Phuket 101: A Full Guide to Beaches, Nightlife and More

phuket-panoramaThailand’s biggest island, Phuket is also its most popular vacation destination. Home to some of the world’s best beaches, amazing beach clubs, wild nightlife and amazing food, Phuket has something to offer for every type of traveler.

Our guide to Phuket covers all of the island’s most popular beaches, as well as the best places to stay, things to do and areas to visit.

Phuket Beaches

Phuket’s most popular beaches can be found on the western side of the island. Most of the beaches are connected by a coastal road that stretches from Kamala and Surin all the way down south to Nai Harn and Rawai.

We’ve covered all of Phuket’s top beaches below:

Patong

Patong is Phuket’s busiest and most developed beach. It’s the island’s nightlife capital, with a mix of nightclubs, beer bars and go-go bars. This is where you can find Phuket’s infamous Bangla Road. Expect lots of crowds, plenty of touts and the most “touristy” feel of any beach on Phuket.

The beach at Patong is nice, but not world class. Still, there’s a great range of hotels here, from five star resorts to some of the island’s cheapest accommodation. If you’re planning on meeting someone new here, this is also where you’ll find most of Phuket’s guest friendly accommodation.

All in all, Patong is the best part of Phuket to stay in if you’re visiting for the nightlife and don’t mind a touristy, busy vibe.

Karon

Located just south of Patong, Karon is chilled out, peaceful and aimed primarily at families and couples. The beach is long and less developed than Patong, but still has its fair share of hotels and resorts. The vibe is calm and easygoing, aimed more at families than hardcore partygoers.

All in all, Karon is best for couples and families that want a long, sandy beach with a good mix of restaurants, cafes and other places to eat, but don’t want the loud nightlife or huge crowds of Patong.

Kata

Further south of Karon is Kata, one of Phuket’s most popular beaches. Another good option for couples and families, Kata is more developed than Karon but doesn’t have the same level of mass development as ultra-busy Patong.

Kata Beach is split into two areas. Kata Yai, the bigger of the two beaches, is a great place to swim and a decent surfing spot during low season. Kata Noi, the smaller beach, has a more upmarket feel and is home to several of Phuket’s most luxurious hotels, including the stunning Shore at Katathani resort.

Nai Harn

More popular with locals and expats than tourists, Nai Harn is Phuket’s southernmost beach. The level of development here is lower than on the other beaches and the vibe is much more local, with a variety of seafood restaurants and other dining options right by the water.

While the rough waves here mean Nai Harn isn’t ideal for swimming, it’s a great surf beach and a fun place to enjoy Phuket’s great weather. It’s also a good beach for avoiding the huge crowds on Patong, Karon and Kata if you’re visiting in high season.

Things To Do

Tired of going to the beach? Don’t worry. Phuket has a lot more to do than just spend time in the sun and on the sand. Some of the island’s most popular activities include:

  • Elephant Trekking with KokChang Safari Elephant Trekking, which lets you get up and close with elephants in a safe, humane environment.
  • Cable Wakeboarding and Waterskiing at Phuket Wake Park, Southern Thailand’s biggest cable ski park.
  • Experience a Thai Culture Show at Phuket FantaSea, Phuket’s most popular theme park and show, held in Kamala Beach.
  • Explore Underwater with a snorkeling and island tour by Offspray Leisure, which visits some of the most popular islands and snorkeling locations around Phuket.

Nightlife

Phuket is one of Thailand’s nightlife capitals, with some of the country’s best bars, nightclubs and other nightspots. While it isn’t as huge as Bangkok or as wild as Pattaya, Phuket’s nightlife scene is a major attraction for many visitors to the island.

Almost all of Phuket’s nightlife can be found in Patong, with the majority of bars and clubs around Soi Bangla. This is also where most of the island’s “naughy” nightlife can be found. If you’re planning on partying in Phuket, you’ll want to stay in Patong so that you’re close to the action.

You can also find nightlife in Karon, Kata, Nai Harn and Rawai, although it’s smaller and much quieter than the bustling nightlife of Patong.

My Favorite Phuket Beach: Nai Harn

Phuket is one of Thailand’s biggest tourist destinations. Every year, millions of tourists arrive and usually head straight in one direction: to one of the island’s ultra-popular west coast beaches like Patong, Kata or Karon.

The beaches on Phuket’s western coastline are popular for a reason: they’re really nice (with the exception of Patong, which is just too developed at this point to be a nice place to relax). But while they’re easy to access and extremely popular, they’re far from the best beaches on the island.

Ask the average Phuket expat which beaches are the island’s best and they’ll point you towards one of the amazingly beautiful beaches in the north. Mai Khao Beach, Kamala and other spots north of Patong are admittedly nice, but they’re a little bit boring if you’re aged under 50 and want to enjoy Phuket as both a beautiful and exciting destination.

A good alternative to the west coast beaches is Nai Harn — a smaller beach on the south coast of Phuket famous for its rough waves. Nai Harn is Phuket’s equivalent of a surf beach — which is to say that it’s a surf beach with small to mid-sized waves. It’s also a really beautiful beach that’s mostly undeveloped and only attracts a fraction as many tourists as the ultra-popular Patong and Kata to the north.

Getting to Nai Harn Beach is pretty simple. You can either take a tuk-tuk from almost anywhere on the island (be prepared to pay 500+ baht from Patong) or rent a scooter and make your way there on your own. It’s an exciting ride from Patong, with lots of sweeping bends and beautiful sea views. If you’re an experienced motorcyclist, it can be a lot of fun — if you’re not, if can be a little scary.

A better option, especially if you want a quiet vacation, is to just stay on Nai Harn Beach in the first place. There are plenty of nice resorts and hotels around the beach with high-end suites and cheap rooms alike available. Since Nai Harn is less popular than Patong and Kata, it’s also a much cheaper part of the island to stay in.

So — that’s it! If you’re searching for a nice beach on Phuket and want to avoid the usual suspects (Patong, Karon and Kata) then visiting Nai Harn is a great way to see Phuket as it was 10-20 years ago, before it developed into the massively overvisited tourist destination it is in many ways today.