Island fun activities for the whole family

Among visitors to Thailand, there are few who have not heard tales of Phuket’s glittering nightlife, sunny beaches, adventure sports and multitude of outdoor activities. However, some may be surprised to know that Phuket is one of the top destinations in Thailand (and maybe SE Asia) for family holidays, no matter what age the children. Boasting a good selection of fun activities geared specifically towards children along with a warming choice of family entertainment – the island is the ideal destination for those travelling with the tiniest of tots to the eldest of teens.

Most of Phuket’s resorts offer rooms suitable for families of four, or even suites and connecting rooms that might be good for those travelling with more children and/or teens who might want to have their own space. Many resorts cater to families with special activities and daycare for children so that the parents can have time to sightsee or relax on their own.

One fine example of this is JW Marriot Phuket Resort & Spa, which not only has babysitting services but an active Kids Club with a varied daily programme separated between Tots and Teen sections. Special events are arranged by JWM for holidays like Halloween, New Year, Christmas and Thai festivals.

Thais love children and there are sure to be people fawning over your precious bundles of joy, even when they are well past diapers. It can get a bit alarming for some kids who are not used to so much attention from strangers – but just remember it’s very well-meaning. Phuket is very safe for families and children.

The main activity for most visitors on holiday tends to revolve around the beaches; and there are many idyllic beaches for families such as Bang Tao Beach. Building sandcastles and swimming together can be a peaceful way to bond; and when the kids get bored, there’s always banana boat rides and snorkelling among the activities offered around beach areas. Phuket Cable Ski & Phuket Wake Boarding offers wakeboarding and waterskiing; while kids 12 years and older can take part in a PADI scuba diving course.

When you’re ready to spend a day away from the beach, don’t forget that Phuket has a lush jungle interior that can provide a refreshing time in the outdoors with mini-treks and elephant rides being most popular. Children can learn more about the fauna of the forest at the Phuket Butterfly Farm in Phuket City, snake show in Chalong, and the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project at Bang Pae Waterfall in Khao Phra Thaeo National Park. Phuket Zoo offers a shady walk around enclosures housing some native creatures, as well as several daily crocodile, elephant and monkey shows. The Phuket Marine Biological Centre and Aquarium is a must-see with its newly renovated displays of local marine life.

Another fun way to spend the day together as a family is to indulge in a Thai cooking class. Other courses are also offered that can be suitable for family adventures depending on the ages of the children: try sailing, Muay Thai, scuba diving, yoga or massage.

You won’t have to go far for a spectacular camping adventure. It’s easy to hire a car and take a small road trip up to Khao Sok National Park, where exceptional trekking and camping awaits. Also in the vicinity, river rafting and mountain biking can provide fun for older kids and teenagers. If you don’t have time to take this trip, you can still enjoy the small waterfalls and picnic areas of Thalang and Kathu.

Sea canoeing is a superb way for a family to spend a day. Tours go out into Phang Nga Bay, where the waters are calm and the scenery is unique. Lunch is usually served on one of the uninhabited islands in the bay with a little bit of cave exploration for dessert. Many operations offer someone who does the paddling and all include life-vests for safety.

Phuket is home to several golf courses and instruction is available for children at some of these. There is also mini-golf at Dino Park in Kata a dinosaur themed course that is fun for the whole family and boasts the best burgers on the island. There’s also a go-kart track in Kathu which is quite popular with children; while venues in Rawai and outside Laguna Resort supply horseback riding lessons. ATV tours, bungee jumping and paintball can be good activities for teenagers.

The most highly recommended evening entertainment that the family simply cannot miss is Phuket FantaSea. The cultural show here is dazzling with its cast of elephants and acrobats, bright costumes, pyrotechnic displays and more. The buffet before the shows is excellent, and games and elephant rides enhance the overall experience. Brought to the island by the creators of Phuket FantaSea, the recently opened Tiger Jungle Adventure is a theatrical safari with 12 remarkable supernatural scenes inspired by legends and ancient folklores, starring local animals and advanced special effects.

If you need to get out of the heat, bowling is a good choice. There is the Rock ‘n’ Bowl alley in Patong and another inside Ocean shopping center. In Big C, you’ll find one of the largest alleys on the top floor, or try the Pearl Bowl in Phuket City. Movies are excellent for cooling off indoors and new releases are shown in English at SFX Cinema in Central and Jungceylon as well as in Phuket City. Kiddie play zones are in the basement of Big C and the upper floor of Tesco Lotus; and are jam packed with video games, small rides, karaoke booths and treats.

Outdoor playgrounds with swings and slides are at Loma Park in Patong and at Saphan Hin in Phuket City. If your hotel doesn’t have a swimming pool, you can opt for a day pass to a larger resort like Club Med or Laguna Phuket, or try Land & Houses Park in Chalong.

Have no fear if the kids don’t like Thai food: there are many more options in Phuket. Western food abounds and there are even the fast-food options like McDonald’s, KFC and Pizza Hut. Going out for ice cream will be a real delight with iberry or children might like to try some traditional Thai desserts.

Although it comes at the hottest time of year, the Songkran water festival is a blast for kids. Taking place over the course of a few days in mid-April, the festival celebrates the Thai New Year with parades, ceremonies and the throwing of water everywhere in the streets. Water pistols, super-soakers and buckets abound all for the purpose of making sure everyone is soaked all day long.

No matter what time of year you visit, or the ages of your children Phuket promises to charm the whole family!

Child safety tips:
1.Phuket is hot! Be sure the little ones drink plenty of water, apply sunscreen and avoid being in the sun at peak hours around mid-day. Try indoor activities if the heat becomes too much.
2.Spicy food may cause children to have upset stomachs and you should be sure to ask for mild dishes without MSG.
3.While Thailand is generally safe, you should keep an eye on young children and only leave them alone with reliable hotel babysitting services or people you know.
4.There are no lifeguards at most beaches and swimming pools, so find out if your area has a lifeguard and what hours they are available.