While Hua Hin beach is the only one that most visitors ever see, long stretches of sand continue all the way down the coast of Prachuap Khiri Khan province.
The water off most of the area's beaches tends to be shallow and not great for swimming, though Khao Tao is an exception. Beware of the deadly box jellyfish, which are occasionally spotted off the coast from August to October.
Hua Hin beach
Running almost the entire length of the city from Klai Kangwon Palace down to Khao Takiab, Hua Hin beach is perhaps better known for its many hawkers than its fluffy white sand. The beach is cut in half by the old fishing pier and adjacent guesthouses and restaurants on stilts in the Nares Damri area, with the most popular stretch just south of that in front of the Hilton and Centara Grand.
While there's always plenty of room to move around, some would say that touts who push beach chairs, tours and pony rides have ruined Hua Hin's most popular stretches of beach. The ponies' droppings can often be seen bobbing in the already murky surf; we strongly recommend that you pass on a pony ride.
This is not to say that Hua Hin beach doesn't have its strong points. The coral sand is about as light and smooth as it gets, and the sheer mass makes it easy to play seaside games of soccer, frisbee and volleyball. To avoid the hawkers, head all the way to the beach's far southern or northern ends. Early risers are treated to some incredible sunrises.
Resorts and restaurants rim Hua Hin beach in its entirety. At time of writing, the authorities were cracking down on illegal structures directly on the sand, many of which are notorious for serving basic plates of food for exorbitant prices. Hua Hin beach can be accessed from various side streets, with Damnern Kasem being the most popular entry point. For a more relaxing sunbathing experience, head south to Pranburi's beaches.
Suan Son and Khao Tao (Sai Noi) beaches
The long and laid-back Suan Son beach is located just beyond a military checkpoint, 12 kilometres south of central Hua Hin and within view of Khao Takiab. It's signposted as Pine Grove beach and much of the area is blanketed in beach pines. A scattering of food stalls set up daily in the car park and although accommodation is continually being built here, it's probably best visited as a day trip.
If coming by motorbike, follow Phetkasem Road south out of town and look for the sign, clearly visible from the main road. Pranburi bound buses depart from the corner of Sa Song and Chomsin roads in Hua Hin centre and can drop you at the turnoff, from where it's a 15-minute walk to the beach. The checkpoint charges a five-baht admission.
Some eight kilometres past Suan Son is Khao Tao (aka Sai Noi), a gorgeous bay with a wide beach hedged between two rocky outcrops that is usually empty of people. Unlike most of the area's beaches, the water gets deep quickly and is great for a swim. No accommodation is available and if you were coming out for what would be a very pleasant day trip, it would be wise to bring some food and drink in case the few vendors take the day off. The beach is close to Khao Tao village and marked by signs off the main highway. The orange Pranburi-bound buses can also drop you here.
Beaches further south
Further down the coast you'll find more beaches such as Khao Kalok and Sam Roi Yot, both of which fit the profile of few people, limited food and accommodation, shallow water and plenty of breathing room. Khao Kalok is most often visited as an afterthought to the adjacent Pranburi Forest Park and nearby Pranburi estuary (or Pak Nam Pran), while Sam Roi Yot beach is where many who visit the same-named national park choose to stay.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 6th September, 2014.