Enjoy Crowd-Free Adventures on your Trip to Phuket With Kids
Mention that you’re planning a family trip to Phuket, and you might get a few raised eyebrows. While it’s famous on the one hand for glorious beaches, family-friendly hotels and more than its fair share of splash parks, indoor play centers and theme parks, Phuket has also become synonymous with large crowds, pickpockets, backed up traffic and a rather seedy downtown.
Don’t let that put you off – look beyond the overcrowded district of Patong, with its infamous ping pong shows, rubbish-strewn beach and tourist traps – and you’ll find a side of Phuket that’s ripe for family adventures. Along with admiring the impressive architecture and eye-catching street art of the Old Town, bartering with street sellers at busy local markets and taking to the water to see weird and wonderful marine life, there are a whole host of ways to enjoy a fun, safe, and crowd-free trip to Phuket with the fam.
Let the Kids Run Riot on Mai Khao Beach
Leave the crowds and hawkers of Patong Beach behind, and take the kids instead to Mai Khao Beach. At 11km long, this coarse sand beach stretches further than the eye can see, and while there are a couple of upscale hotel resorts here, for the most part it is blissfully un-developed. With one end falling under the protected confines of Sirinat National Park, there are no beach bars or vendors trying to sell trips, tours and tourist tat, instead it’s just miles of white sand and clear water. Even in the high season, it’s perfectly possible to spend hours here without seeing another soul. Bring a picnic and plenty of water, and let the kids roam free for the day. At the other end of the noise scale, the farthest edge from the National Park joins onto the island’s airport, and the sight and sound of the planes soaring right overhead is a dramatic one. Families at Mai Khao Beach won’t want to spend all day under this noisy flight path, but it’s worth it for the spectacle before before or after a long beach session.
Climb Monkey Hill 🐵
Phuket has its fair share of animal attractions, but who wants to see the animal inhabitants of the island in captivity? Instead, lure the kids on a hill-climbing, view-admiring expedition up to the highest point on the island, with the promise of wild monkeys to be spotted along the route. Local buses and vans stop at the bottom of a long, winding walk (about 15-20 minutes’ climb, longer with small children, try to come here before it gets too hot) and families can stop at viewpoints and platforms along the way. Crowds of macaques hang out here, enticed by the fruit offered by locals and a scattering of curious tourists, but they’re not the only attraction – the views over Phuket are astonishing, especially at sunset, and it’s fun to try to keep quiet, so the monkeys lose interest and it’s possible to watch them going about their monkey business.
🍜 Eat here:
If you splash out on just one ‘fancy’ family dinner in Phuket (it’s a little pricier than some local spots, but still far from extortionate), make it Pha Chom Tawan Kawala, tucked away amid the tropical foliage on a hillside between Kamala and Patong. Although it’s held in high esteem by locals, it’s virtually unknown among foreign visitors. Along with an MSG-free menu of traditional Thai dishes, using super-fresh seafood and the restaurant’s own garden produce (fruit smoothies here are a favorite with little visitors to the restaurant), the big draw is a viewing platform with glorious views over the sea. Exploring the surrounding area is a good way to build up an appetite, and there are even a couple of hidden beaches to be discovered.
Back On the beaten track: Visit an Upside Down House
Occasionally, an on-the-beaten-track is worth the visit simply because it can’t be found anywhere else. Phuket’s Upside Down House is one such spot. Families with kids in Phuket will be getting snap-happy with the camera as they explore this curious attraction – literally a house, built upside down, with amazing attention to detail – everything from the tableware to the paintings on the walls are the wrong way up, and there’s even an upside down tuk tuk. There’s a garden maze, complete with tree house, to be explored, as well as an Escape Room and even a ‘Drunk Box’, which makes everything looks a bit off-kilter, and allows kids to get an idea of how their parents see the world after a couple of Happy Hour cocktails on the beach. It’s definitely touristy, but families with younger kids will likely find a trip here will keep them in the children’s good books for a while.