The Best Area to Stay in Phuket
Dangling off the west coast of the peninsula about 450 miles south of Bangkok, Phuket (pronounced poo-GET) is Thailand’s largest island and one of Southeast Asia’s premier tourist destinations. With plenty of domestic and international flights and world-class beaches, resorts, and malls, parts of the island are very busy, so Phuket is not nearly as relaxed as other Thai islands such as Koh Samui, Koh Lanta, and Koh Chang. Phuket does, however, also offer contrasting attractions not available at these or other islands across the country: fabulous amenities for families – from go-karts to elephant sanctuaries and waterparks to cycling tours – but also ‘girly bars’, strip clubs, and other aspects of an unsavory sex tourism industry that is, thankfully, confined mostly to Patong.
The numerous beaches offer surprisingly different vibes and some are a lot more developed for tourism (and, therefore, more crowded) than others, so it’s imperative to choose a suitable base, especially because of the inadequate public transport. As the most popular section of the island, Patong offers the widest selection of places to eat, drink, shop, and stay, but some visitors are solely attracted by the rowdy (and, often, sleazy) nightlife. Closer to the airport is the expansive and more recently developed region of Bang Tao, where many of the upmarket resorts face a lovely stretch of uncrowded beach, while other hotels are clustered around isolated manmade lakes.
Not far south of Bang Tao, Kamala is delightfully low-key, somehow retaining the feel of a fishing village. Close to Patong but far quieter and less congested, Karon does lack character, though the range of resorts is impressive and many are wonderful for families. Just down the coast from Karon are the enchanting and serene coves of powdery-white sand called Kata Yai and Kata Noi. Easy to miss between Kamala and Bang Tao, Surin is a petite cove that is becoming increasingly developed, yet maintains an intimacy and charm rarely seen elsewhere.
At the southern tip of Phuket, the unappealing beaches along Chalong Bay and at Rawai are handy for chartering boats for island-hopping and snorkeling, but amenities cater more for expats and those with private transport. Near Rawai – and far nicer – the cute beach at Nai Harn is home to a monastery, yacht club, and the wonderful Nai Harn Resort.
The Best Places to Stay in Phuket
- Best Luxury Hotels in Phuket
The Shore at Katathani • Holiday Inn Resort Phuket • Amari Phuket • The Nai Harn • Ayara Kamala Resort & Spa • Amatara Wellness Resort • The Vijitt Resort Phuket • Sawasdee Village
- Best Luxury Apartments in Phuket
Sunset Apartment Phuket • Patong Tower Holiday Rentals • Park Surin Serviced Apartments • Baan Bua Estate by Tropiclook
- Best Luxury Villas in Phuket
Sri Panwa Phuket Luxury Pool Villa Hotel • Mövenpick Resort Bangtao Beach • Angsana Villas Resort • The Pavilions • Andara Resort & Villas • Layalina Hotel • The Village Resort & Spa • Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas
- Best Boutique Hotels in Phuket
Mom Tri’s Villa Royale • On The Hill Karon Resort • Casa Blanca
- Best Family Hotels in Phuket
Centara Grand Beach Resort Phuket • Vijitt Resort Phuket • SAii Laguna Phuket • Thavorn Palm Beach Resort • Holiday Inn Resort Phuket
- Best Cheap & Midrange Hotels in Phuket
Burasari Resort & Spa • DoubleTree by Hilton Banthai Resort • Wabi Sabi Boutique Hotel • Ritsurin Boutique Hotel • Best Western Phuket Ocean Resort
Best Area in Phuket for…
- Best Area in Phuket for Sightseeing: Phuket Town
To be honest, there aren’t a lot of must-sees around the island. Most tourists come to Phuket just for the beaches and endless places to eat, drink, and shop – and for some, all the amenities designed for families. Many visitors do, however, spend a day or two seeing major attractions such as the Wat Chalong temple, Phuket Big Buddha, and Phuket Elephant Sanctuary – but these and most other sights are distant from the beaches. Phuket Town, the island capital, has 2 major advantages: it offers cultural attractions, some within walking distance of hotels, including temples, markets, and colonial-era mansions (many of which have been converted to bistros and museums), and it is the hub for public transport to the beaches and some other worthwhile things to see around the island.
- Best Areas in Phuket for Beaches: Mai Khao, Nai Yang, and Nai Thon
Phuket’s main beaches, particularly Patong, are often overcrowded with sun-lovers and jet-skis, while others (e.g. Rawai) are disappointingly grey and gravelly. However, Mai Khao, Nai Yang, and Nai Thon, all within a protected national park along the northwest coast, are pleasingly less developed and virtually devoid of noisy water sports. Mai Khao offers powdery-white sands and empty stretches distant from the crowds; Nai Yang is very attractive and famous for being so close to the airport runway that people feel they can almost touch an aircraft’s wheels; and Nai Thon is quieter, more secluded, and ideal for snorkeling.
- Best Area in Phuket for Water Sports: Bang Tao
All sorts of activities on or above the water are offered at every developed beach across the island, including parasailing, water-skiing, jet-skiing, and even being towed on a large inflatable ‘banana’ by a speedboat. (Note: the choice does depend on demand and conditions, such as the waves and tides at certain times of the year.) Some areas, especially Patong, are crowded and scams are all too common. For example, some unsuspecting renters of jet-skis are charged extortionate extra fees after use for ‘damage’ to the underside of the jet-ski which can’t be seen before rental, followed by physical threats if not paid. So, it’s best to organize water sports through one of the many reputable operators attached to major resorts along the beach at the upmarket region of Bang Tao.
- Best Areas in Phuket for Diving and Snorkeling: Kata Yai and Kata Noi
Boasting an incredible array of marine life and coral reefs, the clear, blue, and warm waters around Phuket are ideal for underwater exploration – and especially popular among the less experienced. Superb snorkeling is possible just offshore around the quieter beaches of Nai Thon, Nai Yang, and Nai Harn, and is most accessible along the twin coves of Kata Yai and Kata Noi. (Stalls at these places rent snorkeling equipment and provide tips.) Otherwise, charter a boat to islets such as the adorable Koh Hae/He (Coral Island) just 15 minutes from Rawai. All sorts of scuba-diving and snorkeling trips, including to Koh Phi Phi and the sublime Similan Islands, can be arranged at any number of international-standard dive agencies around Phuket (including at Kata), along with lessons and rental.
- Best Areas in Phuket for Boat Trips: Chalong Bay and Rawai
Ferries for islands like Koh Lanta and Koh Phi Phi use the major terminal at Phuket Town. From Chalong Pier along the namesake bay and from Rawai village, smaller speedboats head to islets like Koh Racha Noi and Koh Racha Yai where several resorts are located. Also from Rawai, traditional long-tail boats can be chartered to gorgeous islands such as Koh Hae/He (Coral Island) for pristine beaches and divine snorkeling. Some islands are less than 30 minutes from Chalong Bay and Rawai, so several can be visited in one day or less. Just let the boatman suggest an itinerary.
- Best Area in Phuket for Massages and Spas: Bang Tao
As synonymous with the country as Thai boxing and Thai food, Thai massage is an ancient therapy that includes aspects of yoga and acupuncture. Unlike other types of massages, oils are rarely used; instead, muscles are stretched and pummeled, often to the point of being painful, so perhaps ask for something ‘soft’ or ‘mild’. A Thai massage while visiting Phuket is almost as mandatory as a walk on the beach, but beware: some of the cheaper places, especially at Patong, are simply brothels offering so-called ‘happy endings’. (The décor and scantily-dressed female ‘masseurs’ will be an obvious indication.) The more expensive spas in the top-end resorts at Bang Tao offer a wide range of treatments and therapies, often in very sophisticated yet extremely soothing surroundings.
- Best Area in Phuket for Cultural Classes: Phuket Town
Fun lessons in Thai cooking, boxing, and massage, and more serious studies of the complicated language and fascinating religion (Buddhism) are frequently available at major tourist regions like Chiang Mai, but far less so in Phuket. However, cooking classes are very popular, though the quality does vary. One of the first on the island – and still among the very best anywhere in Thailand – are the lessons offered at the enchanting Blue Elephant restaurant in a renovated colonial mansion in the historic capital of Phuket Town. Classes start with a trip to the local produce market, continue with cooking in the world-class kitchen, and finish with devouring the results in the exquisite restaurant.
- Best Area in Phuket for Nightlife: Patong
Not surprisingly, the widest selection of things to do after dark is at Patong, the most popular and developed tourist region on the island. Some streets and sois (lanes) – particularly around the (in)famous Bangla Road region – are filled to the brim with bars, some in triple-level ‘entertainment complexes’ that are open 24 hours. Almost all bars have background or live music too loud for meaningful conversation and some are part of the sex tourism industry, e.g. ‘girly bars’ with strippers, barely-dressed hostesses, and very unsavory shows that should not be encouraged by attending. For something completely different, attend a cabaret where pretty ‘lady-boys’ lip-sync to Western pop songs and dance in flamboyant costumes. These shows are always very entertaining and rarely risqué.
- Best Areas in Phuket for Food and Restaurants: Kata Yai and Kata Noi
Thai food is among the most popular cuisines in the world and is a major reason why so many flock to Phuket each year. Eateries range from bistros at Bang Tao with prices rivaling European cities to makeshift stalls on the beach at Surin selling hearty portions of pad thai noodles. Some restaurants across the island feature candlelit tables with sea views, while a few also offer classes in cooking dishes like gaeng choo chee pla (sour fish curry) or po tak (spicy seafood broth). Far more serene than Patong and other major beaches are the attractive twin bays of Kata Yai and Kata Noi where most bistros provide attentive service and extensive wine lists, and some offer a stunning clifftop setting overlooking the beach.
- Best Area in Phuket for Vibe and Culture: Phuket Town
Because of mass tourism, unrestrained development, and locals living outside the beach regions, there is almost nothing historic and culturally interesting outside of the island capital, Phuket Town. Established centuries ago by settlers more interested in a decent port than a pretty beach, the town is still packed with Thai temples and Chinese shrines very rarely seen at the beaches, the sort of beautifully-restored colonial-era mansions not even built elsewhere on the island, and pulsating markets (see below) long ago replaced by malls in Patong.
- Best Area in Phuket for Walking and Cycling: Phuket Town
Due to the heat (sometimes draining), traffic (usually terrible), and streets (often steep), walking is seldom enjoyable; even less so is cycling and bicycles are very rarely available for rent anyway. Compact and full of temples, mansions, and markets, Phuket Town is enjoyable to explore on foot. Even better, a walking tour provides special access to various temples, an understanding of the town’s ancient and colonial history, and a chance to try authentic food at out-of-the-way eateries.
- Best Area in Phuket for Malls: Patong
At Patong, easily the most popular and developed region in Phuket, shopping is a major attraction. As well as an oversupply of souvenir stalls and more appealing boutiques selling locally-produced clothes and jewelry is the Jungceylon shopping center, where some tourists spend more time than at the beach. In the middle of downtown Patong and massive enough to feature a resort, Jungceylon offers seemingly endless shops, bars, and cafés, as well as a cinema and theater. Accessible by public transport along the main road between Patong and Phuket Town is the island’s other mega-mall, Central Festival Phuket. Its 3 floors overflow with places to eat, drink, and shop and it is large enough to even feature a bowling alley and a cinema complex.
- Best Area in Phuket for Markets: Phuket Town
As the island’s capital and most populated region for locals, Phuket Town offers more authentic shopping than the malls mentioned above. Fascinating and aromatic, the Central Market is where those on cooking courses (see above) will haggle over the choicest vegetables and spices. It’s also a top place for souvenirs such as shadow puppets, batik shirts, and pewter mugs. The antithesis of a charmless mall, Thalang Road and its radiating sois (lanes) are lined with chic galleries, Chinese herbal shops, fashionable boutiques, and trendy cafés, while the authentic Naka Weekend Market on the outskirts of town is filled with stalls selling clothes, souvenirs, food, and fake designer labels.
- Best Area in Phuket for Families: Kamala
With so many ‘girly bars’ and strip clubs, the main region of Patong is not recommended for families. Other crowded beach areas can also be overwhelming for children. Not so at Kamala, which still maintains the vibe of a fishing village. Because of the peculiar road layout, it is pleasingly compact and not overdeveloped, so sections of the beach are almost empty and most facilities are clustered along a short stretch of a minor road. Adding to the appeal of staying at Kamala are the excellent resorts (many catering so well for families), the seaside paths lined with eateries, and proximity to the Phuket FantaSea ‘cultural theme park’, which is as cheesy as it sounds but is still heaps of fun.
- Best Area in Phuket for Transport: Phuket Town
The terrible choice of transport is the major downside of visiting Phuket. Rates for ‘taxis’ (i.e. unmetered cars) and tuk-tuks (chartered pick-up trucks with bench seats) are rarely negotiable and often extortionate. Considerably cheaper are motorbike taxis (i.e. a pillion passenger on the back of a bike) for a negotiable fare. Car hire is available but the traffic is usually awful and the roads often confusing, while renting a motorbike can be ideal for short trips in the local area. Fab reasons to stay in Phuket Town are: (1) it is the hub for public transport, which extends to the major beaches and towns (but not between, for example, Patong and Karon); (2) the official (and cheap) airport bus; (3) the inter-city bus station for services all over Thailand; and (4) the ferry terminal for other islands like Koh Phi Phi and Koh Lanta.
- Best Area for the Airport: Mai Khao, Nai Yang, and Nai Thon
The airport is along the northwest coast about 25 miles from Patong (and much further from Karon, Kata, and Rawai). The only options to the airport from the major beaches are ‘taxis’ (i.e. unmetered cars) or the official (and cheap) airport buses that originate from Phuket Town. Available from the airport to the major beaches are (usually) mini-buses (which are rarely offered to the airport) and metered taxis (which also don’t service the beaches). Otherwise, arrange a pickup/drop-off with the hotel. Alternatively, stay at Mai Khao, Nai Yang, or Nai Thon, all within a few miles of the airport; in fact, the beach at Nai Yang is scarily close to the airport runway. Some hotels are dotted along the main road to the airport; those on or near the beach are far better.
- Best Areas in Phuket for First-Timers: Mai Khao, Nai Yang, and Nai Thon
The overcrowded beach areas – especially Patong, where some lanes are packed with ‘girly bars’ – can be overwhelming for those visiting Phuket, Thailand, or even Asia for the first time. Other unappealing aspects of staying at the more popular regions across the island are the traffic, scams (e.g. jet-ski rental), distance of at least 25 miles from the airport, and inadequate and overpriced public transport. To avoid these hassles, consider staying at Mai Khao, Nai Yang, or Nai Thon. These beaches are attractive, rarely crowded, pleasingly under-developed, very close to the airport, and (mostly) devoid of noisy water sports. And most of the top-end resorts offer the sort of size, seclusion, and greenery not remotely possible elsewhere in Phuket.
- Best Area in Phuket for Festivals: Phuket Town
All Thais, wherever they live or work, celebrate festivals with passion. These include Songkran, the Thai New Year (several days during mid-April), when water is poured, dumped, and gushed over everyone for several days; and Mahga Puja, a major Buddhist festival during the full moon in February/March. Generally, it’s more enjoyable – and, perhaps, safer for families and first-timers – to watch and partake in these and other festivals and ceremonies at Phuket Town. And immediately after the vibrant Chinese New Year celebrations (late January/early February) is the Phuket Old Town Festival when the streets are closed to traffic and set up with stalls.
- Best Area in Phuket for Romantic Holidays: Surin
For maximum tranquility and to avoid any potential hassles, avoid staying in overcrowded beach regions like Patong where some lanes are filled with ‘girly bars’. The serene cove at Surin is particularly appealing for a romantic getaway: the water is crystal clear; the streets are compact, so amenities are easy to reach on foot; the attractive beach is ideal for walks; and most accommodations are in boutique hotels and mid-sized resorts not too large or impersonal. Surin is also only about a mile from the charming beaches and enticing facilities at upmarket Bang Tao and low-key Kamala.
- Safest Areas in Phuket: Mai Khao, Nai Yang, and Nai Thon
Many possible dangers are self-inflicted, e.g. drugs, excessive drinking, and/or reckless driving, especially on motorbikes. The other major potential hazards are accidents between vehicles and pedestrians (so always be very cautious when walking), physical and sexual assaults around the nightclubs at Patong (see below), and the sort of opportunistic petty crimes not uncommon at crowded transport terminals and markets in tourist regions across Asia. Far from the crowds, bars, and traffic are the delightful beach regions of Mai Khao, Nai Yang, and Nai Thon (see above).
- Least Safe Area in Phuket: Patong
Not surprisingly, safety is at its lowest where alcohol drinking and drug-taking is heaviest. Some of the streets and numerous sois (lanes) at Patong are inconceivably filled with ‘girly bars’ and strip clubs, so physical and sexual assaults are not uncommon, and some Thais and foreigners seize the opportunity to steal from those badly affected by alcohol and/or drugs. And be wary of scams when renting equipment, especially jet-skis (see above), at Patong Beach.
The 10 Best Areas in Phuket for Tourists
Located along the glistening west coast, Patong is the most popular, crowded, and (in)famous region in Phuket. The broad and sheltered 2-mile-long stretch of sandy beach is ideal for swimming and water sports, but undertows can be strong, so always swim between the flags. Patong is mostly renowned for its shopping and nightlife. With many narrow lanes jam-packed with strip clubs, ‘girly bars’, and shows of flamboyant ‘ladyboys’, parts of Patong are unashamedly sleazy, so families may prefer to stay at more relaxed areas like Bang Tao and Kamala (see later). The number of hotels here is incredible, but there are very few major resorts. And note: only a handful of hotels actually face the beach (and busy esplanade), many are half a mile or more from the sea, and most in the budget range are not recommended.
- Best Luxury Hotels: Holiday Inn Resort Phuket • Amari Phuket • La Flora Resort Patong • Hotel Indigo Phuket Patong • Rosewood Phuket
- Best Luxury Apartments: Impiana Resort Patong • Sunset Apartment • Patong Tower Holiday Rentals
- Best Boutique Hotel: Burasari Phuket
- Best Family Hotels: Millennium Resort Patong Phuket • Patong Merlin Hotel
- Best Cheap & Midrange Hotels: DoubleTree by Hilton Banthai Resort • Paripas Patong Resort • Ruen Buathong Boutique Hotel • Hiran Residence • Austrian Garden Tai Pan Village • Le Tanjong House • Fong Kaew and Baan Nang Fa Guesthouse • Rang Rong • Moon House • Chang Club Hotel
2. Bang Tao
About halfway along the west coast and peacefully distant from Patong, Bang Tao is a large area of mostly 4 and 5-star resorts accessible via a convoluted series of roads. Many resorts in the southern part face the beach and are within walking distance of a main road with a limited array of shops and cafés, while those based around the manmade lakes (often called a ‘laguna’) can be more than a mile from the sea. The beach is extended and uncrowded, and guests not lazing by the pool or sea can enjoy massages and water sports offered at any of the resorts. Accommodations also include numerous villas, homes, and apartments owned by individuals, so the quality of these can vary enormously.
- Best Luxury Hotels: Amora Beach Resort Phuket • Angsana Laguna Phuket • Banyan Tree Phuket • Anantara Layan Phuket Resort
- Best Luxury Villas: Pai Tan Villas • Mövenpick Resort Bangtao Beach Phuket • Angsana Villas Resort Phuket • The Pavilions Phuket
- Best Boutique Hotel: Dream Phuket Hotel & Spa
- Best Family Hotels: SAii Laguna Phuket • Sunwing Bangtao Beach • Casuarina Shores • Dusit Thani Laguna Phuket
- Best Moderate Hotels: Baan Fran Sim Da • Baan Norkna Bangtao
- Best Cheap Hotels: Bangtao Guest House • Hanuman V.I.P Hostel
This low-key region squeezed between crowded Patong and upmarket Bang Tao is pleasingly hindered from overdevelopment by peculiar road design, so it does, remarkably, maintain the vibe of a fishing village and is ideal for families. Parts of the wide, shady beach are almost empty, but be wary of dangerous undertows and always swim between the flags. Most facilities are concentrated along a short stretch of a minor road in the south and particularly appealing are the beachside paths lined with casual eateries. The intriguing, if a little cheesy, Phuket FantaSea ‘cultural theme park’ is also within walking distance of many hotels.
- Best Luxury Hotels: Kamala Resort & Spa • Sungthong Kamala Beach Resort • Kamala Beachfront Apartment • InterContinental Phuket Resort
- Best Luxury Villas: Kamala Beach Estate • Andara Resort & Villas • Layalina Hotel • Glam Habitat
- Best Boutique Hotels: Wabi Sabi Boutique Hotel • PapaCrab Boutique Guesthouse • Ice Kamala Beach Hotel • Twinpalms MontAzure
- Best Family Hotels: Novotel Phuket Kamala Beach • Swissôtel Suites Phuket Kamala Beach
- Best Moderate Hotels: Clear House Phuket • Baan Natacha Beachfront Guesthouse • At Kamala Hotel • Kamala Resotel
- Best Cheap Hotels: Kamala 555 • Sabina Guesthouse
Karon is the next region south of Patong and also only a short distance from Kata (see below). Not nearly as lively and busy as either, the beach at Karon is extended but misguided efforts to beautify the area, e.g. concrete paths alongside the sea, means that it does lack character – not helped by the fact that most facilities are along backstreets in the northern section only. The usual water sports are available, including surfing, and the range of resorts is fantastic. Many are ideal for families, but some of these and other hotels are at least half a mile from the beach.
- Best Luxury Hotels: Mandarava Resort & Spa, Karon Beach • Chanalai Hillside Resort • Best Western Phuket Ocean Resort • Hilton Arcadia Resort & Spa • Le Méridien Beach Resort
- Best Luxury Villas: Centara Villas • The Village Resort & Spa • Waterfront Suites by Centara
- Best Boutique Hotels: On The Hill Karon Resort • Paradise Inn Phuket • Baan Karonburi Resort • Baan Sailom Resort
- Best Family Hotels: Centara Grand Beach Resort • Mövenpick Resort & Spa Karon Beach • Novotel Karon Beach Resort & Spa • Thavorn Palm Beach Resort • Sugar Marina Resort – ART
- Best Moderate Hotels: Golden Sand Inn • Coral Inn • Baan Chaylay • Pro Andaman Place
- Best Cheap Hotels: Sutin Guesthouse • Rattana Beach Hotel by Shanaya • Room Actually • Karon Sino House
South of Karon (see above) are the attractive twin coves of Kata Yai (Big Kata) and Kata Noi (Little Kata), both agreeably distant from the main road and ideal for swimming, snorkeling, and scuba-diving. Much bigger, Kata Yai offers many likable boutique hotels and mid-range resorts, but none face the beach which is commandeered by the Club Med resort – although all beaches in Phuket are open to the public. About half a mile south across the steep headland from Kata Yai is the more petite and scenic Kata Noi with limited facilities which mainly cater to the handful of upmarket resorts there. Neither area offers much nightlife or shopping but the food and restaurants are arguably the island’s finest.
- Best Luxury Hotels: Sawasdee Village • Katathani Beach Resort • Sugar Marina Resort – NAUTICAL • Kata Resotel
- Best Luxury Villas: The Shore at Katathani • Kata Rocks • Kata White Villas • Impiana Private Villas Kata Noi
- Best Boutique Hotels: Mom Tri’s Villa Royale • Chanalai Romantica Resort, Kata Beach • The Boathouse Phuket • The SIS Kata • The Sea Galleri by Katathani
- Best Family Hotels: Metadee Resort Phuket • OZO Phuket • Orchidacea Resort • Chanalai Garden Resort Kata Beach
- Best Moderate Hotels: Sugar Ohana Poshtel • Phuket [email protected] Bed&Breakfast • OK Phuket • Ban Elephant Blanc • Two Chefs Inn
- Best Cheap Hotels: [email protected] Guesthouse • Kata Bai D Inn
Surin is considerably more compact than Bang Tao, about a mile to the north, and more relaxed and romantic than most other beach regions (especially Patong) – although development has increased markedly in recent years. Most hotels are upmarket but almost none of them face the half-mile-long beach along the scenic cove. The limited range of places to eat and drink on the short beachside street is boosted by the facilities along the nearby main road and the cluster of cheap and cheerful food stalls set up daily along the sand. The scarcity of amenities expected at much larger beach regions is certainly part of Surin’s charm.
- Best Luxury Hotels: Twinpalms Phuket • The Surin Phuket • SurinSabai • Ayara Hilltops Resort & Spa
- Best Luxury Apartments: The Park Surin Serviced Apartments • Surin Beach Resort • Sansuri Resort
- Best Boutique Hotels: Manathai Surin Phuket • Surintra Boutique Resort • Baan Phu Prana Boutique Villa
- Best Family Hotels: Chava Resort • Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort
- Best Cheap Hotel: Surin Bay Inn
7. Chalong Bay and Rawai
As the sandy beaches along the west coast become increasingly developed (and, often, overbuilt), more and more hotels, resorts, and individually-owned villas are being constructed along the shores and hills across the less appealing southern peninsula. The beaches at Chalong Bay and Rawai are thin, grey, and gravelly, but the latter does offer a likable village vibe and traditional long-tail boats for charter to nearby islands. Facilities in these areas are decent enough but are spread out because they cater overwhelmingly for expats with cars/motorbikes; public transport from Phuket Town is infrequent.
- Best Luxury Hotels: The Vijitt Resort Phuket • Samakkee Resort Phuket • Ya Nui Resort • Navatara Phuket Resort
- Best Luxury Apartments: Serenity Resort & Residences Phuket • Brodie Rawai Resort
- Best Boutique Hotels: Saturdays Residence • Miracle House
- Best Family Hotels: Stay Wellbeing & Lifestyle Resort • Royal Thai Villas
- Best Moderate Hotels: Le Piman Resort • Coconut Wells Phuket • Tuna Resort • Lotus Bleu Resort
- Best Cheap Hotels: Big Buddha Hillside • Sandy House – Rawai
8. Nai Harn
On the southernmost tip of Phuket, this adorable cove is flanked by cliffs, so it’s ideal for snorkeling and swimming – except during the monsoon season when waves are more suitable for surfing. An old Buddhist monastery dominates the area and owns much of the land, so Nai Harn is agreeably underdeveloped and devoid of noisy water sports. A few upmarket resorts and many individually-owned villas are spread across the area which is divided into three parts: the beach, overlooked by the yacht club; the village nearby with a few shops; and Nai Harn town, which has the most facilities and is a 20-minute walk from the beach. The downside is the infrequent public transport from Phuket Town.
- Best Luxury Hotels: The Nai Harn • The Gallery Hotel Nai Harn • Peace Blue Resort Naiharn Beach Phuket • Chinoiserie Collection Resort & Spa
- Best Luxury Villas: Baan Bua Estate by Tropiclook • Babylon Pool Villas
- Best Family Hotels: Thuan Resort • Sunsuri Phuket
- Best Moderate Hotels: Naiharn Retreat Resort • Roost Glamping • Vivi Bungalows Resort
Within the protected Sirinat National Park, these three beaches are comparatively undeveloped and with noisy water sports (almost) non-existent, they’re ideal for snorkeling as well as for turtles to lay eggs (November to February). Much of Phuket’s longest beach, Mai Khao, stretches along a peninsula near the bridge to the mainland and is particularly serene. Curved, scenic, and ideal for walks and picnics, Nai Yang is packed with Thai families on weekends and close enough to the airport to feel that some planes might land on the beach. Further from the airport, Nai Thon is popular for its tranquil setting and protection from winds, so snorkeling is great and some water sports are available. The three beaches are very handy for the airport but inconvenient for the rest of the island – also, there is no public transport and amenities outside the hotels are limited. Most accommodations are high-end resorts, though there are plenty of budget options as well and camping is allowed in the national park.
- Best Luxury Hotels: JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa • Renaissance Phuket Resort & Spa • Holiday Inn Phuket Resort Mai Khao Beach • Naiyang Park Resort • Dewa Phuket (Beach Resort, Villas, and Suites) • Pullman Phuket Arcadia Naithon Beach
- Best Luxury Villas: Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas • SALA Phuket Mai Khao Beach Resort • L’espirit de Naiyang Beach Resort
- Best Family Hotels: Baan Mai Khao Beach Residence • Nai Yang Beach Resort and Spa • Phuket Marriott Resort and Spa, Nai Yang Beach
- Best Moderate Hotels: Perennial Resort Phuket • Dang Sea Beach Bungalow
- Best Cheap Hotels: Maikhao Beach Bungalows • OYO 538 Bungalow at Maikhao • Chez Charly Bungalow • Naithon Beach Mansion
10. Phuket Town
A worthy alternative to the hedonistic beaches, the capital offers a historical and cultural vibe not remotely possible elsewhere on the island. Phuket Town is home to the port for ferries to larger islands (e.g. Koh Phi Phi) and the bus terminal for destinations across Thailand – and is also the hub for the very limited public transport across Phuket Island. The town is traditional yet stylish, so bistros are positioned alongside temples (Thai and Chinese) and also housed within colonial-era mansions built by erstwhile rubber barons. With several markets and some cultural classes, Phuket Town is enjoyable for exploring on foot and for day-tripping by public transport to major beaches and some sights. No resorts, but there are many budget-priced options and gorgeous boutique hotels, and all are terrific value compared to the overpriced beach regions.
- Best Boutique Hotels: Casa Blanca Boutique Hotel • Ritsurin Boutique Hotel • Little Nyonya Hotel • Xinlor House • The Memory at On On Hotel • Peranakan Boutique Hotel • Woo Gallery & Boutique Hotel
- Best Moderate Hotels: The Duck • Baan Sutra Guesthouse • Pacific Inn Phuket • 99 Oldtown Boutique Guesthouse • Na Siam Guesthouse • Shunli Hostel Phuket
- Best Cheap Hotels: Mbed Phuket • Phuket 346 Guest House • In Phuket House • Ming Shou Boutique House
Phuket Hotel Reviews
- Best Hotels in Phuket
- Best Hotels for Families in Phuket
- Best Budget Hotels in Phuket
- Best Time to Visit Phuket
- Phuket or Koh Samui
The Best Places to Stay in Phuket
- 1. The Shore At Katathani (Adults Only) – Kata Beach
- 2. The Nai Harn – Nai Harn
- 3. Amari Phuket Resort – Patong
- 4. Centara Grand Beach Resort – Karon Beach
- 5. Mom Tri’s Villa Royale – Kata Beach
- 6. Movenpick Resort & Spa – Karon Beach
- 7. Holiday Inn Resort Phuket – Patong
- 8. SAii Laguna Phuket – Bang Tao
- 9. The Vijitt Resort Phuket – Chalong
- 10. Le Meridien Beach Resort – Karon Beach
- 11. Novotel Resort & Spa – Karon Beach
- 12. Amatara Wellness Resort – Panwa Beach
- 13. Pullman Panwa Beach Resort – Panwa Beach
- 14. Sawasdee Village – Kata Beach
The Best Beaches in Phuket
Many Phuket beaches are beautiful but are not good swimming beaches (e.g. Rawai beach). And the monsoon season (September and October are the most intense) can change even the most tranquil of beaches into a rough, windswept, and uninviting terrain.
- Patong – Located on the white-sanded western coast, Patong is the most famous and most commercial resort. With a broad 3km (2 miles) stretch of sandy beach, there is plenty of opportunity for natural shade from trees as well as having parasol-protected sunbeds sited along the entire length. Its sheltered location makes it ideal for all water sports and swimming and so it is popular with families and package holidaymakers. As with all the beaches on the western side, there can be a strong undertow and any red warning flags should be heeded. Patong is also home to tourist shops, an enormous shopping mall, cinemas, and a bowling alley. A plethora of day trips and activities can be found, from taking a banana boat ride, snorkeling to renting a jet ski. It can be difficult to escape away from the notorious adult-themed night-life with neon-lit clubs and bars advertising stripper or transvestite shows. You can find scantily clad transvestites posing for photographs with tourists in many of the side streets in Patong.
- Freedom – If you are staying in Patong and want to get away from the hustle and bustle then Freedom Beach is a good choice. Even if you did feel like trekking through the kilometer of thick jungle to get there you would not be allowed, as the land surrounding this beach is all privately owned. The only way to access Freedom Beach is by a ten-minute boat ride – most leave from Patong beach. Freedom, undoubtedly, has the best snorkeling on the island and swimming areas are clearly marked and separated from the area where longtail boats arrive and depart. There are also beach volleyball nets and small restaurants along the south end of the beach but with no jet skis or banana boats to disturb the peace, probably the best thing to do is to find a lounger, sit back and relax.
- Karon – Far less lively and busy than Patong, Karon beach is yet another long expanse of sand, which at its northern end is likened to powder snow. There is little natural shade but there are plenty of sunbeds and parasols available. Hotels and restaurants are located on the opposite side of a busy adjacent road; however, there are plenty of small stalls selling drinks and snacks. The road is shielded from most of the beach by a bank of sand but it can still be easily heard. All the usual water sports activities are available with some reasonable snorkeling at the southern end. Surfboards are always available although Karon is not renowned for its breakers. It does though have the reputation of being the most dangerous beach.
If you feel the need to get away from the sand, Karon Park is an area a short walk away which provides jogging and cycling paths as well as a large lake with pedalos. For children and ‘young at heart’ adults, Dino Park offers a chance to play crazy golf in a prehistoric atmosphere. Away from the beach, the side streets are home to a small artisan community where you can see painters and craftsmen at work. Karon can be located 5 km south of Patong on the coastal road between Kata and Patong beaches. There are regular bus and songthaew services from Phuket town.
- Kata – The attractive twin beaches of Kata Yai (Big Kata) and Kata Noi (Little Kata) are situated to the south of Karon Beach. Protected by rocky promontories, swimming and snorkeling is relatively safe here and strong swimmers often head out to Boo Island to the coral reefs. This is also the best scuba diving area in Phuket. Set away from the road, both beaches are very peaceful. Kata Yai can feel a little overlooked by two major resorts but the beaches are not private and the sun loungers are available for all to use. It can be difficult to see how to get onto the beach at Kata Noi but access is down to the right and just beyond the Thani wing of the beautiful Katathani Hotel. Buses and songthaews terminate on the headland between the two beaches where, if you don’t feel like the 10-minute walk into either resort, tuk-tuks will happily transport you to your destination. You won’t find a busy nightlife or extensive shopping here but If you are missing the hustle and bustle of Patong or Karon, both are within easy reach, less than 8 km away. Three Beaches Hill (sometimes called Kata or Karon viewpoint) is often busy. Located a little south of Kata Noi, it affords an impressive eight-kilometer vista (4.5 miles) of the three south-west coast beaches.
- Maio Khao – On the northwest coast, 39 km from Patong, this 11km beach is set within the Sirinat National Park. The sand here is fairly coarse, but you can walk along it for hours and not see another soul. There are no beach activities on offer here but swimming is allowed. However, it is wise to be careful as there is a sharp drop in the ocean floor close to the shore and you can easily get out of your depth. If your idea of fun is plane spotting then this is a good place to be as the proximity of Phuket airport makes it feel as if their landing on the beach is an imminent possibility. Between November and February, turtles arrive to lay their eggs in the warm sands. Numbers have been dwindling over recent years and care has to be taken during this time not to disturb any such activity. The northern side of the beach can be reached from Thepkrassatri Road, just before the Sarasin Bridge. The southern end is best reached from Nai Yang and through the national park (fee payable).
- Nai Thon – Nai Thon Beach has some of the squeakiest sand in Phuket. It is within the Sirinat National Park and has thus far escaped over-development. The gently sloping beach is ideal for swimming and casuarina trees abound for shelter from the sun. The beach itself is not developed but there are a few restaurants and shops just across the street. There are no organized beach activities and no equipment for hire, but people snorkel and dive among the coral at both ends of the beach (longtail boats with take you farther offshore for even better snorkeling). Nai Thon is 28 km from Patong, on the road that connects Bang Tao beach and Nai Yan Beach. There is only one road that runs directly along this part of the coast so it is fairly easy to find.
- Surin – This 1km stretch of beach is famous for its crystal clear water, which makes it a wonderful place to swim. It’s a shame that the snorkeling here is not great although that does not stop people from having a go. With all the major water sports on offer, it’s surprising that this beach is as quiet as it is. It feels like it has embraced all that is good about Patong and left behind the bits that are less pleasing. The views are fantastic with plenty of local restaurants. Surin Beach is situated south of Bang Tao and north of Kamala Beach – 14 km from Patong – and is well signposted.
- Laem Singh – Laem Singh, 7 km north of Patong, on the Patong Surim Road is not easily found. The beach is accessed down a steep, stepped path, fairly comfortable to go down but excruciatingly difficult to climb back up. However, it is worth all the effort for this beach is absolutely stunning and one of Phuket’s best for swimming. Many seem to agree as, once a secret cove, it is now one of the best-used beaches in the area. Foot massagers ply the beach, jet skis resound along with all the usual paraphernalia associated with a busy beach. When the sun is not shining it returns to its natural quiet beauty. Once a month an early evening disco is held, best suited to those who are not looking for peace and tranquility. The restaurants are a little more expensive here but understandable when you consider that their supplies also have to be brought from the hillside above. Parking at the top of the paths is available but scarce so an early arrival at this beach is recommended. 1km to the south is Hat Kamala which is more developed.
- Nai Harn – On the southernmost tip of Phuket, the waters around Nai Harn are usually calm and crystal clear, except in monsoon season when the waves become huge and thus a haven for surfers. The Samnak Song Buddhist Monastery owns most of its central and southern area and has left it pleasantly underdeveloped. Upscale beachfront and family-friendly resorts dot the area. Nai Harn is divided into three segments, the beach and park, a small village with a few shops, and Nai Harn town. Bike hire and other services can be found in the town and as it is about a twenty-minute walk to and from the beach, many people take that option. Nai Harn is 20km (12.5miles) south of Patong. The The Nai Harn is one of our favorite beach resorts in Phuket.