The Gulf Coast beaches are a jewel of Thailand's tourist crown. With the onset of Thailand's tourist boom, the Gulf Coast has captured the imagination of the traveling world with its white crescent sandy beaches, crystal-blue water, and laid-back beach lifestyle. High-class luxury nestles sleekly with laid-back traveler chic to showcase a region that is intriguing and complex, relaxing and frenetic, coupled with a welcome that is as warm as the sun. Thailand's Gulf Coast delivers great value, a large variety of attractions, a reputation for excellent service, and a welcome that is legendary.
You don't have to travel far from Bangkok to find exhilarating beaches. The Eastern Gulf offers several close enough for a weekend getaway. Gaudy Pattaya is a wild and crazy place, but now also has many resorts secluded from the main town, as well as some places for families. Farther south along the coast (which runs west to east all the way to the Cambodian border) are some nice beach resorts and even better islands, including longtime escape-from-Bangkok favorites of Koh Samet, and Koh Chang. Koh Chang—Thailand's second-largest island—has seen considerable growth in the past couple of years, with classy resorts now dominating the more modest budget bungalows.
Back over on the west coast south of Bangkok you first come to Cha-am and Hua Hin on the Gulf of Thailand, the former with bigger and more stand-alone resorts, and the latter with both world-class resorts and medium-range accommodation. These cities, like the beaches to the southeast, can fill up with Bangkok escapees on weekends, but are less busy during the week. The beaches only get better as you head south, with scores worth exploring along the narrow peninsula that stretches to the Malaysian border, all reachable from the town of Surat Thani, about 11 hours by train or a one-hour flight south of Bangkok. The very developed island of Koh Samui is also along this strip—it's perennially popular, in part because daily flights from Bangkok make it so easy to reach.