How to choose your hotel on Phuket
Where to stay on Phuket
Phuket has been a popular holiday destination for decades, not least because the 42km-long island is ringed with gorgeous white-sand beaches and azure blue seas. The island itself is home to a friendly and welcoming community, an excellent range of facilities and attractions, and top boutique and international-brand hotels.
By far the best-known beach on Phuket is Patong, which is the home of a bustling tourism trade and most of the island's nightlife. However, other often-overlooked beaches each provide a different and equally enticing experience, with a destination available for any kind of holidaymaker. Naturally, they all offer the beautiful natural surroundings you can confidently expect of the Jewel of the Andaman.
So, how do you choose the right place for you? That depends a lot on what you are looking for. Seclusion? Nightlife? Culture? Activity? What kind of holiday do you want? Take a look at this quick guide to see how much choice and variety there is on Phuket.
The most famous of Phuket's destinations, Patong is extremely popular among the younger travellers and backpackers, not least for the many clubs and bars of Bangla Road. Equally famous and infamous, the 500m street is one big nightly party and is ringed with restaurants, shopping centres, markets, hotels and other tourist-oriented facilities. The long, sandy beach is extremely popular and can get crowded.
If you're a party animal who likes to be in the middle of the action, Patong is for you.
A short distance north of Patong, Kamala is just as popular, but with a very different crowd. The nightlife here is much more subdued and the restaurants are generally of a higher quality, which is why the place attracts an older, more sophisticated traveller. There are several high-end spas, villas and hotels positioned here, taking advantage of the long, curving coastline with its fine sand which, while popular, never gets as busy as Patong's and has significantly fewer speedboats and jet ski operators plying their trade.
If you want a relaxing holiday without total isolation, Kamala is for you.
Kata is also one of the popular destinations and, with Club Med found here, it again attracts the younger traveller, but not so much the party animals. The nightlife is good, but not as hedonistic as Bangla Road. Instead, it is the daylight activities which are the key attraction, with the beach being popular with surfers, sailors, swimmers, snorkelers and divers. Away from the beach, the choice of restaurants, shops and hotels is good.
If you want to do more than sunbathe on the beach, Kata is for you.
Karon Beach is one of the longest and finest on the island and is lined with high-end hotels. It is one of the more convenient destinations, with Kata a very short distance south and Patong a short distance north, making both daytime and nighttime activities within easy reach. However, it has more than enough attractions of its own, including its own modest nightlife, shops, attractions and relaxed atmosphere.
If you want a peaceful beach holiday, but with options within convenient reach, Karon is for you.
Surin and neighbouring Pansea Beach are the luxury getaways of Phuket, featuring a small range of very high-end hotels and villas. These are well-placed, to best take advantage of the small but stunning stretches of fine white sand, along with the buzzing beach party venues, boutique shops and fine dining restaurants. The beach is the key attraction, to the extent that there really isn't much else to see and do. However, once you've seen the sun, sea and sand, you really won't want to do anything else anyway.
If you want an exclusive and relaxing holiday, Surin is for you.
The home of some of the creme of the hotel crop on Phuket, Cape Panwa is an exclusive little peninsula in the south of the island. The beaches are quiet and attractive, the town is small and unobtrusive, the nightlife is minimal and the spas are top-class. If you're going to have a romantic getaway, you couldn't ask for a better place for it. While the exclusive rooms and villas do enjoy exceptional views, they do not get the sunsets of the east coast beaches.
If you want an exclusive getaway, Cape Panwa is for you.
The island's second-largest beach is home to the fantastic Laguna Complex - a collection of remote high-quality resorts situated around a beautiful, peaceful lagoon. A perfect place for a relaxing getaway, the beach is quiet and mostly undeveloped and the hotels are away from the busy bustle of the town. The hotel resorts all have and share top-class facilities, so you will never be wanting for great food, spas and activities.
If you want to get away from it all, Bangtao is for you.
At 11km in length, Mai Khao Beach is the longest on Phuket. Being so big, it is physically impossible for it to get busy, though the area around Sirinath National Park is quite popular. Plane spotters will enjoy this location for its proximity to the final approach of Phuket International Airport while nature lovers can enjoy the sea turtles laying their eggs and the attractive forested areas along the coast. The beautiful Phang Nga province and its wilderness pursuits are found only a short distance to the north.
If you want to enjoy the peaceful beauty of nature, Mai Khao is for you.
Although it has some history as the first of Phuket's tourist beaches, Rawai has mostly been overshadowed by Patong, though it still has a lot to offer. Now boasting an impressive expatriate community, the beach is quiet but has a good selection of restaurants and nightlife nearby. More importantly, it has a small pier, giving access to the famous sea gipsy village and the local fishing communities. Additionally, some of the island's most noteworthy attractions - such as the Big Buddha - are in the area.
If you want to connect with the local community, Rawai is for you.
The capital city of the province, Phuket Town is a picturesque place with streets of Sino-Portuguese buildings, displaying the island's rich history and culture. As you would expect, this is the home of the best restaurants and shops, though it also obviously doesn't have much of a beach. The nightlife is modest, but funky and fun and the range of boutique hotels and guesthouses is particularly good.
If you want an urban holiday, with all of the attractions that brings, Phuket Town is for you.
A bit of a secret among locals and expatriates, Nai Harn has a beautiful beach which is usually one of the quieter ones. The Royal Phuket Yacht Club is based here, making it a popular place for boat owners in the high season, particularly because of the beautiful clear waters which are also great fro snorkelling. There are relatively few other hotels, shops and restaurants, which is why it remains an effectively undiscovered spot, but there is still enough of a town further inland to provide dining and evening entertainment.
If you want a peaceful holiday away from the crowds, Nai Harn is for you.
Pretty much right next to airport, you can watch the aircraft on their final approach as they fly in over beautiful turquoise waters and a long, often practically deserted, sandy beach. The area is also home to the Sirinath National Park, making it a place of great natural beauty and a popular picnic spot for locals. You are well away from most of Phuket's attractions here, but you are also well away from practically everything else, making it a great getaway destination which is still conveniently close to the airport.
If you want a peaceful escape in natural surroundings, Nai Yang is for you.