When you think of Hua Hin, what comes to mind first? The train station, the ponies, the European snowbirds, the kitsch theme parks? As a destination, Hua Hin has always been rather modest and sedate (which is a polite way of saying kind of boring). But there are signs the seaside retreat is becoming more than the place your parents take you to eat seafood.
Forget what you know about Hua Hin. Here’s why you should travel there now—and what you should do when you’re there.
EAT & DRINK
Image: Som’s Table
Thanks to Gallery Drip
(10 Hua Hin Soi 51; open Thu-Mon 8:30am-5pm), a branch of the Bangkok-born, slow-method specialty cafe, you can start your day with high-quality coffee (from B60) and light bites.
Hidden in the shadows of nondescript hotels on Petchkasem Soi 94 is Ogen
(open daily 11am-10pm). Though not much on the eyes—it’s little more than a room with shiny white tile floors and some outside tables along the street—this new-ish Middle Eastern and Mediterranean restaurant is a total gem. From the juicy lamb kofta (sets served with hummus, pita, tabbouleh, and French fries; B440) to the crispy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside falafel (pita sandwich served with French fries; B180), everything is great here.
Recently, chef Jutamas “Som” Theantae, a familiar name in the Bangkok dining scene, opened a new space by the sea. With Som’s Table
(19 Soi Ruam Jai, Khao Tao; open Thu-Mon 4-10pm), the chef, known for her conceptual tasting menus and work with Karmakamet, goes back to her roots, serving more humble and accessible European fare in a two-story house with a garden right beside the beach. Expect homemade breads and pasta, fresh fish procured from local fishermen, and lots of champagne and biodynamic wines.
While Hua Hin isn’t known for its nightlife—except for the expat-baiting beer bars around Soi Bintabaht—that might be changing. Praca
at The Standard Hua Hin (59 Naresdamri Rd.; open daily 4-11pm) sees a beachside heritage bungalow transformed into an intimate cocktail bar with both indoor and outdoor seating and a very good soundtrack. Expect drinks like the Cheeky Monkey, a play on the Old Fashioned featuring Monkey Shoulder, peanut, sesame, salt and cane sugar (B380), and Born to Rum (Nusa Cana rum, banana, coconut milk, kaffir lime leaf and lime; B320).
Resort guests can also score beach-appropriate drinks like the Frose (Aperol, dry rose, Lillet rose, and peach syrup; B350) at the poolside Lido Bar
(open daily 10am-7pm).
SEE & DO
If you’re itching to try something new, check out Hua Hin Kitesurfing
, a certified kitesurfing school run by Kiteboarding Asia. The school makes the most of Hua Hin’s steady seasonal winds, offering one-day lessons (from B4,000) and three-day courses for those who are serious about the sport and want to get certified (B11,000). All courses are led by certified instructors. You can even intern here if you want to become one yourself.
The business also offers stand-up paddleboarding for days when the seas are steady (B300/hour, B1,000/day; classes B600/day).
If hedonism is your thing, look no further than Sundance Dayclub
(13/14 Soi Bo Fai). The club has turned the former Seenspace into an exciting hotel-slash-beach lounge, copying the script most often seen on islands like Koh Samui and Phuket: good food, a pool bar, and DJ sets. You can also stay here if you don’t want to venture far from the party (from B7,800++/night; includes B2,000 in food and beverage credit).
Image: The Standard Hua Hin
Hua Hin recently welcomed The Standard
, the first property from the boutique American brand to open in Thailand. The design is meant to recall The Standard’s property in Miami—the yellow lawn chairs were even shipped over from Miami—and the hotel is full of touches that will make you feel far removed from the Gulf of Thailand. Think disco balls hanging over bathtubs; candy-striped deck chairs; a pain-staking, hand-painted pool deck created by Brooklyn-based Romon Kimin Yang, a.k.a. Rostarr
; and the brand’s signature mud baths at the spa (
although here they require you to cover your private bits, unlike the very nude and very public mud baths in Miami).
Image: The Standard Hua Hin
There are 199 rooms, over 160 of which are in a whitewashed, Art Deco-inspired wing overlooking a 150-year-old rain tree (from B4,500++/night for a Standard King or Twin room).
Executive Chairman Amar Lalvani says they went to great lengths to preserve the existing trees when they developed the property, but then they further greenified the space with palms, monstera plants, and more—especially around the villas. These jungly spaces boast big rooms (99 to 106 sq meters), lounge areas with daybeds, bathrooms with rain showers and tubs, private plunge pools, and plant-covered gardens made to escape to with your friends or partners.
Lalvani says the hotel is about getting out of your room and into the social space. From its aforementioned cocktail bars and huge centerpiece pool to its eclectic soundtrack and cheeky artwork (see: the framed 1980s fitness magazines in the gym), The Standard isn’t the kind of luxury hotel your parents and grandparents would check into. For Hua Hin, that’s probably a good thing.