Phuket figures in many travel publications’ ‘Top 10 Best Islands in the World’ list and it does so well largely because of its beautiful west coast beaches.
Here’s a brief summary of Phuket’s most popular beaches along with five ‘special’ beaches you either have never heard about or have heard about and haven’t visited yet.
Phuket's Most Popular Beaches
It’s not just at night that Patong gets wild. This is Phuket’s busiest beach and the place where everyone hangs out to see and be seen. The sun loungers are sometimes three rows deep and the beach vendors relentless.
Yes, it’s tacky, yes it’s tasteless and yes there’s no rest for the wicked but Patong Beach is there to cater for the party animal in us and it does so pretty well. During high season water sports galore are available here – surfing, hobie cats, boogie boards, jet-skis and the beach is a hive of activity.
Out on the waves superyachts bob and glint in the sunshine and sometimes the US Navy pays a visit, transforming the sea view (and the nightlife). Surfing and snorkeling is best at the northern end and beach massages are especially popular. The beach itself forms a three-kilometre crescent with the centre (closest to Soi Bangla) being the most popular sunning spot so if you want seclusion you’ll find it at the extreme ends.
Popular with Scandinavians, five-kilometre long Karon Beach is known primarily for its crisp white sand’s texture. Karon is never as crowded as Patong and this is perhaps due to the fact that hotels and amenities in the area are well spread out. If you are looking for seclusion, head for the north of the beach.
Karon is the second longest of Phuket’s most frequented beaches and makes a perfect banana-shaped crescent. At the southern end you’ll find good snorkeling. Food stalls set up daily just north of the traffic roundabout and are reasonably priced and if you have western tastes you can wander into Karon’s main area or even order lunch at one of the (almost) beach front hotels. Then there’s the option of buying fresh fruit from the wandering vendors.
In the southern part of Karon, beach masseuses ply their trade in the shade but north of this point you’ll find very little shelter from the sun except if you hire a sun lounger and parasol. Swimming is good from November to May but it is not recommended the rest of the year due to a sharp drop off into the Andaman.
For many visitors Kata Beach encapsulates their idea of an exotic beach. Palm-lined, with clear water and an offshore island, Kata is framed by granite rocks at its north and southern ends. In high season the vista is further enhanced by a flotilla of visiting yachts and the beach offers good swimming and snorkeling opportunities.
A shaded walkway runs parallel to the length of the beach and Kata’s late afternoon volleyball and soccer matches are fast becoming a local institution, as is its low season surfing scene and yearly competition (boards can be rented on the beach).
At both ends of the beach you’ll find many restaurants of all persuasions and prices and the middle part is dominated by Club Med. Kata Beach has some jet-skis but not as many as at Patong Beach and local fishermen moor and beach their ‘longtail’ boats at the northern end. Kata has the perfect balance between shade and sun and is big enough to handle the many sun worshipers that frequent it.
Nai Harn Beach
Ten years ago not many people had heard of Nai Harn but this beach in the south of Phuket has been growing in popularity ever since. The fact is that there are not a lot of accommodation choices in this area and this has kept numbers of visitors down.
Nai Harn is a lady of many faces; calm, fresh and brilliant in the high season, mad bad and dangerous to know in the low season. The one-kilometre long beach is especially popular with local expats and is a good spot for sundowners at one of the beach bars. The Royal Phuket Yacht Club hotel overlooks the northern part while a Buddhist temple dominates the middle.
Casuarina trees provide cover for a picnic area and occasionally the man-made lagoon behind the beach is emptied into the sea, creating a fun stream in which to play and for children to bodysurf in. In low season the waves at the southern end make for some of the best surfing on the island.
Situated between Kamala and Bang Tao beaches, Surin Beach is a perfect picnic and barbecue spot. It’s well-known for its soft yellow sand and its clear waters. When the sea is calm in high season Surin is good for snorkeling and kayaking and the beach is lined with shade-giving casuarina trees.
At Surin Beach car park you will find several restaurants and food vendors, along with a set of beachside tables and chairs at which to eat. As there are so many vendors and stalls (in high season) this is the perfect place to get your shopping in while tanning yourself.
At the rear of the beach, under the trees, simple barbeque stalls offer Thai-style squid and fish grilled over charcoal. The sea here is warm and clear during calm weather. Some small reefs at each end offer snorkeling and the beach slopes quite steeply downward, which helps keep the water clear of sand.
Hidden Treasure - Beaches to Discover in Phuket
Rocky, sheltered and teeming with underwater life, Ao Sane is accessible only from the sea or by driving under Nai Harn’s Le Royal Phuket Yacht Club and following the road over the hill. Ao Sane is well enough hidden away to have retained an exclusive and secretive feel to it and here you’ll find bungalows for rent and a simple restaurant, making it ideal for a day (or two) out.
The sand is rougher than most local beaches and the beach features huge granite boulders to clamber over and swim amongst. The snorkeling/diving is sublime at high tide, a little dangerous at low tide due to rocks. Ao Sane also has enough shade to ensure a no-burn day out at this compact little strand.
Quiet but not deserted, leafy and sheltered, Nai Thon is one of Phuket’s hidden treasures. It’s been said that if you want to see Phuket as it was 20 years ago, go to Nai Thon Beach. Even the road leading to Nai Thon is scenic, leafy, and a step back in time.
Both ends of the beach feature rocky headlands and the length of this medium-sized strand is shady and covered. There are a few sun loungers to hire as well as some local restaurants a mere stroll away.
Nai Thon is part of the Sirinath Marine National Park and Olive Ridley Sea Turtles come ashore here to lay their eggs from November to February. Swimmers should take care from May to November as there is a strong undercurrent; the rest of the year swimming is great.
Laem Singh Beach
An extremely attractive and fashionable beach, Laem Singh is located between Kamala and Surin and is the darling of the in-crowd. You have to have sharp eyes to find the entrances to Laem Singh and it is a five-minute walk down from its two ‘car parks’. You’ll be charged a small fee for leaving your car/motorbike at each of its two entrances.
The beach itself has granite boulders set in white sand and has a tangible, laid-back atmosphere. Laem Singh features up to seven restaurants in high season and you can hire kayaks and body boards, making it somewhat more cosmopolitan than isolated but it is nevertheless beautiful.
Snorkeling and body boarding are good here and care should be taken during the low season (May to November) because of fierce riptides.
Sporting emerald-green water and bright white sand, Freedom Beach is located just south of the headland jutting out of the south end of Patong and is only accessible from the sea. To get a longtail boat ask one of the locals on Patong Beach about renting one and soon the owner will appear and you can bargain for a price. Figure on 400 baht for an hour for the hire of the boat or 1,000 baht for the day.
Longtail boats can hold 6-8 passengers. It’s a ten-to-fifteen minute ride to Freedom, and once there you will be on one of the most isolated strands in Phuket with excellent snorkeling and diving opportunities so don’t forget your mask.
In high season you can join a volley ball game or loll on a hired sun bed or simply eat a leisurely meal at the beach restaurant. Freedom Beach is a jet-ski-free beach.
Paradise Beach certainly lives up to its name as it is startlingly beautiful with the perfect combination of shade, clear water and sun. The only snag is that it’s a bit of a trek to get to. From Patong, head due south until the Amari Coral Beach Resort then follow the road up past Baan Yin Dee and keep going past the Merlin Beach Resort.
Before you arrive at Paradise Beach you will have to negotiate a sharp slope down into the car park. It’s shady, idyllic and best of all, jet-ski free.
There’s good snorkeling out by the reef and you can also take a sea kayak out on the emerald-green water. A simple restaurant serves Thai and European food. Paradise Beach has all-year round swimming but longtail boats won’t go out if the waves are too high in Patong Bay. See you there.