The best dining and drinking options are found up in Phu Noi, with only basic restaurants offered at a few points within the national park. Several seafood restaurants dot Route 1020 in the middle of the park (technically not within the park’s boundaries) but keep in mind that many of these are offshoots of the polluting prawn farms.
Within the national park you’ll find simple Thai restaurants at Phraya Nakhon beach, Lam Phraya beach,Thung Sam Roi Yot and park headquarters. All of them are open only from 6:00 to 18:00 and serve Thai standards like pad Thai, grapow, som tam and fried rice along with chips and spring rolls. The Lam Phraya restaurant also offers barbecued fish. We found the food flavourful and spicy enough, though only instant coffee was available. Run by locals from neighbouring Bang Pu village, a few stalls at Laem Sala also offer decent prices on grilled seafood.
A couple of kilometres inland from Phu Noi beach (on the way to Wat Phu Noi), a low-key night market runs from around 16:00 to 21:00 and is a great spot to sample homemade curries, meats-on-sticks, grilled frogs and a notably wide selection of Thai sweets. Look for the artistic vendor who whips up bite-size pancakes in the shapes of dolphins, boats and other fun shapes, then sells them for a wee 10 baht per box. The locals are very friendly and it’s a great spot to soak up the rural atmosphere. A number of vendors also sell raw meats and fresh seafood straight off the boats.
Along the Phu Noi beach road is where you’ll find the highest number of eateries. A standout is Chom Talay at Sam Roi Yod Holiday Resort, which offers an extensive selection of seafood, Thai, Chinese-Thai and Western in an atmospheric octagon-shaped dining area with sea views. Prices are fairly high but portions are huge, and we found flavours in the steamed fish with lemon and garlic, som tam and stir-fried veggies to be excellent. Further up the road you’ll find a few cheaper hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurants catering to both Thai and foreign tourists.
Sam Roi Yot is definitely not a nightlife destination, but an early evening beer on Phu Noi beach isn’t a bad idea. You could also head over to Alfresco’s, a laid-back eatery and bar with a billiards table located a few hundred metres inland from the beach road. Serving fish and chips, burritos, slow-roasted lamb shank in red wine sauce and various steak pies, it should also satisfy your Western food craving.