Located midway along the west coast, Phuket’s number one and most visited beach is Patong; a behemoth in terms of tourist numbers and reputation. The beach is quite nice here, although the whole package of shops, restaurants and bars is what gives this beach its great appeal. Just north and south of Patong are Kamala and Karon beaches respectively; both of which are a little less brash and easier on the eye. Karon is the busier of the two and is known for its collection of upmarket hotels and resorts.
Not far to the south of Karon is Kata Beach, perhaps Phuket’s all-round best beach. Phuket’s must see beaches Kata has better sands than that of Patong and Karon, has fewer shops and bars and has a great feel to it, with shaded seating areas and some great shopping. As with the previous beaches, Kata is very appealing to the water sports enthusiast and is the island’s most popular surfing beach. Unlike Patong and Karon, Kata also has some resorts and one or two bars directly on the beach adding to its appeal.
Kata Noi Beach is just over a headland to the south of Kata and is one of the most attractive and peaceful of beaches on Phuket. It has lovely, golden sands and great bathing and is surrounded on all sides by dense jungle. There’s only one main resort here – Kata Thani – and a handful of shops, cafés and bars. Kata Noi is just a short taxi ride from the main Kata Beach and reachable on foot.
Nai Harn Beach is farther south again and very much like Kata Noi for peacefulness and exclusivity. Nai Harn is mostly frequented by locals and the high season weekends will see it thronged with happy Phuket residents. Like Kata Noi, Nai Harn is fed by a no-through road making it much more peaceful and less polluted than most other beaches on the island. There are also some very exclusive hotels here such as the Le Meridian.
At the very bottom of the island is Rawai Beach, an interesting retreat best known for its seafood restaurants and laid back feel. Rawai is very popular with the ex-pat community although the beach itself isn’t that much to look at. Friendship Beach, about three kilometres northeast of Rawai, is the only one worth visiting on the east coast.
There are also several other beaches of interest continuing north of Kamala Beach, including Laem Sing, Surin, Bang Tao and Nai Yang. Of these, Laem Sing, next to Kamala, is by far the prettiest but least accessible. An arduous climb down a set of steep steps is the only access from the road high above, unless you have a boat. Once down there, the cute little bay of Laem Sing will not disappoint, with its soft sands and crystal clear waters.
Surin Beach is just a few minutes by bike or car from Laem Sing and is as far north as most visitors tend to get. Surin is somewhat of an upmarket option flanked as it is by million dollar villas. The seafood restaurants on the beach here are very good and the surf is also appealing. Bang Tao is just over a headland to the north and is Phuket’s longest beach at eight kilometres. Needless to say this beach is great for a stroll and its tree-lined shelter offers an excellent opportunity for a picnic.
Nai Yang Beach is the only other main beach north of here and is the first beach coming from the airport. An affordable option, Nai Yang is becoming more and more popular with returning visitors who want something different and who can’t be bothered to traipse all the way to the more popular southern Phuket beaches. Patong online holiday and fun guide A word of warning though: don’t come to Nai Yang expecting a party!