Tuesday, December 11, 2007


last visited February/March 2017
Offshore islands from the roof pool of The Kantary Bay hotel, Cape Panwa, a quiet area in the south-east of Phuket.



BREAKING NEWS - the 2014 military/police crackdown on illegal operations at Phuket beaches has resulted in big changes:

*The sun-lounges are gone:
Laem Singh Dec 2012

Laem Singh Dec 2014

*illegal structures on the sand or the area just behind the beach have been removed. 
Note the missing central beach restaurants in the above shot ... and ....

... check this gap where a whole bunch of elcheapo restaurants used to be located up the back of Surin Beach's central car park.

*similarly there are only a few brave hawkers roaming the beach with food/clothing/etc. I noticed with some dismay that the jet ski hirers are still in operation. Who would have thought those crooks were licensed?

IMPACT - I think the beaches are greatly improved by the sun lounge removal. The hirers were venal and used to cram thier lounges into the nice sections up the back of the beach where there is often sun shade from overhanging vegetation. They jammed their lounges into areas near the water too - sonetimes it was hard to get a section of sand to lay down a beach-towel or sarong. However I was told by a Karon guesthouse owner ONE of the reasons tourism is down late 2014 is that Russians and Scandos in particular love sun lounges and are voting with their feet.
I'm not so sure about the hawkers. Thailand's have always been much less in your face than say Bali. Plus I reckon the food/drink sellers provided a needed service. And I kinda like the elcheapo restaurants in back of the beach - although paying no rent, they were hardly fair competition for the legal versions and often set up in front of them, blocking the view. Now many of the legal joints have got sand and water views.
One thing for sure, a lot of small business people have lost their livelihood. And the price of second hand sunlounges must have tanked big time.

Don't let anyone tell you Phuket's beaches are crowded and over the top. This is a big island with dozens of beaches - there is one to suit all tastes. Phuket Map showing some of the beaches - Cape Panwa is the peninsula between Phuket Bay and Rawai at bottom right (image eKoChang.com)

Most Phuket island's tourist beaches are on the west coast. 
Note that below I've only featured the beaches I've stayed at or spent time at in recent years. So  some places like Bang Tao are not featured.


Modified oblique Google Earth image - oblique in an attempt to show the significant hills behind these beaches. The direction marker is of course pointing EAST not WEST.
Karon is a long beach at 3.3km and because the quickest way to the airport is via the pass road behind Kata it is about 50km from the terminal to beach central. Kata Yai is 1500m long and 47km from the airport, Kata Noi 700m and 48km. The pier top center is Chalong pier which is 19km south of Phuket town.

Popular viewpoint on the main west coast road showing Kata Noi closest, Kata Yai and Karon beaches.

Of the big 3 beach areas, I like KATA best. The twin beaches here are more compact than KARON and way less busy and brash than PATONG.

Kata Yai
Kata Yai from one of the budget restaurants on the southern headland.

Area dec 2014 taken from the steps of the same restaurant.

Kata Yai from the northern headland. The beach takes about 25 minutes to walk end to end. There are the twin rows of sunlounges in high season but they tend to be less crammed in than say Patong. Sand is nice, water deep enough close to shore at all tide levels. 

My favourite area of Kata Yai is at the southern end. There are 2 restaurants at the beginning of the headland with very good food at bottom budget prices (this shot is taken from the top deck of one) where you can watch the beach scene - plus surfing in wet season (no decent waves in high season - but this makes for untroubled snorkelling off the rocks to left of frame).

Dive shop a short distance out of frame to right in the previous shot hires out surf craft. Not too many takers in dry season although some dudes took those paddle boards in foreground - flat conditions are great to perfect stand-up paddling skills. I think the board at right may be a windsurfer.

Kata Noi
Kata Noi is reached in 10 minutes steep walking by taking the headland road behind the camera in the shot below.
Kata Noi is more compact and less busy, and if it matters to you, more exclusive (a lot of the resorts here are high-end). I only saw one jet-ski for hire and it didn't seem to have any takers. Maybe the wealthy are more sensible. You can walk end to end in about 10 minutes. 
I think it is a nicer beach in high season. However it's more exposed to wind and waves in wet season and my two visits at that time of year saw accumulations of wind-blown flotsam, the food stalls and rock bar at the far southern end closed down and the rest of the beach semi deserted - KATA YAI seemed much more lively and attractive.
Note that Katathani Resort dominates the back of beach for just about the full length - if non-guests don't take the steps down from the northern headland I'm standing on to take this shot they have to walk by the road right to the other end for beach access.

You come across the beach access stairs from the south about half way down the headland hill on the road between Kata Yai and Noi sooner than you expect, but they are pretty hard to miss.

Once again I find the southern end of the beach most attractive. It seems to be the most popular snorkelling spot (headland rocks usually have scraps of fringing coral and a variety of fishies). There tend to be a few budget food/drink vendors back of the beach out of frame to the left. Those umbrellas behind the rocks roughly center belong to Rock Bar, a pretty good place to spend time with a nice outlook up the beach.

There is a big range of midrange and high end accommodation at both beaches. Kata Yai also has a lot of one and two star joints - there is not much lower midrange or budget stuff at Kata Noi..
If you want beachfront I think it would be hard to beat Katathani on Noi in high season. Note when booking that there is a new wing across the road from the beach.

Like many high end joints, Katathani thinks it owns the beach. This western couple like quite a few these days has decided to tie the knot in Thailand (pity any relatives short on cash) - a security guard from Katathani tried to stop me taking this shot: instructed me to move on. I told him to get lost - that all Thai beaches are owned by the King for the free use of his subjects and visitors, something the guard would know. I asked him where he and his buddies (who had moved in for backup) were when the Australian female travel journalist guest was knifed to death in the street near Katathani's entrance the previous year - 2012 (Katathani's main entrance fronts the street - the site is too narrow for the grand driveway many Phuket hotels have).
Okay, I should explain most of us Aussies being descendants of convicts are very anti-authority. And the guard was just following orders - not that his supervisor or any management were anywhere to be seen.
Note to western couples wanting to get married on the beach in Thailand. Real romantic sweethearts, but you have no right to ask for exclusivity.

The main road running behind Kata Noi beach has a bunch of places to stay and plenty of restaurants with prices a fair bit higher than most at Yai, reflecting the upmarket customers. Still a bargain by western standards. Headland areas have some very flash restaurants with western prices. Some of the accommodation has breathtaking views to match breathtaking prices.

On Yai, Kata Beach Resort has some very nice beach-front rooms and dozens of others a bit further back. There are a bunch of other nice joints on the high headlands with great views. Kata Yai is home to Club Med Phuket in a big compound across the beach road beach central.
In the flashpacker/backpacker range you could check the excellent Fantasy Hill Bunglalow which is located on the northern headland of Kata Yai - Telephone: 076 33 0106. Some others in this range are Southern Fried Rice, Kata Otto GH, Smile Happy Paradise and Little Mermaid. The 'net booking sites have dozens of 2 star joints - and flasher of course.
Jamie of Jamie's Phuket Blog has a list of budget places on Kata Yai and nearby Karon (plus Phuket Town) here.

POOLSIDE RESORT I stayed August 2007 at a nice midrange place called Poolside which gets good reviews on Agoda and similar booking sites. It is located adjacent to the shopping precinct at the south end of Kata Yai only one block from best section of the beach, and had real nice aircon rooms, a good pool as the name kinda suggests, friendly staff and a great buffet breakfast for around $us30 a night low season. There is a good range of restaurants surrounding the place plus those budget ones mentioned before against the southern headland are only 10 minutes walk away. This place is also central to the shopping area of South Kata which has most services although it is not as big as the one near/over the headland at north Kata.
Early morning shot - part of of Poolside Hotel's pool area.

In March 2013 I wanted somewhere to wind down before my flight home after some frantic island-hopping in the Andaman - the inclusive shuttle from my Krabi-Yao Yai-Yao Noi to Phuket's Bang Rong pier delivered to Kata so I looked for a suitable inexpensive place in my favourite south Kata Yai area.

Phuket’s big 3 beaches have dozens of these good value 2 star hotels but what sets Choophorn apart is its location (only 5 minutes stroll to the southern end of Kata Yai - another 10 across the steep headland to Kata Noi) and its cleanliness, good value restaurant and obliging staff (which is not always a given at rival places).
 A few minutes down the road is the bustling business area of south Kata Yai with lots of restaurants, shops and others (although the similar area 15 minutes walk away at the north end of Kata Yai is bigger and has more nightlife particularly).
My fan room was spacious, clean, had big 45 channel  tv, refrig, no jug, comfy king bed and pillows. It was quiet (guest rooms are set back from the road). The setting sun made it a bit hot in the evening – people who like their cool should maybe opt for the aircon option (room the same – they simply took my aircon remote). The streetfront restaurant had nice food, good service and prices similar to average budget bungalow restaurants in the Andaman islands ie very inexpensive, but there are several cheaper eats places out on the street within 2 minutes. Two 24h supermarkets are also very close. There is an internet cafĂ© a bit further up the road (Choophorn has free wifi).
This is a family run place. The boss mama has good English & seems runs  a good travel desk. Motorcycles are for hire at competitive rates (cheap).

This is the next west coast beach heading north from Kata Yai. The gentle headland road between the two beaches takes about 10 minutes to walk - lots of good shops and restaurants. The Kata-Karon-Phuket town public shongthaews go along here too - one of the few interbeach public transport routes on Phuket.
Karon has a lot of fans - it's more relaxed than Patong but still has the full range of accommodation and services.

Karon from the southern end. This is one loooooong beach - it took me 50 minutes to stroll from the far end. That was after walking Kata Yai in 20, the headland in another 10. Good thing there are a couple of neat beach restaurants/bars immediately behind camera for a revitalising cheap cold Chang - or three.

20 minutes on the return leg - still short of half way. Note the lifeguard flags - Karon has several sets along the beach as do most Phuket beaches in dry season. Not that the sea is dangerous then - only drunks and careless jet ski riders will get into trouble. Wet season is different - the sea is often dangerous. Fortunately the big 3 beaches and several  others have lifeguards then too, despite it being low season. Nevertheless too many people are still drowning at Phuket in low season - maybe you could read my SOME TIPS ON NOT DROWNING page for some strategies for if you get into trouble.

Karon from the north end. Probably least crowded section but still popular. Like the two Katas there is some okay snorkelling off the headland rocks for novices.

Like most Phuket beaches Karon has a vast array of accommodation from one star up. The web booking sites are good usually starting at 2 star - and for the cheapest rooms above shopfronts etc it is just a matter of arriving and checking the signs.
Jamie some time ago supplied news of new Karon budget accommodation in a good location: "The Pineapple Guesthouse in Karon will have a backpackers dorm ready within the next couple of weeks, 150 - 200 Baht/night."

In Dec 2014 I wanted an inexpensive base on my arrival at Phuket - having never stayed at Karon I decided a few days at Pineapple Guesthouse would be the go.

I pinched this off Agoda booking site. My review their reads:
This place is typical of many basic but good value guest houses in the 3 beaches area - inexpensive, comfortable, clean. What separates it is Brit Steve who co-owns it with his Thai missus - Steve has a wealth of knowledge of the Phuket situation and communicates this well. 
My room was spacious and clean with quiet aircon, adequate storage and a comfy king size bed. The area was not particularly noisy (it is off the main road so traffic noise is not an issue) and had a big range of restaurants, banks, retailers and other services. A 24hour 7/11 minimart was about 100m away - there were dinner-time inexpensive food hawkers with the usual yummy stuff in front of the store. 
One minus with Pineapple was lack of a credit card facility which makes purchase of some of the more expensive tours more difficult. Other area travel stores could do this.
I'll add that it was a short 5 minutes walk to the beach, which you hit about 1/4 the way from the south (Karon is a loooong beach).

Labels will be clearer of you click-expand. The main beach at Patong (between markers) is 2.8km long and is around 36km from the airport. Not too many people know of the beaches on the southern peninsula.


Patong gets bad press for walls of sun lounges, overcrowding, heaps of yobbos chasing Thai rent girs and higher prices for foood and booze than many other Phuket locations. But the shopping is good, there is a huge variety of accommodation from gorgeous resorts where you would never know you are at Phuket's most criticised beach, thru nice mid-rangers to thousands of comfortable budget rooms above businesses; people watching is good value and the beach itself has white sand, pretty nice water and plenty of space to put the sarong down if you don't want a sun lounge.
Plus if you check down page a little, there are some very nice less visited beaches a short distance along the southern headland.

Typical Patong scenes - shoulder season early Dec 2010. Note earlier comments about dangerous surf here in low season (May-midNov).

Much the same area 2014 after the big sun lounge clean-out

Areas like this used to be monopolised by sun lounges - there is now plenty of shade all along the beach from the trees to sit on a towel in until maybe 1400. Legal restaurant/bars in back of the beach now have beach/ocean views.

Whoa! I don't care what anyone says - the Russian invasion of Phuket sure has some pluses. 

The south end of Patong beach is book-ended by a sizable headland. If you follow the continuation of Patong's beach road where it heads steeply up the hill once crossing the small bridge you will come to 3 nice beaches, 2 of which are nicely sheltered from the wet season westerlies when nearby Patong is blown out and nasty.

Tri Tra Beach is the first you come to - notice calm water whereas I'd just walked the length of Patong in background and it was blown-out - wet seaon June 2010. A couple of beach restaurant/bars here plus midrange Tri Trang Beach Resort (white building - click to expand shot - yep, that's what it's called despite overlooking Tri Tra). Water gets shallow at lowest tide.

Tri Trang Beach. This is little further along on the opposite side of the road - the Merlin Beach Resort with its own nice little beach. Nice sand but lots of rock in the water - I understand it isn't good for swimming at low tide. Because this faces west it was copping the blowy conditions which can develop in low season but would be a sweet spot on calmer wet season days and in dry season when the wind is from the opposite direction. I saw a big storm coming in off the sea and scuttled up to a neat headland restaurant (not part of the hotel) for this shot - drank cheap beer for 15 minutes while it poured - one of 2 similar wet periods that day.

Near the tip of the peninsula is another sheltered wet season beach, Paradise Beach. This small strip of sand has a similar stretch over a small headland behind camera. Access is thru private land and there is a 100b charge to go onto the beach itself which gets you a beach lounge and showers. I normally hate the idea of paying for a beach but having seen how crap Patong was that day, this place in comparison was indeed a sheltered paradise and well worth it. You can snorkel. There is an okay restaurant - prices are a bit more than budget to start with but threw me a bit when they added 10% govt tax, the only one of dozens to do this that trip. One caveat - the reef is very close to shore making swimming less easy at dead low tide.

In Dec 2014 I paid my 100b (includes sun-bed, toilet and shower) and spent a pleasant few hours at Paradise Beach. This is shot from the second smaller beach back towards main. There is a second small restaurant/bar set up to left of image - prices not too bad. Nice swimming off the beach  - around mid tide when I was there. Some scuba divers a few hundred meters out and people fish-feeding near shore out of frame left. Nice.

Kamala is 2km long and about 25km from the airport, Laem Sing(h) only 300m in length - maybe 22km and Surin 800m and 20km. The small beach immediately left (north) of Surin is Pansea - it can only be reached by boat because the two flash hotels there, the Chedi and Amanpuri block land access. Don't let them kid you the beach itself is private - there are no private beaches in Thailand. The beach partly seen higher at left of frame is Bang Tao, a long beach the central section of which is home to the mega Laguna complex of luxury hotels etc. - 


This is the next beach north of Patong, but it's a fair haul, not one you will want to walk. See my later comments about travelling BETWEEN the beaches.

Kamala is a very attractive beach. In high season it tends not to get overcrowded, but there are still enough restaurants and bars for people to enjoy themselves. Plenty of accommodation and this is the location of the famous Fantasea attraction.

In Jan 09 Matt and Suzzie sent me this info on Phuket:
We're big fans of Kamala Beach and off-season (July/August) we like the peace there.
The beach isn't very well looked after at that time of year in parts, but the town has a nice laid-back vibe. Benjamin Resort on Moo 3 (Beach Road) near the school has some great rooms overlooking the bay (especially rooms C1 and C2, B1 and B2), and if you tell them yer planning to stay more than a couple of days you can get them down to 500baht, including breakfast. They're well maintained, airy, and the balconies are perfect fer watching the sunset over the ocean.
Go down to the beach at this time and all the locals are out paddling and playing footie. Kamala has plenty of options with restaurants and bars, and off season you can have the pick of the bunch. The tuk-tuk mafia are bastards though, and there's no cheap way of getting around other than the songthaeow that goes round the houses.

Kamala Beach - low season August 09. A nice section of sand, clean water, even a few surfable body-waves this time of year. This is shot just north of Benjamin Resort at the end of a handful of similar unpretentious accommodation places lining a short shopping street roughly parallel to the beach. There is a similar accommodation/restaurant street parallel to the beach up near those casuarinas in the middle of the beach. The popular midrange Kamala Beach Hotel and Resort is behind the palms just over the top of the umbrella on right. There are several other midrange and better resorts in the area, some back from the beach and others along the coast road just to the south where it winds up into higher country. Lots of condo development going on in this higher area too. This beach will never look built-out because a big Muslim cemetary takes up the northern section behind the trees. I got the impression that Kamala would be a quieter version of Kata in high season. Which would not be too bad at all. (I managed to check Kamala high season 2010 - yep, a quieter Kata).

UPDATE AUGUSTO9 - I decided to spend some time at Kamala and heeded Matt and Suzzie's advice about the Benjamin. This is the view directly west from one of the beachfront room's balcony - the view to the right is an elevated vegetation-filtered version of the previous shot. Note the rocks behind the lanterns in this pix - the sea is shallow this south end at lowest tide but fine and with no rocks in the middle and north ends.
Benjamin is a good value place. Not flash but big comfortable clean rooms with TV, frig - beachfront for 500 with brekka when we visited in low season. Note brekka is tea/coffee, toast and jam. Good little shopping street on the other side of the hotel with a fair selection of restaurants, clothing stores, a few bars and a 711. Even had a girly bar but low key. One of the girls, God bless here, rang her uncle to take Lady Tezza, me and 2 Yanks to the airport when arranged transport fell thru at the last minute (taxis are scarce in Kamala night-time low season). The area was quiet at night when I visited but I reckon would have enough going on in high season to keep all but hard-core partiers happy.

I called in at Kamala on a motorcycle tour of the beaches in early Dec 2010 which is shoulder season - a fair few more people than my August 09 stay.

Busier in this high season shot (Feb 2014) but considerably less crammed than Surin to the north. Figures - Kamala is about twice as long.

Couple of cool beach bars at the northern end of Kamala beach. My sort of places.


If you walk 15 minutes along the coastal road over the headland north of Kamala you come to the main roadside carpark (20b for motorcycles) of compact Laem Singh Beach. A fairly steep set of stairs takes you down to what was once regarded by many as the most attractive beach on Phuket. Maybe its popularity and the invasion of sun-lounges has downgraded it a spot or two, but the lack of resorts and other development apart from a few beach restaurants still gives that "beach in the jungle" vibe. Well worth a visit.
I found out during my 2014 stay at Surin that there is another easier track down to  Laem Singh about 10 minutes walk south along the main coastal road from Surin beach. The beach was pretty busy, but not as much as Surin.

Midway between the 2 carparks is this roadside viewing cabana. Entry free in Feb 2014 but I bet some dude is charging 20 baht entry or parking next time I pass by and someone else has set up a food stall. This is a 2012 shot - as said up page, those sun lounges are gone.

tezza freeloads on glamour shoot at Laem Singh. I was cool until cutey took top off - then began severe camera shake.

Another 10 minutes walk north gets you to Surin. Everything I've written about Kamala goes for this place - maybe it is a little more developed and busy. Not unattractive in the least. I shot this pic in Dec 2010 - surprisingly for dry season there was a decent little surf running.

Cool bar on rocks, south end of Surin Beach. I'm a sucker for places like this - usually come back from a beach-checking mission blitzed. This is a 2010 shot - in 2014 there was a lot more sand here - the water did not get near, even at peak tide (gone late 2014 - must have been a squatter).

In Feb 2014 I wanted to stay at the closest west coast beach to my Phuket entry pier at Bang Rong ex Kos Yao Noi/Yai. Surin was it. I was surprised how crowded it was - Surin is very big with Russian tourists. This is the southern half but virtually all the beach was as packed except for maybe the northern 5%. I have more info and pix on the PHUKET TRIP REPORT page.

Same area - different angle after the big 2014 sun lounge purge. Crowds down to maybe 30% of the same time in 2012. Economic sanctions on Russia, that country's oil/gas price/rouble crisis probably more to blame than the lack of sun lounges.

About 60% of the elcheapo car-park food hawkers have gone but this late 2014 pic shows it is still possible to buy inexpensive yummy stuff there. Plenty of tables and chairs behind too. 
All the rather pretentious and overpriced bar/restaurants in the area immediately behind the beach are gone too. So is the mid-beach floating pier.

In Feb 2014 I decided to rock-hop around the headland at the north end of Surin beach to get you dudes a shot of this rather nice "private" beach.

Relatively uncrowded because of the restricted access thru the flash hotels behind the beach.

This is a long (nearly 6km) beach a short distance north of Surin/Pansea. The area behind used to be Phuket's main tin mining area and is now dominated by very spacious high end resorts and golf courses in the Laguna complex. However there are some more affordable resorts at the southern end which has a touristy shopping/restaurant/bar street very much like that at the southern end of Kamala.

This shot from near the southern end shows about 90% of the beach. It is busiest at this end which is pretty narrow near high tide in the shot - gets progressively less busy moving away from camera - last half of the beach has little development, very few people. This is a nice shot to click-expand. More pix and info on the PHUKET TRIP REPORT page
I decided to stay at Bang Tao late 2014 - will put a report on the above link when I get a chance.

Because the beach widens and is less crowded away from the southern corner, it is the first of Phuket's west coast beaches moving north to have restaurant tables set up on the beach. Nice, particularly at night when the candles come out (GONE late 2014)


Nai Thon ar right is approx 1km long and less than 8km from the airport. Nai Yang 2.5km long and beach central is a bit under 3km from arrivals. The 1500m long section between markers I've labelled Airport Beach is probably technically the southern end of the very long Mai Khao beach. Note that if you are staying immediately left of the runway (there is at least one snazzy hotel there) you are probably as far by road from the terminal which is under the "Airport" marker as Nai Thon because you have to go around the far end of the long runway. Doesn't look it in this oblique shot.

It'a a fair distance further north from Surin to Nai Thon (a few low-key beaches between) which in fact is only about 5km from the airport. I already have details up-page at staying low season 09 at the very nice Naithonburi when it was rare for more than 3 people to be on the beach at any time. But this Dec 2010 shot shows a few more people - note sign of the times, Russian "SWIM BETWEEN THE FLAGS" (or similar message) notice against rescue board adjacent swim-flags opposite The Naithonburi. This place is much more low-key in tourist season than say Surin or Kamala - the main road along the beach has a distinct village feeling. Once again good surf for dry season - I had a nice little body-surf here.

Matt and Suzzie again: Nai Thon Beach further north is beautiful, and cos it requires a bit of effort to get to it's virtually empty off season. You can hire a lounger in the shade fer 20baht and one of the hotels has a guy that will come over and take an order fer drinks if you want them. Beware though, the sea is way too rough at this time and will eat you alive if you get out of yer depth.

AUG09 - Matt and Suzzie's description of Naithon sounded pretty good so I decided to spend a few nights there. This shot is in similar weather to theirs - one of those 15-20% of low season days where the wind gets up, making for pretty big and messy surf and not-so-nice beach conditions.
Hence even fewer people than normal low season. But a pretty nice beach. From what I've read (and later saw - see high season 2010 pic above this one), high season here is kinda nice - never too busy. 4 resorts across the road behind the casuarina trees, a number of restaurants. Some very high end joints on the higher section of coastline just to the south. A bit more than 10 minutes from the airport but no aircraft noise.

In MARCH 08, Thorntree poster living stayed at Patong, was less than impressed and hired a car to check for nicer beaches. He/she was rather whelmed by Nai Yang:
"Naiyang Beach would be our choice for a place to holiday in Thailand if we were ever to come again. Big enough to have lots of local little restaurants and bars and longtails to take you snorkeling. A good swimming beach. Plenty of modest looking but comfy beach cabins. We had a great lunch on the beach there – some of the best Thai food of the trip and incredible coffee – which can be hard to come by here."
This is shot towards the south end of Nai Yang. The central section of the beach behind camera has a good mix of accommodation places from high-end to flashpacker, a useful small business stip along the beach road, plus a bunch of seaside restaurants and a few bars. North end (see below) is a reasonably long, curved, casuarina lined beach with a lot of undeveloped areas, fair enough because it is part of the national park. . Nai Yang is a favourite with beach going locals so there are some good food stands and small restaurants. The airport is only 5 minutes away. Image - Panoramio: Kristof Cornelis

I shot this in high season 2010 from a little further north than the above pix, looking the other way. The National Park section begins just past these people - the first part of the Park has some low impact beach restaurants you can see if you click the pic, and further north just casuarina trees backing the sand, which has some nice picnic areas popular with locals - a pretty attractive bit of beach. The end of the airport runway is not far past the end of those trees.
Don't be put off by the sun lounges in the foreground. They cover only about 300m of a reasonably long beach and aren't intrusively jam-packed row upon row like beaches further south - and are half the price.

The beach restaurants are less than 5 minutes walk from the sun lounge area. They are very popular with local Thais, meaning .......

...... lots of yummy inexpensive sea food and other Thai tucker.

Feb 2015 - this is the area the above sea food and other Thai tucker restaurants were previously located. You can see how the police/military crackdown on unlicensed beach activities has impacted. 
Kinda interesting that also a good quarter of Nai Yang's main street budget restaurants were now bare sand. There is a new main street food court called "Walking Street" where it looks like a lot of these place have re-created themselves. Gotta pay rent now so prices mainly are less competitive. But there are still a few good bargain joints.

Walking Street

This is the full length of Nai Yang looking south, shot from adjacent the far headland in the pic 3 above this. People looking for a stretch of undeveloped beach could do worse than the section close to camera. Many kms more starting around the headland behind camera. This is a nice shot to click-expand.

UPDATE 1 - I stayed at Nai Yang in May 2012. A pretty good location being so close to the airport. Unfortunately the wet season had kicked in which stopped me doing my usual crawl around the greater area so I haven't enough info to do a TRIP REPORT for that section. Nevertheless between showers there was enough sun for some good beach time - and the westerlies made the kite surfers' day. Nice little shopping/restaurant area and a good range of accommodation from budget up. I stayed at the midrange Nai Yang Beach Resort which is just across the road from the beach and shops and offers some very good off-season deals on the mass booking sites.
Note I didn't revisit Nai Yang in late 2014 but I bet the above sun lounges (and the dining tables in the pic below) are no longer on the sand. I will be staying a few days in Feb 2015 - will report back.

FURTHER UPDATE - spent a further few days at Nai Yang prior to flying out in December 2012. Being high season, Nai Yang Beach Resort was a bit pricey so Lady Tezza and I stayed at the very good value Nai Yang Boutique Resort 4 minutes walk from the beach. Lady T has done a TRIP REPORT here.
The better weather saw all the business-strip restaurants putting chairs and tables on the sand - intense competition resulted in nice meals at very attractive budget prices.

Feb 2015 - roughly the same area. You can see the big military/police clean-up 2014/15 of unlicensed beach activities has had a fairly big impact re on-sand dining. Hell, one lady from an off-sand resort restaurant wouldn't even let me take a plastic chair onto the beach to watch sun down with a beer I'd purchased.

LATEST UPDATE - I spent further time prior to flying out at NAI YANG in MARCH 2017. I was a bit dismayed at how accommodation and food had got more expensive since my last visit. I put this down to the place's growing popularity, particularly with visitors from newly capitalistic Eastern Europe. Seems Serge likes to big-note by overpaying for things. There are no longer good meal deals in "Walking Street". Breakfast has become so expensive that I splurged on the buffet at NAI YANG BEACH RESORT - pay a bit extra for a LOT extra. Budget travelers can still get inexpensive yummy stuff from the street food vendors.


I think technically this may be the southern-most part of Mai Khao beach (see below) but I think it is distinctive enough to warrant its own section. The sand and water are pretty nice here. At background far-right you can see the headland at the south end of Nai Yang beach - it took me about 15 minutes to walk down here from the sun-lounge section of Nai Yang. Those trees at left of frame are all part of the National Park which begins in the southern quarter of Nai Yang. They hide a pretty big picnic area popular with locals - if you look carefully you can see the life-guard flag just past those people. A good service seeing most Thais can't swim, but the sea is benign all along here in high season.
This is a nice spot for plane-spotters to bring their family for some beach/water time while they ...

.... check out the airplane action.

When an earlier twin-engine Airbus opened its throttles for take-off it got a bit blustery here against the fence. So when this big baby was in position I hastily snapped the shot and took off for the lower beach near the water. Despite this a bit of sand was blown about - it may pay to park girlfriend/wife/kids 100m along the beach for their fun-time.

Looks like life-guarding at Phuket aint too taxing - well in high season at least. Phuket can get big dangerous seas in wet season during/after a big westerly monsoon blow. All those surf-inexperienced Russians must be a worry, not to mention drunk Aussies who think they know all about surf and don't realise how blitzed they are. Mind you, I don't think too many Russians and Aussies find this beach. Fortunately for them the popular southern beaches also feature Australian trained lifeguards these days. Doesn't stop heaps of people getting into trouble and too many of them drowning. Be careful - maybe read my DON'T DROWN page where I point out that getting dragged out to sea in a rip current aint the end of the world unless you can't tread water let alone swim: rips can even be useful if you are a keen surfer.

I'm not too sure where the demarcation point between Mai Khao and Sai Khao is on this 10km+ strip of sand - I have an idea you need to be pretty far north.

11 km of unspoiled beach on Phuket? Yep, Mai Khao - Sai Khao/Sai Kaew at the northern end of the west coast can do this - as this high season shot shows. Actually the beach is a continuation of Nai Yang the other side of the airport, but even less developed. There are about 4 high-end resorts and 2 budget places along the full length and National Parks enforces a 30m set-back even for sunlounges so all you see looking up and down the beach (this is shot at about half-way) are the casuarina trees. Turtles are known to hatch along here because of its quietness.
Many of you people will have seen the beach from the bus at its northern end because the main road out of Phuket veers west and passes a row of budget seafood beach-side restaurants not far from the causeway to the mainland. Note I've seen this northern-most stretch of Mai Khao referred to as SAI KHAO or SAI KAEW.
I stayed in a budget place right of frame in the above shot - SEASIDE COTTAGES AND RESTAURANT - I did a trip report with more info and pix HERE.

Old style thatch bamboo bungalows on Phuket?? Yep, at SEASIDE COTTAGES. One at left 30m from the beach. They have flasher bungalows too.


I hadn't visited this area since 1997 when I rode a bicycle down here from Kata (must have been keen - this area is seriously hilly) so in March 2013 I grabbed a moto and did a tour to get some pix and info for the page.

I didn't make it to Nui. The rough dirt road got progressively steeper. I gave up at a parking spot for bikes which was still high above the sea - the walk down and back looked like it would consume well over an hour and this is a pay beach - I didn't feel like paying for a 10 minute look and snap session. But apparently it is a lovely beach and the guys who run it do a good job of looking after it. There was a mobile number at the parking area offering motorcycle taxi rides in for a hefty price - the track looked a good test for a skilled off-road motorcyclists one-up - forget the passenger.
I pinched the pic from this excellent site.

The main road south of the Nui Beach turn-off has at least 3 elephant camps.

This attractive 700m beach has only a few (high end) accommodation places - check for Phuket Yacht Club (no marina there) - so many of these people are day trippers. Popular with locals so lots of cheap food and drink vendors behind the sand. This beach is nicely sheltered in the dry season but can be exposed on those windier wet season days. 

Nai Harn Feb 2014 - crowded but plenty of space to lay a towel or sarong if you are  not big on beach lounges. Nice water - deep enough low tide for swimming not too far out. Cheap food stalls behind umbrellas along beach road - another shopping/restaurant/bar street heading inland close to left of camera.

March 2017 Nai Harn from the other end. Note way fewer sunlounges - a result of the Thai military crackdownl

This tiny beach is about 600m west of Nai Harn. It has a budget bungalow place (Ao Sane Bungalows and Restaurant tel: 076- 288 306/388 394 mob: 082 419 0300) with a restaurant/bar overlooking the beach. When I first went there last century it had a few backpackers hanging around only - but in March 2013/Feb 2014 it was quite busy with visiting day trippers. The restaurant in Feb 2014 had large beers for 80baht, the cheapest bungalow beer all trip (notice I include all the really important stuff). Bungalows available when I called by in Feb 2014 were backpacker standard at 500/600b depending on position. There were a few aircon jobs, all taken.
UPDATE - I stayed a few nights at AO SANE March 2017. I was disappointed - bungalows are a good deal (I had a beachfront one at 500 - other fan jobs are 600 and aicon 1000) - but food/drink prices are now 50% over budget bungalow levels (priced to the daytripper market, many of whom are staying in flash resorts) and management allows permanent guests to keep dogs, the problem being that Thai dogs' DNA includes the need to vigorously protect their owners "homes" against newcomers. Get a few newcomers around a beach with a resort and heaps of day-trippers. Thing is one particular dog was a slow learner - though I was a newcomer on the second and third day.
However if you are a daytripper you will have no problems if you confine yourself to the first (biggest) beach, as 90% do - Fido "lives" between beaches one and two.

The sea in dry season is quite nice off Ao Sane - clear water, sandy bottom with quite a few big rocks. Some patchy coral a bit off the beach, okay but not great. Such conditions attract snorkellers. And fish. This bloke has done well.

Accessing Ao Sane is a bit of a hoot. Take the road from the west end of Nai Harn. At the gate of Phuket Yacht Club tell the security guy you are going to Ao Sane. He will wave you past. Go thru the basement garage (UPDATE 2017 - the road now goes on the sea sie of the garage) of the hotel and continue another 500m or so. Note that Phuket's Baan Krating resort is another few hundred meters along the road. The security blokes there weren't too keen on riff-raff like me checking it out but if it is anywhere near as good as the Khao Lak namesake I stayed at a few years ago it should please midrange travellers.
UPDATE FEB 2014 - I was looking for a  nice inexpensive resort in this area between stays on Coral Island and Ko Raya out of the nearby Chalong pier. I couldn't get any contact info for Ao Sane but managed to find NAIROCK ON THE ROCK RESORT at Nai Harn. In the image above it is the small place immediately to the left of Phuket Yacht Club. I'll put some more pix and info on the PHUKET TRIP REPORT page when I get a chance.

ONE THE ROCK resort to the left of Phuket Yacht Club - shot from the far end of Nai Harn beach.

I found out in Feb 2014 that if you take the short path between the bungalows at the far end of Ao Sane beach you come to what I call Ban Krating beach (although Ao Sane's southern bungalows back at least half the beach). The beach is nothing to get excited about but is certainly quiet, and nicer Ao Sane (2 minutes) and Nai Harn (20) are an easy stroll. There is an even smaller patch of sand which you can see past rocks in background.

Whoa! This is a nice one - some say the best on the island. That's the main west coast road as it drops from Cape Promthep, Phuket's most southerly point.

There is no accommodation at Yanui - all these people are day trippers, many from the host of accommodation places in not too distant Rawai and Chalong. The usual beach restaurant is just out of frame left. A fair few snorkellers were checking the far bay on the other side of the sand spit (okay, cuspate foreland for all you pedants).

Cape Promthep was a wind-swept grassy headland with some wind turbines when I fist visited in 1997. My 2013 return saw this monument to a Thai prince who was a big deal in the Thai navy 100 years or so ago. Beneath is a small naval museum - nothing mind blowing but free admission and nice aircon.
Behind camera is some sort of monument to elephants. The wind turbines are still spinning, further behind camera.
btw the dopey trees you can see in shot block outlook towards Coral Island, Ko Racha, Ko Phi Phi etc from this high position.

Unlike the above beaches, 1600m long Rawai is on the eastern side of the peninsula. It aint much of a beach - patchy sand, gets the low tide blues, too much boat activity. Popular with Thais. Plenty of good value seafoos restaurants etc. Has a long pier for fishing. Longtail boats to top daytrip spot CORAL ISLAND) leave from the beach. Note the web booking sites show quite a lot of accommodation at Rawai. I wouldn't stay for the beach, although top beaches Yanui, Nai Harn and Ao Sane are only a few km away.
BTW - Chalong beach to the north is much the same as Rawai, although I noticed one mid range hotel south of the pier had managed to make its beach area quite presentable.

This beach is quite a distance from Rawai - that's the cape far background-right in the shot above this. The very similar (but far longer) to Rawai CHALONG is in between. Cape Panwa Hotel's beach is only 250m across and is about 50km from the airport. The beach across the road from Kantary Bay Hotel is very thin and tidal. 

Nice beach at Cape Panwa Hotel. This faces Phi Phi/Yao Yai and is very sheltered on those 15 to 25% of wet season days when the wind gets blustery on the west coast beaches. Access either by longtail or thru the Cape Panwa Hotel grounds - no problems for outsiders - walk in off the street, turn right, catch furnicular railway type thing down the steep hillside, turn left to beach a short distance.

An area which caught my eye for my August 2007 Andaman trip was hilly CAPE PANWA in the south-east of the island, and so on a second Phuket visit that August, I went and stayed a few days at The Bay Hotel (UPDATE - now called KANTARY BAY HOTEL) there. Hey, nice midrange place only 200 m from the Phuket Aquarium, in the $us35 range low season inc breakfast, fabulous rooftop pool with million dollar views of the offshore islands and the south end of Phuket (see picture top of this page), a good street-front budget restaurant, not bad shopping, a small minimart, regular 30 minute songthaews into Phuket town. And best of all, free access to most facilities and a free shuttle bus across to the nearby higher grade Cape Panwa Hotel which has a lovely beach on its own little bay as the photo above shows.
The beach at The Kantari Bay is pretty ordinary and faces west towards southern Phuket and the offshore islands including Coral Island and Ko Racha - see shot at the top of the page.

A second ground level pool at The Kantary Bay Hotel, Cape Panwa - see opening shot for the roof level pool.

THIS GREAT SITE has photos, location and short descriptions of every beach on Phuket (and there are A LOT of beaches).

It’s kinda crazy, but songthaews don’t really connect the popular west coast beaches. That’s not quite correct, because those starting at the waiting point at the south end of Kata Yai actually run across to central Karon before returning to Kata on the inner loop road some distance from the beach and then heading off to Phuket town.
But there are no songthaews between Kata Noi and Yai - no worries, you can walk across the headland in less than 10 minutes.
It takes not too much longer to walk over the headland between Kata Yai and Karon (but a hell of a lot longer to walk the beach - it is one loooong beach).

However the gap between Karon and Patong is a biggy - it takes about 10 minutes to drive this. Now there are tuk tuks which will happily provide this service, but the rates are a complete rip-off: 200+ in 2007 (one positive - they are clearly sign-posted at the tuk-tuk waiting stations) and in previous years I found it cheaper to bargain-down a car from one of those car transport guys who hang around outside hotels to do this journey. btw there is a lot of bad blood between these car guys and the tuk tuk/taxi mafia - the latter often administer beatings etc. In earlly 2013 the Phuket govt ordered all car transport guys to get a taxi licence or suffer the consequences. At the same time the taxi mafia issued a new list of outrageous prices - well over twice per km of say Bangkok. Note too the taxis work on a "village" monopoly system - a taxi originating in say Kata will not pick you up in Patong after it has brought another fare there. All of this of course helps keep prices up. On my past 2 trips (2013 and 2014) I found even the resorts' transfer vehicles were licensed "taxis" - I also found NO-ONE prepared to undercut the official taxi prices stuck up all over the place. People think all those flash pool condos at Surin Heights belong to Bangkok big-movers. Wrong - this is where the Phuket taxi mafia live.

Alternatively, to get between the beaches you could catch a songthaew into Phuket town and then out to the next beach - only about 40baht each trip - but Karon-Phuket town is about 50 minutes and Phuket town-Patong the best part of 40.

The gaps between the west coast beaches north of Patong up to Nai  Yang are mostly equally non walkable except for Kamala-Laem Singh-Surin-Bang Tao. I also noticed a Phuket Town-Surin-Kamala songthaew so you don't need to walk or motorcycle between those two beaches.

The tuk-tuk mafia seem to have transport at and between the beaches tied up. You see few meter taxis at the beaches - the ones I've noticed I've assumed have brought passengers from the airport or town. However in April 2012 I heard a Patong local telling a traveller that you can usually find taxis parked near the police box on the main beach road at Patong opposite the very busy Soi Bangla girlie/bar lane. Maybe they need the cops for protection from the tuk tuk guys.

Heaps of motorcycles are for hire cheaply, but make sure you have an international licence and are given a helmet - this is one place where the cops seem keen on checking these out. UPDATE MARCH 2013 - I rode a moto all around the south of the island out of Kata Yai - no licence checks.
Motorcycle scams are not unknown - the hire business points out a small scratch etc when you return the bike (often pre-existing when you hired it: check the bike for damage, point out and photograph any existing damage) and charges you a ridiculous price for repairs otherwise you don't get your passport back. Best bet is to hire from your hotel which is far less likely to pull this scam. Many hotels don't hire bikes - if you deal with an outside company DON'T HAND OVER YOUR PASSPORT. Give them a photocopy. If they don't go for it, hire from someone else - competition is fierce and there are dozens of legit companies for each dodgy one.

Note complaints of similar JET SKI scams are common from Phuket. I don't bother hiring them - the fact that there are fewer hire outfits compared to bikes weakens the customers' position.

On a Phuket visit last century I hired a bicycle - outside the beach towns and Phuket town the roads have a good run-off lane and are pretty safe - but the trips over the headlands between beaches and across to the other side of the island have major hills, the kind that keep on keeping-on just when you think you are at the summit - I ride daily in a very hilly town and still found Phuket a real good challenge.

On that bicycle-propelled trip I checked most of the west coast beaches They were real laid back north of Patong, but the ones fairly close (KAMALA etc) were fairly well developed whereas the ones closer to the airport (NAI THON, NAI YANG etc) were still very relaxed and a real contrast to the beaches south.
UPDATE Dec 2010 - I used a bicycle this trip too - this time to ride the back roads behind Mai Khao Beach north of the airport. Pretty quiet and flat in this area, and also when I cycled about 5 km each way along the busy main highway to visit Phuket Marine National Park's mangrove board-walk near the causway to the mainland - big run-off lane makes cycling this road pretty safe.
I also hired a motorcycle from my bungalow joint - the host said his guests had not been hassled about licences as long as they had the (supplied) helmet. I rode as far south as Kamala without problems. I'm not sure what the situation is now like around the big 3 beaches regarding licence checks.

Phuket gets lots of bad press on travellers‘ sites, which it doesn’t deserve.
Sure, Patong is like Miami Beach or Surfers Paradise with an extra helping of sleaze, but Phuket is a big island with a wide range of beaches from party to laid back, has some great scenery and a big variety of other attractions. It is surrounded by a range of other attractive areas and so is one of the better islands as a base for daytrips.
Another plus is that Phuket is bursting with midrange and upper hotels meaning that competition in low season (April/May to early November) forces prices down to 30% of their high season levels - $us30 can buy a great midrange room with huge buffet breakfast. $us80 can get you the Ritz. And even super busy, sleazy in places Patong has some very nice properties with huge pools, acres of groomed grounds etc, where you would never believe crowded streets are a short distance away.

One other thing - the big 3 beaches of Patong, Karon and Kata may be commercialised with their western hotels, beach chairs and umbrellas, but they sure are pretty beaches. Makes the dump which is Pattaya beach in the eastern Gulf look just that. And they still have their element of Thai character - there is a bunch of beachfront restaurants and a little bar at the southern headland of Kata Yai which has food and booze at similar prices to a lot of their counterparts on less commercial islands. And they sure are nice places to sit and watch the passing parade, not to mention the waves and surfers in low season when a bit of swell actually appears, not too common in Thailand.
Which reminds me, Phuket gets a fair few tourist drownings low season, so take care, swim in areas designated by the safe swimming flags. And perhaps read my Some Tips on Not Drowning page.
Don’t worry high season - the sea at all the western beaches tends to be flat as a board 99% of the time and never gets dangerous.

To its credit, Phuket has lifeguard towers on its more popular beaches. This one at Kamala is unmanned in this low season shot - the lifeguard had actually gone for a paddle on his rescue board to get a few waves. Just as easy to keep an eye on the 2 or 3 swimmers from in the water.

Phuket is not known as a top snorkelling location like say the Similans, Surins, Ko Tao, Phi Phi or Kradan. However some okay snorkelling can be found.

The popular beaches are long and sandy - if you snorkel off the beach you may see a few fish but coral will be scarce. However all beaches have headlands (exception Mai Khao) and I've found there are always some fringing coral on the rocks and a greater concentration of fish to make snorkelling in such areas entertaining for non hard-core fins and flipper fiends. Low season visitors be careful - the west coast headlands can get big waves and strong rip currents in this period. When low season throws up these conditions I'd be snorkelling off Cape Panwa Resort's beach - it aint great here but conditions are sheltered May to November.

The best snorkelling at the big 3 beaches can be found at Kata.
The rocks at the southern end of Kata Noi's beach attract quite a crowd in high season.

Snorkellers off the south headland of Kata Yai - only 30m from the beach.

The headland at the north end of Kata Yai is pretty good - you can continue all the way out to the small island which has an okay reef on the beach side.

The Tri Tra/Tri Trang/Paradise Beach headland at the south end of Patong also has some okay snorkelling. Check my pic up-page of the bay off Merlin Resort on Tri Trang - lotsa rocks and patches of coral which makes snorkelling away from lowest tide okay.
Ditto the reef just off the sand at Paradise Beach. Tri Tra and Paradise tend to be sheltered in low season so a good spot for you east coast stayers to get your underwater kicks.

I've heard the south end of Freedom Beach (aka Relax Beach/Karon Noi) which is south of the Tra/Trang/Paradise peninsula and can only be accessed by boat (the track in is thru private land) is pretty good. If you can afford to stay at the hotel there, Le Meridien from memory, you don't have to longtail to the beach.

Heading north along the west coast, the rocks at the south end of Leam Singh just north of Kamala are okay. 

The nearby south end of Surin had a bunch of snorkellers when I stayed there in 2014. I had a look, nothing fantastic but enough fish and good rock areas to keep non-fanatics interested.

Just short of the airport, north Nai Yang beach has a reef which is supposed to be okay.

Way down the south end of the island Ao Sane's beach has lots of rocks etc which attract the fish and coral. I saw a fair few snorkellers in the water off Yanui beach. Nui beach to the north is said to be okay.


A lot of people fly or bus into Phuket and then leave next day for Phi Phi, Lanta etc. Phuket town is the obvious overnighter - it is closer to the airport than the popular beaches, real close to the busiest ferry piers and the bus station and has a good range of accommodation of all standards.
It also has good shopping and eats for people intending to stay longer - quite a few travellers make Phuket town their base and go out to the beaches or to other island attractions each day. However it is quieter in the night-life/entertainment stakes for non-locals not in the know. Quieter but still has some okay places.

Actually, if I was on a flight which gave me part of an afternoon at the beaches on arrival, I would pick the beaches instead of Phuket town. Have a swim, a beer/meal in a beachfront bar, walk the sand, grab some entertainment. The inclusive shuttle buses to the pier take an extra 15-20 minutes next morning, but what the hell.

Having said that, I have used Phuket Backpackers' on Thanon Ranong in town central almost next to the food markets, as an overnight base many times. This place is spotless, quiet, has cheap dorms, free internet and movies on the big screen. There are more expensive singles and doubles in a garden section out the back. They have a good travel desk, songthaews to the beaches leave from outside the markets, there is a neighbouring 7/11 and a whole bunch of cheap Muslim vegetarian restaurants just to the left. The markets are a blow-out and there is quite good general shopping in Ranong Road and a small street running perpendicular opposite the markets.
In recent years they have added a pub area fronting the road. Also there are now aircon rooms in a separate building a few doors down the street. I stayed in them with Lady Tezza in November 2012 and they were pretty good value.

Phuket fresh food market is about 40m east of Phuket Backpackers'. No shortage of fruit etc and there is quite a big cooked food section. This new building was finished at least 4 years before it began operating in 2012. An interim market area across the road continues to operate for low rent stall-holders.

UPDATE - In March 2013 I decided to try one of the double fan rooms at Phuket Backpackers'. This is the user-report I wrote for the booking site:

Unlike the aircon rooms which are located in a reconditioned building a few doors down the road, the fan rooms are at the rear of the main building – adjacent the small garden area.
You will find bigger, less expensive fan rooms in Phuket town but I keep returning to Phuket Backpackers because of its good position (adjacent the fresh food markets, a 24 hour 7-11 supermarket, the bus stops to the beaches and close to town central shopping and other businesses) and its good travel desk (now at the main bar) where ferry tickets to the islands are appreciably cheaper than at the pier and include free van transport.
My room was just big enough for two people and their gear and had a comfy bed and pillows. It was just about due for a repaint and some tlc. Being out the back it was pretty quiet. The bathroom had good hot water, towels + toilet paper but no soap. Lighting was okay. Main complaint was that heat soak from the roof made it pretty hot – the fan was okay but people who like their cool should maybe look at the aircon rooms.
The backpacker kitchen is nearby to brew up a cuppa or prepare a meal (there are also plenty of hot food choices out on the street and in the markets) , adjacent the kitchen is a tv/video/free computer (only 2 these days) room and the lively pub/lounge is out fronting the street.
Wondering if pub noise had spoiled the partly-overhead dorm area I went up and checked the latter out. The good news is that sound proof doors have been installed which keeps outside racket to a minimum (including 4am set-up noise at the markets which used to be a problem for dorms overlooking the street) – the doors also keep in cool air from 2 big aircon systems so even though the dorms are classed as fan they were appreciably cooler than when I have stayed up there. The dorm area including bathrooms was as spotless as usual.

MARCH 2017 - I again stayed here first night after my 2200 arrival at the airport. The place seems to have been taken over by 2 western guys and downsized: the previously bustling bar/reception area adjacent the main street had the shutter pulled down and was very quiet, the aircon rooms in an old hotel block a few doors up the street where I stayed in 2014 and 2015 seemed to have been replaced by aircon rooms behind the kitchen in the main block. Mine was in good condition. But some things don't change - the kitchen and "video" room was fine and upstairs the air-conditioned dorm area was as squeaky clean and cool as ever.


Town-center is quite compact. 10-15 minutes walk will get you to the Ocean Department Store. There are heaps of tuk tuks, taxis and touts who want to show you the best places.
See travelfish.org for a good selection of other Phuket town accommodation.

EARLIER UPDATE April 2012 I felt like a change and so got me a single room at D's Guesthouse on Thalang Road which is only 10 minutes walk from the old bus station where the Airport Bus arrives. At 300 and 350 baht the fan rooms with bathroom were considerably cheaper than similar rooms at Phuket Backpackers' which is another 10 minutes walk south. D's is run by a nice lady and her daughter and the rooms are spacious and clean. This is a very quiet area. One disadvantage is that there is no travel desk so if you are heading for the islands you will pay more at the pier unless you have picked up a cheaper ticket at the airport (debatible), bus station or around town beforehand. An advantage useful to single women arrriving late is that D's will pick up at the airport at a price competitive with the taxi service.

As I said Thalang Road is a very quiet area. But it also has about the best examples of Chinese shop-house architecture in Thailand and each year there is a Thalang Road Festival to celebrate this. I found this pic while browsing Jamies Phuket Blog - a link to Jamie is in the link list top right of this page.
btw Thalang road has several okay places to eat and if you head 400m west and turn left at the first traffic lights you can find more plus one spot that was doing cool live music when I passed by.

Phuket probably has a better selection of daytrips than any other Thai island. The big two are:

Phang Nga Bay - for the best seascape/landscape in Thailand, this is a must-not-miss. Quite a lot are advertised as James Bond Island Trips, and you do spend time on this tourist trap, but the pressure of longtails means about 15 minutes max which gives you heaps of time to cruise the hundreds of other great karst stack islands, the spectacular mangroves and have lunch on Ko Panyi, the sea-gypsy island which has a great buffet in its stilt restaurant area. For extra you can arrange to stay overninght on the island (see link below on Ko Panyi for details of my stay in 2010). Most trips involve a coach to Phang Na town and then a big longtail, but speedboat and kayaking tours are also available.

It doesn't get much more spectacular than Phang Nga Bay (image PHUKETPERFECTPROPERTIES)

Phi Phi Island - a free shuttle picks you up from your accommodation and takes you to the pier. The ferry trips tend to take in Maya Bay of The Beach fame, the birds' nest caves, often beach and snorkelling time on Bamboo island, luncheon at one of the restaurants or resorts on Phi Phi Don and some town/shopping time.
You can also do these trips by speedboat which give more time on the island.

Phi Phi Ley's Viking Cave. Those are day trip speedboats, mainly from Phuket (although Krabi and a few Lanta boats come across too). I took this shot from the regular 0930 Phuket-Phi Phi ferry which doubles as a day trip ferry (more than half the passengers on this December 2012 voyage had day trip badges on) - in the past this has dropped other passengers off at the Phi Phi Don pier before leaving for Phi Phi Ley and other day trip locations. But this time it did a circumnavigation of Ley first - stopping someway offshore at Maya Bay (there were so many boats it couldn't get much closer and the beachcrowd looked like Bondi or Cococabana on a fine day) and then slowly cruising past these other Ley attractions. Personally, if I signed up for a day trip I would want to spend time on The Beach at Maya and maybe do some snorkelling at Ley (although there are plenty of other good spots off Phi Phi Don for this) - it may pay to check the details of any Phi Phi day trip you are contemplating. Probably this combined passenger-day trip run I was on would be one of the cheaper day trips - more money may get you on The Beach.

Other daytrips include:
- the popular Coral Island just off the south-east coast of Phi Phi (nice beach, fairly good snorkelling, gets crowded but there is a pristine uncrowded beach a few minutes by track from the main one).
- a similar but longer distance one to Ko Racha/Raya about 25km further to the south.
- golfing, national park at Khao Lak
- national park at Khao Sok (this is getting to be a bit of a stretch distance wise - I reckon from the beaches you may be looking at 3 hours each way by coach).
- snorkelling and beach time at the marine national park at the Similan Islands (this is also a fair stretch time wise, although I was surprised at the large number of people coming up from Phuket when I stayed on the Similans in May 2012).

Russian daytrippers do the big glamour shoot on Main Beach, Similans Island #4. 80% of daytrippers seemed to be Russian in April 2012 and all the girls must have modeled for Russian Playboy at one time (judging by their raunch poses).

Note I now have pages on both Raya Island and Coral Island plus the Similans and Khao Sok. Check the links towards the end of this page.
I also decided to do a Similans Island day trip out of Phuket in late 2014.

daytrips continued
- lots of fishing and diving boat trips.
- cultural and nature attractions on the island and nearby mainland.

One off the radar daytrip is to jump on a songthaew outside the day market for Ban Rong, get the ferry across to attractive Ko Yao Noi, hire a motorcycle or tuk-tuk off one of the guys at the pier and do a tour of the island. Perfect if you want to see a rural, unspoiled Thai island. A Malaysian guy and his wife were doing this when I went across to stay on the island in March. See my Yao Noi page for more details.

Phuket Island Hopper - http://www.phuket-islandhopper.com/ does a daytrip that takes in a beach fringed small coral cay called Bamboo Island and then time on Ko Yao Yai.

Phuket has dozens if not hundreds of day-trip providers. I'm not too sure about this one: the name looks a bit dodgy.

Phuket is one of the 3 big dive locations in Thailand. There are over a hundred dive shops - crikey! Local dive sites include reefs, wrecks and walls at Racha Yai, Racha Noi, the King Cruiser Wreck, Anemone Reef and Shark Point. There are plenty of more distant daytrips to places like Phi Phi and the Similans, plus overnighters and liveaboards to the same areas, the Surins and even into Burma. One well regarded outfit that does most of these locations is Sunrise Divers - http://www.sunrise-divers.com/

Phuket airport is towards the northern (mainland) end of the island, some 32 km from Phuket town and 40+ from the big 3 beach areas of Patong, Karon and Kata.
There are a number of ways to get to your destination.

The Airport Bus - a 3/4 size coach, runs between 0630 and 2000, every 75 to 90 minutes for 100 baht down to Phuket town bus station #1 (the old bus station right in town, not the new#2  on the outskirts), taking an hour+ or - depending on traffic (Phuket traffic is horrendous 16+ hours a day). A timetable, latest prices and interim stops can be seen here http://www.airportbusphuket.com/.

 My experience FEB08 - I caught the 1730 airport bus out of Phuket town last week. It picked up heaps of schoolkids and other Thais along the way and stopped at just about every stop to the airport - as a result it took a bit over 90 minutes. Don't rely on the claimed hour if you are on a tight flight schedule.
My  experience April 2009 - Interestingly, I caught the same time bus  - it didn't have any kids but a fair few Thai adults, and took abt 70m. Maybe the school system has changed its hours, although originally it did seem awfully late.
You can find it at the airport by exiting ARRIVALS turning left, and looking for the signs. If it is not there it hasn't arrived yet or you are too late and have missed the last one.
Note for budget travellers heading to the beaches: the shuttle minibuses are better - the Airport Bus finishes at Phuket town's old bus station from which it is too long for an easy walk to where the beach songthaews leave alongside the fresh produce market although I noticed some beach songthaews calling in at the old bus station on my latest April 2012 trip) The songthaews are crowded and take a long time to reach the beaches. They don't tend to run much after dark.

The Airport Shuttle Minibus Service is very popular because it will drop you at your accommodation. Tickets can be bought at the limo counter just inside the exit door at Arrivals (on later trips I've found it's easier to get tickets at the desk outside - turn right out of ARRIVALS. But the guys will find you if the desk has moved).

The minibuses first stop at a small travel agency where they sell passengers accommodation or daytrips. If you have already arranged things, no problems. After about 10-15 minutes they load you into various vans and away you go to do the rounds of accommodation places in your area of destination.
My experience June 2010 - limo counter said no minibuses because they wanted to sell me a limo ride instead.  I went outside, minibuses there and small table selling tickets about 30m to the right towards taxi counter. Unusually, I had to wait 15 minutes for enough passengers - low low season + impact of financial and political crises - but spent less than 5 minutes at travel agency outside Phuket town.
In April 2012 I found NO minibuses running to Phuket town ("minibus to beaches only"). I take it too few passengers were wanting to go to Phuket town in what was almost low season. This was at 2100 - maybe they run low season at busier times although my experience is that a fair few planes come in not long after my JetStar from Australila.
In March 2017 I had the same experience - no shuttles to PHUKET town. Now this is HIGH SEASON - I'm not sure if this was because of the late hour (there are still plenty of aircraft arriving around 2300-2400) or is a 24 hour thing.

Meter Taxis can be found outside the Arrivals exit, turn right, walk 150m. - the stand will give you an estimate on current prices. Time taken to the big 3 beaches is 45 to 55 minutes depending on which beach, and can vary with traffic. The nearest beach with accommodation and a nice environment is Nai Yang - a little over 5 minutes. Phuket town is say 35 minutes.
Note when I arrived at 2100 in August there were no cabs and the guy at the counter said he would radio - maybe a 40 minute wait. I don’t think there is this delay at busier times.
UPDATE AUGUST 09 - I used a cab on my just finished visit. Arrived about 1700, was dealyed inside until virtually everyone on my flight had left the airport but there were still 4 cabs waiting. Girl at office told me the 100baht airport fee + meter would probably total about 280 to Kamala. Actual cost 240 in light traffic. Make sure your driver turns the meter on - otherwise you will pay the quote.
That 289/240 to Kamala compared to 600 at the limo counter - short trips at the limo counter are expensive.  I don't think you would save such a big percentage over longer trips to the big 3 beaches or the south of the island.
Note there is a bunch of guys lining the walkway between the exit doors and the taxi stand yelling TAXI - I think these are the drivers who hang around outside hotels, have brought people to the airport and are hoping for a return fare somewhere south. I have never dealt with them but if you are fore-armed with a rough idea of current prices (see limo link down page - I'd be pushing for 60-75% of this), no doubt you could cut a deal. UPDATE FEB2014 - not too sure now - pressure from the Phuket taxi cartel has seen all resort and private "taxis" licensed and they seem to be all sticking to the ridiculously high "official" prices as the link below. I've had no luck negotiating a discount in the past two years. And I'm a world class bargainer.
UPDATE FEB 2013 - there is a new official price list for Phuket taxis (and tuk-tuks) Read it and weep.

The Limo Service is not that much dearer than the taxis (UDATE ahem - as said above it can be over short distances and in recent years I've had no luck negotiating discounts over any distance). The "limos" are not Caddys or Mercs - more like-late model Camrys (or in more recent years Corollas and similar now these have plenty of room). 
This link should keep up to date limo prices from the airport -  http://phuketdir.com/palbuco/index.htm
UPDATE - in March 2017 I was firced to use a limo to get to Phuket town (or Phuket CITY as they are now calling it) - 650 baht, what a rip-off. The quote from the taxi counter was much the same.

I reckon the best deal is to stay at a resort with free airport pickup like Naithonburi. Plenty of resorts have paid pickup but usually the price is no cheaper, often more than the airport guys.
Of course 4 people sharing a taxi/limo to Patong will pay little more than the airport minibuses and will arrive a hell of a lot sooner.

I'm not sure how long it's been open, but I used the NEW INTERNATIONAL TERMINAL at the airport latest visit. This is to the west of the old terminal which I think is being retained as the Domestic Terminal. 
I didn't think the new ARRIVALS was all that much better - it's still chaos central outside and the transport mafia is as venal as ever. 
But DEPARTURE was a definite step up. PARKING is also better with a new big undercover area adjoining the new terminal.
There is also a new ENTRANCE on the southern side if coming from NAI YANG (the main entrance/exit is still on the eastern side) which cuts abt 5 minutes off the trip.

If you want a fine hotel close to the airport, the Naithonburi on Naithon Beach does the job. Only 10 minutes from Arrivals, you have a true midrange plus place with lovely pool, big spotless comfortable rooms with all the expected inclusions and a huge buffet brekka included in the price which in low season was a ridiculous 1450 baht including airport pickup and return in August09 - note is is way more expensive in high season. The brekka is geared for early flights, starting at 0630. The nice low key beach is behind the trees in background. The hotel's restaurant prices not too bad with budget options along the main beach road out front. Very quiet at night here (CLICK TO EXPAND IMAGE).

Phuket is undergoing a frenzy of development - particularly in holiday condo style places, including time-share. In August09 the area immediately south of Naithon had half a dozen similar projects to this going. This shot is actually the area just south of Kamala Beach - interestingly only about 10% of these were finished and over 50% had no work being done on them. Looks like the World Financial Crisis bit hard here. And someone may have overestimated the buying capacity of the growing Thai middle class - there could be some good deals to clear these joints in the next few years. I've seen similar developments in the heights behind Kata and Karon, on Phuket's upper east coast, on nearby Ko Yao Noi and of course in places like Lanta and Samui.

Even closer to the airport (5 minutes) is Nai Yang Beach Resort, another nice midrange place which also tends to offer bargain prices in low season. We are talking 3 SMALLER pools here and a pretty nice beach and okay shopping/restaurant strip across the road. One disadvantage over Naithonburi is that the airport shuttle is not free - you are talking 200baht. 

Nai Yang seems to catch wet season winds well because once the westerlies kick in it becomes a hang for kite surfers.

For you high season visitors - Nai Yang Beach Resort (2 pix above) is a bargain low season but not exactly elcheapo high season. So check the joint above, Nai Yang Boutique Resort - high season prices abt one third of Beach Resort, rooms equal, 5 minutes walk to beach vs 3 minutes from my Beach Resort room in April, no pool. Lady Tezza and I stayed here in December 2012.

Feb 2015 - Dang Sea right on the beach at Nai Yang. Comfortable, super clean motel-like units. Beach where camera is, main road in back, "Walking Street" food court just across the road. One downside - no free airport pick-up or drop off.
Thing is Nai Yang has lotsa place like this. Some have free airport shuttles. Let Google do the searching,

Most ferry ticket prices include free or heavily discounted shuttle bus transport to your accommodation if it is at the popular beaches or Phuket town. Otherwise there are cabs and motorcycle taxis waiting.
UPDATE In early Dec 2010 I took the direct Ao Nang/Railay to Phuket ferry - on arrival at Rassada pier I noticed they had an airport van waiting, no extra charge. A great service for such a long distance from the pier.
MORE RECENT UPDATE - In March 2013 I took the indirect speedboat (via Ko Yao Yai and Ko Yao Yai from Krabi's Ao Nang to Phuket's Bang Rong pier. Bang Rong is a bit isolated on the mid east coast of Phuket but inclusive shuttle vans were waiting to take passengers to the beaches and airport. The speedboat is operated by Green Planet - travel desks around Krabi and (for the reverse trip) Phuket will have booking info. tel Krabi +66 075 637603 Phuket-mobile 082 4206998
In recent years the island-hoppers SPD Speedboat and Tigerline fast ferries have been arriving from as far south as Lipe/Langkawi but I don't know which Phuket piers they use.

In June 2012 the new bus station (#2) on the outskirts of Phuket town finally opened. Most long distance bus services are now using this. Apparently there are very informative fixed-price boards up for taxi, motorcycle taxi etc prices into town and other parts of the island. There is also a frequent small "pink" bus which goes to/from the old bus station (#1) only 15baht/20 mins (2017). 

I was browsing the excellent Jamie's Phuket Blog (see link list top right of page) and found this pic of the fixed price transfer board at the new bus station. Jamie got it from phuket.wan tourist newspaper. There was a later article about motorcycle taxi guys charging tourists 150baht for transfer between the stations - I'm not sure what the board says but I reckon 50 tops, more likely 20. 150 or even 50 makes waiting for the 15 baht pink bus seem a good deal.

The old Phuket town bus station is about 3 blocks from town central so it is an inexpensive cab, tuk-tuk (agree on the price first!) or motor cycle taxi (ditto) ride to most places of accommodation in town. The Airport Bus is still running out of this bus station. I noticed when waiting for the latter in May 2012 that the local songthaews for the beaches and quite a few other Phuket island locations now seem to call by the old bus station. Previously you had to go a few blocks west to the fresh food market area which used to be their Phuket town terminus. UPDATE late JUNE - I just read that the old bus station has become the Phuket town terminus for all the local public songthaews instead of the area just outside the fresh food markets. I should imagine the songthaews still call in to the fresh food markets - my Patong bound songthaew there was 90% full with women carting bags of fruit, vegetables, chickens etc from the start of the trip a few years back.

FROM THE AIRPORT TO PHI PHI, KRABI, KHAO LAK, LANTA.I have a fair bit of info in the respective pages of each place.
Some people even head for Samui/Phangan/Tao from Phuket airport. Well, like the others, head out to the main road, or down to the bus station, and look in this case for a Surathani bus. UPDATE - look in the immediately following section for the new minibus service to Ko Lanta.
Note that if heading for Samui, Bangkok Airways flies there directly.

Basically this is the reverse of the above with the following exceptions:
* I don’t know how the airport shuttle minivans or limos work in reverse. maybe you could use the phone number in the link up page.
But I did catch a shuttle van from Kata to the airport in March 2013. This was not inexpensive at 250 baht but way cheaper than a rip off taxi or tuk-tuk at 700. The van picked up at hotels in Karon and Patong on the way making for a lengthy trip - well over an hour. This shuttle service was booked by the travel desk at my hotel.
* Hotels can supply a car to the airport. But there are always guys out front in the street who can be negotiated to do it for less. Busier places have meter taxis but in 2013 there is now an official taxi price list and it aint cheap.
* There is now a Phuket to Lanta minivan service, running about 3 services a day rather than hourly as shown on the website - http://www.lantainfo.com/getting_ko_lanta_drive_phuket.htm
Initially it did not pick up at Phuket airport but things may have changed - in 2013 Andaman transport services had improved greatly. The van drops off at Krabi town bus station.
There are also Krabi - Phuket minivans. I don't know how they work in reverse - perhaps you could contact via the sublink on my Krabi page. UPDATE Dec 2010 - I noticed the Krabi to Phuket minivans are now advertising they will drop people off at Phuket airport on the way thru to the beaches.
* If you are heading for a ferry out of Phuket, there are heaps of small travel agents and counters at the beaches and in Phuket town for tickets, plus your hotel’s travel desk - note price can vary markedly so it pays to shop around. And you will usually pay more at the pier (UPDATE: considerably more - Phi Phi tickets were 600baht in April 2012 - a guy from Patong told me he could have got one for 350 there the day before - in March 2013 I paid 500 including van transfer at Phuket Backpacker).
The price will usually include free pick up and transfer to the pier from the popular beaches and Phuket town.
Ferry time-table
Bus time-table

Busy scene at Phuket's Rassada pier, embarkation point for most Phi Phi, Lanta and Krabi ferries. Rassada is only about 3km from Phuket town central but a good 35km from the airport.

The most obvious time is dry season which normally is mid-late November thru to sometime in mid-April to ealry March (although some Phuket locals say the true wet season does not kick in until August-September). But the fact is, Phuket is an all year resort these days with hardly any accommodation or attractions shutting down - although prices for good rooms can get really low and attractive.
How bad is wet season? I've visited several times - got the usual: lots of sunshine between one or a few showers/storms/cloudy periods. Some days cloudy but no rain - can sunburn like toast on such days - clouds only stop a limited amount of UV. Some days no cloud at all. Prolonged rainfall very rare (I've never lost a full day to rain but it can happen).

August at Kata - not too much cloud in this shot. The opening pix top of this page was also shot in August.

 Something I've experienced several times - on about 20% of days the wet season westerlies can kick in with gusto and frequently will blow for several days. Even when not raining it can be pretty exposed on the west-facing beaches (most of Phuket's beaches face west) with blustery unpleasant conditions and often big dangerous surf with lotsa rips.

I pinched this off Jamie's Phuket weather blog - this was shot during an unusually prolonged windy/rainy spell in June 2012 - didn't keep these Karon visitors off the beach.

Another Jamie shot of Karon - only 3 days later. Plenty of blue sky. Although that surf is pretty big - surf often lasts several days after a big blow.

The taxi-tuk tuk mafia have gone too far. In late 2014 I found the price of a taxi from Surin, halfway up the island, to the airport was 700baht, 200 up from early 2014 and probably x3 what you would pay in Bangkok for the same distance. Prices at other locations were equally absurd. These prices are non-negotiable - the transsport cartel has things tied up tightly.
For this and other reasons I'm over Phuket (actually the Andaman as a whole) - won't be back for a long time except to use Phuket airport as an entry/exit point.


Hey, that is about my knowledge of Phuket. Once again, you can't beat Jamie's Phuket Blog for detail from a local expert.

And this site will allow you to find a heap of businesses around Phuket - hire cars, accommodation, shopping, daytrips, real estate and a lot more.
If you are visiting Phuket perhaps you will be interested in nearby:












If you see mistakes or have extra info, please post it below. If you have questions, please post them in THE FORUM, accessed via the INDEX page. I don't get to check individual island pages all that often.

I like to close a page with a sunset shot - no shortage at Phuket where most beaches face west.


Jamie Monk said...

Well, if you are in the area, hope to see you here and find out who you are! I will be in the office at Karon Beach pretty much every day. Cheers!


Phuket Hotel Resort said...

Nice blog phukett info

Deutero said...

Awesome info for Phuket. So I am headed there this month, and I want to take the direct ferry from Ao Nang. This is the only useful information I found: http://www.phuketferryboats.com/ ... should I use this to prebook or do it a day before I actually take the ferry, though I am arriving in Krabi only a day before I plan to go to Phuket :P

Eagerly waiting your reply :)

Stefen Choo said...

Thank you for these info.
Its very precious resource.
I am going to Phuket for my Honeymoon in Apr 2012. Cape Sienna at Nakalay, Kamala. :)

Tinita said...

Hi Tezza, do you know something about Koh Kai? Have you ever been there?

Sbipk said...

Woww!!! nice trip. If you can’t decide for your next trip…Phuket is the best choice for you!!
I love here Surin Beach Hotel This hotel is very nice clean and the people are friendly. VERY nice hotel with helpful staff.
And I really love white sand, crystal clear waters at Surin Beach too.
Thank again.

Phuket Yacht said...

I love phuket, I love white beaches and crystal clear waters.

I would like to suggest Phuket Yacht.

Tina Ryan said...

Phuket looks really beautiful, You really had a blast out there. Thanks for sharing those pictures. Really love it..


Charles Bird said...

Great Blog - and some great pictures :)

If anyone is looking to see what is also under the water then please have a look at Phuket Diving.

Thailand Divers is a PADI scuba diving centre located in Phuket.

Henry Williams said...

I really love Phuket beaches.

Phuket Thailand Travel

sssphuket said...

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sssphuket said...

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