Rawai Beach is at the south-eastern tip of Phuket island and is favoured by tourists and locals looking for a quieter, less hurried pace of life. More traditionally local than other hotspots on the west coast, Rawai Beach is known for great seafood dining on the seafront and as a departure point for speedboat day trips to nearby islands Koh Bon, Coral Island, Phi Phi and the Racha islands.
With a sweeping bay and lovely island views, Rawai beach is a scenic Phuket spot for picnicking, too. It’s no use for swimming unfortunately as the water is too shallow most of the time, plus the sea floor is muddy. All the same, it has a nice, down-to-earth atmosphere.
Laem (or cape) Promthep, near Rawai Beach, has a reputation as the best place on the island to watch sunsets. This is mostly down to merciless promotion by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), which feels it has to push tourist attractions to the nth degree. As a result, Promthep Cape is jammed with tour buses in the busy season, with tourists battling for space and locals thrusting souvenirs and refreshments on them.
Why would you do this? Think about it for a moment: isn’t this the same sunset you can see from anywhere along the west coast? Much more worthy of a visit is Nai Harn Beach, a few minutes drive to the north. This is one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. Watch the sunset from there!
The whole area around Rawai and Nai Harn has become a farang ghetto. Although there are some fab homes, most are more modest than you will find around, say, Bang Tao. Along with the homes, services have also blossomed in the area to take care of this market. There are spas, bars, saunas, coffee shops and some excellent retaurants.
Accommodation in the Rawai-Nai Harn area ranges from simple beachfront wooden shacks at Ao Sane to waterfront seaview bungalows (such as at Friendship Beach Resort), three- to four-star resorts (such as Mangosteen and The Vijitt), and the five-star Royal Phuket Yacht Club, on Nai Harn Beach.
Transport in this part of Phuket is very sporadic. Local songthaew buses do pass throughout the day but, in general, it is advisable to hire a motorcycle or car if staying here. Vehicle hire is readily available at many places, ranging from Honda scooters to Harley Davidsons; jeeps to luxury sedans.
Rawai and Nai Harn can be reached from Chalong (south of Phuket Town) or from Kata on the west coast. A scenic, winding road along this stretch of coastline – from Kata to Rawai – offers fantastic sea views and several viewpoints. Rawai-Nai Harn is also home to many local artists, so you’ll find a number of quality art and craft galleries scattered around the area which make great souvenirs.