There’s just something special about a road trip to the beach. Driving towards a luxury vacation is laidback and classic in a way that these days, flying only wishes to be. Getting out of Bangkok by car is a fantastic way to leave the city and its fast pace behind, and relaxation and waterfront only lays a couple hundred kilometers away. Traffic is always a factor on a Thai road trip, but with the right group of friends, family or a loved one, you’re always guaranteed a good time even in gridlocks.
By Luxury Society Asia Team
So let’s take a look at the best luxury offerings in Rayong province, a fine beach destination within close driving distance of Bangkok, and its prized island off the coast, Koh Samet:
About the area
Rayong province is located on the Eastern Gulf Coast, one of Thailand’s most up-and-coming tourist destinations. It’s got all the five-star services and amenities you’d find on islands like Phuket and Koh Samui, without all the big crowds to worry about.
Life in Rayong is slow-paced and quiet, perfect for vacationers seeking recluse and tranquility. The area is known not only for its scenic beaches, but also lush rainforest and fruit orchards. Here you’ll be able to taste Thailand’s famous tropical fruit in its freshest state, for example durian, rambutan and mangosteen. As a result, restaurants and hotels here are passionate about cooking healthy and seasonal meals, sourcing all the best ingredients from local farmers and fishermen.
From Rayong City, it’s just a 45-minute boat ride to Koh Samet, a well-known weekend island getaway for Bangkokians. Koh Samet’s known for its plush and private resorts, resting on white palmy beaches alongside turquoise waters. With a beachfront nightlife full of restaurants and bars, it offers the perfect balance between relaxation and action to suit any traveler.
What to do
You’d be silly to arrive in Rayong without an empty stomach. The area is famous for its fresh seafood, served on outdoor terraces overlooking the crystal blue Gulf. Laem Charoen Seafood in Rayong City is a famous local establishment opened in 1979, once voted among the best in Thailand (and in a country known for its underwater delicacies, that’s a serious honour!). The signature dish is a deep-fried marinated snapper in sweet sauce, prepared according to a secret and traditional recipe.
Pay a visit to Baan Pae, a bustling seafood market, is also important. Steamed crab, prawns and sea bass are all served here with mouthwatering sights, sounds and smells. Mostly everything comes with a side platter of fresh tropical fruit from local orchards as well.
Shopping in Rayong will yield handmade crafts, purses and home décor like at most Thai markets – but what are really worth taking home are the bags of dried fruit. You can get deep-fried durian and banana chips, dried mangoes and preserved fruit candy to snack on for a long time to come.
Koh Samet’s got a nightlife that you won’t find anywhere else in Rayong province. That being said, the island’s resorts are so cozy, it’s easy to get caught not even leaving the property. That’s not a bad thing however as there’s plenty to do right from the beach, whether it be watersports or snorkeling. It’s also possible to take daytrips to explore other nearby islands off the coasts of Koh Samet or Rayong, for example Koh Kruai, Koh Thalu, Koh Pla Tin and Koh Kham.
Rayong is also a popular destination for golf-lovers. It’s home to a range of top courses, including the 72-par championship course at St. Andrews 2000 Golf and Country Club and Eastern Star Country Club.
Where to stay
Marriott Rayong: This modern, sleekly designed hotel offers panoramic ocean and hillside rooms with private balconies. The lagoon pool has waterslides, making it perfect for a family getaway with the kids. Marriott Rayong’s dining facilities feature the region’s famous fresh seafood cooked according to Thai tradition, but also a large selection of imported wine and meat in accordance with international cuisine. Read more
Paradee: Paradee is set on the southern cape of Koh Samet on the beautiful, idyllic sands of Ao Kiew Beach. Only 40 villas are available at this boutique resort, and boast brilliant views of lush tropical gardens and the sandy coast of the Gulf of Thailand respectively. Paradee’s food and drink is transported fresh daily from local farmers and fishermen, making this resort a true paradise for dining.
Baan Ploy Sea: Baan Ploy Sea is a solid accommodation choice for any kind of luxury traveler to Samet. Located on Ao-Klang Beach along the northern coastline, it is quiet and serene but only five minutes away from the island’s nightlife for those seeking more action. The entire resort is known for its eye-catching and Instagram-friendly contemporary design, from the orange infinity pool to wooden decks calmly overlooking the water.
Le Vimarn Cottages & Spa: Le Vimarn’s location can only be described as idyllic, burrowed into a hilly cove overlooking the beach. Every cottage comes with a picturesque balcony, and some with personal outdoor spas above the rich sea and luminous sand. Guests must take advantage of the services at Le Vimarn’s world-class spa facility, Dhivarin Spa by the Sea. It offers a wide range of bespoke treatments for the mind body and soul from scrubs to facials, wraps and steams.
Sai Kaew Beach Resort: Beach junkies will feel totally spoiled for choice here, seeing as the resort is impressively nestled in between two spectacular beaches. Sai Kaew is known as Koh Samet’s most lively stretch of sand, with bars, restaurants and all kinds of opportunities for taking part in activities. Meanwhile, Laluna beach is more quiet and isolated with lush tropical gardens to marvel at. The resort itself is relaxed, with a swimming pool, spa and fine dining restaurant all readily available.
Ao Prao Resort: Ao Prao is a resort with scenery for invigorating the senses, comprised of tropical jungle, rock formations and a cascading hill. The setting offers a countless amount of hideaways in natural paradise along the Gulf of Thailand. The rooms are traditional Thai-style cottages with high ceilings and decorations that are classic yet chic. Opened in 1990, it was the area’s first luxury accommodation, setting a high standard for five-star accommodation around Koh Samet.