Phuket's 7 coolest cafes and coffee shops

Phuket's 7 coolest cafes and coffee shops

Famous for its sun, surf, skin and sin, Phuket is home to a growing collection of great little hangouts

Drawn by palm trees swaying over sandy shores, throngs of tourists head for Thailand's largest island, Phuket, to knock back a beer or ten on the beach.

But where do they turn when they need a less taxing form of relaxation?

Increasingly, travelers follow the locals heading to one of many excellent new cafes springing up on the island. 

More on CNN: Insider Guide: Best of Phuket

Hock Hoe Lee

At Hock Hoe Lee, one man's caffeinated dreams live on. No one knows much about Tan Cheng Long. Fleeing the civil war, he stepped off a boat from China in the early 1950s armed with only the clothes on his back and the knowledge of how to roast coffee –- really, really good coffee.

Today, Cheng Long's granddaughter and her husband keep that tradition alive with Hock Hoe Lee cafe, a smart hangout in a quiet neighborhood of beach bars and private villas in the south of Phuket.

They also sell their own brand of locally roasted coffee for those who want to brew it at home. The 1 kilogram bags of blends range in price from 300 baht (US$9) for regular Thai coffee to 1,250 baht for Doi Chang Arabica. This 100%, grade-A bean is hand picked in the cooler climes of northern Thailand.

Hock Hoe Lee, 28/9 Moo 5, Viset Road, Rawai; +66 (0)76 381 975; open Monday to Saturday 8 a.m.-6 p.m., Sunday 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; www.hockhoelee.com 

Kombat Cafe

For all your post-battle needs, hit Kombat. Sure the name suggests a cafe full of fighting talk.

Yes, you'll  be surrounded by muscle-bound Muay Thai fighters taking a lunch break from training on the nearby camps or shopping at the Kombat Fight Lab next door.

But Kombat Cafe serves some of the best coffee on the island (Hock Hoe Lee's, of course), as well as a range of protein shakes, freshly squeezed juices and the cafe's famed ciabatta burgers.

The cafe's Australian owner, who occasionally works in the film industry and originally came to Phuket to learn Muay Thai, opened Kombat Cafe in 2012.

Sensing a culinary niche in the market, he wanted a place where trainers and students could fill up on healthy food.

Kombat Cafe, 50/35, Soi Saiyuan, Moo 7, Rawai; +66 (0)82 047 5394; open Sunday to Friday 9 a.m.-7 p.m., closed Saturday; www.facebook.com/KombatCafe

Gallery Cafe by Pinky

Owner Pinky Jatikavanich is a graduate of London's Le Cordon Bleu culinary school. And, man, can she cook. In a town full of cafes that serve excellent coffee and cake, but little in the way of quality Western food, Gallery Cafe by Pinky is a refreshing change.

Located in the heart of Phuket's Old Town, the menu includes Mediterranean salads, freshly made sandwiches, fruit smoothies and all-day breakfasts.

In the evening, a cosmopolitan crowd of islanders gathers to sip sundowners before moving on to the many hip bars that have sprung up around this previously neglected part of Phuket.

Pinky also runs baking classes, where you can learn how to make quiche Lorraine and desserts like New York cheesecake, crème caramel and fruit tarts.

Gallery Cafe by Pinky, Rassada Road, Phuket Town; +66 (0)89 103 7000; open Monday to Saturday 8 a.m.-10 p.m., Sunday 8 a.m.-6 p.m.; www.gallerycafe-phuket.com 

More on CNN: Old Town Phuket: Finally a reason to leave the beach 

Factory Cafe

Factory Cafe comes alive at night, when it fills with a mix of design and media types. The brainchild of architect Tantanan Srinawakul, Factory Cafe is a sleek, urban space that wouldn’t look out of place on Bangkok’s trendy Thong Lor avenue.

Instead, Factory occupies the ground floor of an obscure building down a small alley in quiet Phuket Town.

The location works in Factory Cafe’s favor. Its industrial chic decor stands in stark contrast to the faux-Grecian design of the surrounding buildings. A brick-backed counter bleeds into the gray concrete floor, occupied by dark brown leather sofas and foldaway metal chairs.

If it feels like you’ve wandered into a design studio, that’s because it is -– Srinawakul has his design office and home upstairs, alongside a meeting room where he hangs framed renderings of his work.

Factory Cafe, 81-83 Satoon Road, Phuket Town; +66(0)81 907 2626; open daily 10:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m.; www.facebook.com/factorycafe 

Garage Cafe

To see southern Thailand's top barista in action, head for Garage Cafe. On the west coast of Phuket, set back from quiet Kamala beach, Garage Cafe is one man’s tribute to the bean.

Australian Danny Hyams got hooked on coffee after tasting the strong Turkish variety when working on a kibbutz in Israel when he was 18. For a long time, though, coffee was only a hobby as Hyams pursued a career in law.

He moved to Phuket a few years ago, and decided to pursue his caffeine dream, starting the Phuket Coffee Lab in 2010, which gets its 100% Thai Arabica beans from near Chiang Rai in the north of Thailand, and roasts to order, selling to cafes, restaurants and hotels across Phuket.

Hyams' passion is infectious -- at the local heat of a recent national competition, Garage Cafe employee Chakrit Hamphitak was named champion barista of southern Thailand.

Garage Cafe, 74/25, Moo 3, Kamala; +66(0)80 534 5512; open daily 8 a.m.-3 p.m.; www.facebook.com/GarageCafeKamala 

Delish Cafe

Delish is one of the few places in southern Thailand that can make a perfect flat white. Run by a friendly Australian family with decades of experience in the food and wine industries, this cafe in the south of Phuket is a kind of home for many of the island's expatriates.

Owners Greg and Liz Johnston, along with the couple’s son "Sandy" and his wife Angela, bring down under charm to Delish.

Most popular are the freshly made burgers. They're made with Australian lamb, Angus beef or free-range Thai chicken, and are accompanied by homemade dressings and sauces. The homemade quiches, salads and cakes are just as good.

There are also freshly squeezed fruit juices, including apple, orange, watermelon, pineapple, carrot and pomelo. 

Delish Cafe, 5/30 Fisherman's Way Business Park, Rawai; +66(0)76 384 680;
 open Monday to Saturday 8 a.m.-6p.m., Sunday 10 a.m.-3 p.m.; www.delishcafe.net 

Bookhemian

Bookhemian puts on regular exhibits that showcase the works of Phuket artists. They don't come more hip than this cool little cafe on historic Thalang Road in the heart of the Phuket Old Town.

Occupying a century-old Chinese shop house, Bookhemian's patrons are a mix of young Thais and foreign backpackers taking a break from wandering aimlessly round Old Town in the hot sun.

Bookhemian isn't just a clever name. The place has shelves upon shelves of books and art magazines, as well as collections of local photography and illustrations. Great for browsing while you’re waiting for your drink and dessert (we recommend the signature coffee and chocolate cake). 

Bookhemian, 61 Thalang Road, Phuket Town; +66(0)76 258 254; open Tuesday-Sunday 10 a.m.-7p.m.; www.room2521.com

More on CNN: Phuket's sands get swanky

Growing up in colonial Hong Kong, Simon Ostheimer always felt more at home in Asia than anywhere else. He is now in Phuket where he is Managing Editor of The Phuket News.

Read more about Simon Ostheimer
CNN Partner Hotels

Destination Berlin

World War II bunker and former margarine factory among cutting edge venues in ever-changing city