Located approximately 860 kilometers south of the nations’ capital is the island of Phuket (pronounced poo-ket). Nestled off the west coast in the Andaman Sea, the province covers an area of about 550 square kilometers comprised mostly of lush tropical forests and tranquil beaches. Combining stunning natural beauty and ample tourism options, Phuket has emerged as the South’s wealthiest, most visited, and most popular province. ‘The Pearl of the South’ as it is commonly referred to, is the largest island in Thailand. While an island, Phuket is connected to the mainland by a bridge in the northern part of the province. Getting to Phuket is extremely easy with the international airport on the northern tip of the island. There are over a dozen flights to/from Bangkok daily.
Sea, sand, and sky are the major draws to Phuket
You may experience a sense of awe when arriving in Phuket directly from Bangkok. No longer will you find crowded streets and ridiculous traffic jams. Welcome to the South! Bangkok’s concrete jungle gives way to white powdery beaches and crystal clear water. There really is a beach for everyone here. Patong Beach is renowned for its diverse nightlife options. In contrast, Kata Noi is tucked away and kept secret from the rest of the island in a small bay.
Phuket town is located in the south-east region of the province, and is home to the bulk of the population. While the town is the island’s commercial center, Phuket’s economy falls mostly into two sectors; rubber plantations, and tourism. You would be hard pressed to walk anywhere in the province without seeing a rubber tree or a western face. Many people only get a brief glimpse of Phuket town on their way to another beach or island destination. Phuket is a major ‘jumping off’ point to other island destinations surrounding it. The world class diving of the Similian Islands lie to the north west and the famous Phi Phi Islands are a mere two hour boat ride to the east.
The quieter town of Karon Beach is located directly south of neighboring Patong. Approximately 1.5 kilometers long is ideal for those who want to be near the island’s tourist center of Patong. Karon Beach is also home to the super-luxury Hilton Arcadia Resort which stands shoulder to shoulder with top beach resorts worldwide. Spread out and more relaxed, Karon is the place to go to avoid the crowds.
Kata Yai and Kata Noi
Just a few minutes south of Karon rests Kata Yai. Two kilometers of palm lined beach and lively nightlife (tamer than Patong’s) makes Kata a definite favorite among travelers. A small city center has developed just inland. Quaint bars, eateries, travel agencies, and massage shops make up the bulk of the center.
Kata Noi is connected to Kata Yai by a road going up and over the hill between the two. Kata Noi is the ultimate in hideaways. This piece of paradise is a small bay just south of Kata Yai. Few people (unless staying at the Katathani Hotel) ever see Kata Noi. It is out of the way and the perfect place for a romantic sunset over the Indian Ocean.
At the southern tip of the island lies Nai Harn Bay, Rawai, and Chalong Bay, all separated by rocky capes. Most notably the Promthep Cape at the southernmost tip of the island is a rocky outcropping, popular for its spectacular views. While there are plenty of tourism options here, most stay at the resort beaches and plan day trips to these areas. The most important of the islands twenty nine Buddhist temples remains Wat Chalong in Chalong Bay.
Kamala and Surin
Just north of Patong on the coastal road are Kamala and Surin. Again, very popular for those not wanting to stay in Patong, Kamala and Surin offer relaxation in a small seaside community. Kamala is also home to the Phuket Fantasea. Dubbed as a ‘cultural theme park’, Phuket Fantasea is not to be missed. Superb restaurants and large resort style hotels have transformed the area from the quiet fishing village of years past.
Continuing north, Bang Tao, Nai Thon, Nai Yang, Mai Kaew, and Sai Kaew beaches litter the west coast. All of these beaches cater to tourists in slightly different ways. Between Nai yang and Mai Kaew, is the Sirinat Marine National Park which boasts Phuket’s most pristine coral and animal life.
Finally, in the middle of it all is the infamous Patong Beach. The most popular and well developed beach in Phuket, Patong does not disappoint. Home to cheap shopping, electrifying nightlife options, and topped off by a two kilometer beach running the entire length of town, Patong sets the bar for exciting resort towns.