Hua Hin is not the first place I’d think of when choosing a beach holiday, but it proved to be exactly what I needed this summer—the perfect beach destination for a quick summertime getaway, which was all that my teenagers’ schedules allowed us this year. I considered and discarded a host of options—any place close and affordable enough to fit the bill would be rained out and beach restaurants and facilities shut down for the low season. I didn’t fancy being trapped in an overpriced hotel with little to do but stare at an unfriendly ocean. Hua Hin was the answer. By Radhika Tandon
Hua Hin is a small seaside town with luxurious resorts and many international restaurants, set along a four-kilometre strip of sandy white beach and all within easy reach of Bangkok. This grand old dame of Thailand’s seaside resorts was once an obscure fishing village. The arrival of the railway in 1911 began its transformation into a summer retreat for the Thai royals and upper classes. Its skyline is dotted with towering holiday apartments and lavish hotels, and with malls, markets and water sports on offer, this is no remote tropical paradise. Yet Hua Hin has a unique charm all its own and it ticked all my boxes.
Flights to Bangkok are short and cheap and our prearranged car seamlessly whisked us to Hua Hin from the airport in just under three hours. In terms of travel time, getting there is comparable to getting from Delhi to Puducherry or Coorg. I was thrilled with our hotel, the Intercontinental Hua Hin, that I chose for its stunning pool beside the ocean and for the BluPort mall across the road with its Cineplex and many restaurants, my backup plan for rainy days.
Uniquely positioned in a sheltered lee, Hua Hin is one of the driest places in Thailand in the rainy season. Unlike on the islands, the sea here is flat and calm during this period. After one overcast day and a short spell of rain, we had perfect weather. I had worried about reports of jellyfish that plague the coast in the rainy season, but there were no warnings posted during our stay and we were able to swim in the sea every day—another big win in my book.
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We very quickly settled into a sybaritic routine, squeezing in a small adventure before giving over the rest of the day to poolside and beach. First up was the Vana Nava water park, one of the best in Thailand. A small ‘water jungle’ with about 20 rides, it’s super fun for all ages and has enough adrenaline-inducing thrills to satisfy older teens. On another day, we hired ATV bikes and headed up to Monkey Hill for an off-road adventure. Monkey Hill is a well-known vantage point with views across the entire town and bay, and can also be reached by car. An added bonus is the friendly monkeys at the top who will climb all over you and eat out of your hands.
A worthwhile excursion is to Pala-U waterfall, about an hour’s drive away. The waterfall requires a rather challenging trek to climb up its 11 levels and most visitors attempt no more than three or four. Escorted by dancing butterflies, we followed the jungle path uphill, on a scenic trail that involved scrambling over slippery rocks and stopping along the way to feed the fish and splash in the icy water.
As a family-friendly destination for the weekend crowd from Bangkok, Hua Hin gets visitors all year and nothing shuts down in the low season. Weather permitting (and it usually does), you can do as much or as little as you want. We had a massage a day, ranging from foot rubs at the beach to a memorable experience at the very chichi Intercontinental Spa, the highest rated spa in Hua Hin. We gorged on seafood at the pier restaurants and dined at Coast, the elegant beach club at the Centara Grand. This, the oldest resort here is well worth a visit just to take in the splendid colonial architecture and decor. As is Cicada, an unapologetically touristy weekend night market with a small but excellent art section.
Our precious handful of days meant that just when we had started to get the hang of the place, it was over. You know it’s a good vacation when the kids say it’s too short.
That, in my book, was the biggest win of all.
For more things to do in Hua Hin visit here.