Where to stay in Phuket: Patong or Kata?
Patong Beach and Kata Beach on Phuket’s west coast are two of the island’s most popular destinations. Both Patong and Kata have a lovely white stretch of sand, and there’s a good range of hotels, restaurants, water sports, and activities to choose from at each beach. Patong Beach is Phuket’s nightlife hotspot and has a much livelier atmosphere both day and night, while Kata is a favourite for surfing.
Visitors to Phuket often spend time at both Patong and Kata, as they’re only about a 20-minute drive away from each other. But if you only have time to visit one beach in Phuket, it’s good to know the differences between the two before deciding where to go. To help you make the most of your Phuket holiday escape, read on to learn more about what each beach has to offer.
Patong Beach has a strip of soft white sand that extends for nearly 3km along Phuket’s west coast, and it is a busy place for much of the year. The sands are lined with several rows of beach loungers to rent and all sorts of activities to try including beach massage, hair braiding, Hobie cat sailboat rental, SUP and boogie boards for rent, as well as the infamous parasailing trips and jet ski rentals (best to avoid). Patong also has some beachfront dining choices and beach clubs.
With all the sun-baked sunbathers and beach-strolling touts to contend with, beach life in Patong is certainly not peaceful, though it can be entertaining to sit back and watch the hectic daily parade. And after a big night out, the beach offers a great place to park yourself in a sunbed for a hangover recovery day in the sea breezes.
The surfing is not great on Patong Beach, but plenty of surfers enjoy the waves on Kalim Beach just north of Patong from late April to October. Kalim and the northern end of Patong are generally quieter and the water is more clear, and the rocky shorelines offer fantastic scenery for those coveted Instagram images.
Patong’s south end is where you’ll find a floating pontoon and longtail boats for hire, for trips over to nearby Freedom Beach during the calmer high season months.
With its stunning 1.5 km stretch of powdery white sand and shallow bay, Kata Beach has become one of the must-visit places in Phuket. Kata’s sandy beach is about half the length of Patong, but it has better waves for surfing during the low-season months from May to October, where board rentals and lessons are readily available. During the calmer months, you can rent standup paddle (SUP) boards instead. Parasailing and jet-ski rentals are also possible on Kata Beach – not recommended activities but something to watch out for!
Club Med Phuket Resort dominates a large section of land along Kata Beach, but a road separates the resort from the sands, allowing for public access without any hassle. Kata’s sands are lined with beach chairs with umbrellas to rent out and relax on while enjoying the tropical scenery.
You’ll also find shaded platforms for massage services, and vendors selling refreshing drinks, snacks, souvenirs, and beach toys. At the south end of the beach, there’s a cluster of restaurants and bars, found just past the only two hotels with direct access to the beach. Here is where you’ll find longtail boats for hire for trips along the coast or to nearby beaches, in the high-season months only.
The beach is busy in the early evening with people taking photos of the iconic Kata Beach sunset scene with the blazing colours of the sky and sea and tiny Koh Pu (Crab Island) seen on the horizon just offshore.
Patong Beach offers the best variety of accommodations in Phuket, with a range of budget hostels, guesthouses, rental apartments and condos, private villas, cheap to mid-range hotels, and luxury resorts to choose from. The Impiana Resort Patong Phuket, La Flora Resort Patong, and KUDO Hotel are the only Patong hotels found right on the beach. But just across the street along the long beach road (Thaweewong Road) there are many places to stay including the popular Holiday Inn Express Phuket Patong Beach, Patong Resort, DoubleTree by Hilton Phuket Banthai Resort, and Four Points by Sheraton Patong Beach Resort.
Hotel prices generally get cheaper the further away you go from the beach, and Patong is a small city so even if you’re staying back on Nanai or Hasippi roads it won’t likely take more than 10 minutes to reach the beach by taxi or motorbike. Larger, more luxurious places are found on the headlands around Patong Beach like the Phuket Marriott Resort & Spa Merlin Beach, Rosewood Phuket resort, and the Amari Phuket to the south, and the Diamond Cliff Resort on the north end.
Kata Beach has fewer accommodation options than Patong, but there’s still a decent range here from budget-friendly hostels to luxurious 5-star hotels. The Boathouse hotel and Beyond Resort Kata are the only two resorts that offer direct beachfront access, while the sprawling Club Med Phuket sits just across the street from the beach.
Some of the most luxurious hotels and private villas of Phuket are located in Kata, especially on the headland at its southern end and at nearby Kata Noi Beach. Kata’s 5-star hotels include The Shore at Katathani Resort, Kata Rocks, and Mom Tri’s Villa Royale. For those on a budget, there are several mid-range hotels and hostels available within walking distance of the beach or an easy tuk-tuk ride away. Just a 5-minute drive from Kata is Karon Beach, where visitors can find even more lodging options.
Things to Do
Patong Beach is by far the busiest beach of Phuket, with the most restaurants and cafes, bars and nightclubs, shopping centres like Jungceylon and Central Patong, several markets including Banzaan and Malin Plaza, cinemas, spas and massage, sports activities, Muay Thai boxing stadiums, even some shooting ranges. The main streets of Patong are packed with street vendors, souvenir shops, clothing stores, fast-food restaurants, tour agencies, cannabis shops, tailor shops … pretty much anything you’d think you’d want to buy or eat while on holiday in Phuket!
Patong’s Bangla Road is a buzzing place after dark, as the street is closed to traffic, the nightclubs and beer bars crank up their lights and music, and the bar-hopping crowds arrive. Patong is the only place in Phuket with a visible gay nightlife scene, with a lively mix of cabaret clubs, discos, bars, and gay-friendly accommodations centred around the Paradise Complex.
Though Patong is famous for its naughty nightlife scene with the go-go bars and ‘bar fine’ companions, there are some family-friendly facilities here including the beachfront playground at Loma Park, Surf House Phuket Patong flowboarding venue, and Froggy’s Fun Park at Jungceylon mall.
Kata has a range of family-friendly activities and attractions including Super Surf Kata flowboarding, Dino Park mini-golf, and a small playground next to Club Med. The streets of Kata Beach are fun to wander in the evening, though it can be a bit treacherous with either poorly maintained sidewalks or none at all to navigate!
You’ll find several clothing and souvenir stores, massage shops, minimarts, restaurants, and cafes, and every weekend the crowds come out for Kata’s an open-air market that sets up on the beachfront road. Though there are a decent amount of shops and markets in Kata, there’s much more to be found in Patong.
Kata Beach is also a short drive away from Karon Viewpoint, one of the best lookout points in Phuket. For an unforgettable sunset dining experience with stunning views, head to places like After Beach Bar or A Blanket & A Pillow located in the hills around Kata. When it comes to nightlife, Kata is much tamer than Patong, with no real nightclubs and a small number of beer bars and live music venues to choose from.
Who is Patong Beach for?
Patong Beach is a good destination for those who’d enjoy a mix of beach time and nightlife action on their Phuket holiday. Patong is especially suited for single travellers and groups of friends looking for an action-packed holiday with lots of dining and entertainment options close at hand. Patong would also appeal to those who love shopping, with its shopping malls, busy street markets, and local fresh markets to explore.
And if you don’t mind the crowds, the beach of Patong is truly one of Phuket’s most stunning stretches of sand, with plenty of water sports on offer and more beachfront dining choices than you’d find at Kata Beach.
Who is Kata Beach for?
Kata Beach is an ideal place for couples, families or groups of friends looking for a mix of beachy activities and decent restaurant and shopping choices close at hand. If you’re a surfer or hoping to learn to surf, this is the best beach in Phuket to visit, and it’s also a fine spot to just stroll the sands or spend a blissfully lazy day on a beach lounger.
There’s not so much beachfront dining in Kata, but restaurants and lounges up in the headlands and hills surrounding the beach offer spectacular sunset views. And if you’re not into the wild nightlife scene, Kata Beach is better suited for you. Despite being one of Phuket’s busiest beaches, Kata offers a more laid-back atmosphere that’s perfect for unwinding and enjoying some downtime.