Rawai Beach, located on the east side of Phuket Island, is one of the island's southernmost beaches, being only a few kilometers from the tip of Promthep Cape. It has the distinction of being the first tourist beach on Phuket. It is home to a large expatriate community, many of which own or operate small local businesses.
It is also a major port for the excursion boats that go back and forth between Phuket and surrounding Islands. Longtails and speedboats line the beach. The beach itself is not really suited for swimming. It and the seabed are rocky.
As other beaches have become popular over the years, the appeal of Rawai as a place to swim and sunbath has declined. It is, however, possible to swim in the waters of Rawai year round as it is not affected by the monsoon currents. It remains popular with scuba divers.
Rawai has been known in recent years as a great place to eat. Until recently, people could sit on mats on the beach and under casuarina trees and eat food placed on small tables. They could view nearby islands while eating.
A walkway has been built nearby, however, and it is not permitted to eat beyond the walkway. Nevertheless, eating in Rawai continues to be an enjoyable activity. There are many small restaurants that line the beach road and they serve a variety of foods, being especially well known for reasonably priced seafood. Many people like to eat at Ban Hat Rawai at the west end of the beach or Nikita bar at the east end.
The area is generally quite quiet. It is surrounded by rubber and banana plantations and by tropical forest. It is noted for the road that connects it to Kata Beach, which weaves through the hills and offers great views of the ocean and secluded beaches as well as elephants and monkeys.
The area is dotted with small Thai style houses, many of which are rentable for very reasonable sums. There is not a lot of accommodation in Rawai Beach. Much which is available is in the five star variety – Evason Phuket and Six Senses Spa, the Mystery Hotel Rawai Beach Phuket, The Mangosteen Resort and Spa, and the Vijjit Resort.
Rawai does have a nightlife, but not of the type typical of Patong Beach or Karon Beach. It is a night life that centers around small expatriate neighborhood type bars. People who frequent these places generally have been doing do for a long time, and know others who have been doing the same.
Most places serve food and are welcoming of the stranger searching for a place to have a bite to eat, may be watch some TV and have a friendly drink.
Rawai is not a major shopping destination and does not cater to large numbers of shopping tourists. There are a few art and antique stores in Rawai. At the eastern end of the beach there is a Sea Gypsy village, and one can buy genuine handicrafts there. Fresh fish, just off the boat, is barbecued for visitors.
Nearby, on the tip of Promthep Cape, one can buy T-shirts, beachwear and many souvenir items. Of course, Phuket town, Kata Beach, Karon Beach and Patong Beach are nearby as are their comparatively excellent shopping opportunities.