When visitors begin to research the best place to stay in Phuket they can be left with a bewildering array of opinions and conflicting advice. In the descriptions below I offer my own personal opinions on various beaches in Phuket and some of the pros and cons of staying in each area.
Phuket is probably Thailand’s most popular tourist destination which means that the island has attracted lots of development and more tourists has equated to higher prices being charged. Just about everything in Phuket, including food and accommodation, is more expensive here than in other areas of Thailand. On the positive side, Phuket has some great beaches and the island has a wide range of hotels and guest-houses for all tastes and budgets. The two most popular beaches are Patong and Karon, but they won’t appeal to everybody and if you’re looking to stay in a quiet resort away from the crowds you may wish to consider other beaches such as Kamala or Mai Khao.
Bang Thao Beach
At 8kms long, Bang Thao Beach is a fine beach for those long walks or early morning jogs. It’s easy to find a quiet spot and there are some good family-oriented hotels in this area. If you are looking for night-life and lots of activity you will be disappointed, but Bang Thao is a good choice for those looking for a relaxed stay. Bang Thao does attract quite a lot of families, but please note that because of the powerful undertow in some parts of the sea all swimmers should be careful and pay particular attention to any warning flags or signs.
Best Western Allamanda
Dusit Thani Laguna
Chalong Bay and Cape Panwa
Tucked away in the south-east corner of Phuket, the beaches at Chalong and Panwa avoid the tourist crowds and are a good option for those looking for a serene stay in peaceful surroundings.
Cloud 19 Beach Retreat
Cape Panwa Hotel
Radisson Blu Plaza Resort
Kamala Beach might lack the obvious visual appeal of some of the other Phuket beaches, but it does have a number of advantages over some of its more popular rivals. This is one area of Phuket that has avoided over-development and (for the moment at least) retains a pleasant, low-key atmosphere. There are some lovely little beach-side restaurants offering cheap food and drink and this is a great place to sit and watch the sunset over the Andaman Sea (pictured). The water here is calm and safe for swimming and I would recommend Kamala Beach for families just as I would for couples looking for a quiet retreat without being totally cut off. If you do want some entertainment or nightlife, the popular Phuket Fantasea is close at hand and it’s also just a short hop on a tuk-tuk to Patong.
(Read my personal review of The Palms here »)
Kamala Beach Resort
The resort of Karon Beach is the second most popular on the island after Patong which is located just 5kms away to the north. The long sandy beach at Karon is pleasant rather than spectacular, but provides the space that many holiday-makers look for. With a decent choice of accommodation in all price brackets and plenty of bars and restaurants, Karon attracts a broad cross-section of visitors looking for something not as ‘in-your-face’ as Patong, but still lively enough to keep everybody amused day or night.
The Old Phuket Hotel
Sugar Palm Resort
The twin beaches of Kata Yai (Big Kata) and Kata Noi (Little Kata) are located just around the headland to the south of Karon Beach. This is a pretty setting and some of the accommodation in Kata is situated on the slopes of a hill. This means a bit of effort if you like to walk, but on the plus side many of the hotels have beautiful views over the bay so it’s worth the extra legwork. Staying in Kata has the advantage of an attractive setting, but you are still within easy distance of the shopping and nightlife areas of Karon or Patong if you want to experience them.
Boathouse Resort on the Beach
Mom Tri’s Villa Royale
Mai Khao and Nai Yang Beach
These two beaches are the most northerly on the island and are the closest beaches to Phuket airport. Mai Khao also has the distinction of being Phuket’s longest beach (17kms) and forms part of a National Park so development here is limited.
JW Marriott Phuket Resort and Spa
Nai Yang Beach Resort
Sala Phuket Resort & Spa
Nai Thon Beach
This is a very pretty beach in a quiet setting. Nai Thon lacks the facilities provided by some of the bigger resorts and if you are travelling with a young family it might not fit all your requirements. For the solo traveller or for couples looking for a serene spot to unwind for a few days, then Nai Thon is definitely an option.
Naithonburi Beach Resort
Nai Harn Beach
Located on the southern tip of Phuket, Nai Harn is one of the most attractive beaches on the island, but the choice of accommodation here is limited. Just a short drive away, Laem Prothep is the most southerly point of Phuket and is one of the island’s most popular beauty spots with foreign tourists and locals enjoying the stunning sunsets.
Royal Phuket Yacht Club
Patong is the most developed and commercialised part of Phuket and it doesn’t appeal to everybody. Patong certainly has its critics, but the resort continues to attract the tourists with many returning year after year. It’s fair to say that if you’re looking for the ‘real Thailand’ you won’t find it here, but you will find a cosmopolitan resort with plenty to keep visitors occupied during the day and night.
The beach itself is long and scenic with white sand and a sweeping, curved bay fringed with greenery. Sun-beds and beach parasols stretch out along the back edge of the soft sand, but Patong Beach is wide as well as long so despite the crowds it doesn’t feel too claustrophobic. The sheltered location of Patong Bay makes this an ideal spot for swimming and water sports. Patong is very popular with families and package tourists and there is certainly plenty to do here. Apart from the beach activities, Patong is home to the excellent Junk Ceylon shopping mall where you will also find a bowling alley and a cinema with the latest releases (usually in English with Thai subtitles). Remember to stand for the Royal anthem if you do go to the cinema in Thailand.
If you haven’t been to Patong before, it is worth noting that there is a prominent night-life area here with much of the bar scene and adult entertainment zone located in the Thanon Bangla (Bangla Road) area. Some people will enjoy the brash night-life here and others won’t. Whatever your view on the neon-lit clubs and bars, there are some excellent hotels in Patong and if you are staying away from the central Thanon Bangla area, it’s easy to avoid the night-time excesses.
Novotel Phuket Resort
Royal Palm Beachfront Hotel
Rawai Beach isn’t most people’s idea of the perfect beach and the sea here isn’t very good for swimming. However, this area is popular with Phuket locals who come here to enjoy the array of restaurants and food-stalls selling some of the best seafood to be found anywhere on the island.
Tea Tree Spa Resort