Phuket has traditionally been about beaches, island hopping and adventure watersports. The well known ones—Patong, Rawai, Surin, Karon and Kamala—are all within kilometres of each other but in slightly different directions, so that even as the travel brochures tell you that they are on the same stretch of the coastline and you could more or less walk from one to the other, it might not be a very viable option given the heat and humidity of this region.
Instead, a range of transportation options guarantee an enjoyable and hassle-free trip to the beach, even if you are not using the sea to make a foray into the many islands strewn across the waters and offering anything from idyllic village visits to caving and kayaking. (Shops and online travel agents, both could help you check out the various tours and packages available, and it never hurts to compare prices and bargain hard!).
For the slow movers such as me, there are taxis, motorcycles- either hired with a driver or self driven, and public buses available for making the 20 kilometres or so to the nearest beaches of Patong and Karon, but it's important to note that the last public bus pick up from the beach might be as early as 6 pm (before the official hour of sunset), since their services start at 6 am!. The bus fare is a standard 40 baht, this being the most economical option for both natives and foreigners, and the fare is duly collected by the driver or conductor a little before the drop off point.
I took the bus to both Karon (on the evening of day 1) and Patong (on the morning of day 2), and thoroughly enjoyed the ride—getting a wide view of this spectacularly pretty city, and feeling the cool breeze fan my back as it slowly but surely started to heat up at both times of the day.
Beaches will be beaches, but it is the vibes that set one apart from the other. Most of the ones in this region are rather cove-like and fringed by low hills and forests—the sand very white and the water very blue—if you could get a clear enough and uninterrupted view of either! Because, almost the entire stretch of available coast is more or less taken up by sunbeds, sun umbrellas, and sun worshippers on their own mats. Add to this the profusion of small boats, kayaks and water scooters for the ones looking for that extra zing to their beach holiday.
On the shore itself, there are stalls selling juice, snacks and coconut water, and the shade trees all have a hammock or two strung across them. Across the beach the road is chock- a-block with shops and stores selling everything from artisanal fried ice cream to batik textiles. Bars, restaurants, travel agencies and fruit sellers take up the rest of the available space. At discreet corners sit the massage ladies outside their parlours, swinging their feet and smiling knowingly.
Cannabis and alcohol are freely available but fortunately it is not a law and order problem here—probably due to its reputation of being a safe party destination even for single girls and women. There is always a modicum of reserve and decency among both locals and visitors—as if NO ONE wants to disturb the peace and tranquility of this haven, even if for their own current and future good. (There ARE steep fines and imprisonment for breaking the 'unwritten' rules of the place, hence the implicit control in such arrangements, is what I believe.)
Enjoy a sundowner, or simply the sun going down; the beaches of Phuket will not disappoint. Cheers!