8 Off The Beaten Track Places To Escape The Crowds In Thailand

Everyone has certain places they would like to cross off their bucket lists and Thailand is up there with the best. Not surprisingly, the “land of smiles” has seen its fair share of rapid development and an increasing influx of tourists over the past 20 years. Although many of the original hotspots such as Koh Phi Phi, Phuket, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan have changed their appearance over the years and nowadays appeal more to the younger travelling generations, Thailand still has what it takes to give you that much needed break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life back home. There are still those hidden gems that offer everything the popular Thai islands and cities have minus the somewhat claustrophobic tourist crowds – you just need to know where to look. Seeing as I’m currently travelling through Thailand, I thought I’d share with you the best places to escape the crowds in Thailand.

Hua Hin

Hua Hin's coastline captured from Khao Tao temple

Let me introduce you to Thailand’s oldest beach resort town which comes with a unique royal touch. Located just 3 hours south of Bangkok along Thailand’s eastern coastline lies the royal beach resort town of Hua Hin. Discovered in the early 1920’s by King Rama VII, the town of Hua Hin is a popular tourist retreat for both Thais and Westerners. What was once a simple fishing village gradually transformed into a getaway destination for Bangkok’s elite to escape the fast-paced lifestyle of Thailand’s concrete jungle. The incredible thing about Hua Hin though – development has been relatively slow and non-destructive, allowing the town to preserve its natural setting. Hua Hin makes for a peaceful and inexpensive getaway or pit stop on your way down south with a unique twist of offering Westerners an authentic taste of Thailand with mountains and jungles to the west and a tropical coastline to the east. This royal beach resort town offers everything from vineyards to golf courses but let us rather have a look at what we can’t find back home.

The King’s Palace

The King's Palace in Hua Hin

The Thai monarchy is highly respected throughout the country and even more so in Hua Hin where the current King and Queen spend most of their days at their private “Klaikangwon Palace”. Fortunately for visitors, the original King’s Palace of Hua Hin, “Maruekatayawan Palace”, designed by King Rama VII is open to the public during week days. Here, you can enjoy a rare educational experience learning about the history of the Thai monarchy while taking in its wonder of being the longest golden teak palace in the world.

Khao Takiab Beach

The best beach in Hua Hin

Hua Hin meets the Gulf of Thailand’s waters with a long meandering stretch of sandy beach and palm trees. The most pristine beach, Khao Takiab beach, lies to the south of the town in a rural setting. Khao Takiab beach offers the most bang for your buck when it comes to natural beauty, peace and quiet, and simple beach bars and restaurants. When in the Khao Takiab area be sure to check out Monkey Mountain, which is actually the English translation of the area’s name, for panoramic views of Hua Hin’s coastline as well as the Cicada Night Market – arguably the best night market in the country.

Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park

One of the top off the beaten track places to escape the crowds in Thailand

Khao Sam Roi Yot is situated roughly 1.5 hours south of Hua Hin. The name translates to “the mountain with 300 peaks” and although it does boast an outstandingly beautiful mountain range, it has even more to offer foreign explorers. In addition to the mesmerising limestone cliffs, waterfalls, caves and viewpoints, this is also Thailand’s oldest marine national park. The noiseless and private beaches of Laem Sala Beach and Sam Phraya Beach have an island feel about them with several uninhabited islands visible in the distance. They both possess just one restaurant equipped with light meals and both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages to fill the tummies and quench the thirsts of visitors to the park.

Phraya Nakhon Cave

That being said, the “300 peaks” is far from an overstatement with a bunch of trails through the lush limestone forests to a variety of different caves and waterfalls on offer to all visitors to the national park. The most popular tourist attraction to Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park is Phraya Nakhon Cave. Deep inside the mountain is the rare sight of the royal pavilion, built for King Rama V when he used to visit this cave during his rule of the Kingdom of Thailand. Since then, the cave has and still is visited by many royal elites and members of the Thai monarchy, making it the most visited sight in the country by Thai rulers.

Incredible view over the gulf of Thailand from Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park

Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park also has guided boat tours through the largest freshwater marshland in Thailand, long-tail boat rides to the different beaches, and guided tours to some of the waterfalls and other caves situated in the vicinity. And if you are looking for more privacy and independence, it is more than possible to explore the national park on your own. Visitors to the park can choose to visit “the mountain with 300 peaks” as a day out or stay several days with both bungalow and camping accommodation options available. And like every national park in Thailand, there is a 200 Baht (R65) park entry fee.

Koh Lanta

Koh Lanta island captured from the Andaman Sea

I have saved the best for last. On the other side of Thailand, in the Andaman Sea, sits the unspoilt island of Koh Lanta. This is Phuket and Koh Samui 20 years ago – pure natural beauty minus the herds of tourists and rapid development. Koh Lanta is the 2nd largest of the Archipelago chain of islands and forms a great base from which to explore the Andaman Sea. The northern end of the island, known as the Saladan area, is slightly more developed and as you move down south from the popular Long Beach to the barely inhabited Kantiang Bay in the south it just gets more and more raw, and in turn more picturesque. Whether it is white sand beaches, eye-melting sunsets, snorkelling and diving trips, lush jungles, mangrove forests, caves and waterfalls, Koh Lanta has it all! With so much on offer, it is best to visit the island for at least 3 to 4 nights and, having personally tried and tested so much during my week on this island, the following should be at the top of your travel itinerary.

“4 islands” snorkel trip

Island Day trip of the Trang Islands in Thailand

Highly recommended by yours truly is the 4 island tour down south to the Trang islands. You will visit the incredible Emerald Cave in Koh Mook, snorkel alongside 30 metre plus limestone cliffs at Koh Mah and Koh Chuerk, and take in the peace and tranquillity of one of the best beaches I have ever set foot on, Koh Kradan, whilst munching down on a top quality buffet lunch. Other island tours and snorkelling day trips on offer is the 4 island Koh Phi Phi and surrounds tour, the Koh Ha snorkel and diving trip as well as the Koh Rok snorkel and dive trip. The latter is for those seeking the best dive spots in the Andaman Sea while the 4 island tours offer a great way to both snorkel and explore the islands on the trip.

Kantiang Bay

Kantiang Bay is one of the best beaches in Thailand to watch the sunset

Kantiang Bay is in no doubt the best beach on the island with the most prime swimming conditions, flaming sunsets, and one of the best beach restaurants on the island whose name echoes the popular Thai saying “Same Same But Different”. This beach area is located to the south of the island where barely any development has taken place apart from the few accommodations and restaurants found along the bay and surrounding cliffs.

Biking through the jungle

Biking through the jungle in Koh Lanta

One of the most inexpensive yet highly rewarding ways to spend your day on Koh Lanta would be to rent a scooter or motorbike for as little as 200 Baht and go explore the jungle along the eastern side of the island. Simply head down one of the main roads and you will find your fair share of dirt roads to your right and trust me; you won’t believe what you see. Because Koh Lanta is largely under-developed, its mountain side and forest life is incredibly active and if you dare to test out your bike on some of the steeper clay roads, you will be rewarded with some truly idyllic views.

Travelstart representing on the beach in Thailand

With my flight home already being changed to a later date, I still don’t know how I am going to leave this country. Exploring the best places to escape the crowds in Thailand has been an absolute pleasure and I hope it can help with holiday planning for those of you travelling to Thailand this summer. For now, I head up north-east to explore the mountain ranges of Thailand’s Isaan Province. Wish me luck!

Our Readers Comments

    • I would like to teach English in Thailand.

  1. Another very nice Island to visit in Thailand is Koh Chang !

  2. Thailand, definitely on my bucket list 🙂

  3. This really sounds great, being a person who has enjoyed travelling to Thailand since 1990, I gave up as becoming to modern and busy, but now you have wet my appetite again for Thailand. Thank you so much for the photos and the info. Dont stop.

    • I am so happy to have reassured you that Thailand still possesses those rare heaven-on-earth destinations Gail.

      I hope you get the chance to go back and see for yourself the beauty of Hua Hin, Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, and Koh Lanta.

      All the best,

      Stewart

  4. thank you so much! I just came to patong 2 days and I’m absolutely hating it. These were the advices I was looking for !

    • Make you way to Koh Lanta Mags!

      It isn’t far and can be reached by ferry or speedboat from Patong.

      Enjoy the rest of your trip and send my regards to the “land of smiles”.

      Kind regards,

      Stewart

  5. have always wanted to go to Thailand cannot wait to do it soon!

  6. Wow…I have been putting off my Thailand trip because it has become so “touristy” but you have renewed my interest…..can you suggest accommodation in Koh Lanta and Kantiang Bay…….kind regards… Vanessa

    • We are planning a trip to Thailand Jan 2016 and frankly concerned that the main touristy island would not give us an authentic Thai experience. Is it at all possible that you could give suggestions of places to stay in all of the destinations you mentioned. We are a family of 4 two adults and two children.

    • Hi Helen, there should be lots of options out there, you could contact our agents on 0861 878 278 to specify which destinations you’re wanting to be at.

      You can also mail them on travelbar@travelstart.com. They should be able to help with quotes for most of these. If not, you’re going to have to search a bit online for the best spots as many of them may be “off the grid” in that they’re not bookable through travel agents outside of Thailand.

    • Hi Vanessa

      Have a look at Lanta Luxary Villas: http://lantaluxuryvillas.com/

      They have private villa accommodation on every beach and offer top quality service.

      For alternative accommodation options in Kantiang Bay, I suggest visiting Agoda’s website: http://bit.ly/1tGWg1E

      Enjoy your time on Koh lanta – I am extremely jealous and cannot wait to return!

      Kind regards,

      Stewart

  7. Sjoe, it looks amazing!

  8. Can you give an estimated rates per night?

    • Hi Breggie

      The rates vary a fair bit when it comes to your preference of quality and location in each destination.

      For Koh Lanta, if you’re looking for top quality service and luxury accommodation on the beach, then Lanta Luxury Villas should be your first pick. You can find all their different accommodations and rates here: http://lantaluxuryvillas.com/ There are also a variety of really nice backpacker-style accommodation types. Horizon Bar stood out to me the best and you can view their rates here: http://www.lantahorizon.com/

      For Hua Hin, there is so much variation in accommodation types as it is more built up than Koh Lanta. One can stay at top quality accommodation on the beach at the Hilton hotel or rent a private villa somewhere along the beachfront. Have a look at lonely Planet’s accommodation guide for Hua Hin here: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thailand/upper-southern-gulf/hua-hin/hotels

      Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park has accommodation inside the park in the form of campsites and bungalows as well as surrounding accommodation types in the form of lodges, hotels and hostels. The prices vary greatly and this website has all the rates and accommodation types you will need to make the most educated decision: http://www.travelfish.org/accommodation/thailand/southern_thailand/prachuap_khiri_khan/khao_sam_roi_yot_national_park/all

      Kind regards,

      Stewart

  9. we stayed at Dolphin Bay Prachinburi a few years ago, visited Phraya Nakhon Cave and a few other spots. Had a great holiday with the kids, the beach at Dolphin Bay is huge, and you know what it’s almost totally void of people, wonderful place.

  10. I searched for “Thailand Off the beaten track” and got this – Hua Hin and Koh Lanta…?? Been to Thailand 9 times now and those places are ok, but loads and loads of tourists everywhere is not exactly my idea of “off the beaten track”…

    • Same here, there´s even a TV program called Koh Lanta in France. tells you how “ON the beaten track it is 🙂

      For those comments searching an agency to book those :
      Off the beaten track does not rhyme well with travel agency !!

      if there´s a travel agency offering tours it’s NOT off the beaten track !! 🙂

  11. Good Day

    I am plannng on visiting thailand for a couple of weeks. Is it necessary to book a return flight or can i book a one way and then book my return while i am in Thailand? I am a South African citizen

    • Hi Justen,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      You will need to purchase a return flight. Should you wish to make date changes to your return this will be possible (subject to the fare rules) of the ticket you have purchased.

  12. I do not agree with Hua Hin, also this article is focussed on beach destinations.
    The Isan region is more logical as an off the beaten track area.

  13. One doesn’t have to travel far in Thailand to get off the beaten track. There is not much English spoken outside the recognised tourist centres. The problem is more often finding things to do. We are putting together a simple web site to promote the attractions of the village we stay in, in Kanchanaburi. It is always difficult getting the right balance but there is still magic to be found off the tourist map

  14. I would suggest that Hua Hin and its surroundings are very much on the tourist path with a plethora of hotels, restaurants and bars for tourists and more.

    To escape the crowds, I would agree with Michel and head to Isan or the north east of the kingdom. Yes, it will be more challenging, because language may become an issue, but if you do your homework you can really experience something exceptional. Have a look at renting the Thai pool villa Gecko Villa (http://www.geckovilla.com) in Udon Thani province, nestled away on its own rice paddies, and live the life of a Thai village farmer for few days – or, should you prefer, simply laze by the burbling pool with a long cold beer, thinking about the spectacular dinner that is being cooked up for you by the villa staff.

    Get back what you put in to your holiday. Go the extra mile, and your hosts will go the extra mile for you!

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