I love Bangkok, but every few months I feel the pull to escape the city to one of the many amazing nearby beaches. If you’re willing to hop on a short flight from Bangkok, the beaches and islands in the coastal regions of the south, like Ko Samui and Phuket, are well worth the trip (personally, I will never forget the stunning sunsets I’ve experienced while visiting Krabi). When it’s a weekend beach getaway I’m after, I haves just two requirements for a destination: that it has glorious scenery and terrific seafood. Each of the places on the list below offers both. Happily, even in some of the smaller beach towns, you won’t have to do without the abundant and luxurious service that you’ve gotten used to in Bangkok. All you need to do is find a sunny spot on the sand, and beach vendors will come running to set up chairs and adjust umbrellas, and offer you everything from delicious gourmet lunches to beer to foot massages.
Just a few hours outside of Bangkok, this resort town with its white beaches and luxury hotels is a preferred retreat for members of Thai royalty. Bangkok residents, too, flock here on weekends for the sun, the great restaurants and bars, and to wander through the bustling night market, where the day’s catch—fresh lobster, prawns, clams, and whole fish—are displayed on ice amid the souvenir stalls.
This small island, about 124 miles southeast of Bangkok, is home to popular beaches like Hat Sai Kaew and Ao Thian. Unlike the bigger beach towns in the south, Koh Samet doesn’t get a lot of storms during the rainy season (between June and October). This makes it a yearlong destination both for visitors and vacationing Thais.
If you’re looking to log some quality R&R time, Pattaya is not the place for you. This beach town echoes the action-packed Bangkok streets with its nontrop (and sort of seedy) nightlife. During the day, night owls can refresh themselves with trips to the many tiny islands nearby, like Koh Lan; they’re great for swimming, and just a 15-minute speedboat ride away.
Sitting just south of Hua Hin, Pranburi is an up-and-coming beach destination that is surrounded by national parks. You’ll get to enjoy unspoiled beaches and fewer crowds here, but you’ll need to hire an inexpensive taxi to reach some of the better dining options in the evening.
For an authentic Thai-style beach trip, head 100 miles south of Bangkok to the sleepy town of Cha-Am. The main street here is fun to wander, and filled with seafood shops, charming bars, and cute hotels; the best lodging options, though, can be found at the all-inclusive beach resorts just outside of town.