This was the advice we received from a very smiling taxi driver from Phuket after telling him about our travel plans in Thailand. We have already loved the pristine beaches, the delicious food and the fascinating culture of Krabi, Pattaya, Koh Samui and Phuket, so his comment did not have much impact. Maybe the poor guy was suffering from a “tropical beach overdose”, but we couldn’t get enough of it.
Hua Hin holds a special place in the hearts of Thais due to its close connection with its beloved royal family. Since the 1920s, this coastal city has been the favorite summer vacation destination of the royal family, an important driver of Hua Hin’s push towards modernity. The people of Bangkok followed the Royal example, driving or taking the Bus or train to spend their summers or even just on weekends and escape the hectic urban life of the capital.
When the tourist industry of Hua Hin flourished due to the demand of local tourists, it developed very differently from some parts of Thailand that were marked by international tourists like Phuket. The prices here are much more reasonable and relaxed. Hua Hin offers some of the best golf courses and fishing spots in Thailand, beautiful rainforests and majestic mountains, historical sites, upscale resorts and even whimsical attractions like the recreated villages Santorini Park (a replica of Santorini) and Venezia (a replica of Venice).
It’s no wonder that international tourists are starting to realize that Hua Hin is something special. This is not just another tropical beach in Thailand. Hua Hin exudes a completely unique character. It is close to nature while maintaining some of the amenities that you know. It has long sandy beaches with gentle waves. And it has some of the best fresh seafood in Thailand.
1. Phraya Nakhon
The fascinating Phraya Nakhon Cave is something to discover in person. Even the best photos can’t live up to it. They lack the subtlety of the sun’s rays dancing in the trees and the silent atmosphere of the sacred cave, not to mention the feeling of accomplishment when you climb a very steep row of rocky (and slippery) steps to reach the cave.
The cave is located in the Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, about an hour’s drive south of Hua Hin. I can say without reservation that this is one of my favorite places in Thailand.
2. Bueng Bua Wooden Boardwalk
While we were in the area, we ventured to the Bueng Bua Nature Observation Center (or Bueng Bua Wood Boardwalk), which is also in the Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park. As a mountain range separates this place from the beach, we walked a route that lasted 55 minutes from the Bang Po Beach parking lot. Above the water lilies and marshes, this winding wooden promenade offers a unique viewpoint to observe the birds and relax in a quiet environment.
3. Monkey Mountain (Khao Takiab)
Without a doubt, the Khao Takiab, or Monkey Mountain, 272 meters high, offers the best views of Hua Hin. Monkey Mountain got its name from hundreds of resident macaques who jumped from tree to tree, fought between rocks and lounged on the stairs.
4. Pa La-U Waterfall
Pa La-U Waterfall is located on the south side of Kaeng Krachan National Park, near the border with Burma (Myanmar), about an hour’s drive west of Hua Hin. It is said that the waterfall is one of the largest in Thailand and a great place to observe butterflies. Unfortunately, we did not have time to visit the waterfall on this trip… of course, we had to leave something for our next visit to Hua Hin!
5. Beaches, Beaches, Beaches
The beaches of Hua Hin may not be the typical tropical beach lined with water sports providers and coconut palms. But that’s a good thing. Here you will find the cold character that is unique to Hua Hin.We went down to the beach for an early morning walk and noticed these three things; fishermen, tons of marine animals and horses. Yes, The Horses.
If the cliché is true that Thais like cowboys, then a handful of Hua Hin residents can live out their fantasies every morning by galloping along the coast and usually wearing cowboy hats. Horse rides are available for tourists, but prices vary greatly between horse owners, so don’t necessarily take the first horse you meet.
Thanks to the origins of the fishing village of Hua Hin, many local restaurants are proud of their fish menu. We were spoiled with the chef’s special seafood barbecue at Shoreline Beach Club and were overwhelmed by the generous portion. The feast included oysters, muscles, squid rings, shrimp, fish and scallops, all prepared to perfection.
7. Eating The Night Market
If, like me, you are not a big fish eater, but you can’t get enough of the classic Thai chicken and rice, you will fall in love with the tamarind night markets. The Tamarind night markets, open from Thursday to Sunday from 5pm to 11pm, are like a huge open food court full of street food and food trucks. Delicious options include sushi, Pad Thai, Satay sticks, Tom Yum, grilled meats, papaya salads, fresh fruit juice, bubble tea and ice cream that you can enjoy under fairy lights while listening to live music.
We opted for a classic Pad Thai with chicken for 60 baht each, followed by ice cream from an ice Tuk-Tuk for 80 Baht each.
If you are looking for something truly unique to remember your stay in Thailand, the Cicada night markets in Hua Hin are undoubtedly the best place to do craft shopping. All the items on sale, from landscape paintings to ceramics, clothing and jewelry, are handmade by the locals. Some stall owners have even created new items to sell while waiting for their next customer.
Who would have thought that Thailand produces its own world-class plonks?
Our favorite food in Hua Hin was the Monsoon Valley Vineyard, a 45-minute drive west of Hua Hin. While you can just enjoy a meal or try and buy some plonk, you can also make it a full day trip. You must book in advance and at the same time arrange transportation. The private vineyard shuttle leaves from the bistro and the Hua Hin plonk cellar at 11 am and leaves from the vineyard to the city at 2 am.