Unknown to many, Pattaya’s numerous beaches are pockets of tranquility waiting to be uncovered.
In Pattaya, you don’t have to travel far to experience a picturesque beach. Away from the main Pattaya beach, there are a number of lesser-known beaches that offer calm waves, emerald waters and clean, fine sand to lay your picnic mat.
Sai Kaew Beach (Hat Sai Kaew), located in the Chumbol Sattahip Naval School and about a 20-minute drive from Hard Rock Hotel Pattaya, is a great place for sunset viewing. This one kilometre stretch of beach surrounded by steep cliffs officially opened to the public in 2003 to encourage eco-tourism. Since then it has received a steady trickle of locals and foreigners keen for a breath of fresh air. The abundance of trees along the beach provides natural shade and greenery by the sea. After a snorkel or kayak session, head to one of the eateries or cafés to satiate your hunger.
Farther afield is a peaceful hideaway island that can only be reached by boat. Kham Island, a lush slip of land comprised of volcanic rock, was founded by the Thai navy in 1991 and subsequently declared a marine national park after discovering that the level of the sea and water temperature around the island are optimum for coral growth.
When we arrived on a weekday morning, we were first given a briefing on the island and the coral restoration efforts that have been going on. The navy started a coral growing programme where degenerated coral from nearby islands and ports are transplanted and grown in the surrounding waters of Kham Island.
There were less than a dozen people on the island. Most of them were lounging on sun chairs under low-lying shady branches on the crescent of white sand revealed by the tide. It was the choice spot for our picnic lunch. The island, shaped like a bow, or the letter H, has abundant coral reef and a carefree spot for swimming and snorkelling. Since snorkelling gear was provided, we did not hesitate to explore the underwater landscape. On the west side of the island, there is a hiking trail leading up to three different viewpoints.
Visitors are required to book their trip in advance, as there are curbs on the number of people visiting the island as part of conservation efforts. There are no permanent residents on the island, and all visitors have to depart by 3.30pm. An admission fee of THB 200 and THB 300 applies for locals and foreigners respectively.
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