|Posted on April 6, 2012 at 10:15 PM|
If you find yourself in Thailand's tourist hub Phuket, we'd recommend a visit to Patong beach ... if we hated you. Every year squillions of tourists descend on the once glorious two-kilometre sandy expanse, and it shows: the beach is dirty, touts are relentless, the water's plagued by jet skis, the sand by dune buggies and if you aren't careful a parasailer may just knock you out from above. Yes, you can endure this dystopian nightmare, or read on to get the skinny on some of Phuket's secret beaches.
Tri Trang beach
Despite being a five-minute drive out of Patong, tourists and Thais alike have seldom heard of this secluded getaway. Rent a motorbike or hitch a ride over the hill at the south end of Patong beach and keep an eye out for the small signposts to Tri Trang. This long winding road ultimately ends at the well known Paradise beach, but pull over about a third of the way along on the right hand side. The sand is lined with palm trees that jut out at just the right angle and there's nary a tout in sight. Grab a quick coffee or pina colada at one of the few bars here. While ideal for sun bathing, do watch out for Tri Trang's many sharp rocks under the water.
Most people arrive at hassle- and garbage-free Freedom beach by boat, but you can also get here by bike if you're prepared to negotiate an ATV track and hop a gate or two -- it's probably worth paying the few hundred baht to hop a boat around from Patong. Should you have a bike, lookouts on the way down give you a preview of the crystal clear waters below. With mild waves, this is the perfect area to do a few laps. Snorkelling is good toward the south. Deck chairs and a single upmarket eatery are tucked away towards the back, but you can just sprawl out on a towel without spending any money. "Freedom" involves some visitors, well, freely exposing themselves to the elements.
Laem Singh beach
So many people rocket by this beach as they make their way out of Patong it's a crime. Head down the cliffside path and experience one of Phuket's most beautiful beaches. It's also known as "Secret beach" -- although judging by the number of people down there these days, the secret's out. Nonetheless, the crowd is largely confined to the deck chairs away from the water, which is clean, clear and teaming with aquatic life. A large rock carves the beach in two, but can be walked or swam around. Park your motorcycle up near the trail from the road and pay 20 baht or venture a little further around the corner and leave your bike for free.
A little further afield on the upper west coast after Bang Tao, Banana beach is well worth the trip. Using the nearby luxurious Trisara Resort as a way-point is a smart idea, as it's a short drive north from there. Pull over when you see a short stretch of barbed wire fencing and you'll find a short steep trail down to the water. On a clear day you might be able to spy the eponymous "banana" rock off in the distance, but at any time you can happily float in the crystal clear water and take in the abundant greenery on the hillside. Ample snorkelling opportunities and the scarcity of boat and jet ski activity make this an ideal choice for laid-back beach connoisseurs.
While not exactly the most handsome beach in Phuket, Kalim has the advantage of being walking distance from Patong and completely vendor-free. Right at the north tip of Patong you'll find a small strip of sand and water to call your own, with a rocky alcove providing fortification against the nearby army of sandy salespeople. A few mobile food stalls up on the little bridge behind Kalim will feed you. This forms part of the main road leading between Patong and Kamala beach, which means lots of noisy cars zipping by. This is a terrific place to get wet on a hot day, without having to negotiate a sea of umbrellas, tourists and touts to reach the water.
Nai Thon beach
Vast, wide Nai Thon beach is where you'll find plenty of privacy and space. And if you have a gaggle of children in tow, this is the perfect location to let them run amok too, with loads of room for the kids to go hog wild. Even when the tide is in, there's a considerable patch of shallow water to splash about in at the northern end. Local food prices are 30-50% more expensive than on most other parts of the island, so bring a packed lunch or at least a few snacks.
Ya Nui beach
Nestled between Promthep Cape lookout and the long road back to Kata beach lies Ya Nui beach. It's really two small beaches since the sand banks form two separate arcs split by a large rock formation. Many Thais fish and picnic here, though an unobtrusive restaurant caters to the better-financed foreign crowd. The smaller of Ya Nui's subdivisions looks innocuous, but will vacuum you out if you're not careful. Keep an eye out for the loads of vibrant fish species but be careful to avoid the pointy rocks and barnacles. A couple of sharp rocky areas are on the primary arc of the beach too, so do a little underwater recon before splashing about.
Sai Khao beach
Really just a continuation of Mai Khao beach, this mostly undeveloped beach just goes and goes and goes some more. Luckily there are some basic shacks towards the northern tip, so you can refuel there and then go some more still. Watch the waters during monsoon season as the currents can be treacherous and there are no life guards on this beach. While you're in the area, do check out the mangroves on the other side of the bridge to the mainland.