Introduction – Why go to Pattaya?
Just 147 kilometers southeast of Bangkok lies Pattaya. It’s location on the Gulf of Thailand means it has optimal weather, location, and beaches for all types of travelers, from families to couples to solo travelers. Its relaxed atmosphere appeals to everyone, and the lively nightlife attracts partygoers galore. But Pattaya is beginning to grow out of its reputation as a sleazy party town and now has a lot more to offer.
Those looking for watersports won’t be disappointed. Diving, snorkeling, and even fishing are popular here and Pattaya is a great home base for experiencing the sea life in Thailand. If you have kids, they will love the amusement parks and museums featuring not-so-common sights. There’s also golf, botanical gardens, and of course, great beaches.
Pattaya became popular in the 1980s and it has been popular ever since. The beaches are never empty, the nightlife is legendary, and entertainment options are much more varied than they used to be. It’s no longer such a “seedy” tourist destination. It’s the closest beach town to Bangkok, which is why it became so popular in the first place. But travelers quickly realized they weren’t just beaches of convenience. Beaches here are beautiful (most of them…) and there’s lots to do and see in the area.
This town boasts great accommodation, food, shopping, nightlife, and culture. It’s easy to get around and locals are friendly and helpful. There’s still a side of Pattaya that families and many travelers will want to avoid, but there’s also an increasing number of cultural attractions and family-friendly beaches, as well as international cuisine.
If you’re short on time and don’t want to spend time getting to Phuket or other south Thailand destinations for some R & R, Pattaya is a great option. Even if you have plenty of time to spend in Thailand, this beach town is a great place to stop before heading further south. English is widely spoken, it’s easy to get around, and you can be as busy or as laid-back as you want to be.
When to Go to Pattaya
Is there a bad time to go to Pattaya? Some would say no, and I would probably agree. However, there are actually different seasons in Pattaya. Hot, hotter, and hot and wet. Here’s the lowdown on the best time to visit Pattaya.
Cool Season (High Season) – November to February
Weather during these months is mostly dry with low humidity. The sea is calm, so swimming, diving, snorkeling, and other water sports can be enjoyed with relative ease. Highs top out at about 31 degrees Celsius and lows around 21 degrees. With little rainfall, it is an ideal time to enjoy sun and sand.
Hotel prices will be at their peak, especially in December and January, and the beaches could get crowded. Even though hotel prices max out, they still book up quickly so be sure to make reservations well in advance. I must say though, that competition keeps prices quite reasonable and customer service is premium. Traffic can also be a bit of a problem during high season.
December means the rainy season is mostly gone and tourist numbers increase every day, especially for the New Year’s celebrations. Thailand is a Buddhist country primarily, but they do celebrate Christmas. Retail shops take advantage of the tourist numbers and decorate their shops. New Year’s Eve is one of the most popular holidays in Thailand. There are lots of fireworks and no shortage of celebrations.
January probably has the best weather of the year with little rain and very low humidity, but warm temperatures around 30 degrees Celsius are perfect for enjoying the water. With so many tourists, the nightlife is rocking.
Hot Season – March to May
These are the hottest months in Pattaya with temperatures averaging about 33 degrees Celsius most days. Nights are fairly comfortable with temperatures around 25 to 27 degrees. It’s not only hot, but it can get really humid. There is almost always a breeze coming off the sea, but it doesn’t always provide relief from the heat. Near the end of April and into May, it’s possible to get rain that does actually help to relieve some of the discomfort of the heat.
Hotel prices are lower than they are during high season and tourist numbers drop, but there’s still a lot of action to be found and lively nightlife, and you definitely will not be alone on the beaches.
April is when the Thai people celebrate Songkran, a water festival meant to celebrate the beginning of the Thai New Year. It is possible you could get doused with water by a complete stranger who thinks everyone is celebrating, even the tourists. Book early for accommodation and flights because both will sell out quickly during the celebrations.
Low Season (Rainy Season) – June to October
Average temperatures are about the same as they are during the hot season. Tourist numbers drop considerably during this season. Travelers can find super cheap package holiday deals during this time, but so can couples and solo travelers, and there are big hotel discounts available. It’s possible to find discounts of more than 50% on hotels, especially during October which is one of the wettest months of the year. Luxury resorts and hotels will be competing for your business, offering insane deals.
The pros are that the crowds are gone and there’s a more relaxed atmosphere and a slower pace of life, with lots of options still available at night for partygoers and even plenty of time in the sun for beach lovers. Even in October, you won’t be lonely for the company of other tourists in Pattaya.
The big downside during these months is that the water becomes choppy and may not be ideal for diving or other water sports.
June is the best month to visit Pattaya during the low season. While it might rain, showers are short. Conditions are not ideal for scuba diving, which is a down side. July is much like June in terms of weather and tourist numbers.
How to Get There
Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport is about 110 km from Pattaya and the highway makes getting to Pattaya quite easy. A metered taxi from the airport has an official price of 1050 baht one way plus 60 baht for tolls on the expressway and it takes about 1 hour 45 minutes if traffic is good. However, I did see another website that said 1200 baht plus tolls on an official tourism website for Thailand.
Don Muang Airport in Bangkok isn’t as easily accessible from Pattaya, but you can fly Nok Air, One-Two-Go, PB Air and Thai Airways to this airport, and then get a taxi or bus to Pattaya.
U-Tapao Airport is only 30km south of Pattaya and the drive from here takes about 45 minutes. You can really only fly here on Bangkok Airways from Ko Samui.
Monday through Friday you can get a train from Hua Lamphong Train Station in Bangkok to Pattaya. It’s 3rd class with no air conditioning, but the ride isn’t that long. It departs at 6:55 and arrives at 10:30. This ride only costs 31 baht!
Pattaya Train Station is in the north and there are loads of minibuses and motorbike taxis ready and waiting to take you where you need to go. If you want to depart from here to go back to Bangkok, you must buy a ticket beforehand. The ticket office opens at 8:00 and closes at 16:00. The train back to Bangkok departs at 14:20.
There are many buses from Bangkok to Pattaya each day. They have both air conditioned and non-air conditioned buses. Departures are from Eastern Bangkok Bus Terminal (Ekamai) as well as Mo Chit 2 and Suvarnabhumi Airport. Some of the buses from the airport will take you directly to your hotel and run from 5:30 to 18:30.
Fares are about 250 baht from the airport, 400 for the buses direct to the hotels (what a bargain!), and from Morchit or Ekkamai only 135 baht. Drive time is only about 2 – 3 hours. These prices are all for buses with AC.
You can reach Pattaya from Bangkok in about 2 hours by car. There are numerous car rental agencies in the airport, but I’d recommend reserving one in advance, no matter what season you go, in order to lock in the best price. Prices will be similar to those in other countries.
Best Things to Do and See in and around Pattaya
Pattaya has a reputation for being less than desirable for tourists who aren’t in Thailand looking for partying and girls, but there’s actually sights to see and lots of things to do around this area, as well as some pretty nice beaches that I mention in a later section of this guide. Check out some of the attractions and activities you can do in Pattaya.
1. Sanctuary of Truth Temple
This truly unique structure is built entirely of untreated teakwood. It’s a temple that tells the story of the importance of philosophy, art, and religion. It shows how these three things affect human development and how there are consequences of neglecting morality. No irony lost there, huh? Because the wood isn’t treated, by the time one section is finished, another section needs to be replaced. It is in a constant state of restoration. This monument to morality in the most unlikely location in Thailand is open from 8:00 to 18:00.
2. Pattaya Floating Market
A floating market in Thailand is always a fun, cultural experience. This one is known as the “Four Regions Floating Market” because of the four sections that represent the four regions of Thailand. It’s over 100,000 sq meters of authentic Thai food, produce, arts and crafts, clothes, and there are even cultural shows. Some vendors really do float in traditional Thai boats, while others are part of a “stilted village” connected by bridges over the canals. It’s an experience you won’t want to miss, even if you did experience the floating markets in Thailand.
3. Tiffany Cabaret Show
This show is in a theater that quite spectacular with its fake marble lobby. It’s almost as sparkly as the costumes. These performers wear elaborate gowns and headdresses and even some skimpy swimwear. But this is not a sex show. It’s a comedy, dance, and pure entertainment spectacle. They perform everything from Bollywood to Korean fan dances to dances illustrating China’s past. This highly entertaining show is performed every night at 18:00, 19:30, and 21:00.
4. Wat Phra Yai Temple and Big Buddha
This 18-meter-tall Big Buddha sits atop Pratumnak Hill. You can’t miss it. It’s between Jomtien Beach and Pattaya Beach and it is the largest Buddha in this part of Thailand. It is the pride and joy of Wat Phra Yai, which was built in the 40s when there was nothing here but a fishing village. There’s usually a bit of a crowd here as locals come here to pray and tourists come to see it, but it’s still pretty peaceful up there on top of the hill looking down on Jomtien Beach.
5. Nong Nooch Tropical Garden
This garden is 2.4 sq kilometers of incredible displays of flowers and landscaped gardens that rival any other in the world. The people who create this masterpiece have won several international awards for their unique designs such as 17th century French gardens, a model of Stonehenge, and almost lifelike topiaries. There’s also cactus and tropical plants and trees. There are over 670 species of orchids! It’s open from 8:00 to 18:00 on Sukhumvit Road in Jomtien.
6. Pattaya Viewpoint
Khao Pattaya Viewpoint is at the top of Pratumnak Hill and day or night, you’ll get a great photo from this viewpoint. If you’ve seen pictures of the crescent shaped bay of Pattaya, this is where those photos were taken. This place isn’t exactly a secret, so you can count on seeing hawkers selling their wares and other tourists taking pictures. Just wait for the bus tourists to leave after a few minutes, and you’ll have a few moments of peace up here.
7. Cartoon Network Amazone Waterpark
Didn’t bring the kids along to Pattaya? Who cares! This awesome waterpark is fun for everyone. It is the largest waterpark in Thailand and has 30 rides, not to mention awesome waterslides! There are Disney-style mascots, shows, and a food court. It’s divided into sections for little kids, teenagers, and older kids and adults. It’s about 20 minutes drive from Pattaya Beach. The whole family can spend a day here enjoying the Cartoon Network themed rides. It’s open from 10:00 to 18:00 and is located in Jomtien. It’s a bit pricey at 1800 baht for foreigners and 1200 baht for locals and those with a Thai ID.
8. Art in Paradise
This non-traditional art gallery takes art to a whole new level. Visitors can actually interact with the art and create optical illusions that make great photos. The museum even designates the best spots to stand in order to have your photo taken. It’s open from 9:00 to 21:00 and is located in North Pattaya.
9. Thai Cooking Classes
There are many cooking classes to choose from in Pattaya, and if you love Thai food as much as I do, you might be tempted to try them all! In Pattaya you can choose a beginner course, a master chef course, or any level in between. You’ll learn about ingredients, flavor balance, and cooking techniques. They are available all year. Here are three of the most highly recommended cooking schools in Pattaya.
Pattaya Cookery School – This school received a highly prized award from the Ministry of Education of Thailand in both 2011 and 2014. Here you’ll learn about ingredients, techniques, menu preparation and even how to order Thai food at restaurants. The courses offered are Thai and European cookery, Thai dessert, Bakery, and Fruit & Veg Carving, and don’t miss out on the cocktail course! Courses are in English and Thai and are limited to 10 people. Students will experience hands-on cooking and you’ll receive recipes in English. Cost is 1900 baht per person for a three-hour class.
Happy Chef School of Thai Cookery – This cooking school began in 2007. Each student will be spoiled with their own work station that includes all of the equipment you need to make traditional Thai food, including a wok. There is a 5-day course with 4 dishes each if you’re really into learning ingredients and techniques. Each day you have 25 dishes to choose from! You can schedule classes anytime. Classes run about 2 hours at 11:00 and 1:00 each day. It’s located on Central Pattaya Road, Soi 9. Classes are 1000 baht, but if you take all five, the last class is free!
10. Muay Thai Camp
There are numerous Muay Thai gyms in Pattaya in both the north and south. Here are three recommendations. Muay Thai facilities in Pattaya seem to get really mixed reviews, so you might want to do your research before deciding. There are many more gyms in Pattaya besides the three mentioned here, but not all have websites.
Sudsakorn Sor Klinmee Muay Thai Gym – This gym still follows the values of traditional Muay Thai, but caters to foreigners. They have good training partners, including Sudsakorn himself. He will even help the foreigners, which is unusual for someone so famous. They are somewhat limited on space, but have two boxing rings and some decent equipment. Morning sessions are from 5:00 to 8:00 and afternoons from 16:00 to 19:00. One session is 300 baht, two sessions 600 baht, one week 3000 baht, and one month 12,000 baht.
Fairtex Pattaya Gym – This gym is modern and clean. It has more tourists than other gyms in Pattaya as a result, and lots of space to accommodate them. It has around 10 trainers there on a regular basis including Yodsanklai, a famous Muay Thai superstar, but he doesn’t work with the foreigners. It has four boxing rings, but a somewhat mass-produced factory atmosphere. It’s not that traditional, but if you’re in the area and looking to train a few times, it’s fine. Morning sessions are 8:00 to 10:00 and afternoons from 14:30 to 17:00. One session is 800 baht and two sessions are 1200 baht. It’s pricey, but some foreigners prefer the clean and well-equipped facility and are willing to pay for it.
Sitjaipetch Camp – This camp is located next to Jomtiem Beach and it’s owned by the best Muay Thai fighter to come out of Ireland. His name is Craig O’Flynn and he’s a world champion. Craig works with fighters on technique and corrects their mistakes. Lots of foreigners train here, some attempting to be professionals, so it has a serious training atmosphere. I was unable to find specific information about their training times and prices as they don’t seem to have a website.
Best Places to Eat in Pattaya
1. The Glass House $$ – $$$$
Located in Na Jomtien, this restaurant is a stunner. It is literally a glass house set amidst the trees with comfortable and classy outdoor furniture. The Glass House features seafood and steaks, served with gorgeous sunsets. It’s out of town and a bit secluded, giving it a very romantic vibe. The Glass House is air-conditioned. It serves more than 170 Thai and western dishes and is rumored to have the best seafood in Pattaya. Cocktails on the sofas by the beach are a perfect way to end an evening. Open from 11:00 to 24:00. Mains from 170 – 380 baht.
2. Mum Aroi $$ – $$$$
Mum (Moom) Aroi is north of town in the middle of several fishing communities. They have amazing fresh seafood and it’s so good, even the locals come here. The beachfront property with around 100 tables even has a live band that starts up around 20:00. Their seafood is very reasonably priced and of a high standard. The spicy papaya salad with crab is highly recommended. It’s open from 11:00 – 23:00 on Naklua Road. Mains run between 150 – 420 baht.
3. Rimpa Lapin $$ – $$$
Located at the top of a cliff in Jomtien, this Thai restaurant has the best views around and some of the best local cuisine in Pattaya. It’s owned by an international couple who knows Thai and fusion cuisine. Stir-fried rock lobster, baked shrimp with cheese, and Rimpa chicken are popular with patrons. You might need to make a reservation around sunset and you need private transport to get here as buses can’t climb up here. Mains run from 150 – 400 baht. Open from 14:00 – 24:00.
4. Leng Kee $$ – $$$
This Chinese restaurant is a favorite among locals and tourists, especially the duck dishes. It’s open day and night and it’s never empty. There’s seating inside and out. It’s located in Central Pattaya Beach and has fast service, great prices, good food, and satisfies those cravings you get in the wee hours after a night out on the town. It might not be modern, but it’s clean and serves up great food. Open 24- hours. Mains from 100 – 300 baht.
5. La Baguette $$ – $$$
Open 8:00 – 24:00, this excellent bakery located in the Woodlands Hotel & Resort makes homemade breads, cakes, and other sweets, as well a vast selection of sandwiches and savory dishes. The quality is excellent. There is a restaurant attached to the bakery that is modern and chic. Best of all, they have fantastic coffee and ice cream. The bakery is great for snacks and desserts, but not so much for a full meal. Dishes run from 160 – 290 baht.
6. Thepprasit Market $
This market sells a lot more than kitsch and clutter. Even if you’re not on a tight budget, the cheap and tasty food at this night market is a must-experience. It’s located at Thepprasit and Sukhumvit. Open from 16:00 – 22:00. Dishes range from about 30 – 80 baht.
7. The Coffee Club Royal Garden Plaza $$ – $$$
This highly rated coffee house serves up lunch, dinner, and late night goodness. It’s open from 6:30 – 22:00 on the ground floor of the Royal Garden Plaza. They serve bacon and eggs and breakfast all day, a great cappuccino, and it’s clean and comfy. Not the cheapest coffee in town, but it is said to be the best.
How to Get Around Pattaya
There is no shortage of transportation options on Pattaya. Here are some options that will certainly get you where you want to be.
For about 150 – 200 baht a day, you can get a motorbike for rent from one of the many agencies in town. This is a great way to get around Pattaya. Both automatic and manual gear are available. The law isn’t really clear about whether or not tourists need a motorbike license, but most likely a driver’s license is enough. Tourists will be asked to leave their passport. Motorbike insurance doesn’t exist, so don’t fall for that. I’m not sure about third-party insurance, but be warned, there is no recourse if the bike is stolen. They will want you to pay for it.
Everyone is required to wear a helmet by law and you’ll likely be pulled over and fined if you don’t. The roads are not in great shape and traffic laws are loosely interpreted by locals. Be careful!
Some of the major rental car companies like Hertz, Avis, and Budget are located at the airport in Bangkok. There are also many local companies that might offer cheaper rates, but some people like to rent from a major company they trust. There are car rental companies in Pattaya and prices run about 600 baht per day for an older car and 1500 baht per day for a newer model.
Long term rentals are more reasonably priced. Just be aware that sometimes driving in Pattaya can be frustrating due to traffic jams, especially on holiday weekends and rush hours.
You are required to have an international driver’s license and must wear your seatbelt. There could be police checkpoints, so don’t get caught without your seatbelt on. If you’re in an accident, refer everything to insurance and do not take responsibility. Do not move your car. Call the insurance company and WAIT for them to arrive!
There are no metered taxis in Pattaya, but they do bring people from the airport. If you see one with no passenger, it is possible to flag them down. If you’re going out of town, car services and non-metered taxis might be a better choice. Your hotel can probably arrange one for you, or a travel agency definitely can. It is more expensive than chartering a songtaew for your group.
Bus service is a bit limited in Pattaya. There are 3 routes, but they don’t run as regularly as songtaews. They cover just the main streets of Pattaya, Naklua, and Jomtien. They are color coded in red, yellow, and green as well as numbers. All of the routes begin at Big C Supermarket and one trip is 20 baht. Route information and maps are located in most hotels and you can also get them from the driver.
While this might be the fastest way around town, it is certainly not the safest. They have stations, but you can also flag one down on the road. How can you identify a motorbike taxi from all the other motorbikes? They wear a vest uniform with a number on the back. The color indicates their station. Trips around town can cost around 30 – 40 baht.
The meaning of songtaew is “two rows”, which describes this mode of minibus transport. In Pattaya, the songtaews are blue trucks with a canopy and they can be found everywhere in Pattaya. The ones on Sukhumvit Road are actually white and they go to Sri Racha and Sattahip. Just wave them down. To get off, push the buzzer. You should ask where the songtaew is headed before boarding because the routes can vary. For short destinations, expect to pay around 10 baht. Longer routes are around 20 baht, like Jomtien to Naklua. You can charter one for a private group as well, but agree on a price beforehand.
Pattaya is very bike friendly and this is a great way to get around. It’s good for the environment, good for you, and it’s super cheap! Most bike rentals are at rental shops, or you can buy one from a strip mall or hypermarket, but they may not be very good quality. Hotels and resorts sometimes provide them for their guests.
Where to Stay in Pattaya
Pattaya is a definitely a city, and while it may not be as large as Bangkok, it has to accommodate huge numbers of tourists every year. The variety of accommodation is astounding and there is certainly something for every budget. In Pattaya, you may get more than you expect for the price you pay, but you should research neighborhoods and make sure your hotel is in a place that suits your needs. Certain areas can be particularly seedy, but that is not a reason to avoid this city that has much to offer.
As I mentioned in the area guide, Pattaya is basically divided into north, middle, and southern sections, so I have tried to recommend accommodation in each, although the north is primarily upscale luxury resorts.
Budget $10 – $70 per night
Competition in this price range is pretty fierce, so you will get a lot if you’re willing pay just 100 or 200 baht more per night than the average backpacker hostel.
Tsix5 Hotel Pattaya
For 48 USD (1700 baht) a night, this 4 Star hotel in Naklua in North Pattaya is a great value for the price, offering many amenities you might not expect in this price range. They have 78 guestrooms equipped with air conditioning, free wifi, fridge, flat screen TV, and private terrace. Rooms are spacious, ranging from 35 to 48 sq meters, and modern (dare I say chic?), decorated mostly in black and white with walls of teal or red. Bathrooms are also spacious and modern with a separate tub and shower. A safe is also available in the room for your valuables.
Facilities at this hotel include 2 restaurants, beautiful outdoor pool, fitness center, spa, garden, and more. Breakfast is available and included with every room type except deluxe. The pool is large with comfy sun beds and some umbrellas creating a social and relaxing vibe to enjoy a drink and a book while you work on your tan.
Tara Court Hotel
Tara Court is located in Central Pattaya on Pratumnak Road, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a better value anywhere in the city. Wait until you see what you can get for around 38 USD a night during high season. This 3.5 Star hotel has 66 rooms that range from 33 to 85 USD a night, depending on type of room and season. They offer studios, 1 bedroom suites, and luxury 2 bedroom suites. Even a studio has a seating area and kitchenette that is modern and very well equipped. I’ve had apartment kitchens that weren’t as nice!
Rooms are very spacious at 68 – 108 sq meters. They are clean and modern with fresh décor and large bathrooms. Room amenities include free wifi, air conditioning, microwave and fridge in the well-appointed kitchen.
Hotel services and amenities include free wifi, restaurant and bar, fitness center, room service, and a cool, modern looking pool with relaxing sun beds, some under a shaded awning, and you’ll have some pretty nice views of Pattaya from the pool as it sits on Pratumnak Hill. They provide airport transport, free parking, and laundry service. The Irish owner takes pride in a clean, modern hotel and great service. And the bar? Definitely comfortable with a friendly, Irish atmosphere.
Midrange $70 – $130 per night
Located in Jomtien which is popular with tourists, this resort gets consistently high ratings online and offers a lot for just 120 USD a night during high season. I checked prices for February. The rooms here are scattered over the wooded property making them very private, and it’s right on the beach so you can enjoy a swim in the morning before the crowds come. Owners are on the property most of the time and actually spend time making sure their guests are happy.
This hotel consists of 49 beach villas (villas, not rooms!) and it is built like a traditional Thai village with modern amenities. It is officially located on Dongtan Beach, just a 10 minute Jeep ride to downtown Pattaya. The environmentally conscious construction of the buildings is actually really beautiful. Villas have air conditioning and a fridge, as well as a kitchenette, free wifi is throughout the property and in the rooms. Breakfast is included.
Property amenities include a stunning pool surrounded by lush gardens, and a restaurant and bar. The pool is a perfect place to enjoy an after-dinner cocktail, or even a morning one… Parking is free and they even offer babysitting services and a shuttle bus into Pattaya City. They also allow dogs if you want to bring your furry companion on a well-deserved holiday. Rates range from 105 to 160 USD a night depending on type of room and season.
Jomtien Beach Penthouses, Pattaya
This 3.5 Star hotel is one of the highest rated hotels online in Pattaya’s Jomtien Beach, and it is a great value for the money. There are 60 rooms over 8 floors. They are deluxe studio, deluxe 2 bedroom apartment, superior 1 bedroom suite, and 3 bedroom penthouse with PRIVATE POOL! Wow! I’m not going to tell you just yet how much the penthouse costs.
These spacious, well-appointed rooms are clean and modern with stylish décor and large, modern bathrooms. Room amenities include free wifi, air conditioning, LCD TV, fully equipped modern kitchen with full-size fridge, and a lovely balcony for enjoying your morning coffee.
Hotel amenities include a gorgeous outdoor pool with striking blue tiles, fitness center, and laundry service. The one downside to this hotel is that there is no restaurant, or at least if it has one, it isn’t mentioned. But with the super nice kitchens and daily housekeeping, making your own yummy breakfast is not such a chore.
So how much for all this? A 1 bedroom suite is 70 USD per night, deluxe 2 bedroom apartment is 125 USD a night, and the penthouse? Well, I suppose it is a bargain of sorts at 330 USD a night. It is 200 sq meters and has 2 bathrooms, 3 bedrooms, a lovely seating area outside with a great view, choice of beds (double or king), and washer/dryer. But the real kicker is the pool. This private pool is no kiddy pool. It’s got a deck right off the seating area with loungers and a great view of the Gulf of Thailand.
High $130 + per night
The Monttra Pattaya
This tranquil and slightly secluded 4 Star hotel will make you feel like you’ve left civilization and the busy streets of Pattaya behind. Actually, you have! But the city is just a few minutes away. The Monttra Pattaya is located at a cliff-top on a white sand beach (not sure how that’s possible, but that’s what the description says, and it sure does look that way). The staff prides themselves on hospitality and service.
The 23 suites at this hotel are decorated in a modern, chic style and have air conditioning, fridge and minibar. Free wifi is in all the rooms and public areas. The bathrooms are way cool and have luxurious bathtubs and glass showers. The bamboo slats on the walls and hardwood floors add to the luxury of this very reasonably price hotel.
Hotel amenities include airport transportation, free parking, dry cleaning, restaurant and bar, spa, and let’s not forget, it is beachfront. But when you see the pool, you may never make it as far as the beach. This stunning infinity pool looks out over the beach and the Gulf of Thailand. You can watch the sun go down while relaxing in this I-never-want-to-leave pool. Prices range from 125 – 185 USD a night depending on the season. For February, I found a suite for 116 USD a night on Agoda.
I decided to review this 4 Star hotel based on two things. One, there were positive comments about customer service from nearly everyone who reviewed this property online, something many people fail to mention at all when reviewing a hotel. Two, the fantastic bathtubs and cool, modern bathrooms. It’s a boutique hotel with its own art-deco style. It’s described as Miami meets Thai modern.
Wave Hotel is located on Beach Road just minutes from Walking Street. Its beachfront location is very convenient. Room amenities include suites, air conditioning, free wifi, fridge and minibar, and breakfast is included. Always a nice touch. The décor is art deco with lots of black and white and teal. The black tile in the bathroom against the bright white of that huge tub sold me on this hotel.
Hotel amenities, in addition to the excellent service, include free parking, restaurant, bar and lounge, airport transportation, laundry and dry cleaning service, and a fantastic outdoor pool with cabana-type shade with sun loungers set in a lush garden setting. Oh, and it’s shaped like a wave. The lobby is also a unique art deco style that is definitely picture-worthy. Love it. Prices range from 145 – 220 USD per night depending on room type and season, although a deluxe room was 133 USD a night on Expedia in February.
Best Place to stay in Pattaya
Pattaya gets a lot of budget travelers at all times of year, and that’s one reason I chose a hostel as Best Place to stay in Pattaya. Another reason is the convenient location. But the main reason is that is just so cool! I was really impressed with this property.
My first reaction to this hostel when I saw the pictures was, “Cool!” The common area looks awesome! It’s located on Beach Road in Pattaya and has an area outside for relaxing and enjoying drinks or a book. Free wifi is available in the common areas which are so cool and comfy, you might actually spend time here. Great for socializing. The more I look at it, the more I think a bit of steampunk came to Pattaya and decided to stay with his modern friends.
They have 110 box beds, not bunks, and they serve breakfast at an extra cost. There are closets in the rooms and lockers available. And there’s a wooden slide you can use to get to the common area! It’s location near Walking Street is convenient, but inside you won’t feel like you’re anywhere near it. It looks awesome from the outside as well, and it’s next to a McDonald’s.
Amenities here, in addition to a slide (!), include free wifi, towels provided, elevator, air conditioning, adaptors (yes!), hot showers, hair dryers, airport transfers, and 24 hour reception (another yes!). There’s also a restaurant on site. So how much is this super-cool hostel per night? Prices range from 18 to 31 USD a night, and the price table says breakfast is included, so you might want to ask to be sure. They accept baht, visa/mastercard, and PayPal.
Pattaya Area Guide
Pattaya covers quite a large area, so it may be helpful to familiarize yourself with the different areas before booking accommodation. It’s easy to get around with the many transportation options available, but staying in an area that you’re comfortable with is important. Each area has something different to offer travelers to Pattaya.
North – In Thai it’s called Pattaya Neu and it begins at Dolphin roundabout in front of Dusit Resort. Of three beaches in Pattaya, this one is the quietest. It’s great for swimming. Sun loungers and umbrellas are available here, as are food stalls so there’s no need to pack a lunch.
Naklua’s upscale atmosphere and price tag could be why it is the quietest area of Pattaya. There are plenty of hotels and restaurants, but many are high-end. You can still find great nightlife here along 2nd Road, including Alcaza and Tiffany ladyboy shows. If you’re into Muay Thai, the Fairtex Sports Club & Hotel Fairtex Muay Thai Camp has a spacious, but expensive, training facility here. More about this under Best Things to Do and See in and around Pattaya.
Central – Earmarked by the golden mermaid and dolphins, you can’t miss the start of Central Pattaya when coming from the north. It’s the most popular beach and has more lodging and facilities than any other part of town. Cafes, restaurants, beer bars, and tour agencies are plentiful. You’ll be hard pressed to choose.
Attractions in this area include a Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum which might be of interest to the kiddos. Yogis might enjoy California WOW gym in this area. There’s also Sitjaipetch International Muay Thai Camp offering classes for all levels. More about that in Best Things to Do and See in and around Pattaya. Lots of spas and massage parlors are here in case the beach isn’t pushing the relax button.
Nightlife in Central Pattaya is lively and plentiful, and probably non-stop. There’s everything from a Hard Rock Café, to British pubs, to icebars.
South – Pattaya Tai isn’t really the southernmost part of Pattaya, but it’s at the southern end of Pattaya Beach. It also goes inland to South Pattaya Road. Walking Street is in this area, as well as Pattayaland. The beach here is only about .5 kilometers, but along this stretch of beach there are endless shops, bars, nightclubs and restaurants. This is considered the main tourist area in Pattaya because of Walking Street.
There are some great massage parlors that offer a variety of legitimate massage services. There’s also Scorpion Muay Thai Boxing that is open to all levels, and Bira Circuit, an FIA go-kart racetrack. Scorpion gets mixed reviews from various websites, so do your research first.
Jomtien and beaches there are further south, and I will tell you about this area in Pattaya Beaches.
Pattaya really only has three beaches, but each on proves to be different from the other. Here’s a description of each that might come in handy before booking your accommodation for a trip to Pattaya.
This beach is about 4km long and crescent shaped. It’s not exactly an attractive beach for swimming. There are speedboats, jet skis, parasailing, and even floating restaurants. It’s in the center of Pattaya. Pattaya Beach Road is separated from the beach by nothing more than palm trees. This road has shopping, bars, restaurants, attractions, and a lot of partying going on. The infamous Walking Street is here along with ladyboy cabaret shows, museums, Bali Hai Pier where numerous boats and ferries dock every day.
There is an actual beach here. The northern end of the beach is more chill and relaxed, but the central and southern end are quite lively. On the beach, there are sun loungers and volleyball nets. It’s had quite a cleanup in the past few years. There are still plenty of vendors for those too lazy to leave their chairs, selling everything from drinks to beach balls to jewelry and nuts.
This 6km long beach is a favorite of tourists and non-pervy expats. Much quieter than Pattaya Beach, it appeals more to couples, families, and foreigners who are not so fascinated by Walking Street. Here you can splash around, relax in the sand, and eat cheap seafood from local vendors. There are lots of activities if you get tired of being lazy. Take a walk around the botanical gardens, and the cultural and religious sites.
For tourists, this is the optimal neighborhood to find accommodation no matter what your budget is. This area has everything from 4 and 5 Star to budget backpacker hostels, but you’ll pay a premium if you want luxury right on the beach.
There’s more to do in Jomtien that lay around on the beach. This area has Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden, Pattaya Floating Market, Buddha Mountain (Khao Chi Chan), cabaret shows, waterparks, aquariums, Mimosa Mall for shopping and entertainment, and cultural sites and temples. It has it all, including its own lively nightlife.
Naklua & Wong Amat Beach
These beaches on the northern end of Pattaya offer beauty and plenty of 5 Star resorts who have realized the potential of this beach after many years of ignoring it. Naklua actually means “salt fields” which is an interesting industry dating back long before tourists arrived, and it is still thriving. There are also some beautiful fishing villages here, giving visitors a good taste of local, traditional ways of life.
There aren’t as many attractions here as there are in Jomtien, but you can still find plenty to do after relaxing on the beach all morning. This is a quiet, residential area, but that makes it all the better to find temples such as the teakwood Sanctuary of Truth. Muay Thai boxing is well-represented in this area, and there’s a Sheep Farm and Million Years Stone Park & Crocodile Farm for all you animal lovers. Hug the sheep, not the crocs.
Because this area is more residential and has upscale resorts, there are fewer bars and nightclubs. Families and older expats enjoy going to restaurants and low-key resort bars here at night. There are some cool live music venues here like Leo Blues Bar where a lot of expats hang out for the great live music.
1. Coral Island
Koh Larn is just 7.5 kilometers west of Pattaya Beach and it’s an unimaginable paradise when you think of the hustle and bustle of Pattaya. The stunning turquoise waters surround this little piece of paradise and its beautiful beaches. There are no high rises, no crowds, and it is perfect for a day away from Pattaya. There are beach activities here such as parasailing and jet skiing, and even a banana boat. There are beach chairs for tanning and you can get a massage or a henna-tattoo. There are guided tours to the island that include lunch and nearby vendors sell drinks. There are also shops and restaurants here, but they are a bit pricey because it is small island.
2. Koh Samet
This island is full-service and popular with tourists and expats on weekends who want to get away from the busy streets of Pattaya and Bangkok. The sand is soft, the water turquoise and warm, and it beckons to those who want a peaceful getaway. But it also offers lots of watersports and a hopping nightlife!
Accommodation ranges from 5 Star resorts, beachfront bungalows, and luxury diggs with a view located on the cliff-top. Book well in advance if you plan to visit on a weekend. Restaurants here pride themselves on quality, whether they are in a luxury resort or serving up local cuisine on the cheap. Don’t expect to do a lot of shopping here as everything has to come from the mainland, but there are some unique items to be found.
There are lots of beaches here. If you want more seclusion and privacy, head south where the bays are beautiful and so is the empty space in the sand. Ao Phrao on the west shore is also quiet with just a handful of luxury resorts sharing the spectacular beach and bay here. Ao Hin Khok is more for the budget backpackers sporting a fun beach and inexpensive accommodation up the hill. A great option for those on a budget who want a getaway from the mainland.
3. Monkey Island Pattaya
Also known as Koh Ling, Koh Ped (Duck Island), and its official name which is Koh Klet Kaew (Crystal Shard Island), tourists just call it Monkey Island and everybody knows which island that is. It is tiny, covered in jungle, and gets its name from the macaques that eat crabs. Not sure about the name Duck Island as there are no ducks here…
The monkeys are in force by the hundreds and used to humans who enjoy feeding them and taking pictures. Because of the tourists, their numbers have exploded and there are so many monkeys now that the Royal Thai Navy has to feed them during the off season! The monkeys favor watermelon, but will eat just about any fruit. Just remember they are wild animals and while they may seem cuddly as they climb up on you to get the fruit, they can be aggressive without provocation. Let’s just say they will NOT be climbing on me!
This island and its beaches are all about the monkeys, not fun in the sun. No one sunbathes or swims here really. You’d be pestered to death by the monkeys if they weren’t the reason you came to visit this island.
4. Koh Sak
About 10km west of Pattaya lies Koh Sak. It’s very close to Coral Island, but has no residents and virtually no services. People come here for the beautiful beaches and R & R for a day away from Pattaya. There’s one small restaurant for drinks and pretty good cheap Thai food.
If you wander the path through the forested interior of the island, you’ll discover what used to be here. It used to be highly exclusive and only for the famous. Along the path you’ll see the footprints and handprints of people like the Duke of Edinburgh, various presidents of the United States, and most interesting, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin who left their already- famous footprints here after leaving them on the moon! I wonder if they look the same?
The sheltered bay is perfect for snorkeling and beginner divers. Not far off the east coast you can dive to 30 meters depth to see HTMS Kut which was once part of the Royal Thai Navy. Wonder if it bit the dust coming to feed those monkeys? You can only reach Koh Sak via speedboat for about 1000 baht per boat (holds 10 – 15 people maximum). There’s no pier, so you might have to wade the last few meters to reach the beach.
5. Koh Krok
Koh Krock is the smallest and closest island to Pattaya, and well worth visiting. It’s only 100m long, so don’t count on getting in a good run here. The eastern shore is beach and the western shore is rocky. On this stunning small beach, you’ll find beach chairs and banana boats, jet skis, but no accommodation. There simply isn’t space for it. The nearby coral is great for snorkeling, okay for diving. You have to get here via speedboat and there is a small pier.
6. Koh Phai Islands (5 in total)
Koh Phai is the largest, but all five are under the control of the Royal Thai Navy. They are 23km, or about a 2-hour speedboat ride, from Pattaya. There are no overnight stays allowed and no facilities, but it is beautiful and makes for a great day trip. You can worship the sun, snorkel around the reefs, and dive the HTMS Khram shipwreck site. You have to take a speedboat here from Bali Hai Pier. Inquire about the price at the pier.
Dive Centers in Pattaya
Many travelers might not think of Pattaya as a diver’s destination, but it is actually a prime location to learn how to dive, get certified, and explore some pretty cool dive sites. There are numerous tours and boats that can take you out to sea for day-long dive trips, giving you the chance to explore some of the surrounding islands as well. There are many dive centers in Pattaya, so I’d recommend talking to them once you arrive to see what they offer and which one meets your needs. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.
This is the first PADI 5 Star Dive Center in Pattaya. In one day, you can actually be in the ocean diving if you participate in their PADI Discover Scuba Diving program. If you want to get a PADI license, you can do that here as well. This dive center is located in Jomtien and opened in 1990, so they have a wealth of experience and knowledge to share. They also have a training facility at Centara Grand Mirage Resort in North Pattaya.
Some of the reasons they are highly recommended are that they have 3 boats dedicated only to diving, they offer wreck diving every day, and a flexible schedule. If you’re already a diver and looking to up your game, they also offer technical and specialty dive classes. Interested in underwater photography? This is your place.
Seafari is located very near Beach Road in Pattaya, and they are one of the oldest dive centers in the city. They are a PADI 5 Star IDC dive center and have trained many dive instructors who are now working in Thailand. They offer dive classes for beginners and those with a lot of experience, and snorkelers can also join in on day trips through Seafari. They have the full range of PADI courses, all the way up to instructor level.
You’ll need to book at least 24 hours in advance and they will pick you up at your hotel at about 8:00. Bring your diver’s certification if you’re already certified. Boats depart at 9:00 to Pattaya Islands and Samae San Islands where divers will explore coral reefs and shipwrecks! They typically return around 16:00 to Pattaya.
To give you an idea of prices at Seafari, a Classic Pattaya Dive Trip includes 2 dives and it is 3400 baht. The Advanced Diver Wreck Trip is 4300 baht, and a 4-5 day package is 15,000 baht.
This dive center has been in the same location since they opened 15 years ago. It’s owned by David Wright who just received an award for his 25 year PADI certification. They have 3 of their own dive boats and offer daily dives. They are located on Pattaya Beach and are open from 8:00 to 21:00 every day.
Whether you’ve never dived before or have already logged several hours under the water, Pattaya Dive Centre has a course for you. They offer technical classes for those who are looking to go a step further and get a full PADI Tec Deep Diver certification. For beginners, you can earn a full 18m PADI cert within 3 -4 days.
General Tips for Pattaya Travel
Responsible and Respectful Driving
In Thailand people drive on the left side of the road. You must carry an International driver’s license if you rent a car. Wearing seatbelts is mandatory. Don’t get caught not wearing it or you may pay a fine. Don’t use a cell phone while driving unless you have hands-free.
Always be cautious of motorbikes and try to be aware when one is near. Thais don’t always follow the rules, but you should.
Coworking/Digital Workspace for Digital Nomads
There are two coworking spaces in Pattaya for dedicated digital nomads who need to get work done before (or after…) having fun.
This super modern 500 sq meter space with a cool vibe is just what you need to get your digital groove on. It’s located in Jomtiem in South Pattaya. It is full-service with everything freelancers, independents, or even small companies need to have meetings and get stuff done. They furnish high speed internet, printers, fax machines, meeting rooms, and even a salon.
The community here has events like barcamps, conferences, polyglot club, and various workshops that might be of interest to digital nomads. They have a café as well, and are only 2 minutes from the beach in case you need to take a break. A day pass is just 250 baht, a month is 4000 baht, and a private office for a month is 12,000 baht and you can even receive mail with this option.
rPod was established in 2015. It’s a shared workplace in a residential area with easy access to Laem Chabang Sri Racha district. They have 6 rooms and 11 desks in 256 sq meters. They are located on Moo 5 Pho Samphan near the 7-Eleven. Open from 10:00 to 22:00.
If you need a desk for a day in the main space, it’s 200 baht per day or 3800 baht per month. They have clean, modern meeting rooms for 500 baht/hr, 1040 baht/.5 day or 1650 baht/day. If you need a private office for an extended period, it runs 17,000 per month.
Other amenities here include coffee and tea, mail service, they allow pets, and have a shared kitchen and shower room.
A Budget for Every Traveler
For the budget traveler, Pattaya is easy on the wallet. A dorm room in a nice hostel, although not as nice as Nonze, can run as low as 5 USD a night in a hostel that offers several amenities and a great location. If you eat like a local, not only will you have some great food, you can easily spend less than 10 USD a day, and that includes a couple of beers. Transport costs can be kept to a minimum, making your daily total for fun in Pattaya around 20 USD a day.
Midrange accommodation can still fall into the budget range. Travelers with a budget of 50 USD a day can eat and sleep very well in Pattaya, even with transportation included unless you go the rental car route. Midrange accommodation as listed in this guide will run between 50 to 120 USD a night, so it all depends on your preference and the type of amenities you want at your hotel, although some in the 40 USD range offer great amenities like beautiful pools and modern fitness facilities.
The sky is the limit. There is so much competition for lodging in Pattaya that it keeps the price of even luxury properties in the very reasonable range. If you want to travel in high style to Pattaya, check out lodging in the Naklua area or Jomtien. You’ll get more bang for your buck and more amenities in these two areas, and you can skip out on the potentially noisy nights. High end restaurants also compete for business, providing excellent service and reasonable prices, even for seafood like lobster.
For luxury travel in Pattaya, you could easily get by on 100 – 180 USD a day including accommodation. It just depends on your taste. Luxury properties here can be as low as 100 USD a night, even during high season.