Battle of the Phuket beaches: Kata vs. Nai Harn

So you’ve had enough of Patong’s debaucherous vibe and you’re ready to explore Phuket. Nai Harn and Kata are two of our fave beaches on the island. But which one should you really make time to visit?


Riding waves at Surf House Phuket on Kata Beach.

In a sentence: A hip, happening stretch of sand with lots to do day and night.

Major sport: Surfing. In the Western world’s so-called “low season” it’s high tide for Kata’s surf culture. In the months of May-October, the weather picks up and so do the waves. Surfers come from all over the world to hang ten on Kata beach. The surf shops come alive and surfers based in Bangkok make the trek to Phuket.

In the off season, you can still enjoy the thrill of catching waves at Surf House Phuket on the southern end of Kata. This venue is half-surf hotspot and half-beach club with drinks, music and a beautiful crowd to boot.

Smaller beach to wander off to: Kata Noi. The little baby bro to Kata, this small sand is idyllic and laid back. It’s separated from Kata by a rocky headland, but you can easily follow the road to the beach. The sand is soft and white and the water shallow and relaxing.

Bar scene: Chill reggae tunes in Kata at Ska Bar, or head up the hill for sunset views from After Beach Bar.

Eats: Try the local Thai joint Sugar and Spice, it might be filled with tourists but rest assured the food is cooked by a Thai chef who know’s her chili and spice.

Stay: For a fix of Thai culture in Kata, stay at Mom Tri’s Villa Royale. It’ll set you back a pretty Baht, but you’ll get to check off Luxury and Thainess from your travel to do’s. For a more stylish, but equally comfortable vibe try Foto Hotel. If you aren’t totally made of money (we totally get you) then stay at the tiny, but cozy, Boondaree Home Resort. It may seem like a simple guesthouse in the backstreets of Kata, but the friendly staff will renew your faith in authentic hospitality.

Nai Harn

Views of Ao Sane, a hidden beach on Nai Harn.

In a sentence: An upscale beach with a killer view.

Major sport: Paragliding. Adrenaline seekers glide off the Windmill Viewpoint at Nai Harn beach. During the Thai summer months of April-October Thai and foreign paragliders can be seen in the skies above the beach. And the view is epic. Paragliders descend over Phromthep Cape and the Naiharn headland. Weather permitting, of course.

Smaller beach to wander off to: Ao Sane. As you walk past The Nai Harn hotel keep going and come face to face with 3 beautiful little beaches. We ended up at the final little beach which you can enter via Krating Resort, which, by the way is perfect for a secluded jungle vacay.

Bar scene: You won’t look far for a place to have a refreshing beer before a swim. There are a smattering of beach bars along Nai Harn, as well as upscale spots at the resorts. But if you’re really looking for nightlife in Phuket, you’re probably better off heading back to down n’ dirty Bangla Road.

Eats: There is a nice selection of local beach snacks along the entrance to the beach. Try the barbeque pork ribs and freshly stir fried hokkien mee. Top it off with some fresh fruit and a gulp of coconut water.

Stay: The Nai Harn is the star of this beach but it’s a little too stuffy for our taste. If you prefer a bit of luxury then try the Palm Oasis Boutique Hotel, situated in the jungle behind Nai Harn beach. The Cozy House, in Rawai town, is also great value for money. It might require a songtow taxi ride to the beach, but that’s part of the adventure.

Paddle boarding on Kata Beach.

Verdict: We could laze on Ao Sane all day, but to mix with Phuket’s cool, party people (and not the kind in obnoxious neon tank tops) nothing beats a chill evening on Kata.

Read more Beach articles:

Koh Nang Yuan: The island less traveled

Haad Rin: Party hard in paradise

Lamai: The Koh Samui beach you haven’t been to

Searching for Thailand’s most beautiful, uncrowded beaches

Beaches of Phang Nga: Phuket’s quiet neighbor to the north

Thailand’s best island hopping routes