July 22, 2024

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What Makes Pattaya, Thailand a Family Friendly Destination

7 min read

Thailand’s Pattaya is all grown up.

Thailand’s Pattaya is finally outgrowing its reputation as a city of sin, arguably transforming itself into one of Southeast Asia’s most underrated family destinations. Brimming with water parks, golf courses, fine beaches, ocean sports, theme parks, indoor play centers, alluring markets, and family-focused resorts, Pattaya now offers far more than Red Light Districts.

In recent years, I have traveled to Pattaya with my wife and young son and have found the city to eclipse Hua Hin as the best family beach resort town within striking distance of Bangkok, which is just 90 miles north. It has a wider variety of kids’ attractions than Hua Hin and is less than a four-hour round trip drive from downtown Bangkok, compared to the six hours for Hua Hin.

This proximity to the Thai capital is crucial. According to a Mastercard report, Bangkok was the world’s most visited city in 2023, yet most travelers think they must fly from Bangkok to reach a beach getaway like Phuket or Koh Samui, when they’re actually just a short drive from a great alternative in Pattaya.

My Bangkok-born-and-raised wife told me that this city has been popular with Thai families for decades. When we took our four-year-old son on holiday in Pattaya again this January, locals far outnumbered foreigners at every kids’ attraction we visited. Here’s a list of this city’s best family-friendly attractions and hotels.

Courtesy of Ramayana

Ramayana Water Park

“I want to live here,” my son Aidan remarked hilariously after he made his 20th descent of the slides at Ramayana Water Park. My child self would have felt the same way about this giant complex of 21 slides, three pools, two kids zones, and a “lazy river,” located 20km south of Pattaya.

Upon arrival, Aidan moved like a blur to Ramayana’s main children’s area. Its focal point is a towering, playground-like structure, with staircases crisscrossing to six main water slides of varying speeds and heights, catering to various ages.

My wife and I took turns looking after him here and in the nearby wave pool while the other darted away to experience Ramayana’s more extreme rides. They include the intimidating Free Fall, which begins with a sheer drop, the blazing-fast Aqua Loop, and the 240m-long Acqua Coaster.

For a large, modern water park, Ramayana is very cheap. Entry is free for children who are 106cm or shorter—that corresponds to about four years old or younger. Anyone taller than that pays just USD $20 for full-day access.

Courtesy of Avani Hotels

Avani Pattaya Resort

Any parent who’s traveled with young kids knows that keeping them occupied during outings isn’t sufficient. To maximize your children’s enjoyment of a trip and minimize your stress, it’s hugely helpful if your hotel offers kid-friendly activities.

Facing Pattaya Beach and near the city’s buzzing night market, Avani Pattaya Resort fits the bill. Avani’s family suites (from USD $350 per night) have a parent’s bedroom connected to a kids’ room decorated with whimsical murals and equipped with toys.

Young guests will cherish Avani’s outdoor play area, with games like cornhole and ping pong under the shade of towering trees. They can also conquer the water slide of its vast swimming pool and take Japanese cooking classes at Avani’s on-site Benihana. This restaurant’s delicious steak, prawns, and crabs are cooked live before guests in a theatrical manner that will keep kids engaged.

Avani also offers breakfast and dinner buffets, where children can gorge on pancakes, pastries, cereals, and fresh fruits, and parents on grilled prawn, crab, and steak, Thai noodle soups, omelets, pastrami beef, Indian cuisine, and Halal dishes. While one parent supervises at the kids’ zone or swimming pool, the other can peel away to shed stress during a massage at Avani Spa.

Courtesy of Avani Hotels

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Pattaya

Connected to Avani is Royal Garden Plaza, a modern mall laden with souvenir shops, local boutiques, art galleries, and an appealing family attraction: Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Pattaya. This US franchise is famed for its museums, which focus on the oddities of our world.

Such a museum anchors this facility in Pattaya, showcasing bizarre items like a Titanic replica made from one million matchsticks. It is one of eight attractions within Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Pattaya. My wife and I enjoyed the adrenaline rush of its three haunted houses while our boy stayed outside, supervised by his grandmother. Then we took him to watch cartoons in the 9DX cinema, shake hands with Mr. Bean at Louis Tussaud’s Waxworks, engage in comical combat at the Vault Lazer Maze Challenge, and navigate the optical illusions of the Infinity Maze.

Courtesy of Centara Grand Mirage Beach Resort Pattaya

MEGA HarborLand Pattaya

Good quality outdoor playgrounds are very rare in Thailand. Even when we managed to unearth one, our little boy was quickly exhausted due to the ferocity of the Thai sun, which is why indoor play centers are so valuable in this country. Occupying 12,000 sqm, MEGA HarborLand Pattaya claims to be one of the top five largest indoor play centers in Asia. This doesn’t seem like an exaggeration once you enter this colossal kids’ wonderland and discover it has ten different zones.

In addition to a traditional play center – filled with slides, bouncy castles, and climbing games – it has a roller skating rink, trampoline park, laser battle arena, rock climbing facility, toddler zone, cycling area, go-kart racing, zip line course, and amusement park.

That giant attraction is inside Harbor Pattaya shopping center, and there’s a smaller HarborLand in the nearby Terminal 21 mall. Still a large facility with 1,500 square meters of play space, HarborLand can easily occupy children for half a day. My son spent three hours savoring its slides, trampolines, swings, ball pits, taboggans, and climbing frames. Both these HarborLands are inside modern malls, so parents can take turns shopping while the other one supervises their kid.

Ronan O’Connell

Centara Grand Mirage Beach Resort

Families who’d love to stay in one location for their entire Pattaya holiday can do that at Centara Grand Mirage Resort. This colossal, five-star property is like a self-contained town built for kids. It has a playground, amusement park, indoor kids club, trampoline zone, water park, zip line facility, rock climbing wall, cinema room, arts and crafts studio, and cooking classes.

As if that wasn’t sufficient, it also has an exclusive Zulu Family Lounge with games and a huge indoor slide. Centara Grand Mirage Beach Resort has 555 rooms, including spacious 78sqm Club Mirage Family Suites, which have two queen beds in one room and bunk beds in a connected children’s room. They cost $516 a night, including buffet breakfast.

All Centara’s rooms and suites overlook its 230m-long private beach in the quiet North Pattaya area. On that clean strip of sand, Centara offers family water sports, from kayaking to snorkeling and water polo. Then, each evening, it caters to young and old tastebuds alike with its Extravaganza Buffet. Grilled crab, prawns, and steak are complemented by fresh-made pasta, pizza, and Thai delicacies, as well as an assortment of cakes to satisfy sweet-toothed children.

Columbia Pictures Aquaverse

My heart pounded as my son pushed me away and disappeared solo down a towering water slide. I peered down from the top of the kid’s zone structure in Columbia Pictures Aquaverse, nervously waiting for him to burst out of the end of this ride.

When he did, Aidan stood up, yelled joyfully, and gave me a grinning thumbs up. He had a blast throughout our father-and-son visit to this impressive facility 25 minutes south of Pattaya, which charges $40 entry per person or $140 for a family of four.

After trying each of the eight slides in its kid zone at least twice, we moved to the artificial wave pool to ride inflatable tubes. Then Aidan watched me fall over multiple times on the FlowRider surfing attraction. He was slightly too short to go on the more thrilling rides like the Slimer Speed Racer, Ghost Trap Adventure, and Proton Stream, which is fine because we’ll certainly be returning to Pattaya soon.

Ronan O’Connell

Beaches, Temples, Markets, and Golf

Pattaya Beach is enormous, stretching for about 3 kilometers (almost 2 miles). While its southern half is messy and crowded, families can find clean sand and warm waters in its northern section, at nearby Wong Amat Beach further north, or on sections of Jomtien Beach to the south. This latter area also hosts the small but enjoyable Pattaya Water Park, with multiple pools, slides, and playgrounds.

Families can secure keepsakes by taking group photos at the hilltop lookout in South Pattaya, which offers stunning views across the city and coast. Pair this with a visit to the adjacent, photogenic Big Buddha Temple to teach your children about Thailand’s chief religion while you admire its massive, gilded statue of Buddha.

Pattaya also has abundant markets. Head to Pattaya Night Bazaar for a lively atmosphere, stacked with stalls selling Thai handicrafts and cheap souvenirs, clothes, hats, shoes, and bags. Meanwhile, Mike Shopping Mall offers similar products and prices but in air-conditioned comfort, making it especially appealing in the daytime heat.

Golf-loving parents will be seduced by Pattaya, which has more than a dozen golf courses within a 45-minute drive. Many five-star hotels here offer babysitting services so mum and dad can dart off for a quick 18 holes. The easiest way to organize a round at elite Pattaya courses like Chee Chan, Phoenix Gold, and Siam Country Club is by downloading the Deemples golf bookings app on your phone.

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