Situated between Patong and Kata beaches in southwest Phuket, Karon Beach is a long stretch of sand and a good alternative to brash Patong. It’s just south of Patong, yet is a world away in terms of atmosphere, with its wide and gently curving powder sand backed by small dunes and pandanus palms. All resorts, hotels and commercial developments are restricted to the opposite side of the coast road, giving Karon a much more laid-back look and feel.
Karon is a good family beach, with a busy town centre supplying everything you might need. There are quite a few resorts in Karon located on the hilly interior, which means a short walk or tuk tuk ride to the beach, but fantastic views.
The beach itself is long and straight and, while somewhat prettier than nearby Patong, is all a bit featureless; almost too bereft of commercialism. The northern end is where the action is on Karon Beach, where a small town resides complete with bars, shops and other amenities. Hotels and resorts go along the full length of Karon Beach and a series of hills behind provide fine views for the hotels there. Karon merges with Kata at the southern end.
The longest stretch is known as Karon Yai – with seemingly miles of uncluttered deckchairs and occasional ice-cream vendors – while Karon Noi (at the northern end) is backed by a canal and reservoir. Further north is Relax Bay, with the seafront entirely occupied by the Le Meridian Patong Beach resort, making it effectively a private beach.
Most resorts and other accommodations line the coast road from Kata to Karon and beyond to the hills. Several streets leading back from the beach are home to some stunning boutique resorts, and funky restaurants and cafes that are well worth exploring.
The Karon Plaza area (to the south) has numerous guesthouses, bars and shopping outlets that mark the line between Kata and Karon. About halfway along Karon Beach, the Hilton Phuket Arcadia Resort and Spa, Phuket’s largest resort, dominates much of the landscape before you reach the main market areas and Karon Circle. Many of the bars can be found in this district, along with a variety of eateries – both Thai and international foods – to suit all budgets.
A quiet beachside resort town by nature, Karon does liven up at night with music streaming from local bars. For the real nightlife action, though, Patong is a few minutes’ drive over a headland to the north. There are several late-night clubs on the hill between Karon and Patong; a favourite being Safari, which seems to stay open until the last person leaves.
Karon Beach is well placed in the middle – within easy reach of Patong and just a short hop over the headland to Kata Beach, which is loaded with restaurants, resorts and nightlife. Karon also makes a decent base for exploring Phuket and beyond, with many tour booking agents offering dive trips, elephant trekking, cruises, and more.