Phuket Beaches

Patong Beach

Patong Beach

Patong is the most famous – some would say infamous – beach resort on Phuket. With its wide variety of activities and nightlife, Patong is an ideal place to party and play.

Visitors hoping for a glimpse into the exotic East will likely not find it here among the McDonald’s, KFC, Boots and Starbucks outlets, though the steaming hot streets, neon lights and chaotic atmosphere of Patong can be overwhelming for the new arrival.

The key to full enjoyment of the place is to pace yourself, drink lots of water and learn the meaning of ‘mai pen rai’ – which translates roughly to ‘It doesn’t matter’ or ‘Don’t worry, be happy’.

By day, Patong’s curved sandy bay is a hive of activity with parasail and jet-ski operators, boat drivers, beach vendors and masseuses all vying for the attention of the many visitors relaxing on the beach chairs.

Those looking for more to do than sunbathe can try their hand at diving, sailing, elephant-trekking, ATV-riding, Harley Davidson tours, sea canoeing, bungy jumping, water-skiing and more, all of which can be arranged at the many tour desks set up around town and in the hotels.

And those needing some pampering can indulge themselves with a relaxing massage, spa or beauty treatment.

Patong’s food choices are nearly endless. Spicy noodle stands, fast food outlets and fine dining spots featuring cuisine from all parts of the globe are all readily available.

At the top end are the Baan Rim Pa, Otowa and Da Maurizio restaurants – all clinging to the rocky shore, side-by-side, just up the road north of Patong – offering fantastic cuisine, stunning views and some of the island’s best range of wines.

The elegant beachfront Sala Bua restaurant at the Impiana Phuket Cabana is fast becoming a ‘must visit’ spot with its inventive, award-winning dishes. Other favourite spots known for their excellent service and food include Sam’s at the Holiday Inn, Baluchi Indian restaurant at Horizon Beach Resort and Lim’s.

Budget and mid-priced options are too numerous to mention, and best discovered by strolling Patong’s streets. If the place is packed, it’s a good indication that the food is tasty. Be adventurous and don’t be afraid to try some of the more casual, local spots, where unexpected delights may be found.

Kata Noi Beach

Kata Noi Beach

This cosy bay is found at the end of a dead-end road, just a few minutes’ drive over the hill from Kata beach. There’s not much to do in Kata Noi, which is precisely the point of coming here.

Relax, take a walk along the soft sands, snorkel or swim. It’s long been a popular spot for surfers in the monsoon season of May-October, though swimming can be dangerous during this period. The popular Kata Viewpoint, offering a stunning vista across the three bays of Karon, Kata and Kata Noi, is only a 5-minute drive along a winding road towards Nai Harn.

Those looking for a full range of dining and nightlife options will have to venture out to Kata and beyond, but there are some restaurants and pubs along the road. A short walk up the hill towards Kata is the celebrated Mom Tri’s Kitchen, which offers world-class cuisine in a romantic setting overlooking the sea.

For accommodation in Kata Noi, the Kata Thani Resort and Spa and a few low-key hotels and bungalows are ideal spots for families or couples seeking a quiet holiday.

Chalong Beach

Chalong Beach

Its muddy shoreline makes Chalong unsuitable for swimming, but it’s an ideal spot for yacht mooring. Outside of the marinas of Boat Lagoon and Yacht Haven, Chalong is a centre for boating activity in Phuket.

Early mornings and late afternoons are the busiest times, where diving and day trip groups are seen being bundled on and off the boats. The Ao Chalong Yacht Club, which organises regular sailing races, makes its base here, and its bar is a favourite spot for sailors to swap stories.

The prominent feature of Chalong is its 720-metre-long, seven-metre-wide jetty, which replaced the old rickety wooden pier in 2001. A parking area and a number of restaurants, shops, tourist information kiosks and open-air waiting areas have been built to serve the many visitors passing through.

There’s also a one-stop customs, immigration and harbour master service to assist visiting vessels, as well as a new marine rescue centre. Chalong’s many informal restaurants, bars and cafes are worth exploring, particularly Kan Eang, notable for its fresh seafood and attentive service.

Yachties, divers and water sports enthusiasts are well served with Chalong’s many shops, ranging from motor repair services, to equipment sales and rental, to fishing and charter tour companies, all found along the road leading to the pier.

For accommodation, there are a few bungalow and apartment-style spots to stay right on Chalong or further inland.

Karon Beach

Karon Beach

Karon, featuring an incredibly long stretch of squeaky white sand, is less hectic than Patong but it still offers a full range of facilities, dining and activities.

While it’s a fast-growing area, Karon is nicely spread out and rarely feels crowded.

Karon is concentrated around three main areas. In the Karon Plaza area on the south end there a number of budget guesthouses, restaurants and bars.

The side sois are worth exploring, particularly the one that leads to a small art community, where some budding Thai painters have built a complex of huts, pubs and art galleries in which they live and work. Nearby, on the beach road leading to Kata, is the newly opened football stadium, which hosts both local and international sporting events.

The sprawling grounds of Thavorn Palm Beach Resort and the Phuket Arcadia Resort and Spa dominate much of the central part of Karon, then just north of these is Aroona Plaza.

Aroona, which opened a few years ago, houses a range of nice handicraft shops, good restaurants and cafes, a few bars and a hotel modeled after the Sino-Portuguese architecture of Old Phuket. The nice, wide avenue is ideal for taking an evening stroll and doing some shopping.

The north end features the Karon Circle, which has sculptures of workers commemorating Phuket’s tin-mining and agricultural past. The busy Patak East Rd leading back from the circle is a jumble of bars, restaurants, all kinds of shops and small hotels.

While Karon’s nightlife is more subdued than Patong, the bars along this road can get lively and loud in the evenings. Just north of the circle is a small lake, around which a public park and outdoor theatre are being developed.

Unlike Patong Beach, big-name restaurants and fast food chains have yet to arrive in Karon, but it is by no means lacking in dining options. The restaurants of the larger resorts offer gorgeous settings and fine food, while the streets are clogged with a range of seafood, Thai and Western restaurants.

For a spectacular sunset view, drive just a few minutes’ north of the beach and stop in at one of the cliffside restaurants up the hill.

For lunch, the stalls set up on the beach just north of the circle are worth trying for their curries and other Thai dishes at reasonable prices, and also for the sheer pleasure of feeling only sand underfoot and an unfettered view of the sea as you dine.

Kata Beach

Kata Beach

The pleasant bay of Kata, just a few minutes south of Karon Beach, entices many with its white sands and clear waters.

The monsoon season of May-October can make for rough swimming conditions, but it’s this time of year that the surfers come out. The south end of the beach is the best place to watch, or join in on, the surfing action. Rentals are available for those who leave their boards at home.

Late in the year as the waters turn calm, Kata bay becomes populated with beautiful yachts, which arrive from all over the region to compete in December’s King’s Cup Regatta, Asia’s premier sailing event.

While Club Med takes up most of the beachfront, a shaded footpath along the road fronting the resort makes for a pleasant stroll. Continuing on through the village, walkers will find an abundance of shops to browse in, from souvenir and ready-to-wear outlets, to 7-11 and local mini-marts, to name brand fashion stores. There are also plenty of dive shops and tour operators to assist those looking to explore beyond the beach.

Steak and seafood seem to be the most common offerings of Kata’s many restaurants. Most roadside restaurants display their selection of lobsters, tiger prawns and plump fish right in front of their shop for all to see – and for diners to handpick. There’s no shortage of Thai restaurants, and for international fare there’s Scandinavian, Tex-Mex, Indian and Italian places to choose from, just to name a few.

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