Not too long ago, Kamala Beach was a sleepy, predominantly Muslim fishing village. Today, it is modern and developing, but it is one of the least developed and least commercial beaches on Phuket Island. Travellers returning from Kamala almost always comment about how peaceful and natural it it. While it is not somewhere out a Hemingway novel, it seems to be an outpost in the modern world where one can feel a simplicity and calmness we connect to the past.
Kamala Beach is located on the west coast of Phuket Island on a peninsula jutting out into the Andaman Sea. It is somewhat isolated from the rest of the island – due east is a large range of mountains or high hills – and must be approached either from the south through Patong Beach, which is around 15 kilometers away, or from the north on a road that follows the coast passing through a small beach, Hat Surin, and then heading toward Bang Tao Beach, around five kilometers distant.
Before reaching Bang Tao, the road branches off toward the inland to eventually turn south toward Phuket. Kamala Beach is so small that most people do not refer to the roads in Kamala by name, if they have names!!!
The beach itself is about two miles in length and is typical of the beaches of western Phuket…the sand is clean and white, the water clear and blue. The entire beach is sheltered by casuarina trees. A paved road follows the beach, broken in the middle by a police station and a park which commemorates the vicims of the 2004 Asian Tsunami – Kamala was devastated by the Tsunami.
The northern end remains largely undeveloped, in part due to the presence of a Muslim cemetary. There is a joggiing trail through the area. The southern end of the beach is anchored by the Kamala Wat, a Buddhist temple. Fairly heavy development is taking place there, although it has been described as "environmentally friendly".
The area has been called "millionaries mile" because much of the construction is for luxury homes. During the high season, the various "water sports" such as jet-skiing, water-skiing and para-sailing are available (and usually expensive), but after high season these sports stop and the beach becomes quiet again. During the months from November to March, surfing and snorkeling are popular.
There are two main areas for accommodation in Kamala Beach: the southern beachside area and the area north of the police station. There are not many large scale resort developments in Kamala – not yet anyway.
The proportion of accommodation available in the guest house and small hotel category is higher than that at other beaches. A significant amount of the housing avaiable can be classified as budget housing, particularly in the off or low season, which, of course, is most of the year.
Thus, it is usually possible to find what most would consider acceptable housing in the 500 to 700 baht a night range. Bungalows and huts are available on the beach for 1600 to 2000 baht a night, at least during the high season. Generally, travellers will be able to locate suitable housing on their arrival in Kamala Beach. Reservations usually just lock people in to paying higher prices.
The bar and drinking scene is modest by Thai and Phuket standards but Kamala does have enough bars to keep most visitors occupied. Most are located on the Kamala Beach Road. Several have an outdoor format and there is at least one beer garden. Closing times are usually somewhere between 1:00 and 2:00PM, although these times are not always enforced.
Those who want more excitement can go to nearby Patong, although problems arranging transportation to and from Patong are common.
The "food scene" is not as well developed in Kamala Beach as it is in most other beach towns and there is not nearly as much pretense (or maybe legitimate claim) to cullinary excellence, which actually can be a blessing to the pocketbook.
In Kamala, Thai food is predominant, noodles, chicken, rice. There are many open air restaurants and food stalls, and several small restaurants along the beach road. There are some restaurants along the beach, especially in the coves of the southern area.
Western food available is primarily Scandanavian as most of Kamala's customers – and most of the foreign businessman – are Scandanavian. There are no Western fast-food restaurants here. Those desiring something elegant are referred to the Kamala Bay Terrace Resort, or the nearby "Rythm and Beach" establishment. There is lots of seafood in Kamala but beware, it is expensive.
Kamala Beach is not considered a shoppers paradise but travellers can obtain all the standard stuff they want and need. There are several minimarts and supermarkets on the beach road and in the area, and there are the usual type Thailand stores and stalls selling the usual type tourist and beach products – T-shirts, CD's, swimming suits, souvenirs, etc.
There is a local or village market, a "Talad Nat", close to the main road which is held every Wednesday and Saturday afternoon. It might be worth a look. Those needing clothes will be glad to know that there ARE many tailor shops in Kamala beach.
Kamala is the home of the Phuket Fantasea Park, a Thai entertainment complex coverning 140 acres. While many vacation goers would rather catch the bubonic plague than go to such a place, it is kind of interesting. There is a Las Vegas style disco-light show featuring dancing animals, including many dancing elephants.
There are also great eating opportunities (the restaurant has 4000 seats) and a "Festival Village", where one can get elephant rides, see handicraft demonstration, buy stuff and so forth. Phuket Fantasea Park has been awarded the "Best Attraction" in Thailand by the Tourism Authority of Thailand for the past several years.
If you feel this is not for you – or that it might just be great for the kids – then stick to the beach but let the kids come.