Most people come to the Pattaya area to enjoy the beaches, not only for the swimming but also for the relaxed atmosphere and sea breeze. There is a choice of beaches in Pattaya, with more than 15kms of sandy coastline offering everything from private coves to long, sweeping beaches and busy, fun-filled waterfronts.
The most convenient and popular beach for many people staying in South, Central or North Pattaya is Pattaya Beach itself. It is within walking distance of the majority of hotels and condos in this area; simply cross Beach Road and you’re there. Depending on the tide, Pattaya Beach gives about 15-30m of sand, but is mostly covered by umbrellas with deck chairs and small tables underneath. These areas are open from around 07:00 until dark (18:00) and you will be charged 200 baht each for as long as you’re there.
The concessionaires also provide food and drink from local establishments, or their own stock of ice, beer and soft drinks. Just raise an arm, tell them what you want and they’ll go and get it for you. The major problem on this beach is that the traffic is only 10m away and it is one of the busiest roads in Pattaya. The many beach vendors plying Pattaya Beach will offer you anything from fresh oysters (12 shelled and served with sauce in little bags) to battered, deep-fried prawns, soft drinks, sunglasses, and souvenirs. Others offer on-the-spot Thai massage, which can be most relaxing in the shade with the sound of the sea. For these reasons, Pattaya Beach is popular with foreigners and Thais, although it does get very busy on holidays.
Pattaya Beach and the beaches to the north and south are safe and clean. Regular clean-ups by the local government and volunteers, combined with golden sand and buoyed-off swimming areas (to stop boats interfering), make it a pleasant beach, although hardly an untouched tropical paradise. There are many speedboats and jet-ski companies operating off Pattaya Beach and it is advisable to only swim in the designated areas where they’re not allowed.
The jetski damage ruse has been going strong for several years and despite a high profile international documentary expose, the police seem to let the jetski owners continue scamming tourists. It’s quite simple, you rent a jetski, signing a contract that says ‘no insurance’, and then when you return it the operator claims you’ve caused damaged, pointing to pre-existing marks. When you refuse to pay the 50,000 baht they ask for, they threaten to take it to the police where ‘it’s, likely to cost more’. When you refuse, they get heavy. The very best advice we can give is to NOT RENT JETSKIS IN THAILAND, or else agree to go to the police, insisting they take you to the charge office (avoid mediators in uniform), and ask to call your local consulate.
The slightly cleaner beaches are in Jomtien (round the corner of the promontory, farther south), and the quality of the water is better than that in Pattaya Bay. Many locals and tourists take a taxi over to Jomtien (20 baht from the corner of South Pattaya Road and Second Road) for this reason.
On Jomtien Beach you will find roughly the same facilities as Pattaya Beach, although it is not quite as busy, apart from weekends. Jomtien Beach is getting more popular, however, and the pace of expansion along Jomtien Beach Road has been so frenetic that the beach is used for almost its entire length. The northern section of Jomtien Beach is called Dongtan and is to the right of the police box. It is a recognised gay section.
Jomtien is the best option for sailing, windsurfing and other water sports, with equipment and boats available either from the beach or from one of the sailing clubs along Jomtien Beach Road. The Amara Sailing Centre at the Pattaya Park Beach Hotel and Jomtien Watersports Club (59/1 Jomtien, tel: (038) 232 114, (038) 231 213) are just two of many.
North Pattaya – Naklua – Wongamart
The North Pattaya, Naklua and Wongamart areas also have popular beaches, though these tend to be a little less crowded than Pattaya and Jomtien.
There are a number situated in small coves adjoining hotels and condos. These beaches are not as commercially-orientated as Pattaya and Jomtien beaches and are not as busy, even over public holidays.
Getting to them can be a little tricky and you simply have to go exploring in Naklua and Wongamart (form the promontory north of Pattaya Beach) and look for little lanes leading to these. None of them are the exclusive domain of the hotels and everyone is welcome to use them. As with all the main beaches in Pattaya, there are vendors and stalls selling food, drinks and souvenirs throughout the day.
Offshore beaches – Koh Larn
For really quiet, clean beaches in Pattaya, it is worth taking a ferry (100/180 baht one way/return) to Koh Larn (Coral Island), which has a selection of white sandy beaches and clear water, good for snorkelling enthusiasts. The ferries start at 07:00 and the last one returns to Pattaya at 18:00. The ferry docks at the one landing, so if you want to go elsewhere on the island you will need to either hire a motorbike or take a taxi.
If you’re with several other people, you could hire a speedboat for 2-3,000 baht per day, which can take you to the more secluded beaches on the northern parts of the island. There are also several other virtually deserted beaches to choose from on the other smaller islands in the vicinity.