A s soon as you breast the tortuous road snaking south over the huge hills from Patong you enter a totally different world. The view of the broad majestic sweet of Karon’s golden sand meeting your eye says it all. You have survived the excitement of Parong and now you are blessed with the prospect of experiencing quintessentially tropical island beaches, picture postcard perfect and awaiting your pleasure.
While it’s true that Karon and Kata’s gorgeous beachfront is developing rapidly, the area still has a liberating feel after the intensity of Patong and certainly less populated pockets are readily found offering delightful quiet cafes and bars in which to enjoy a few cold ones and watch the rest of the world hurtle by.
The beach road, once nearly void of development, now features a string of mainly top-end resorts. Luckily, most are tasteful and set far enough back from the sand to blend into the background hills, which are themselves magnificent and covered in lush green vegetation, with the Big Buddha overlooking the entire scene from atop Nakkert Hills behind Kata Bay.
As you drive south from Karon you’ll crest a small headland with an abundance of shops, bars, restaurants and even a Dino Park boasting a “Crazy Golf” area in which animatronic frill-necked Cretaceous Era reptiles applaud your eagles, bogies and birdies!
Further south you enter the Kata Beach area and its heady penumbra of bars, restaurants, spas and even noisy nightclubs. Kata enjoys a buzz of round-the-clock activity, but if you want to slumber in quiet, without being too far from this ongoing party, there are many discreetly placed resorts in both Kata and Karon which will pamper you in relaxed comfort, while you are still only a gentle saunter away from the ongoing party.
During the monsoon season from May to end of October, the surf and oceanic rips make swimming on Karon dangerous, so you’ll have to head to Kata for that, but here too it’s important to pay attention to what the warning flags are telling you on any particular day.
From November to end of March both beaches are usually a pure delight of soft sand, gentle clear seas and the enjoyable attentions of the locals who will be happy to provide you with anything from ice cream, to cold beers and from luck-inducing Chiang Mai lanterns to light and release each evening, to a sensuous beach massage for as little as 300 baht an hour.