The most popular beach town closest to Bangkok (it’s just two hours from the capital by bus or taxi) is known for its rather seedy nightlife, but has grown to also be a family-friendly destination and has some nice beaches for a couple of days by the sea. The best one is the 14km- (9mile-)long Jomtien Beach, but the small neighboring island of Koh Larn (see below) also has some of the best sandy spots. Dongtan Beach is known as an LGBT beach.
HOW TO GET TO PATTAYA:
Buses depart from Bangkok’s Ekamai and Mo Chit stations every half hour, and reach Pattaya in 2.5 to 3 hours, depending on traffic. If you take a taxi, expect the one-way trip to cost anywhere between 1200 and 1600 baht (around 40 to 50 US dollars/30 to 40 British pounds/35 to 45 euros).
WHERE TO STAY IN PATTAYA:
There’s a good range of hotels with views by the beach. The most recommended are the Movenpick Siam Hotel Na Jomtien Pattaya, the Hilton Pattaya, the Holiday Inn Pattaya, the Siam@Siam Design Hotel Pattaya, and the Siam Bayshore Resort Pattaya.
Also spelled "Ko Lan," this small island off the coast of Pattaya is known for its beautiful beaches.
HOW TO GET TO KOH LARN:
To get there from Bangkok you’ll have to head to Pattaya (see above), then catch the ferry (or a more expensive speedboat) from Bali Hai pier.
WHERE TO STAY IN KOH LARN:
It has fewer places to stay, but the recommended hotels are the Lareena Resort Koh Larn Pattaya, the Koh Larn Sea Side Resort, the Samanta By the Sea guesthouse, and the Pikun Resort.
Just over three hours from Bangkok by car, taxi or bus, this is a resort city with large beachside hotels. The water is clean and the atmosphere is peaceful, so it’s a perfect destination for families and couples. Attractions nearby include the beautiful Khao Sam Roi Yot national park.
HOW TO GET TO HUA HIN:
To get to Hua Hin, take the bus or van departing from Bangkok’s Sai Tai Mai station (the vans tend to be quite crowded, so the bus is the better option). There’s also a train departing from Hua Lamphong station several times a day, but the journey takes over four hours.
WHERE TO STAY IN HUA HIN:
The recommended hotels by the beach are the Hua Hin Marriott Resort and Spa, the Centara Grand Beach Resort, the Cape Nidhra Hotel, Dusit Thani Hua Hin, and Let’s Sea Hua Hin Al Fresco Resort.
Also spelled "Ko Samed," this small island, located around 200km (124 miles) southeast of Bangkok, is home to popular beaches. It’s a year-round destination, as it has fewer rainy days and storms in the wettest season (between June and October). It takes about three hours to reach from Bangkok, by bus or taxi followed by a ferry or speedboat ride. It attracts Bangkokians on weekends, so it’s at its most enjoyable during the quieter weekdays. It’s part of a national park, so you’ll need to pay a small fee on arrival.
HOW TO GET TO KOH SAMET:
The ferry to the island departs from Ban Phe, so that should be your destination from Bangkok. If you go by taxi, the driver will most likely offer a fixed fare that can be anywhere between 1600 and 2500 baht (50 and 80 US dollars/40 and 60 British pounds/45 and 70 euros). Buses (taking about 3.5 hours) and vans (taking about 2.5 hours) depart several times a day from Ekamai station to Ban Phe. The ferry from Ban Phe to Koh Samet takes about 45 minutes, while the more expensive speedboats take between 15 and 20 minutes.