From tip-to-toe, north to south, it takes about an hour to drive all of Phuket, but the availability of hired tuk-tuks, hotel transport, or even self-drive vehicles means that for dining and nightlife, you can choose from any of the many options on the island. The beach areas in the west are chockablock with small eateries or smart hotel restaurants. In the throbbing Patong strip, culinary options stretch from fast-food outlets clustered around the beach to snazzy designer diners and Asian chains.
Kata & Karon
The busy road between Kata and Karon (as well as the many side streets) are crammed with small cafes and restaurants serving affordable Thai and Western food. There are also lots of outdoor beer bars and cafes on the far southern end of Kata Beach that rock till late and are handy for grabbing a quick bite, local style. Of those low-key joints on Kata Yai, the best seafood stall is Kata Mama (tel. 07628-4006), a longstanding shop with friendly Thai staff. The simply named Istanbul Restaurant (www.istanbulrestaurantphuket.com; tel. 091820-7173) does Turkish breakfasts, kebabs, and regional favorites like minced beef atop eggplant. Its prices are low, and its staff are a delightful bunch. Red Duck (www.fb.com/redduckrestaurant; tel. 084850-2929) has tons of regular clients who come back for the vegan selections, seafood curries, and the vegetable larb—all made without MSG.
For a casual meal in Karon, try The Pad Thai Shop (look for an orange sign with blue font). As the name suggests, it’s all about noodles at this humble roadside shop, but the fried rice with veggies and crabmeat is equally famous; closed on Friday. Eat Bar & Grill (www.eatbargrill.com; tel. 085292-5652) is another real standout. It does a bang-up job with beef burgers, steaks and other western fare. Book in advance during high season to avoid waiting.
If you have a hankering for seafood (and who doesn’t at the seaside?), head to the southern end of the beach drag (Thaweewong Road). What was once just a collection of wooden shacks is now a long strip darn good seafood shacks with reasonable pricing. Most of the restaurants offer identical menus and have a wide selection of fresh seafood which will be displayed at the front of each shop. So pick based on atmosphere and view; they’re all worthy of your baht.
Bang Tao Bay (The Laguna Resort Complex)
The many hotel restaurants of the five-star properties in the Laguna Complex could fill a small guidebook of their own. You can't go too wrong in any of the hotels, with The Banyan Tree Phuket topping the lot for sheer style and enormous variety (try the pan-Asian delicacies at Saffron, while Dee Plee is another ace choice. For choices outside these hotels, take a look at the individual reviews on this site.
Chalong Bay & Rawai
In the far south of the island at Chalong Bay’s Kan Eang Seafood (www.kaneang-pier.com; 9/3 Chaofa Rd., Chalong Bay; tel. 07638-1323) is a good bet for fresh seafood. We’re talking whole fish or Phuket lobster (a giant clawless langoustine) plucked from the ocean just hours before. If you’ve rented a car, a ride down this way makes for a fun day out. Nikita’s (www.nikitas-phuket.com; tel. 07628-8703) on the Rawai seafront is a breezy seaside hangout with lite bites, wood-fired pizzas. It’s popular for sundowners. Rum Jungle (tel. 07638-8153) is the pick of the restaurants in this area with homemade pasta, cuts of New Zealand lamb, and a menu that changes weekly to make use of the best produce; book ahead in high season. A final option: go for a stroll around Rawai Beach and check out the local seafood shacks. Each will have ice-packed crates of the day’s catch ready to be cooked to your liking.
Though quite a long ride from the West coast beach areas, a night out in Phuket Town is worth it for a taste of local culture. The range of dining options is as good a reason as any to base yourself in town. Oh, and here’s a tip we learned from a hotel GM: the best pizza on the island is at Crust (www.fb.com/crustphuket; tel. 093763-0318), just north of Phuket Town.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.