Bangtao Beach. About two kilometres north of Surin village, is Bangtao, home to the exclusive Laguna hotel complex. The north part of the beach is quiet and has some fine coral for snorkelling. There you’ll find a lagoon and a small river estuary, which gives on to the beautiful, tranquil Layan Beach – also a national park.
Surin Beach. In the high season, this beach is good for swimming and snorkelling, but during the monsoon the onshore winds throw up some serious waves; great for surfers who know what they’re doing.
Laem Sing Beach. Continuing south, intrepid beachcombers will encounter this delightful, bijou bay. Nestling between stony headlands, Laem Sing features sandy coves and rock pools which bear close inspection. Its unique charm attracts many visitors in the high season.
Patong Beach. Charm is not perhaps the first word that springs to mind when describing Patong, but the miles of perfect turquoise seas and powdery sand right next to all the razzmatazz, manages to absorb hundreds of sun-worshippers, strollers, joggers, volleyballers, etc. without getting crowded. After sunset, the nightlife pulsates until the wee small hours.
Tri-Trang Beach. About three kilometres south of the main Patong Beach you’ll find this tiny bay; well hidden from the normal tourist beach routes. Tri-Trang Beach is great for swimming and snorkeling when the tides are high, and at low tide the seas recede to expose a rocky foreshore. At this time it’s still a delightfully picturesque spot. Next door, so to speak, is petite Paradise Beach – blessed with crystal clear waters and pure white sands. There’s a small restaurant which rents out beach chairs. It rarely gets crowded.
Karon Beach. Further south, and much less frenetic than Patong is Karon Beach which, however, still caters for large numbers of visitors. The same serried ranks of deckchairs and beach umbrellas allows visitors from the frozen north to get the chill out of their bones, and catch up on the latest best-seller.
Kata Beach. This small bay with palm-lined sand and clean, clear seas framed by forested headlands and rocky extremities, is truly delightful. A stretch of road right on the beach side means there has been no unsightly beach developments. The view out to sea is dominated by waterless Koh Poo (Crab Island), apocryphally sold several times to enthusiastic but naive developers. For your soirées there are bars and restaurants inland within walking distance of the beach, where you won’t be rushed off your feet. Life here is conducted at a more leisurely pace.
Kata Noi Beach. Kata Noi Beach is about 700 metres long, and adjoins Kata Beach to the south. Conveniently accessible from the main road, Kata Noi Beach with its clear waters and white soft sand is usually uncrowded. During the rainy season, this can be a dangerous place, so surfers love it. Equipment can be hired. For the rest of us don’t swim, or even paddle, if you see a red flag.
Nai Harn Beach. Delightfully framed by rocky, forest-clad hills this is a truly beautiful bay. On one flank The Royal Phuket Yacht Club Hotel climbs almost to the skyline, and another hotel dominates the foreshore. In addition there are a number of bars and restaurants to welcome beach travellers. On this the most southerly beach the waters lap gently on the firm, tan sands throughout the dry season. During the monsoon rains, in contrast, the crashing breakers are impressive – best admired from the safety of the shore road; definitely not a sight to miss. Just north of Nai Harn is Ya Nui Beach, a sleepy little bay with lots of rocky outcrops and good coral; great for snorkelling. The access is precipitous. Ring the bell, and someone will come and get you.
Nai Yang Beach. Right at the top of the island, just south of Sarasin Bridge is Nai Yang. The beach has been declared a National Park, but the public still have free access. There would be an uproar if this were to change, for this deserted stretch of fine sand fringed with giant casuarinas is where Thai residents come to picnic and ‘get away from it all’. Near the bridge there are some small seafood restaurants. Between November and February, this is where the sea turtles struggle up the beach to lay their eggs.
Rawai Beach. This isn’t really a swimming beach. What you can find there in profusion, right on the beach, are small restaurants and food stalls selling grilled seafood. At the eastern end, is a Sea Gypsy village where there’s a daily market selling fresh fish and prawns, straight from the fishermen’s nets. This is a great place to rent a longtail boat to visit nearby islands. Neighbouring Chalong Beach is similar to Rawai with more tour boats, lots of dive shops and a few excellent seafood restaurants. It features the longest pier on the island.