Pattaya Beach and the nearby beaches on the mainland are not exactly worth cheering. Fortunately, you can find much better beaches on Koh Larn, also known as Coral Island, which lays a short boat ride from Pattaya.
Koh Larn offers four popular beaches as well as some less known beaches to visit if you want to have the beach all to yourself. You can easily explore the island to find the beach best suited you; Koh Larn is only 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) long and 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) wide at the widest point.
There are two ferry services from Pattaya to Koh Larn; one to Naban and one to Tawaen Beach.
Naban is the only city on Koh Larn, situated on the east coast of the island. In Naban, you will find plenty of shops where you can buy beach toys, refreshments, etc. You will even find a 7-Eleven here. There is no beach near Naban; however, you can easily get to the beaches by taking a motorcycle taxi, a songthaew, or you can rent a scooter and drive yourself.
Tawaen Beach lies on the west coast of Koh Larn; thus, it takes 15 minutes more to get here than to Naban. Here, you do not have to arrange transportation to get to the beach; it is only a short walk from the ferry. The easy access to the beach is the reason why Tawaen Beach by far is the most visited beach on Koh Larn. Along the beach, you will find stalls offering you refreshments and beach toys.
If you want to visit Tawaen Beach, then take the ferry to Tawaen Beach. If you want to visit any of the other beaches or several beaches, then take the ferry to Naban. You can read more about timetables for the ferries and about transport on the island farther down the page.
The beaches on Koh Larn are all great tropical beaches with fine white sand and crystal clear water. Another thing the beaches have in common is that you can rent sun loungers here as well as deckchairs. While sun loungers have disappeared from many beaches in Thailand since the coup in 2014, Koh Larn seems to be outside the reach of the junta. The price to rent a sun loungers is 100 baht while the price for a deckchair is 50 baht.
It is possible to rent jet skis at some of the beaches on Koh Larn. You should be aware that lessors of jet skis have a bad reputation in Phuket as well as in Pattaya; they are known to scam tourists to pay for old damages. You should never rent a jet ski in Phuket or Pattaya! I have not heard of any jet ski scams on Koh Larn, but you should probably be careful, and you should inspect the jet ski for damages before you rent; it would probably be a good idea to take some snapshots too.
Below, you can read about the four most popular beaches on Koh Larn. If you decide to explore the island yourself, you will find more beaches.
Tawaen Beach is approximately 600 meters (650 yards) long; it is the longest and the most crowded beach on Koh Larn. The ferry berth on the west (left) side of the beach; in addition, there is heavy traffic of speedboats bringing guests to the beach. Jet skis provide more traffic and noise. Among the guests at the beach, you will find many local residents of Pattaya, especially on weekends.
If you are looking for peace and tranquillity, Tawaen Beach is not the beach to visit. The photo below is somewhat misleading. I took the photo on a weekday in the low season; in addition, the weather was not at its best that day.
Behind the beach, you will find stalls selling souvenirs and beach toys; you will also find plenty of restaurants here. It is possible to get the food delivered to your sun loungers at the beach. The beach slopes gently into the sea, thus it is suitable even for small children.
Nural Beach is my preferred beach among the popular beaches on Koh Larn. Here, it is relatively peaceful, although speedboats do arrive with guests here too. There are no stalls selling beach toys at the beach, thus if you need beach toys, you should buy them in Naban or Pattaya. There are a few restaurants behind the beach.
Nural Beach lies in a bay on Koh Larn's southern tip. Here, the sides of the bay provide protection against the waves resulting in calmer water than at the other beaches on Koh Larn. You may be able to catch a glimpse of the monkeys living on the mountain slopes next to the beach.
Samae Beach, with its more than 500 meters (550 yards), is the second longest beach on Koh Larn. It is also the island's green beach. At the northern end, you will find a large solar panel; and at the southern end, you will find a few wind turbines. There are some restaurants behind the beach, where you can buy food and refreshments. It is possible to get deliveries from the restaurants to your spot on the beach.
Samae Beach is the second most popular beach on Koh Larn after Tawaen Beach. Here you will find jet skis to rent and banana boats to ride.
Tien Beach is located just north of Samae Beach on the west side of Koh Larn. Here you will find a few stalls selling beach toys and restaurants where you can buy food and refreshments. The water is crystal clear and the sand is fine; although there are some pebbles on the first part of the beach.
To get to Tien Beach, you must follow a walkway around a headland.
There are a handful of viewpoints on Koh Larn; although you may not get much of a view because trees and bushes block the view. The view from the viewpoint near Naban is fine, though. From here, you have a nice view of Pattaya and Jomtien Beach.
Getting to Koh Larn
You can take one of the two ferries from Bali Hai Pier in Pattaya to Koh Larn, or you can take a speedboat that is slightly faster, more uncomfortable, and much more expensive. Taking the ferry will cost you 30 baht, taking a speedboat will cost you from 150 baht and up. The speedboat can bring you directly to the desired beach; however, if there are no other passengers to share the fare, you should expect a significantly higher price for the trip.
You will find a ticket booth for the ferry in the building next to the pier; however, you do not need to buy a ticket here; instead, you can pay when you board the ferry.
As of November 2016:
The ferry to Naban departs from Pattaya 7:00, 10:00, 12:00, 14:00, 15:30, 17:00, and 18:30 (7, 10, 12 AM and 2, 3:30, 5, 6:30 PM). The trip takes about 30 minutes. The ferry back to Pattaya departs from Naban 6:30, 7:30, 9:30, 12:00, 14:00, 15:00, 16:00, 17:00, and 18:00. (6:30, 7:30, 9:30, 12 AM and 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 PM)
The ferry to Tawaen Beach departs from Pattaya 8:00, 9:00, 11:00, and 13:00 (8, 9, 11 AM and 1 PM). The trip takes about 45 minutes. The ferry back to Pattaya departs from Tawaen Beach 13:00, 14:00, 15:00, 16:00, and 17:00 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5 PM).
Getting around on Koh Larn
If you arrive at Tawaen Beach, you do not need transportation as the beach is next to the pier. If you want to visit other beaches on Koh Larn, you are better off taking the ferry to Naban.
You can take a motorcycle taxi to the desired beach, or you can take a tour to the various beaches before you decide where you want to stay. Typically, it will cost 50 baht to any of the beaches, while a tour to all of them all will cost 300-400 baht. Please note that the price is per person! You do not need to look for a motorcycle taxi; they will find you.
Another possibility is to take a songthaew. When you arrive at Naban, go up to the road and turn left. A bit down the road, opposite the temple, you will find a large stand with songthaews to the various beaches. The price is between 30 and 50 baht.
Finally, you can rent a scooter, which will give you much more freedom to explore the island. The price is 200-300 baht for a day, and that includes gasoline. The last time I checked, the price was 200 baht in Naban and 300 baht in Tawaen Beach – this is another reason to take the ferry to Naban if you want to explore the island.
The roads are not difficult to drive, although there are some steep climbs and hairpin bends. Even beginners can figure out how to drive here, that is if they drive carefully and do not just go full speed.
However, in the high season, you will meet other drivers that do not drive carefully, which increases the risk of accidents considerably. In addition, virtually no one is using a helmet, which makes even accidents at low-speed dangerous. If you rent a scooter, do yourself a favour and ask for a helmet; the lessor will probably not offer one unless you ask.
The vast majority of the visitors to Koh Larn are day tourists, who arrive in the morning and leave in the afternoon. However, it is possible to find accommodation on the island if you want to spend more time here.
You can find a list of hotels on Koh Larn at the booking service Agoda.