If you long for quiet beaches and hammocks swaying in the breeze, make a sharp U-turn before arriving in Pattaya. The city’s reputation as a sex capital is well deserved, with hundreds of beer bars, go-go clubs and massage parlors. But Pattaya does perennially try to lose its sex tag and many of its 10 million annual visitors instead come for the mega shopping centers and amenities. Pattaya is also home to a growing number of cultural and action-packed attractions and international restaurants.
The city is built around Ao Pattaya, a wide, crescent-shaped bay that was one of Thailand’s first beach resorts in the 1960s when American GIs came for some R&R. North Pattaya (Pattaya Neua) is a more upmarket area while Pattaya South (Pattaya Tai) remains the nightlife hub.
To the south of Pattaya, Jomtien is a laid-back resort with a gay-friendly beach at Hat Dongtan, while to the north Naklua is also quieter, with some top-end resorts at Wong Amat.
The best beaches in the area are on Ko Samae San, a tiny island with good snorkeling, and the navy-run Hat Nahng Ram, both 35km south of Pattaya.