Something that took us by surprise on our recent trip to Phuket was the island’s scenic overlooks. Like any first-time visitor, we fully expected to explore some pretty beaches. But what we hadn’t realized was that we could admire the beautiful coastline and sprawling seascape from an entirely different perspective. That is, one that was far above sea level and didn’t involve getting ourselves (or our camera gear) sandy. In the span of a few hours, we visited three viewpoints in Phuket’s southwestern corner and managed to snap some of our favorite photos to date.
So where did we go to? Of the dozen or so ‘official’ viewpoints in Phuket, we visited Cape Phromthep, Windmill Viewpoint, and Karon Viewpoint. They were easy to find on our own (we drove there ourselves rather than join a tour group) and they were close to one another, making it a pretty effortless trip that was squeezed in one morning when the sky was clear.
A note about the weather: it can really make or break sightseeing in Phuket. We got really lucky on this particular outing because the previous five days had been wet and dreary. But on this day the skies were crystal clear and naturally enhanced the panoramic views.
Phromthep Cape (Laem Phromthep)
One of the most famous viewpoints in Phuket is Phromthep Cape. It’s on postcards, in magazines, and is a popular stop among many of Phuket’s island tours.
Why so famous? This cape has a reputation for having the best sunset views on the island. Perhaps it does, but we visited it far too early in the day to experience that for ourselves.
That being said, Phromthep Cape was no less beautiful when we visited in the morning.
The cape is a small peninsula that juts out from the southwestern tip of Phuket. However, the main viewing area is an expansive, multi-tiered overlook that’s set back a bit and provides plenty of room for visitors to sprawl out. From behind the stone walls and sky-high palm trees, there’s a panoramic view of the cape, the Andaman Sea, the neighboring islands of Koh Kaeo Yai and Koh Kaeo Noi, and Nai Harn Beach.
If you want to get away from other visitors, you can escape the main viewing area and walk down a small dirt path that winds down the cape. This is one of the best locations for a sunset photo since most visitors stay behind on the main viewing platform.
At the viewpoint’s highest point there’s an elephant shrine home to hundreds of elephants of all different sizes and colors. There’s also the Golden Jubilee Lighthouse, which you can climb up inside for a slightly higher and more isolated view. Down near the parking lot are restrooms and a string of vendors selling your standard beach paraphernalia and tasty chilled treats.
This viewpoint gets its name after the sleek, three-bladed wind turbine that’s at the top of the hill. But let’s be clear – we didn’t go for the windmill.
This was, hands down, our favorite viewpoint. And to think that we were originally going to drive right passed it on our way from Phromthep Cape to Karon Viewpoint.
The views were gorgeous. Here, see for yourself. This one is looking down on Ya Nui Beach with Phromthep Cape far in the distance.
And the colors – they just popped. We were lucky to have visited on such a clear day. If it had been overcast or hazy, it wouldn’t have been the same.
Standing there, high above that cove, was peaceful. We’ve experienced a similar feeling while trekking on the side of Doi Inthanon and peering down at the valley below.
Why the Windmill Viewpoint is not more popular is beyond us. There were only six or seven other people there when we visited. Not that it could hold much more than that because there was no parking lot. That is unless you count the small one near the windmill’s maintenance building. There was only one vendor at the viewpoint: a friendly Thai man, whipping up some fresh fruit smoothies from his motorbike stall.
The Karon Viewpoint is another one of the more popular viewpoints in Phuket. It’s actually right on the border of the Rawai and Karon Districts. What’s particularly interesting about this overlook is the angle, which allows you to see three swooping beaches and the colorful town below.
From where we were standing, we could peek out through the trees for a view of Kata Noi Beach (nearest), is Kata (Yai) Beach (middle), and then Karon Beach (furthest away). The infamous Patong Beach is just on the other side of the distant hills.
This viewpoint had several 10-seater vans in its parking lot, a telltale sign that it’s frequently visited by Phuket’s tour companies. But there were no more than twenty people there when we visited around lunchtime. This viewpoint also has restrooms and a friendly Thai guy selling handmade jewelry made of intricate seashells and semi-precious stones.
Do a little self-exploration of Phuket’s viewpoints
We visited Phromthep Cape, the Windmill Viewpoint, and the Karon Viewpoint in just a few hours. Afterward, we stopped for lunch at one of the handful of restaurants on a cliff overlooking the Kata Noi Beach. Although it had a fantastic view, the particular restaurant we ate at wasn’t anything to write home about. Still, the views were incredible and you may have better luck than we did.
We went home after having lunch, but if we could do it all over again, we’d do something like this (starting at the bottom of the island):
- Phromthep Cape
- Windmill Cape + Fruit Smoothie
- Karon Viewpoint
- Lunch overlooking Kata Noi Beach
- Big Buddha
- Cape Panwa
This impromptu trip turned out to be one of our best days on the island. For the cost of a liter or so of gas, a few fruit smoothies, and lunch, we snagged some incredible photos and can now add these places to our ‘Thailand Favorites’ list. These three viewpoints in Phuket are something that we think anyone should do on your next visit to the area.