Beaches in Thailand – Phuket beaches
Phuket is home to some of the finest beaches in Thailand, some of which are close to the PhuketSpace Phuket apartments. We cover specific beaches elsewhere, with more information about the beaches in southern Phuket here, or Phuket beaches on the central west coast here. For north-western Phuket beaches, click here.
Phuket beach access
All beaches in Thailand are public land and available to anyone that wants to visit them. Unfortunately, in some cases developers buy all the land around the beach and do not 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 entering through the hotel, if they’ll let you in. Often they will not challenge you, and the worst that can happen is they refuse to let you through. If you’re particularly separate to visit a beach inaccessible by land, you can access the beach by boat, and legally nobody can stop you doing so!
The current situation regarding sun loungers and umbrellas on the beaches of Phuket beaches is confusing, to say the least. A few years ago, at the busy beaches such as Patong, Karon and Kata, they occupied the entire length of the beach, sometimes in rows three or four deep in the high season. Today, there are only limited sun loungers available, with some beaches having been designated ‘virgin beaches’ having no sun loungers at all.
You are however welcome to bring a mat for yourself and claim your spot. You may find that somewhere with a little shade (under a tree perhaps?) gives you a little protection from the powerful Phuket sun, but then again you want to bake and go home with a tan. Bear in mind that even with sun-block cream applied, most people will start to burn very soon if they spend time in direct sun.
There is usually someone nearby eager to sell refreshments such as water, beer and soft drinks, at reasonable prices. If you become a regular beach visitor, you will probably find a area you like and make it your beach spot.
There are a variety of water sports available on Phuket beaches. The busier beaches offer banana boats, parasails and jet-skis. These beaches usually have cordoned-off sections where bathers can swim safely. You will pay from 500 to 1000 baht for these activities. The prices tend to be non-negotiable. Should you rent a jet-ski, check it carefully for damage before you take it out, as unreasonable demands for ‘damage’ are not unknown, followed by some very uncomfortable situations.
Some of the quieter beaches have kayaks for rent so you can go and explore around the headlands.
There is some good snorkelling as long as you find an area where a jet-ski will not inadvertently take your head off.
The waters around Phuket are generally very safe but a few words of warning:
The biggest danger while bathing in the waters around Phuket at certain times of the year is getting caught in a rip tide. Phuket averages around 20 drownings a year, which almost all happen during the rainy season when the waves are large and the red flags have been ignored. If there are red flags flying at the beach this indicates potentially dangerous conditions and you should absolutely not swim. If there are flags flying, you should swim between the red/yellow flags, as this area has been deemed safe by the lifeguards.
Rip tides occur when the water that the waves push into the beach funnels together and channels back out to sea. This can create a very strong drag that can pull even the strongest swimmers out to sea. If you are caught in a rip tide you should not try to swim against the current; you will just exhaust yourself. Remember the current is only a channel covering a small section of the beach. You should swim sideways, horizontal to the beach until you exit the current and then swim back to the beach.
Occasionally, you may notice a light stinging sensation in the water. It is a quick sting that fades so quickly you are not even sure it happened. There are two causes. There may be stingers floating in the water that have fallen from jellyfish further out at sea and washed into shore. The other cause is sea mites; tiny sea creatures that bite if they come into contact with your skin. In both cases, the sting is harmless to most people but a few may get an allergic reaction.
Most of Phuket’s beaches are ringed with trees. There are several species but the two most common are palms, corkscrew ‘palms’ and casuarinas.
There are several varieties of palm tree. The most common is the iconic image of many tropical beaches – the coconut palm. You will see them everywhere on Phuket, with tempting bunches of coconuts clumped under the wide, feathered leaves. The coconuts are not easy to get at (in fact trained monkeys often do the hard work) and they taste much better chilled, or with ice. There will usually be a local food vendor selling them for 10 to 20 baht each.
This may seem like unlikely advice, but don’t sit under coconut trees – a surprising number of people are injured or killed by falling coconuts. In fact every year worldwide, the number of people killed by falling coconuts is significantly higher than the number killed by shark attacks.
The corkscrew palm is a common sight along the beaches of Phuket. There are magnificent rows of them on many parts of the island. Actually, the screw palm isn’t technically a palm at all, even though it looks rather like one. Its official name is the pandanus. The leaves arrange themselves in a spiral, screw-like manner, leaving a corkscrew effect in the trunks as they drop off. The roots are a little bizarre. Rather than starting underground like most plants, the pandanus shoots out ‘prop 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. This is a species similar to fir trees, which thrives in sandy soil near beaches.
They have clusters of needle shaped leaves and drop small burs onto the ground. They grow to great heights and provide fantastic shelter from the sun’s rays.
The spectacular row of casuarinas in the picture here are at Rawai beach, and stretch just about from one end of the beach to the other.