As a world-leading tropical destination, Phuket has a wide choice of beautiful beaches to enjoy. A reputation for gorgeous sand, warm clear water, and plentiful things to do is well-deserved.
The largest of Thailand’s islands, Phuket has the restaurants and bars, lush jungle, and thriving marine ecosystem to provide many different beachside experiences. Whether you’re here for the spicy street food, the endless sunbathing possibilities, or just to watch the sunset dissolve across an impressionistic tropical sky, there’s something for you.
Here’s a selection of the best Phuket beaches to explore.
Nai Harn Beach
With Phuket’s sand-blessed west coast long being the major draw for tourism, Nai Harn Beach, tucked away like a pearl on a bay near the island’s southernmost point, took a little longer to be truly “discovered”.
Despite its now higher profile, it remains one of the best beaches on Phuket for a balanced ambiance and authentic beauty. A resort hidden among the trees nearby helpfully supplies beach-view bars, but there remains an unspoiled feel to this crescent of powdery soft, peach-hued sand.
Walk the beach, past the scattering of sailboats moored in the sheltered bay, and paddle in the warm shallows. Wander under the shade of the Indian almond and tamarind trees lining the beach for stalls selling sticky sweet pineapples on sticks, colorful sarongs, or the many handmade crafts that Thailand is known for.
You’ll also find a freshwater lagoon just inland called Nai Harn Lake. If you feel particularly energetic, there’s a jogging track around its shores. Run past the small Buddhist temple resting in the woodland and then straight on to cool off in the water.
A ribbon of sand blessed with clean turquoise shallows, Karon Beach—despite the neat rows of development behind it—never feels crowded.
There’s always a sun lounger to rent or an island of sand for your towel, book, and cold drink (even more so at the beach’s northern end). Settle in and be lulled by the view of picturesque tropical islets dotting the calm blue of the Andaman Sea.
Strap your snorkeling gear on and swim amid darting iridescent parrotfish in the shallows and rocks at the southern end of the beach. Also, be alert to little flipper marks in the sand—Karon is also a sea turtle nesting area, so watch your step.
Now you’ve worked up an appetite, enjoy a bowl of fragrant Thai green curry at one of the restaurants or street stalls set up in the shade.
Mai Khao Beach
Mai Khao Beach is Phuket’s longest; several miles of soft yellow sand to relax on, with exotic birdsong coming from the casuarinas behind you, and the lapping of the waves in front.
With often only the jungle creepers in the sand to break the view, it’s amazing to think you’re walking a beach in one of the most popular of the Thai Andaman Islands. Its size contributes to its secret beach feeling, and so does geography. At the northern end of the west coast, it’s the remotest beach from the pulsating neon heart of Phuket town.
It is also within Sirinath National Park, and its pristine condition and lack of people—a fisherman there, a Thai family here—make this one of the best beaches in Phuket for those who like a little space.
Nai Yang Beach
Serene Mai Khao Beach’s curving tail, Nai Yang Beach is the smaller and livelier of the sibling beaches. Part of Sirinath National Park— regarded as one of the best national parks in the world—it’s a popular day-trip for Thais themselves as well as visitors.
While much of Phuket’s west coast offers superb snorkeling, Nai Yang Beach has an ace up its sleeve with its offshore coral reef. A popular dive spot, it has a kaleidoscope of tropical sea dwellers (and even the occasional turtle).
You’ll also find kayaks to rent and pad thais to savor. If you’re looking for an activity a little more out of the ordinary, make your way to where Phuket Airport meets the beach and join the joyous whooping that greets each plane skimming in over the sands to alight on the runway beyond.
Or perhaps you’d prefer to stay on your lounger and have a therapeutic Thai massage instead.
Couples may have met over Phuket Sunset cocktails in the seething bars of Patong but, if they return to the island to tie the knot, they’ll choose Kamala Beach for the photoshoot.
Just north of Patong Beach, Kamala is the quieter, grown-up equivalent. A spacious sweep of white sand backed by shiny palms and sage-colored casuarinas, laid-back Kamala is more Sauvignon Blanc than Chang beer.
Snorkels bob in the glassy waters around the rocks of the north end, where stalls sell sticks of spicy, nutty chicken satay and other crowd-pleasers. Go south to find beachfront restaurants serving tuna steaks and Australian Shiraz on terraces above the soft sand.
While Kamala will no doubt still attract wedding photographers in decades to come, the arrival of some high-end beach bars—including Café del Mar—has also given the hipster scene here a major boost.
Kata Beach is Phuket on high-beam. One of the best beaches in Phuket for local life and amenities, it’s also a mile of easy-on-the-eye tropical Thai coast.
Lined with sun-loungers shaded by blue umbrellas, the beach is laid-back but never quiet. Waiting longtail boats bob offshore, while canary yellow parasailers launch above the heads of those paddling in the shallows. On the blue horizon, rugged limestone islets await kayaking expeditions.
There is excellent diving just offshore, with equipment rental nearby. Thai massages can be enjoyed in the shade on Kata’s south end, while juice bars, cafes, and restaurants dot the entire length of the sands.
Visit the beach in the evening if you can for Kata Road’s superb night market, where you can find some of the best souvenirs in Thailand. It’s just back from the beach, but you could find it by following the sour, sharp, spicy smell of Thai cuisine wafting in the warm evening air.
Ao Sane (Jungle Beach)
An off-the-beaten-path gem, Ao Sane is a string of tiny crescent beaches tucked away on the island’s southwest edge. To reach it, drive the snaking cliff-edge road around the Nai Harn Resort until you reach Ao Sane’s tiny parking area.
If you’re not on two wheels, it can be easier to park at the resort and enjoy the short walk down. That tricky access makes Ao Sane dramatically less busy than the main beaches, with a “deserted island” feel.
The name makes perfect sense, with the deep green of the jungle coming up hard against the scalloped coastline. Crabs scuttle, and a falling coconut thumps on the sand in the distance.
While a long way from any “secret beach” fantasies, Ao Sane does still enjoy a calm that can be hard to find elsewhere on Phuket’s west side other than Mao Khan.
There are views of picturesque Ya Nui Beach and Promthep Cape, one of the best places to visit in Southeast Asia, although your eyes might very well be fixed beneath the waves.
With its sheltered location and semi-rocky profile, Ao Sane is an excellent snorkeling spot. At the easternmost end, a channel appears through the rocks at low tide where you might see elegant octopuses, tiny squid, or bristling, vermillion urchins. You’ll need to bring your own snorkel gear to this remote spot.
Thankfully, you don’t need to remember a picnic as well. On the first, largest beach you’ll find “On the Rocks”—a tidy, good quality Thai restaurant with the waiter relaxing in a hammock awaiting the lunchtime “rush”.
The name “Freedom Beach” makes perfect sense when you leave the well-worn sands of Patong Beach—Phuket’s tourism epicenter—behind. As your longtail boat surges through the translucent water, around a headland, you see this stretch of sugary white sand waiting for the kiss of its hull.
Although not a “hidden beach” by anyone’s definition, Freedom Beach is still a world away from popular Patong. With its tourist brochure good looks, chiseled cliffs, and tousled jungle framing golden sand, no wonder it ranks among the best of Phuket’s beaches,
In fact, it’s one of the best beaches in Southeast Asia, and not just for its beauty. You can join a game of beach volleyball or explore the biodiverse shallows through your goggles.
After a while, though, you’ll sit and notice that one thing is missing: noise. Only the put-put of the longtail ferry-boats, their red and blue Thai flags flapping in the wind, intrudes on Freedom Beach’s peaceful vibe.
Bang Tao Beach
Bang Tao Beach is right in the middle of Phuket’s west coast, sitting on its own wide bay and one of the largest beaches on the island..
Bang Tao is popular but, due to its size, still feels uncrowded. You can find beach bars, ice cream stalls, golf clubs, and high-end spas both on the sands and in the cultivated Bang Tao hinterland.
Remarkably, Bang Tao also has a history a world away from the hazy blue skies and gently lapping seas of a Thai vacation. This area was once part of the tin mining industry that—before tourism—had been the lifeblood of the island’s economy for centuries.
You’ll find Surin Beach set amid the architectural grandeur of Millionaire’s Row—the strip of coast between Kamala and Patong Bays known for its many villas and high-end hotels. This diamond of a beach fits right in.
Surin is one of the best beaches in Phuket for its all-round appeal: sand bright as a tanline, crystalline water, and luxury shopping and restaurant options. A public park has slowed development, keeping away the revving speedboats and jet skis that characterize some of the busier beaches.
Wriggle your toes in the soft sand, smell the pines, and feel the sun warming your shoulders. What more do you need?
Laem Sing Beach
Long one of the best beaches in Phuket (and likely to remain that way), Laem Sing is another beach whose charms are boosted by being slightly tricky to reach.
Access by land was closed for a while, helping to make sure any risk of it becoming truly popular fell away. You can now reach it on foot again but, unless you’re happy in thick underbrush and on precipitous slopes, it’s best to take the boat.
You’ll find a small orange “ferry” at the south end of Surin Beach, with a signpost in English to identify it. As you putter around the headland and see Laem Sing, you’ll forgive yourself for leaving behind the charms of Surin.
Ahead is a gorgeous crescent of beach. The trees stand politely back, although some of the palms dip dreamily towards the beaten copper sand.
Some casual Thai shacks peep through the trees. There’s also the lovely little “Papa Seafood” restaurant on the headland, raised on a wooden terrace.
Amid its vivid pink and blue umbrellas and seats wrapped in romantic white bows, you’ll find a seafood menu rich in flavors. The stir-fried blue crab with pepper, with its gentle heat, tang of oyster sauce, and aroma of crushed peppercorns, is the kind of dish that returns home with you in your soul.
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