Cha-am, Hua Hin and Pranburi have always attracted families, thanks to their long stretches of beach and mellow, relaxed settings. Each area has its own personality, but all offer fun things to do. Below are 15 such activities.
1. Get a taste of Hua Hin’s genteel past at Hua Hin Railway Station, one of Thailand’s oldest working stations. Located at the top of Damnoern Kasem Road, the station features a picturesque Thai pavilion dating back to the reign of King Rama VI, as well as an old steam engine on display. For similar architecture from the same era, visit Maruekkhathayawan Palace, between Cha-am and Hua Hin, a tranquil royal seaside home.
2. Ride ponies on Hua Hin Beach, a traditional Thai family activity. There are horses and ponies for hire all along the beach.
3. Drive up Khao Takiab hill, which takes you past a fishing harbour and market at the base to a temple at the top. The latter is home to hundreds of macaques (don’t get too close to them though!). You’ll also see a Chinese Buddhist temple with many large statues, including several versions of the goddess Guan Yin facing the sea. The tranquil beach behind the hill is worth a visit, as well.
5. Enjoy Plearn Wan, a faux village-amusement park that gives visitors a colourful glimpse of the past. Two-storey wooden shophouses, reminiscent of those in old Thai-Chinese neighbourhoods, include shops, cafés and stalls that sell vintage merchandise, retro fashion and toys, and a variety of street food. There’s also a small Ferris wheel and temple fair set-up at the back of the complex.
6. Visit Venezia Hua Hin. This Venice-inspired park in Cha-am offers lots of food and fun. You’ll probably skip the cheesy gondola ride but kids will want to check out the children’s zone, including outdoor and indoor playgrounds, a fun fair and a mini-zoo.
7. Spend a day at Santorini Park Cha-am. In addition to a huge line-up of shops and restaurants all amidst a Greek isle theme, the venue also includes an amusement park with a large Ferris wheel and double-deck carousel, among other rides; and the Trick Art Museum for 3D art fun.
8. Drop by the Arabian-themed Camel Republic on Phetkasem Road for a number of thrilling rides, a small zoo, and yes, lots of camels.
9. See farm animals at Swiss Sheep Farm. Off Phetkasem Road in Cha-am, this small farm lets kids feed sheep, ponies and alpacas (the latter are quite aggressive though). There are also some amusement rides, such as a mini-train. Marketed as a place for love and couples, the seemingly random scenery and sculptures provide a unique backdrop for visitors who appreciate photo opportunities.
10. Go shopping at FN Factory Outlet on Phetkasem Road in Cha-am. Offering brand name fashions, kitchenware and home décor, the complex also features The Space Museum and Café, where visitors can browse through a gallery with vintage cars, old radios and phones, and life-sized figures of Star Wars and superhero characters.
11. Learn about Thai wine (Monsoon Valley) at Hua Hin Hills Vineyard on Huay Mongkol Road. It’s a bit of a drive from Hua Hin’s city centre but it is a lovely place for lunch (reservations recommended). You can take guided tours of the vineyard on a jeep or the back of an elephant.
12. Explore Pala-U Waterfall, some 60 kilometres west of Hua Hin on the south side of Kaeng Krachan National Park. The waterfall has 16 tiers and most families only trek up to the third tier, where there is a large pool that’s great for swimming. The surrounding forest is home to lots of wildlife, including gibbons, which will certainly be heard, if not seen.
13. Relax at Cha-am Forest Park, off Phetkasem Road. You can have a picnic, play football, jog or just walk around with the kids at this tranquil nature reserve. A large island in the lake is home to gibbons. There is also a Thai restaurant on the premises, as well as a camping area and bungalow accommodations.
14. Support the artisans of Cicada Market. This outdoor evening weekend market sells handmade decorative items and clothing, vintage collectibles, second-hand goods and lots of food. They also host creative activities, performances, dance, music and community theatre.
15. Discover Sam Roi Yot National Park in Pranburi. A great day trip option, this marine national park features a series of limestone hills along the Gulf of Thailand. The main attractions are Phraya Nakhon Cave, accessed via boat and semi-challenging trek, with huge chambers and an iconic royal pavilion illuminated by sunlight; Kaeo Cave; and Thung Sam Roi Yot Freshwater Marsh. For those who would rather relax, the park has wonderful beaches and easy forest trails with lots of bird-watching opportunities.