After spending two weeks in the beach resort of Hua Hin, we came to the conclusion that not only is it family-friendly; flooded with a wide-range of accommodation to suit all budgets; and the perfect location to unwind, with its long stretches of relatively quiet beaches and stunning National Parks; but it is also a region steeped in royal splendour and an aristocratic history which is still evident to this day.
Surrounded by the lush greenery of our hotel gardens and walls, it felt like we were a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of central Hua Hin, when in fact it was only minutes by foot. And that’s the great thing about Hua Hin – you can do as little or as much as you’d like; grab a tuk tuk and head out of the city or just wander the streets to soak in the atmosphere.
Here’s my top guide on what to see and do in Hua Hin, if you can bear to tear yourself away from the pool…
Watching the trains at Hua Hin Railway Station
What’s strange about turning up at Hua Hin Railway Station is watching all the commuters boarding the trains while droves of tourists line the concourse taking photos. But this landmark is somewhat of an iconic institution. Hua Hin’s popularity began to increase in the 1920’s as the railway line from Bangkok was constructed and King Rama VI built Klai Kangwon Palace as a summer retreat.
The station, which is only short walk from the town centre, is one of the oldest in Thailand and its main feature is The Royal Waiting Room that used to welcome King and his court when they were visiting. Monkey loved watching the trains rolling in and walking around an exhibit steam engine which provides a great photo op.
Visiting Monkey Mountain at Khao Takiab, Chopstick Hill
Khao Takiab is dominated by a 272m headland which juts out to sea. We reached it via a 20 minute tuk tuk journey – which was fun in itself – especially when we drove through the town’s fishing hub. Once we reached ‘Monkey Mountain’ we climbed around 100 steps up to a Buddha Temple, after we made a donation to borrow a sarong to cover my bare legs. At the top, we were rewarded with the most wonderful views of the coastline of Hua Hin.
The other attraction is the resident Monkeys. There a lots of them, so don’t go if you’re scared of these creatures. They have no fear of humans and will happily take food and drink from you, as my Monkey found out when his drink bottle was stolen from his hands. He was not happy.
Splish splash at Mountain Water Park
We spent the day at this relatively small water park situated on the outskirts of town and had a brilliant adventure. It was a well-run outfit from free life jackets and spotlessly clean changing rooms. It was also perfect for smaller children with a large section consisting of small slides, shallow pools and a play area. For more information, read our review of Black Mountain here.
Have a tipple at Hua Hun Hills Vine Yard
Hua Hin Hills is nestled in a scenic mountain valley 45km west of Hua Hin. The loamy sand and slate soil feeds several Rhone grape varieties that are used in their Monsoon Valley wine label. Daily vineyard tours start at 1500B, including return transport, wine and a three-course meal. Alternatively you can just do the wine tasting. A vineyard shuttle leaves the affiliated Hua Hin Hills Wine Cellar store at 10.30am and 3pm and returns at 1.30pm and 6.00pm; return ticket is 300B.
Stroll the Night Market
You cannot stay in Hua Hin and not visit its famous Night Market. Not only is it the locals favoured choice for eating out, but it’s an eclectic mix of east meets west as stalls throw up touristy trinkets, clothes and wares. It’s the food stalls, however, that are the main draw from fresh seafood on ice – lobsters, crabs and prawns so big and so fresh, to rotis and BBQ meat – the smells are sensational. A great place to stroll and people watch, too.
Stand in awe at Wat Huay Mongkol
Head towards Khao Takiab and you cannot fail to notice the huge Buddha statue dominating the skyline. This Buddhist temple is home to the world’s largest statue of Luang Phor Thuad, a legendary southern Thai monk revered for his enlightenment and ability to perform miracles. It’s set within parkland and we spent a pleasant hour walking around the grounds, as well as buying some gold leaf to make an offering, and circling the large elephant statues at the bottom of the stairs for good health and fortune.
Explore Sam Roi Yot National Park
Located in the coast of Prachuap Khiri Khan Province, it is the first marine national park of Thailand. Khao Sam Roi Yot means ‘The mountain with three hundred peaks’ and refers to a series of limestone hills along the Gulf of Thailand with highest one at 605m above the sea level. The northwest corner of the mountain range is called Thung Sam Roi Yot and is mainly freshwater marsh covering nearly 37% of the national park which makes it the largest wetlands area in Thailand.
The main attractions of the national park are Phraya Nakhon Cave with its iconic royal pavilion and huge chambers, Kaeo Cave and Thung Sam Roi Yot Freshwater Marsh. The park is also an attractive destination for its rich wildlife in mangrove forests, beautiful beaches, limestone islands, trails and view points.
Jump on the saddle with Hua Hin Bike Tours
Not only does Hua Hin Bike Tours offer trips to Khao Sam Roi Yot above, but their trips are tailored to all levels of cyclists. We felt it was the best and most fun way to get out and about to enjoy the natural beauty that Hua Hin has to offer. We opted for a full day tour along the beaches from Dolphin Bay, and the team who looked after us were second to none. We had a fantastic adventure taking in 15km of unspoilt landscape ending in a visit to the area’s largest mangrove forest. Read more about our Dolphin Bay day trip here.
Get an adrenaline rush at Vana Nava
Having won a ‘Best of Thailand’ award, Vana Nava Water Park is Hua Hin’s newest attraction and boasts Asia’s first water jungle and 19 different slides and thrills– from The Abyss – the largest slide in Thailand, to the country’s only vertical looping slide, the Aqualoop! Even though Kiddie Cove caters for younger children, you want to come to Vana Nava for the thrills and spills, after all, that’s what it is known for.
Swim at Pala-U-Waterfall
This cascade is found on the south side of Kaeng Krachan National Park, some 60km west of Hua Hin. The park is one of the largest in Thailand and sits right next to the Burmese (Myanmar) border. It is a beautiful spot to visit as you will pass through stunning countryside on the 1.5 hours journey from Hua Hin. The waterfall has 16 steps, making it one of the highest in Thailand and those who make it to the top will be rewarded by superb views over Thailand and towards Burma.
*Entrance fee into the park is applicable but local tour operators can arrange full organised day trips.
Main photo: Flickr: Pranav Bhasin