The Ultimate 3 Day Phuket Itinerary for First-Timers

Phuket is undoubtedly one of the most popular destinations in Thailand, and for good reason. This beautiful island boasts stunning beaches, lively nightlife, delicious local cuisine, and a wide range of activities to suit every traveler’s taste.

Although you can easily spend weeks in Phuket lying on the beautiful beaches and just enjoying the island life, if you have a tighter schedule, don’t worry! If you follow this 3 day Phuket itinerary, you will be able to visit the highlights of the island and get a taste of its unique culture.

As is often the case with Thailand’s southern hotspots, some of your time will be spent visiting neighboring islands. However, you’ll also want to make time for the beaches, scenery, and culture that Phuket has to offer.

For this Phuket itinerary, I’ve included a mix of both and combined some of my favorite sights and activities to tick off your bucket list during your 3 days in Phuket. Let’s get right into it!

*Disclosure: This post contains a few affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through my link.*

Are you planning a last-minute trip to Phuket?

If your trip is coming up soon and you still haven’t booked anything, we have you covered! Below you can find our top picks when it comes to hotels, tours, getting around, and more.

Best Tours and Experiences in Phuket

What NOT to do: Please never ride elephants, go to tiger zoos, or visit any other attractions that exploit animals. Instead, opt for ethical animal sanctuaries like the Elephant Save & Care Program Tour listed above.

Best Places to Stay in Phuket

If you’re planning to arrive by plane, book a private transfer ahead of time to avoid any hassle upon arrival. You can also rent a car or motorbike, but keep in mind that traffic can get quite hectic on the island.

Boats in Pileh Lagoon, Phi Phi Islands

Overview of Your 3 Day Phuket Itinerary

Breakdown of your 3 days in Phuket

  • Day 1: Phuket Island (Karon View Point, The Big Buddha, Wat Chalong, Old Phuket Town, Patong Beach, Simon Cabaret)
  • Day 2: Day trip to Phang Nga Bay (Wat Suwan Khuha Temple, Ko Thalu Ok, Koh Panyee, James Bond Island)
  • Day 3: Day trip to the Phi Phi Islands (Maya Bay, Pileh Lagoon, Viking Cave & Monkey Bay, Koh Phi Phi Don, Bamboo Island)

Map for your Phuket 3 day itinerary

Below you can find a customized map that includes all the locations you’re going to visit on this Phuket itinerary.

I marked your 3 days in Phuket with different colors – I used blue for the first, green for the second, and red for the third day, so you can easily see which places you’re going to visit each day.

How to use this map: This map is fully interactive, so you can move around, zoom in/zoom out, and click on the icons. If you want to see a larger map, click on the bracket in the upper right corner. To see more details and the different layers, click on the tab in the upper left corner. If you want to save it for later, click on the star icon next to the name of the map. Then simply open Google Maps either on your desktop or phone, go to ‘Saved’/’Maps’, and open the map whenever you need it.

Day 1: Phuket Island

The first day of your Phuket itinerary will be spent exploring the main island and its top attractions. Now, since it’s a very big island, getting from one place to another can take some time.

If you want ultimate freedom, you can rent a motorbike and explore the island at your own pace. However, seeing the crazy traffic in Phuket, I would only recommend this option for experienced riders.

You can find a lot of taxis on the island or you can also use Grab or Bolt (both are similar to Uber) for more affordable prices.

Another great option is to hire a private driver for the day or join a half-day tour, which works out cheaper than taking taxis between the sights. We opted for a private tour and it was definitely worth it!

Since it was only the two of us, it was a tad bit more expensive than the group tour but if you are traveling with a group of friends or family, this can be a more affordable and convenient option.

Aerial view of Patong Beach, Phuket
Patong Beach

Karon View Point

The best way to kickstart your vacation is with a visit to one of my favorite vantage points on the island, which you’ll find in the southern half of Phuket.

Karon Viewpoint gets packed most evenings before sunset, which is why I’ve included it as the first stop on your 3 day Phuket itinerary in the hopes that you’ll beat most of the crowds.

If you have the energy for an early start, catching the sunrise here will be totally worth it.

The viewpoint offers panoramic views of the Andaman Sea and two of the most famous beaches nearby, and you can also spot the famous Big Buddha statue from here.

There is no admission fee to the viewpoint and there’s also a designated zone for drones if you want to capture some aerial shots.

Aerial view from Karon View Point in Phuket, Thailand

The Big Buddha

No trip to Phuket is complete without visiting the famous Big Buddha. This 45-meter (148-foot) tall statue sits atop the Nakkerd Hills and can be seen from most of southern Phuket.

Depending on traffic, it’ll take you around 30 minutes to get here from the Karon Viewpoint. Again, the earlier you arrive here, the better, as it gets progressively busier as the day goes on.

After you’ve parked up, you’ll have just a 5-minute walk and a short staircase ahead of you to reach the base of the huge marble Buddha.

Big Buddha in Phuket, Thailand

More astounding views await you at the top, and you’ll be able to see unparalleled vistas of all of Phuket from here.

Entry is free, and if you don’t have the appropriate clothing, you’ll be able to purchase a sarong to cover your knees and a shawl for your shoulders near the entrance for 150 THB ($4.25) for both.

There are also lots of monkeys on the grounds, so keep an eye out and hold onto your belongings!

Panoramic view from the Big Buddha in Phuket, Thailand
Panoramic view from the Big Buddha

Wat Chalong

Those cover-ups will come in handy for the next stop on your 3 day Phuket itinerary, Wat Chalong Temple. This stunning temple complex is less than a 20-minute drive from the Big Buddha.

Wat Chalong honestly blew me away, and it felt like every temple I saw inside was even more beautiful than the last. It’s hard to believe these temples have existed since the 19th century.

The complex is made up of several different buildings, each featuring ornate features like golden Buddhas, intricate carvings, fabulous architecture, and areas for making offerings. 

This is considered to be the most important temple complex in Phuket, and the history here is fascinating. Built to honor 2 Buddhist monks who led Phuket’s rebellion against China’s takeover of local mines, Wat Chalong Temple stands as a symbol of the determination of the Thai people.

There’s no entrance fee, though it’s recommended to make a small donation while you’re here.

Wat Chalong, Phuket

Phuket Old Town

Much less visited and incredibly underrated, Phuket Old Town turned out to be one of our favorite areas on the island.

Of course, Phuket’s gorgeous beaches are its most significant selling point, but this cute town is just as deserving of your time. 

The colorful European-style buildings, local markets, and informative museums of Phuket Town are just a 25-minute car journey from Wat Chalong. For authentic Thai food and quirky souvenirs, this spot should go right to the top of your list.

Ancient buildings in Sino-European style in Old Town Phuket

In Old Phuket Town, you can’t miss the stunning Ancient buildings in Sino-European style that Phuket is famous for. You also have to stop by Jui Tui Shrine and Saeng Tham Shrine, both of which are within walking distance from each other.

There are also lots of local markets to explore, where you’ll find the most delicious street food and hand-crafted goods. If you love history, head to the Thavorn Museum or the Thai Hua Museum for a glimpse into Phuket’s past.

While walking around town, we spotted a huge line in front of Phuketique coffee shop and some deliciously looking photos of their signature Phuket-style French toasts.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to wait in line but as we kept seeing similar toasts at other cafes in Phuket Town, I was really tempted to try it so we ended up at ROOF Pudding and Cafe, another cute little cafe in town.

We tried their signature roof pudding caramel toast served with Hokkaido milk ice cream (I believe it’s really similar to the one at Phuketique) and their avocado toast with poached eggs. Both were delicious and I’m so glad we found this spot!

Patong Beach

Although most people associate Patong with late-night revelry, it has so much more to offer.

As one of the best beaches in Phuket, Patong is perfect for those looking for some fun in the sun and a vibrant atmosphere. It’s truly a tropical paradise with soft white sands, swinging palm trees, and crystal-clear waters.

Sun loungers and beach bars line the shore, and you can indulge in many water activities like parasailing, jet skiing, and banana boat rides.

Aerial view of Patong Beach, Phuket

Bangla Road is the beating heart of Patong and home to many nightclubs, bars, and markets. It’s a must-visit when in Phuket for its lively atmosphere and vibrant nightlife. Just make sure to watch your belongings and stay safe while enjoying the party scene.

You can also stroll around and shop at some of the night markets here, such as the Malin Plaza Night Market, where you can find great souvenirs and many food stalls with delicious local dishes.

Patong Beach is just a 25-minute drive from Phuket Town, making it the perfect spot to end your day exploring the island.

Colorful street in Patong Beach, Phuket

Simon Cabaret

An unmissable Phuket bucket list experience is a night at Simon Cabaret, which has to be the finest evening entertainment on the island.

In a country famous for its open-minded locals and ladyboy culture, cabaret shows are among the most popular nighttime activities here. Though there are many to choose from, Simon Cabaret in Patong is one of the most acclaimed shows out there.

Each show consists of glittering costumes, high-energy performances, traditional and modern music, and a bunch of themed acts over the course of an hour.

Typically there are three shows a night (6 pm, 7.30 pm, and 9 pm) at Simon Cabaret so you can easily make it part of your Phuket itinerary for the day. I recommend booking your tickets in advance as they tend to sell out during high season.

Simon Cabaret in Phuket, Thailand

Now, to be completely honest with you, I had mixed feelings about this show. On one hand, every song was playback and the performers just lip-synced (rather poorly sometimes), which was a bit disappointing.

However, the costumes, the makeup, and the overall vibe of the show were pretty impressive! So, I would say it’s still worth checking out if you’re in Phuket.

One thing you really need to pay attention to is that when the show ends, the performers will be waiting outside to take photos with the audience.

While it’s a fun opportunity, they will demand payment from you for each photo (usually around 100 THB/$3 US per performer) and they can be rather aggressive about it. So, be aware of this and only take photos with the performers if you’re comfortable paying for them.

Simon Cabaret in Phuket, Thailand

Day 2: Phang Nga Bay

For the second day of your 3 day Phuket itinerary, it’s time to leave the main island and take a day trip to some of the incredible nearby islands. Today, you will be visiting some of the best places in Phang Nga Bay, including James Bond Island and Koh Panyee.

There are numerous tour companies offering day trips to Phang Nga Bay, and most of them include lunch and hotel pick-up/drop-off.

We chose this James Bond Island by Longtail Boat Small Group Tour mainly because it was a small group tour (max 12 people) with a visit to Koh Panyee.

We really loved this tour and our tour guide was awesome! The tour started with a pick-up from our hotel in Patong Beach at 8 am and we were back by 5 pm.

It included transportation, a longtail boat ride through Phang Nga Bay, kayaking around Ko Thalu Ok, lunch at a local restaurant on Koh Panyee, and a stop at the famous James Bond Island.

James Bond Island, Thailand
James Bond Island

Wat Suwan Khuha Temple

The first stop on the tour was Wat Suwan Khuha Temple, also known as the Monkey Cave Temple. As the name suggests, there are many monkeys living on the temple grounds, so be careful with your belongings!

The highlight of this temple is the reclining Buddha inside a cave. You can also light some incense and make a wish by the Buddha.

As with any religious site in Thailand, make sure you dress appropriately (covered shoulders and knees).

Entrance of the Monkey Cave Temple, Phuket
Reclining Buddha in the Monkey Cave Temple, Phuket

Kayaking in Phang Nga Bay

After the temple, we hopped on a longtail boat and headed out to Phang Nga Bay. The scenery here is absolutely stunning with towering limestone cliffs and emerald green waters.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have the best weather that day so I can only imagine how stunning it would be on a sunny day!

We made a stop at Ko Thalu Ok island where we switched from the longtail boat to kayaks.

Kayaking in Ko Thalu Ok, Thailand

To be honest, I was a bit afraid of this activity as we’ve never kayaked before, but luckily each kayak had a guide who did all the paddling while we just enjoyed the views and took photos.

This activity ended up being the highlight of our day! It was so peaceful and quiet as we paddled through the calm waters around the mangrove forests and we also went through some incredible caves.

Be sure to tip your kayak guide at the end of your trip as they work really hard to make sure you have an amazing experience.

Limestone cliffs in Ko Thalu Ok, Thailand

Koh Panyee

Next up on our tour was a visit to Koh Panyee, also known as the floating village.

This is a unique community built entirely on stilts over the water and it’s home to around 1,500 people. The main industry here is fishing, and there are also a few small souvenir shops and restaurants.

We stopped here for lunch at a local restaurant and had some delicious traditional Thai food. After lunch, we had some time to explore the village before heading back to the mainland.

The floating village of Koh Panyee, Thailand

James Bond Island

And finally, the highlight of the tour – James Bond Island! This iconic island is famous for its appearance in the 1974 James Bond movie “The Man with the Golden Gun”.

It’s a must-visit for any 007 fan, and even if you’re not familiar with the movie, it’s still an impressive sight to see. Just be prepared for the insane crowds of tourists!

The best part about visiting James Bond Island is that you can walk around the island and take photos from different angles. We also had some time to relax on the beach and take a swim in the crystal clear waters before heading back to Phuket.

Overall, this tour was a fantastic way to explore Phang Nga Bay and visit some of its most famous spots. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Phuket for a day.

The beach at James Bond Island, Thailand

Day 3: Phi Phi Islands

It wouldn’t be right to come to Phuket and not take a day trip to the neighboring Phi Phi Islands, which are some of the most photographed and treasured places in the country.

As with Phang Nga Bay, there are many tour companies offering day trips to the Phi Phi Islands.

I recommend choosing this Maya, Phi Phi, and Bamboo Island with Buffet Lunch trip as it includes a visit to two of the Phi Phi Islands (Koh Phi Phi Don and Koh Phi Phi Lee), Bamboo Island, a delicious buffet lunch, and hotel pick-up/drop-off.

Maya Bay at Phi Phi Islands, Thailand
The stunning Maya Bay

Maya Bay

The first stop on the tour is the iconic Maya Bay, which gained worldwide fame after being featured in the movie “The Beach” starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

In fact, it became so popular that it had to be temporarily closed in 2020 to allow the coral reefs and marine life to recover from excessive tourism. However, it has recently reopened with strict regulations in place for visitors.

You can no longer swim or snorkel in Maya Bay and you can only go knee-deep into the water. This may be disappointing to some, but it’s necessary to protect this beautiful place for future generations.

I always worry that must-see spots like this won’t live up to the hype, but this beach was as magnificent as I’d hoped.

The limestone cliffs wrapping around the aquamarine waters make for a captivating sight, and the white sand is the softest I’ve ever encountered.

To be honest, the amount of crowds was a bit overwhelming but still, the beauty of this place is undeniable.

Please note that now you have to pay a 400 baht per adult national park fee to enter the beach.

Since it’s mandatory, I think it’s better to choose the tour option that already includes the fee but you can also just pay in cash to your guide the morning of your tour if you prefer.

The crowds at Maya Bay on Phi Phi Islands, Thailand
Crowds at Maya Bay at 8:30 am

Pileh Lagoon

Next up is the stunning Pileh Lagoon, a picturesque turquoise lagoon surrounded by sheer limestone cliffs.

Here, you can jump off the boat and swim in the crystal clear waters or just relax on board and take in the breathtaking views.

Unfortunately, the lagoon was so congested with boats and tourists that we couldn’t fully enjoy the experience.

It’s undoubtedly a beautiful spot, but the crowds took away from its tranquility and I honestly found it quite dangerous to jump into the crowded waters.

Boats in Pileh Lagoon, Phi Phi Islands

Viking Cave & Monkey Bay

After Pileh Lagoon, we made a stop at Viking Cave which is famous for its ancient paintings and the harvesting of bird’s nests. The cave itself isn’t open to visitors but it’s still an interesting sight from the boat.

We also briefly stopped by Monkey Bay, where you can spot wild monkeys playing on the shore. Some of them also jumped into the water and swam around, which was definitely something I hadn’t seen before!

Koh Phi Phi Don

Our next stop was at the main island of Koh Phi Phi Don. This is the only inhabited island in the Phi Phi group and it’s a lively spot with lots of restaurants, bars, and shops.

First, we stopped a bit further away from the island to snorkel in the crystal clear waters and see some marine life. The water was amazing and we even saw a few schools of colorful fish!

After snorkeling, we headed to our lunch spot which was a delicious buffet at a beach-front restaurant. There were plenty of options for everyone, including vegetarian dishes.

After lunch, we had some free time to explore the area or just relax on the beach.

Bamboo Island

Finally, we made our way to the last stop of the tour – Bamboo Island. This tiny island is a paradise for beach lovers and is famous for its pristine white sand and crystal-clear waters.

As you have 1.5 hours here, you can spend your time swimming, snorkeling, or just relaxing on the beach. It was the perfect way to end the day, and I could have easily stayed here for a few more hours.

Overall, the Phi Phi Islands tour was a great way to see some of the most beautiful spots in Thailand. It’s definitely a must-do when visiting Phuket and I highly recommend booking this particular tour for a hassle-free experience.

Beach on Bamboo Island, Thailand

Useful Info for Spending 3 Days in Phuket

Where to stay in Phuket 

As I’ve previously mentioned, Phuket is a pretty huge island, which has led to the development of a whole host of areas to cater to every kind of traveler.

What’s best for you will vary significantly depending on your travel style, so I’ve broken down a couple of popular spots to help you decide where to spend your 3 days in Phuket.

Patong is, without a doubt, the island’s liveliest and most visited town and the central tourist hub. Although it has a sprawling beach and some fantastic night markets, it’s primarily known for its wild nightlife. 

Many of the bustling bars are great spots for a night out, but you can also expect to see the seedier side of Phuket here, which is important to keep in mind.

Aerial view of Patong Beach, Phuket
Patong Beach

I think Kata Beach is an excellent alternative to Patong. It’s only around 20 minutes further south and has a long list of hotels, eateries, and bars, but the vibe is much more welcoming to families. Kata gets some bonus points for its gorgeous beach, which offers a ton of watersports.

North of Patong is a much more laidback area called Kamala, which is ideal for anyone who’d rather have a relaxed beach retreat without the crowds and loud music of the busier areas. For families with young kids and couples, it doesn’t get much better than Kamala.

If you’re in a rush, here are my top hotel recommendations for different budgets.

  • Luxury: KeemalaBetween the thatched roof villas, jungle setting, and exceptional service, I could rave about Keemala all day. This five-star resort is situated in Kamala and has a plethora of amenities for the most luxurious stay.
  • Mid-range: Mövenpick Myth Hotel Patong PhuketFor glamorous rooms, a convenient location, and the most spectacular pool in all of Phuket, Mövenpick Myth Hotel in Patong is your top choice. This resort offers the finest services at very reasonable prices. We stayed here during our 3 days in Phuket and absolutely loved it!
  • Budget: Andaman Beach Hotel PhuketA stone’s throw from Patong Beach is Andaman Beach Hotel. This four-star property is comprised of elegant rooms and suites, a top-notch onsite restaurant, and an expansive swimming pool.
The pool at Mövenpick Myth Hotel Patong Phuket
Mövenpick Myth Hotel Patong Phuket

How to get to Phuket

Phuket is Thailand’s largest island and therefore it’s very easy to reach. Phuket International Airport is located in the north of the island, which is around an hour from most of the main resort towns like Patong and Kata. 

There are a few different ways to get here, but booking a private transfer is the best and most convenient option. A driver will be waiting for you at the airport when you land, and they’ll take you straight to your hotel – no stress involved!

Alternatively, you can also get a taxi from the airport, but make sure to agree on a price before getting in.

Some taxis may try to overcharge tourists, so it might be a better option to use Grab or Bolt, ride-hailing apps that are popular in Thailand.

Best time to visit Phuket

Phuket’s high season runs from November until March when the temperatures are warm, humidity is relatively low, and the rain has started to ease up.

The desirable weather during these months easily makes it the best time to visit Phuket, and you’ll be able to look forward to temperatures of around 26°C (79°F), increasing up to 34°C (93°F) as the peak season comes to a close in late March.

As these months bring the best weather, and Phuket is one of Thailand’s most visited destinations, you’d be correct in thinking that the island can get pretty crowded at this time of year.

Although we visited at the end of November, we still had a pretty mixed experience with the weather.

We had plenty of sunny days, but there was also a lot of rain and stormy weather, so it might be a safer bet to visit in December or January to guarantee the best weather.

Wat Chalong, Phuket

How to get around Phuket

Phuket is a very tourist-friendly island, so you won’t be short of transport options no matter where you find yourself.

For a local experience, you have to take a songtaew, akin to a local or public taxi, or a tuk-tuk at least once during your stay. Songtaews are usually cheaper but may take longer, as everyone on board tells the driver where they’re going before hopping on.

Taxis are also available but are more expensive than songtaews. You can also use ridesharing apps like Grab or Bolt, but prices may vary depending on demand and traffic.

Street in Old Town Phuket

Planning a trip to Thailand?

Then you might want to take a look at all our other travel guides about Thailand. I promise, they are just as awesome as this article was!


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