Accommodation for divers in Phuket
Phuket hotel recommendations
Where you are going diving will influence where you should stay along with other considerations such as budget and other interests.
Most dive boats offer free transfers from hotels in Kata beach, Karon beach and Patong beach, regardless of where you are diving.
If you will be diving the Phuket day trip dive sites of Shark Point, King Cruiser Wreck, Doc Mai, Racha Yai, Racha Noi your boat will depart from Chalong Bay in the south east of Phuket. Liveaboards to Phi Phi and Hin Daeng also depart from Chalong Bay.
If you are diving at the Similan Islands your liveaboard may depart from Chalong Bay or Patong beach. However the majority of liveaboards and all Similan, Surin, Richelieu and Koh Bon day trips depart from Thap Lamu which is one hour drive north of Phuket airport, at least 90 minutes drive from patong beach. In this case it’s best to stay further north on Phuket or even Khao Lak. Staying somewhere like Kamala beach, Surin beach or Bangtao (Laguna) beach will mean you get to spend longer in bed and less time sitting in a transfer minibus. Some boats will charge a small transfer fee in these areas, others will not. The fee is probably worth paying in most cases.
Patong Beach Hotels
There are more hotels in Patong beach than in any other part of Phuket, it’s the main tourist beach, it has the most shops, bars and restaurants, it has the now famous Bangla road nightlife street. Some people love it, others can’t imagine anywhere worse. Because of the huge supply of accommodation the prices are often better in Patong than elsewhere on the island.
Another advantage is that Patong is pretty central and all tour companies will collect you free of charge from a Patong hotel. Patong has the best choice of food with restaurants from every country. Plus because Patong is an old settlement with a large local community you also get excellent Thai street food (something missing in other destinations which have built up more recently to cater to tourists and where fewer local people live).
Patong beach is a year round destination. If you are coming to Phuket in the off season from mid May to mid October it is a better choice than areas further north like Kamala, Surin, Bangtao which are very quiet at that time of year.
Our Patong beach hotel suggestions:
The Kee Resort and Spa is right in the heart of Patong’s nightlife. It’s also close to the beach and close to the Jung Ceylon shopping mall and restaurants. If you want a nice 4 star resort that is central then the Kee resort is ideal. For a lower budget option right in the heart of the nightlife try Summer Breeze, it’s central but not noisy.
If you want a beach front resort the Graceland Resort and Spa is on a nice part of the beach with plenty of local restaurants near by. A hundred metres or so from the beach is the Burasai Resort which is a pretty big hotel (186 rooms) that feels like a boutique resort. For a lower budget hotel on the beach front try the Baan Boa resort at the south end of the beach.
Just out of Patong beach is the Marriott Merlin Beach. It is on the quieter Tri Trang beach and is walking distance (over a hill) from Paradise beach. This is very nice in low season because the sea is sheltered. The resort has regular shuttles in to Patong centre. This is a resort for a family holiday. It has a kids pool, water slide, play ground and kids club.
Also just out of Patong is Le Meridien Phuket Beach Resort, a 5 star resort with it’s own beautiful beach and a huge pool. You can dive and snorkel on the house reef and the in house dive centre can offer all courses.
Kata and Karon Beach hotels
Heading south from Patong beach down the west coast of Phuket, the next main beach that you arrive at is Karon beach, next after that is Kata beach. For a little added confusion hotels in Kata beach are often given a Karon address. Personally we prefer Kata beach over Karon, the actual beach is just nicer. Kata beach is more compact than Karon and is lined with casuarina trees which are missing at Karon.
If you are coming to Phuket in the off season (May to October) and you like swimming in the sea it’s best to avoid Karon beach because it has powerful rip currents at that time of year. Kata beach is a year round resort destination. From November to April the sea is flat and there is decent beach diving along the rocky reefs at the north and south ends of the beach. Swimming is safe and the water is beautifully clear most of the time. There are buoyed off swimming areas ideal for families. From May to October the waves make Kata a popular surfers beach. There are a couple of nice bars and restaurants at the southern end of the beach.
Kata beach will suit families but it will also suit those looking for somewhere to go for a drink outside of their resort but away from the bustle of Patong. There are plenty of bars and restaurants in Kata centre. If you want late night nightlife you can find it, it’s just not as in your face as Patong beach.
Kata Noi (Kata small) beach is the smaller Kata beach just south of Kata beach (sometimes referred to as Kata Yai or big Kata). It’s quieter than Kata beach with just a couple of restaurants and no bars to speak of. It’s dominated by the Kata Thani hotel, a very nice 5 star resort which will suit couples.
The only issue with staying at Kata Noi is that you will either need your own transport or will need to catch tuk tuks each evening to come over to Kata beach. The restaurants on Kata Noi are tourist restaurants serving pretty average green curry, pad thai, fried rice type dishes at inflated prices. You’ll soon tire of them. You could walk to Kata beach in about 10 minutes up and over the hill but you’ll have a good sweat on when you get there.
Kata Noi is another good surfers beach from May to October. Beach dives are possible from November to April, if you are planning to learn to dive there is a good dive centre on the beach.
Our Kata beach hotel suggestions:
The Kata Thani Beach Resort is a very nice 5 star resort that dominates Kata Noi beach. You can dive and snorkel on the house reef.
On Kata beach the Kata Beach Resort is an old favourite because if it’s perfect beach front location. Lower down the price range and just a short walk to the beach are Sugar Marina Fashion Resort and Orchidacea. These 3 star resorts are at the right end of Kata beach for the better restaurants.
Sawadee Village resort and spa is a beautiful 4 star resort. The elegant styling feels very Thai. The villa suites are stunning.
If your main reason for visiting Phuket is to do day trip dives to Phuket Shark Point, Anemone Reef, King Cruiser Wreck, Racha Islands or Phi Phi (not the Similan Islands, Koh Bon, Richelieu Rock) then Chalong Bay might be an ideal base for you. Day trip boats depart from Chalong pier so staying here will save you having to sit in a transfer minibus in the morning and evening. With the way Phuket traffic has exploded in the last few years this is a serious consideration.
Chalong has no beach worth talking of, but it does have plenty of good bars and restaurants all located close together so it’s a pretty nice place to hang out in the evening. Places like the iconic Jimmy’s lighthouse bar and restaurant or the Tamarind bar have prime locations on the promenade overlooking the yachts anchored in the bay. Kaneang@pier restaurant serves tasty Thai food on the sea front. All along Soi Sunshine are small beer bars selling cheap beers with a smile. If you need dive supplies there is an Aquamaster retail store selling all you could need, you can even get a wetsuit tailor made at Hotwave.
Chalong is a good location for doing day tours to Phuket Town, wat Chalong or the big Buddha. It’s close to Rawai beach where you can get delicious seafood from local stalls. If you fancy a day on the beach Kata and Naiharn beaches are 5-10 minutes drive away.
Chalong may also suit you if you just have one night before joining one of the liveaboards that depart from Chalong bay such as Giamani.
Our Chalong Bay hotel suggestions:
Pier 42 Boutique resort is perfect for a couple of nights. It’s a few steps from the pier where the dive boats depart from. You can walk to local restaurants and bars. There is a retail dive shop next door. The attached coffee shop is pretty good.
If you want to stay longer in Chalong, Ao Chalong Villa is good value.
Phuket Town hotels
Even just a few years ago we would not have recommended Phuket Town as a holiday location, it was more of a municipal centre very few attractions. But times have changed and Phuket Town (really it’s a city but most folks still call it town) has undergone a renaissance. The old areas around Thalang Road and Dibuk road have been restored to their former glory and the old shop houses with their sino-portugese architecture are now home to trendy bars and coffee shops. You can find a bar with live music most nights, bring your own guitar and you’ll get to jam.
There are a couple downsides however. First there is no beach and a tuk tuk to Patong will cost you upwards of 500 baht. A public bus service is available if you are short of cash and long on time. The other down side is that most dive boats will charge extra to pick you up here, it’s still not really a tourist location (that’s why some people like it).
We think of Phuket Town as more of a weekend city break destination rather than a Phuket holiday destination. If you are coming for a week it’s may be better to stay elsewhere and visit town for a night out. Backpackers with old copies of the lonely planet should be aware that prices in Phuket Town have inflated a fair bit in the recent years but don’t worry, you’ll be able to find a 7 Eleven selling instant noodles if you’ve spend all your baht on Chang beer ;).
Our Phuket Town hotel suggestions:
The Rommanae Boutique Guesthouse is as cheap as chips and is on Phuket Towns prettiest street, just off Thalang Road. Another good value hotel that also has high standard rooms is the On On Hotel. It’s Phuket’s first hotel and was very run down (it was used in the Khaosan road scenes of The Beach movie). In 2013 it was completely renovated and re branded The Memory at On On Hotel. It’s now a stylish place to stay.
For 5 star luxury just out of Phuket Town try the Westin Siray Bay Resort. They have especially good prices in the low season.
Kamala, Surin and Bangtao Beach hotels
Drive north from Patong beach past Kalim Bay for about 10km and you’ll find yourself in Kamala beach, once a sleepy muslim fishing village, now a popular destination for Phuket holiday makers. Actually it’s only popular in high season, in the low season from May to October it feels pretty closed down and the windswept beach fills with flotsam and jetsam washed in from the sea. In high season (November to April) the beach is lined with beach restaurants which are great places to waste away the hours. We like the fact that you can find a resort on Kamala that is right on the beach, no road in between and everything is within walking distance.
Next up the coast from Kamala is Surin beach which is also very nice and like Kamala it’s lined with beach restaurants. Surin is trying to take itself upmarket with trendy beach clubs that sell overpriced beer and undersized meals to gullible nitwits. We think the best food comes from the stalls around the parking area where picnic tables have been set up.
Continuing north we reach Bangtao beach which has, like everywhere in Phuket, boomed in recent years. The Laguna resorts are in this area plus lots of new hotels catering to package tourists and small boutique places of varying quality.
From a divers point of view Kamala, Surin and Bangtao beaches are a bit out of the way and all boats will charge extra to collect you here.
Our Kamala beach hotel suggestions:
The main hotel right on the beach is the 4 star Kamala Beach resort. It’s a good choice if you don’t want kids around because they don’t let kids in. Close by and a little more cozy are the Kamala beach front apartments. They are very good value for beach front accommodation with a pool.
The ocean road running south of Kamala has some high end resorts and small empty beaches. The Hyatt Regency is well located with a beautiful ocean side pool. The Ayara Kamala Resort is on the cliffs with unbeatable views.
North west Phuket beach hotels
Naiyang beach is just south of Phuket airport. Maikhao beach is just north of the airport. Please don’t stay at these beaches if you are planning day dive trips from Chalong Bay, it’s too far away. The resorts in these areas often offer very good promotion rates from May to October. The trouble is once you arrive at the resort you realize that you are miles from anywhere and it’s going to cost a fortune in transport costs to get anywhere.
If however you are coming from November to April and diving the Similan Islands, Koh Bon, Richelieu Rock then these beaches might suit you. You’ll probably still be charged a transfer fee because they are not the main tourist beaches but you’ll get longer in bed in the morning. For example, the pick up time in Kata beach for a Similan day trip is 6am, in Naiyang beach it’s 7am.
Naiyang is a nice beach to spend a few days with some real local restaurants that are hard to find on the busier beaches.
Our suggested resorts in north west Phuket:
There are some really stylish resorts up this end of Phuket and the The Slate is one of the best, it’s won awards apparently. For a lower budget option try the Chez Charly bungalows which are slightly inland about 15 minutes walk to the beach.
The Sixteenth Naiyang beach hotel is just a one minute walk to the beach. It’s new and clean and popular for short stays. The Marina Aviator is also good value, located half way between the airport and the beach. The Dewa Resort opposite is more luxurious.
Maikhao beach is home of some big brand chains like the JW Marriott and the Holiday Inn. We’ve had good reports about the Renaissance, it’s another resort that offers very good rates in low season.
East Phuket Resorts
The east coast of Phuket is an area that we don’t generally recommend to divers because if the issues with getting to the boats. Ao Yon is a lovely bay with a few nice resorts. Cape Panwa is home to the deep sea port and the marine biological research centre with it’s small aquarium. These are perfectly nice areas to stay but if you want to dive we will have to arrange private transfers for you. If you are staying in a private villa on the east coast of Phuket, like Cape Yamu for example, you will need your own transport.
Hotels close to Phuket
We are increasingly getting enquiries from divers staying just off Phuket island. Some new resorts are bit sneaky in there advertising, particularly some of the resorts in Phang Nga, the neighbouring province to the north of Phuket. They will say that they are Phuket Phang Nga hotels but that is Phuket by name only. Klok Kloy is not Phuket, neither is Thai Muang. Coconut Island Village is another awkward one to schedule transfers for.