Although Phuket is worldwide known, it can be difficult for a first-timer to choose where to stay in Phuket. How to find the best beaches? Where are the best bars for a big night out? How do you get around? And importantly, what should you do when you’re there?
Here’s a quick guide to the towns, their beaches and all they have to offer.
Where to stay in Phuket?
The most famous town in Phuket. For both good and bad. Patong is the biggest of the beach towns on the island and it is widely known. You either love or you hate Patong.
The Thai Army’s recent clean up got rid of all the umbrellas and sun beds, making the beach more accessible, but on this particular beach, the immediate shore is still an active spot. Expect a host of different water activities and boats. It’s crowded and despite the recent crackdown, you can expect the occasional ice-cream vendor walking up and down the beach. Along the beach runs one of the main streets with loads of restaurants, shops and hotels. Patong is not the place to find accommodation ON the beach and it doesn’t have that special laidback island vibe in general.
Is definitely there and not to miss! At day, plenty of people in town and on the beach. This is a town with markets every day and night (both local markets and tourist markets), a big and handy theme shopping mall (Jungceylon), lots of restaurants and a nightlife to kill for! Bangla Road is famous for its nightlife and the party goes on every night till the early morning. You will meet fellow travellers, find sports bars and dance in live music bars (promise us to swing by Monsoon!). Yes, Patong has it all, including ladyboys and go-go bars. But aside from the go-go bars, you can also find more decent bars and clubs to experience some of the best parties in Thailand.
Where to stay?
Patong is busy, yes, but it is fine for a night or two. If you want to stay at Patong Beach, do yourself a favour and treat yourself to a stay at Burasari Phuket – it’s full of atmosphere, has two swimming pools (including direct room access) and boat transfer to Paradise Beach.
If you want to stay close to a picturesque beach with a short stroll to the blue water then Patong is not the place to stay. Contrary, If you are after a lively town with everything and anything at hand plus a nightlife to kill for, then Patong is the place for you.
Karon is the second biggest beach town on the island, just south of Patong. The beach is popular amongst Scandinavians, Chinese and Russians.
The beach here is fine with white golden sand, clear waters and palms swaying gently in the wind. The only downside of this beach is that the waters can be a bit rough and the waves can get a bit high just as you will find plenty of umbrellas and sunbeds (note: these should have been removed after the Army cleared the beaches). A grassy area separates the beach from the road. Karon does not provide accommodations on the beach.
You will find both markets and nightlife in Karon. Even though the markets are not as big as in Patong and the nightlife might not be as crazy, you can easily enjoy yourself in the area. Most of the hotels here are built in the 80’s and are not much updated since they are still decent and reasonably priced.
Where to stay?
Karon has plenty of places to stay, but a homely and cosy option at a very decent price is Casa Brazil. It’s down a small side street in convenient walking distance to the beach. It’s full of Thai friendliness and lots of character. It is rare that one finds such character and personality in the midst of Phuket, not to say Karon beach.
BOOK Casa Brazil now!
If you are looking for a less lively place than Patong, and want a decent tourist class hotel at a good price, this might be the place for you.
Located just below Karon Beach and shares many of the same qualities. Many families settle here and the beach town draws many Scandinavians and Russians.
The beaches in Kata (Kata Yai and Kata Noi) are beautiful and the water is nice and quiet. No big waves, just lovely clear water. Note that this changes a bit from May-Oct, where the waves get higher good for beginners surfing. Kata Noi is framed by Kata Thani Hotel and is absolutely beautiful. Still with sun beds and umbrellas, though all belong to the hotel. Kata Thani is the only accommodation located ON the beach in all of Kata, Karon and Patong. Kata Yai is equally beautiful but busier and the road runs parallel to the beach. I.e. no hotels on the beach and expect sun beds and umbrellas, but not excessively. It is possible to buy things on the beach such as coconuts and fruit.
This town and the beach are mainly visited by Scandinavians and Russians. This is the place you’ll find Scandinavian restaurants if you are craving your Danish meatballs or Russian borsch if that is your need. Kata also offers some shopping and markets, but not nearly as much as the two above towns.
Where to stay?
More family friendly and good for kids. Also, it draws a decent number of surfers (good for beginners surfing)
Stunning beach, beautiful sea and a quiet town. I must confess that Kamala is my favourite town and beach in Phuket. It’s absolutely amazing.
The beach is not too wide but good with golden sand and nice water. There are almost no boats or activities in the water, much less than some of the other beaches. The beach is relatively child-friendly. Sun beds and umbrellas line the beach with bamboo style restaurants on the beachfront. A small walking street runs along the beach. The beach is just around the corner from nearly every hotel.
The town is fairly small and nothing happens much – except for Friday nights when they have their night market. You can find a few bars when walking down the streets and there are several different restaurants to serve your needs.
Even though Phuket is a touristy place, this is the less crowded part of the island. Stay here for a more laid back vibe and local flavour. One of our personal favourites.
Similar as Kamala, Bangtao Beach is much less crowded, quieter than the beaches further down South, yet more beautiful.
Possibly one of the less crowded beaches though it still has a fair amount of sun beds and umbrellas. The beach is relatively long, wide and combined with a relaxed quiet vibe. The sand is soft and white, the water crystal clear. There are many boats but spread along a long coastline.
Find beachfront restaurants and accommodation located on the beach. Along the road behind the resorts, you will find small village life, a couple of places to eat, several stores, yet no night life.
Where to stay?
For a more personal and laid back experience than Phuket normally offers, go for Andaman Bangtao Bay Resort. At the edge of wide and beautiful yet less crowded Bangtao Beach, you will find this neat little gem. Not fancy, but just what you need. And then we haven’t even mentioned the beachfront restaurant where you can munch on delicious seafood partly prepared over an open fire. Just dig right in!
All in all very kid friendly and good for couples who want to get away from the crowds. This is one of our preferred beaches.
Mai Khao Beach
Being part of the Sirinat National Park, Mai Khao is one of the less known and very undeveloped beaches on Phuket island. It is situated in the Northwestern corner of Phuket, just North of the airport and close to the Sarasin Bridge connecting Phuket to mainland Thailand.
The beach stretches 11 kilometres and thanks to the national park status it is practically deserted. It is beautiful and quite perfect for long walks and colourful sunsets. The sand of Mai Khao is perhaps the coarsest on Phuket and a short distance out into the water, there is a sharp drop-off into the sea. Swimming can be dangerous from May to November and the beach/water is not child-friendly. You will find hotels/camps directly facing the beach and you won’t see any boats in the water.
Don’t come to Mai Khao and expect a beach party! Instead, appreciate the serenity of nature, the wild green areas and the bright red sunsets. There’s a handful of hotels with hotel bars and restaurants just as there’s a small local gathering point with a few local seafood restaurants. The proper hotels are beautiful and discreet, but they come with a price tag. For those travelling on a shoestring, there are a couple of campgrounds.
If want to escape the crowds on a deserted beach away from hectic Phuket, this is it. It’s not the best place to go with kids, but perfect for couples or single travellers looking for a quiet beach with a laid-back atmosphere.
Not a beach town, but charming in its own way with a fine local touch and flavour.
Is a drive away. There is no beach in town.
The town itself is nice and quiet with adorable small houses. A combination between local Thai and colonial architecture. More and more cafe’s and restaurants are popping up and you can easily spend a day or two wandering the streets. As the town is away from the beach, not many tourists stay here, which gives the town a special charm.
Stay here if you don’t mind staying away from the beach and if you enjoy more local areas. Phuket town is perfect as a gateway to the islands as well.
Phuket – The island
No matter where you choose to stay it is fairly easy to get from town to town. Taxis are accessible or you can rent a motorbike to drive around the island. So if you want to stay at the beautiful beach in Kamala, but also like to go out at night, you can easily get to Patong. Or if you prefer to stay in the lively Patong with all the markets, but also like to enjoy the more beautiful beaches during the day, no problem, you can simply take a taxi.
As a final note – Keep in mind that Phuket is hit by mass tourism and is not the place to go if you want a slice of Thailand Beyond the Beaten Track. However, it is fine as a gateway to Southern Thailand.
Next: Find out what to do in Phuket.
What to do when you are in Phuket?
Besides beaches, markets and nightlife, Phuket is the perfect gateway for explorations in Southern Thailand:
Spend time with happy elephants in Khao Sok’s ancient rainforest
Get up and close to the majestic elephant as you spend a lovely afternoon with this gentle animal and its mahout (caretaker). From Phuket, drive to Khao Sok National Park – one of the oldest rainforests in the world. Stay overnight at a community lodge, wake up to the sound of the gibbon monkeys calling from the treetops, spend time with the old elephant K Sombook, sail deep into the Cheow Lan Lake and bamboo raft down the Sok River.
Dive or snorkel the Similan Islands
Just North of Phuket is Thailand’s finest diving and snorkelling place, the Similan Islands. Located in the Andaman sea quite far from the coast, the water is crystal clear, reefs are colourful, and both snorkelling and diving here are outstanding with high visibility and more than 800 fish species: Baby sharks and their parents, slow turtles, scary sea snakes, huge moray eels, beautiful angel fish, infamous clown fish, strange nudibranchs, colourful corals and the occasional whale shark and manta ray.
Go island hopping
Phuket is probably the best gateway for island hopping. Head South to the lively and happening Koh Phi Phi island, famous from the movie “The Beach”. Or go to the more family friendly and quiet island of Koh Lanta. We recommend staying at Bamboo Bay Beach – the most Southern Beach where the amazing La Laanta Hideaway finds it home. You could also opt for the more up-and-coming islands, Koh Mook or Koh Jum. All islands are perfectly suitable for island hopping.
Are you not sure which island to choose? Or how to get around? > CONTACT US, and we will inspire you and point you in the right direction.
*Update February 2017: Thailand is currently ruled by a new regime, and one of the very first things they started doing on Phuket, is clean up its beaches. Since beach chairs and umbrellas were being exploited by local gangs, these were mostly removed from the entire island. Similarly, a lot of business encroached on public beaches with extended bars, dance floors and chill-out zones. These were all demolished and the beaches were restored to their natural beauty.