Need to find Bangkok’s best beaches? This city can wear down even the most veteran traveller with its non-stop barrage of heat, traffic, and noise, and thus it is pretty easy to make a holiday escape to a beach part of any city trip. While the best beaches in the country are on islands in the south, there are several decent options all within a half day’s reach or even a few hours to give some much needed respite. Here are some of the top choices:
While Pattaya is the fastest eastern seaboard beach town to reach from Bangkok, with minivans getting there in about an hour and a half from the city, the beach here isn’t much to speak of, overcrowded and with rather uninviting water. Pattaya also doesn’t have too savoury of a reputation, known more for its naughty nightlife than anything else. However, it does contain a hidden gem, the offshore island of Koh Larn, with some excellent white sand beaches and turquoise water, more reminiscent of something you might find on Phuket. Ferries and speedboats make the 30 minutes-1 hour trip out from Pattaya’s Bali Hai Pier. Most visitors here come out on day trips, so if you choose to stay overnight, you’ll have the island pretty much to yourself.
Bangkokians descend in droves on Koh Samet on the weekends, as it really does have some lovely white sand and pretty bays, along with being a bonafide island easily accessible within 3 hours from Bangkok, so you might want to save it for during the week, when the island is half deserted and prices are lower. There are some romantic resorts on the west coast on Ao Phrao beach, facing the sunset, but this beach is more upscale than the ones to be found on the east side. Most of the east coast beaches have some nightlife, with excellent fire twirling shows taking place on Hat Sai Kaew, the island’s most happening beach hangout.
This is the original granddaddy of Thai beach resorts. Hua Hin was the first beach resort in Thailand developed for tourism, made accessible by the railway line being built here in the 1920’s. The royal family has their summer palace here, with the King now residing here permanently, and there is still some beautiful colonial architecture to be seen, in both some of the older hotels and the magnificent railway station building. The beach here is very long, crowded on weekends, and not overly attractive, but it is the only beach in the country where one can go horse riding, it’s very family friendly, and on weekdays, is pretty quiet. The areas further south are a bit more tranquil and more scenic.
The small island of Koh Si Chang, in the Bight of Bangkok, usually gets bypassed, but is a great spot to see a real local slice of Thai life. There is only one small beach here suitable for swimming and sunning, however there are lots of colorful temples, a former royal palace, and some great views of the surrounding bay from the limestone cliffs at the top of the island. Ferries, taking 45 minutes, sail out to here from Sri Racha on the eastern seaboard. This is another island where Thais come out in force on the weekends, but is completely deserted during the week.
If you are willing to drive around 4-5 hours, this is where you will find classic white sand beaches the likes of Samui and Phuket. Koh Chang is a large jungle clad and mountainous island, full of beautiful curved turquoise bays all along its west coast. While the island has been highly developed, there are still some quieter spots the further south you go, and if you want something more sleepy, you can go to the islands just south and east of here, Koh Mak, and Koh Kood, which are really like the old days, and you can even have a beach all to yourself at times. There are car ferries going over to Koh Chang, plus an extensive array of speedboats, catamarans, and other transport running out of the eastern seaboard town of Trat.