Planning a vacation to Thailand? Between bustling cities, rich culture and history, and stunning natural beauty, there’s so much to see and do in the country. But no matter what, no trip to Thailand is complete without a beach vacation. Phuket and Phi Phi are two of Thailand’s most popular beaches, both located off the southwestern coast of the country. Both locations have quite a number of similarities, making it hard for many visitors to choose between the two, but luckily, we’re here to help. Check out our guide to Phuket vs Phi Phi to figure out which perfect Thai beach completes your vacation.
One of the most important aspects to compare these two seaside paradises are the beaches. However, this is also the hardest to compare as both are known for their incredible scenery. In Phuket, you’ll get spots like Kata Beach, with shady palm trees, great surf, and perfectly clear waters making it great for snorkeling. The southern portion of Kata Beach features a number of great surf spots, hotels, restaurants, bars, and more. Phuket also features the unique, isolated Freedom Beach, giving you peace and quiet while on the island, as well as the James Bond Island, or Khao Phing Kan, part of the Ao Phang Nga National Park.
Phi Phi Islands’ beaches are no less stunning and magical. Check out the popular Maya Bay, which is surrounded by the towering limestone cliffs that are characteristic of Koh Phi Phi Leh. That said, the beach is often very crowded with visitors, due to the extreme beauty. Phi Phi is also home to the isolated, sleepy Bamboo Island, which offers visitors local bars and restaurants, quiet waves, and soft golden sands at the northern end of Phi Phi Don Island.
Overall, both Phuket and Phi Phi offer iconic Thai beaches, with towering cliffs that sit above vibrant turquoise seas, waves for prime surf spots or quite palm tree-lined shores for a lazy afternoon, and buzzing beach towns full of restaurants and bars, as well as hotels and hostels.
2. Food and Restaurants
Another hard one to compare is the dining options in both Phuket and Phi Phi, as both tend to offer the same dishes. While Phuket has more upscale, romantic restaurants, Phi Phi’s eateries tend to have more backpacker vibes. Phi Phi’s restaurants tend to cater more to younger, more on-the-go travelers, while Phuket’s most popular spots tend to be more high-end.
Phuket’s number one rated restaurant is Mom Tri’s Kitchen, overlooking the sea. The restaurant serves up crab souffle, beef massaman, lobster ravioli, and some prime chocolatey desserts. All alongside live piano music. Sound amazing? The restaurant is easily considered one of the most romantic spots in the area.
Phuket is known for popular street foods like fresh fruit and Roti pancakes but also offers a variety of international cuisine, including the popular DeDos Restaurant, which blends French and Thai food. The restaurant is run by Swiss-Bolivian chef Pablo Blattman and dishes include fine de claire oyster, gambas de ajillo, a shrimp based dish, pan-fried Foie Gras, and the fish tartare starter.
Alternatively, food on Phi Phi Island heavily includes rice-based dishes like Khao Mok Gai — a traditional Thai dish of roast chicken, saffron rice, ginger, and garlic — and Khao Mun Gai, which is similar to Khao Mok Gai but instead of saffron rice features white rice with a dark soy-based sauce. Typical breakfast in Phi Phi is Khanom Cheen, a rice-based dish that comes from China. Phi Phi also has tons of fresh, tropical fruits and dozens of spots for international food.
Phi Phi’s top restaurant is Aroy Kaffeine. The cozy place is a great breakfast, lunch, and dinner spot, with menus serving up both typical Thai, fusion and international food. Noteworthy dishes include banana pancakes, spring rolls, Pad Thai, and the fresh fruit smoothies and green smoothies. Mama Resto is a great dinner spot in Phi Phi boasting stunning views of the deep blue sea, a laid-back vibe, and popular Thai plates, including fried squid, fried rice with shrimp, and more.
3. Where to Stay
Whether you choose Phuket or Phi Phi, the best option is to stay along the water’s edge. Phuket’s main spots for hotels are Patong Beach and Kata Beach, while Patong Beach is a favorite amongst travelers looking for a good party. The area has the densest concentration of bars and clubs, bringing the party right to your door. Holiday Inn has a resort in Patong Beach which is good for service and comfort alongside the water’s edge. Additionally, The Avista Hideaway is another popular option, for cozy rooms and a picturesque infinity pool.
Kata Beach gives you one of Phuket’s most popular beach spots right at your fingertips. The hotels on Kata Beach are the most popular amongst those looking for water sports, due to the close location to the beach, as well as having easy access to restaurants, bars, clubs, and shopping.
Meanwhile, Phi Phi’s hotel scene offers four distinct areas: Central Area, Laem Thong, Long Beach, and Phi Phi East Coast. Phi Phi Central Area is great for budget-conscious travelers with dozens of affordable hostels and guest houses, especially around Tonsai. Central Area, as the name implies, is centrally located, making it easy to get to the best cafes, bars, and shops of Phi Phi. Laem Thong offers a quiet stay in a sleepy fishing village area of Phi Phi. Holiday Inn Resort Phi Phi and Zaevola Resort are among the most popular places to stay in the area, providing a special, full resort village experience.
On Long Beach, you’ll find another quiet and isolated beach experience. The majority of the hotels in Long Beach are backed up into the jungle, featuring incredible architecture like at the Paradise Pearl Bungalows. Staying on Phi Phi East Coast means a much more remote coastline that’s only been built-up in the last few decades. Book a stay at the Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort or the Phi Phi Relax Beach Resort to take advantage of the still growing area.
While you can’t go wrong in either location, each tends to cater to different vibes. If you’re looking for more larger resorts with tons of amenities, Phuket is your best bet. Phuket also tends to have more hotels closer to the restaurants and nightlife. If you’re looking for a beach bungalow on a quiet, more remote beach, you’ll find more of those across Phi Phi.
If you’re looking for a party, you’ll definitely find it on Thailand’s beaches. In Phuket, the bustling town center around Bangla Road is always vibrant after sundown, with dozens of bars and clubs lining the streets. The popular clubs in Patong include Seduction, Illuzion, and Banana, where you’re sure to find large crowds of both locals and tourists alike.
If a hot club in on a busy street isn’t your scene, head down to the water’s edge. What could be more appealing than drinks along a sandy beach with the moon shining over the still water? Phuket is full of beachside bars for you to relax in and enjoy during your vacation. Popular beach bars in Phuket include Dream Beach Club, Xana Beach Club, and HQ Beach Lounge. Phuket is also home to live cabarets, live music venues, sunset bars high up above the sea to grab a drink while enjoying the view, and a thriving LGBT scene.
The Phi Phi Islands, while less built-up than Phuket, are no less fun when the sun goes down. Phi Phi Islands feature dozens of bars and clubs perfect for any party-goer in town. Tonsai Village has the highest concentration of bars and clubs ranging from Reggae clubs to Irish pubs to buzzing discos, and more. The rest of Phi Phi, especially Tonsai East and Loh Dalum Bay, are home to quieter beachside spots that are perfect for a delicious drink. Phi Phi is also home to busy, loud, beachside nightclubs for those looking to dance all night in the sand. Check out well-known spots like Carlito’s Beach Bar, Slinky Bar, Ibiza Beach Club, and Banana Rooftop Bar.
5. Overall Experience
Both Phuket and Phi Phi are both constant beach destination picks for a reason. They both offer visitors golden, sandy shores, pristine beaches, stunning views, and tons of fun and relaxation on a Thai vacation. Generally, Phi Phi is the place to be for more isolation and quieter vibes, while Phuket is the undeniable party scene of the two. Phuket is home to larger resorts and more amenities, while Phi Phi is great for those looking to disconnect and unwind from the rest of the world.