One of the most well-known areas in Phuket is Ao Chalong, although not for its shimmering waters and swimming opportunities. Ao Chalong is the jumping point for countless tours to nearby islands. You’ll find boats zipping in and out of the area, while others sit moored, waiting for some action.
The good news is, while Ao Chalong doesn’t necessarily offer the perfect Thai beach scene, you will be able to secure cheaper lodging with far fewer touts and hawkers in the area. If you’re looking for an all day island hopping tour or a spot to stay away from Patong, make your way here.
Rawai Beach is another one not necessarily meant for swimming, but it is a wonderful spot to chow down on some of the best fresh seafood you’ll ever have. We spent many afternoons and evenings here. It’s not uncommon to see others doing the same.
The seafood is a definite draw, but even better is the opportunity to relax with an adult drink while gazing out over the ocean. The “cool season” is an especially great time to visit Rawai, as lounging temperatures are slightly more tolerable.
Nai Harn Beach
Immediately next to Rawai, Nai Harn if not a stunner than one of the most scenic of the larger beaches in Phuket. The beach is just of the right size not to feel to cramped nor too vast. There are small sections of beach beds and umbrellas for rent otherwise bring your own mat and umbrella and enjoy it for free.
Another well-known beach, Kata boasts crowds, hotels, and quite a bit of beauty – well, the latter mostly refers to its smaller part, known as Kata Noi.
One of the best activities Kata Beach offers is some truly wondrous snorkelling. That being said, there’s also a fair share of sleazy bars and activity going on. Fortunately, Kata Beach is spacious, with the entire area being split up into two beaches, so it is possible to get away from the somewhat shady practices permeating the area.
Kata offers slightly cheaper accommodation than other beaches like Patong – but that does not refer to Kata Noi where some of the most expensive resorts are found. You’ll definitely see some overpriced rooms at more luxurious hotels, but look a little harder and you’ll be able to bring the budget down. Restaurants, on the other hand, are still pretty costly.
Together with Kata beaches, this beach forms the second most populated resort area on the island after Patong. The beach itself is long and somewhat boring, but the sand is fine and singing and for sunsets tourists and locals alike congregate on the beach seeing the day going away.
There are a couple of kids playgrounds in the area what makes it is decent choice for families.
Patong Beach calls west Phuket home. What you’ll find here is a picturesque beach with clear water, fine sand, and enough photo ops to create a lifetime of albums.
Patong is one of the places that put Phuket on the map back in the day. You might see this as a good thing, but many travellers also consider it a negative.
While Patong is beautiful - there’s no denying that - it’s overridden with tourism, bursting with scams, and severely overpriced. But, again - it’s gorgeous, and the beauty is hard to resist. Your tolerance for crowds and tourist traps will determine your love for Patong. If you do come here, don’t let yourself get taken advantage of by aggressive touts, and keep your wits about you when the bar scene gets into full swing.
Another excellent spot to relax is Kamala Beach. This section of the coast has enough space for you to spread out and find some privacy and enough going on to spend an entire day here, all without being bombarded with offers and too many touts.
Of course, resorts and hotels still make their presence known on Kamala, but coming here also allows for some interaction with beach-going locals, which we always find to be a good sign.
Come to Kamala to get away from the masses and hoards of partiers. Enjoy a local meal at lunchtime and rent a beach mat for the day. If you’re feeling adventurous, grab a stand up paddleboard rental or try your hand at kitesurfing.
If you want breathtaking views, perfect sand and water, and commercial development at a minimum, Surin Beach is your spot. Because of a nearby park, hotels and rentals don’t intrude on beach space like they do in other areas, which makes all of Surin feel a bit more spacious and open.
Depending on what season you visit, you can either take advantage of some excellent swimming or decent surfing off the shore.
You’ll find both expensive and cheap options for hotels and food here. Budget accommodations, albeit simple, are available, along with some smaller, local restaurants. Take a walk down the long strip of sand to find the right atmosphere for you, and then rent a much needed umbrella for THB100 per day.
Bang Tao Beach is another monster of a shoreline. This stretch of sand is huge, and while sections of it are occupied by resorts, the daunting size means travellers of all kinds can intermingle here.
Come to Bang Tao for some relaxation, and even a bit of water sport activity like jet skiing or surfing. If you’re looking for the size of Patong without quite so much commotion, you’ll likely fall in love with Bang Tao.
Be careful during monsoon season. If you see red warning flags out, avoid going in the water, as strong currents have proven too big a challenge to fight for visitors in the past.
One of our very favourite sandy spots is Ya Nui, which is about as secluded as accessible beaches get on Phuket. After new laws forced Phuket to do away with much of its overbearing beach commercial practices, Ya Nui became even quieter.
You’ll still find lots of people soaking in the sun here, but the constant flux of touts and scams doesn’t penetrate the beach like it does in Patong. Come to Ya Nui to relax, rent a kayak, or do some fantastic snorkelling. All the equipment you could need is available to rent on or near the beach for between THB100-200, so pack light.
The northern most stretch of the golden sand in the western side of the island next to Phuket airport, Mai Khao hosts some of the most upper class resorts with the only water park in the vicinity. The beach is beautiful, though with some feel of isolation and rip currents are a danger here.
But for many the main draw of this beach is the opportunity to watch airplanes taking off or landing right above your head. It takes quite a time to get from Mai Khao to both Patong and Phuket Town if you need some action, so probably a better idea is to come here for some airplane spotting.