There are many small islands situated within sight and easy reach of Pattaya. The most popular, and largest, is Koh Larn, which has a regular ferry service during the day from Bali Hi Pier. Alternatively, many people, particularly those in groups, may prefer to charter a speedboat for the day to access the other side from the water, as well as more secluded islands. This option will be much more expensive, yet it gives the freedom to island-hop.
Koh Larn (Coral Island) is popular with foreign tourists, not only for the diving and snorkelling over the coral, but also for the quality of its white beaches and clear waters. In the winter season, more than 5,000 people a day go to Koh Larn, and it’s as popular with Pattaya expats as well as visitors.
Once you have reached Koh Larn – just eight kilometres from Pattaya – you can hike the jungle here, which takes up most of the interior and has a large number of trees and flora, or you can head to one of the many beaches, which are nice and quiet. The way to get around the island is by taxi or motorbike taxi, as with Pattaya.
Koh Larn beaches
Ta Waen Beach: sat at the northern end of the island, it is known for for its 750m-long curving sands and clear blue waters. Asian holidaymakers particularly like this beach, where banana boating and jet-skis can be enjoyed.
Thong Lang Beach: has a relaxing atmosphere, with the foremost activity here being snorkelling. This small beach is very private and tranquil and, if you don’t want to snorkel, you can go out in a glass-bottomed boat, or ‘sea-walk’ to see the corals for a fee of 1,500 baht.
Sangwan Beach: next door to Ta Wean, this beach is only a short one (150m) but is a lot more private and quiet.
Thien Beach: is on the western side of Koh Larn, is around 500m long and has the same facilities as Ta Wean, albeit quieter. There are jet-skis and banana boats here, but they don’t intrude sun-bathers and swimmers, where both Thais and Westerners enjoy themselves. You can stay the night here in a bungalow or tent, although Samae Beach is a better option.
Samae Beach: features a fine sandy beach about 300m long and is a favourite with Western visitors. The Scenic Viewing Point shows both the modern face of Pattaya and Koh Larn and its superb setting in the Gulf of Thailand. There is a fair amount of accommodation and facilities here.
Nual Beach: is in the southern part of the island and is under private privilege. There is a 250m beach, complete with hotels and some good coral, making it a favourite with snorkellers for the shallow coral formations.
There is a considerable amount of diving interest off Koh Larn as well as on the numerous smaller islands in the vicinity. More on Diving in Pattaya.
Getting to and around Koh Larn
Getting to and from Koh Larn is very easy if you are staying in Pattaya. Passenger ferries start at 08:00 from the Bali Hi Pier and run a fairly frequent service, taking 45 minutes and costing just 20 baht. Ferries leave at 07:00, 10:00, 12:00, 14:00, 15:30, 17:00, and 18:30 and return from the island at 06:30, 07:30, 09:30, 12:00, 14:00, 15.30, 16.30, 17:00, and 18:00.
Getting around Koh Larn is easy, with songthaew minibus taxis serving the main beaches, or motorbike taxis if rushing to catch the last ferry back to Pattaya.
A speedboat is a popular vehicle to hire if there are several of you going to Koh Larn. For 1,500-5,000 baht you can hire a speedboat for part of (or the whole) day to take you all around the islands, or just to Koh Larn. It will either wait for you there, or come to pick you up later. The trip only takes 15-20 minutes and you can be dropped on the far side of the island from Pattaya, which is much quieter and will save you having to take taxis and mess about.
To hire a speedboat and skilled local pilot, just go down to the beach and either ask one of the speedboat drivers, or look for the charter companies. You will be able to charter a speedboat and driver at any tour operator in Pattaya, as well as at specialist shops. You will save money if you go to the beach and bargain with the operator.