The hotels and resorts listed are divided by beach area to simplify your choices on the island. Phuket is thick with development, so our list is but a small selection, according to each beach. In Phuket, the high-season peaks from December 15 to January 15, when rates are at their most expensive. In low season, rates can drop 30% to 50%.
Nai Harn BeachBlissfully secluded with great sunset views from Promthep Cape, this area is less busy than other parts of Phuket. But this is where you’ll find one of the island’s most-famous resorts and an outstanding beach. There are limited restaurants on this strip of sand.
One of Phuket’s best tourist beaches, Kata is a wide strip of soft, white sand and rolling surf, with Kata Noi located beyond a headland to the south. Rent an umbrella, get a massage, or grab a kayak or surfboard and hit the waves (there’s decent surf April–November). Prime beachfront real estate on Kata Beach itself is taken up by the sprawling Phuket Club Med (www.clubmed.com; tel. 07633-0455; rates from 5,000B), an all-inclusive, club-style resort, but its beach is open to all. In the evening, Kata comes alive in the tasteful bars and music cafes along the beach roads.
Karon Beach is a long stretch of beach lined lots of big hotels with multiple pools and every amenity imaginable…except direct beach access (for most). The northern end is where you’ll find the nicest sand, and there are heaps of tailors, gift shops, bars (some are kind of sleazy), small restaurants and cafes, dive operators, local markets, and minimarts jumbled together behind the length of the beach. Sandwiched between classy Kata and hedonistic Patong, Karon has the niceties of Kata mixed with the girly bars of Patong; however, here the sex tourism is low-key.
PatongOnce the popular haunt of the U.S. Navy’s 9th Fleet, Patong built its nightlife on cheap sex and even cheaper beer. Today, this is Phuket’s most divisive destination, with plenty of affordable shopping, dining, clubbing—and prostitution. The main strip never shies away from what it really is: a place where—for a price—any sexual desire becomes reality, and it’s all accompanied by the constant beeping of tuk-tuks attempting to take tourists for a ride (in both senses). The main street is a free-for-all with ping-pong shows (Google if you dare), ladyboy bars, and wide-eyed men trolling the streets as a walking advertisement for a midlife crisis.
That being said, it’s not all bad: Patong has some good accommodation and nice places to eat, and its white-sand beach is bustling with wholesome activities (and quite a few hungover sun worshippers) during the day. But many travelers will find the scene here depressing.
Kamala & Surin Beach
These two attractive beaches, both flanked by cliffs and steep hillsides, are home to some of Phuket’s most exclusive hideaways, so the area is worth considering if your main objective is honeymoon-style romance or tropical escapism. However, all the luxury comes at a price, and this part of the island offers few selection for budget travelers.
In 2016, Phuket’s police cracked down hard on unlicensed beach vendors, bars, and restaurants. Few places felt the impact quite like Surin Beach, where the once-bustling beach is now a bit like a ghost town. While the expat community might mourn the loss of their go-to place for a buzzy weekend in the sun, many visitors and sun worshipers will be happy to enjoy lazy days in the sun without the disturbance of rogue hawkers selling everything from local lagers to beach mats and plates of pad thai.
Bang Thao Bay (The Laguna Resort Complex)
Twenty minutes south of the airport and just as far north of Patong Beach on the western shore of Phuket, this isolated area is Phuket’s high-end, “integrated resort” of several properties that share some of the island’s top-rated facilities. It can feel a little too corporate until you get off “campus” and explore local fisherman’s villages or stake claim to a pretty patch of sand on the stunning Bang Thao Beach. If you’d like to be in the hub of the Laguna complex, we recommend the family-friendly and well-priced.
Nai Thon & Nai Yang Beaches
Nai Thon and Nai Yang Beaches form part of the Sirinath National Marine Park, which was established to protect offshore coral reefs and turtles that nest in this region. These casuarina-fringed stretches of sand are good for leaving the crowds behind, but be warned that the region is isolated, and, apart from a few upmarket resorts, there are few facilities in this remote corner of the island.
Nai Yang is known for its annual release of hatchling sea turtles into the Andaman Sea. Mature sea turtles weigh from 100 to 1,500 pounds and swim the waters around Phuket, and though the law is supposed to protect them from fishermen and poachers, who collect their eggs from beaches, their numbers are dwindling. If not for the efforts of international volunteer groups who have spent years working out of a small conservation center at Ko Phra Thong near Khuraburi, about 100km (62 miles) north of Phuket, these creatures would probably have become extinct already.
Nai Thon is just south of Nai Yang (closer to Laguna) and is home to a handful of resorts.
Mai Khao Beach
Mai Khao is a wide sweep of beach on the northeastern shore close to the airport. It is Phuket's longest beach and is the site where sea turtles lay their eggs during December and January. The eggs are coveted by Thai and Chinese people, who eat them for the supposed life-sustaining power. Efforts are being made to assist these glorious animals and protect their potential hatchlings, but unfortunately it seems a case of too little, too late.
Most just pass through the island’s commercial hub, but Old Phuket culture abounds in the many colorful Sino-Portuguese homes and shophouse-style architecture, and it’s the best place to base yourself if you want to explore all the island’s beaches. This charming area is packed with cute coffee houses, colorful street art, and affordable places to bed down, from adorable boutiques to hip hostels. Even if you stay on the beach, it’s well worth a visit to see the cultural hub of Phuket.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.