Phuket’s beaches far outweigh its gorgeous rival Bali’s. ALL sands on the isle are public property (hurrah!), though some are more difficult to reach than others (via boats, bushes, winding paths, hotel lobbies etc.). Here’s what we’re loving...
On the island itself, the west coast has the pick of the crop. Starting from the top, there’s Mai Khao Beach, with 11kms of largely deserted, tree-lined, turtle-favoured loveliness and Marine National Park, and home to the JW Marriott, should you feel pecky or in need of pampering. Below it is Nai Thon Beach, again often deserted; the southern approach has some of the island’s only remaining virgin jungle, plus sexy UP Beach Club (see Lunch). Further down is the lovely elliptical Pansea Beach, shared by Amanpuri and Surin Phuket (see Accom. for both), whose Beach Restaurant is popular in season, so you can toast n’ roast all at once. Further south, pop your towel on funky little Laem Singh Beach, complete with seasonal lounge bar (see Bars/Laem Singh Lounge). Between the hideously commercialised Patong and Karon Beaches lies Freedom Beach, only reachable by boat and gaining quite a following. Secluded little Nui Beach south of Kata Noi is accessible bothbyboatfromKata Noiandby jeep. Take a picnic. Nai Harn at the southern end of the island is a fave in high season for mooring up and dipping in, thankfully there are no jetskis here. Take care when swimming at any of these beaches May-Oct as there are strong undertows.
Further away, but not far by boat, the following set of sandy lovelies deserve your attention. You can hop off for a day/lunch, overnight aboard your boat, or spend the night on the islands themselves. Bliss. Get your sea-legs in style by chartering a choice vessel (see Water Activities).
Legendary James Bond location Phang Nga Bay can also sadly at times leave you shaken by the boat legions of tourist crowds rather than stirred by its beauty, but you can avoid them and get a staggering bird’s-eye view by zooming overhead in style (see Land Activities/Destination Air) or staying at wow-tastic Naka Island resort (see Accom.). Koh Phi Phi is home to the Thai-luxe, but service-starved Zeavola Hotel / 075 627 000 / zeavola.com; while the sleepy little isles of Koh Racha and Koh Lanta are chokka with coconut palms and peace aplenty, and the places to go to find the contempo, edgy-minimal stylista Costa Lanta / 075 668 186 / costalanta.com, and postcolonial belle The Racha / 076 355 455 / theracha.com. The Similan Islands offer spectacular snorkelling, diving and scenery in spades, and Krabi, although not an island, boasts the lush Thai jungle-meets-beach hideaway Rayavadee / 075 620 740 / rayavadee.com, and the oh-so plush beach princess Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Phulay Bay / 075 628 111 / reserve.ritzcarlton.com / complete with Espa, private butlers and all that jazz, which are reason enough to go. And at Koh Yao Noi is the serene, rustic hilltop escape Six Senses Hideaway / 076 418 500 / sixsenses.com. Bliss!
So, Flo, what are you waiting for? Pop on those slinky matador pants, get on a boat, get out there and enjoy!