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Absolute Perfection : Phuket Beach Guide

April 16, 2010

Few islands can boast of such an abundance of sandy beaches and clear waters as Phuket. The winding coastal roads along the west coast of this 540-square-km island offer stunning views and easy access to some of the world’s finest beaches.

Phuket is a world famous tourist destination and the reason for that is quite simple-it’s fantastic beaches. Warm, crystal blue waters, soft white sand and a perfect tropical climate combine to make Phuket beaches among the best in the world. The inviting waters of the tranquil Andaman Sea are perfect for swimming, snorkelling, diving and other water sports. The island has plenty of beaches to choose from, not surprisingly the best ones are well developed and usually busy, though not packed. However it’s just as easy to rent a bike and go looking for a small secluded beach tucked away somewhere on the island. Most of the swimmable beaches are found on the west facing side of Phuket island.

Beaches on Phuket are well set up to cater to visitors with sun lounges and umbrellas for rent and vendors strolling the beach selling fruit, snacks and ice cream. Most Phuket beaches have a number of restaurants and stalls offering food and drinks either on the beach itself or within a hundred metres. Beachfront massage stands are also common with shaded platforms where talented masseuses are happy to work out those niggling aches and pains while you are hypnotized by the picture perfect scenery.

An endless stretch of fine sand; the only real getaway on the west coast of Phuket.

Located just north of the airport is Mai Khao beach, an incredibly long and deserted stretch of sand. There is no tourist development here except for the JW Marriott Resort & Spa. Mai Khao is the longest beach on the island and also the most deserted. If you really want to get away from it all this is the beach for you. Mai Khao is part of the Sirinath National Park, which also includes Nai Yang and Nai Thon, the next beaches along to the south. The area was declared a national park in 1981 to protect the Olive Ridley Sea Turtles that lay their eggs here from November to February.

Laid back to the extreme, most people who stay here find absolute relaxation.

Nai Yang is just a five-minute drive south of the airport and is very popular with Thai locals. Here you’ll find what beach life is all about. Fringed with casuarina trees providing picnic areas for locals, it’s a shady spot for souvenir and food vendors. Laid back to the extreme, most people who stay here find absolute relaxation.

Nai Thon is a beautiful stretch of sand that for reasons unknown has still been overlooked by large resort developers. Thus it’s an ideal spot to get away from the crowds and enjoy a quiet swim. It’s a village of two seasons, during the high season the hotels fill up, the sea is flat, calm and crystal clear, beach restaurants appear where you can dine with your bare feet in the sand, very much a stereotypical tropical paradise. In low season the boot’s on the other foot, it’s almost a ghost town with an occasionally raging sea.

Spending time on Nai Yang beach, you wouldn’t believe that the ‘busy tourist island of Phuket’ exists at all.

Reasonably quiet all year round, the busiest time is in December and January. This beach is probably one of the best beaches in Phuket for a lazy and quiet day, with all the food, drinks, shade and breeze you can dream of. Every April, one of the Songkran (Water Festival) activities is to release baby turtles into the sea.

Naturally beautiful Surin is known as ‘Millionaires Row’ due the the top-end celebrity haunts Amanpuri, Twinpalms and The Chedi amongst the luxury resorts there, as well as the many US$ 1 million+ houses that sit proudly on top of the hills overlooking the Andaman Sea.

This is a perfect place to come to leave everything behind and do nothing more taxing than read a book.

Surin’s casuarina-lined beachfront is a gathering place for locals and visitors alike to snack on barbecued seafood, enjoy a cool drink and escape the heat of the day. Such a picturesque beach, it’s not surprising it’s many people’s favourite beach in Phuket. Unlike the other busy beaches of Phuket, there’s a refreshing absence of jet-skis and speed boats here since Surin lacks a launch area.

Laem Singh Beach is one of Phuket’s most beautiful beaches and hides on the west coast between Kamala and Surin beaches. ‘Laem’ is Thai for ‘cape’ and this 150 meters beach is indeed situated under a steep promontory, nestled in a hidden bay surrounded by palm trees and dotted with giant boulders, it has a feeling of secret beach.Because of its limited size, Laem Singh gets crowded during the high season but is pleasantly busy during low season sunny days.

Laem Singh offers several sets of sun loungers with parasols generally rented out by the nearby restaurants and you can have drinks or even food served by them. The south end offers a rudimentary ‘shower’ (a hose with running fresh water tied to a stick) and the restaurants have basic toilets.

Don’t miss the chance to try a Thai beach massage in the shade of the palm trees once you had enough swimming or sunburn. Price is around 300 baht for an hour.

Just north of the lights and noise of Patong lies Kamala Beach, a quieter stretch of sand with more relaxed feel. This well-enclosed bay and fishing village surrounded by forested hills is one of the most beautiful places in Phuket.

With its quieter pace, over the last few years, Kamala has become a favoured spot for retirees and other longer-term visitors staying in small hotels, villas and apartment rentals nestled around the village. On the headland to the south, are a number of luxury villa developments, with great views of Kamala Bay and beyond along its winding road.

Tranquil and calm, the pretty white sands of Kamala beckon most people by day, but if you’re seeking more than sunbathing on a perfect beach, there are other options such as snorkeling at the north end of the beach.

Patong is the most famous beach resort on Phuket. With its wide variety of activities and nightlife, Patong is an ideal place to party and play. By night the town has a bustling nightlife which includes literally hundreds of restaurants, chic lounge bars, beer bars and of course discos. The nightlife is centred around Soi Bangla (Bangla Road) however there are quiet parts of town.

Visitors hoping for a glimpse into the exotic East might not find it here, 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’.

Patong’s 2 km strip of golden sand is one of the most popular beaches in Phuket, it’s a place to watch the world go by. By day, Patong Beach 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.

Karon Beach is very long, 5km (3 miles), with fine white sand that squeaks when you walk on it throughout its entire length. At the north end, in front of the lake, the beach is usually deserted, making it a great spot to go if you want the beach to yourself.

Karon is concentrated around three main areas: The Karon Plaza area on the south end features 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.

The pleasant bay of Kata, just a few minutes south of Karon Beach, entices and charms many visitors with its white sands and clear waters. Very popular with families, Kata is an all round favourite due to its spectacular palm-lined beach, great restaurants, lively but not raucous nightlife and varied accommodation options – all close to the beach. From May to October surfers flock to catch Kata’s waves and from November to April the beach is alive with sunseekers.

Kata’s 1.5km (1 mile) strip of golden sand is one of the most popular beaches in Phuket due to the combination of it’s beauty, facilities and activities. Hundreds of people come each day to soak up the sun and take advantage of all on offer. Often busy but never crowded this beach is perfect in many ways. Late in the year as the waters turn calm, Kata bay becomes populated with 100+ beautiful yachts which arrive from all over the region, some even circumnavigating, to compete in December’s King’s Cup Regatta, Asia’s premier sailing event.

A quiet little spot at the southern end of Phuket, Nai Harn is one of the island’s most beautiful locations and most popular places with in-the-know locals. This quiet and tranquil place has only a few hotels including the The Royal Phuket Yacht Club and is a favourite anchorage for boats during the high season.

Flat lake-like crystal-clear water invites you for a dip .

Nai Harn beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Phuket with its excellent water quality. It’s encompassed on both sides by jungle-covered mountains and there’s a large freshwater lagoon inland. Never overloaded, even in high season, Nai Harn’s usually busier at weekends as it is popular with both Thais and expats. Many tourists who come to Phuket never make it to this wonderful stretch of sand. At the southern end the lagoon flows into the sea, creating a stream that children love to play in.

Rawai holds the distinction of being the very first tourist beach on Phuket. Years ago, people from Phuket Town would drive the 17km to Rawai on weekends to while away the afternoon underneath the beach’s casuarina trees rather than risk the (then) dangerous drive over the hill to Phuket’s west coast.

Nowadays Rawai is a ‘working beach’ and a launching point for day boat excursions out to Phuket’s surrounding islands. Many longtail boats available for hire line its shores, where you can arrange a trip to Coral Island, Koh Lone or Racha Island,or a fishing or snorkel trip. The beach is also used as a mooring point for the many fishermen who live in the area.

Rawai is home to the five-star resorts, Evason and Mangosteen and quite a few of Phuket’s foreign expat population live in the area, lending a bohemian and laid-back flavour to the way of life there. Favourite nighttime haunts are Friendship Beach, towards Chalong, and Rawai’s beachfront bars.

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