Hua Hin

Hua Hin (หัวหิน) is a seaside resort city of about 50,000 residents (2012) in Thailand. 195 km from Bangkok, it is popular with Thais, having become quite fashionable as a weekend getaway spot for Bangkok residents, as well as with foreigners and as an expat retirement or holiday home location.

Although developing rapidly, there is a commitment by the local and provincial authorities to avoid the kind of overheated blight that has affected other beach resorts in Thailand.

Understand

Hua Hin beach

Popularised as a resort in the early 1920s by King Prajadhipok, Hua Hin is closely associated with the Thai royal family and is a quiet and relaxing seaside resort ideal for family vacations, a reasonable 2.5 hours drive down from Bangkok. Until 1934, it was known as Samore Riang (สมอเรียง), or "rows of rocks".

The tranquil fishing village was turned into a royal resort and consequently became popular among Siam's nobility and upper classes. In 1928, Prajadhipok built his Klai Kangwon ("Far from Worries") Palace. As of 2007, Klai Kangwon is a full-time residence of the current king and is not open for visitors, although the outer palace grounds are open for walkers and joggers from 16:00 to 19:00 daily (wear shoes, have sleeved shirts that cover at least your upper arms and bring your passport).

The 6 km long beach itself is pretty and clean, more so than Pattaya's, and the sea is relatively clean. However, most of the beach can completely disappear along certain parts of the coast during high tide. Besides just sunbathing, snorkelling and swimming, visitors can also enjoy golf, spas, caves, peaks, waterfalls, shops, seafood, and nearby national parks. The town is clean, warm and laid-back, making it ideal for families and couples.

Tourist information can be found from the corner of Petchkasem Rd and Damnerkasem Rd (Soi 76), quite close to the railway station.

There is also a tourist information centre near the clock tower in the centre of town, which is right next to a Starbucks for those of you requiring a caffeine fix. This is also where many of the big buses will stop to offload and pick up passengers, even though it is not the official bus station, and consequently is an easy place to find a motorcycle taxi or tuk-tuk.

Orientation

Phetkasem Rd bisects the town, leading to Cha-am in the north and Prachuap Khiri Khan in the south. Roads perpendicular to Phetkasem on the inland side are even-numbered sois. Those on the sea-side are odd-numbered. The numbers do not match up across Phetkasem. E.g., Soi 61 leads to the central seaside area around the Hilton Hotel. The same street on the other side of Phetkasem is Soi 76. It leads to the railway station. At the northeast corner of the Soi 61/Soi 76 intersection you will find the tourist information centre. Behind it is the central police station. Across the street from the police station is a post office. Continuing down Soi 61 to the beach is the office of the Tourist Police.

Climate

Hua Hin has a tropical climate with high humidity and occasional rain. It is typically pleasant however, and can be enjoyed year round. Generally, the best time of the year to visit Hua Hin is in the cool season from Nov-Feb, but for those who like it hot, then the hot season is from Mar-May (temperature gets up into the higher 30s). The rainy season (although it doesn't rain every day) is from Jun-Oct with Sep being the rainiest of all. For those who don't appreciate rain, be advised that the rain in Thailand usually comes in short sharp bursts. It doesn't usually drizzle for long periods of time.

Get in

Hua Hin train station

By train

Trains are an easy way to get to Hua Hin, as the train station is right in the centre of Hua Hin. However, the trains go very slowly getting away from Bangkok, so the 2.5 hr road time to Hua Hin stretches to 5 or 6 on the train. The price of the train is around 100 baht (and only 44 baht for ordinary trains). Most trains on the southern route stop at Hua Hin. They leave Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong and Bang Sue railway stations 10 times daily between 08:05 and 22:50. It takes 4 hr for the journey. See the State Railway of Thailand for more information on time tables and fares.

By bus

The main (BKS) bus station is south of the centre of town on Phetkasem Rd beyond Soi 96. This is some 3 km south of town centre. A tuk-tuk there costs ~180 baht, motorcycle taxi from the Hilton Hotel area, 60 baht. This bus station is for conventional buses which are going to Ubon, Korat, Chiang Mai (850 baht), Surat Thani, Phuket, and points further south. The BKS ticket office is open daily from 06:00-24:00.

The "bus station" noted on maps of the area is actually a local one in the centre of town at the night market. From here all the non-air conditioned local buses and songthaews depart, but also minivans to and from Bangkok. The orange bus from Bangkok's Southern Terminal (150 baht) which takes about 3.5 hr, meanders along the main road and you specify where you want to get off. BKS buses go to the BKS Station between Soi 94-96/1 on Phetkasem. Stop the bus at any point prior to this if you want to get off. The clock tower on the left (coming from Bangkok) is the effective town "centre" (keep your eyes open as it is easy to miss).

From Bangkok, buses to Hua Hin leave from the Sai Tai Mai terminal about every 20 minutes and take around 3.5 hr. The price (1st class) is under 200 baht. Buses run 04:0022:20. For more information, contact Hua Hin-Pran Buri Tour, ☎ +66 32 8846191-2; Bang Saphan Tour, ☎ +66 32 4355105, +66 32 8848895; Bus Southern Terminal, ☎ +66 32 4351199, +66 32 4355605, +66 32 4347192 .

More convenient to central Bangkok, you can also take a minibus from near the Victory Monument (Anusawari Chai), near the BTS Skytrain. Cost is 180 baht, limited baggage. The journey will take 3 hr, with one short pee break. The Hua Hin vans board in the alleyway next to Century Movie Plaza close to the stairs at the southern end of Victory Monument BTS station. From the Victory Monument Skytrain station, take the walkway south toward the monument. When overlooking the huge traffic circle, assume that straight ahead is 12 o'clock. The minibus stop is at roughly 7 o'clock. Descend the staircase to your left to street level and look for a small table with "Cha-am, Hua Hin" written in English to buy your ticket. T-Tour, ☎ +66 80 0906540.

Minibuses from Hua Hin back to Bangkok (180 baht) leave opposite the Pananchai Hotel on Naebkehas Rd, some 200 m along a side road from the clock tower. Service to Pattaya as well.

Roong Rueang Coach Co., Ltd. provides an air conditioned VIP coach service between Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) and Hua Hin. Travel time is 3 hours. Buses depart the Hua Hin BKS bus station at 07:00, 09:00, 12:00, 14:00, 16:00, 18:00. Fare is 305 baht. (Oct 2014).

From BKK to Hua Hin:

From Hua Hin to BKK:

From Chiang Mai: Sombat Tours has 3 buses per day, at 08:00, 18:30, and 19:00. VIP fare is 1,134 baht. The journey takes 12 hr (Sep 2014).

To Chiang Mai: Daily at 08:00, 17:00, 18:00, 851 baht (Oct 2013). VIP bus at 17:30, 1,134 baht (Sep 2014). 12.5 hr. From BKS Bus Station.

From Phuket: Green Bus has a service that departs the BKS Bus Station at 08:30, arrives Hua Hin at 17:30. Super comfortable bus. 617 baht (Oct 2013).

To Krabi from Hua Hin: At least one bus a day departs at 22:00 from the bus station south of city centre. VIP passage to Krabi is 855 baht. (Jan 2016) Travel time is approximately 9 hr.

From/to Pattaya:

By taxi

Taking a taxi from Bangkok to Hua Hin (distance about 200 km) is possible. Price after negotiation should be around 2,000 baht. The price for a taxi from Suwarnabhumi (Bangkok) airport with 4 persons and 6 bags was 2,600 baht (Nov 2009). The limousine services, available at Bangkok Airport, are more expensive than an ordinary taxi.

Private taxi from Hua Hin to BKK Airport should be in 1,600-2,000 baht, and is bookable via agents around town. A few are located outside the post office, and others are along Naresdamri Rd.

Signs advertising a taxi from HH to BKK, location unspecified, asked 1,600 baht (Oct 2013).

Taxi to or from Pattaya around 3,000 baht.

Get around

There are many ways to get around in Hua Hin. Songthaews run the same routes all day and cost only 10 baht. There are many motorcycle taxis and tuk-tuks, fewer car taxis. Negotiate price beforehand, but you will not get a tuk-tuk for less than 100 baht over any distance (unless you are lucky) if you are a Western tourist. You will also be able to find samlors (rickshaws). There are quite a lot of upscale tourists in Hua Hin and prices are sometimes adjusted upwards. Better to clarify the matter ahead of time. Motorcycle rentals are readily available. Hua Hin is very flat, and bicycle is a good way to get around locally. Rentals available, but not so prevalent as motorbikes.

See

Beach in Hua Hin

There is only one, long beach: Hua Hin Beach (ชายหาดหัวหิน Hat Hua Hin). This runs from the Hilton Hotel six kilometres south to a headland where a Buddhist temple clings to the rocks. Fine white sand, resort hotels and many water sports opportunities lend the resort its distinctive ambiance. At the south end of town, the hill of Khao Takiab interrupts the beach. On the other side is a lovely swimming beach with a view of Khao Takiab's south face. Just a little further on, Suan Son Beach is owned by the Thai army but is open to the public. Notable for the tropical sea pines lining the shore. A little south of the Marriott, watch for tiny sand crabs digging industriously, leaving odd patterns of tiny sand clods around their beach front property.

Parts of the beach closer to the town may have greenish water, in this case continue walking down the beach where the water appears cleaner. There is an ample supply of deck chairs along the beach, although many places charge around 100 baht for their hire. Deck chairs that are part of a beachside cafe may be free, on the assumption that you will buy food or drink.

Monks outside Hua Hin Railway Station
Bronze statues of seven Thai kings, Rajabhakti Park

Nature

Some attractions within the park:
  • Hat Laem Sala (16 km north of the park office. Can be reached by boat or on foot across a hill from Bang Pu Village). A beach. The well-known cave, Tham Phraya Nakhon, has a large hole in it so sunlight shines through, and this allows plants to grow. There is Phra Thi Nang Khuha Kharuhat which is a Thai-style pavilion with a scenic view of the cave. It was first built during the reign of King Chulalongkorn before being dismantled and reconstructed here. There is a viewpoint on Khao Daeng which is 400 km from the park office and Ban Khao Daeng. The latter offers boat trips to watch wild birds.
  • Hat Sam Phraya (3.5 km north of the park office). A lovely beach with a line of pine trees. Accommodation available.
  • Tham Kaeo (Around 23 km from Pran Buri (15 km north of the park office)). A cave with an abundance of stalactites and stalagmites. Oil lamps can be rented at the nearby village to aid in exploring the cave.
  • Tham Sai (9 km north of the park office). A cave which can be explored, and oil lamps can be rented in the nearby village.

Further afield

Do

Festivals

Golf

Hua Hin and its surroundings are a golfer's paradise with at least seven courses within a 30 min drive. There are also two brand new golf courses under construction. Most courses offer transportation to and from the course.

Massage

Traditional Thai massage, characterized by its holistic approach to health is aimed at enhancing physical, emotional and spiritual states.

There are over 50 massage shops in Hua Hin. All good hotels in Hua Hin offer traditional Thai massage service. On Petchkasem Road next to the Golden Palace and the Royal Palace one can be massaged by good, professional blind masseuses. This is a royal sponsored project, although note that very little English is spoken.

Massage prices in the tourist area near the Hilton Hotel average about 300 baht per hour. Massage shops in the town proper are much cheaper for equivalent massage, as low as 180 baht per hour.

Spas

Spas in Hua Hin offer treatment suited to a range of budgets. Treatments includes both traditional remedies and modern techniques. Facilities at spas in Hua Hin may also include a Jacuzzi and steam bath.

Many spas in Hua Hin also offer traditional Thai healing treatments. There is also alternative treatment such as Reiki. Resorts offer many detox programs. The most popular treatments are chi organ massage, karsai genital detox massage, deeper skin detox, and herbal skin detox.

Other

Learn

A few Thai cooking schools have sprung up in Hua Hin where tourists can learn the art of serving up their favourite Thai dishes such as pad Thai (Thai-style fried noodles), tom yum kung, Panang curry with beef and chicken and cashews. Courses vary in length from just a single day to a few. Courses are available at most of the large hotels. Ask around.

Buy

Hua Hin Market village

Shop at the night markets. Things that you can buy range from T-shirts to antiques. A T-shirt will cost you around 300 baht. It is also a great place for contemporary art handicrafts, hand-woven printed cotton, silk fabric, silk weaving, embroidery, baskets, pottery, wood carvings, gemstones, and jewellery (including sapphires and rubies). Haggling is mandatory to get the best prices possible.

There are two night markets. The better known is in the middle of Hua Hin, and is rather tourist-oriented. The one the Thais favour is known as the Grand Market because its in the parking lot between Grand Hotel and San Paulo Hospital. It is more diverse and interesting, but does not operate M-Tu. For local handicrafts, the Hua Hin Bazaar, about 100 m west of the beach, should be your first stop.

Only on Tuesdays is the Pae Market near the Royal Hua Hin Golf Club. It's a good place to get the feel of a traditional Thai market.

Local souvenirs

One of Hua Hin's most renowned local products is pha phim khommaphat or printed cotton, a typical product of Hua Hin which is sold by the metre. The finished Khommaphat print is colourful and can be turned into shirts, handkerchiefs, wraps, even toy elephants or fish, as well as decorative pieces such as pillows, bags, fans. ☎ +66 32 511250, +66 32 513506.

A large variety of other cotton products are also obtainable, such as place mats, tablecloths, and pillowcases. Most of the products, fresh and dried seafood, souvenirs, dishes made of seafood are available at Hua Hin Market.

For hand-woven cotton go to Baan Khao Tao, to the Baan Khao Tao Handicraft Centre which was founded in 1964. In 2003, the centre's works were registered as the province's four-star OTOP product. Hand-woven cotton is offered for purchase in different forms, such as in the Yok Dok print, sarongs, even large items like bedsheets.

Souvenirs from Hua Hin District include accessories from coconut shells, Khommaphat printed fabric, the printed fabric in traditional Thai patterns, brooms, utensils made of sisal fibre, bamboo woven products, as well as fresh and preserved food.

Eat

Fresh lobster for dinner?

There are plenty of eating options around Hua Hin. Those close to the beach and atop Khao Takiap are touristy, while some good local options can be found on Phetkasem Rd along the way to Khao Takiap. Hua Hin is famed for its delightful fresh seafood which can be found in abundance at the night market, restaurants, and hotel restaurants. Naresdamri Road is a fine place for great inexpensive restaurants while serving up romantic sea views. Some hotels offer buffets consisting of open cooking stations, including seafood BBQ, and also offer live entertainment like traditional Thai music and dancing.

This area is the site of the Hua Hin Fishing Harbour and in the early morning, fresh-out-of-the-water seafood can be snapped up.

Moreover, there are numerous dining spots serving Western, Indian, and Japanese food.

For cheap eats, check out the night market. Budget tourists having problems with the local fare will be happy to know that at the Tesco in the posh Market Village mall, there's street-style Thai food with modern fast food hygiene: 25-45 baht, and good coffee for 10 baht.

Drink

All bars close at 02:00 in Hua Hin.

Raucous nightlife can be found in the little quarter just inland from the Hilton Hotel. The warren of small streets around Dechanuchit Rd and Soi Bintabaht teems with bars, restaurants, and massage parlours. This area is heavily frequented by tourists.

A second street with lots of beer bars and hostesses is Soi 80, on the west side of Rte 4. This street appears to be mostly patronised by resident expats.

Sleep

This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Budget less than 500 baht
Mid-range 500-1,500 baht
Splurge over 1,500 baht

Budget

Hua Hin is relatively expensive for accommodation, with few options below 400 baht. The best area for budget rooms seems to be around the corner from the Hilton Hotel, on the street parallel to the water.

Mid-range

Splurge

Hua Hin hotels

Renting a house for a long stay

If you're staying for a month or more, then Hua Hin has great options. The price for renting a nice villa with private pool can be as low as 20,000 baht. Houses have modern furniture and are ready to move into. Best way to find a house is to go to realty agencies around the Hilton Hotel. They pick you up from your hotel and show options for your budget and taste. Best strategy is to contact by them email a week before, so they will make a selection beforehand.

Cope

Reading matter

There are a number of English-language publications, offering a variety of styles, as well as information and entertainment. Long-time visitors to the town will have been familiar with the free monthly Hua Hin Observer magazine found around the town, but in Jan 2010, this became an on-line-only publication. Another monthly publication is the Hua Hin Today newspaper which can be a little dry for tourists, as it contains plenty of local government and local dignitaries news along with details of the latest infrastructure projects and housing developments. Its on-line presence is more of a portal for international news and selling property than a local site. More of interest to tourists is the widely available free weekly AWOL newspaper, which is a mixture of entertaining true and not-so-true stories, typical tabloid content such as a page 3 girl and sports coverage, and major local news stories. AWOL's website includes a discussion forum, free classifieds and all their back issues to download. The longest established local Internet forum is Hua Hin After Dark which is a valuable source of information for both tourists and expats alike, although its slightly cliquey attitude can be off-putting, and discussions can often turn into playground squabbles.

There are a number of other printed publications and Internet sites relating to Hua Hin, but they are mostly concerned with selling or renting property, or promoting another local business. There are also a couple of non-English language publications with a small distribution.

Connect

Landline telephones, all mobile phone systems, high-speed Internet (ADSL), post offices, and parcel services are available in Hua Hin.

There is a city-wide free Wi-Fi service as well, although speeds tend to be slow and a signal difficult to obtain outside the central area.

Go next

Routes through Hua Hin

Bangkok Phetchaburi  N  S  Prachuap Khiri Khan Butterworth
Bangkok Cha-am  N  S  Prachuap Khiri Khan Sadao


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