Thailand Beaches, West Coast (Andaman Sea)

Patong beach, Phuket, Thailand

Khai Nok island, part of a day trip by pricey speed boat from Phuket, photo by Diego-Delso. These trips have extremely varied reports, ranging from complete rip-offs to best day ever. Hmm, over to you.

Vacations on West Coast Thailand beaches

Best Weather in the West

The best time to hit west coast beaches is December – March, with high temperatures of about 28C in December rising to 30C in March. Naturally prices rise dramatically and accommodation availability falls between mid-December to early January’s peak holiday period.

April- May weather should also be OK in the west but it’s starting to get very hot, up to 35C, and there is a possibility of haze from slash/burn farming throughout Asia and showers can be expected in May, not necessarily a bad thing if they are short, sweet and reveal bright blue skies afterwards!

The worst time to be on west coast beaches is July to November due to heavy rains.

Downsides

• The ‘curse of the longtails‘ makes many previously desirable places a pain in the head now.
Beaches that are only accessible by boat, or used as a longtail terminal have drone and diesel smell problems. Notably noxious are Krabi and the Phi Phi islands.

If you go around the rainy season beware another downside. . . Rips (strong currents heading away from the beach). Around Phuket visitors drown at the rate of one per month in this season. Do NOT ignore red flags, even if you are hot and drunk. .

An hour’s drive north of Phuket airport, this strip of medium-fine yellow sand and clear sea is little developed, with no buildings over two stories and mostly good quality bungalows scattered under the palms and casuarinas (a kind of fir tree) beside the beach. The beach is winding, narrow in parts and has character, with rocky outcrops and a lovely cluster of stlit bars and restaurants at one end. Waves can be a problem for small children, especially at the start of the season, i. e. December/January.

The bungalows aren’t cheap but the location – Andaman Sea on one side, wildlife-rampant rainforest the other, and Thailand’s scuba superb Similan islands 64 km offshore makes them worthwhile.

Tour groups haven’t got here yet, tho’ plenty of North Europeans have. The one horse town of Khao Lak provides basic shops and restaurants. Best time Nov-March, but showers may happen anytime.

Phuket beaches

Phuket is at its best from December-March. Worst July-November (rough seas, winds and life-threatening rips. In 2012 tourist deaths hit one per month in spite of red flag warnings)
Phuket is one of the world’s most famous international resort islands with a massive variety of accommodation ranging from super-budget hostels to magnificent resorts. Phuket is the largest, the most expensive and the most touristy of all Thailand’s islands, with busy though superb sand and an international airport.

Patong beach is particularly crowded but long, wide and with soft sand and quite protected waters.
Unfortunately hawkers are unpleasantly pushy and immediately adjacent Patong town is a sleazy pit of trash architecture enrobed in tarry cables, patrolled by braying motorcycles and smelly tuk-tuks and fuelled by booze, porn and unprincipled, uncontrolled salespeople.

• Nai Harn and Kata beaches in far southwest Phuket are for those with money who are looking for quiet, clean, safe, pretty beaches backed mainly by up-market, all-inclusive hotels, though the sleaze factor is creeping into some arts of this more exclusive region of Phuket.

Nai Thon beach in northwest Phuket is very, very quiet, with just a few simple bars, restaurants and modest hotels, but wonderful squeaky white sand, clear water, no boats, few cars, few package people, no clubs and an adjacent nature reserve. It’s even romantic! But it could get substantial waves in December.

Mai Khao beach in far northwest Phuket is the place for real solitude on the least visited, 13km long Mai Khao Beach, turtle hatching area (November-January, waves permitting). It’s coated with medium grain yellow sand, clear water, and gets pretty big waves in December. There is a little, very simple and cheap accommodation available.

Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Leh beaches

A hidden tropical paradise until the movie ‘The Beach’ was filmed there, the Phi Phi islands are now a  tourist mecca but  still offer turquoise water, white sand and palm trees framed by delightfully craggy rock formations and over a million visitors a year!
The infrastructure is, however, third world and cannot support the tourist numbers so services such as  power and sewage are unreliable on the core island of Phi Phi Don, rubbish litters some areas, coral is dying all around and longtails add their cacaphonic roar to the babble of foreign visitors.
However, if you stay well away from noisy, frantic Ton Sai bay – the transport hub – even just across the neck at Loh Dulum bay, you can find some serenity, lovely sand, turquoise water and those sensational views.

Phi Phi Leh is half an hour away by boat and has no accommodation at all but still suffers the ‘Curse of the Longtails‘ with roaring longboats coming and going endlessly.

If you hire a private longtail take a trip to Bamboo Island after Phi Phi Leh; it’s  a tiny tranquil place devoid of structures and massed visitors.
Day trips by boat from Phuket to the Phi Phi islands are also popular. The Phi Phi region is best December-March.

West Railay, the Krabi Coast

Accessible from Ao Nang in a few minutes by longtail boat, West Railay (aka Rai Leh) is stunningly pretty, has restrained development, reasonable prices, soft white sand and clear water, tho’ longtail taxis still park there cluttering the view, impeding swimming and not helping the water purity. Still, it’s better than paying the extortionate prices at Thailand’s Rayavadee Premier on the next beach – Laem Phra Nang – and still getting the longtails and their day trippers swarming the beach. Best Dec-March.

Khlong Dao and Phra-Ae beaches, Ko Lanta island

Ko Lanta is a relatively unspoiled resort island in Thailand, with a fine combination of big, soft, sandy beaches on the upper west side, calm clear waters, relaxed locals and cheap accommodation, though the road running down the centre is an unnattractive mess. Beaches are only accessible via hotels.

The longest and the most popular beach is Khlong Dao – where the best hotels are – but Ao Phra-Ae (Long Beach), 2km south, has a more placid atmosphere, as has Kantiang beach.

The further south you go the cheaper the ‘hotels’ get and the worse the beaches.

Just south of Lanta is a small island called Koh Kradan with an attractive and quite unspoilt 2km beach.

Best December -March.

Ko Tarutao National Marine Park, Ko Tarutao

Ko Tarutao National Marine Park is a natural beauty, with about 50 mostly inhabited islands. The beaches in the park are considered the least spoilt and the most magnificent of all Thailand’s beaches. Some simple accommodation can be found at Pak Bara on the mainland, or three bigger islands (Ko Tarutao, Ko Adang, and Ko Lipe) have bungalows and restaurants.
The park is closed mid-May to mid-November, due to the rains. Best Dec-March.

Hat Farang, Ko Mook

Ko Mook, known for its Emerald Cave, is popular with budget travelers and not commercial yet. The island’s best beach is Hat Farang, extremely peaceful, with excellent swimming, snorkelling, and perfect for sunset slumping. Best Dec-March.