From laid-back Layan Beach to Karon Beach and Patong Beach, Thailand’s largest island is known for its stunning beaches. And boy, does it deliver!
Get ready to be floored by the pristine shores of Phuket, which lies off Thailand’s western coast. From popular party beaches to crystal-clear bays teeming with tropical fish — we present the four best beaches (and worst-kept secrets) that Thailand’s largest island has to offer.
Beach paradise by day, party central by night, Patong Beach is a must-visit for those in search of sun, sand, surf and fun.
Take a dip in its calm, azure-green waters, or join the hive of activity above — from jet-skiing to parasailing for thrill seekers. If you prefer to take things slow, roll out your beach towel and soak up the sun on one of the many sunbeds and deckchairs that you can rent for less than US$7 each.
Once you have worked up an appetite, make for one of the many beachside cafés or sample local snacks peddled by food vendors along the coastline. Nature lovers may want to check out the Flying Hanuman ziplining experience, which will see you zipping from tree to tree in the lush jungle surrounding Patong Bay.
Cap off your day with a delicious dinner at one of the many restaurants lining the beach, including Pan Yaah Restaurant, which serves up traditional Thai dishes, seafood and stunning sunset views of Patong Bay, and Sizzle Restaurant, a rooftop steakhouse at the award-winning Avista Hideaway Phuket Patong, MGallery by Sofitel. Later, hit up an extensive list of bars and clubs near Patong for a complete experience of this bustling beach town.
Sitting on the west coast of Phuket near Bangtao Bay, Layan Beach is a tranquil paradise that offers an escape from the buzz of the island. Wash away your worries in the calm waters, lounge in the shade of surrounding pine trees or rent a kayak and explore the crystalline lagoon accessible from the back of the beach.
It may be far from the crowds, but Layan Beach also plays host to a number of fairly priced restaurants and one of Phuket’s best clubs, Dream Beach Club, which is owned by the world-renowned Dream brand from New York City. Join an exclusive group of partygoers and jive along to easy-listening R&B or jazz music played by a resident DJ at the club. The venue also features two swimming pools, with a swim-up bar in one of the pools.
Is there any better way to while your time away while on holiday?
One of the longest beaches in Phuket, Karon Beach is a middle-ground between the bustling Patong and laid-back Layan. Here you can enjoy the amenities of a large beach town without the crowds.
Karon is divided into three main areas: Karon Centre is a lively entertainment district that offers a range of dining, shopping and nightlife options; Karon Beach Road is a scenic stretch ideal for long strolls and beachside market shopping; and Luang Poh Chuan Road is packed with restaurants and bars, great for a night out on the town.
Just a three-minute ride from Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort and Spa, be sure to visit the Karon Temple Market, located on the grounds of the magnificent Karon Temple. Open every Tuesday and Saturday from 4pm to 10pm, the market offers a glimpse of local Thai culture, with friendly stall-owners selling a variety of items from traditional apparel and accessories to flower-shaped soap bars.
This market is also the place to be for a true taste of Thai street food, with an array of stalls selling grilled skewers, pad Thai (a traditional stir-fried rice noodle dish) and, of course, fresh mango with sticky rice.
Nai Harn Beach
Sandwiched between grassy hills and jungle-covered mountains, Nai Harn Beach boasts crystal-clear waters that are great for leisurely swims and a trove of water sports and activities.
Experienced and amateur surfers may want to check out the southern end of the beach, which features a permanent sandbank that makes for thrilling rides on the waves. Be sure to watch out for waves on the northern end as they can be a little choppy, with waves reaching as high as three metres.
Blessed with excellent visibility, the waters at Nai Harn Beach are also a big favourite among snorkellers and scuba divers. You can easily rent the necessary equipment from nearby diving shops, before swimming with tropical marine life.
Scenic surrounds and calm waters make this beach a must-visit from November to May, but be careful of heading into the water from June to October. Strong currents and rip tides can make conditions on Nai Harn treacherous.
Pan Wa (also known as Khao Kat) beach is another spot to consider if the crowded west coast beaches are losing their charm. Beautiful resorts and luxury villas dot the surrounding coastline, and there's also a promenade that's home to a few restaurants and the all-essential Beach Bar.
Overall, the atmosphere is relaxed. Without the right conditions for swimming, there’s way less crowding than you’d expect – and the opportunity to witness some stunning 360 degree views at the nearby Panwa Viewpoint.