Fancy pants beach time

Have you ever heard of Natai beach? Imagine a stretch of white sands ten kilometres long that’s completely free of vendors and beach umbrellas. There are no big hotels, tailor shops or sleazy bars in the area, and absolutely no buzzing jet skis or speedboats.

More on Natai

Where is this magical place? If you’re on Phuket it’s easy to find – just drive over the bridge to the mainland Phang Nga province and within 10 minutes you’ll reach Natai’s quiet shores. Driving along Route 3006, the road that runs alongside the beach, is a scenic journey taking you through a tropical landscape of coconut groves and water-lily strewn lagoons. Several public paths leading to the beach from the road are found along the way. The beach is also known as Pilai beach, since part of it is in Pilai village.

Strict building laws have meant that hotels in the Natai area are allowed only a maximum 80 rooms and much of the beachfront land has been designated a forest or conservation zone. So, as long as the building codes are enforced, Natai will never see a giant Hilton or similar branded mega resort.

The downside of these strict laws, for budget travellers, is that most of the Natai beach development has been at the high end, with mostly luxury resorts and villas lining the beach. Some of the extreme luxury places in Natai include the privately owned Beyond Villa, a giant 6,500-square-meter house that was sold in 2010 for a reported US$24 million.

Nearby is Villa Viva, another private villa, that last time we checked was available for rent at US$10,000 per night, and the new Villa Iniala, a collection of chic rental villas with a restaurant serving meals at 6,000 baht each prepared by a three Michelin-starred chef.

For those of us not living the high life, affordable places to stay at Natai are few and far between. Hotels along the beach include Aleenta resort, the Ranyatavi, Mai Khao Dream and the Hotspring Beach Resort. All are in the four- to five-star range with prices to match.

No budget rooms are found on the beachfront, but there are a few small guesthouses just inland across the road. The cheapest deal we could find was at Natai Beach Bungalow, which is not a bungalow at all but a rather grim looking rowhouse with rooms going for 500 baht a night.

A more appealing budget option, also just back from the beach across the road, is CFun Cottages, which looks to be recently built with thatch-roof bungalow rooms at 1,500 baht for air-con and 1,000 baht for fan rooms, WiFi included.

A sign out front said rooms are available at 30 per cent discount from March through October. The cosy common area is shady and well designed with the bungalows set around a small central pool. We would have liked to have had a peek inside a room but there was absolutely no one around when we visited.

Two other bungalow operations, Gordons Guests and next-door Khaopilai Bungalow, found at the south end of Route 3006 as it approaches the beach, were also unmanned and empty of people when we stopped by. As we’ve mentioned, Natai is very quiet! We called later and were told that rooms are 1,000 baht a night.

The only independent beachfront restaurant we found is Rabian Lay Thai seafood, with most dishes in the 100 to 200 baht price range. If you’re not staying in Natai, this is a choice spot to park your towel on the sands for the afternoon in the shade of towering casuarina trees. Dining at more local prices is available at the nearby town of Kokkloy, a typical southern Thai town of mostly concrete shophouses with some banks and grocery stores.

If you tire of strolling the sands in solitude and cruising Natai’s peaceful roads, you could head down to the public pier where many locals like to cast a fishing line, especially at sunset. On the nearby sands are the huts and boats of the local fishermen – you’ll need to be there in the early morning or late afternoon to see any action with fishermen departing or returning with their day’s catch. At midday it’s quiet with only a few small long-tail boats scattered along the sands.

Whether you’re prepared to spend many thousands of baht or nothing at all, Natai’s a fine escape from the hustle and hassles of Phuket’s busy resort beaches, and it’s only a 25-kilometre hop north from Phuket International Airport.

Aleenta Resort 33/7 Moo 5. T: (02) 514 8112
CFun Cottages Route 3006, Natai beach. T: (081) 1422767
Gordon’s Guests 55/8 Moo 14. T: (087) 270 0941
Hotspring Beach Resort 79 Moo 8 Na Toey, Thai Muang. T: (076) 580 000-28
Khaopilai Bungalow 55/10 Moo 14. T: (087) 270 0941
Maikhao Dream Resort & Spa Natai 55 Moo 6. T: (076) 371321
Ranyatavi Resort 32/7 Moo 5. T: (076) 580 800

62 other destinations in Southern Thailand

Learn more about Ko Pha Ngan
Ko Pha Ngan

More to it than Full Moon Parties

Learn more about Khao Sok National Park
Khao Sok National Park

Wise old wilderness

Learn more about Ko Chang Noi
Ko Chang Noi

The other Ko Chang

Learn more about Ko Yao Noi
Ko Yao Noi

Leave the crowds behind

Learn more about Ko Yao Yai
Ko Yao Yai

A bay all to yourself.

Learn more about Ko Lao Liang
Ko Lao Liang

Let’s keep this one a secret

Learn more about Ko Jum
Ko Jum

Ready to relax?

Learn more about Ko Surin
Ko Surin

Breathtaking above and below the water

Learn more about Ko Ra
Ko Ra

Unspoilt island wilderness

Learn more about Ko Phra Thong
Ko Phra Thong

Golden Buddha island

Learn more about Ko Rawi
Ko Rawi

Pristine beaches and jungle

Learn more about Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park
Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park

Land of 300 peaks

Learn more about Ko Bulon Lae
Ko Bulon Lae

The tranquility runs deep

Learn more about Phetchaburi

Caves, beaches and a palace

Learn more about Ko Samui
Ko Samui

Dozens of beaches to choose from

Learn more about Ko Tao
Ko Tao

A popular spot to learn to dive

Learn more about Krabi

Lively gateway to the islands

Learn more about Railay Beach
Railay Beach

Rock climbing paradise

Learn more about Ko Phi Phi
Ko Phi Phi

Popular party island

Learn more about Ko Lanta
Ko Lanta

Where the beaches stretch for miles

Learn more about Ko Muk
Ko Muk

More to it than the Emerald Cave

Learn more about Ko Libong
Ko Libong

Great choice for the quiet life

Learn more about Songkhla

Relax by the sea

Learn more about Ko Phayam
Ko Phayam

One laid-back island

Learn more about Kaeng Krachan National Park
Kaeng Krachan National Park

Thailand‘s largest national park

Learn more about Ko Sukorn
Ko Sukorn

Settle into a slower pace

Learn more about Ko Kradan
Ko Kradan

Great beaches, pricey food

Learn more about Prachuap Khiri Khan
Prachuap Khiri Khan

Mountains to the west, ocean to the east

Learn more about Ban Krut
Ban Krut

Set your internal clock to Thai time

Learn more about Khao Lak
Khao Lak

A family favourite

Learn more about Ko Kho Khao
Ko Kho Khao

No need to leave that beach chair

Learn more about Khanom and Sichon
Khanom and Sichon

Just kick back

Learn more about Similan Islands
Similan Islands

Say hi to the sea turtles

Learn more about Takua Pa
Takua Pa

Crossroad between islands and mountains

Learn more about Ko Rok
Ko Rok

Unspoilt twin islands

Learn more about Hua Hin
Hua Hin

Mainstream tourist hotspot

Learn more about Trang

Before you hit the islands... Eat!

Learn more about Ko Lipe
Ko Lipe

Welcome to paradise

Learn more about Ko Tarutao
Ko Tarutao


Learn more about Ko Adang
Ko Adang

Ko Lipe’s wild neighbour

Learn more about Ranong

Wave to Burma

Learn more about Ko Ngai
Ko Ngai

A comfortable island getaway

Learn more about Nakhon Si Thammarat
Nakhon Si Thammarat

Unadulterated Southern Thailand

Learn more about Phuket

Thailand’s biggest and busiest island

Learn more about Narathiwat

Muslim fishing life

Learn more about Bang Saphan Yai
Bang Saphan Yai

Low-key beach town

Learn more about Phattalung

Mountains, lakes and no tourists

Learn more about Ko Si Boya
Ko Si Boya

Take a break from it all

Learn more about Phang Nga Town
Phang Nga Town

Your base for Phang Nga Bay

Learn more about Hat Yai
Hat Yai

Largest city in Southern Thailand

Learn more about Satun

Don’t miss the local iced tea

Learn more about Cha-am

Like Hua Hin lite

Learn more about Chumphon

Gateway to Ko Tao

Learn more about Ao Nang
Ao Nang

Beach holiday hotspot

Learn more about Pattani

Once a proud kingdom

Learn more about Betong

Almost Malaysia

Learn more about Yala

A low key spot

Learn more about Surat Thani
Surat Thani

Gulf coast island gateway

Learn more about Sungai Kolok
Sungai Kolok

Gateway to Malaysia

Learn more about Khuraburi

Gateway to little-known islands

Learn more about Pakbara

Gateway to the Satun islands

Learn more about Tak Bai
Tak Bai

Historic for more than one reason