Where to Stay Beachside
Thailand's beaches are so inviting you might be tempted to sleep under the stars. And you can do that if you like, but there are tons of other surfside lodging choices. So even if you're on a budget, there's no need to camp out—or move inland.
Warm weather and beautiful palm-fringed beaches mean you can spend just a few dollars on a room and still be in paradise. Somewhere Else on Koh Lanta has funky huts and friendly staff; Smile Bungalows on Koh Pha Ngan has great ocean views. At the cheapest places you'll share a bathroom, have cold showers, and sleep to the whirring of a rickety fan (unless the power's out).
Rental houses are much less pricey than resort villas and come in all sorts of styles. A few websites to check are www.thailandretreats.com; www.worldvacationrentals.net; and www.raileibeachclub.com. Newspapers like the Bangkok Post and the Pattaya Mail often list rentals and agents.
Many national parks, including the Surin Islands and Similan Islands, have accommodation in rangers' huts, bookable through the national park authorities (www.dnp.go.th) or Thai Forest Booking (www.thaiforestbooking.com). Prices start at around B300 per person in a very basic hut that sleeps up to 10 people.
Eco: At earth-friendly resorts, the emphasis is on using natural materials and preserving resources and land. Chumphon Cabana Beach Resort (www.cabana.co.th) uses bacteria to clean wastewater and produce organic fertilizer.
Luxury Living: There's no shortage of exclusive beach resorts, and though these getaways have traditionally been part of large chains, smaller players—some of them independent—are becoming more common. A number of resorts, such as Pimalai Resort on Koh Lanta (www.pimalai.com) and Amanpuri Resort on Phuket (www.amanpuri.com), are offering villa-type accommodations for those who want resort amenities but more privacy than hotel rooms afford. Spas like Chiva-Som in Hua Hin (www.chivasom.com) are luring pop stars and models through their doors.
Thai Style: In Thailand, the term resort is often used for any accommodation that's not in an urban area—it doesn't necessarily mean there are extra facilities. That said, some of these lower-key Thai-style resorts are worth checking out. Though they're not as sumptuous as luxury resorts, they're often tastefully executed and come with a moderate price tag. At friendly Sarikantang on Koh Pha Ngan (www.sarikantang.com), the priciest bungalows are around $175 in high season; Black Tip Dive Resort and Watersport Center on Koh Tao (www.blacktipdiving.com) runs a great diving school.
Bungalows and houses built on stilts above the water make romantic, exotic accommodations. Some are custom built for tourist luxury; others are rustic but still breathtaking.
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