Laemka Beach, Rawai
Small is Beautiful Phuket’s Petite Patches of Sand Less than one kilometre north of Rawai Beach, Laemka has long been a popular haunt for locals looking for a scenic picnic spot, but it’s often overlooked by tourists. Arriving to Laemka’s main beach at the end of Soi Laemka Yai, there’s a rather spooky sense of dereliction. On the beachfront sits a restaurant long since shut down and there are some empty, decaying bungalows up the hillside. The beach itself, however, is a fine patch of sand with a few vendors selling coconuts, drinks, snacks and renting out sun beds. A fine family escape, the tiny bay is shallow and safe for swimming. There are some annoyances that disturb the serenity here, namely tourist boats blithely motoring to shore a bit too close to swimmers and uncollected trash in places, but overall an afternoon spent at Laemka is sure to soothe the senses.
Ao Sane, Nai Harn
Ao Sane rates as the beach with the most bizarre access point in Phuket. Getting here first requires cutting through the covered car park at Phuket Yacht Club resort in Nai Harn, then taking a well-paved but very narrow lane for a kilometre or so. With a scattering of broken coral, Ao Sane’s sand is not quite as fine as nearby Nai Harn’s but the scene is quaint and tranquil and the snorkelling’s good around the rocks just offshore. The beach itself is strewn with large boulders, giving it a more rugged, wild appearance. Sun beds are available for rent, while those wishing to linger a while longer may dine at the Ao Sane restaurant, or even rent a bungalow here or at Baan Krating resort a bit further along, across a rickety bridge.
Ya Nui, Nai Harn
Small is Beautiful Phuket’s Petite Patches of Sand Just across Nai Harn Bay from Ao Sane, between Nai Harn and Rawai beaches along the coastal road, sits the tiny Ya Nui bay. Not exactly a hidden spot, it can get crowded through the sunny season with rows of rental chairs full of sunbathers. Even on its busiest days, however, the beach is a breathtaking sight with its silken sands and dramatic surrounding landscape including a rocky cape jutting out from its centre and a lush green hill topped by a wind turbine rising up steeply from one end. There’s one main restaurant at Ya Nui, which is actually very good for a beach eatery (try the chicken paeneng), and there’s a scattering of vendors offering drinks, snorkel equipment and rental kayaks. When viewing Ya Nui from the wind turbine lookout point, it looks as perfect as a well-cut emerald gem.
Banana Beach, Nai Thon
Banana Beach, also known as Haad Hin Gluai or Banana Rock Beach, has everything a beach lover would ever need: a small bay of soft sand, rocks offshore and water as clear as glass for snorkelling, a smattering of sun beds. Aside from the stretch of sand, there’s a single restaurant serving slightly overpriced seafood dishes, with five plastic tables that sink into the sand. During a recent visit, a scene of tropical island romance unfolded before our eyes: a long-tail boat arrived and a European couple waded to shore, along with their boatman holding a bag of freshly-caught fish. They arranged with the restaurant to fry up the fish for a seafood lunch for two on the beach. It’s the kind of activity that those living in wintery climes dream about for their two weeks of holiday escape. Found just a few kilometres south of Nai Thon Beach, the lost-lagoon feel of Banana Beach makes it a superb afternoon chill-out spot.
Hua Beach, Kamala
Hua Beach, some two kilometres up the Millionaires’ Mile road in Kamala, might well have been the last truly secret beach on Phuket. But since a small handmade sign was posted at its entrance a few months ago, the secret’s out. The 300-metre lane leading to the beach takes you through a lush landscape with thick trees arching over the road, ending at a small car park area next to a basic restaurant. Tall casuarina and palm trees line the beach, reaching out over Hua’s golden sand. Next to the restaurant is a concrete foundation that looks like it’s been long abandoned to the jungle – someone’s dream tropical villa that didn’t quite come to fruition perhaps. Aside from the restaurant, some bundles of fishing nets and a few plastic dinghy boats scattered about, there’s nothing here but sand and sea. If you time it right you might have this beach all to yourself, aside from the resident kittens racing across the sand.
Ao Yon, Cape Panwa
Ao Yon is an ideal spot for early risers to catch the sunrise, found on Cape Panwa on Phuket’s east coast. Like most of the east coast, Ao Yon retains a distinctly local feel and only a small fraction of Phuket’s millions of tourists will ever come here or know about it. Due to the pearl farm activities in the bay, the water is not always so clear, but at high tide it’s possible to take a refreshing dip in the sea. Our favourite Ao Yon dining spot is the Secret Cove, where parents can enjoy a relaxed lunch and drinks while the kids frolic safely in the shallow, protected bay. Families could also walk down the beach and stop by Topper Sail to arrange a Hobie cat dinghy lesson, a fantastic way to introduce the young ones to the sport of sailing.