Which Phuket Beach

By Andrew Bond

Phuket's west coast beaches are the best

So, you’re got your flight booked to Thailand and Phuket but need to arrange hotels soon. But, just which beach is best for you? Phuket has hundreds of hotels and more than a dozen major beach areas, deciding which one suits your tastes and budget is critical to enjoying your holiday on the island. 

Here’s a run down on the character, cost and convenience of each of the main beach areas, in no particular order. The most popular, certainly with the best options, are found along the West coast. Patong is the most central, busiest and lively by night. Karon, to the south, has plenty of space and options, but its beach is detached from the town. Kata is beyond and somewhat pricier with its nice beachfront, while Kata Noi is quiet exclusive. North of Patong is Kamala, a great family beach, with a more relaxed atmosphere. Surin is largely full of private villas, while Bangtao is beyond with its pretty lagoons and low-key atmosphere.

Patong
A great place if you’re coming to Phuket to party, others might see it as a spoilt overdeveloped disappointment. The beach here is nice, and active, but step away and you’ll encounter traffic, crowds and commercialism. There are plenty of good value choices in the town and some beachfront resorts, as well as sea views in nearby Kalim Bay. By night Patong comes alive with the endless restaurants, bars and girlie venues of Bang La road. Shopping is also good at the Jung Ceylon Mall. More on Patong.

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Karon
Similar in size to Patong, Karon is quite built up but not nearly as frenetic. It offers a good balance between good value hotels, shopping and entertainment and a beach that goes on for ever. Very few hotels are right on the waterfront, but some have great views from the hills behind. It’s central and convenient but lacks the ‘stroll out of your hotel onto the beach’ atmosphere. More on Karon.

Patong is where the action is

Kata
This is a favourite with those in the know, and the hotels here are generally a bit more expensive. Some privileged ones have beachfront locations but a quiet road runs almost the length of the beach making it accessible to all. Whether you’re here for the day or strolling from your nearby hotel it has one of the nicest characters. The beach is peaceful, the town not too bustling and the hotel choices very good. There are also ample bars and restaurants for evenings out. More on Kata.

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Kata Noi
An extension of Kata, this tiny bay is very exclusive, over a small hill south of the main beach. Here you get privileged resorts and a very quiet environment with the advantage of Kata town very nearby.

Nai Harn and Rawai
These two are situated at the southern tip of the island and are quite remote. Nai Harn has only one hotel on it, the Le Meridien, but is popular with day trippers. Rawai is the local’s favourite, though it’s down market and down to earth. The narrow beach isn’t as swimmable as the rest but shady beneath a row of Casaurinas. Don’t expect much of a nightlife or eating choice here. More on Rawai.

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Kamala
Great for families, this huge sweeping beach has a relaxing holiday atmosphere in the small town, without the tuk tuks and girlie bars. A walking lanes lines the beachfront, along with some low key, affordable resorts and you can sit at the beachside restaurants, safely watching the little ones. Spacious, non commercial and easy to get from the airport, being located north of Patong. More on Kamala.

Surin
This small beach is in pristine condition and attracts day trippers. The hotels are mostly elevated on the hills behind, offering great views but a small hike to the beach. Lots of private, exclusive villas are found here, along the Northern section of the West Coast. More on Surin.

Bang Tao
A beach that goes on for miles and miles, it comprises of two sections with entirely different characters. At the southern end are several lovely, decent, resorts on a shady section of the beach. Its very quiet, very low-key, and limited in the way of shopping, bars and restaurants, it’s also quite far from the action. Towards the middle of the bay is the Laguna complex, where you will find some of Phuket’s best hotels. They are clustered around pretty lakes (remnants from the tin mining industry a century ago), and have their own exclusive amenities of golf courses, wedding chapels, boat taxis, restaurants and activities. Close to the airport, miles from everywhere else. More on Bang Tao.

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Nai Yang and Mai Khao
The northern most beaches are characterised by remoteness from the rest of Phuket. Nai Yang is down-market with some affordable resorts right on the beach and a low-key atmosphere, while some of the truly exclusive hideaways have their own privacy along Mai Khao to the North. Only the nearby airport offers any distraction. More on Nai Yang.

Cape Panwa
Those who prefer a hotel with its own private beach should consider the few expensive hotels over on the east side of the island around Cape Panwa. The views are good but you a bit far from all the other popular parts of the island.

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