Phuket is one of Thailand’s top destinations, and not without reason. It has a rich natural heritage in the form of the surrounding sea, long white beaches, mangrove swamps, canopied jungle forests, and a wealth of world-famous dive sites. In addition, it has a rich cultural history and is populated by a diverse selection of ethnic groups, bringing with them a wide choice of fine cuisine.
Phuket, which is only about an hour’s flight from either Bangkok or Singapore, is about the same size as Singapore (about 335 square miles or 540 square km in extent), and the largest island in Thailand. Those traveling to Phuket from overseas should arrange travel insurance to ensure they have access to emergency assistance and are covered for medical expenses.
There are only two seasons on Phuket, the hot season (from November to April) and the rainy “green” monsoon season (from May to October). While you will find people on the beaches all year round, the hot season is the ultimate beach season. The only issue is deciding which beach to spend time on.
Three of Phuket’s Premier Beaches.
If you’re looking for solitude, you may not be heading for one of Phuket’s most popular beaches, although if you know where to go, there are some surprisingly remote spots to be found. If you want to be near people, and you are keen to dive, snorkel, wind surf, jet-ski or sail, you will find that all the island’s major beaches have outlets that hire equipment and offer instruction. Here are three favorites:
One of the best-known, most loved beach resorts, Patong boasts an unspoilt, 2 km (more than a mile) beach that is usually lined with deck loungers, sunbeds and colorful umbrellas.
At the northern end of the beach you’ll find a gorgeous little sandy creek with shallow, clear water where you can paddle, swim and snorkel. At the southern end there’s a small fisherman’s village near to a river mouth where they launch their picturesque fishing boats in search of the catch of the day. The best place to surf is at the north end, just before you get to the creek.
The facilities along Patong Beach are excellent, from public toilets to restaurants and cafés. In addition, vendors are always on hand with offers of snacks, drinks and a cold, welcome ice cream. Some also sell silk, henna tattoos, costume jewelry and ornaments you might like to take home as a keepsake.
A major attraction of Patong is the fact that after a day on the beach, it’s party time. This little town has an enviable night life, offering hundreds of restaurants, open-air beer bars, and adults-only go-go bars where scantily-clad girls dance and perform for the crowds.
Karon Beach is located 3 km (not quite 2 miles) south of Patong, and a few minutes drive from the Bay of Kata, in the south west of Phuket. It is an upmarket part of the world, where the coast is lined with prestigious, high-rise hotels, although the beach itself is not as crowded as Patong Beach usually is.
At 5 km (a little more than 3 miles) this beautifully pristine beach is one of the longest on the island. While you can hire sunbeds and umbrellas, there is so much space, these are usually well spaced out, unlike those found on some of Phuket’s other major beaches. If you’re in the mood for a massage, you’ll find masseuses and reflexologists in the shaded areas at the top of the beach.
Unlike Patong Beach, there are no public toilet facilities here, but many of the restaurants are willing to let beachgoers use their facilities – sometimes for a fee. There are the same familiar vendors, though, as well as food stalls close to the beach where you can pick up a great Thai meal.
Surfing is not favored at this location, because the sea is very open all round, and the sandbanks are constantly shifting. But most other water sports are available, including windsurfing and waterskiing.
If you want to snorkel, head for the rocks at the southern end of the beach. At the northern end of Karon Beach you’ll find a stunning lake alongside a section of white sandy beach that is very often deserted (possibly because there are no loungers for hire). Sea turtles sometimes lay their eggs in the sand on this beach. So report any turtles or tracks that could have been left by turtles, to the staff at the hotel where you are staying, and they will notify the Phuket Marine Biological Centre to keep them safe.
Bang Thao Beach
Further north than both Patong and Karon beaches, Bang Thao mixes luxury with the relatively primitive living of the local fishermen and farmers who reside in this area, in a quaint town called Cherng Talay.
While you will find lavish (and expensive) resorts and villas along the coastline, the way of life of these locals hasn’t changed in centuries.
Bang Thao Beach is long and varied, stretching some 6 km (not quite 4 miles). If you want to be alone, head north, because the northern tip of the beach is, as yet, untouched by any form of development.
In fact much of this beach is largely unoccupied, probably because there is no beach road straddling the coast. Instead, hotels and other establishments make use of the beach areas that are close to them, and it is the hotels that provide the bulk of facilities. The implications of this are that sunbeds and loungers are restricted to hotel guests, as too are windsurfers and hobie cats hired out by the hotels.
This also means that if you want to reach a remote spot, you’re going to have to walk.
There are no public toilets available anywhere at Bang Thao Beach, but like Karon, you can ask to use restaurant and hotel facilities.