Top 5 family-friendly places to visit in Thailand
Meaning ‘Elephant Island’ in English, Ko Chang is one of the largest islands in the Gulf of Thailand and the country’s second largest after Phuket. The island interior is densely forested, while its coast is edged with a string of white-sand beaches. A coastal road running around the island links a range of resorts and hotels offering accommodation to suit families, and most budgets. The water is calm and the sandy beaches offer plenty of inviting spots to swim, stroll or relax under a shady palm tree. Hat Khlong Phrao is is one of the quietest, with a lovely long sweep of sand and gentle waves. There’s an estuary which is home to some characterful stilt homes and seafood restaurants and it’s easy to rent kayaks along the beach to paddle upriver. Kayak Chang offers a range of courses and expeditions, while several other companies organize excursions to explore the island’s jungle interior and swim at waterfalls. To the south of the island, the Treetop Adventure Park offers fun jungle activities suitable for all ages, with swings, rope ladders and trapezes – everyone gets a training session and full safety harness before tackling the courses.
Tropical beach on Ko Chang, Thailand. Photo: Song_about_summer/Shutterstock
In the mountainous north of the country, Chiang Mai is the largest city and the perfect place to experience Thai urban life, but with considerably less crowds and traffic than in the capital Bangkok. The people in Chiang Mai are famously easygoing and the city itself is known for its relaxed pace of life. In Chiang Mai, children can soak up Thai culture and learn a little about the history of Thailand in their own time. Encompassed by emerald green hills, the city is for the main part flat and its roads are relatively quiet and pleasant to explore. A visit to the Chiang Mai National Museum offers an insight on Thailand’s cultural history, while the Highland People Discovery Museum provides a valuable introduction to the country’s hill tribes – especially interesting if you plan to visit a local village.
Chiang Mai Zoo makes a great day out for families, with residents including pandas, orangutans and elephants, as well as an aquarium and a seal show. Chiang Mai offers an impressive range of trekking opportunities, and older children might like to take part in river rafting, jungle canopy tours or mountain biking, all of which are offered by tour operators such as Siam River Adventures.
Thai country hill tribe woman, near Chiang Mai. Photo: Shutterstock
Thailand’s longest established beach resort, Hua Hin was formerly a sleepy fishing village. From the 1920s onwards it became a popular vacation destination, when the middle classes of Bangkok began arriving to escape the heat of high summer. Hua Hin’s long, sandy beach is lined with upmarket hotels including several all-inclusive, resorts such as Hua Hin Marriott Resort & Spa and Hua Hin Hilton Resort & Spa. Both offer kids’ clubs, children’s menus, and spacious outdoor pools where you can relax on a sun lounger as the kids have fun, making them among the best family-friendly places to visit in Thailand.
Beach sports such as football and volleyball, are popular on Hua Hin beach and a range of water sports are available, from snorkeling to kiteboarding. Aside from the beach, popular day trips from Hua Hin include the scenic Pa La-U Waterfall and wildlife-rich Kaeng Krachan National Park, while the Vana Nava Water Jungle Park offers waterslides and multiple outdoor pools just minutes away from the beach.
Pavilion in Phraya Nakorn cave near Hua Hin, Thailand. Photo: S-F/Shutterstock
Located in the province of Krabi, Ko Lanta is a 25km-long island with a fine selection of relaxing beachfront resorts and accommodation. The island itself boasts some of the cleanest, quietest beaches in the south of Thailand, and the water is shallow and calm, ideal for young children to swim in. Hat Khlong Dao on the island's west coast is the best beach for families. There is plentiful mid-range accommodation, the broad sweep of soft sand is protected by headlands making it safe for swimming, and there is good snorkeling at the northern end of the beach, off the small peninsula. If you are feeling adventurous, you can take a long-tail boat excursion to one of the many uninhabited nearby islands, or take a day trip to Mu Ko Lanta National Park in the south of the island to explore its beaches, mangrove swamps and jungle trails.
Traditional Thai long-tail boat. Photo: Patrick Foto/Shutterstock
Much smaller and quieter than the neighboring island of Ko Phangan, Ko Tao is similar to Ko Lanta, but less developed. With just a handful of resorts, Ko Tao is better suited to those traveling with teenagers. In addition to the idyllic tropical setting, the main draw here is scuba-diving, with a wonderful variety of dive sites in close proximity. Some hotels on the island offer diving courses as part of any accommodation deal, but for those who don’t fancy diving on Ko Tao, the island gets even quieter in the daytime, as many travelers are out on diving trips. The whole island can easily be explored over a couple of days – be sure to hike up the hill trail to John-Suwan Viewpoint for sweeping views of the verdant scenery and the island's coastline.
Buddhist temple on a mountain with jungle in the background, Ko Phangan, Thailand. Photo: Daniel Machacek/Shutterstock
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