorkelling gear. Book here.
- Phang Nga Bay – Get out on a nearby island by speedboat and marvel at the beautiful karst rock formations. Jump into your canoe and paddle along the shoreline. This tour includes James Bond island and a floating village as well.
- James Bond Island (Khao Phing Kan) – A (rightfully) popular tourist favourite that featured in “The Man with the Golden Gun”. Get a tour that combines the visit with other islands like Koh Tapu and Koh Hong as well as the Bat Cave. Check out this tour for more information.
- Phi Phi Islands – One of the best spots to catch both sunrise and sunset are the Phi Phi Islands. Get your early morning pickup sorted by booking a full day tour and avoid the usual crowds on Khai Nai Island. Check availability here.
Big Buddha Sunset
The ultimate Phuket sunset spot, however, is undoubtedly Big Buddha. From Chalong Bay head to the main crossing and head Northeast. You will easily spot Phuket’s Big Buddha up on the mountain. Follow the signs and windy village roads to get there.
There is a big parking lot near the Big Buddha side. Both parking and entrance are free. If you forgot to bring a sarong and/or shawl to cover your shoulders and kness, you can loan one at the entrance for free. Please actually keep it on and don’t just do it at the entrance when you are being checked. (Be respectful!)
The Big Buddha is 45 metres tall and covered with white mosaic tiles. It’s so big, you can actually enter it. There are Buddha souvenir stalls around in case you want to bring a memento with you. You can buy golden hearts to sign with your name and wishes and hang them in the trees.
The Big Buddha and its surrounding statues are impressive enough but just so is the view. It is here that you will probably have the absolute best view of Phuket. You can see as far as Phuket City, overlook Chalong Bay and Promthep Cape. Basically, you can see the entire route you’ve driven during your one day Phuket itinerary.
Nightmarket in Phuket
Drive safely when you come back down from Big Buddha. The mesmerising sunset will probably make you stay up way after. (That’s when the colours really start to explode anyway.) The road down can get a bit bumpy, particularly if you take the left turn before leaving the mountain.
Let me guess, you will be hungry after your Phuket adventures. Good thing Phuket has its own Night Markets. Here, you can stock up on clothes, accessories and other souvenirs while live music is playing. Of course, there are freshly prepared food and drinks waiting to be purchased.
Chillva Market (5pm-11pm) in the north of Phuket City happens daily as does the market next to Limelight Shopping Mall in the centre. On weekends, try the street market in Old Town along Thalong Road.
Just know that prices at such night markets are slightly above regular street food prices but still cheaper than food courts in malls. They are an experience though and I definitely recommend them.
My fave thing to get are Pad Thai, Thai Tea or Matcha Tea (if possible, with Chocolate) and a fruit smoothie. Street food markets can be touristy but give you a great opportunity to try various Thai dishes in one charming setting.
More Phuket Beaches
My little Phuket roadtrip basically created on the go. The initial plan was to drive up to Kathu waterfall, then down to the dam and over to Patong.
However, after an encounter of an angry snake in the middle of the path and a short conversation later, I teamed up with a fellow backpacker in chase of waterfalls and beaches.
I knew the way to the waterfalls, he had been to some of the beaches already. So it was a good mix. To really find lesser known and visited Phuket beach spots, however, these are ideal for next time:
- On the way between Karon beach and Kata beach, there is a nice little lookout. It is called Kata Viewpoint and offers quite the panoramic look. Best visit in the morning when the sky is clearer.
- Naihan Beach is just a short scooter ride away from Promthep Cape. If you are looking for a beach perfect for swimming in Phuket, this is it. Just avoid monsoon season in late autumn with its high waves.
- Kamala Beach is North of Patong and promises a more reclusive beach time. It’s much quieter and not part of a bustling town, but a fishing village. It’s a great location if you are staying longer in Phuket; there are plenty of long-term rental places and apartments around here.
- A real local gem and insider tip is Laem Sing Cape. It is somewhat challenging to reach and therefore under the radar of most tourists. You have to park by the road and climb over rocks to get there. No boats! Just know that the waves were deemed too high to keep it officially open.
Best Time to Visit Phuket
Thailand has two seasons: Dry and rainy season. Rainy season lasts from mid May until October. From November until mid May, you can expect cool and dry weather. It’s heating up until May, when it becomes hot and humid.
Since Phuket is such a tourist hotspot, to avoid the crowds as well as the rain, come just before or after rainy season. The transition phase still has plenty of sunshine with occasional downpours.
Even so, rainy season isn’t just monsoonal. Not the entire day is rainy, it’s mostly just half the day.
So when the sun comes out, make sure you get on your Phuket scooter rental as fast as possible. It might be over fast as well. It’s really not much use to rely on the weather forecast, to be honest.
Where to Stay in Phuket
Low Budget Accommodation in Phuket Town
Do you love to stick within a limited budget but stil treat yourself to a single room? There are plenty of single hostels rooms in town but at Fulfill Phuket you can get ensuite rooms especially. The decor is minimalist and tasteful, there is air conditioning and a free toiletries, too. On top of that, you can sit at the bar, use the lockers, wash your laundry at the machines onsite and cook in the shared lounge with kitchen area.
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Mid Range Hotel in Phuket Town
Would you like to stay in an Old Colonial style hotel? Try the The Besavana Phuket in Phuket Old Town. It looks super grand in stylish white and grey. Plus, it has three stars and rooms come with a balcony! You will have access to a pool and can take full advantage of the air conditioning on hot days. If you come for a work trip, know that hotel rooms are equipped with a desk.
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Luxury Hotel in Karon
Fancy staying at the westside pf Phuket island? Karon Beach is a great location for staying in the thick of the action but not in an overl crowded place like Patong. Check yourself into Mandarava Resort and Spa for a full luxury treatment. Maximise your stay in the 3 swimming pools, gym and spa. You can be lazy and take the free shuttle service to Karon Beach.
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Renting a Scooter in Phuket
There are plenty of places for scooter hire in Phuket. A typical day rate is 200 THB (6 USD). You might have to leave a deposit, such as your passport, when renting a scooter in Phuket.
Make sure you do a quick test drive to see if the breaks and lights are working and the wheels are tight enough. Check the scooter for any damages (take photos if there are) so you aren’t charged upon returning your scooter.
Always wear a helmet, have your license and international license and passport (photo) with you when you are going on your Phuket day trip. It occasional happens that police will stop you to check your license.
What to Pack for Phuket
- Travel guides – This island might be a party destination but there are plenty of low key Phuket attractions to be explored. A travel guide is a great resource to spot lesser known places, find top bars and not leave out a single beach if that is your Phuket travel goal.
- Poncho – During rainy season (and even a little before and after), the weather can change instantly. Rain doesn’t just come down moderately, it pours and will drench you right away. While you can’t do much about flooded streets, you can cover up your clothes and backpack with a sturdy poncho (not a light one you can get in any convience store). That also helps keep warmer when temperatures suddenly drop.
Read this too: Get The Full Packing List for Tropical Vacations
- Sarong – You will most likely be visiting the Big Buddha and temples. Be aware that modest attire is requested, which means covering shoulders and legs up to the knee. I know it can be too hot to wear that all day, so have a sarong and light scarf with you for such visits. Plus, it’s handy for sitting on hot scooter seats.
- Insect repellent & sunscreen – Don’t underestimate the power of the sun even on cloudy days. You will get burned! So slap on sunscreen multiple times a day. Especially when you drive a scooter, you can get burned shoulders super easily. (And the straps of your backpack rub off a lot of sunscreen too). Insect repellent you will definitely need around waterfalls and lakes.
- Travel insurance – No matter where in the world you travel, when you go abroad, you need to cover your bases. You never know when you need medical help, such as with travel diarrhoea or an accident. Just make sure your Travel insurance covers scooter driving as well.
Is A Phuket Day Trip Worth It?
Phuket isn’t a huge island and if you aren’t coming to party, then Phuket day trips are the way to go to enjoy your stay. You don’t even have to decide between hiking and beaches as everything is so close together and taking the scooter is easy. Roads aren’t tricky, just busy.
Next time I’m on the island I would definitely go on another day trip and again rent a scooter in Phuket. Maybe explore Northern Phuket, such as Bang Tao Beach and maybe even surf at Nai Yang.
What would you include in your Phuket itinerary?
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