It took a while for the world to discover the incredible islands of Southeast Asia. Long after Hawaii and Tahiti were watchwords for tropical getaways, Thailand’s largest island was way off the tourist map, with deserted beaches that rivaled any in the South Pacific.
Today, more than 3 million tourists make their way to Phuket each year for a little sand-sun-and-sea R&R (and perhaps a little sin, which is never hard to find in Thailand.). Despite the relentless development that comes with such numbers, it’s still not hard to find some quiet time on out-of-the-way beaches. And the upside of that development (much of it centered on Patong Beach) includes both luxurious resorts and fine dining at some of the country’s best restaurants.
And if the more distant islands of Thailand are beckoning, journey to Rawai Beach. A lookout known as Laem Promthep is famous for providing the best sunset views on Phuket, but it’s the outlying islands on the horizon that hint of Phuket-based trips to the matchless diving waters of the Similan Islands, as well as isles like Ko Phi Phi, once known only to intrepid backpackers.