If you're thinking of making Phuket your next holiday destination, it's important to pick the right part of it for your stay. There are dozens of beaches around the island, but each main resort area has a different character. If you choose the right one to match your needs and preferences, you should have a fantastic holiday. Pick the wrong place and it could make for a less-than-ideal stay.

    To help you make sense of the dizzying amount of choice available, we have this simple introductory guide to each of the main destinations. Taking a look below at the pros and cons of each, the sort of traveller they are best suited to, the facilities available and the atmosphere you're likely to find and it'll help you to decide where you should stay in Phuket.

    1

    Nai Harn Beach

    How to decide...

    Quiet and tranquil, Nai Harn Beach is among the most popular places for locals. This is mostly because, being in a narrow, hill-lined cove, there isn’t much space for too many hotels. The geography creates an excellent harbour and offers visitors a cool choice of tiny beaches and coves such as Ya Nui and Ao Sane, making Nai Harn especially popular with sailors as well as snorkelers and divers.

    The area has a steady pace, with some great local restaurants but very few shops or other attractions apart from the splendid panoramas offered at Promthep Cape and Windmill Viewpoint. Nai Harn Beach is, therefore, the best place for enjoying a relaxing stay in natural surroundings without being totally isolated.

    Who's it for:

    • Beach and nature lovers
    • Snorkellers

    What's good:

    • 3 beautiful beaches and 1 lagoon
    • Amazing viewpoints
    • Great snorkelling and diving from December to April
    • Good surfing and kite surfing from May to November
    • Peaceful environment

    What's not so good:

    • Very little shopping and nightlife entertainment
    • Limited fine-dining options
    • A long drive from the airport
    Read more
    • Photo
    • Adventure
    2

    Bangtao Beach

    How to decide...

    Bangtao is the second-longest beach of Phuket. It really is a place of contrast: the southern part of the beach hosts budget and mid-range hotels surrounding a small fishing village while its central area is occupied by the Laguna Complex - a group of luxury resorts settled between lagoons. The northern area – which ends at Layan Beach – is still rather undeveloped, apart from a few 5-star properties set on the verdant hills.

    Bangtao Beach is a rather quiet destination, yet it hosts a few beach clubs offering night-time animation and some excellent restaurants, most of them located on or near Tinlay Plaza at the entrance of the Laguna Complex.

    Who's it for:

    • Wealthy travellers
    • People looking for a relaxing escape
    • Families
    • People who like everything in one place

    What's good:

    • The beautiful long beach
    • Excellent choice of first-class restaurants
    • Good boutique shopping opportunities
    • Some of the world's best beach clubs
    • A good place to learn to surf (between May and November)

    What's not so good:

    • Long distances between interesting bits
    • Few sight-seeing attractions
    • Fairly quiet after dark
    Read more
    • Families
    • Shoppers
    • Food
    • Nightlife
    3

    Surin Beach

    How to decide...

    Blessed with remarkable natural beauty, Surin Beach is a highly exclusive area. It's popular with visiting celebrities for this very reason and many of the large houses in the area are the private property of multimillionaires. It's not so exclusive as to be completely exclusionary, however, and it offers a peaceful yet cosmopolitan stay, with the small town being home to a range of high-end shops and boutiques. Surin Beach is somewhat limited in attractions, making it better suited to those who want to escape and relax in relative privacy.

    Who's it for:

    • Wealthy travellers
    • People looking for a more exclusive destination
    • Celebrity spotters
    • People seeking total relaxation

    What's good:

    • Great sundowner spot
    • Trendy shopping
    • Good surf spot from May to November
    • Good snorkelling in high season at the northern end of the beach

    What's not so good:

    • Very few attractions or things to see and do, except for the beach
    • Quiet at night
    Read more
    • Couples
    • Shoppers
    • Luxury
    4

    Kamala Beach

    How to decide...

    The long, curved expanse of Kamala Beach and the little town behind it are just a short distance from Patong but is practically the polar opposite. Far from being a hive of activity and nightlife, Kamala is popular with retirees due to its quiet atmosphere, relaxed pace and abundance of spas, villas and quality hotels. It has a very subdued nightlife, which mostly caters to those seeking a pleasant time instead of high-energy partying. That is gradually changing as high-quality beach clubs spring up on the northern end of the beach, however.

    The area best caters to those who are in no rush, want to take it easy, and are quite happy for lazing on the quiet beach being the day’s most strenuous activity.

    Who's it for:

    • Families
    • People looking for a village community feel
    • Budget-conscious travellers

    What's good:

    • One of the few places in Phuket with restaurants right on the beach
    • Good range of quality affordable hotels
    • Some top-quality restaurants nearby
    • Real local feel, away from the beach
    • Some excellent surfing available from May to November

    What's not so good:

    • Very few shopping opportunities
    • Pretty quiet at night
    • Few sight-seeing attractions
    Read more
    • Families
    • Food
    • Budget
    5

    Karon Beach

    How to decide...

    The inviting sands of the third-longest beach on the island have attracted a number of large, sprawling resorts with designs that blend well with the surrounding nature. This gives a lot of Karon quite a relaxed air. However, the more urbanised northern part of the town also offers many of the attractions of the nearby Patong Beach – to the extent that Karon is sometimes called ‘Patong’s little sister’. This makes Karon a great place for people who want to have a nightlife, shopping and various attractions, but don’t necessarily want it right on their doorstep.

    Who's it for:

    • Beach lovers
    • People who like market shopping
    • People who like a little bit of nightlife
    • People who want a compromise between 'too busy' and 'too quiet

    What's good:

    • Quiet and relaxing atmosphere
    • Large, clean beach
    • Good choice of budget restaurants
    • Lots of spacious resorts near the beach
    • Plenty of cheap souvenir markets

    What's not so good:

    • Not many quality restaurants (other than hotels)
    • Few sight-seeing attractions
    • Long distances between areas of interest
    Read more
    • Families
    • Shoppers
    • Nightlife
    6

    Patong Beach

    How to decide...

    This west-coast resort town is best known for just one street – Bangla Road – which is the densest concentration of bars and clubs anywhere in Phuket and is the island’s primary nightlife destination. This is surrounded by a large number of hotels, ranging from budget guesthouses to small resorts. The picturesque coast road heading north towards Kamala takes advantage of the great sunset views by offering a more luxurious experience, but at the cost of being further from the party. There are also a number of excellent restaurants, countless shops, several cultural attractions and various activities to enjoy in the area.

    Who's it for:

    • Budget-conscious holidaymakers
    • People who love to party
    • People who like a busy and lively beach
    • People who want to be centrally-located and want everything in one place

    What's good:

    • Phuket's most exciting nightlife
    • Great shopping opportunities
    • Lots of interesting things to see and do
    • Massive choice of restaurants
    • Beautiful nearby beaches

    What's not so good:

    • Always busy
    • Nightlife can be a little extreme and overwhelming
    • Not many traditional Thai touches
    Read more
    • Shoppers
    • Food
    • Nightlife
    7

    Phuket Town

    How to decide...

    The provincial capital and largest urban area of the island, Phuket Town’s narrow streets are filled with great restaurants, boutique shops and unique attractions. This is the ideal location for people who want every day of their holiday to be different; filled with new discoveries and new experiences.

    The town has absorbed many aspects of the varying cultures that have called it home over the centuries, making it also a place of beautiful historical designs and features. Being the hub of local life, Phuket Town is probably the best place to get the “real Thailand” experience on the island and there are regular local markets to explore.

    Who's it for:

    • Backpackers
    • People interested in history and culture
    • Local food lovers
    • People who like market shopping

    What's good:

    • Beautiful historical Old Town
    • Real local atmosphere
    • Great affordable dining
    • Several local markets, especially at the weekends
    • Charming affordable hotels

    What's not so good:

    • A long way from Phuket's best beaches
    • Traffic is intense at rush hour
    • Quiet on weekday nights
    Read more
    • Shoppers
    • History
    • Photo
    • Food
    • Budget
    8

    Rawai Beach

    How to decide...

    Rawai Beach is at the south-eastern tip of Phuket Island. Historically the very first tourist beach of Phuket, it somehow retained its local touch with the sea gypsy village and the many long-tail boats belonging to local fishermen anchored along its 2.5-km length. The departure port for island-hopping to Coral and Racha islands, the atmosphere of Rawai is really tranquil compared to that of Patong.

    With only a few shops and nightlife options, the resort town nevertheless hosts a few great beachside restaurants. Its proximity with Nai Harn and Chalong also gives visitors good opportunities to discover some of Phuket’s most notable attractions like Promthep Cape and Phuket Big Buddha. The accommodation scene of Rawai features a wide range of hotels and resorts from budget to 5-star.

    Who's it for:

    • People looking for the 'local' experience
    • People who want to get away from overcrowded tourist areas

    What's good:

    • Very popular Sea Gypsies Fish Market
    • Great local seaside restaurants
    • Laem Ka Beach and Promthep Cape are nearby
    • Easy island-hopping opportunities

    What's not so good:

    • Very few shops
    • Very quiet at night
    Read more
    • Families
    • Photo
    • Food
    9

    Mai Khao Beach

    How to decide...

    Mai Khao Beach, at 11 km, is the longest beach in Phuket. This long, deserted beach offers a panorama similar to that of the 350 km coastal area between Phuket Island and Ranong at the border with Myanmar: a long stretch of sand fringed with pine, tropical almonds, and palm trees as well as splendid tropical seaside plants.

    Mai Khao seems far from everything and, apart from a few luxury resorts and the refreshing Splash Jungle Water Park, most of the beach belongs to Sirinath National Park as it's the only place in Phuket where the giant ridley sea turtles lay their eggs each year between November and February. If you're looking for a ‘far-from-it-all’ type of holiday, Mai Khao Beach is definitely the place you are looking for.

    Who's it for:

    • Honeymooners
    • Luxury travellers
    • People who want to get away from it all

    What's good:

    • Phuket’s biggest beach
    • Beautiful areas of National Park
    • Convenient for the airport
    • Peaceful and quiet
    • Convenient for Phang Nga Bay

    What's not so good:

    • Long distances between interesting bits
    • Very few shopping or nightlife options
    • Not many things to see and do
    Read more
    • Couples
    • Photo
    • Luxury

    The range of attractions around Kata Beach makes it a pretty good all-rounder as a holiday destination. Its beach is long and lively and is a particular favourite with surfers (from May to November) and student divers (there’s a cool reef to explore between the beach and Pu Island).

    The nightlife here is fun, but not too raucous. There are several great restaurants to choose from as well as shops, viewpoints and fun activities. It offers fun for all the family, making it a particularly popular destination for young couples travelling with children.

    Who's it for:

    • Young travellers
    • Families
    • People who like a good but not hectic nightlife
    • Surfers and student divers

    What's good:

    • Amazing viewpoints and beaches
    • Great selection of fine-dining and mid-range restaurants
    • Excellent shopping options
    • Lots of sports and activities available
    • One of Phuket’s best surfing beaches (between May and November)

    What's not so good:

    • Long distance from most hotels and restaurants to the beach
    • Few sight-seeing attractions
    Read more
    • Families
    • Shoppers
    • Photo
    • Food
    • Nightlife
    • Adventure
    Ben Reeves | Compulsive Traveller

    Start planning your trip

    Maps