The Kata beaches - actually there are two of them - are located south of Patong and Karon beaches on the west coast of Phuket Island. The northermost of the two, Ao Kata Yai (Big Kata Bay) is next to Karon Beach.
It is connected to the interior of the island and about a 40 to 45 drive from Phuket town. The southernmost beach, Au Kata Noi (Little Kata Bay) is located just a few kilometers from the southernmost point on Phuket Island.
There is not a discernable difference between the commercial and residential builiding area of the two beaches and together they are referred to as "Kata Beach".
The commercial and residential area itself is called "Kata Centre". Kata has two major north-south roads, both of which originate in Karon, Kata (Karon) Road and Patik Road. There are three major east-west roads, the most important of which is Thai Na Road, the center of Kata Centre.
Broad and curving, the beaches of Kata are smaller than the beaches of their neighbors to the north but are equally nice. They are tree lined and development has been kept away from the beach. The waters of Kata Yai – clear, blue and shallow – are perfect for swimming.
At the north end, is a nice coral reef that extends out toward Poo Island, which is about a half kilometer in distant from the shore.
Snorkellers and divers enjoy it due to its due to its variety of coral and wildlife. During high season, Kata Yai is very crowded. More crowded than either Karon Beach to the north or Kata Noi to the south.
Beachgoers should be aware that, despite rumors - some of which might be deliberate - the entire beach is open to the public. None of it is the "private" beach.
The waters of Kata Noi can be more rough than those of Kata Yai, and the beach drops off considerably fairly near the shore making it a little more dangerous for swimmers, particularly children. In rainy season, however, it is excellent for surfing.
In Kata Noi, there has been less development – it is dominated by one large resort developer - than in Kata Yai and the jungle almost comes down to the beach. Therefore, Kata Noi is less crowded than its northern neighbor and is even quite nice in high season.
The areas adjacent to or near the beaches are dominated by large, expensive resorts, such as Club Med and the Kata Beach Resort in Ao Kata Yai and the Kata Thani Resort in Ao Kata Noi. There are a few places in the 600 to 1000 baht a night range but not many.
There are, however, a fairly large number of economy type places away from the main beaches in Kata Centre, along Thai Na Road, and along the road into the interior of Phuket Island, Patik Road. This area is generally recommended to those who come to Phuket Island on a budget.
Although the large resorts have managed for the most part to keep the bars off of or away from the beaches, the area has an active nightlife. The bar scene is concentrated on Taina Road, off of Thai Na Road, in Kata Centre. Here one may find such famous establishments as the Easy Riders Bar.
Nearby Kata Center is an area known as Kata Night Bazaar, which has about 20 bars where the ladies approach one and all who pass by. For those who desire more excitement, it is to be noted the Luang Poh Chuan Road entertainment area of Karon Beach – which is often compared to that of Patong Beach - is nearby.
There are some "restaurant-bars", such as Ska Bar, and the Oasis by the Sea, Small Viewpoint and the After Beach located in elevated places such as Kata Hill and offering customers a great view while they drink and/or eat. Official closing times have varied in recent years, usually being between 1:00 and 2:00AM, but are not always enforced.
Kata Beach is a destination of quite well to do tourists and a number of upscale restaurants operate to serve them. As most tourists in Kata are northern European, the menus tend to be go heavy on steak and seafood.
Kata even hosts a world class and award wining wine cellar, The Boathouse Wine and Grill, which specialized in French, Thai and "International" cuisine. Prices in Kata are generally higher than in neighboring Karon Beach and diners should always check prices before they order.
There are plenty of low price eating places in Kata, although most of these specialize in fairly common Thai specialties such as chicken and rice dishes. They are concentrated in Kata Centre but can be found in most busy places.
There is even a Thai food court across from the Club Med resort. Many places have menus in Thai or English. Those really serious about saving money should eat at the food stands and stalls which set up daily. There is always been some concern about the health safety of these places, but most "diners" seem to survive to eat another day.
There are stores and places in Kata to cater to most consumers and most budgets. Although the items you might want may not necessarily be in the price range you would like as many merchants in Kata specifically aim their goods at higher spending customers.
The merchandizers of two types of consumer goods definitely appear to be in oversupply – tailors and opticians – which indicates that shoppers should be able to get some great deals in these areas. Those seeking bargains or the usual tourist fair might head for Kata Plaza, on Kata Road (Karon Road turns into Kata Road in Kata), midway between southern Kata and central Kata.
Of course the stuff you find here can be found at many othe places in Kata. Although the quality at these places might not be as good. Another bargain area is the area where Kata Road and Thai Na Road intersect running north – there are a lot of bars and restaurants here also.
More tourist stuff – and lots of stalls – may be found near where Kata Road turns into Karon Road, along with a few nicer specialty places and galleries. Most of Kata's specialty and art shops, and genuine handicraft and higher end stores are in southern Kata in the area where Kata Road intersects with Khok Tanot Road.
Along the coast road between Kata Beach and Nai Harn Beach is a large public pavillion where people can rest and enjoy a leisurely view of much of Kata, Karon and the surrounding area and perhaps a nice sunset. Visiting here is considered a "must" while in Kata.
Get directions from your guesthouse or hotel. Maybe a must – a maybe not – is an "active volcano" which is said to exist in the middle of the 18 hole Dino miniature golf course on the headlands between Karon and Kata beaches. Maybe the volcano is real and maybe not, but is part of a "tropical garden park" which might be interesting.