Life’s a Beach in Thailand: Top 5 Car Rental Escapes

With a coastline of more than 3,200km and hundreds of tropical islands scattered around it, Thailand is not short of dreamy beaches – but which should you choose when you rent a car in Thailand? Virtually every one of them offers the idyllic combination of sapphire ocean, powdery sand, and lush jungle, so you’re unlikely to go wrong. Here are the five we would include on our desert-island list:

cheap car rental thailand1.Nai Harn Beach, Karon

Voted the most beautiful beach in Thailand, Nai Harn is certainly the jewel of Phuket. Nai Harn is the most southerly beach in the country and a world away from the crowds and party atmosphere of Patong.

You can thank the Samnak Song Monastery, just off the centre and southern end of the beach, for preventing the over-development that has spoiled some other Thai beaches.

Framed by jungle-swathed mountains and that impossibly blue ocean, it is a seductive swathe of snow-white sand wrapped in deliciously warm water. (You won’t need a wetsuit here – the water temperature is a balmy 29C all year!)

A lagoon flows into the sea at the southern end, producing a stream where children love to play. The water is flat calm from November to May, but from June to October, the southwest monsoon season brings rip tides. Never enter the water when red warning flags are flying.

2.Railay Beach, Southern Thailand

What saves Railay Beach from being overrun by appreciative visitors is that it can only be reached by longtail boat from either Ao Nang or Krabi town. Boats from Ao Nang drop you at Railay West Beach, whereas Krabi serves the eastern side. There are actually four beaches clustered around the base of the towering limestone cliffs that make access by road impossible.

The limestone cliffs create an impressive backdrop to the icing-sugar sand and crystalline Andaman Sea and make Railay one of the world’s best rock-climbing destinations. Some 700 routes are bolted to the cliff faces, offering the adventurous some spectacular views of the ocean.

A popular activity among the daring is deep-water soloing, which combines solo rock-climbing and base jumping into pristine blue sea. If that is a step too far for you, you can enjoy cave exploration, trekking to viewpoints and a concealed lagoon, beach volleyball, yoga, kayaking, and snorkelling.

cheap car hire Thailand3.Koh Poda, Southern Thailand

A scattering of islands close to Railay (see above) offer more stunningly white coral sand beaches and limpid water. Koh Poda is about 25 minutes away via long-tail boat (either from Ao Nang, Rai Leh or Phra Nang beaches).

A small limestone island, Koh Poda is a circular island no more than a kilometre in diameter. The palm-tree blanketed islet is ringed with sand, with a coral reef 20 metres off shore.

If you feel the need for some serious lounging, the mix of scenery, beach and excellent snorkelling make it one of the best places in Thailand to spend a heavenly day.

4.Kata Noi Beach, Kathu

Just 7km from Nai Harn (see above), the delightful Kata Noi bay is surrounded by stunning scenery, best appreciated from Kata Viewpoint, which opens up a sweeping panorama across the three bays of Karon, Kata, and Kata Noi.

Relax, stroll along the cushion-soft sand, snorkel or swim. Kata Noi is a perennial favourite among surfers during the monsoon season of May to October, though swimming can be dangerous during this period. The beach itself is broad and beautiful, lapped by warm, sparkling water and providing the perfect place to lounge. Bring your own towel and relax, or hire whatever you need.

5.Hua Hin Beach, Hua Hin

Okay, so Hua Hin is no palm-framed retreat from the world, but Thailand’s original beach resort is none the worse for that. Instead it offers a great combination of ocean and urban, with a cosmopolitan atmosphere, sweeping beaches, and well-maintained facilities (meaning clean water and sand).

Ideal for families, the vibrant town of Hua Hin offers an abundance of affordable seafood restaurants and a good transport network for beach hopping, and is plentiful and affordable. It may not be the place to lose yourself in solitude, but if you’re renting a car in Bangkok, it’s much easier and cheaper to get to Hua Hin than to the southern islands.