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. Stop by Euro Deli (58/60 Karon Rd.; tel. 07628-6265) for a good sandwich or a coffee. Also note the outdoor beer bars and travelers cafes on the far southern end of Kata Beach, just behind Club Med; these places rock till late and are good spots to grab a quick bite, local style. On the north end of Karon, stop by Karon Café (526/17 Soi Islandia Park Resort, off Patak Rd.; tel. 07639-64217; www.karoncafe.com) for good, casual Western dining (such as great Aussie steaks). For a more expensive treat, Joe's South (Kata Gardens on Kata Noi Rd.; tel. 07628-5385) is a fabulous fine-dining spot in a great setting.
Since the opening of the JungCeylon shopping mall in 2007, dining options in Patong have not just broadened, but smartened up radically. In addition to the usual low-cost Western food and drink chains (Subway, Starbucks), there are now some smarter places such as the Singaporean restaurant chain Indochine, all packed into this gargantuan air-conditioned mall.
Most of the small seafront sois offer pricey Thai and Italian food -- in often expat-run places. If you have a hankering for seafood, head to the southern end of the beach drag (Thaweewong Rd.). What was once just a collection of wooden shacks 10 years ago is now a long strip of chic diners. Though this road is plagued with touts, armed with menus and imploring tourists to choose their restaurant, this end of it is slightly less intense, so stand your ground. Pick a menu that you like the look of, and order from a wide selection of fresh seafood that is displayed on ice at the front.
One popular little breakfast place is Sabai-Sabai (100/3 Thaweewong Rd.; tel. 07634-0222); the name means "relaxed," and, indeed, it is so, just a laid-back storefront in a small soi off busy Patong Beach Road. Or try the little restaurant Orchid (78/304 Thaweewong Rd., Soi Perm Pong; tel. 07634-0462), on the next soi south, for good, affordable Thai and European dishes.
Scruffy Murphy's (Soi Bangla; tel. 07629-2590) is a popular Irish pub that also serves good pub grub and fry-ups (great hangover chow). Also look for little Zen (tel. 07629-3053), a popular Thai sushi chain with a busy outlet on the main beach road in Patong. You'll find lots of international fast-food chains, overpriced coffee, and, of course, the obligatory 7-Eleven here, too.
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, or delicious Mediterranean fare at Watercourt). One restaurant just outside the complex is worth mentioning; it's where all the hotel managers eat when they get out of work.
Chalong Bay & Rawai
A good bet for fresh seafood is in the far south of the island at Chalong Bay's Kan Eang Seafood (9/3 Chaofa Rd., Chalong Bay; tel. 07638-1323). You'll find whole fish or Phuket lobster (a giant clawless langoustine) just fresh from the ocean. If you've rented a car, a ride down this way makes for a fun day out. The Drunken Monkey (21/6 Moo 4, Viset Rd., Rawai; tel. 0810-878742) is a great gay-friendly eatery for home-cooked meals and Sunday roast; Londoners Martyn and Ian are wonderful hosts. Nikita's Café Bar (tel. 07628-8703) on the Rawai seafront is a cool seaside hangout for coffee and sundowners, and decent food too. Down Nai Harn Beach way, look out for Los Amigos Cantina (tel. 08947-29128, mobile), next to Nai Harn Lake, for excellent Mexican. The Breakfast Hut (tel. 07628-9823), on the same road, serves tasty Western food.
Though quite a long ride from the West coast beach areas, a night out in Phuket Town is worth it for some fine meals and a taste of local culture. One place to visit is the slickly styled Siam Indigo (8 Phang Nga Rd.; tel. 07625-6697), which has fabulous Thai cuisine as well as steaks, cocktails, and a good range of wines.
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.