Trying to pick Phuket’s top 10 beaches is a thankless task. With 40 to choose from, someone’s favourite will be forgotten, so here are 10 with something special to offer. They are all on the west coast, listed from north to south – the east is resolutely tidal, and the beaches are sometimes all but non-existent.
1. Mai Khao
The longest beach in Phuket at about 11kms, and one of the least visited. Hassle-free, it is part of the Sirinat National Park, which accounts for its lack of development and its relative serenity (although it is close to the airport).
2. Nai Thon
Another relatively undeveloped beach on the northern part of the west coast, Nai Thon is divided into two by a rocky promontory. The backdrop is of largely untouched forest. Like Mai Khao, swimming is sometimes risky from July to November.
A tiny stretch of lovely sand that is somewhat tricky to find, which is part of its appeal. Lined with coconut palms, and with a couple of longtail boats bobbing offshore should you want to explore further, it's an idyllic spot.
Favoured by Phuket's upper crust, Surin is much more developed than those beaches to its north, but still a small village when compared to the likes of Patong and Kamala. High-end hotels and restaurants abound, drawn by the clean sand and the turquoise water.
5. Laem Singh
Small – just 150m or so in length – and fringed with coconut palms and rainforest, Laem Singh is as picture-postcard as it gets. Because it's so tiny, it can fill up quickly, even though it's a little harder to find and to access than many of the larger beaches.
One of the biggies, Kamala is still less frenetic than Patong, even though the village near it has become ever larger. As with elsewhere in Thailand in recent years, beach umbrellas and beach touts have been largely culled, so it remains a pleasant spot.
7. Nai Harn
A lovely crescent of sand frames a bay in which yachts enjoy a safe anchorage. There is a classiness here, which may have something to do with the presence of the Royal Thai Yacht Club. The waves roll in gently, and there are restaurants and bars for sunset-watching.
Patong, Karon and Kata are Phuket's most popular beach destinations, and Karon attracts huge numbers of visitors in high season. Despite the significant amount of development, Karon beach retains its charm, and the sands are wide and clean.
9. Kata Noi
"Little Kata" is a delightful spot just around a headland from the much bigger and brassier Kata beach. While its has a major hotel as its backdrop, the beach feels relatively remote. Like Patong, there are even surfable waves here at times.
Yes, Patong is crazy. Yes, the beach is crowded. Yes, it can be a little dirty. However, it is still a beautiful spot, and despite its crowds, it's long enough to be able to escape the hordes if you're prepared to walk (or drive) a little.