Actually Bang Tao Bay (Ao Bang Thao) on Phuket’s northwest coast, this a popular eight-kilometre long stretch of white sandy beach is pretty sublime. The beach area retains a local flavour, with simple Thai food stalls and vendors set among the cosy guesthouses of Bang Tao, while greater Bang Tao has that mixed Buddhist-Muslim village atmosphere.
Occupying the land behind much of the southern end of Bang Tao Beach is the Laguna resort. This huge complex was recovered from the moonscape-like region carved out by tin mining up until the 1960s and has earned itself the International Hotel Association and American Express Environmental Award.
The Laguna complex is now a centre of many chic resorts, including the Banyan Tree and the Sheraton, along with private villas, spas, restaurants and designer stores. It also encompasses the 18-hole Laguna Phuket Golf Club, which is also built around former tin mining lagoons. Laguna expanded into the hinterland and is, today, one of private villas, attracting many UK, European and Asian expat buyers to the area.
The road into Laguna is lined with day spas, antique shops, and designer fashion stores, along with cafes, restaurants, pubs and bars. All of this lends it a cosmopolitan feel and a huge variety of cuisines are available. At the southern end of the beach is a cluster of nice family resorts with shady beachfronts and a small street.
The north end of Bang Tao Beach – known as Layan Beach – is little-developed so far. A new Shangri La resort was being built next to the beach, but work has stopped (at least for now), leaving lots of corrugated fencing. Most of the remaining development in the area is far back from the shore, giving the top end of the bay a much more unspoilt feeling. To the north of the Shangri La site, the land behind the beach is national park, and so is mostly untouched.
Layan Bay, around a small headland to the north, is home to two delightful, Thai-owned resorts – Bundarika and Layan Beach Resort. This is a pretty exclusive area, quite remote from the rest of the island’s tourist spots, and suitable for those who want to hole-up in their self-contained resort.
The coastline stretches north towards Nai Thon Beach along a road of pristine forest. On this drive is the upmarket Trisara Resort, offering six-star living and a glamorous hideaway for the wealthy and celebrities. The road then drops down past the Andaman White Beach Resort, which has its own beach, and then Nai Thon Beach, which is a quiet stretch of sand with small hotels, guesthouses and restaurants. Nai Thon is now being targeted by resort companies and developers.