Jun 06 2014

Driving Phuket’s west coast

Published by at 11:43 am under Sightseeing & activties


Though its roads are getting busier, Phuket’s west coast yields some awesome sights. Are you up for some craggy cliffs, green hills and wide ocean vistas, with white-sand beaches to rest at along the way? Yes, you might encounter some nutter drivers but the island’s coastal roads are in decent condition, fairly well signed and a joy to drive once you’re accustomed to the traffic flows.

Naithon beach, departure point, though you may not want to leave.

Naithon beach, departure point, though you may be tempted to stay a while.

A good place to start is Naithon beach, where you could have a morning stroll on its empty sands before setting off. Take the road that runs parallel to the beach (Route 4018) and follow it south as it winds through jungly hills to Bang Tao beach, passing by Banana beach and the six-star Trisara resort on the way.

To better hug the coastline, turn right onto Layan Soi 2, which takes you to Layan beach. Turning left just before Layan beach will lead you along the lonelier north end of Bang Tao beach, past Maan Tawan housing estate to the nondescript “back” entrance to Laguna Phuket resort, where there are a cluster of beachfront restaurants. From here, take the road through the Laguna enclave, a genteel, well-manicured otherworld that’s home to the Banyan Tree and other five-star resorts.

Sea, sand, sky - all you need at Bang Tao beach.

Sea, sand, sky — all you need at Bang Tao beach.

The inland stretch of road leading from Laguna towards Surin beach is not terribly picturesque, so just drive on, heading south on Srisoonthorn Road (Route 4025) through Cherng Talay town then around the base of the Surin hills till you see the sign pointing to Surin beach. You could stop for a splashy lunch at one of Surin’s beach clubs or carry on towards Kamala.

Along the way to Kamala beach — some gorgeous sea views here — you’ll see a sign for Laem Singh beach. To stop by here you’ll have to pay to park at the roadside, then take the somewhat steep path down to the beach where this small stretch of sand is lined with sun loungers and dining spots.

Reaching Kamala, you’ll need to turn off onto one of the town’s roads leading west to get to the beach. For a small diversion, some sparkling views and a few hairpin turns, take the little loop around the headland at Kamala’s north end.

Some pay millions for this view on the Kamala headland. It's all yours, for free.

Some pay millions for this view on the Kamala headland. It’s all yours, for free.

The road is known as the Millionaires’ Mile for its villa estates and five-star resorts including Andara and Cape Sienna. This goes on for about five kilometres, with a few small beaches including Hua beach to stop at along the way. It gets rather rough beyond the Paresa resort, then the paved road ends just past Cape Sol villa estate. From here, most will turn around to go back to Kamala, though brave riders could try the dirt road that apparently leads to Patong (we haven’t tried it!).

Back on the main road (Route 4233), along the scenic yet slightly hairy drive from Kamala to Patong, stop at Kalim beach for a breather, or make a rest stop at one of the restaurants on the cliffs (try Pan Yaah or Pantai Seaview), then drive through Patong beach towards Karon beach.

Anyone seen my kayak? Cape Promthep, Rawai.

Anyone seen my kayak? Cape Promthep, Rawai.

To get to the road to Karon, make a right turn at Rat-U-Thit 200 Pi Road, which leads you past Jungceylon mall, the Hard Rock Cafe and numerous restaurants, bars and hotels. If you’re keen to see Patong’s beach, you’ll need to make a right turn off Rat-U-Thit to the beach road and make a loop around since its main roads are on a one-way system.

From Patong, cruise along the hilly road to Karon, then drive along the beachfront roads of Karon and Kata beaches. Take a right turn onto Khok Thanod road near the Kata Beach Resort, then just past The Boathouse resort, make a left turn up the steep hill and follow this road (Route 4233) to Nai Harn beach, with a stop at the Kata-Karon viewpoint and perhaps one of the little platform bars clinging to the hill at the roadside nearby.

Nai Harn sunset. Soft landing at the end of a day's drive.

Nai Harn sunset. Soft landing at the end of a day’s drive.

From Nai Harn, another curvy road leads first to Ya Nui beach, then the Cape Promthep viewpoint, then beyond to Rawai beach, where you’ll want to reward your driving efforts with a fresh seafood dinner and a cold beverage at one of its rustic waterfront restaurants. Or, if you want to catch a classic tropical sunset over the sea for a blazing end to the day, go back to Nai Harn and plant yourself on its soft sands.

This whole route could be covered in a day, about 65 kilometres in total, or for a more relaxed trip just do a few sections of it to allow more time to linger at the beaches and lookout points. With some steep hills to navigate be sure to use a motorbike or car in good condition with decent engine power. And keep a sharp eye out for the nutters while enjoying the views. Happy cruising!

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