Mai Khao Beach, Phuket with the Tribe
Whether you arrive on Phuket by land or by air, Mai Khao is one of the first beaches you’ll encounter. Many rush past it, but these brown sugar sands are worth your time.
Spanning just over 11kms (6.8 miles) from Sirinat National Park to just short of the Sarasin Bridge (to the mainland) and Sai Keow Beach, Mai Khao Beach is an impressive piece of real estate. Most well known for 3 things – sea turtles and nature preserves, a water park, and the airport – Mai Khao does have more going on…but let’s start with these.
Thailand has a special relationship with sea turtles and Mai Khao is on the frontlines of protecting these beautiful creatures. Check out the Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation to learn more. If you’re in the area around Songkran (Thai New Year – April 13), don’t miss the release of baby sea turtles into the Andaman.
Splash Jungle Water Park Phuket is one of the biggest water parks on the island. It’s family fun waiting to happen. At the time of writing, due to COVID, they are running reduced hours: Friday to Sunday, 10am to 5:45pm.
Be sure to spend a night (or more) at Andaman House. Located right next to Splash Jungle, you can book your accommodation and water park tickets. Use promo code TEAMWYK to receive 10% off your accommodations.
The Mai Khao Airport Viewpoint is one of our favourite places on Phuket. If you’re not staying on Mai Khao Beach, then you can park at Sirinat National Park (but that can be expensive). Alternately, there is a parking lot about half a km north of the viewpoint and landing airplane signs will help guide the way (put Soi Mai Khao 6 into your map app). Once you park, you’ll quickly realize that though not officially allowed, plane spotting on the beach is a popular pastime. There are motorcycles with sidecars to drive you the 500 meters to the viewpoint. Vendors will keep you well fed and hydrated if you want to make a day of this. Prime plane spotting time is from December to June as planes have to approach their landing from over the ocean, across the beach, and onto the runway. We found this article very helpful. Of course, with planes landing overhead, be safe and use good judgement.
With the big 3 covered, let’s look at other reasons to come to Mai Khao:
Because Mai Khao is so overlooked, you can come here to avoid the crowds. Many of the hotels are not beach front and so the resorts don’t maintain the beaches. Sadly, like so many beaches in South East Asia, you will find plastic and trash, but not enough to ruin your time here.
Mai Khao’s main road is set back from the beach ensuring you won’t hear traffic while perfecting your tan. There are a number of little shops and eateries that range from simple to charming. If all else fails, there are 7-Eleven’s and you can snack and beer your way through the day. This main road ends in the private jet terminal for HKT so you may just see someone famous drive past (ok, you’ll just see the nice car they are in).
Sirinat National Park will set you back 40 Baht as a Thai and 200 Baht as a foreign national. It’s nice, but not different from the rest of Mai Khao. So while locals love to picnic here on weekends, you’re not missing anything by not entering the national park.
If you’re in the mood for some retail therapy, you can cruise the shops and restaurants of Turtle Village – which is very much oriented towards Phuket’s foreign visitors.