Pattaya beaches have got something of a bad reputation, and I think that it is fair to say that Pattaya is not the best option for a vacation for those tourists that are looking for powdery white sands, seclusion, and quiet rest. However, if you spread your wings then you might be surprised...
The good news is that there are several excellent quality beaches on Pattaya's doorstep if you know where to look. This section will review all those within a 20 minute trip!
Pattaya has always been the favoured destination for tourists that want unrivalled nightlife and endless stuff to do, but beach lounging and exploring is still a worthy option.
Koh Larn island is especially good for this.
Whilst the nightlife action might be the main selling point, most people like to rest up a little during the day before heading out into the night.
There is one thing you should be aware of, and any long-term visitor or expat will confirm, you should avoid the jet-ski operators like the plague! They operate the longest standing scam in Pattaya and there's no end to it in sight.
Everyone knows about this scam, it happens on most of the popular Pattaya beaches, and it is a disgrace that the authorities allow it to continue.
The scam plays out whereby an unsuspecting tourist rents a jet-ski after a brief inspection of it's condition. What he doesn't know is that the operator has used a water soluble patch on the damaged parts that will wear away during use in the sea.
When the poor tourist returns the jet-ski he gets accused of causing the now clearly visible damage and if he objects he gets threatened by some very unsavoury characters.
Asking for police assistance has, so far, never availed the tourist...
This is a sting operation that can cost upwards of 30,000 baht, and if you don't pay you can be arrested and thrown into prison whilst awaiting your trial. You would probably win that trial, but you'd still face months behind bars waiting for it get to court.
It's more likely that rather than being arrested and drawing further attention to the scam, you'll be threatened with physical violence by some characters who wouldn't mind caving your skull in one little bit...
Obviously this scam doesn't happen on every occasion or it could never survive, but it happens frequently enough to have stopped me from ever considering renting a jet-ski.
As part of the drive to reinvent Pattaya as a family friendly destination, the authorities have done some good work with regard to cleaning up and developing the two main Pattaya beaches i.e. Pattaya itself and Jomtien to the south.
The work started some years ago on the northern section of Pattaya beach and gradually its way south. The promenade along the beach is improved and work is being done to help keep the beach clean.
There has been some significant reduction in the amount of deck chairs and there is work being done to make sure that litter is kept under control.
So, if you have bad memories of the state of the main Pattaya beaches then it might be worth further investigation. I've no doubt that there is still significant snobbery on the issue and that some people won't give the place a chance, but don't let put you off too much.
You aren't going to find the same quality of beach that you find in, for example, Krabi and none of them will make the top Thailand beaches list, but you'll be pleasantly surprised if you are expecting an unsightly mess.
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The main beach has got three distinct areas, north, central and south.
Added to that, there is Jomtien beach, Wong Amat beach, Naklua beach and
a total of nine beaches on the nearby islands of Koh Larn, Koh Sak and
Koh Krok. To judge all the different beach options, I've come up with a number of categories for comparison.
As an early heads up I don't mind giving you my personal favourite beach, I do have several Pattaya beaches that I like but for me the one that stands out is Ta Waen beach on Koh Larn.
It's a subjective choice and I expect that most people will have their own alternative favourites but, if you like your beaches to be bigger rather than secluded, with shops, restaurants and so on then Ta Waen is tough to beat.
It has the white powdery sands that you want, with clear blue water, and enough activity going on that you won't get bored. As a bonus, if you do get the urge for some seclusion, Thong Lang beach is moments away and can easily be reached in a few minutes by motorbike (motorbikes can be rented for peanuts).
Thong Lang still has the powdery white sand, and it has a bar/restaurant, but it is much smaller and with a bit of luck you might get the whole beach to yourself.
Below are brief descriptions of each of the beaches in Pattaya along with a link to a page with more information:
Main Beach North; This part of the main beach is my favourite part. It is the quietest part of the bay and has fewer sales people. It is also a little cleaner than the other parts of the beach.
Main Beach Central; the central part of the beach is ok for a quick visit, but you can forget about getting any peace and quiet. Salesmen are everywhere! It is still a good place to see the sunset though.
Main Beach South; the southern part of the beach is best avoided in my view. Being closer to Walking Street it attracts more beach girls, the rubbish left behind from their activities is not something you want to sit near!
Jomtien Beach; this is a good alternative to the main beach during daylight hours. Jomtien is more of a family destination than Pattaya and the beach is cleaner and quieter. I'd be a little more nervous there by night though - the lack of other people makes it more attractive to muggers!
Naklua Beach; this is an excellent option and highly recommended if you want to relax. There is a good restaurant, sun loungers as well as deck chairs, and it is a smaller, cleaner beach than most.
Wong Amat Beach; one of my top mainland recommendation for those people that just want quiet uninterrupted relaxation. It is located very close to Pattaya beach, just to the north. It is a good family option.
Koh Larn, Nual & Samae Beaches; getting away from the mainland Pattaya beaches, there is a very cheap ferry that can take you to a few island destinations. The largest of these is Koh Larn. It has lots of different beaches that are ideal for those that like to explore. The beaches vary by size and popularity, so most people will be able to find at least one that they like. This report looks at Nual beach and Samae beach.
Koh Larn, Ta Waen & Thong Lang Beaches; in this second half of my review of Koh Larn I've written about some really beautiful beaches. You can get powdery white sand beaches here.
Cosy Beach Pattaya; my overall winner for top beach recommendation. This place really is a nice little spot to be.
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