Top Pattaya Hotels
For those with an affinity for crystal clear waters and white sandy beaches, you will be hard pressed to find them in Pattaya. The beaches range from average to downright disappointing. Some of the better options include beaches found on Na Jomtien towards Sattahip where the area is not fully developed and is still quite peaceful. The water is not very clear but the beaches are long and wide, and the sand is quite fine. Also, a big plus, they are empty of local vendors selling drinks and deck chairs.
On Jomtien Beach you will need proper footwear to skip over broken glass, leftover seafood and other unsavoury debris. The beach is lively with water activities, as the locals seem to be more tolerant to the state of the beach. At the end of Jomtien next to the police post is the small Dong Tan beach named after the big leafed palm trees that line the promenade. Like most of the beaches, it is packed with eager vendors who make you pay for worn out sun loungers. With its obscure location the beach has many masseurs for men and is popular with cruising gays.
The long stretch of beach from south Pattaya to central Pattaya is a beehive of activity. The beach is swamped with all sorts of touts offering parasailing, banana boat rides and boat tours to nearby islands, plus an array of drinks, sarong and souvenir vendors. It is certainly not the place to lie out on the sand, but the water activities offered are really good fun, albeit a bit touristy.
Less crowded beaches can be found towards the north of Pattaya. The beaches here are not spectacular but they are quiet and calm but still close enough to all the action.
A favorite past time is golf. Green fees are relatively inexpensive and there are 18 golf courses throughout Pattaya and nearby Chonburi. The crÃ¨me de la crÃ¨me is Laem Chabang International Country Club, only 30 minutes out of town. Designed by the legendary Jack Nicklaus, the course is one of the best in Thailand with 27 holes against a mountainous backdrop and plenty of water and sand hazards to challenge any golf enthusiast.
Another old favorite is the over 30 year old Siam Country Club, just 20 minutes from central Pattaya. The 18-hole fairways are lined with big mature trees and there are plans to upgrade the greens and clubhouse facilities. The scenic 27-hole Phoenix Golf and Country Club will dazzle golfers with its dramatic sea views at the last 9 holes of the Ocean course. The 10-year-old course is not for the faint-hearted and promises some exciting and extraordinary holes. Note that it is worth trying to tee off on weekdays to avoid the avid golfers coming from Bangkok on the weekend.
For culture vultures a must-see is the magnificent wooden structure of the Sanctuary of Truth. Located at the edge of Rachvate Cape, the venerable sanctuary is a tribute to the ideas of religion, philosophy and art and is meant to be a reminder to all of the importance of 'old values' and that life is about more than just the accumulation of material wealth. Construction began in 1981 but the ancient-looking structure feels as if it has existed for centuries. With Thai, Cambodian, Chinese and Indian wooden sculptures, history comes to life as guided tours take you through the story of each civilization. The entrance fee is a hefty 500 Baht but this also includes access to a dolphin show at the nearby lagoon. It is a bit sad as these wild dolphins are kept in captivity for human amusement. The dolphins are very shy and you will be lucky to catch even a glimpse of them. So much for 'old values'.
Flora and fauna lovers would find the Nong Nooch Tropical Garden an interesting stop. It will take at least half a day to cover the entire botanical gardens and along the way there are elephant rides, pedal boats, a mini zoo and cultural shows to catch. Tour groups come in busloads, and, while the colorful flowers and soothing greens are enticing, it is primarily an activity for those with green thumbs.
A more interesting and educational walk in the park for both kids and adults is at the Mini Siam. Here is a chance to see up to 60 miniature models of Thailand's monuments, temples and landmarks all in one place. A section is also dedicated to some Europe's familiar icons.
Do not forget to include horseback riding on the list of things to do. There are a few riding stables around and the most upscale is the Horseshoe Point Resort and Country Club with rides that take you around 1,500 acres of trails and gardens. Weekend rates are slightly more expensive than rates on weekdays and there are additional costs for guides and rental of accessories. A better value for money and a more personal experience is with Willi Netzer, owner of Outdoor Riding Stable Pattaya. Willi guides all his riding trips on a scenic trail and throws in lessons about understanding horses. Plus the free roundtrip transfer is very convenient.
The Elephant Village is a retirement home for working elephants. With their logging days over, these elephants now provide entertainment and rides to visitors. It is worth going just to support these gentle beasts.
If in the area, Wat Phra Yai or Big Buddha is quite a sight. The temple is an active place of worship so few tourists venture there. Just next to it is Wat Khao Phra Baht, the place to go for a bird's eye view of Pattaya.
It is hard to resist the water activities that are readily available along Pattaya Beach. In particular parasailing is the most thrilling for first timers. For US$10, the two-minute glide is no cheap thrill but it is an exhilarating one. Banana boats, jet skis and speedboats are also available for rent. If rides are what you are after, the Pattaya Park has a choice of Tower Jump or Speed Shuttle for those who dare. Carousel rides are also available for children and the water park provides hours of fun.
The Ripley's Believe It or Not entertainment centre has a roller coaster ride that is just like the real thing only it comes in the form of a 3D moving theater. The museum also features a collection of curios and bizarre sights like the three-legged horse and the man with two sets of pupils in each eye. All in all, quite mind-boggling and highly entertaining.
Entertainment and Eating Out
While there are parades of restaurants along the entire stretch of the Pattaya Beach area, fine dining venues are few and far between and are generally found in the 5 star hotels. Of the independent restaurants, top on the list is the small and lively Mata Hari (located on Pattaya 2 Road). The owner is Dutch and the restaurant, though not upscale, has a quaint European cafÃ© ambiance. The service is impeccable and there is a wide choice of Thai and European cuisine. The restaurant is often full, so make reservations to secure a place. Another casual European cafÃ©-style restaurant is the French-owned Saint Tropez. The restaurant is located off Pattaya 2 Road, down an obscure lane near the Green Bottle Pub. Everything about the cafÃ© is distinctively French: the menu, the music and the chef having an aperitif at the bar. Specialties of the south should not be missed like the Toulouse Cassoulet, and for dessert the light Saint Tropez cake is a perfect sweet ending. After dinner the evening continues with a nightcap or two at the Saint Tropez Bar. An authentic taste of France and excellent value for money.
For slightly more upscale dining, the cosy Swiss-managed Bruno's Restaurant and Wine Bar offers a mix of international cuisine and boasts a well-stocked wine cellar with over 100 labels. The Italian restaurant La Gritta at the Amari Orchid Hotel offers decent, albeit slightly pricey, Italian meals. Maharani Indian Restaurant at the Royal Cliff Beach Resort has a contemporary Indian setting with a full range of Indian dishes. Set in a tropical rain forest is the charming Sugar Hut that wins even the locals' vote for best Thai food after the Thai restaurant at the Cabbages and Condoms resort. [Note: Cabbages and Condoms was set up to raise money to help deal with the AIDS and other issues in Thailand. The association that runs it also has another very successful restaurant in Bangkok.]
Seafood is also readily available in Pattaya and many local restaurants as well as hotels offer seafood BBQ at an affordable price. An extremely basic local restaurant is the hut-like Luang Sawai located at the end of Jomtien Beach. The table right at the edge of the beach is a nice spot and menus are in English. Dishes are cooked the Thai way and you can eat as much as you like for very little money. Also on Jomtien and slightly fancier is Nang Nual, a restaurant frequented by locals with waitress dressed as sailors and laminated menus with colored pictures. The food is not too bad but a little more costly. The Lobster Pot on Walking Street has good seafood as well but it is overpriced and a tad too touristy.
Those who are not so adventurous with food can seek solace at the Royal Garden Plaza. Here you can find familiar favourites like the 24 hour Burger King, McDonald's, Haagen Dazs ice cream, Auntie Anne's pretzels and Sizzlers all under one roof.
When it comes to nightlife in Pattaya, the go-go bars and beer gardens dominate. Most of the bars are concentrated on Walking Street and in between the small lanes along Beach Road. There is nothing discreet about the bars, the dimmed red lights and seedy ambiance is the same almost everywhere. Aside from the bars, the Excite Discotheque is the most talked about in town with a good mix of sophisticated tourist and local clientele. The crowd at Hollywood Disco has more locals and the party can get rowdy at times with occasional fights. The Hard Rock CafÃ© has a daily live band, and on weekends foam parties that offer 'bubbles of fun'.
Transvestite shows are oh-so-big in Pattaya and you have not seen Pattaya if you have not been to one. Some of the girl/boys are drop dead gorgeous and almost should be in Ripley's Believe It or Not. It does not really matter whether it is the Alcazar or Tiffany Show - the performance is hardly the Moulin Rouge but they are still entertaining. During the one hour song and dance routine, forget about trying to spot any tell tale signs of masculinity - it is not going to be obvious. Attend only if you can bring an open mind.
Shopping in Pattaya is not very exciting but the little that is available is surprisingly good plus the friendliness of the shopkeepers makes browsing quite pleasant. The Royal Garden Plaza is the most upscale mall and although the shops are not exceptional, there are a few bargains to be found. You can shop in air-conditioned comfort at the little stalls in Mike's shopping centre. Reasonable quality imitation T-shirts, shirts and bags go for a song here and all without hard bargaining. The roadside stalls along Beach Road and Pattaya 2 Road offer mainly souvenirs and pirated CD's and VCD's. With the growing number of residents in Pattaya there are several supermarkets available as well, like Big C, Tesco, Lotus and Tops.
Pattaya is well-connected and internet services can be found along Pattaya Beach and Jomtien Beach. There are no trendy cyber cafes per se but what is available is inexpensive with decent connection speed.
Getting From A to B
The main local transport in Pattaya are the Song Thaews, these red pick ups are easily spotted and can take you to just about anywhere. The fares per person range from 10 Baht for short distances to about 100 - 200 Baht for longer distances. The general benchmark for locals is half the price for tourists. The drivers do not rip you off too much but bargaining skills are still good to have. There are many one-way streets in Pattaya and motorcycle taxis come in handy as they maneuver through oncoming traffic. This is illegal but riders take the risk when the police are not on watch. It is the cheapest and fastest way to zip around but you need nerves of steel. A helmet is required at all times for motorcycles.
Motorcycle and car rentals are very common, and reliable international rental companies like Avis and Budget are available. Local vendors with cheap rentals are tempting. However, make sure the vehicles are in good condition and report any scratches and marks before renting to avoid finger pointing, and get valid insurance.
The most economical way to get to Pattaya from Bangkok is via the air-conditioned buses. Bangkok Ekamai Bus Terminal has coaches leaving every 30 minutes from 5.30 am to 9.00 pm at a nominal fare of 90 Baht. The trip is a comfortable 2-hour ride and the bus terminal in Pattaya has plenty of waiting Song Thaews for transfers to the hotels.
From Bangkok Airport, Thai International Airways offers limo service at about 1,500 Baht per way. Alternatively, local taxi companies can take you there for a slightly cheaper fare and you can even find better deals from Pattaya back to Bangkok.
Pattaya itself may not have the best beaches, but nearby there are several pristine islands with incredible coral reefs. The most popular is Koh Larn, about 8 kilometres away or 45 minutes by boat. The island is host to many white sandy beaches, the most tranquil being the 700-metre Laem Thian beach in the south-western side followed by the lively 750-metre Ta Waen Beach in the north. In addition to the usual water activities like parasailing and jet-skiing, glass bottom boats reveal bejewelled treasures of colorful corals. The adjacent rocky island of Ko Krok has a small beach and is one of the best spots for snorkelling. It is worth noting that both Ko Larn and Ko Krok are most crowded during the high season and on weekends.
There is a string of islands about 20-30 kilometres away or 2 hours by boat from Pattaya known as the "Far Islands." They have untouched beaches and extraordinary dive sites. The islands include Koh Rin, Koh Man Wichai, Koh Keung Badaan, Koh Hu Chang and Koh Pai. The Mermaid Dive Centre offers trips to explore the underwater landscape and a chance to catch a glimpse of barracudas, tunas, stingrays and moray eels.
Shipwreck Dives take adventurers to the final resting place of ships like The Hardeep, which is a cargo ship that sunk during World War II. Other wrecks include the Petchburi Bremen, an old freighter and now a hiding place for groupers and barracudas.
Half-day tours to places of interest like the Million Years Stone Park slightly outside of Pattaya, or Discovery Tours to local markets and oyster farms are also available.
Tourist Information Office
There is a Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) office along Thappaya Road up on the hill near the King Rama IX Royal Park. It is quite a trip getting to the office but the level of spoken English is reasonably good. A Tourist Police Post is on Dong Tan Beach and several more along Pattaya Beach provide decent information. Most hotels and restaurants have free copies of maps and guide magazines readily available.
The most celebrated festival is the mid -April Thai New Year or Songkran. The highlight of the event is the water festival where passers-by are drenched with water, a sign of blessing and indeed a refreshing welcome from the hot sun. During this time the Pattaya Festival is also celebrated with beauty contests, floral floats, local delicacies and sandcastle competitions.
The Music Festival of Pattaya is held annually with 3 days of live band concerts from musicians all over the world. Another yearly special event is the Miss Tiffany Universe contest held to promote the Amazing Thailand campaign. The winner gets to represent Thailand in the main Miss Queen of the Universe contest where transvestites from all over the world compete.
A somewhat different beauty contest - the Chonburi Buffalo race - is held every October and brings together farmers and their prized buffaloes to compete for best-decorated and fastest buffaloes.
Featured Pattaya Hotels
Pattaya Travellers Tales
Jomtien Beach...A small part of Pattaya but away from the maddening crowds. Check out ''Kaffa" Restaurant next to KFC at the end of the beach!
Pattaya is a bustling resort, there was plenty to see and do for us as a family. We spent some time on the beach (but do not expect the beach to match those of Phuket or Koh Samui). Plenty of shopping and too many good restaurants to count. Our daughters loved shopping in the Royal Garden Mall, Festival Mall and the Mike Shopping Plaza. I would also recomend Nang Nual Restaurant at the end of walking street for excellent sea food. We visited the Tiffany transvestite cabaret which was well done and a good show and make a visit to Pattaya Park (Water Park) which was OK but looking a little tired. Overall a good destination and we enjoyed it as a family, however the nightlife and bars may be a little too in your face for some.
Pattaya is a seaside resort with two characters. Shopping daytime and beach. Nightime it shows it''s sleazy side with girlie bars etc. Jomtien(South) and Wongamat(North) beaches are best. Pattaya beach is inclined to be dirty.
Tropical gardens near the hotel on Highway 3 is a terrific visit and value. For family or just one adult, well done and well maintained. A great introduction to Thailand and its environment.
Transportation around Pattaya is very easy as there are scores of public mini-type buses that can take you up and down the beach for 10 baht. For water sports I highly recommend hiring one of the many speedboats parked on the beach (about 600 baht per person) to one of the outer islands where the water is crystal clear. Pattaya beach itself is quite dirty.
Pattaya is not a place to visit unless you like a cheap (and slightly sleezy) environment. If you are British it would be akin to Blackpool. If you are from USA it''s Atlantic City.....you get the picture! Having said that, the golf is great (subject to droughts) and the value for money is excellent but that applies to most of Thailand! Thailand as a country is beautiful and long may it remain a haven for people who know how tom relax and enjoy themselves.
We have two children ages 6 and 9 and were looking for things to do with them that would keep us away from the "lively nightlife" Pattaya is known for. We found enough to keep us busy after a lazy day at the hotel pool or beach. Things to do are go-kart driving on Thep Prasit Road, Mini golf on Tappraya Road, visit the Ripley''s Museum at the Royal Garden Plaza (next to the Marriott Hotel). Lots of places to eat at the Royal Garden Plaza. There are plenty of water activities to choose from and our children loved the jet skis. There is shopping at the Outlet Mall on Sukhumvit Road next to the Tesco/Lotus store. On our way back to Bangkok we stopped at the Tiger Zoo in Sriracha. It is a big place and we rushed through it in an hour but really needed more time if we wanted to see all the shows. It was a nice way to break up the 2 1/2 hour drive back to Bangkok.
If you intend to do lots of shopping, stay in the South/Central Pattaya area. You can practially walk the entire street shops. If you prefer a quiter retreat, Jomtien beach would be a better option. Taxis (tuk-tuk) from Central Pattaya to Jomtien can cost about THB100 per couple.
Spent 1 week in Pattaya, basically to party a bit, and spend the rest of the time gathering sunshine at the pool. You can walk to most destinations such as Walking Street, but taxi is usually the way to go, especially on a hot day. Taxis will cost you between 10 - 20 baht, but most drivers will ask between 40 - 70 baht....this is where your bargaining skills can be sharpened...a few malls to see, lots of local food to try, and a few western fastfood outlets too (McDonald''s and Starbucks, Burger King...The McDonald''s in Pattaya actually looks and tastes better than what we have here in North America).<br> <br> Many motorcycle rentals, good for a quick jump to Jomtien Beach a few miles away, you can go parasailing, or just relax on the beach. Nightlife is fantastic, especially for the single guy, tons of beer bars and gogo bars, especially in the Walking Street area. It''s a bit of everything for everyone....everyone should at least see it once in their life, there''s nothing else like Pattaya.
Pattaya is like any tourist resort, full of people trying to sell you things - do bargain. But lots to do, for all ages. Recommend Tiger Zoo, rent a speed boat for the day and go fishing, parasailing, island trip etc...