Pattaya, often dubbed an international playground, is one of the best known of Thailand’s beach resorts and is also one of the liveliest, boasting attractions for everyone.
Unrivaled as a beach resort, Pattaya has more attractions than any other holiday destination in South East Asia, and in Thailand, it also comes second only to Bangkok in terms of its international visitor numbers!
It is also the only beach resort that is also a city in its own right.
Its reputation as a no holds barred party resort with plenty of nightlife, some of it bordering on seedy, is well known, but there is more to the resort than this, and a holiday here can be suitable for everyone, from partygoers to families.
It also boasts some excellent watersports on its extensive beach, as well as good diving opportunities and a whole host of day trip options. Of course, Pattaya was not always like this, and as recently as the 1960s it was just a small fishing village.
All this changed in 1961 when American servicemen en route to join the Vietnam War arrived in the town for some “R&R” – the rest is history, and now Pattaya is home to scores of hotels, restaurants, shops, bars, and nightclubs.
Pattaya is in Chonburi Province, just over 100 miles south of Bangkok on the Gulf of Thailand coast, though the main beach, Hat Pattaya, is actually on the Gulf of Pattaya.
There are a number of other beaches around the resort, including Hat Jomtien, which is significantly quieter than Hat Pattaya, and Hat Naklua, which is more geared towards families – both of which give a truer idea of Pattaya’s origins as a small fishing village.
However, a holiday in Pattaya need not be just about sitting on the beach – head to the Pattaya Elephant village for a ride hit the shops, or explore some of the outlying islands.
Of course, if you have chosen Pattaya for your holiday then you must not miss out on the nightlife – but be warned it is not for the faint-hearted!
There are roads lined with “girlie bars”, though there is plenty of more formal alternatives too! It is easy to avoid the sleaziness and enjoy a night out in any of the many bars and restaurants that abound all over the resort.
Pattaya does not attempt to do anything on a small scale and instead goes all out to provide the very best of everything that anyone could want from a holiday.
There is fun to be had at all hours of the day and night, as well as sightseeing, recreation, and sports – you could happily fill your days here, but if you choose not to, there are plenty of places to relax and watch everyone else busy themselves with the limitless attractions of this beach playground.
Getting To Pattaya
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Pattaya is a 2 ½ hour drive from Bangkok along the Bangna-Trat Highway, passing through Bang Pakong, Chon Buri and Si Racha.
However, if you are not wanting to visit Chon Buri, then it is possible to bypass the city by taking the Chong Buri – Pattaya – Rayong route, Highway 36, or alternatively the motorway Rama 9 Road.
There are also numerous buses, both air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned, that leave Bangkok’s Eastern Bus Terminal (Ekkamai) and Northern Bus Terminal (Mochit 2 Bus terminal) daily.
The air-con buses leave the Eastern Bus Terminal every 30 minutes between 5 am and 10 pm, and from the Northern Bus Terminal between 5 am and 7 pm.
You can also take a minibus directly from Bangkok’s International Airport to Pattaya, departing at 9 am midday and 7 pm.
There is a daily train service leaving Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong Station at 6.55 am and taking around five hours to reach the station close to the Siam Country Club.
There are daily flights from Bangkok to U-Taphao Airport, which is about 19 miles to the south of Pattaya.
Getting Around Pattaya
The city of Pattaya can be divided into four main zones – north, central, south, and Chomthian, with a small mountain, or The Hill, sitting between South Pattaya and Chomthian. It is relatively easy to get around the city, with motorbikes being the most popular means of transport.
There are also plenty of songthaews, customized pickup trucks that can seat around 8-10 passengers. Known as baths buses, they are the only form of public transport allowed in the city, other than motorbike taxis.
The city is compact and easily navigated – there are three main roads that all run parallel – the one that runs along the beach is unsurprisingly called Beach Road, and is a one-way street running north to south.
Second Road runs south to north, though in parts traffic does flow in both directions. This road runs onto South Pattaya, and then onto Chomthian, reaching the beach within about five minutes.
And finally, there is Sukhumvit Road, which is a continuation of the main thoroughfare that runs to and from Bangkok.
There are lots of small narrow streets that cross these major roads, and these usually are just numbered, though a few do have a name.
Chomthian Beach Road also runs parallel to Sukhumvit Road and is the only thoroughfare in this part of town.
There are numerous vehicle types for rent in Pattaya, including cars, motorbikes, monster Jeeps, etc, and driving licenses may or may not be needed until you get pulled over or have an accident.
Traffic drives on the left.
Top Ten Things to See and Do in Pattaya
Beaches and Islands
Of course, it is for the beaches that many people will have chosen Pattaya as their holiday destination, and anyone looking for a great beach is not going to be disappointed here, and there are plenty to choose from.
Greater Pattaya comprises three main beaches – Jomtien to the east, and Naklua to the west, with Pattaya Beach in the middle. There are also a number of offshore islands that provide a change of scene and pace.
Pattaya Beach is a 2 ½ mile stretch of crescent-shaped beach, and is the liveliest part of the coast, boasting plenty of hotels, restaurants, bars, clubs, and shopping malls.
The northern end of the beach is less hectic than the middle and especially southern parts, which is the epicenter of all things noisy and brash!
Jomtien Beach, just a short distance from South Pattaya, is nearly four miles of sandy coastline, increasingly popular with water sports enthusiasts, as it has a huge range on offer, including windsurfing, parasailing, sailing, and waterskiing amongst others.
There are plenty of hotels on the beach, and generally speaking, the further south you go the fewer resorts you will find.
Naklua Beach, at the northernmost tip of Pattaya Second Road, still retains the air of being a village rather than a full-blown resort, as there are still some old traditional houses, narrow streets, temples, a fishing pier, though increasingly also plenty of hotels and restaurants.
The beaches here are smaller and more intimate than their neighbors, and there are also other attractions, including the outdoor architectural museum, the Sanctuary of Truth.
If you are not looking for a non-stop party destination, then Naklua Beach could be a good option. Wong Amat Beach is a gently curving almost two-mile stretch of beach at the northern end of Pattaya Bay, only accessible from Naklua.
Wong Prachan Beach is another exclusive, quiet beach, where you won’t find any shops or vendors. Bang Saen Beach, located eight miles from Chonburi has long been a favorite with locals but is now increasing in popularity with international tourists.
There are a number of offshore islands close to Pattaya – they may not be the tropical paradises that you will find further south in Thailand, but nonetheless, they offer great day-trip potential, with wonderful beaches for swimming, fishing, and coral viewing.
Ferries to the islands depart from the main port, or for a classier option, take a speedboat from Pattaya Beach. Koh Larn, or Coral Island, is known for its stunning white sandy beaches, pristine waters, and huge amounts of coral.
Just five miles from Pattaya beach, or a 45-minute ferry ride (20 minutes by speedboat), the island is popular with divers, but if you do not fancy going underwater yourself, then there are plenty of operators with glass bottom boats that will allow you to admire the coral.
The best and most popular beach on the island is Ta Waen, where you can buy snacks and souvenirs; a good place for coral viewing is Nual Beach, and if you fancy a break from the crowds, then Laemtien Beach and Samae Beach on the southwest coast of the island are a couple of tranquil beaches where you can escape from it all.
The Koh Pai Islands, made up of four islands, are about eight miles from the coast, and it takes around two hours to get there by boat. The islands are a great place for a day trip – swimming, snorkeling, coral viewing, fishing, and just relaxing are the order of the day.
Koh Krok, a mainly rocky island, which only has one sandy beach on the east of the island, is a peaceful place to spend a day away from the hectic pace on the mainland. Another tiny island is Koh Sak, just 600m from Koh Larn, and six miles off Pattaya Beach.
There are two beaches on the island, one on the south coast, and one on the north, linked by a pathway. Skin diving to view the coral is a popular activity here.
Pattaya is justifiably famous for its nightlife, and most of this is concentrated around South Pattaya, with the densest concentration of bars, go-go bars, massage parlors, and clubs along the infamous Walking Street, a neon-drenched strip that extends from Soi 13 to 16.
During the evening, traffic is not allowed, but nonetheless, the noise is deafening – truly a party zone, and even if you are not interested in visiting any of these places, it is worth taking a stroll down here just to say you’ve seen it!
Going further north to Soi Pattayaland 1,2 and 3, there are also plenty of bars, with Soi Pattayaland 3 being commonly known as Boyztown, as it caters increasingly to the gay market.
Ladyboy cabarets are also popular in Pattaya, and the entertainment on offer here is usually exotic and completely harmless and suitable for all ages – you will see opulent stages, over-the-top costumes, and a whole lot of fun.
One of the most established is Tiffany’s, an institution in its own right, which is suitable for all the family! It is the oldest ladyboy cabaret in all of Thailand, is over 30 years old, and offers nightly entertainment (at 6 pm, 7.30 pm, and 9 pm) inside a 1000-seat theatre.
For something a bit more low-key, head to Malibu, an open-air cabaret on Second Road. Of course, if all you are after is a beer, then there are plenty of bars to choose from, including Irish-themed bars, English pubs, German bierkellers, and chain-style bars like the Hard Rock Café.
Shopping In Pattaya
Shopping is a popular tourist activity in Pattaya, and there are plenty of opportunities to indulge in a bit of retail therapy.
Don’t expect the variety that you would find in Bangkok or the local handicrafts on offer in Chiang Mai, but if you are looking for malls, superstores, and supermarkets, then you won’t be disappointed.
In the Pattaya Beach area, there are numerous beachfront stalls on the southern part of Beach Road, which are open all day and most of the night, and sell an array of products – fake designer goods, DVDs, ethnic crafts, and even samurai swords!
In the Jomtien beach area, there are plenty of convenience stores, but other than that, not many shops for the tourist.
The Sanctuary of Truth
Sightseeing is not necessarily top of the list of things to do in Pattaya, but there is one sight that is definitely worth seeing.
The Sanctuary of Truth, the best-kept secret in Pattaya, is a huge wooden castle or palace, located on a one-acre site, standing over 100m tall and build from teak, every inch of which is covered in intricate hand carvings.
Built according to ancient Thai designs, the construction and its carvings reflect the following themes – ancient knowledge, Eastern Philosophy, and the Ancient Vision of Earth, and is designed to be a monument to Thai craft skills, as well as a recognition of the things that we cannot live without, namely heaven, earth, father, mother, the moon, the sun, and the stars.
It is not a cheap day out (500 baht for adults, 240 for children), but it is well worth it. Aside from this awe-inspiring construction, here is also the only place in Thailand where you can get up close and interact with a couple of playful dolphins.
There are also plenty of other attractions and activities, including wood carving workshops, Thai dancing and music displays, speedboat trips, and horse riding.
Pattaya Temples and Museums
Pattaya does not have the number of temples that some other resort destinations boast, but there are a couple worth mentioning.
Wat Khao Phra Bat was established in 1957 in the location where a relic of Buddha’s foot is to be found, and houses a sacred Buddha image, and is a popular place for Thai people and other Buddhists to come and pay their respects.
The location of the temple on Khao Pattaya View Point is beautiful, and from here you get some stunning panoramic views over the city and bay.
Wat Yansangwararam, a royal temple located 10 miles to the south of the city, has a mondop, or religious structure with a rectangular roof, in which is enshrined a replica of the Buddha’s footprints, and also a pagoda where there are relics of the Lord Buddha as well as some of his disciple’s.
As a break from your sun-worshipping, why not visit the Bottle Art Museum, where you can see over 300 mini sculptures of well-known tourist attractions (including temples, palaces, churches, and ships), all contained within glass bottles.
The museum is located on Sukhumvit Road. Wat Phra Yai was built in 1977, and now is home to the biggest Buddha image, called Phra Phuttha Sukhothai Walaichonlatham.
There are numerous outdoor attractions in the Pattaya area, suitable for visitors of all ages. The Elephant Village, on Pornprapanimitr Road, is a popular tourist attraction and has daily performances at 2.30 as well as elephant rides.
The Million Years Stone Park and Crocodile Farm are one of the region’s most popular days out. It is a huge park, with rock gardens, landscaped grounds, million-year-old fossilized plants, bonsai trees, crocodile pools, and a collection of very rare animals, including albino bears!
There are various magic shows, crocodile displays, and other animal performances. The park is located on Chaiyaphonwithi Road, on State Highway 3024. Siriporn Orchid Farm is home to some of the most beautiful and rarest orchids, including pompadours, catteleyas, vandas, daedrovium and escosanda.
You can also buy plants and cut flowers here. The farm is located on Noenphlupwan Road. Nong Nooch Tropical Garden and Cultural Village is set in a 600-acre landscaped park and includes orchid gardens and nurseries, a lake, and a cactus garden.
There are Thai cultural shows put on daily, including traditional ceremonies, sword-fighting, folk dances, Thai boxing, and an elephant show. There are restaurants and also shops where you can buy traditional arts and crafts from all over Thailand.
The Three Kingdoms Theme Park, in the Pong sub-district, Banglamung, has at its heart the famous Chinese epic the “Romance of the Three Kings” and features huge wall paintings, some interesting architecture, art and sculpture, chapters and characters from the novel and even a Buddha relic.
Despite its reputation as a party destination, Pattaya is increasingly popular with families and there are numerous attractions that will appeal to Pattaya’s younger tourists.
Underwater World Pattaya is one of the biggest and best aquariums in all of Asia, with over 200 different species, including a shovelnose ray, and a rare cross between a stingray and a shark!
The aquarium has an underwater glass tunnel offering fantastic views of all the species. The aquarium is located along Sukhumvit Highway in South Pattaya, just to the south of Tesco Lotus.
Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum is an unusual and fascinating museum housing some of Mr. Ripley’s most peculiar finds – some the real deal, others replicas. Exhibits include optical illusions and ancient torture devices.
There is also a theatre which has a flight simulator. The museum is located in the Royal Garden Plaza on Pattaya Beach Road. Mini Siam is a model city with replicas of more than 80 different historical sites or sacred places around the country, as well as some international landmarks.
Some of the most popular exhibits are the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, the Tower Bridge, and Thai landmarks such as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the Bridge over the River Kwai, and the Anantasamakhom Throne Hall.
Mini Siam is located on the left-hand side as you enter Pattaya on Sukhumvit Road.
It is easy to imagine that Pattaya has always been this neon, high-octane place, so it is well worth taking a step back in time and seeing the Pattaya of yesteryear.
Explore some of the fishing villages that are just a 20-minute or so drive from the resort center. Villages of note include Bang Saray, Ang Sila, and Chong Samaesan, all of which have some lovely unspoiled beaches too.
Ang Sila, just 3 miles from Pattaya, and one of the oldest resorts in the region is renowned for its cottage industries producing stone carvings of elephants, tigers, and horses.
You can rent out boats for fishing and diving, and there are plenty of good restaurants around too, as well as a wide variety of stalls selling local handicrafts.
There are also a number of islands dotted around the coast, most of which are under the supervision of the Royal Thai Navy – overnight lodging is not permitted, but daytime sightseeing is encouraged.
Spas and Health – Pattaya City Travel Guide
It is easy to find somewhere to get pampered in Pattaya! There are literally scores of spas and places to get health and beauty treatments – be it in one of the five-star luxury hotels or on the beach!
No stay in Thailand would be complete without a traditional Thai massage, perfect for rejuvenating aching muscles after a long flight, or to relax you after a hard night partying!
There are probably more spas in Thailand than anywhere else in Thailand, so make sure you take advantage of at least one during your stay!
There are luxury spas at the following resorts in Pattaya: Pattaya Marriott Resort and Spa, Sheraton Pattaya Resort, Royal Cliff Beach Resort, and Dusit Resort Pattaya.
And if you are after something a bit more radical, then cosmetic surgery is becoming a booming industry in Pattaya – of course, this must be thoroughly researched before you make any decisions.
Many of the procedures on offer (facelifts, breast enhancement, tummy tucks, etc) cost a fraction of what they would in Europe.
Another money-saving opportunity worth exploring is a trip to the opticians – both lenses and frames are significantly cheaper here than they are in Europe or the US.
And you don’t even need to have your eyes examined here, just bring your prescription from home and have a new pair made whilst you are here!
It will come as no surprise that golf is popular in Pattaya, and there are several courses close to the resort. The Khao Kheow Country Club is situated very close to Bangphra, close to the open zoo, and is a well-designed 27-hole course, located against a stunning mountain backdrop, surrounded by lush greenery.
The course has challenges for golfers of all levels. Laemchabang International Country Club is a Jack Nicklaus designed 27-hole course, over 700 acres of mountains, lakes, and valleys, and is located just 30 minutes from Pattaya.
The Burapha Golf Club is located near the new Chon Buri – Pattaya Highway, in beautiful countryside, with lakes, hills, tropical vegetation, and palm trees.
St Andrews 2000 Golf Club is an 18-hole course in the neighboring province of Rayong, just over a 30-minute drive from Pattaya.
The Eastern Star Golf Course offers a full resort service, including luxury accommodation, an 18-hole championship course, and excellent sports facilities and all of this is only a 40-minute drive from Pattaya (two hours from Bangkok).
Pattaya City Travel Guide Conclusion:
We hope our Pattaya City Travel Guide taught you what you were looking to learn about Pattaya.
Pattaya City has something for everyone. If you’re coming alone, with friends, or even bringing family, there’s something for you in Pattaya.
If you’re interested in learning more about Pattaya and Thailand’s Amazing Nightlife check out our Travel Guides Section here.
If you’ve made it this far and think you’re ready to book your dream hotel room here in Pattaya, check out our link to Agoda here.