Sightseeing beach getaway island guide Thailand > South Thailand > Phuket

Phuket Or Bali: Which Island Should You Choose?

Updated Oct 15, 2018

Phuket, Thailand and Bali, Indonesia are two islands that are difficult to decide between as both are equally beautiful. Phuket and Bali both offer a vast number of options to choose from, but you don’t want to make the wrong choice for your upcoming trip. So, let us help you choose between Phuket or Bali.

Let's start off with the beaches...

With over 30 sandy beaches and clear waters, it’s easy to find a beach in Phuket to match all your needs and is easy to access. Patong Beach in Phuket is one of the most famous beaches in Phuket and also around the world. The soft white sands under the shady umbrellas are great places to relax on the beach. Just don’t forget to use your sunscreen. Here you can expect watersports and activities like jet skiing, parasailing, windsurfing, banana boats, snorkelling,​ and more.

Phuket is known for its scuba diving and snorkelling and has stunning dive points. Karon Beach, Patong Beach, and Kamala Beach are very famous and are in close vicinity to most of the ​holiday resorts and attractions. Phuket is more prone to tropical monsoon showers, which may last for days, so it’s only a matter of luck if you’re in Phuket on a good day. Also, look out for flag warnings, which tell you whether it is safe to swim or not.

Phuket is hottest in April and May and wettest from September to October.

The beaches in Bali have newer infrastructure when compared to Phuket, and therefore there are fewer beach resorts, but the quality of the resorts is equal to those in Phuket. Expect similar water sports at Bali too. You’ll find great scuba diving and snorkelling, but Phuket still has the upper hand. Nevertheless, Bali’s beaches still have a lot to offer.

Bali is the surf haven of Southeast Asia and will not fail to impress an enthusiast who is ready ride the waves. Aside from being a surf haven, Bali’s beaches are also great spots to have a relaxing day, laying down in the shade with a drink in your hand. Seminyak Beach is one of the most popular beaches, which is close to holiday resorts. This beach is a bit more suited for competent surfers and swimmers, and if you’re looking for a place to chill, you might need to go a bit further from the resorts. May, June, and July are the best times to visit Bali to enjoy the beaches to the fullest. However, surfers can expect good waves from May till October. The best beaches for surfing in Bali can be found below:

For Beginners: Kuta Beach and Canggu beach

For intermediates: Keramas Beach and Uluwatu Beach

For Experts: Padang Beach

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Phuket and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Phuket

If the mainland isn't enough, there are neighbours

​The islands around Phuket have become popular tourist hubs, and there is no shortage of day tours that allow you to explore all of them. The islands around Phuket are more or less as mainstream as Phuket itself is. Koh Phi Phi, Similan Islands, Coral Island, and Racha Island are some of the popular islands where parties are hosted, and events take place. Of all these islands, Phi Phi are the most famous because of the lay-back-and-relax environment and incredible scenery. The islands are well developed, with plenty of retreats and holiday escapes for families and friends. Much like the mainland itself, the sidekick islands are well known for the snorkelling and scuba diving tours.

Unlike the neighboring islands of Phuket, those of Bali are not as famous as the mainland itself. People who visit Bali, tend not to head over to surrounding islands, but what they don’t know is that the islands around Bali are hidden gems. These islands are a lot less crowded and quieter than Bali. Islands like Lombok, Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Penida, Gili, and Menjangan Islands are pristine destinations. Though Lombok is on the road to fame, all the islands around Bali are for those who want to laze around without worrying about crowds or annoying traffic.

Each island has a unique element that distinguishes it from the rest. For example, Nusa Lembongan is an island where it is hard to find a motorized vehicle. You need permission from the village elders just to bring in a car. So spend your day cycling through the island (or walking). The mangrove rainforests in the island are a hidden gem and are lovely to explore.

Nusa Ceningan, a forgotten island, is a great spot for extremists. Cross rickety bridges to get there and find yourself facing obstacles put forth by the one and only mother nature. Jump off tall cliffs into the clear blue waters. Lombok has amazing waterfalls, and Gilli Air, Meno, and Trawangan​ are famous spots among backpackers.

One can go on about the hidden gems around Bali, so if you are looking for a bit of vitality, the islands around Bali are recommended if you have two to three more days to spare.​

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Phuket and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Phuket

Where should you take your loved one? (from 88 USD)

Speciality massages, sunset cruises, and dinners on the coastline. What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear these activities? If it’s related to the word ‘romance’, then you’re on the right track. Phuket and Bali are both great romantic getaways, but what makes one better than the other? Read on to find out…

Phuket’s game of romance is strong, no question about that, but is it strong enough to top Bali? You may find a variety of romantic activities like sunset cruising, candlelit dining, Thai massages (this is undoubtedly the best spa treatment), kayaking, and even twilight snorkeling. Sip a glass of wine as you watch the sun set over the Andaman Sea. The options are numerous and surprises spring up all the time.

Romantic Thai Food or Seafood Dinner on the Beach Restaurant in Patong

Enjoy this romantic tour with your partner and relish the evening atmosphere on the beach of Patong.

Price: from 88 USD

Sometimes you just feel like you need the most amazing thing for your partner, something that is rare and not cliché. If that’s what you’re looking for, you should head to Bali.

Bali has a few outside of the box romantic ideas that would probably surprise your partner. Dine over infinity pools in solitude, in a lush green candlelight garden right before dusk, in a private cave in the Sam​abe Resort, or even near a river in a woodland setting where you would be seated in a bird’s nest-like contraption. Get personalized​ jewelry and accessories and don’t even worry about the weather. Bali is known for its exclusive dining options and it probably offers the biggest surprises when it comes to romance. Do the things that you would have never imagined or seen in any movie.

Private 6-Course Romantic Candlelight Dinner Overlooking Ubud Valley

6 course candlelit dinner overlooking the lush Ubud Valley

Price: from 162.50 USD

Half-Day Uluwatu Kecak Dance Show and Dinner at Jimbaran

Price: from 127.50 USD

Access: Transfer Included

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Phuket and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Phuket

What are you looking for in the trip:

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Phuket and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Phuket

1. A party and adventure filled trip? (from 37 USD (1,273.17 THB))

Phuket has been a tourist destination for a long time now. The entire island has been remodeled to suit the tourists coming in each and every day. Phuket is definitely the spot for you if you want to party your worries away.

Phuket and the surrounding beaches are full of nightclubs and adventure sports. ATV rentals and obstacle courses are spread evenly throughout the island. But this doesn’t mean Phuket doesn’t have any cultural heritage at all. The ‘Big Buddha’ of Phuket is one of the most famous landmarks on the island. This large statue of Buddha is often visited by tourists. The monument is very quiet and peaceful, unlike the rest of Phuket, which is bustling with activity. After the monument, people tend to visit the Nakkerd Hills restaurant for good food and excellent views of the land below. There are roads to go up the hill and some people opt to ride an ATV to the top.

Chalong Big Buddha and Jungle Trek with Lunch in Phuket

Price: from 37 USD (1,273.17 THB)

Duration: around 5 hours required.

Food: Enjoy lunch at an organic farm for a healthy way to energize after your jungle trek.

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Phuket and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Phuket

2. Or a cultural exploration? (from 40 USD)

Compared to Phuket, Bali maintains a strong cultural identity and heritage. Bali has more of a Hindu dominated culture, unlike the rest of Indonesia, which is Muslim dominated. Exquisite Hindu temples are very common and the cultural vibes can be clearly felt. You can always find a cultural event going on when in Bali. The museums and galleries are mainly centered in Ubud and each are unique in their own way. The galleries beautifully give insight into the origin and history of Bali. The souvenir shops offer a great variety of trinkets to take home for you and your friends.

The interesting cultural vibe is transmitted by the Bali Aga or Bali Mula, native Balinese people, who first inhabited the island of Bali. These people currently occupy the eastern region of the island (Karangasem region). They practice a tribal way of life. Visit Tenganan Aga Village in the east to see how these people survive in their own self-sustained cocoon of a civilization. The handicrafts here are very unique. You’ll also find unique textiles, baskets, paintings, and more.

Day Trip To Tenganan

Price: from 40 USD

Duration: around 8 hours required.

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Phuket and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Phuket

The seafood haven or the mixed cuisines

Phuket is well known for its succulent, fresh seafood, and has a growing reputation as a great place to find flavorful Thai and international food in some very picturesque locations. You can find a range of cuisines, from Italian to Middle Eastern and Japanese. In addition, wine has become easily accessible and common in Phuket, with some local restaurants now featuring wine cellars worth tasting. Places to eat vary from roadside noodle stalls, air-conditioned restaurants, open air restaurants with great views, or fast food outlets. You simply cannot go hungry here!

Balinese cuisine is a strong tradition in Bali. Using an incredible variety of spices blended with fresh vegetables, meat, and fish, Bali certain packs a flavorful punch. Part of the cuisine is influenced by other Indonesian regional cuisines like Chinese and Indian. Since the island’s population is dominated by Hindus, culinary traditions are slightly different when compared to the rest of Indonesia. With festivals and religious celebrations, including many special foods prepared as the offerings for the deities, experience the joy in eating food communally.

The food in Phuket and Bali is very different and it all comes down to what you prefer.

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Phuket and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Phuket

On a tight budget?

Phuket has a lot of resorts with reasonable prices and the street markets are extremely cheap. Due to its long-term experience in the tourist industry, Phuket has reasonable prices at all its outlets and shops. Even the food is considerably cheaper than Bali. Despite all the cheaper rates, Phuket doesn’t fail to offer a premium experience.

On the contrary, Bali has more premium resorts than budget resorts. It also has high-end​ fashion outlets and high food prices. The more famous clubs and restaurants are highly priced and it is probably not recommended for a budget traveler.

Cheap Things to do in Phuket

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Phuket and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Phuket

What can you expect from both islands:

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Phuket and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Phuket

1. Adventure activities

Phuket and Bali both have similar beachside activities like jet skiing, motor boating, island hopping, parasailing, and a lot more. Rafting is also commonly found on both islands. Both have amazing bike trails where you can spend all say taking in the jungle air. Both islands also have their fair share of challenging obstacle courses in forests.

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Phuket and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Phuket

2. Relaxing hubs

Source: Pixabay

Phuket and Bali have great self-sufficient resorts that you don’t even have to leave after checking in. With private beaches accessible in minutes, beach clubs, and a variety of restaurants, you can choose to laze around all day without having to step out of your resort. The islands also have a number of yoga clubs to get your zen on.

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Phuket and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Phuket

3. Active nightlife

Both Bali and Phuket have active and colorful night life options, with a variety of bars and nightclubs evenly spread throughout the islands. Traditional shows and romantic dinner restaurants are found all over the city too. Festivals and dances like the Fantasea in Phuket and the Kecak Dance shows in Bali are two very interesting that which you mustn’t miss when in either place.

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Phuket and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Phuket

4. Family-friendly activities (from 33 USD)

Both Phuket and Bali are child-friendly holiday destinations, but Phuket is comparatively more reserved when it comes to children. A few resorts in Phuket have an adults only policy to promote the romantic atmosphere in the resort. But that wouldn’t be too much of a setback as there are still plenty other of resorts that are child-friendly like Le Meridien Beach Hotel, Talay Karon Beach Hotel, Laguna Beach Hotel, and a few more.

Otherwise, Phuket offers a great experience for kids and adults alike. Both destinations offer child-friendly beach activities, traditional and cultural shows, and obstacle courses. In addition, Bali even has a few waterparks. Phuket has a zip lining​ obstacle course in Kathu, which is pretty popular among kids.

Waterbom Bali Day Pass

Address: Jl. Kartika, Tuban, Kuta, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361, Indonesia

Price: from 33 USD

Opening Hours: 9 am to 6 pm.

Contact: +62 361 755676

Ziplining Course Kathu

Price: from 86.44 USD

Duration: around 1.5 - 3.5 hours required.

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Phuket and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Phuket

It all comes down to this

Phuket and Bali are the two island hotspots in Southeast Asia. Phuket offers a western experience whereas Bali offers a local Indonesian experience. If you plan to visit beaches, lie on the soft sand, and eat flavorful food, Phuket is where you should go. If you want a shopping experiences at famous outlets and romantic getaways, Bali is highly recommended. So make your decision and see what you want for your vacation. Find the destination that suits your needs and start planning!

This article was originally published on Apr 29, 2017
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Adithya is a travel enthusiast who was first exposed to travel during his stay in India. He enjoys writing and loves to discover the unknown. During his free time you can find him watching a movie...Read more

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