Cha-Am, Hua Hin, Pranburi – The Thai Riviera

Hua Hin, Cha-Am, and Pranburi

Hua Hin was the preferred residence of the royal family during the reign of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who passed away in 2016, and thus became known as the “Royal Seaside Resort.” The city and its hilly hinterland, along with Cha-Am to the north and Pranburi to the south of Hua Hin, are particularly popular with tourists looking to relax and escape the hustle and bustle of other tourist centers. The region is also favored by European residents who enjoy their homes and, above all, their permanent residences here. Seniors, especially those seeking comprehensive medical care, also feel particularly well taken care of in the Hua Hin region.

Hua Hin is located on the west coast of the Gulf of Thailand, about 200 km south of Bangkok. While it takes around three hours by car or bus to travel from Bangkok to the Hua Hin region, it is now also possible to get to Hua Hin by express train.

The coastal towns, starting with Cha-Am in the north, passing through Hua Hin, and extending to Pranburi in the south, share one common feature: the Phetkasem Road, which—similar to Sukhumvit Road in Pattaya—separates the beachside residential areas from the villa districts in the hinterland. Particularly along the coast, more and more condominiums are being built, offering nice apartments in buildings with just eight floors, and occasionally even taller residential towers. The western hinterland features many so-called villages with single-family homes, often located between one and twelve kilometers from the coastal towns like Hua Hin City.

The further south you go, the more beautiful the landscape becomes, crowned by the coastal national park in the Sam Roi Yod region, which translates to “Three Hundred Hills,” offering day-trippers much to explore. Here, too, along the western strip of land, there are many secluded villa areas on and between the hills, where you will find, in addition to some luxury hotels, wonderful villas at very affordable prices.

Cha-Am

Let’s start in Cha-Am. Located north of Hua Hin, the small town of Cha-Am is a popular destination for locals from Bangkok seeking a few relaxing days. Prices for accommodations, meals, and general holiday expenses are particularly reasonable here.

Nature lovers will find delight in Kaeng Krachan National Park, 50 kilometers northwest of Cha-Am, which stretches to the Myanmar border in the west. A trip to the largest nature reserve in the country should be on any itinerary. On guided tours, visitors have the chance to see tapirs, tigers, leopards, and elephants, along with over 400 native bird species. Boat and raft tours are offered on the idyllic reservoir and the Phetchaburi River. The 18-step Ha Thip Falls are also among the park’s highlights.

A visit to the provincial capital Phetchaburi is also worthwhile, and beachgoers will enjoy Chao Samran Beach, located to the east of the city. The main attraction is Khao Wang, a hill at the northern entrance to the city, on which the Phra Nakhon Khiri Palace is situated. King Rama IV had the complex built in 1860, and it is now part of the Phra Nakhon Khiri National Museum. If the climb to the top is too strenuous, visitors can easily use the cable car.

Khao Luang Cave is just five kilometers from Khao Wang. The cave houses a highly revered Buddha statue that King Chulalongkorn commissioned in honor of his father, King Mongkut. While there were hardly any foreigners in Cha-Am years ago, it is still far from being considered cosmopolitan today. Life is still characterized by locals, especially on the beautiful, open, and shady beaches, even though quite a few residential complexes with condominiums and villa areas have now been built on the beach and west of Phetkasem Road, which are inhabited by many Europeans. Cha-Am has thus retained its special charm.

Let’s drive along the excellently developed Phetkasem Road towards Hua Hin. The wooden Phra Ratchaniwet Marukkhathaiyawan Palace, located directly on the beach on the grounds of the coastal police headquarters on the road to Hua Hin, is worth seeing. The complex was used as a summer residence by King Rama VI in the 1920s.

As far as real estate is concerned, along the stretch of just over 25 km along the coast, you will see many new residential complexes, some of which have only recently been built, offering apartments and houses in various styles. You will find ultra-modern and some extravagant condominiums, as well as Thai-style villas, Bali-style houses, or elegant bungalows in Western styles. There are some residential complexes that offer both: apartments on eight floors, from which you can look out onto a villa complex surrounded by expansive swimming pools. The residential complexes offer every conceivable amenity: fitness centers, saunas, massage services, a wide range of sports facilities, areas for undisturbed relaxation, restaurants and bars, and of course, pool and fun areas as well as playgrounds for children—everything your heart desires. You may be surprised that in Thailand, some apartment complexes are based on Greek, Italian, or Moroccan architectural styles and their typical colors. When asked “Why this?”, the answer is: “The Thais love it.” In any case, these types of housing complexes are successful and look very nice indeed.

Located near the beaches, condominiums are no longer as affordable as they were 10 years ago. Small apartments can be purchased for around 100,000 euros, and many spacious ones are around 200,000 euros, with no upper limit. Villas are a little different, especially since they are usually quite large. But here too, it is possible to find a villa for around 7 to 8 million Thai Baht, i.e., starting at around 180,000 euros.

On the other side of the Phetkasem Road, towards the west, small side streets lead to villa complexes, mainly built by Scandinavian developers and also inhabited by many different nationalities, especially Scandinavians and English and German-speaking residents. Houses are often offered here at very affordable prices. The infrastructure can often still be expanded. People live here, and everything else takes place in the centers of Cha-Am and Hua Hin.

If we continue driving and leave the excellent Palm Hills Golf Club on the right and the small airport on the coast behind us, we then reach the city limits of Hua Hin.

 

Hua Hin and the Surrounding Area

Here too, along Phetkasem Road, but especially very close to the beach, there are new, excellent condominiums and exclusive villas. These apartments and villas become more expensive the closer you get to the city.

If you leave the main road by keeping to the right and crossing the railway tracks, many roads lead to the villa districts and other golf courses, which are located amidst beautiful hilly landscapes. Here, you will find all types of houses and price categories: spacious villas directly on the golf course from around 400,000 euros upwards, to cozy houses with gardens, both close to the city and mostly more in the hinterland, starting from around 200,000 euros, but more likely 250.000 Euro and more, depending on the size of the property.

The city of Hua Hin is centrally located—25 km to Cha-Am in the north, 30 to 40 km to the national park to the south, and to the beaches of Pranburi, and about 10 to 12 km to the motorway that bypasses the hilly area to the west of Hua Hin. Within these coordinates, you will find at least 12 excellent golf courses, some designed by well-known golf legends, and that can be described as “world-class.”

Hua Hin offers a very pleasant atmosphere. The royal park and palace are close to the center, and the former royal residences are also open to the public. Even though there is some heavy traffic on the main road on weekends, and the famous night market attracts many visitors every evening during the high season, Hua Hin maintains a relaxed and quiet atmosphere, with good restaurants and wine bars, as well as a range of accommodations from inexpensive to luxurious. One notable attraction and the city’s landmark is the historic Hua Hin train station, built during the reign of King Rama VI and completed in 1925 as we see it today.

The 100-year-old Royal Hua Hin Golf Course, near Hua Hin train station, is also the oldest golf course in the country.

In recent years, both large shopping paradises and nice theme and water parks “for children of all ages” have been built.

For those who enjoy socializing, there are pubs with their own beer and open sports bars where people can meet to exchange ideas or watch the Bundesliga. If you are looking for other types of entertainment, such as live music and dancing, don’t worry, everything is there.

And the sea? While you will find many good fish restaurants within the city, the extensive beaches to the south invite you to sunbathe and take walks, or to trot (or even gallop) on patient horses through the shallow waters. Many residential complexes, including hotels, are located directly on the beach and offer direct access to the sea. Apartments on the beach and near the center are expensive, but also very interesting for those who want to use a condo as a holiday property for a limited period. Renting these apartments to tourists promises very good rental income.

This also applies to the partially newly developed residential areas south of the center, in Khao Takiab. Here you can find good and partially inexpensive apartments near the beach, in nice and manageable residential complexes with every comfort.

Driving further south, we reach green oases both on the beach and towards the mountains. Many residential complexes with spacious plots and chic houses have been, and are still being, built here. Some of them are a little cheaper than those in the immediate vicinity of Hua Hin, but you can find a home for every budget that meets or even exceeds all requirements. The landscape is particularly noteworthy here, as many residences are located on green hills and some offer great views of the area and the sea.

Now we are—at a distance of about 25 kilometers—on the way to Pranburi.

Pranburi and the National Parks

The town of Pranburi is inhabited by fishermen, small business owners, and families who cultivate the extensive surrounding fields, where you can buy bananas, pineapples, and many other delicacies directly at incredibly low prices.

Here, amidst the fields, hills, and palm plantations, European investors have built dream resorts only a few hundred meters from the sea. These resorts feature wonderful villas and apartments surrounded by pools, where you don’t have to leave the water to enjoy a cappuccino or your first beer at the pool bar. The service takes care of daily cleaning and your well-being. The restaurants offer snacks, complete menus, excellent wines, and a humidor with selected cigars. For those looking to balance their relaxation, there are fitness equipment, and tennis and basketball courts.

Sounds like five-star hotels? It is now. While many years ago buyers purchased villas here for their own use, today the residential complex operates as a hotel. As a private investor, you can purchase a property, let the developer rent it out, and enjoy a good return.

Let’s drive further to the sea and use the long coastal road to see more first-class villa complexes and be distracted a little by the great view of the sea and the hills of the Sam Roi Yod National Park. Believe me, you will first get out of the car and take a deep breath. Because seeing both means enjoying it—it is simply fascinating.

The good news is: here, right on the beach with a sea view, condominiums from 60 m² are offered at prices for which you would only get half the living space elsewhere. Unfortunately, the selection is quite limited.

So, let’s summarize what concerns both the real estate and the leisure value in the Cha-Am, Hua Hin, and Pranburi region with Sam Roi Yod:

  • You can buy high-quality and spacious apartments from 62,000 THB per square meter of living space. On the beaches in Hua Hin, it will be an average of 120,000 THB per square meter.

  • Affordable and very nice houses, including small plots of land, are available from around 6 to 9 million THB (approx. 150,000 – 220,000 euros). More exclusive villas on bigger land plots are offered from around 10 to 15 million THB (250,000 – 400,000 euros). The price scale in the luxury area is open-ended.

  • No matter where they are located, they are usually in beautiful areas, often with great views.

  • In addition to wonderful, varied landscapes, you will find beautiful beaches everywhere. The sea is not clear but clean, especially in the south, where you can snorkel in the shallow waters of the Gulf of Siam, as often seen in tempting photos.

  • The places offer relaxation, but also all facilities in both local and international styles—from markets to shopping malls, from fish restaurants to European cuisine, from relaxed pubs to fun bars.

  • In addition to many wealthy Thais from Bangkok who use their apartments here on weekends, Europeans from Scandinavia, the German-speaking area, France, and the UK make up the majority of property owners who live here permanently.

  • There are excellent hospitals with outstanding doctors and specialist staff.

Finally, a tip that is particularly important to me: More and more residential complexes are being built with villas and apartments designed to suit the elderly, making life easier and offering regular medical care and treatment. Older people, especially those with health problems, will enjoy the wonderful climate and the carefree lifestyle, combined with the traditionally respectful and loving care of the Thais.

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