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Sitting on the Gulf of Thailand in the province of Prachuap Khiri Khan, the resort town of Hua Hin has evolved from a quiet fishing village to a bustling beachside getaway. The transformation dates back to the 1920s, when the Thai royal family built stylish vacation homes here, and suddenly everyone was flocking to the idyllic destination. Today, Hua Hin is a mix of beautiful sea and exciting city, with picturesque beaches, high-end hotels, vibrant markets, international cuisine, and a plethora of watersports to choose from. Roughly an hour outside the city, the Kaeng Krachan and Khao Sam Roi Yot national parks are popular spots for hiking, cave exploring, and viewing wildlife.
Hua Hin Beach — During the day, Hua Hin’s main beach draws visitors to its palm-lined strip of warm, white sand and selection of activities including water skiing, boating, windsurfing, parasailing, and horseback riding. Along the beach, find shacks serving fresh seafood, vendors peddling handicrafts, and huts selling Thai massage. Within the city, old-world markets, open-air malls, championship golf courses, and restaurants ranging from Thai to Italian to Indian provide plenty of ways to wile away the day, even if you don’t step foot on the beach. Not far from the center of town, waterparks offer fun for the whole family, while the Sam Pan Nam Floating Market boasts more than 200 shops and boat vendors in a large man-made lake. While Hua Hin isn’t the place to come if you’re looking for a wild night out, when the sun goes down you can find a cluster of beer bars, cabarets, and live music venues. Of the city’s evening attractions, a favorite is the Hua Hin Night Market, where you can pursue the stalls, feast on authentic street food, and people watch over a cocktail.
Khao Takiab — A fishing village just 6 miles (10 km) south from the center of Hua Hin, Khao Takiab is a more peaceful retreat that’s maintained an untouched charm. The town is defined by numerous shrines, most specifically the mountaintop temple of the city’s same name. Centered around this hill are the majority of the area’s restaurants and boutique hotels. Along with its quieter atmosphere, visitors come to Khao Takiab to catch a boat of Koh Singto, a blissfully uninhabited island just a 20-minute ride away.
Pranburi — Further south about 12 more miles (20 km), Pranburi is a charming village renowned for its secluded environment. While the town offers everything from world-class resorts to affordable accomodations, upscale eateries to quaint cafes, and stunning scenery to beachside bars, the area maintains a sense of privacy and exclusivity. Within the city, Pranburi Forest Park features a scenic walkway through a mangrove forest. To the south, Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park is a dream-like destination filled with lush greenery, dramatic cliffs, tranquil marshes, and an abundance of wildlife. Near the coastline sits the hard-to-reach yet mystical Phraya Nakhon Cave, to which dedicated hikers can climb a quarter of a mile (430 m) of stairs to reach a majestic 19th-century pavilion.
Kaeng Krachan National Park — Roughly an hour west of Hua Hin, Kaeng Krachan National Park is the largest in Thailand, covering more than 74,000 acres (30,000 ha) of dense tropical jungle. Made up of pristine rainforest, granite mountains, cascading waterfalls, and sensational caves, the park offers plenty of opportunities for hiking, kayaking, and wildlife viewing. It features many wild and endangered animals, including black-and-yellow broadbill, barking deer, Asian elephants, and Asiatic leopards.
For some of the most incredible views over Hua Hin, head to Hin Lek Fai, a hill just about 2 miles (3 km) west of the center of town. Grab a ride up the steep slope to the parking lot, where you’ll find a small park and a bird conservatory. From here, choose a hiking trail to 1 of the hill’s 6 lookouts. For the best view, opt for the fifth trail, which opens up to reveal a sweeping vista of Hua Hin Beach, the Gulf of Thailand, and Khao Takiab from the height of 525 feet (160 m) above sea level. The hill is especially busy at sunset, but you can arrive before dawn to watch Hua Hin’s breathtaking sunrise.
Venture into the lands of the Phetchaburi province to see some of the finest historic sites in the region. With your own private guide, admire the gleaming tower of the beautifully restored Mahathat temple and the hundreds of Buddha relics at cave-dwelling Tham Khao Luang. Next, make a stop at the hilltop Khao Wang Palace, a former royal residence that blends Thai, Chinese, and European design. After some time to take in the spectacular panorama, head back down to visit a local market before returning to Hua Hin.
Uncover many of Hua Hin’s most important sites and scenery on a half-day tour by bike. Beginning in the city, pedal your way by the busy docks of the fishing pier, the historic railway station, and the famous Muay Thai boxing school. Next, travel out of town, biking along the white sands and glittering water of the coastline. Make your way down to Khao Takiab to visit some of its most ornate temples and the monkeys that live there. Continue pedaling through local farms before ending your tour atop Hin Lek Fai hill.
To explore the incredible world that exists off the shore of Hua Hin, head to the deserted beaches of Koh Talu island. After arriving by speedboat, enjoy a leisurely stroll on the warm, white sand, and when you’re ready, get suited into snorkeling gear for a dive into the water. Swim right up alongside colorful coral and tropical creatures, including vibrant triggerfish, giant clams, friendly sea turtles, and neon parrotfish.
Immerse yourself in the culinary delights of Thailand as you roll up your sleeves and learn to cook regional specialities. Your lesson begins with a visit to a local market, where you get to shop for ripe produce and fragrant herbs. When you arrive at the cooking school, you’re given an overview of traditional techniques before choosing 1 of 2 menus, each with 4 courses. Follow along as your chef leads you in making recipes such as stir-fried pork, fresh papaya salad, tom yum soup, and mango sticky rice. End your class by digging into the mouthwatering meal that you created by hand.
Grab the whole family for a fun-filled day at one of Hua Hin’s nearby waterparks. At Nava Vana, enjoy an oasis of rides and slides engulfed in a man-made jungle housing more than 200,000 different species from across the country. Fly down heart-pounding waterslides, relax on a lazy river, or test your skills on a towering ropes course. At Santorini Park, inspired by the idyllic island of Greece, adventure is found in 15 action-packed attractions, from waterslides and rapids to a calm lagoon and Ferris wheel.