Gulf Coast Travel Guide

Several decades ago, when Thai tourism was burgeoning, the Gulf Coast took a back seat to the Andaman side, where development quickly crowded out popular beaches and islands. Things changed after the 2004 tsunami, when tourists’ attention drifted across the isthmus to the gulf side.


What these tourists found was a land with just as many white-sand beaches and islands but without all of the fanfare. Today, the gulf offers everything from resort accommodation to virgin forest and uninhabited islands. In between, visitors can sample the local cuisine, mix with locals, enjoy a spa treatment and practice their Thai in the local marketplaces.

Surat Thani is a transportation nexus for tourists in the south. It touches the gulf but offers easy access to Andaman-side destinations like Phang Nga and Ranong provinces. Mountains, mangroves and virgin forests make this an excellent stopover for nature enthusiasts.

But the crown jewel of Surat Thani is Ko Samui, an upscale resort island with limitless amenities. Major investment in infrastructure has made this one of Thailand’s most popular resort destinations. Nearby is Ko Pha Ngan, known for its hedonistic full moon parties that draw thousands of partiers every month.

On the mainland, Prachuap Khiri Khan is a province known for its gulf-side beaches, at the forefront of which is Hua Hin. Thai tourists are the backbone of the local economy, a fact that keeps prices lower than international tourists expect.

Phetburi was a favorite getaway of King Naresuan the Great at the height of his kingdom. Today the focus has shifted from royalty to tourists, though the magnitude of hospitality is no less regal. Beach resorts, temples and Buddhist grottos are the main attractions.

Covering a vast tract of land, Nakhon Si Thammarat bridges mountains, plateaus, tropical jungles and coastline. This was an epicenter for importation of Buddhism from Sri Lanka nearly 2,000 years ago and today you will find ancient religious relics housed in prominent temple museums.

Even Chumphon boasts appealing white-sand beaches, caves and waterfalls. In fact, wherever you venture along Thailand’s Gulf Coast, you’ll enjoy first-rate hospitality, mouth-watering seafood and more beachside entertainment than time permits.