If it is complete solitude you are seeking then head for the beaches to the North West of Phuket, which thanks to the protection they have received since 1981 under National Park status, remain vast stretches of deserted white sand bordered by crystal clear waters. The Sirinath National Park encompasses a coastal mangrove forest housing varying species of animal and marine life as well as the paradise beaches of Nai Thon, Nai Yang, and Mai Khao. Between the months of November to February, the only other occupants on the beach may well be the Olive Ridley Sea Turtles, who have claimed this area as their own as a nesting ground for laying their eggs.
Nai Thon Beach
The southernmost beach that makes up this trio is Nai Thon Beach. This is a truly stunning stretch of pure white sand accessible only by a narrow road amidst green valleys and jungle scenery that only serves to enhance its appeal as a secret hideaway. You won’t find many watersports here so relaxation is the key activity, although there is outstanding snorkelling to be found around the rocks at both ends of the beach and the visibility in the clear waters is exceptional. Amenities at this beach are kept to a bare minimum in keeping with its natural ambience, but you can still hire sunbeds and purchase food and beverages from beach vendors during the dry season. Several restaurants near to the beach have reasonable menus throughout the day and if you smile and ask them nicely they will allow you to use their toilet facilities as there are none on the beach.
Nai Yang and Mai Khao occupy the same stretch of coastline and the two beaches combined form over 10-km of pristine white sand. This is the longest stretch of beach on the island and is enjoyed by tourists and locals alike for its peaceful and secluded setting. Nai Yang offers a masterclass in beach relaxation. With attentive and friendly beach vendors providing the essentials as well as natures own contribution of a refreshing sea breeze and shady retreat under the tall Casuarina Trees, you have everything on hand to lie back and soak up this slice of paradise. If relaxation for you means a heavy dose of extreme sports, then Nai Yang has it’s own Kitesurfing school which run classes from beginner level right up to advanced. There are a number of shops along the beach selling surf and kiteboard equipment.
If Nai Yang beach offers perfect solitude, then the nature trail though the mangrove forest and saltwater swamps of Sirinath National park allows you to really connect with nature. Open daily, this is not to be missed and the 800m wooden walkway through the forest allows you to completely immerse yourself in the company of a wealth of different species of plants and wildlife.
Another way to acquaint yourself with the local culture is to check out the community market, which sets up its stalls three times a week (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays) close to the grounds of Wat Mongkol Wararam (Nai Yang Temple). With a wonderful variety of fresh fruit, vegetables and local dishes on offer, this colourful market serves up a traditional slice of local life which is far removed from the tourist orientated markets of busier resorts (although you can still purchase knock off CD’s, DVD’s and clothes, but who doesn’t like a bargain). For another interesting experience, head to the northern end of the beach, lie back in the sand and watch the planes fly in low over the beach only a few feet above you as they come into land at Phuket International Airport.
Whilst nightlife is fairly relaxed in Nai Yang, an evening drink and seafood BBQ in a friendly and laidback beach front bar or restaurant can be an attractive alternative to the fierce and frantic pace of the busier resorts on the island. There are in fact a number of restaurants serving traditional Thai and International cuisine and considering their idyllic beach front location they are very reasonably priced.
Mai Khao is situated approx 34 km from Phuket Town and just to the north of Phuket International Airport. This vast expanse of sand stretches as far as the eye can see, spanning approximately 10 km long incorporating Nai Yang beach at its southern end. Other beaches may boast about being the best destination to escape the crowds, but Mai Khao is clearly in a league of its own. Unless you count your shadow for company, you are likely to find yourself completely alone with your thoughts, and the mixture of solitude, sun, sea and sand create the perfect ambience to make you feel a million miles away from the rest of civilisation.
Whilst it is easy to conjure up this illusion in such a beautiful, tranquil location, there are a number of recent developments in the area that can provide a welcome break from the midday sun. Mai Khao is home to the brand new Splash jungle Water Park, which opened it’s doors in January 2010. This state of the art water park offers high speed slides, lazy river rides, wave pool, family play area and bars,cafes and shops set within 7 themed sections from around the world. The Turtle Shopping village offers the perfect holiday shopping experience with a range of designer clothes, gift and souvenirs, Jim Thompson Silk Products, traditional Thai handicrafts, quality jewellery and many other outlets conveniently located on two floors of modern retail space.
Turtle Shopping Village also serves up some decent dining options with the Coffee Club getting rave reviews for its quality and varied menus at reasonable prices. Mai Khao is famous for the local dishes on offer at the unique bamboo-and-thatch beach front restaurants located close to the Sarasin Bridge, which links Phuket to the Phang-Nga province in mainland Thailand.