Phuket has more than a dozen beaches, all of them with a different atmosphere, so you will get a very different holiday experience depending on which beach you stay. So choose your beach wisely!
The island’s most stunning beaches are on its western side, whereas the beaches on the eastern side are more quiet and secluded.
The Most Popular Beaches
Patong and Kalim
Long and handsome Patong Beach is Phuket’s most famous and busiest beach. The four-kilometer-long beach has developed to a city-like concentration full of restaurants, shops and bars. Traffic jams are daily nuisance.
Patong’s Bangla Road is the epicenter of Phuket’s nightlife, which also makes prostitution much more visible than on the rest of the island.
Just north of Patong is Kalim Beach, which is poor for swimming but great for water sports such as wakeboarding. Kalim has some elegant restaurants, which are easy to visit from Patong.
To Whom: All kinds of travelers end up staying in Patong Beach, but it is best suited for those interested in partying and who yearn to be in the middle of wide range of amenities like restaurants and shopping opportunities.
The next big beach south of Patong is Karon Beach. The beach is kind of an intermediate between a peaceful and lively. Karon is so long that it is easy to find your own peace, even though the beach has its fair share of hotels. A road runs between the hotels and the beach. The restaurants and other services are concentrated on both ends of the beach. The northern end has Karon’s own little village and the southern end is connected to Kata Beach’s lively village.
To Whom: Especially good for families for its many family-friendly hotels and mature travelers who enjoy long walks on the beach.
Kata Beach and Kata Noi
Beautiful Kata Beach is the island’s second busiest after Patong, but the atmosphere is much more easy-going. Kata Beach curves like a sickle between green hills. There is only three hotels right on the beach, the rest being a short walk away in Kata’s village, which is full of restaurants and small shops.
Even more beautiful is Kata Noi, which is located on the next small cove, bordered by beautiful granite boulders and lush hills. The sea is more turquoise than anywhere else in Phuket. There are only two hotels on the beach, and a few inns can be found on the roadside behind Kata Noi. Restaurant options are limited to the hotels and few small restaurants.
A small, hilly road runs from Kata Beach to Kata Noi. It is a steep 15-minutes walk but you can always take a taxi between the beaches.
To Whom: Kata Beach for youthful couples looking for a lively holiday with good restaurants and vibrant beach life. Kata Noi for those looking for a stunning and secluded beach, yet not too far away from lively restaurant scene.
Kamala is a handsome beach with relaxed atmosphere. There are a lot of nice restaurants but the nightlife is limited to a handful of beach bars. Only a few of the hotels and guesthouses are right on the beach.
On the hills on the edge of Kamala Beach is an area called Millionaires Mile, with exclusive sea view villas of the world’s rich and famous (it is rumored that even Madonna has a holiday home here).
To Whom: Retirees and families looking for a laid-back beach, which has, however, a wide range of restaurants.
Surin Beach is popular with both luxury travelers and local weekenders on day-trips. Hotels are a short 5-minutes walk from the beach, which is adorned by simple Thai restaurants and fancy western style beach clubs.
Just off Surin Beach is a beautiful private beach with two luxury hotels, The Surin and the legendary Amanpuri. On the main Surin Beach you’ll find the Twin Palms hotel, which is famous for its architecture that has given a modern twist to traditional Thai style and its Oriental Spoon restaurant, popular for its Sunday brunches.
To Whom: Surin Beach’s hotels cater mainly for luxury travelers. It is a nice beach for daytrips for the Twin Palms’ Sunday brunch and to enjoy the high-life of Surin’s beach clubs.
Phuket’s Quieter Beaches
Naiharn and Rawai
Naiharn is a gorgeous, quiet beach at the southern end of the island. There are only a few hotels and some cozy beach restaurants. Nearby is a beautiful, small Ya Nui beach, where you can try your luck with snorkeling.
Nai Harn is best for those who are planning to have their own transportation, either a motorbike or a car – otherwise you will feel pretty much isolated from the rest of the island.
Next to Naiharn is Rawai on the southern tip of the island. Rawai’s beach is nothing to write home about, but it is known for its simple but delicious Thai style seafood restaurants. You can rent a longtail-boat from the beach to get to nearby deserted islands.
Next to Rawai, a little bit inland, is a fascinating area with a lot of restaurants catering for Phuket’s long time western residents and several bohemian art galleries.
To Whom: Naiharn for families, mature travelers and others seeking for peaceful and cozy atmosphere. Rawai is best for day-trippers.
Bangtao and Layan Beach
Almost 10-kilometers long Bang Tao is perhaps the most handsome of Phuket’s beaches; unlike on most other beaches here the hotels are right on the beach without a road running between the beach and the hotels.
The middle part of the beach is called Laguna Complex. It has several luxury hotels, restaurants and a golf course. There are also nice midrange hotels on the beach. You’ll have several restaurants to keep you satisfied, but none of them really stands out.
Bang Tao’s northern end, called Layan Beach, is protected from the development, making it a beautiful secluded spot for day-trips. Layan has a few cozy little restaurants.
To Whom: Best for Families, mature travelers and others who prefer quiet beach holiday instead of a wide array of restaurants or an active nightlife.
Tucked away from the main roads north of Bangtao Beach, Naithon is a stunning beach sporting a lovely rustic atmosphere. Very few tourists find their way here, except the Russians who seem to be the main visitors on this beach. The beach has only one hotel, the Naithonburi, and a few guesthouses.
Naithon Beach is a great place for day trip from Bangtao Beach along a beautiful, winding coastal road.
To Whom: All those who are looking for a relatively unspoiled beach and don’t mind to share the beach with Russians.
Nai Yang and Mai Khao Beach
These two beaches next to each other are located in the northern part of the island, next to the airport, and are partly protected as part of the Sirinath National Park. Sea turtles use to lay their eggs on the beach from November to February, but the nesting of the turtles has unfortunately become extremely rare.
Nai Yang beach has a couple of hotels and a lot of restaurant huts. Ten kilometers long Mai Khao is mostly deserted; the beach has only a few isolated luxury hotels and two affordable guesthouses.
If you stay in Mai Khao, you’lle be pretty much isolated from the rest of Phuket – the way to the other beaches is long; Patong is some 45 minutes drive away.
To Whom: For those looking for peace and serenity. Airport is just 5 minutes drive away from Mai Khao Beach, so this is especially convenient place to stay, if you have early flights.
Small and Quiet Beaches
Tri Trang, Paradise and Freedom Beaches
A small road leads from the southern end of Patong Beach to three small beaches. The first is a tranquil Tri Trang Beach, which has a few hotels. The beach is pretty, although it gets narrow at high tide.
Next comes uninhabited Paradise Beach, after a very steep side road. Unfortunately the beautiful little beach is seldom very paradise-like since it is often bursting with day-trippers. The beach has a 100 baht entrance fee.
After paradise beach another side road turns to Freedom Beach, but a sign strictly forbids using the path. Instead, to get to the beautiful and secluded Freedom Beach one has to take a longtail-boat either from Patong Beach or from the other popular beaches.
To Whom: These beaches are best suited for day-trips.
The Beaches on Phuket’s East Coast
There are beaches also on Phuket’s eastern side, but they are not amongst the island’s most beautiful. There are some pretty inviting resorts, though, such as stylish Cape Panwa. Beware that these hotels are pretty isolated from the rest of the island life.
To Whom: For those whose main concern is to have a comfortable hotel away from it all.
Ao Chalong is a laid-back harbor village on the eastern side of the island. Most of the diving centers have their headquarters here.
The beach is not inviting, but if you have a scooter you can reach the beautiful Nai Harn Beach in fifteen minutes.
Chalong has cheap guesthouses catering for the divers and very cozy, Finnish-owned Tuna Resort, known for its excellent fishing trips.
Chalong is a great base for independent travelers who wish to explore the island, since it is well connected by bus service to Phuket Town and the beaches on Phuket’s west side.
To Whom: Divers, keen fishermen and independent travelers.