Thailand's ravishing southern and Andaman islands might be famously home to Thailand's best beaches, but there are a few stretches of sand close enough to Bangkok worthy of a day (or two's) escape. Here are the top picks for a sun-kissed sojourn.
The royal beach town of Hua Hin offers a seaside break with a side of culture. Long frequented by high-sos and expats, it draws an international crowd with its long stretch of beach, regal palaces, fresh seafood restaurants and lively night market. The region is also home to national parks with superb hiking and cycling trails, and world-class wineries. Now, that’s our kind of mini-break.
While Cha-am lacks the sophistication of neighbour Hua Hin, it still packs a punch on the getaway stakes. A popular spot with Thai families, it’s ideal if you’re looking for a quieter hidey-hole. Do as the locals do and head to one of the ramshackle beach bars for a flip-fresh seafood feast.
For a relaxed island adventure hop on a speedboat to Koh Samet. At 225 km from Bangkok, this isle, which is popular with sun-seeking Bangkokians, might warrant a longer stay, but it’s worth it. Recline on white-sand beaches under shady palms, sipping a coconut or something stronger and you could well be in the Andaman. Sure, Samet has a reputation as a party island, but venture away from the main Sai Kaew Beach and you’ll easily find tranquillity.
Pattaya, the city of sauce and sleaze might not at first enthrall, but Jomtien Beach just 2 km south, is a top pick for family fun in the sun, thanks to its inviting sandy coastline and abundance of water sports – including paragliding and windsurfing. Dozens of seafood restos serving super-fresh catch of the day are ideal for sundowners and supper. For a quieter scene, try hopping over to nearby Bamboo Beach.
Hua Hin / Prachuap Khiri Khan / 3-hour drive from Bangkok
Cha-am / Phetchaburi / 2.5-hour drive from Bangkok
Ko Samet / Phe / Rayong / 3-hour drive from Bangkok to Ban Phe Pier + 15-min speedboatJomtien Pattaya / Chon Buri / Pattaya / 2.5-hour drive from Bangkok