The pearly white, palm- and casuarina-fringed beaches that ring Phuket's southern and western coasts are the island's key bounty. Each beach is different, from the northwest's upmarket Surin and Ao Bang Thao (with their luxe resorts and, in Bang Thao, glossy beach clubs) to mellow, jungled Rawai on far south Phuket, or the infamous west-coast sin city of Patong, home of hangovers and go-go bars. So there's space for everyone, whether you're a flashpacking couple, a luxury jetsetter, a wandering budgeteer or a travelling family on the hunt for seaside fun.
Those tropical-island beaches are glorious, of course, but venture just a little beyond and you'll uncover astonishing Phuketian cultural riches that many visitors zip right past. East-coast capital Phuket Town delights with its eye-opening museums, Peranakan cooking, Chinese shrines and historic mansions and shophouses done in characteristic Sino-Portuguese style. Major temples stand in Chalong and Thalang, while two national parks and a smattering of wildlife sanctuaries await exploration in the island's northern reaches. Even a speedy trip up into the hills behind Kata to Big Buddha connects you to modern-day Phuket's pulse.
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