In this comparison guide, I will compare the two popular Phuket beach areas against one another. Comparing each area’s main beach, things to do, hotels, restaurants and nightlife!
Karon Beach and Kata Beach are the two most compared areas in Phuket because they’re very similar and are located next to each other, only minutes away. And there are only a few slight differences between the two!
It can get overwhelming when deciding which area to stay in, with so many to choose from in Phuket: Patong Beach, Kamala, Bang Tao, Old Phuket Town, etc. Karon and Kata Beach are excellent for couples, families, and solo travelers who prefer a calmer, more authentic beach area.
I’ve spent one month in both Karon and Kata Beach through my many months visiting Phuket. This gave me enough time to get familiar with the atmosphere of each area, local restaurants, and things to do.
Getting to Karon Beach or Kata Beach
Once you’ve flown into Phuket International Airport (HKT), you must travel south of the island to Karon Beach or Kata Beach.
Both beach areas are in the same direction; Kata Beach is only slightly further away by 5 minutes.
Travel time from Phuket Airport to Karon or Kata Beach is 1 Hour and 5/10 minutes, depending on traffic.
Here are all your options from Phuket Airport to Karon or Kata and some essential tips you should know!
Private Airport Transfer: The most convenient way is by private airport transfer; you will have a car waiting for you once you arrive and don’t have to worry about figuring anything out once you’re there! – PRICE: $35 – 42 US
GRAB: This is UBER in Asia/Thailand; you can download the app and find a ride easily – But when you exit the airport, you must take a left and walk to the MAIN road because GRAB drivers are NOT allowed to enter the airport – PRICE varies by time of day but usually is 500 – 800 Baht / $15 – $23 US
Phuket Smart Bus: This is the cheapest way to get to Karon or Kata from Phuket Airport. This local bus travels from Phuket Airport along the coast of Phuket and stops at all the main beach areas in Phuket. It leaves around every hour. Check the Schedule – PRICE: 100 Baht / 2.88 US.
Taxi @ Airport: Once you arrive at Phuket Airport, many taxis are trying to gain your business; you can take one, but I’d be careful with this option only because they tend to overcharge tourists. – PRICE: 1000 Baht / $40+ US
AIRPORT TIPS: Phuket Airport has a Taxi mafia. They operate a firm hold taxis at the airport and are notorious for overcharging tourists for TAXI rides into Phuket. – You must LEAVE the main airport area and go to the MAIN road for ride pickups.
Getting Around Phuket:
- Phuket SmartBus
- Song Taew (local Blue Bus)
- Negotiate a TukTuk/taxi
- Rent a scooter!
TIP: If you need to know what to pay for a taxi, use the Grab/Bolt apps and negotiate based on the price you see in the app!
Karon or Kata Beach Difference
As stated, Karon and Kata Beach are very similar areas in all aspects. Both have excellent beaches, plenty of things to do, many shops/restaurants, and each has a lively night market.
There’s only one main difference in each area that separates the two popular Phuket beach areas located next to one another.
Karon Beach Advantage: The beach in Karon is significantly larger than the one in Kata. This is convenient because there are more sun loungers to rent and more space to enjoy the beach if you’re looking for a quiet spot. In Kata Beach, chair rentals are more limited.
Kata Beach Advantage: Kata has a better street landscape; there are many streets to walk around and explore, allowing for less crowd congestion. Karon Beach only has two main roads in the area, which is inconvenient because both streets are usually congested with other tourists, and there are fewer shops/restaurants than in Kata.
Both main streets in Karon Beach eventually connect to Kata Beach if you keep walking.
Is Kata or Karon Beach nicer?
Both are some of the most beautiful beaches in Phuket, with spacious shorelines, many amenities, soft sand, and crystal blue waters.
Kata Beach is more known for its waves for surfing, and Karon Beach has calmer water than Kata. Also, Kata Beach has several street foods along the street before the beach, which aren’t available in Karon.
But Karon Beach has a more extensive shoreline than Kata, with more space and sunloungers to rent.
Karon Beach or Kata Beach: Things To Do
Due to the short distance and similarities between Karon Beach and Kata Beach, both offer the same things to do. The only main difference is the actual beach in each area.
Surfing in Kata Beach is popular; the shoreline is known for its waves, which are ideal for beginners looking to learn how to surf. Karon Beach has calmer water.
No matter which area you decide to stay in, visit the famous Phuket Sunday Market!
Karon Beach – Things To Do
Beach Day — Spend the day at Karon Beach; this vast, extensive beach shoreline is full of room for you to sit down under a tree or rent a chair for the day to relax – There are JetSkis and parasailing offered here as well
Karon Park — The largest park in the area, perfect for an evening walk, with a large pond in the middle and a few street-food stalls nearby
Beach Volleyball — On the main strip, you will find 20 volleyball courts where you can join in and play; it’s also a popular spot for many to relax, people watch, and see the sunset
Karon Temple Market — The primary night market in the area, this night market occurs biweekly on Tuesdays and Fridays; here, you will find many street eats, souvenirs, and a wide variety of things to buy
Bazar Karon — Open every night, this is the perfect place to buy beach gear, clothing and there are many open-air restaurants here serving BBQ seafood
RELATED: 9 Best Phuket Day Trips
Kata Beach – Things To Do
Beach Day — Spend the day at Kata Beach; sunbathe, grab some street food mid-afternoon on the street, sit back, and relax. Or perhaps take beginner surf lessons, since Kata Beach is known for surfing!
Kata Beach Viewpoint — Hike to this breathtaking scenic viewpoint, where you can see the entire Kata area and beach from above; it’s worth the workout!
Big Buddha — No matter where you choose to stay in Phuket, visiting the Big Buddha in Kata is one of the best things to do in Phuket. Luckily, it’s in Kata; you can take a taxi or hike there. The hike takes around 90 minutes, and it is FREE to visit
Kata Night Market — Opened daily at 5:00 PM, the Kata Night Market is full of many street food, souvenir vendors, fresh fruit stalls, seafood restaurants, and more!
Dino Park Mini Golf — Lush green mini golf course with an artificial jungle, the perfect place to get competitive
Karon Beach or Kata Beach: Hotels & Resorts
Karon Beach and Kata Beach have an excellent selection of hotels and resorts.
From boutique hotels, large resorts, highrise modern hotels, or budget-friendly hostels, both beach areas offer all types of accommodations to choose from.
Best of all, because Karon and Kata Beach are small areas, most hotels are within walking distance of the main beach. So, no matter your location, you can get to the beach conveniently!
Where to Stay in Karon Beach
These are your three best accommodation options in Karon Beach to choose from! – No matter your budget!
Le Meridien Phuket — A stunning modern 5 Star beachfront resort with many amenities and a private beach area
JonoX Karon — Ultra modern hotel minutes away from the beach, beautiful rooftop pool, and very well-priced
Karon Sino Hostel — Budget-friendly hostel a short walk away from the beach, next to many restaurants
Where to Stay in Kata Beach
These are your three best accommodation options in Kata Beach to choose from! – No matter your budget!
Katathani Phuket Resort — Beautiful 5 Star beachfront resort, full of many activities and amenities
Blu Pine Villas — Modern boutique-style hotel offering villa rooms close to many excellent restaurants
Nonnee Hostel — Rated best hostel in Kata; spacious rooms, great communal area, and a lovely pool in the center of the hostel
Karon Beach or Kata Beach: Restaurants
Both areas are full of restaurants to try, from local Thai restaurants to Italian, Mexican, and Turkish; there’s a wide variety of cuisine in both beach areas!
Make sure to check out the street food and night markets. It would be wrong to visit Phuket and not try the street food and enjoy fresh BBQ seafood!
Here are shortlists of the best restaurants to try in each area, and for more suggestions, please take a look at my restaurant guides mentioned below.
Where to Eat in Karon Beach
PINTO Karon — Known as the best Thai restaurant in Karon, Pinto serves up all the classic Thai dishes with beautiful presentation
EAT Bar & Grill — Steaks, hamburgers, BBQ foods; this is the spot to go for modern-western BBQ; try the Wagyu steak with truffle sauce
Napoli in Vespa Phuket — Italian restaurant best known for the wood fire oven pizzas
Noodle House — Small local restaurant serving classic Thai noodle bowls
For more restaurant recommendations, refer to my guide on Karon Beach Restaurants!
Where to Eat in Kata Beach
The Pad Thai Shop — A local Thai restaurant known for its limited menu but delicious dishes
Oh San Ramen & Izakaya Kata — Japanese Tapas restaurant offering various ramen bowls, sushi and more
Istanbul Restaurant Kata — Classic Turkish cuisine, BBQ meats, fresh bread, and classic breakfast
Pomodoro Pizza Restaurant — Popular pizzeria known for its pizzas, pastas, and more
For more restaurant recommendations, refer to my Kata Beach Guide!
Is Kata or Karon Beach better for Nightlife?
Karon and Kata Beach have very similar nightlife; both are quieter beach areas frequented by families and travelers looking to relax by the beach.
Nightlife in both areas consists primarily of night markets, bars, and places where you can play pool, and some venues have live performances.
But Kata is slightly more lively than Karon because it has more bars, and the night market in Kata is open every night, unlike Karon’s night market, which is only open twice a week. Below, I’ll share with you the few bars/venues each area has to offer!
If you want to party until the early hours, you can always take a grab or taxi to Patong or Kamala!
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Karon Beach Nightlife
- Walkabout Sports Bar
- The Garage OG Phuket
- Karon Aussie Bar
- O’Reilly’s Irish Pub
Kata Beach Nightlife
- Mee Bar
- Back Cat’s Bar
- My Bar is Your Bar
- AllStar Aussie Sports Bar
Best Time to Visit Karon or Kata Beach
The best time to visit Phuket or anywhere in the South of Thailand is during the dry season, from November to April.
January and February are the driest months of the year in Phuket, and both months offer the highest chance for the most ideal weather.
This seasonal weather applies to the entire South of Thailand, whether you visit Krabi, Phi Phi Island, or other destinations in the south!
Suppose you choose to visit Phuket during the rainy season from May to October. In that case, you will experience some days with beautiful weather, but understand the chances of it raining are fairly higher than when visiting during the dry season.
Phuket has a tropical climate, so when it does rain during the off-season, it usually passes by quickly, but only sometimes.
Another downside to visiting during the off-season months is the beaches sometimes have red flags warning tourists to swim due to rough tides.
Monsoon/Rainy Season in Phuket: May to October
Dry Season in Phuket: November to April
Karon Beach or Kata Beach – Final Thoughts
Well, those are my thoughts on Karon Beach vs Kata Beach. Have you decided which beach area would suit you more?
Personally, I slightly favor Kata Beach as an area over Karon because it’s more lively and easier to walk around. But Karon has the more excellent beach overall.
If you haven’t decided, here are a few parting words that may convince you to stay in one area over another!
Solo Traveler: Both beach areas are great for solo travelers; if you appreciate a quieter area, go to Karon Beach instead of Kata Beach. But if you’re looking to be quite social during your solo travels, Patong Beach is best suited for solo travelers because of its excellent hostels
Couple: Karon and Kata Beach are excellent for couples; if you guys prefer a calmer area and more beach space, you’ll prefer staying in Karon; otherwise, consider Kata
Family: Kata Beach is better for families because there are more activities for kids, and it’s also easier to walk around Kata compared to Karon
Group of Friends: Kata is better for a group of friends; Karon is too quiet. Just make sure you understand that Kata Beach is still very much a couple/family-friendly beach area; it’s not the place for late-night parties; if that’s what you’d like to be around, consider Patong!
RELATED: 8 Best Beaches in Phuket
Can you walk from Kata Beach to Karon Beach?
Yes, you can, but it can be a long walk, depending on where you are walking from. For the most part, it’s a 15-45 minute walk. It’s best to take a quick taxi or tuk-tuk between both areas.
What is Kata Beach known for?
Kata Beach is best known for being one of the best beaches for surfing in Phuket. Besides that, the area is known for being a laidback, walkable, fun beach area for couples and families.
How far is Karon Beach to Kata Beach?
It’s 4 KM and an 8-minute drive from the main part of Karon Beach to Kata Beach.
Should I stay in Karon Beach?
Karon Beach is an excellent area to stay in. It has one of the largest and best beaches in Phuket; it is a quieter area than most beach areas in Phuket, but there’s still lots to do!
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