When it comes to romantic island getaways, Bali and Phuket immediately spring to mind. Swaying palms by the beach, unique cultural encounters and luxuriant accommodation at affordable prices make them highly attractive destinations. They’re both also easy to get to, with international airports, and are just a short flight away. So how does one choose between two of the most popular destinations in Asia? Whether it’s a honeymoon getaway, an anniversary, or simply an excuse to have some private time out for two, here’s a guide to help you decide between one island paradise and another.
Phuket is Thailand’s largest and most popular island. Home to soft white-sand beaches fringed with tropical palms and dazzling blue shores, spectacular scenery, stunning tropical sunsets and plenty of beach time is guaranteed. While the Phuket buzz revolves mainly around the glorious shoreline, there are some lively Thai towns to explore and the island’s centre is filled with gorgeous lush green vistas. On Phuket’s western edge in particular, you’ll love the tropical vibes where the jungle meets the edge of the Andaman Sea.
For couples who love the sound of a relaxing holiday soaking up the sun, winding down and maybe indulging in a few pampering treatments, you’ll have no trouble finding a spot that’s peaceful and quiet. Beautiful hillside villas with private pools, beachside bungalows, and luxurious resorts never far from the sea abound in Phuket. The main area of Patong however will give you the exact opposite, with packed beaches, busy streets and all kinds of tourist-centric entertainment, nightlife and shopping that’ll throw you into the thick of Phuket’s chaotic side. If you’re a couple with an adventurous spirit, this could be your perfect match. Accommodation here ranges from basic to luxury.
Wherever you stay though, it’s easy to explore the whole island. Experience the world-class diving, take a boat trip, go canoeing, ride an elephant, and explore the villages, towns and beautiful viewpoints dotted around the island. Highlights that you simply can’t miss include beautiful Phang Nga Bay, where limestone cliffs jut vertically out of the emerald-green waters, Chalong, the island’s spiritual centre, and Old Phuket Town, where ancient architecture, shrines, temples, shopfronts and museums merge. It’s also easy to venture off the island for day trips. Catch a boat to the neighbouring islands or discover the national parks nearby on the mainland – with Phuket connected to the mainland by bridge, the rest of Thailand is never far away.
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Bali is by far Indonesia’s most famous spot. Home to majestic cliff-top temples, lush paddy fields, buzzing towns, bargain shopping and beachside hotspots, it’s no wonder thousands of Australians flock to Bali for a holiday every year. About five times larger than Phuket, Bali’s golden-sand beaches may not be as revered and clean, but it does offer a bit more variety for those who are looking to do more than just chill by the shores and indulge in some nightlife.
If you like the sound of buzzing beachside entertainment to fill your nights together, Kuta is the place to go for bars, restaurants, nightclubs and a range of performances. For more refined nightlife however, Seminyak might be more in line with the kind of couple’s night out you’re imagining, with popular bands and DJs, and many top-notch restaurants to choose from. It is possible to find great accommodation with privacy near these busy spots, from basic to five-star, but to avoid the main crowds altogether the trick is to steer clear of the south side of the island. In the north you’ll find unspoiled coastal villages, and while there may be less accommodation options, you’ll still find a wide range of gorgeous villas, hillside cottages and beach resorts.
Another great spot to stay – and a must-see if you don’t – is beautiful Ubud. Nestled amongst lush green rice paddies, this is a friendly and laidback piece of Bali away from the bustling beaches, and a fabulous spot to explore authentic Balinese culture and art. Couples will also love the waterfalls across Bali and hot springs near towns like Banjar and Toya Bungkah. Other highlights include the craft villages between Sanur and Ubud, traditional Balinese dance shows, and the many markets and temples dotted across the island. For more adventure, you can also surf, climb Mt Batur, snorkel or scuba dive around shipwrecks. Bali is full of variety so you don’t ever have to leave!