It’s All About the Beaches
Phuket’s sunset-facing side is home to the beaches that lure millions each year to its shores. Each has its own character from raucous Patong to quiet Kata Noi, and at least one of them makes the top beaches of the world list most years.
For those around the world who are familiar with Phuket, the island’s west coast is undoubtedly the mental picture they conjure when daydreaming of a seaside vacation. The waters are warm and clear, the sand is sugary, and the palm trees sway lazily in the breeze – the epitome of a fairy-tale tropical getaway. These beach towns are inhabited by more than itinerant vacationers and locals, because some tourists still find themselves here years, or decades, later.
At only 700m long, Kata Noi lies at the base of a steep mountainside and is the southernmost west-facing beach. There are just a handful of accommodation and restaurants here and is the choice for peace and solitude.
Just to the north over the headland is Kata Noi’s big brother, Kata Beach. Here, resorts, eateries, and shopping are in abundance, and when monsoon season sets in it transforms into surf-central Phuket with its mostly gentle waves great for beginners. A whole host of surf schools are available with surf, paddle board, and kayak rentals with spirited surf competitions being hosted here. Scuba and snorkeling trips can be arranged at the small island just offshore. Much is accessible by foot, but a bicycle or scooter makes it easier to explore.
Working northward is Karon Beach where your own quiet patch of sand is easily found along its 3km stretch. Naturally, resorts and businesses line the beachfront road while there’s a small “downtown” area where all sorts of restaurants, shopping, and nightlife can be found. Karon Temple often has small markets with handicrafts and street food.
Next up is what some call “Bangkok on the beach”, or Patong. As the nickname may suggest, we’ve now reached the liveliest of the west coast beaches. Masses of tourists flock here for the nightlife and beaches, but mostly the nightlife. Besides the infamous Bangla Road with nightclubs ranging from seedy to glamorous, you’ll find shopping malls, breweries, cabarets, bazaars, markets, and events like Phuket Bike Week (motorcycle festival) and the always entertaining Patong Carnival Parade in November.
Our northward journey takes us through the sleepy beach town of Kamala and it’s “millionair’s mile” of lavish villas and on to Surin Beach. Once home to several high-profile beach clubs which were forced to relocate, you’ll still find a selection of five-star resorts and boutique shopping venues. A beachfront park offers a football pitch, a paved area for skateboarding or other sports, and plenty of shady spots beneath trees for Sunday picnics.