Though few undiscovered places remain in Phuket, there are plenty of smaller, more remote beaches offering barefoot travellers some peaceful and picturesque escapes. Here are some of our favourites.
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 and a great family escape. The tiny bay is shallow and safe for swimming. There are some annoyances here (namely speed boats motoring to shore a bit too close to swimmers and uncollected trash in places), but on balance an afternoon spent at Laemka is sure to soothe the senses.
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 high season with rows of rental chairs full of sunbathers (although these may soon be gone...). 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.
When viewing Ya Nui from the wind turbine lookout point, it looks as perfect as a well-cut emerald gem.
Hua Beach, some two kilometres up the "Millionaires’ Mile" in Kamala, might well have been the last truly secret beach on Phuket. But since a small handmade sign was posted at its entrance, 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.
Laem Singh Beach is one of Phuket’s most beautiful beaches and hides on the west coast between Kamala and Surin beaches. ‘Laem’ is Thai for ‘cape’ and this 150-metre beach is indeed situated under a steep promontory, nestled in a hidden bay surrounded by palm trees and dotted with giant boulders, it has a feeling of secret beach. The northern part of the beach is good for body boarding and swimming and snorkelling is excellent in the southern part within the rocky area.Whether there will be any facilities (restaurant, beach chairs etc) depends on whether the local ‘business people’ have managed to return. Latest information is that the hut restaurant was demolished by the authorities.During high season, parking is scarce will cost you 20 baht for a motorcycle and 40 baht for a car. And be aware that, although the ‘climb’ down is not to hard, you do have to get back up again!
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 The Nai Harn hotel, 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. 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.
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 dinghy sailing lesson, a fantastic way to introduce the young ones to the sport of sailing.
NOTE: In recent months the Thai government has been going through a process of re-beautifying the island's beaches. This has been a somewhat haphazard procedure, the main objective being to get rid of beach vendors, toes-in-the-sand restaurants, sunbeds and umbrellas. You may find all or some of the above at one or more of the beaches described here. Or you may not... Best to go self-sufficient!