Photo: Surf is not up at Kamala beach.

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After the crass commercialism of Patong, long and sweeping Kamala Beach is a breath of fresh air. Lined by casuarinas and palms, Kamala makes for fine swimming and it's easy to find your own patch of sand. Shallow and calm for most of the year, Kamala is a favoured beach for families.

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Kamala feels more like a little Thai village than other towns on Phuket. It still has the standard touristy stuff, but you don't need to walk far to find an unaffected place or enjoy an authentic meal at a restaurant that sees more locals than tourists. However, with a number of new resorts and private apartments under construction and even more being planned, Kamala’s small-town charm is waning.

The formerly quiet far northern end of the beach is now home to the 166-room Novotel Phuket Kamala resort, with a giant resort and residential development MontAzure under construction on a long length of beachfront land north of the cemetery. The mountainous headlands to the south towards Patong are dotted with cranes and half-built luxury villas. Known as Millionaire's Mile, this area is Phuket's latest hotspot for exclusive resorts, including the 199-room Hyatt Regency that opened in 2014 and vacation homes for the rich and famous – Thailand’s Crown Prince is among those who own property here.

A paved road runs the length of the beach, but is broken in the middle by the police station and a small park. Cheap guesthouses and a couple of mid-range resorts can be found at both ends of the beach. A sandy path along Kamala's northern stretch is popular with joggers, but also used by locals on motorbikes as a shortcut into town.

During the high season activities like windsurfing, standup paddling, water-skiing, banana boats, fishing trips and island hopping all run on a daily basis. Though it’s far from being the best surfing spot in Phuket (best to go to Kata), during the low season months of October through May surfboards are available for rent.

Like all beaches on Phuket, Kamala was cleared of its rental sunbeds during the Thai junta’s beach vendor crackdown in 2014. In 2015, a limited number of umbrellas were allowed back on the beach, available for rent in zones with mats for 200 baht. Most of the restaurants and shops lining the beachfront still remain, and some of these have rental sunbeds if you don’t mind sitting back from the sands a bit.

Kamala beach was hard hit by the 2004 Asian tsunami and a monument in the town park commemorates those who lost their lives in the tragedy. The town has since fully recovered but the rush to build and Phuket’s push towards ever more mass tourism appear to have hurt the small independent guesthouse and resort operators here, as we found many to be quiet even in high season. The good news for travellers, however, is that they’ll have an easier time negotiating price discounts.

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