Phuket's famous Kata Beach is actually made up of two main beaches, Kata Yai Beach and Kata Noi Beach.
The beaches themselves are not restricted and there's plenty enough sand for everyone — once you get onto it!
Of the two beaches, Kata Yai (big Kata) is the better beach with soft, super fine sand meeting turquoise water which swings from a millpond in dry season to a small surf beach in the wet. More protected than Karon Beach to the north, Kata still gets currents and novice swimmers should be careful — if the red "Do not swim" flags are out, do not swim.
Offshore sits Ko Pu, an uninhabited islet that plays no useful role other than to make your sunset photos that little bit more beautiful.
Both beaches have plentiful supply of deckchairs and umbrellas and while Kata Noi is largely shadeless, Kata Yai does have some shade towards its centre but it is often busy with vendors.
Kata Centre sits off the northern end of Kata Yai between Kata and Karon and has traditionally (after Phuket Town) been the best area for budget accommodation, with a bunch of restaurants and bars running back along Taina Road. While nothing compared to Patong (or more recently Karon), this part of Kata is seeping into sleazydom with a new bar beer complex on Kata Road complementing the rundown and aging joints at the eastern end of Taina Road. We understand that this kind of scene is the appeal for some, but having legions of Thai women shrill "Hey Misterrrrrr", all hours of the day, isn't a plus. If this is going to bother you, consider staying at the hillside of Kata.
Most of the restaurants in Kata are tourist-focused and quite overpriced. For more authentic (and affordable) Thai food, you're better off to head to Patak Rd, which runs parallel to the beach but about a kilometre back off the beach. The tourist fare, with a couple of exceptions, is not all that inspired.
International access ATMs can be found throughout the Kata area, as can money changers.
Both Kata Centre and southern Kata has a smattering of internet cafes, but free WiFi can also be found in a number of restaurants and cafes.