Rawai holds the distinction of being the very first tourist beach on Phuket. Years ago, people from Phuket Town would drive the 17km to Rawai on weekends to while away the afternoon underneath the beach's casuarina trees rather than risk the (then) dangerous drive over the hill to Phuket's west coast. Nowadays, Rawai is a 'working beach' and a launching point for day boat excursions out to Phuket's surrounding islands. Many long-tail boats available for hire line its shores, where you can arrange a trip to Coral Island, Koh Lone or Racha Island, or a fishing or snorkelling trip. The beach is also used as a mooring point for the many fishermen who live in the area.
Phromthep Cape is the island's most photographed and perhaps best-known location. Every evening, large tour buses, scooters and private cars sweep through Rawai Beach and up the island's southernmost hill in order to watch the sunset at its peak. On the top of the hill stands a busy car park where vehicles disgorge crowds of people from every corner of the world. Cameras flash, fingers point and lovers cuddle as Phuket's most fabulous free show is re-enacted nightly – the sunset.
The pleasant bay of Kata, just a few minutes south of Karon Beach, entices and charms many visitors with its white sands and clear waters. Very popular with families, Kata is an all round favourite due to its spectacular palm-lined beach, great restaurants, lively but not raucous nightlife and varied accommodation options - all close to the beach. From May to October surfers flock to catch Kata's waves and from November to April the beach is alive with sunseekers. Kata is split into two focal areas: Kata Centre, which is at the northern end close to Karon and Kata South, home to several resorts. Visitors will find an abundance of shops to browse in, from souvenir and ready-to-wear outlets, to 7-Elevens and local mini-marts, to name-brand fashion stores.
Karon features the third longest beach on Phuket Island. Located on the west coast, between Patong to the north and Kata (with which it shares a common municipality) to the south, Karon Beach is the second favourite holiday destination in Phuket. The beach itself has excellent snorkelling (and even diving) spots at its southern end and is wide enough for beachgoers to never feel crowded. It features three main areas, each with their own assets: Karon Centre is a lively small city in which visitors can find a good choice of dining, shopping, and nightlife entertainment opportunities as well as a beautiful Buddhist temple hosting a weekly market. Karon Beach road is ideal for taking an evening stroll and is mostly occupied by large resorts interrupted by restaurants and shops (including the popular Karon Bazaar). The third main area of Karon is centred around Luang Poh Chuan Road, towards the southern end of the beach, which houses excellent restaurants and the ‘hottest’ nightlife spot of the resort town.