Planning a trip to Phuket in December? Discover what it’s like to visit this stunning Thai island at that time in this article.
Phuket is one of the most popular destinations in Thailand, renowned for its palm-fringed beaches with golden sands, breathtaking scenery, and a wide range of resort options to suit all tastes and budgets. It also boasts its own international airport, making it easily accessible for travellers.
Overall, December is an excellent time to visit Phuket. This article will cover everything you need to know about the weather, crowd levels, prices, and must-do activities during this period.
My husband and I have visited Phuket in December and thoroughly enjoyed our stay. However, it’s important to note that this is also a peak time for visitors, which can lead to higher prices and increased crowd levels at some attractions.
I hope this guide will assist you in deciding whether a December visit to the island is the right choice for you.
Is December a Good Time to Visit Phuket?
Yes, December is one of the best times to visit not just Phuket, but Thailand as a whole. This is the time when the rainy season is left behind, and the island begins preparing for the high influx of tourists.
December is one of the driest and sunniest months, with comfortable heat and humidity levels for enjoying everything that Phuket offers, from its stunning beaches to the historic sites in the enchanting Phuket Old Town.
The waters around the island are calm and warm, making long beach days even more delightful. Underwater visibility is excellent during this time, making December an ideal month for diving and snorkelling.
However, December also marks the start of Phuket’s high season, attracting many tourists to the island for sea and sun, especially during the Christmas and New Year periods.
Unfortunately, this is when some parts of the island can become quite crowded, and accommodation prices begin to rise. Thankfully, these drawbacks can be mitigated to some extent by strategically choosing your base in Phuket and booking your accommodation well in advance.
Weather in Phuket in December
Average Temperatures in Phuket in December
December is considered part of Thailand’s ‘cool’ season that runs from November to February. However, don’t let the word ‘cool’ mislead you.
The average temperature in Phuket in December is a balmy 28°C (82°F). The region experiences lows of 24°C (75°F) in the morning and highs of 32°C (89°F) at the peak of the afternoon.
In other words, it’s still hot, but the heat is comparatively comfortable. You can enjoy Phuket’s stunning beaches and outdoor activities without the oppressive heat that Thailand typically experiences between March and May.
If you are planning to visit the island in December, I would still recommend avoiding the afternoon heat, as it can be overwhelming. Sightseeing and hiking are best done earlier in the morning, and it’s always wise to take a break from sunbathing when the sun is at its zenith.
Rainfall in Phuket in December
Thailand’s cool season is also the driest and least humid. Although rainfall is still possible, chances are you will enjoy mostly clear skies and sunshine while visiting Phuket in December.
The average rainfall in Phuket at this time of year is 72mm, which translates to about eight rainy days. It’s worth noting that in December, you are more likely to experience short tropical showers or even light drizzle rather than the heavy downpours typical of Thailand’s rainy season, which occurs from June to October.
When my husband and I visited Phuket in December, we were fortunate enough not to experience any rain at all. We did have a couple of cloudy days, which we used for sightseeing.
Swimming in December
Swimming in the sea in Phuket in December is a tremendous pleasure. The sea is calm and warm, with an average water temperature of 29°C.
One of my favourite memories of Phuket is going for a swim in the blue waters of Freedom Beach, which boasts a lovely sandy seabed. It was a late afternoon, and the water was so warm and enveloping that we didn’t want to leave.
The same applies to swimming in pools. Heated pools are not common in Thailand, so expect the water to be a bit cool in the morning. However, it warms up during the day as the sun does its work.
Phuket is a popular destination for diving and snorkelling, and December is an excellent time for these activities. The waters are clear with superb visibility, allowing you to easily explore the underwater marvels that the island has to offer.
Is Phuket Crowded in December?
December marks the start of the high season in Phuket, with crowds steadily increasing as the month progresses. The island becomes particularly busy during Christmas and New Year’s, coinciding with the holiday period in many parts of the world.
Popular attractions and beaches can become quite busy in December. Places like Patong and Kata, which are favourites among tourists, can be especially crowded. I highly recommend booking your accommodation and activities well in advance to avoid disappointment.
It is possible to escape the crowds in Phuket by visiting the lesser-known destinations. Beach resorts such as Cape Panwa and Mai Khao are considerably quieter than the popular spots like Patong, Kata, Karon, and Kamala.
Cape Panwa, with a handful of high-end resorts and restaurants, maintains a tranquil vibe, unusual for the island. While this part of Phuket may not have the most spectacular beaches, it is ideal for those seeking a more serene experience.
Mai Khao boasts an 11-kilometre-long sandy beach, part of the Sirinat National Park. Despite a few resorts in the area, this beach remains largely pristine, offering stretches of sand that you can often have to yourself.
Prices in Phuket in December
With the end of the month featuring major international holidays, this period sees the highest price tags.
Accommodation prices in December are at least 20%-30% higher than in the low season. However, the quieter times of the year also come with unpredictable weather, which may impact your trip.
It’s worth noting that there is a significant price difference between early and late December. Towards the end of the month, during the Christmas and New Year’s period, accommodation prices are between 30% and 50% higher than in the first few weeks. This could even be double what you would pay in the low season.
Flight prices are another challenge. Again, early December sees lower prices compared to the end of the month. For example, at the time of writing, the cost of flying from Manchester, where I live, to Phuket is around £860 (US $1,090) per person in the first week of December, and at least £1,160 (US $1,474) per person over the holiday period.
If you’re determined to travel to Phuket in December, consider avoiding the end of the month to make your budget stretch further. Also, it’s best to book your accommodation in advance to possibly benefit from early bird discounts offered by some hotels.
Alternatively, you could explore some lesser-known spots around Phuket. For instance, the coastal resort area of Khao Lak, just a two-hour drive north of Phuket International Airport, offers fantastic beaches and a relaxed atmosphere for noticeably less cost than its more popular neighbour.
Top Things to Do in Phuket in December
As mentioned previously, December is an excellent time to travel to Phuket, allowing you to fully take advantage of the best experiences the island has to offer. Additionally, Phuket truly embraces the festive spirit during this period.
Celebrate Christmas and New Year
Many resorts, beach clubs, and party venues, such as those along Bangla Road in Patong, go all out during the festive season with special dinners, music, dancing, and fireworks. It’s a delightful time to be in Phuket, and the most challenging part will be deciding where to celebrate.
On our first trip to Phuket, we celebrated the New Year at the Phuket Marriott Resort at Merlin Beach. They hosted a superb dinner followed by a beach party and fireworks. It’s an ideal choice for those who prefer to avoid the immense crowds typically found in nearby Patong.
Enjoy Phuket’s Stunning Beaches
With an abundance of sunshine, December is an ideal time to enjoy Phuket’s beaches, which cater to every preference.
From bustling stretches of sand featuring trendy beach bars and water sports to serene spots where solitude reigns, and everything in between, you’re certain to find your ideal slice of paradise.
So far, I’ve particularly enjoyed visits to the picturesque Freedom Beach and Merlin Beach, located not far from the renowned Patong beach and resort area. Merlin Beach is especially excellent for snorkelling, though I highly recommend visiting during low tide for the best experience.
Go Island Hopping
Phuket serves as an excellent base for exploring the stunning islands scattered throughout the Andaman Sea. No matter which part of the island you’re staying in, you’ll find tour shops in resort towns and tourist desks in hotels, where you can book day trips to the numerous nearby islands.
From the iconic Koh Phi Phi islands to the paradisiacal Ko He, known for snorkelling, to the tranquil Koh Yao Noi, which feels worlds apart from bustling Phuket, there are countless incredible islands to discover.
Another popular excursion is a visit to the spectacular Phang Nga Bay, home to the famous James Bond Island, sea caves, and hundreds of unique limestone formations. Many tours include stops at the floating village of Koh Panyee, offering an opportunity to experience a distinctly different way of life.
Here are some of my favourite island-hopping tours in Phuket:
- Phi Phi Island Sunrise Group Speedboat Tour
- Phang Nga Bay: Early Bird James Bond & Beyond Tour
- Phi Phi Sunrise Boat Tour to Bamboo and Khai Island
Explore the Charming Phuket Old Town
Phuket may be synonymous with stunning beaches and glitzy resorts, but there are still spots on the island where you can immerse yourself in its unique culture and history.
One of my favourite places to learn more about the island’s fascinating past is Phuket Old Town, and I recommend dedicating at least a day trip to it during your next visit to the island.
Phuket Old Town is famous for its charming Sino-Portuguese shophouses that line the historic streets of the town centre. They house restaurants, cocktail bars, independent cafes, and artisan coffee shops.
The town is also home to several museums, historic mansions, and elaborate Chinese-style temples. These attractions narrate the story of Phuket’s tin-mining past that brought various communities together.
Every Sunday, Phuket Old Town comes alive with a vibrant night market on Thalang Road, one of the city’s main historic streets. There, you can savour delicious street food, search for unique souvenirs, and simply soak in the lively atmosphere.
Gorge on Delicious Local Cuisine
Phuket boasts a unique cuisine that has assimilated influences from China, Malaysia, and beyond, owing to the island’s history as a centre for trade and commodities. One of the great pleasures of visiting Phuket is the opportunity to discover its special dishes and flavours.
One of the best places to savour traditional Phuketian dishes is in Phuket Old Town. The town teems with street vendors and local restaurants that are a delight for any foodie. Some of these spots have even been mentioned in the Michelin Guide.
If you are seeking a restaurant for a special occasion, I can highly recommend the Blue Elephant. Nestled in a beautiful former mansion, it offers a fine dining interpretation of local cuisine.
My husband and I visited there during our honeymoon trip to Southeast Asia, opting for one of their tasting menus featuring several local specialties. And the cocktails? Simply unmissable!
What to Pack for Phuket in December
Your final packing list will vary depending on the activities you plan to enjoy during your trip. Here are some suggestions for items you might need:
- Summer clothing such as light dresses, shorts, and t-shirts.
- A long-sleeved shirt or cardigan for cooler evenings.
- Light footwear like sandals and flip-flops for the beach.
- Swimwear for days at the beach.
- Snorkelling gear if you prefer using your own.
- Water shoes for snorkelling, as some beaches have loads of coral.
- Sunscreen to protect your skin.
- A hat or cap to shield yourself from the sun.
- Sturdy shoes if you plan to go hiking.
- A universal power adapter.
- A long skirt or trousers for visiting local temples, where a modest dress code is enforced.
- A small amount of cash for initial expenses. You can exchange more once you’re in Phuket, as the exchange rates are generally better there than back home.
Where to Stay in Phuket
Phuket boasts a variety of great areas to stay, each offering different vibes and levels of crowding. Your choice will depend on the type of trip you’re looking for and your plans during your stay.
For example, if you enjoy partying until the early hours, Patong would be an excellent choice. However, those seeking a romantic couple’s retreat may prefer a different location.
Below are a few great options that, in my opinion, offer some of the best experiences on the island.
Phuket Old Town
I’ve mentioned that Phuket Old Town is a fantastic destination for a day trip. However, you can easily extend your stay to two or three nights to explore it further. Combining a short stay there with some beach time while in Phuket is a great idea.
Phuket Old Town is home to some charming boutique hotels nestled in elegant historic buildings. If this appeals to you, be sure to book a night at the WOO Gallery & Boutique Hotel. It skillfully combines traditional architectural features and antique furniture with modern comforts.
Additionally, staying there means you’ll be right in the heart of all the action, as WOO is located on one of the main historic streets of Phuket Old Town.
Just a 20-minute drive south of Phuket Old Town lies the tranquil resort village of Cape Panwa, an ideal choice for those who prefer a quiet, relaxed atmosphere away from large crowds.
Cape Panwa boasts a selection of high-end resorts as well as self-catering apartments and villas. The village features a quaint seaside promenade lined with restaurants offering local seafood, Thai, and international cuisine. In the evenings, it comes alive with street food stalls, popular among both tourists and locals.
One of my favourite spots in this part of Phuket is the Baba Nest rooftop bar. While it is on the pricier side, it’s one of the best places to enjoy stunning sunsets with a craft cocktail in hand.
My husband and I stayed at Cape Panwa during our honeymoon, and we highly recommend the Pullman Phuket Panwa Beach Resort. While it may not boast the best beach, the pool is great.
For ultimate privacy, you can choose to stay in a private villa with your own pool. We did exactly that and really enjoyed it. If you are staying there, be sure to try their lovely Thai restaurant, Tamarind, which serves many local specialities.
In summary, Cape Panwa is perfect for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life, while still having easy access to vibrant locations like Phuket Old Town.
For the ultimate beach experience, head to Mai Khao, located just a 20-minute drive from Phuket International Airport. Part of the Sirinat National Park, Mai Khao boasts an 11-kilometre-long beach, the longest on the island.
Although it’s famous for plane spotting, the main action occurs at the southern end of the beach. As you head north, the crowds thin out, with pretty much no vendors or water sports activities. You may even find moments when you have the beach all to yourself.
If you prefer (relatively) untouched nature, Mai Khao is an excellent choice. The area predominantly features high-end resorts and some more affordable self-catering accommodation.
If luxury is what you’re seeking, be sure to check out the beautiful JW Marriott Phuket Resort and Spa. It’s located just a stone’s throw from the beach and houses the Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation.
The foundation supports nesting turtles, which have become rare in Phuket where human activity has significantly affected their habitat. You can visit this foundation to learn more about the turtles and the foundation’s work in the community.
So, now you understand what it’s like to visit Phuket in December. You’ll get to enjoy fantastic weather with comfortable levels of heat and plenty of sunshine.
The downside is that December also marks the beginning of the peak season, so expect both crowds and prices to increase throughout the month, reaching their peak during the Christmas and New Year holiday period.
If you’re still planning to travel to Phuket, I highly recommend adding a few days in Bangkok to experience a completely different side to Thailand. This Phuket or Bangkok comparison guide provides more detail on what you can expect at each destination.
FAQs: Phuket in December
December is among the more expensive months to visit Phuket, particularly if you wish to stay there over the Christmas and New Year holidays. The prices during the last week of the year can be twice as high as what you would pay in the low season. To offset these higher costs, I recommend travelling to Phuket in early December when prices are slightly lower and booking your accommodation well in advance to benefit from any early bird special offers.
December is one of the driest months in Phuket, though some rainfall is still possible. However, prolonged tropical downpours are extremely rare at this time of the year. Typically, the rainfall takes the form of brief tropical showers or even light drizzle.
Phuket enjoys calm waters in December, ideal for swimming but not suitable for surfing. While you might catch an occasional wave, they are infrequent. For surfing enthusiasts, the best time to visit Phuket is between May and November when the seas are rougher.
Phuket is at its busiest during the high season, which spans from December to February. The Christmas and New Year’s period is particularly busy, coinciding with prolonged holidays in many countries. This high demand also means that December to February is the most expensive time to visit Phuket.
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