Phuket, Kata Beach: Tips, Tricks and Highlights

On our recent trip to Thailand we spent a few days staying in Kata Beach, one of Phuket’s famous beach resorts. One of the frustrating things about trying to research popular beach resorts in Thailand is all you will find is result after result written by the marketing department of a resort or tourist authority. This is not one of those – I stayed at Kata recently: and this is what I found.

Phuket Kata Beach Tips

The west coast beaches can get very rough in the wet season, tourists drown every season, dispite there being plenty of surf partrols on the popular beaches. Most tourists just don’t know how to survive a rip current. (don’t panic and don’t fight it – it won’t take you very far out, swim parallel to the shore – or just wait until you feel the rip stop – swim parallel and return to shore – or get a lift).

That said Kata is known as one of the calmest beaches – and is therefore the safest beach option on the west coast during the wet season: April to October.

Kata appears to have at least three surf-patrolled areas in the wet season -spread along its length. This is not a marketing ploy -people die here – swim between the flags – unless the red flags are up – then don’t swim at all – really -this is not a theme park.

The sand is fine and Kata is a very nice beach to walk and swim at. Even at high tide there’s enough sand, though at no time is their much shade. The sunsets are of course stunning – as at all the west coast beaches, with the small island in the middle of the bay being handy for the “sun setting behind the trees shot”.

There are very few absolute beach-front properties. Even the Club Med is across the road from the beach – though admittedly its a quiet road. This seems fairly common in Phuket – and remembering the horror of the 2004 Phuket tsunami.

The beach has good facilities – if you get off the songathew’s terminal near the Municipality – you will notice that there are clean public toilets and showers for 20B.

Of course on the beach itself there is the standard Phuket setup of loungers and vendors – but it was hardly crowded – as you can see in this photo taken in August.

Kata Beach, southern end, Phuket, Thailand

Kata Beach, looking north, from near the southern end

Kata Beach Accommodation

Now I’m not going to repeat my tips on how to book a hotel online here. But the quick version is:

  • check a range of websites to get an idea of availability and price in the month you are travelling;
  • compare like with like, make sure you do a fake booking to ensure that the company doesn’t add on extra charges – 17% is common in Thailand for a mixture of VAT and tax;
  • don’t assume that hostel sites are cheaper than hotel sites – often they are not;
  • double check that the property doesn’t have its own site and you can’t book it direct – this may require an email – but worth it for a longer stay, or if you have a large party.
There are three main areas of accommodation in Kata Beach:
  • Kata Centre – which is , counter-intuitively – at the northern end of Kata, very close to Karon. This is the most buildt up area and the sleazlyist. Its not in the same league as Patong or Karon – but if you really don’t want to see bar girls – then you may want to avoid. Its also the cheapest area and your best bet if you are looking for a real backpacker’s guesthouse. The cheapest options will be a walk up hill from the beach, but you should be able to find something within about 600m of the beach. The Club Med at this end of the beach is also a bit of a barrier for non-guests – who have to walk around it to get to the beach road.
  • Southern Kata – grouped around the songathew bus terminal, the Municipality (with public showers and WCs) and the. very upmarket  Phuket Kata Resort Hotel. This is mid-range Kata, lots of package tourists, lots of hotels and restaraunts for them. Plenty of money changers and ATMs, shops, and pancake vendors at night.
  • Kata Noi Beach, is up and over the steep hill which provides stunning seaviews for several upmarket hotels including Momma Tris. This smaller beach is quieter and is dominated by the very expensive Kata Thani Hotel which you will have to walk around to get to the beach (though they can’t stop you walking on “their” beach, and swimming, there are no private beaches on Phuket).

Getting To and From Kata Beach, Phuket.

Kata to the Airport

Of the popular west coast beaches, Kata is the southernmost, so therefore the furthest from Phuket’s International Airport.  You can do the transfer the easy way or the cheap way.

  1. Cheap Public Transport  transfer Phuket Airport – Kata Beach.  Outside of arrivals at the airport – turn left and walk to the end of the building, you will see the Airport Bus stop – clearly signposted – along with its timetable (it runs about once an hour, details on the website). Cost is 85B per person. They will take big luggage underneath – but our luggage was carry-on sized and the bus was empty. You will need local currency – but there is a exchange counter at the airport (and ATMs).
    Eventually (over an hour) the bus will arrive in at Surakul Stadium – the second to last stop in the outskirts of Phuket City – tell the driver you want to get off here when you get on and tell the ticket collector too. They will point you to where the songathews for Kata will come (across the road). There’s no bus stop as such, just wait until a blue open sided vehicle comes along with Kata / Karon on the front (in English, helpfully).
    The songathew will do a loop through the back of Kata – up to Karon – and then back down Karon’s beach front until finally terminating in the Southern end of Kata Beach. If you are staying in Kata Central – you will get off soon after the bus climbs the hill south of Karon, otherwise stay on the bus until the end.
  2. Taxi Transfer. For a quicker transfer, or out of the hours of approximately 6am-5pm when the songathews run you will need to get a taxi or shuttle. The best option is the exit the airport – ignore all the touts, turn right and head towards the slightly distant black and yellow taxies – which actually have meters, and use them. It should be about 800B to Kata.
Tuk Tuk Kata, Phuket, Thailand

Tuk Tuk, Kata Beach, Thailand

Kata to Karon or Phuket Town 

Once in Kata its cheap and easy to hope the songathew to either Phuket town or Karon, the price is posted in the back of most of them (about 60B) – but beware that some drivers will try to charge you full fare for going as far as Karon! Give them 10B – worked for me anyways.
TukTuks and Taxis 
You will find no shortage of taxis (conventional, unmarked sedans) and tuktuks (small open sided trucks). The tuk tuks seem to charge the same outrageous fares as the taxis – without the air conditioning and seat belts. All will try to overcharge you – particularly from the stand and in front of other taxis – try to hail a taxi n the street – or pick up one who is dropping off passengers – but you will still have to bargain hard.
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