Beaches are the biggest draw for the island of Phuket in Thailand. Millions of tourists fly into Phuket International Airport every year, for the sake of hitting the creamy-brown sands on the island’s west coast.
Every beach has a personality all to its own: Patong’s the party beach, Mai Khao’s for nature lovers and plane spotters alike, and Paradise Beach is where you should go to celebrate the full moon. Most of the beaches on this list enjoy lifeguard services and access to facilities like watersports and nearby restaurants.
Word of warning: these beaches are all uniformly choppy and dangerous for swimmers during the monsoon season between May and October, generating riptides and unpredictable swells. When the red flags go up on any of these Phuket beaches, avoid at all costs!
This beach is the number one party beach in Phuket: flanking the tourist district’s west side, walking distance from Phuket’s most popular restaurants, hotels, and the western entrance to Bangla Road’s nightlife.
During peak season, Patong Beach is a hotbed of activity: you can go jet skiing, surfing or parasailing off the beach, buy snacks or drinks from roving vendors, or get a massage from one of the makeshift parlors under the treeline separating the sand from Thawewong Road.
Already the busiest beach in Phuket, Patong can be even more crowded during sunset, when many tourists grab a spot on the beach to watch the sun sink below the horizon.
Almost perfectly straight and only moderately busy in the high season, Karon Beach manages to strike a happy medium between Patong’s party atmosphere and Mai Khao’s provincial air.
Sure, there are a good number of hotels and restaurants immediately adjacent to the beach (the Movenpick is a popular tourist choice for Karon Beach visitors). Still, the overall vibe is easygoing, with long stretches of beach free of crowds. The beach road adjacent to Novotel at Karon’s southern end hosts a good selection of Thai seafood restaurants, as does Soi Patak just off of Karon Circle.
Karon Beach is a popular venue for watersports like windsurfing, sea kayaking, wakeboarding, and waterskiing. The beautiful, compact sands on Karon are most well-suited for beach volleyball: it’s often used for international championship matches.
There are two Kata beaches, not one: Kata Noi to the north, smaller and less congested, and Kata Yai to the south, where most of the action can be found.
The shallow seas off Kata Yai allow easier, safer snorkeling access to the nearby coral reefs. Sunset viewing on the beach is further improved with the view of Ko Pu in the immediate distance. The beach’s southern section hosts most of Kata Yai’s beach bars and hotels, along with the flow riding hangout, Surf House Phuket.
The much quieter Kata Noi offers a quieter alternative to its busy northern counterpart. A lower tourist count and the watchful eye of the Katathani Resort’s staff keep the pace low and slow.
A popular beach with families, Kamala Beach benefits mainly from its proximity to the Phuket FantaSea theme park and the two weekend markets within walking distance of the beach.
The beach road at Kamala’s southern end hosts budget hotels providing cheaper accommodations for low-cost travelers, along with a busy bar and restaurant scene. The northern end of Kamala has a hawker area where you can buy cheap Thai food.
For a real atmosphere, sit down at one of Kamala’s beachfront restaurants and enjoy the sunset while chugging down a Thai beer or three.
This long beach is surprisingly undeveloped; years of legal disputes have kept most of the beachfront free from encroaching resort development. Bang Tao’s southern half hosts most of the beach’s business, with a few high-end beachfront resorts and restaurants occupying this space. Near the beach, tourists can shop at Boat Avenue or Tinlay Place, a short drive away.
The Laguna Phuket resort complex occupies much of the land behind the beach. If your idea of a sandy getaway is whacking your way out of a sandtrap, the Laguna complex hosts an 18-hole golf course for your driving pleasure.
This stretch of Phuket’s west coast is one of the least populated. Because Bangtao is so long, visitors can be spaced out more generously, allowing them to have plenty of space to themselves!
Nai Harn Beach
The southernmost beach on the west coast, Nai Harn has a down-home feel to it that makes it a popular haunt for Thai locals. Relatively undeveloped, with a safely-sloping seabed, a kid-friendly lagoon inlet, and lifeguards on constant guard, this distant beach is a relaxing alternative to party spots like Patong Beach.
Eateries and restaurants on the southern end of the beach road behind Nai Harn serve up inexpensive local fare. This point of the beach road leads onto a popular jogging path surrounding the nearby Nai Harn Lake; visit during the Thai festival of Loi Krathong in November, when locals place flowers with candles on the lake surface and let them float away.
Laem Singh Beach
Formerly only accessible by boat (the owners of the land in front of the beach closed access for several years), the hidden beach of Laem Singh now welcomes tourists by land as well. An access stairway leads from the street down to Laem Singh.
It’s surprisingly crowd-free, considering its location between two busy beaches (Surin Beach and Kamala Beach); the lack of development on the beach may account for this. To do any kayaking or snorkeling in the waters off Laem Singh, you’ll need to bring your own equipment.
Snorkelers find plenty to see in the waters around the rocks on the beach, particularly those on the southern end.
The unusual clarity of Surin Beach’s water makes this a popular snorkeling beach in the high season. The beach scene itself has seen better days: once a famous party beach, Surin lost most of its beach clubs, bars, and restaurants over the years. Today, you’ll only find a few ambulant hawkers on the beach and a handful of restaurants across the road.
That’s all to Surin Beach’s benefit, as the natural beauty of the beach is free to shine through—sea, sand, palm trees, and all.
Motorized watersports are rare to nonexistent around Surin Beach; kayaks in the high season and surfboards in the low season are more common. Surin Beach’s surfing is better left to expert-level surfers, who can manage the challenging conditions better.
This cove on a peninsula west of Patong Beach is the site of Thailand’s hottest Full Moon Party outside Koh Phangan. Paradise Beach Club throws both Full Moon and New Moon Parties, twice-monthly excuses to get drunk on cheap beer and get down with overly friendly fellow tourists while dancing to music provided by international DJs.
Facilities-wise, Paradise Beach Club is pretty much the only game in town. Beyond the calm waters and the soft sand, you’ll find the Beach Club’s restaurants and shops. The Beach Club hires out the loungers, volleyball facilities, and non-motorized watersports on the beach.
A free shuttle bus takes tourists from Patong Beach to Paradise Beach every 30 minutes, from 7 p.m. till late. To catch the shuttle, wait at the Police Box in front of Bangla Road.
One of two beaches within the Sirinath National Park border (Nai Yang is the other one), Mai Khao benefits from its sheer distance from Patong and its natural highlights to create one of Phuket’s best beaches to get away from it all.
Beyond the beach, wildlife is Mai Khao’s main thing. A bird sanctuary can be found in a park behind the local temple, its lake sheltering a family of egrets. A turtle sanctuary, run by the Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation protects the eggs laid by leatherbacks on Mai Khao beach. A baby turtle release occurs on Mai Khao once a year during Songkran Festival.
For a unique (if ear-blasting) experience, go to the part of Mai Khao that abuts the western end of Phuket Airport’s runway. You’ll see the airplanes descend almost close enough to touch, the beach waters rippling as the monster craft make their final approach.
The other beach within the Sirinath National Park border (Mai Khao is the other one), Naiyang is similarly off-the-beaten-path, with few facilities but a lot of character. The casuarina-shaded beach gives visitors a peek at what Phuket may have been like before tourists came in droves—and there’s a lot to like.
Beyond the handful of big hotels within Naiyang Beach’s vicinity (the Marriott is the only one with immediate beach access), Naiyang feels pretty deserted. Of course, you’ll still find the usual complement of beach massage services and ambulant vendors in the area, reminding tourists that this is a Phuket beach first and foremost.
Many locals come to camp on the beach; you can set up your tent near the trees. If you can’t bring your own, you can rent tents from the National Park headquarters.