There’s nothing quite as delicious as soaking up the sun, sipping a coconut drink or downing an ice cold beer, while waves lap in the background. Beach trips are the ultimate getaway, and which country has a better selection than a tropical paradise and the Land of Smiles, Thailand!
Picking the wrong beach can really put a kink in a vacation. Imagine a group of friends set on partying on a secluded island ending up on a resort best suited for honeymooners. Thai beaches may all be beautiful, but they are not all the same. Here’s a cheat sheet on how to choose which beach you should visit in Thailand.
Patong Beach, Phuket
What It Offers. A nice stretch of beach that is (un)fortunately always close to 100 percent full, Patong is the best known Phuket beach. Most first time Thai beach goers opt for this stretch, and if you’re traveling in a group and looking for some all-night partying, endless shopping for beachwear and cheap food, this is the place to go. It’s also a good base for day tours to the nearby Phi Phi islands, which are just as packed.
Insider Tip: Skip the FantaSea show, a grossly overrated and overpriced circus-like show in an amusement park.
While the sand and water quality of Patong is not too bad, the area is so full of people, you won’t get to enjoy the “beach” part of your holiday fully. But, if you’re looking for some rowdy nightlife and the you-only-live-once vibe you’ve found the perfect beach.
Kata Beach, Phuket
The Kata beaches, about a 15 minute walk apart, are praised to be quiet and empty even during the high seasons. The main Kata beach is more bustling, with a row of seafront restaurants and hotels practically on the beach. While this leaves only a shallow area for visitors to walk along or sunbathe, it is sufficient, as there are never too many beachgoers there at the same time.
Insider Tip: Do note that eateries in the Kata area are generally more expensive than her busier, more mainstream counterparts such as Patong. The good thing is fantastic accommodation can be found on the cheap; check out Sugar Marina Nautical Resort!
To get to Kata Noi, or small Kata, one has to walk up a slope and then down a steep flight of steps that can feel a little treacherous once evening falls. The privacy of this tiny bay, however, is worth the extra effort to get there. There are only a couple of upscale resorts here, and usually no more than 20 people on the beach. If you are the sort who likes to laze under an umbrella, see only a handful of humans walk by, and still have access to a decent array of bars and restaurants, the Kata beaches have it all.
Klong Dao Beach, Ko Lanta
Klong Dao and Long Beach are touted as the two busiest beaches on hard-to-get-to Ko Lanta. The easiest way to get to them is flying into Krabi, hiring a private taxi for a 3 hour ride which includes two car-ferry transfers, then taking another short car ride from the Ko Lanta pier to your resort. The hefty cost (upwards of 2400baht for a one way trip) and the travel time deter many island-hoppers from making their way here – even the “busy” beaches are empty! The result is a serene and laid-back vibe impossible to replicate on other Thai islands. If you’re looking for a truly relaxing, sloth-like holiday, there is no better place than Ko Lanta.
Insider Tip: The beaches can get a little rocky, so those particular about swimming in the sea are best off getting a beachfront hotel with an infinity pool, such as Twin Lotus Resort and Spa, to enjoy the legendary sunsets. If in the mood to splurge (any honeymooners out there?), a beachfront villa would be amazing.
April is the ideal time to visit Ko Lanta. It is the start of the low season and just before Monsoon season really begins in May. Prices are lowered, the (tiny) crowds are gone, and the weather is still hot and dry. For such a secluded island, the food is surprisingly cheap and authentic. (500baht is more than enough for a great over-water seafood restaurant meal for two, including beer.)
This beach has decent sand, but the strong smell of sewage and constant longtail boat traffic means most travelers use it as a departure point to visit other islands, instead of a beach to lounge on. Nearby island tours include: the 4-island tours, the most famous of the lot; the Hong islands tour, which is highly rated; and the nearby Railay Beach, just fifteen minutes away by longtail boat.
Insider Tip: There are countless massage parlours, hotels, street food carts and restaurants on Ao Nang. While not as rowdy as Patong, there is still plenty on land to occupy you. There are many Halal eateries here, so Muslims will have no lack of meal options. If you like to keep yourself busy and drink on island after island, Ao Nang is the starting point for you.
Railay Beach, Krabi
There are three main beaches on Railay: East, West, and Phra Nang. Overnight stay options are provided by the handful of resorts on the island; there are surprisingly few dining options outside of them. If you’re there on a day trip, don’t go on an empty stomach unless you’re prepared to shell out for food and drinks.
Railay East offers picturesque views of limestone cliffs and an endless horizon, and is great for those who want to hide in their resort all day, for the beach here is more mud than sand. Railay West has lovely white sand and a shallow beach, and is famous for its sunsets. Many day trippers arrive by longtail boats in the morning, and depart around 6 pm to catch the sunset while on the sea.
Insider Tip: The adventurous sort who enjoy rock climbing or kayaking should check out Phra Nang. With a decent beach and amazing limestone and cave formations, you can take up a rock climbing class, or watch experts from all over the world who traveled to this spot to scale the cliffs. While some choose to spend a few nights at Railay, a day trip is sufficient for those who are pressed for time and want to visit other nearby islands.