Photo: Welcome to Chanthaburi.

Exploring the Chanthaburi coast

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Chanthaburi province’s gulf coast in eastern Thailand lacks the fine white sands and clear teal water of nearby Ko Samet and the Ko Chang archipelago. Yet its empty beaches stretching into the horizon, hidden inlets and peninsulas, charming fishing villages and handful of attractions all make a trip along the Chanthaburi coastline a worthy adventure taking you beyond Thailand’s touristy beaches.

A secluded beach scene from Ao Yang Bay.

A secluded beach scene from Ao Yang Bay.

We headed south from Chanthaburi town to the vast Laem Sing beach, initially expecting little more than a quick breath of ocean air. Although the day was overcast (as is often the case in Chanthaburi) and the seas rough and murky, the lack of any other people save a local mother and her toddler made for a refreshing hour of sand, sea and solitude.

It’s cloudy, the sand is grainy, and the water grey, but it’s still a beautiful scene.

It’s cloudy, the sand is grainy, and the water grey, but somehow this is still a beautiful scene.

Sticking close to the sea, we then drove east towards tiny Laem Sing town before being treated to views of fishing vessels heading out to sea from a bridge spanning part of the scenic Chanthaburi River delta.

Just another vast seaside scene from Chanthaburi.

Just another seaside scene from Chanthaburi.

On the other side of the bridge, we found ourselves on what are labelled by Google Maps as “Rural Roads CB 6001". It sounded like a good place to be so we cruised up and down cliffside roads above the crashing sea as modest homes of fisher families slid by in the late afternoon light.

Not a bad place to call home.

Not a bad place to call home.

After soaking up the scenery for several kilometres, we hung a left towards a small peninsula where we stumbled on tiny Ao Yang. This bay’s small, secluded beach has a forgotten feel — which was exactly what we were after — and we took a swim as a handful of beach dogs looked on.

A little further up the road we discovered Ao Yang’s only pinch of civilisation in the form of a shack selling som tam and grilled chicken and a quaint seaside hotel overlooking a rocky beach. We shacked up here for the night, awaking the following morning to find Ao Yang’s beach draped in clear blue skies.

More than enough reason for me to get out of bed.

More than enough reason to get out of bed.

The next day we backtracked to Laem Sing then continued west, stopping at the considerably more developed Chao Lao Beach for a snack of grilled squid with chilli-lime sauce. It was just one of several outstanding seafood experiences we had in the area.

Fresh as can be.

Fresh as can be.

With its reasonably priced oceanside resorts and restaurants, Chao Lao offers a quiet alternative to Thailand’s crowded party beach towns like Pattaya and Hua Hin. Despite its small town feel and laid back vibe, however, Chao Lao offers more than just a long beach and plenty of seafood. Across another high bridge connecting another inlet, we strode along the nearby Kung Krabaen nature trail to check out the area’s expansive inland mangroves. If you’re very lucky, you might spot a dugong here when the tide is up.

I see a baby crab down there!

I see a baby crab down there!

A short walk from the nature trail, we took a gander at Kung Krabaen Aquarium’s collection of tropical fish. The glass tunnel where sharks, eels and other archaic looking monsters swim over your head is the most exciting part.

These kids don’t seem spooked, but I am.

These kids don’t seem spooked, but I am.

At this point, we were enjoying the Chanthaburi coast so much that we decided to linger to the sound of crashing waves for one more night, settling into a stylish room for 1,300 baht at Baan Imm Sook Resort in Chao Lao, which also has plenty of 500-baht rooms on the inland side of the beachfront road. The next morning we continued west through Kung Wiman Beach and up to a Buddha image overlooking the sea from Phra Yuan Viewpoint.

You can almost make out the earth’s curve from here.

See the earth’s curve?

Though we did our exploring by car, you could rent a motorbike in the Chao Lao Beach area or Chanthaburi town, or arrange for a songthaew (pick-up truck taxi) or motorbike taxi in Chanthaburi town to show you around for the day in the range of 500 to 2,000 baht. It’s about 15 kilometres from Chanthaburi to Laem Sing, and another 20 kilometres from Laem Sing to Chao Lao, from where Rayong province’s Ban Phe and the pier to Ko Samet is 50 kilometres to the west.

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Location map for Exploring the Chanthaburi coast

What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Chanthaburi.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Read up on where to eat on Chanthaburi.
 Check out our listings of other things to do in and around Chanthaburi.
 Read up on how to get to Chanthaburi, or book your transport online with 12Go Asia.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Chanthaburi? Please read this.
 Browse tours in Thailand with Tourradar.

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