I didn’t think I ever really cared about monkeys that much until I came to Thailand. I’ve had more hands-on experiences with monkeys during a month in Thailand than I ever thought I’d have in my entire life. These charismatic and energetic little cuties have completely stolen my heart and cracked my top three favorite animal list (behind birds and in front of sloths). We were in Phuket Town, and when I read about Monkey Hill, I had to go. In this post, we’ll go over the Monkey Hill Walk at Sunset, including how to get there, difficulty, distance, and tips on engaging with the monkeys.
Getting to Monkey Hill
Monkey Hill is located near Phuket Town, which is the old town area on Phuket Island’s central-east side. Phuket Town is a quaint area (a stark difference to Patong on the island’s west side) that is slow to wake up and quick to bed. Most people only make it to the area for a short jaunt through the historic old town center or to make a trip to Monkey Hill.
You can get to Phuket Town on the public bus from many other parts of the island including Kata Beach, Karon Beach and Patong. If you choose the public bus option, it will drop you off at the bus stop near Fountain Circle. From here, it’s about a 2.5K walk to the start of Monkey Hill. If you’re all in for walking, it’s walkable and a nice walk through Old Town (especially if you follow the green line in the map below which will take you past the colorful buildings and cute shops of Thalang Road). Alternatively, there are tuk tuks waiting by the bus stop and will take you to the Monkey Hill entrance.
If you are arriving by taxi, tuk tuk or private transportation, start first by asking if they can take you to the entrance to Monkey Hill (Not the top! We’re walking remember!). If they don’t know where that is, I’d recommend having them take you to Phuket City Hall, which is the closest major landmark on Goole Maps and a short walk to the entrance to Monkey Hill.
The entrance to the hill is marked by a sign with Thai written in pink letters and golden monkeys on top. There are many signs like this throughout the walk.If you’re at the hill during the hours it’s closed to motor vehicles, you’ll also see the road block sign.
At the start of the hill (and along the street if you’re walking from Phuket City Hall) you’ll find local vendors selling bananas and peanuts to feed to the monkeys. It’s worth noting now though that there are signs throughout the walk that specifically say not to feed the monkeys (more on that later), but you do you. If you choose to feed the monkeys, you will not be the only one doing so. This is also a great opportunity to buy a bottle of water if you haven’t already done so. You’re gonna need it!
Hours & Best Time to Visit
The path seems to be open from roughly 7 AM – 10 PM. It is closed to motor vehicles between 7-8 AM and 4-7 PM, which means as a pedestrian, that’s your best time to visit. The morning time is probably cooler, and I’d assume filled with mostly locals using the hill for fitness.
We recommend planning to arrive at the top of the hill for sunset. When we were there in early February, the sun set at about 6:30 PM. We left our hotel in central Phuket Town at 5, arrived at the entrance at 5:26 and were at the top by 5:56, leaving us with 30 minutes to take in every minute of a stunning sunset.
From the viewpoint, you primarily look out onto the Nakkerd Hills of central Phuket Island and can even spot the big Buddha. To the left, you can see a bit of the ocean, but the sunset is primarily over the mountains. If you’re lucky enough to have a clear or wispy cloud night, you’re in for a treat.
Walking Monkey Hill
Now it’s time to begin your journey! Right off the bat, you’ll pass several roasters roaming the side of the road, and when you get to the pigs, your adventure has officially begun. If you’re walking during a time when the road is closed (recommended), there is plenty of space for the walkers, bikers, and runners that take to the trail. If not, you’ll be stuck on a smaller sidewalk, but I can’t vouch for how busy it is at off-peak times.
We started our hike (from the road block sign) at approximately 5:30 PM, planning to catch sunset at 6:30 PM. I had read that this path was primarily trafficked by locals, and we definitely found that to be the case. Nearly everyone we passed (or to be honest, got passed by) were locals out getting their fitness on. There were several runners, a few bikers, and lots of brisk walkers, all decked out in their fitness gear. I only remember passing about 3-5 groups of noticeable tourists.
As you make your way up, you’ll pass several fitness parks (for those who walking up the hill just isn’t enough), several stray (but quiet and harmless) dogs, and more signs warning you not to feed the monkeys. At about 1.K5 into our hike, we still hand’t seen a singe monkey. Kenny said, “If we don’t see any monkeys are you going to make me do this again tomorrow?” I said no, but in reality, I probably would have.
Monkeys of Monkey Hill
Luckily, no more than three minutes later, at about 1.7K, we arrived in monkey territory. And when you see one monkey, you see a hundred monkeys! It is said that about 400 macaques live wild and free on Monkey Hill, and if that’s true, at least 2/3 of them hang out together on the main path. The path was filled with monkeys, and so many baby monkeys that I couldn’t even handle the cuteness!
There were some babies, not more than a couple weeks old, that were so small that they could barely even take steps without wobbling and falling over. There were toddler monkeys who would goof off and chase each other, jump on each other, and make the funniest silly noises. There were mommas nursing their babies and dominant males strolling proudly. It was absolutely mind blowing! If you’re hiking Monkey Hill for close encounters with monkeys, you will not be disappointed!
These monkeys are not afraid of you, either. Many will walk right up to you hoping to score any food you might have. They will let you get incredibly close while you try to take a picture of their cute little faces eating a banana. We chose not to feed the monkeys (partly because I’m a rule follower but mostly because I was nervous. The monkeys are so used to having humans around, though, and they are used to humans feeding them that they’re not shy at all around people.
After slowly making our way through the monkeys, we arrived at the lookout point just a couple minutes later. The path keeps going, but there is nothing to see after the view point. At the very top, you’ll just run into the tv antennas. Near the viewpoint you’ll find another vendor selling water and snacks if you need any.
Distance & Difficulty
When you arrive in Phuket Town, the large hill looms in the distance and can be seen from many points around the city. When I spotted it, clearly able to identify it by the red and white towers on top, I cheerfully said, “That’s Monkey Hill!” From the looks of it, Kenny didn’t fully believe me when I said that it was actually only a 2K walk, but he came along anyway.
Let’s start here: The path is definitely walkable and lots of people walk it everyday. If you’re considering walking, it’s a well-paved, well-marked, 1.9K path (making the total walk up and back down just under 4K). If you can walk for 4K, have decent knees, and don’t mind getting a little winded, you can absolutely make this walk.
The path to the top dead ends, so the only route is an out and back, which is clearly marked in kilometers. While the pavement is smooth, the path is still very steep. It’s about as steep as you can make a path without needing to have stairs. We were breathing heavy most of the walk up, but were walking pretty quickly. We chose not to take any breaks (except for the monkeys), but there is plenty of places to stop and rest if you need to.
After we made it to the top, I said “It wasn’t so steep,” but Kenny was quick to remind of how out of breath I was. For reference, we’re relatively fit adults in our late 20s and made it up the hill in 30 minutes, and that’s counting time spent with monkeys. The walk down is honestly tougher and was really hard on our knees, shins, and booty. We were definitely sore the next day.
If the Inca Trail Dead Woman’s Pass was a 10 and walking down Michigan Ave in Chicago was a 1, I would put the difficulty of this hill at about a 6.5.
Monkey Etiquette & Safety
Let’s start with the basics. Monkeys are wild animals. Yes, they’re cute. Yes, they’re usually harmless. Yes, they’re used to seeing humans, but they’re still wild animals and you’re in their home. These are not zoo monkeys; these are not pet monkeys. These are animals that should be respected. Here’s some things to know about the monkeys on Monkey Hill, based 100% on my observations.
- Monkeys will follow you.
- If you have food, monkeys will try (and often succeed) to take it.
- If you don’t have food, but look like you do, the monkeys still may try to take whatever you do have.
- Monkeys will grab or touch you.
- Monkeys will steal your stuff.
- Monkeys will chase and howl at each other and it sounds a little scary, but you’re fine.
- Momma Monkeys will be very protective of their babies.
- Monkeys will dump out your drinks.
- Monkeys will play with anything, including your garage plastic bags which is crazy dangerous. Throw your $h*t away, people.
So don’t write a negative review about how awful monkeys are because you were dumb enough to eat an ice cream cone while walking through a hill so crawling with monkeys that they named it after them.
If you want to have a fun time, just follow these four simple steps. We had a GREAT time with the monkeys and never once felt unsafe.
- Bring only water (no food or sweet drinks)
- Keep your stuff on or attached to you at all times (your “stuff” should only be your phone/camera and a small, closed bag with only your water)
- Don’t feed the monkeys
- Respect the monkey’s space
That’s it! If you do those four things, you’ll have a great time hanging out with wild monkeys on Monkey Hill. And it’s like, the coolest thing ever!
This was one of the coolest wild animal experiences I’ve ever had. The monkeys were so much fun! What’s your favorite animal experience?