Add Hua Hin, Pranburi, and Prachuap Khiri Khan to your bucket list of great seaside escapes in Thailand, if you still haven’t!
By the Lookeast Team.
So you know several of Thailand’s top holiday destinations. Phuket, Krabi, Koh Samui, Chiang Mai, and Pattaya – each a paradise in each’s own right. But have you been to Hua Hin, Pranburi, and Prachuab Khiri Khan yet? Hua Hin of course, is also already wellknown in the international tourism circles. But Pranburi and Prachuap — now, these are the kind of destinations you might want to include in your next Thailand holiday escape. Bundle them together and you might experience a refreshing view of a tropical paradise.
All the three towns are under the administrative umbrella of one province, Prachuab Khiri Khan. All three are seaside resorts bursting with attractions, both manmade and natural. And while Hua Hin has made an early headway among the three destinations being the favorite summer retreat of the Thai Royal Family since the 1920s, today all three of them are collectively rising up to their historic tourism fortunes in each their own way. We recommend that you don’t just confine your visit to the greater Hua Hin area but rather, make a bucket list trip that combines a visit to all the three seaside resorts for a more enjoyable journey.
Your trip can start in Hua Hin, located just three-hours or so from Bangkok. A favorite weekend getaway of many travel savvy Thais and expats because of its old world ambiance and a wonderful cultural mix of local, Asian, and Western tourists, it has become a classic hideaway by the sea.
Considered as the kingdom’s first beach resort, it was discovered by Thai King Rama VII in the 1920s. The king subsequently built a palace there so he could enjoy the area during his longer stays. The palace was called Klai Kangwon Palace (“far from worries”), a phrase that sums up the Hua Hin area to a tee.
Hua Hin has a laidback, friendly seaside atmosphere. Coupled this with good infrastructure, excellent facilities, beautiful resorts, amazing golf courses, and a constantly growing list of fascinating attractions such as floating markets and themed shopping parks, and you have a winning resort indeed. Being a royal beach resort, cabarets, discos, and other nightspots are more regulated than normal and somewhat limited. Visitors can expect to enjoy a restful quality time surrounded by sand, sun, sea, and abundant fresh seafood.
WHAT TO DO
Hua Hin has a famous, stunning 5km (3-mile) beach, lovely waterfalls, lush limestone mountains and plenty of leisure activities. It has become world renowned as a superb place to rejuvenate at one of several internationally renowned spas in a great location. Hua Hin is also one of Thailand’s premier golfing destinations, with eight world-class courses and several driving ranges in the nearby area. Additionally, fishing, hiking, cooking classes, horseback riding, diving and snorkeling are only a few of the other options for those with a more active disposition. With two night-markets, a local market, and numerous boutique stores, Hua Hin is an excellent place to shop for locally produced handicrafts, fabrics, souvenirs, and food products. And that’s just for starters.
WHAT TO SEE
Popular destinations here include Pa-La-U Waterfall, a 15-tier feature in the jungle 60km from town; Kaeng Krachan National Park, Thailand’s largest reserve, stretching to the Burmese border; and Sam Roi Yod National Park, a landscape of limestone peaks, which is actually in the Pranburi area. In Hua Hin itself, there is Khao Takiab, a hill at the end of Hua Hin beach sprinkled with Buddhist shrines and well worth climbing for the panoramic view. But there’s more: Hua Hin Hills Vineyard, home of Monsoon Valley wines, a superb restaurant, with stunning views of the wine lands and elephant rides among the vines; Vana Nava, the big waterpark inside the town, among them.
EAT & DRINK
The central market sells fresh fruit and fish to locals as it’s been done for ages. The night market is the ideal place to sample street food cooked fast and fresh. International travelers visit Hua Hin for the coastline and wonderful resorts and hotels, but the locals arrive for the food, with the town’s fishing fleet delivering baskets of prawns and fish every day, helping the town maintain its reputation as one of Thailand’s top seafood spots. Most restaurants and eateries especially those in the 5-star resorts are geared toward high-end gourmet level, but there are all kinds of cuisine available for all kinds of food lover – although we can’t mention them all in all fairness. By the way, if you’re curious about where the Thais are going for great daytime street food, try going to Hua Hin 51, just a few walks toward the beach.
Awesome 5-star hotels and resorts are now the norm, such as: Centara Grand Beach Resort & Villas Hua Hin, Hyatt Regency Hua Hin, Hilton Hua Hin, Sheraton Hua Hin, InterContinenta Hua Hin, Marriot Hua Hin, Anantara Hua Hin, Evason Six Senses Hua Hin and Dusit Thani Hua Hin, not to mention some hot new names in resorts such as Putharacsa, V Villas Hua Hin, Asara, Alila, Radisson Hua HIn, Sofitel So Hua HIn, and Veranda, among the many others, which beckon to all kinds of holidays: romantic escapades, weddings, family retreats, weekend getaways, or incentive travels. There’s so much to choose by way of accommodation to fit a traveler’s requirement for a perfect stay. The town is also home to Chiva-Som, one of the world’s leading health resorts, although it is by no means the only place to visit for a fabulous spa indulgence.
How to get to Hua Hin – Bus services are available on an hourly basis from Southern Bus Terminal (Sai Tai Mai Bus Terminal, Pinklao) from 4 a.m.-10:20 p.m. Prior reservations are required to secure seats, and tickets have to be booked at the bus station in person. Ticket costs about Bt160. Minibuses, which ply the route every 15 minutes from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., are much faster than buses but have a limited seating capacity (11-12 seats). Minibuses start from Ratchawitee Hospital near the Victory Monument in Bangkok. Ticket costs Bt200. You can also either flag down a cab or approach a travel agency either directly or through your hotel, to hire a cab. You can also rent a car and drive all the way to Hua Hin or try the safer, more comfortable way — by train from Hua Lum Pong Railway Station.
It’s actually a wonder how Pranburi has remained a secret for a long time. While its neighboring Hua Hin (just 30km south) has continued to grown in stature as a tourism favorite, this quiet beach resort south remained in slumber until recently, when enterprising hotel operators and business owners realized that the area has a big potential given its unspoiled pristine beach. It is also a springboard to nearby Sam Roi Yod National Park. Pranburi has a number of quiet and beautiful stretches of beach that are slowly seeing the development of a number of mid-range and up-scale hotels and resorts. It is becoming popular among those who are looking for a quiet alternative to Hua Hin, particularly to those who wish to combine their beach time with day trips exploring Sam Roi Yod National Park.
Peace and tranquility. Relaxation and serendipity. There is more to Pranburi than its quiet and pristine beaches. Pranburi’s beaches are far nicer than those in Hua Hin and Cha-am, in terms of cleanliness, development and view. If beach is important to you and you want to go somewhere relaxing, pick Pranburi over Cha-am. It’s worth the extra drive from Bangkok. The destination is perfect for family outings, couples and lovers’ retreats, and exclusive bonding time with friends and colleagues without the distraction of nightlife or too much crowd.
WHAT TO DO
In addition to pleasantly relatively undeveloped beaches, other attractions highlight the beauty of the area’s natural surroundings, including Sam Roi Yod National Park and Pranburi Forest Park.
Pranburi Forest Park is located along a one-kilometer long pristine beach that is fringed by pine trees and a mangrove forest that grows around a river passing from the nearby forests into the sea. There are nature trails that provide fine bird watching opportunities. There are innumerable activities to keep you busy and entertained.
EAT & DRINK
Most restaurants on Pranburi serve a variety of cuisines. Most guesthouse and resorts have restaurants that serve both. A few standalone foods and drink shop have also sprung up lately as the tourist numbers begin to grow, especially on long weekends. There’s a new seafood restaurant on the main stretch that should be great for those in search of local dining while enjoying great sea-views and breeze.
A number of outstanding hotels and resorts now operate in Pranburi. There are five-star destination resorts, such as Aleenta Resort Huan Hin-Pranburi, Villa Maroc, and Sheraton Resort Pranburi. And while there seem to be an impending hotel construction boom coming up, there are also excellent accommodation options for those looking for a relaxing beach holiday on a more modest budget – there is really an interesting mix of very high end chic resorts on the beach and some middle-of-the-road, family oriented resorts farther south the coast. Most resorts have shuttle service to and from Hua Hin, which is 30 minutes away.
How to get to Pranburi — Take one of the daily trains from Hua Lumpong Station in Bangkok then get a taxi or car to Pranburi. Or, you can drive directly from Bangkok or take one of the public and private buses from Bangkok’s Southern Bus Terminal. There are also private mini buses that make the trip from Bangkok to Pranburi on a daily basis. These are run by various companies, much like airport shuttles, and can be arranged with your hotel or resort.
Prachuap Khiri Khan
The provincial capital of Prachuap Khiri Khan is a fishing port with a superb location beside beautiful curving bays and among steep mountain outcrops. Just about 100km south from Hua Hin, it is a destination that has long been under-rated, but those who have been to the area rave about the beautiful beaches, bays and coves, and less touristy lifestyle, and away-from-the-crowds atmosphere that makes it all the more alluring to many tourists tired of the overcrowded enclaves.
Hua Hin often gets the fanfare, but if you can look beyond that, you will find that Prachuap Khiri Khan with its many natural and cultural attractions, including a number of national parks, are well worth your time and visit. Green adventure, sporty pursuits, and immersion in Nature – these are just among the few rewards of going to Prachuap Khiri Khan.
WHAT TO SEE
Prachuap Khiri Khan is studded with beaches, caves, mountains, forests – and the three bays: Noi, Pachuca, and Ao Manao, are just attractive!
WHAT TO DO
There is something for everyone here, if they are willing to find out and explore more. Of course, it cannot compare to the likes of well established Hua Hin for the range of activities on offer, but Prachuap Khiri Khan has tourist activities for visitors to participate in and enjoy, particularly visiting the natural and cultural attractions. Many people come here to relax and get away – and very few places could more perfect for those sort of things.
EAT & DRINK
Outside of the restaurants found in the resorts, the dining options in Prachup Khiri Khan are somewhat limited, but there are restaurants serving fresh seafood along the beach and two markets that sell delectable Thai food. There are some good seafood restaurants – with food at the cheapest of prices.
Although not a major center for tourism, Prachuap Khiri Khan has a variety of accommodation options including many beach resorts catering to families and couples. There is a place called Bangnangrom Guesthouse, which is modest, homey, comfortable, and excellently located. The guesthouse is just a stone’s throw away from the bay, and you can carry your morning cup of coffee or evening glass of wine, and sip them there!
How to get to Prachuap Khiri Khan — Prachuap Kiri Khan is on the main southern railway line from Bangkok, and train makes for by far the best way to arrive — the four-and-a-half- to six-hour journey is a pleasant one, and Prachuap’s train station is centrally located, making for an easy transfer to your accommodation. Nine trains arrive daily from Bangkok and arriving in Prachuap from mid-day until early morning. On the return leg, trains to Bangkok leave Prachuap Kiri Khan mostly in the late evening and early morning, though there is one mid-afternoon departure that arrives in Bangkok in the evening.
Hua Hin is around an hour’s ride away, with a third class seat costing as little as THB 49 while Chumphon, the jumping off point for the islands of Koh Tao, Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Samui, is two to three hours and a THB 78 second-class seat away Minivans leave from several spots around Prachuap Kiri Khan, including outside the Intila Hotel opposite the night market, and just around the corner from the City Shrine. They run every half an hour to Bangkok, via Hua Hin, Cha Am, and Mae Khlong in Samut Songkhram province. Bigger buses for Bangkok depart from opposite the 7-11 on Phitak Chat, around the corner from the Yuttichai Hotel, take four to five hours and run between 6 a.m. to 1:30 a.m.