Thailand’s biggest island hardly seems like an island at all. It’s got its own airport (a large one, at that) and a bridge connecting it to the Andaman coast on the mainland of the Land of Smiles. The upshot? This one’s a buzzy, bustling place to holiday, with thousands of visitors flocking in to enjoy the easy-to-access beaches and resorts and beer bars. The best sands string down the western edge of Phuket, going from the lively strips of Patong to the villa-speckled hills around Kata Noi Beach. Elsewhere, you can explore intriguing Sino-Portuguese districts in Phuket Town and hop out to nearby islands in wonderful Phang Nga Bay.

Airbnb in Phuket is becoming an increasingly popular choice on the accommodation front. With all sorts of rentals up for grabs, it’s a one-stop portal for searching five-star hotels, sleek modern condos, cute beachside cabanas, and a whole load more. This guide runs through all the best neighborhoods where you can score Airbnb and comes with top tips on the standout listings on the island.

In this Airbnb guide to Phuket:

Is Airbnb legal in Phuket?

The situation with Airbnb in the Land of Smiles is a little bit confused right now. Officially, renting out property direct from an owner isn’t allowed. It goes against the 2004 Hotels Act, which says that only registered establishments can offer short-term contracts to travelers. However, despite a few reports of punishments being levied against condo owners, Airbnb in Phuket seems to have carried on as normal. You can still search myriad listings between the beaches and jungle-covered hills. You can still book for any period of time you’d like, whether that’s a couple of days or a whole month.

We’d say it’s worth being aware of the law and checking that everything will be okay ahead of time with your host. They may say that stays of under 30 days simply aren’t feasible. Or, they may have all the necessary documents for the whole thing to be above board. On top of that, hotels, hostels, or resorts listed on Airbnb in Phuket typically comply with the Hotels Act anyway, so there’s usually nothing to worry about when it comes to pads like that.

Where should I stay in Phuket Airbnb?

Phuket is Thailand’s largest island. It measures 30 miles from head to toe, and includes frenetic market towns as well as beautiful tropical beaches. The best of the latter string down the west coast, starting with sugary Surin (1), then going through hedonistic Patong (2), family friendly Karon (3), and the hidden honeymooner enclave of Kata Noi (4). On the southernmost tip comes the earthy mix of Muay Thai wresting arenas and fish markets that is Rawai (5). Up from that, you’ll encounter the diving mecca of Chalong (6), which is joined at the hip to historic Phuket Town (7).

Surin

Surin

Pros
  • Some seriously luxurious Airbnbs
  • A gorgeous beachfront location
  • Fun place for watersports
Cons
  • Perhaps a tad expensive
  • Stormy waters in the low season (May-September)

Just one glimpse at Surin Beach and you’ll be glad you booked your Airbnb on this stunning corner of Phuket. A 700-metre-long stretch of white-yellow sand, it’s enfolded by headlands topped by coconut palms and comes with some of the clearest blue water on the island. To the north and south of the beach itself are excellent snorkelling spots. Just behind are sleek resorts and glitzy Mediterranean-style beach clubs. Expect an abundance of high-class rentals thanks to the proximity of so-called Millionaire’s Row on next-door Kamala Beach.

Patong
Walking Street on Bangla Road, Patong © Ruslan Kokarev / Shutterstock.com

Patong

Pros
  • One of the most happening nightlife scenes on the island
  • Loads of watersports
  • International and Thai dining options abound
Cons
  • Can be very busy
  • A tad sleazy after dark

Relax by day, party by night – that’s usual mantra in Patong. Arguably the liveliest resort in Phuket, this one comes replete with go-go bars and pumping Chang outlets, all of which hit a zenith on Bangla Road late at night. The shoreline is a hubbub of sunbathing bodies and watersports outfitters – lots come to Patong to whiz across the Andaman on jet skis and try parasailing and the like. Airbnb wise, there’s all sorts, from budget hostel dorms to luxurious multi-room villas.

Karon

Karon

Pros
  • Great for families
  • Lots of space on the beach
  • Some high-quality resort options on offer on Airbnb
Cons
  • Rough waters and rip tides in low season
  • Everything is quite spread out

Clocking up 5,000 metres in length as it rolls beneath hills topped by the famous Big Buddha, Karon is one of the more spacious and open beaches on the west coast of Phuket. The north end especially is a secluded place where you can often spread out for a day’s sunbathing. What’s more, fewer jet skis make it a doozy for families, but only during the calm-water months between October and March. Expect accommodation options to be mainly midrange to top-class resort hotels unless you go a few roads back from the shoreline.

Kata Noi

Kata Noi

Pros
  • Relatively secluded and quiet
  • A rare Thai surf spot
  • Good watersports options
Cons
  • Rough waters during the rainy season
  • Not so well connected to the rest of the island

Framed by low coast hills clad in emerald jungle almost at the southernmost end of Phuket, Kata Noi remains a more off-the-beaten-track escape from it all. Nowhere near as popular as its compadres, it comes with enticing Airbnb rentals in clifftop bungalows and villas. The beach itself has soft quartz-coloured sand, along with some of the best surf waves in Thailand during the stormier months. On the whole, it’s a top choice for chilled family vacations and romantic honeymoons.

Rawai

Rawai

Pros
  • Acclaimed Muay Thai schools
  • Tends to be a cheap option
  • Good selection of local Thai seafood
Cons
  • Not the prettiest beach
  • Gets quite busy with day trippers

Shaded by clusters of low-stooping palm trees on the south-west edge of Phuket, Rawai Beach is about as far as you can get from the airport. Lots of travelers make the trek from the terminals on account of the famous Muay Thai boxing schools and health resorts that seem to have colonised this part of the island. Others are drawn by the vibrant fish markets, the street bazaars, and relatively cheaper Airbnb rates. 

Chalong

Chalong

Pros
  • Great for divers
  • Good access to nearby islands
  • It’s affordable
Cons
  • Filled with traffic
  • Ugly town centre
  • Not close to any nice beaches

Chalong straddles a traffic-clogged crossroads at the heart of south-central Phuket. It’s mainly known for its speedboat port, so there’s plenty to be said for seeking a place here if you’re planning to explore the islands across Phang Nga Bay. However, it’s also a major hub for dive schools, which you’ll find all around the docks. What’s more, Airbnb reveals an abundance of clean and modern condos here, usually with pools and rooftop communal areas.

Phuket Town
Surin Circle Clock Tower in Phuket Town © BGphotographer / Shutterstock.com

Phuket Town

Pros
  • A lived-in lively town centre
  • Plenty of art galleries and cafés
  • Fun night markets
Cons
  • Not by the beach
  • It’s tricky to get around the island from Phuket Town without your own motorbike

Culture lovers and history buffs won’t want to miss Phuket Town. It’s been an important trading post on the edge of the Malay Peninsula since time immemorial, a legacy which you’ll get to see in the pastel-painted Sino-Portuguese houses that pepper the centre. Recently, these have been taken over by coffee roasters and independent artists, converting the place into something of a hipster hub. It’s also generally a cheaper spot to base yourself than the major beach resorts.

Best Airbnbs in Phuket

Best Airbnb apartment in Phuket

Luxurious 2-bedroom Beachfront Penthouse

Luxurious 2-bedroom Beachfront Penthouse

You can see the azure tones of the Andaman Sea from virtually every window in this deluxe apartment on the hills above Bang Tao Beach. Two bedrooms and a spacious living quarter all merge together with their real-wood floors and chic modernist styles. Penthouse is the keyword to maximise the views across the bay. Meanwhile, there’s a garden with a sumptuous pool and dining area just below.

Best Airbnb house in Phuket

Villa Momo

Villa Momo

Get a taste of the high life between the gorgeous beaches of southern Phuket in Villa Momo, a modern construction that mixes whitewashed walls with polished concrete. With space enough for 12 people, you can expect a sprawling lounge and dining area, along with five bedrooms, some of which enjoy free-standing bathtubs and walk-in wardrobes.

Best Airbnb for families in Phuket

Villa overlooking Layan Beach

Villa overlooking Layan Beach

Whisk the whole family away to the lush jungled hills of northern Phuket by choosing this gorgeous villa. It pokes out from a little break in the jungles with its traditional spiked Thai roofs to offer a pad that’s got space enough for eight across a total of four bedrooms. An entertainment room will keep the little ones busy while the adults dip in the infinity pool and gaze out at the panorama of Layan Beach below.

Best Airbnb for large groups in Phuket

Remarkable Boutique Villa in Patong

Remarkable Boutique Villa in Patong

With one foot in sleepless Patong and a garden that gazes straight across to the Andaman Sea, this stunning villa rental really does live up to its name. It’s remarkable for the sumptuous outdoor gardens with that ying-yang pool and lush green lawns. It’s remarkable for its colonial-style design that artfully fuses indoor and al fresco spaces. Customers can also enlist the help of the owner’s own speedboat when it’s time to visit the Phi Phis and other islands.

Is Airbnb cheaper than hotels in Phuket?

Airbnb in Phuket is renowned for being great value for money. You’ll often find that villas and condos with private pools are a steal when compared with hotels of a similar calibre. What’s more, there are sometimes attractive weekly and monthly discounts on offer from hosts, which can see the total cost of your stay cut by a whopping 50% or more.

Deevana Plaza

But that’s not the whole story. Airbnbs might not offer the same level of service as a hotel. If – like many travelers – you’re heading to Phuket to soak up the sun and be pampered, you might want to benefit from in-house spa facilities, daily housekeeping, and big buffet breakfasts. That’s the sort of thing you’ll get at a hotel like the four-star Deevana Plaza. It’s a top-rated establishment in the heart of a bumping resort town with its own outdoor pool and an on-site bar.

You can feel the soft sands of the Andaman coast between your toes and leave footprints on some of the most acclaimed beaches in the whole Land of Smiles, all with help from this guide to booking Airbnbs on Thailand’s largest island.

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