many are disappointed in Phuket – don't join them, be smarter, do your research

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Many visitors leave Phuket disappointed – why?

The problem begins when people find themselves booked into a part of Phuket they don't like – principally, a beach with the wrong atmosphere, one that does not meet their expectations. A close couple looking for a romantic, lonely sojourn won't be happy in Patong. Equally, those looking for fun, attractions and plenty to do and see won’t be impressed by the remote tranquillity of Mai Khao Beach. Many people book hotels based on low prices or special offers, without doing their research – and land on the wrong beach. Some leave the island quite disappointed.
Had they been booked into the right hotel on the right beach, these visitors might have left this island happy. The basic decisions a first-time visitor needs to make – to find the right beach and hotel on Phuket – follow here, in three steps that I strongly recommend for all new-comers:
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. 1 – first, choose the east coast or west coast of Phuket
. 2 – next, compare the beaches on that coast
. 3 – finally, select the right hotel
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These decisions are of vital importance. Phuket’s two coasts are different in every way, and their respective beaches even more diverse. To select a hotel based on price without first considering the differences between the west and east coasts, and the beaches on them, is potentially a holiday-disastrous mistake.
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Phuket’s West Coast & its famous beautiful beaches,

Geography and weather have created two very different sides to Phuket. The famous beaches are all down the west coast of the island, the local communities down the east. The west side is geographically more beautiful, with many beaches carved into pretty bays surrounded by headlands and mountains. But it’s also very 'touristy', and gets crowded in peak season. The east is geographically flat and boring, but with the main Thai communities here, it’s certainly more cultured, and offers many 'lifestyle' opportunities. East coast beaches, however, are quite poor.
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Thus, for anyone looking for tropical beach perfection will have to head to the west coast. There, however, there’s a choice of busy and sporty beaches like Patong and Kata with lots of activities, like jet skis, parasailing and boating, or tranquil beaches like Mai Khao and Nai Thon where little moves.
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The classic beauty of these west coast beaches attracts the largest number of visitors, by far, and has given birth to Phuket’s dynamic tourist zones. In the peak weeks of high season the number of people on the sands of west coast beaches can vary from crowds on the southern beaches to comparatively empty in the northwest at Mai Khao. Beaches in the middle, including Kamala Beach and Bang Tao Beach, have medium numbers and are especially popular with families.
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To the back of most west coast beaches we find village communities, usually a lively mix of tourist needs – restaurants, bars, markets, shopping centres plus banks, ATMs and other services –blended with patches of Thai urbanity; homes, schools, shops, markets, temples and mosques. Most people in these back-of-beach communities now make their living from tourism and its thriving support industries.
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The beach villages can be fun. At night they provide entertainment that varies from Patong’s wild nightlife scene to Kamala's quiet restaurants and beach bars in the sand. Kata and Karon beaches offer colourful, esoteric blends of tourist facilities and local establishments. Restaurants, bars and massage houses blend with local homes, shops, offices and the occasional Buddhist monastery. For some, these back-of-beach villages are a bit 'touristy', while Thai food in the restaurants has been modified too much.
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A more detailed view of each beach can be seen in our individual beach pages. Or see overviews of the west coast beaches divided into two, natural geographic zones: beaches of southwest Phuket, and beaches of the northwest coast.
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Phuket's east coast beaches plus Thai & expat communities

Unlike Phuket's rugged west coast where a mountain chain shadows the beaches and throws up headlands and spectacular peaks, the east coast is flat and geographically boring. If faces the shallow, protected waters of Phang Nga Bay and is exposed to lighter monsoon winds and almost no waves. Thus, the beaches here are not well developed nor so beautiful, save a couple of small ones at Cape Panwa in the southeast corner. With so much flat, open land the east coast naturally holds most of the population and the main towns.
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Only part of this coast is lined by sandy beach, and there it’s usually narrow, with coarse sand and sometimes murky water. In many parts it’s covered in mangrove forest or swamp. Parts of the east coast, however, enjoy a luxury of their own, private stretches of sand and genuine tranquillity. There’s a good number of upmarket housing estates here targeting wealthy expatriates. Comparatively few hotels and tourism-related facilities are found in the east.
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With a much heavier density of Thai urban centres the flavour of the east coast remains ‘Thai’ rather than ‘tourist’. Many prefer it this way, and choose beachfront resorts in the Cape Panwa or Chalong areas for this reason, among others.
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Cape Panwa is very quiet with scattered Thai village communities, but no commercial centres. Chalong is more densely populated, offering many choices in restaurants, bars, shopping and various lifestyle advantages. A large foreign expat community blends into the local mix of Thai Buddhists and Muslims here.
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If Phuket’s east coast looks like a good match for your expectations compare and choose beach areas; they vary a great deal.
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why it is so important to choose the RIGHT beach

- Want kind of beach holiday do you seek in Phuket?

• family fun and adventure on the beachfront?

• a secluded, beach getaway for romance?

• to be near heart of Patong's testosterone-filled nights?

• a quiet stretch of sand on which to do little but relax?

• A holiday close to Phuket’s famed shopping, restaurants and attractions?

All of these possibilities are waiting here in Phuket. But it’s a large island, some 50 kilometres long, and a couple who wants easy access to the nightlife, restaurants, shopping and lifestyle on the southwest beaches will be very unhappy indeed if they find themselves booked into a lonely, tranquil beach in the northwest.
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Also, there is every shade between; quiet beaches with reasonable access to the entertainment and shopping areas; busy beaches with quiet escape hotels; more 'Thai' beaches where the tourists are outnumbered by locals. Do your research, choose carefully. When leaving the island be sure it’s with a smile on your face.
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those beautiful, busy beaches in Phuket’s southwest

The beaches whose outstanding tropical beauty first made Phuket famous lie along the southwest coast, set into a series of bays in the mountainous coastline; Patong, Karon, Kata and Kata Noi. These are among the most beautiful on the island, with nice sandy ocean floors running into deep, clear water to create excellent swimming conditions. But fame and popularity means lots of hotels and large numbers of visitors in the high season. Do remember that there are very few true beachfront hotels here, and most accommodations are set well back from the beach in the mini concrete jungles that have developed in recent years.
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Both Kata and Karon have new tourism-oriented commercial villages, colourful blends of Thai urban development, hotels and tourism facilities in medium density. Here we find lots of lifestyle choices; beach bars, restaurants, shopping, entertainment and other attractions. There’s a bit of nightlife in these commercial villages, though the big nightlife attractions for this whole area are found in the buzzing warrens and lanes Patong.
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family-style beaches & resorts on the mid west coast

The beaches in the mid west coast of Phuket – Kamala, Surin and Bang Tao Beaches – are neither as famous nor as classically beautiful as those further south – but they are still, in their own way, very attractive. All have beautiful sand and calm, clear water in the high season. And there are far fewer people on these stretches of sand. Bang Tao is six kilometres long, of which the northern three has neither habitation nor resorts. There are just a few scattered shanty restaurants. One can easily find plenty of sand and space of your own here. Kamala is also rather low-key, with a more 'Thai community' feel to it, though the middle of this does get busy in the high season.
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There are more family-oriented resorts in this stretch than in any other part of Phuket, and we have named Bang Tao the most family-friendly beach on the island. The two Sunwing Resorts top this category, having more facilities for young children than any other Phuket resort. The integrated resort complex of Laguna Phuket has three large beachfront resorts, each of which has wide spacious gardens, multiple big pools and play areas for kids. And a golf course for fathers.
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The resorts here are not overrun with children though, and also accommodate the needs of couples and those seeking a peaceful, chill-out beach vacation. Most resorts in Bang Tao are large and spacious, while those in Kamala vary from tiny to mid-size. The two tranquil, cliff-top resorts in Kamala offer fabulous, high views of the sunset over the Andaman Sea for couples seeking a romantic escape.
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This central part of the island does not have bawdy nightlife of the kind found in Patong, though the Thai Buddhist and Muslim suburbs behind have a scattering of fine restaurants, a few bars, shopping plus lifestyle and travel services aimed at both the tourist and expat community. Transport is needed to access the lifestyle attractions throughout these widely-spread suburbs of Bang Tao, Cherng Talay and Surin.
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quiet mountain beaches & bays of the lonely northwest

Phuket's northwest coast is the island's tranquil, or even lonely beach zone. Anyone who thinks Phuket is crowded or over-developed has not ventured into either of the two sectors up here, the mountainous beaches around Nai Thon, and the long flat stretch of Mai Khao Beach.
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The mountains rise right beyond the flatlands of Bang Tao, turning the island’s coastline rugged and beautiful. The drive over the headlands here is surely Phuket’s most spectacular. It is sparsely habited. But scattered along small beaches and headlands in this stretch are a few idyllic, escape-from-it-all jewels, including Trisara, often considered Phuket’s top resort, and Andaman White Beach Resort.
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North of these mountainous coves and beaches we find Phuket's airport and flat land as far as one can see. That’s part of the ten-kilometre long Mai Khao Beach, the island’s longest and most remote stretch of sand, running from the airport to the northern tip of the island. Anyone seeking tranquillity on Phuket should look at the half dozen beachfront hotels along this 10-kilometre long expanse of sand. Here you can easily find a kilometre of sand to oneself in the high season, or five in the low.
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For an overview of the beaches in this area see Beaches of Phuket's Northwest Coast, or go to the specific guide page for each beach.
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the local 'Thai' feel on beaches of the urban east coast

Phuket's flat east coast faces a large bay with shallow water and extensive mangroves forests – famous Phang Nga Bay. What beaches we find here cannot enjoy the spectacular sand and water conditions found along the west side of the island. There are few resort hotels on the east coast, and most of those are found in the quiet southeast corner, Cape Panwa and Chalong Bay.
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The few small beaches at Cape Panwa are very pretty, have reasonably clear water and are certainly peaceful. Hotels along this peninsula enjoy tranquil views over the many islands – all the way to Phi Phi on clear days. Panwa has scattered local villages, but no commercial centres. Visitors choose this area for its tranquillity, and to escape the busy tourist beaches. Access to Phuket Town is fast and easy.
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Nearby Chalong Bay holds most of the remaining beachfront hotels here. Chalong has narrow beaches and shallow water that is never very clear. Chalong has a busy, mixed community of Thai Buddhists and Muslims with a few thousand foreign expats blended in. People don't choose this area for beaches, but for many lifestyle options; restaurants and fine cuisine, bars, yacht clubs, some entertainment, herbal saunas, health services, exercise and alternative lifestyle options.
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The northeast corner at Ao Por offers yet a different, more isolated atmosphere. Here we find a major boat anchorage and a marina, plus one beachfront resort on a small but pretty beach of a different kind, Chandara Resort and a luxury resort on nearby Naka Island, The Naka Island Luxury Collection.
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While we guarantee all hotels on our maps will give you a holiday directly on a beach, only you can decide which of the many, different beaches on Phuket is right for your needs. They are all so different. Consult the individual beach guides and photos for every beach on Phuket.
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by John Everingham
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need advice about Thai beaches & beachfront hotels – try this expert, for free
Want help? E-mail John E, who has photographed 1,100+ beachfront hotels in this site and most beaches in Thailand, for help finding the perfect beach and beachfront hotel. john@beachf.com

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