Casuarina-lined Rawai Beach has its charms but is not as high up on tourists' must-do lists as Phuket's fabulous west coast beaches.
Now not a beach for sunbathing and swimming, it wasn't always like that; before the road over Patong Hill was built Rawai was the beach of choice for family Sunday outings from Phuket Town and the tradition of sitting under the trees, casually eating and drinking has remained, making Sundays busy here.
The beach stretches east to west with a cape at both ends and is therefore very shady and pleasant, even on the hottest days.
It's not a good idea to swim at Rawai because of the many boats moored there (although try telling that to the many Sea Gypsy children bobbing and splashing in the waves at the east end of the beach). The sea is shallow here and when the tide goes out at Rawai Beach its mud flats and rocks are exposed.
Just west of Rawai is Promthep Cape (Laem Promthep) a small peninsula that provides a great sunset viewpoint over the ocean beyond. Great views over the whole area can be seen from The Mangosteen Resort, located in an elevated area above Rawai.
How to Get There
The reason why Rawai was the first tourist beach in Phuket was because it is easy to get to. Take the main central road (402) that runs through the centre of the island and go as far south as you can without actually driving into the sea. It's as simple as that.
Rawai Beach Facilities
As Rawai Beach is not a sunbathing or swimming beach. It is a major point of departure for boats heading out to the surrounding islands. There are signs up along the beach road quoting prices for longtail boats for hire.
There is a daily seafood market in the Sea Gypsy village at the east end of the beach that is a colourful, if somewhat odorous affair. There is no car park as such; park on the side of the road in the direction you are heading, otherwise you risk a ticket.
Rawai Beach Restaurants
Here, you can eat sticky (glutinous) rice, barbecued chicken and fish, and grilled crab to your heart's content, drink at the many bars lining the front and appreciate the great southern views of Koh Bon, and distant Koh Racha.
Heading towards Chalong is the Evason Phuket Resort, a luxurious spot with some fine dining options, and further along is the popular Friendship Beach resort, a nice place to while away an afternoon enjoying a snack and swimming in the resort's pool.
Rawai Beach Activities
Sit and Chill. For a glimpse into the day-to-day life of a real Thai 'working beach' Rawai Beach is hard to beat. Some fishermen caulk their vessels while others mend their nets; others work on a new boat and the whole beach atmosphere is decidedly nautical. Catches are hauled ashore while restaurant operators on nearby islands load crates of beer and bags of rice aboard longtail boats.
All you have to do is sit and take it all in! There are no jetskies, banana boats, ambulant beach vendors or any of the trappings of a west coast beach; this is Thai beach life.