Visitors and residents of Phuket enjoy some of the best beaches in Southeast Asia, with no shortage of options. From long stretches of calm sand in the north, through the hubbub of Patong to beautiful Nai Harn Beach in the south, there is something for everyone, to suit every taste and need: Phuket has long beaches and coves, bustling beaches and quiet beaches, a beach surrounded by hotels, shops and bars, and a beach with no more than one restaurant.
Phuket’s best beaches are along the island’s west coast, where for thousands of years the waves of the annual monsoon have created beautiful bays with fine golden sand. Along the east coast are less beautiful beaches more suitable for strolling, collecting shells, or relaxing in restaurants and taking in the views.
We have divided the beaches of Phuket into three main areas: the busy west coast, the coastline in the northwest, and the beautiful beaches in the south.
But here, we provide more information about Phuket beaches: Phuket beach access, sun loungers, water sports, some minor hazards on Phuket beaches, and some of the trees you might see.
Phuket beach access
All beaches in Thailand are public. Unfortunately, in some cases the developer buys all the land around the beach and doesn’t allow access across their land to the beach, effectively making the beach exclusive to their own hotel. If you want to visit these beaches then you can try to enter through the hotel, if it allows you to enter.
Often they won’t challenge you, and the worst thing that can happen is that they refuse you entry. If you are very detached from visiting a beach that is not accessible by land, you can access the beach by boat, and there is legally nothing stopping you from doing so.
Most beaches on the coast of Phuket have sun loungers for rent. On crowded beaches such as Patong, Karon and Kata, they occupy the entire length of the beach, sometimes in rows of three or four in high season. On quieter shores they are more dispersed. There are some beaches that do not have sun loungers.
Sun lounger rentals for the day are generally 100 baht per lounger, with a large table and umbrella in between if you rent two. Once you pay for your sunbed, it’s yours for the day unless you go and bring your stuff. The sunbed staff are usually pretty good at keeping an eye on bags etc while their customers are at sea.
They usually come with a foam mattress where you need to put a towel. Since the tsunami, most sun loungers are generally made of plastic. While not as environmentally conscious as an old wooden chair, it is much safer if the worst happens again.
There is usually someone around who wants to sell drinks like water, beer and soft drinks, at reasonable prices. If you are a regular beach goer, you will probably find an area you like and make it your beach spot.
There are various water sports available on the beaches of Phuket. The busier beaches offer banana boats, parasails and jet-skis. These beaches usually have covered sections where swimmers can swim safely. You will pay from 500 to 1000 baht for this activity. Prices tend to be non-negotiable. If you rent a jet-ski, check for damage carefully before you take it out, as unreasonable ‘damage’ demands go unnoticed, followed by some very uncomfortable situations.
Some of the quieter beaches have kayaks for rent so you can go and explore around the headland.
The waters around Phuket are generally very safe, but we suggest a few words of caution:
up and down:
The biggest danger when bathing in the waters around Phuket is getting caught in the tide. Phuket sinks an average of 20 times a year, most of which occurs during the rainy season when big waves and red flags are ignored. If there is a red flag flying on the beach, this indicates potentially dangerous conditions and you should absolutely not swim.
Tides occur when water pushed by waves onto the shore flows together and flows back into the ocean. This can create a very strong pulling force that can pull even the strongest swimmers out to sea.
If you’re caught in a tidal wave, you shouldn’t try to swim against the current; You will only tire yourself out. Remember currents are only channels that cover a small part of the coast. You must swim sideways, horizontally to shore until you are out of the current and then swim back to shore.
At times, you may notice a mild stinging sensation in the water. It’s a quick sting that fades so fast you’re not even sure it happened. There are two causes. There may be a stinger floating in the water that falls from the jellyfish further into the sea and washes up on the shore. Other causes are sea mites; tiny sea creatures that bite when they come into contact with your skin. In both cases, the sting is harmless to most people but some people may experience an allergic reaction.
Most of the beaches of Phuket are surrounded by trees. There are several species but the two most common are palms, the corkscrew ‘palm’ and the casuarinas.
There are several types of palm trees. The most common is the iconic image of many tropical beaches – coconut trees. You’ll see them everywhere in Phuket, with tantalizing coconut bunches clumping under the broad, hairy leaves. Coconut is not easy to come by (in fact trained monkeys often do the hard work) and tastes much better chilled, or with ice. Usually there will be local food vendors selling them for 10 to 20 baht each.
This may seem like impossible advice, but don’t sit under a coconut tree – lots of people have been injured or killed by falling coconuts. In fact, every year around the world, the number of people who die from falling coconuts is much higher than the number who die from shark attacks.
Corkscrew palm trees are a common sight along the Phuket coast. There are magnificent rows of them in many parts of the island. In fact, threaded palms aren’t technically palms at all, despite their shape. Its official name is pandan.
The leaves arrange themselves in a spiral, like a screw, leaving a corkscrew effect on the stems as they fall. The roots are a bit strange. Instead of starting underground like most plants, pandan shoots ‘support the roots’ a foot or two up the stem, above the ground at an angle.
Casuarinas are a common sight on many of Phuket’s beaches. It is a species similar to cypress, which thrives on sandy soil near the coast. They have clusters of needle-shaped leaves and drop a small bur to the ground. They grow very tall and provide good protection from the sun.
You can find details about every Phuket beach here: the busy west coast, the coastline to the northwest, and the beautiful beaches to the south.
You are almost spoiled for choice of beaches in Phuket. Whichever Phuket beach you choose, have fun!