Extreme Nomads’ Guide to Adventure & Outdoor Sports in Hua Hin
Perched on the western side of the Gulf of Thailand, Hua Hin is a coastal city known best for its vast sandy beach and swanky seaside resorts.
Once just a quiet fishing town, Hua Hin’s popularity as a holiday destination exploded in the early 1920’s when Thailand’s King at the time, Vajiravudh (Rama VI), chose Hua Hin as the location to build a stunning teak palace that he and the royal family would then use as a summer home.
Nowadays, Hua Hin is developing fast. The past decade has seen the city shift from being a low-key coastal getaway spot for Bangkok’s city dwellers to a mini-metropolis in its own right. A popular spot for young and old alike, Hua Hin draws a mixed bag of traveling nomads- from fresh-faced English teachers, to retirees, to the wandering water sports tribe.
Upon first glance of the congested traffic and boulevard rammed with shops and restaurants, it’s easy to pass quick judgement and write it off as just another city in the throes of awkward developments. But peel back the veneer and you’ll soon find that Hua Hin’s blustery kitesurfing beach, buzzing wake park, and misty mountain biking trails bring an energetic and edgy vibe to the city.
Internet in Hua Hin
The internet in Hua Hin averages 41 Mbps download and 8.5 Mbps (see here). Predictably, the strength and consistency of the internet in Hua Hin tends to drop the further you go from the city center (with the exception of residences and businesses that have already installed their own fiber optics, which is becoming more and more common now). The top broadband and WiFi providers for internet in Hua Hin are 3BB (also known as TT&T), TOT, and True.
SIM cards are widely available in corner shops, 7/11, and from local telecom vendors. 4G in Thailand averages 9 Mb/s as measured by a recent (November 2017) state of mobile networks in Thailand (see report). It is in line with the Asia-Pacific region average of 9.69 Mb/s. The top 3 mobile providers in Thailand are Truemove, AIS and Dtac. See a full guide on Thailand’s SIM card options here.
Best Outdoor Sports In Hua Hin
Kitesurfing in Hua Hin
Hua Hin is one of the most popular- if not the most popular- place for kiteboarding in Thailand. The Hua Hin kitesurfing scene has developed quite quickly over the past 10 years or so, and now, the 7km kitesurfing beach is home to half a dozen kiteboarding schools. As well as the Hua Hin kiteboarding beach, you can head off on epic downwinders to nearby spots like Pak Nam Pran, depending on the season and wind direction.
Best time to go kitesurfing in Hua Hin:
There are two seasons for kitesurfing in Hua Hin. The first is the northeast monsoon season which runs from November-January, followed by the thermal season from February-April.
Conditions for kitesurfing in Hua Hin:
Wind strength: The strength of the wind for kitesurfing in Hua Hin varies from season to season. During the monsoon, you can expect 15-25 knots of dense, sometimes gusty wind blowing side-on. The thermal season brings a more predictable 12-20 knots (also side-onshore).
Water conditions: During the monsoon season, the water conditions for kiteboarding in Hua Hin are choppy and rough. During the thermal season, the chop out on the open water becomes much smaller and milder, while inside the small beachside lagoons, the water is calm and flat. The only real “danger” when it comes to the water is the jellyfish; they tend to appear in high numbers for days/weeks at a time and can be a bit of a nuisance to kitesurfers. Thankfully, a light rash vest, thin leggings, or a spring suit are enough to protect against them.
Temperature: Thanks to Thailand’s tropical climate, the water temperature hovers around 28 degrees Celsius throughout the year. During the dry winter season, temperatures rarely drop below 20 degrees and tend to stay nearer to 25 on average. In the summer, you can expect highs of 30-34 degrees. In case you haven’t guessed it yet: no wetsuit needed when kitesurfing in Hua Hin.
Beach: The beach for kitesurfing in Hua Hin is spacious, sandy, and free from obstacles. The beach runs for several kilometers along the coast and is easily accessible from the city center. All you need to do is take any one of the small streets leading off the main road in the city and head east on foot (5-10 minutes) or in a tuk-tuk/taxi (2 minutes).
Kitesurfing schools in Hua Hin:
There are currently 6 kiteboarding schools in Hua Hin; 4 from KBA (Kiteboarding Asia), one from North Kiteboarding Club, and our personal recommendation, Surf Spot Hua Hin. The schools are well equipped to deal with customers needing gear rental, storage, rescue services, and lessons. Surf Spot is definitely worth checking out, since they’ve recently upgraded their club to include a gym, a cafe, and a digital nomad friendly working space.
Tips for beginners kitesurfing in Hua Hin:
If you’re thinking about learning kiteboarding in Hua Hin, you should note that the wind during the thermal season is much more predictable and easier to learn in than that of the monsoon season. On top of that, the mellow water conditions will make getting up on the board for the first time miles easier. Beginners should think about coming kitesurfing in Hua Hin during March/April as these are the months with the best overall conditions. Make sure you book lessons with a qualified IKO instructor.
Wakeboarding in Hua Hin
Thailand is at the forefront of the Asian wakeboarding scene, with a dozen or more super fun cable parks throughout the country- a handful of which are world-class. Lucky enough for any nomads hoping to do some wakeboarding in Hua Hin, the city is home to a pretty saucy full sized cable park, Black Mountain Wake Park.
Best time to go wakeboarding in Hua Hin:
Black Mountain is open all year round, so you can go wakeboarding in Hua Hin at any time. Visiting in the summer is, if anything, the quieter time to do so, since the wakeboarding parks in Thailand are popular winter hangouts for European riders who come over to train when their own local cables close down for the season.
Cable wakeboarding in Hua Hin:
Black Mountain is a full sized Rixen cable with an 800 meter long counter clockwise run. With two kickers and a handful of sliders, including an A-frame and a pipe, the cable can accommodate up to 8 riders at a time. Open from 10.00-17.00 daily, you can buy a pass for a couple of hours, a day, a week, or a month if you plan on sticking around a little longer.
Tips for beginners for wakeboarding in Hua Hin:
Wakeboarding is an easy sport to pick up- even if you’ve never so much as stepped on any kind of board before. Try going wakeboarding in Hua Hin during off-peak hours (usually the morning time) if you feel like doing a few test runs before the crowds arrive. There’s always an instructor present who’ll be able to give some light coaching and supply you with beginner-friendly boards and safety equipment. They also offer jetski rescue services if you crash in the middle of the lake.
Hiking in Hua Hin
Hua Hin has been built on a rather flat area, but outside of the bustling city limits, there are plenty of steep forested mountains and easy-going hills that make hiking in Hua Hin (and the surrounding area) an awesome outdoor activity.
Best time to go hiking in Hua Hin:
You can go hiking in Hua Hin almost all year round, though during the rainy season (which runs around late June and runs through October) the hiking trails can become slick with mud, which poses some danger. The best time of year to go hiking in Hua Hin is between November and March. April and May aren’t generally very rainy, but temperatures start to soar around this time, which isn’t ideal for long hikes.
Best places to go hiking in Hua Hin:
Wat Khao Takiap: In just 15 minutes by car or motorbike, you can reach one of the best- and closest- trails for hiking in Hua Hin. Khao Takiab sits just south of the city center, jutting out of the coastline slightly and overlooking the beautiful waters of the Gulf of Thailand.
The thickly forested mountain offers a moderately challenging hike to the top, marked out with a well-trodden trail and a series of stairs that lead to a small temple near the peak. Once there, you’ll be greeted by hundreds of wild monkeys (they’re used to human contact and are totally friendly and tame- although they have been known to ransack the odd backpack if it’s left unattended). The view from the top offers an impressive look at the Gulf, countryside, and background cityscape.
Khao Hin Lek Fai: As well as being one of Hua Hin’s best mountain biking trails, Khao Hin Lek Fai is also a great place to do some hiking in Hua Hin. Conveniently located just 10 minutes to the west of the city center, Khao Hin Lek Fai offers 3 km of winding hiking trails through the breezy, forested hills- home to dozens of wild peacocks. The trails fork off in different directions, making it possible to find yourself at both southerly and northerly facing peaks- each of which offer different views.
Sam Roi Yot National Park: Sam Roi Yot (which we can translate to English as 300 peaks) sits about 40 km south of Hua Hin. As the name suggests, the region is chock a block with mountain peaks, many of which have their own designated hiking trails. Though it’s quite a bit further away, Sam Roi Yot is easily the most beautiful spot for hiking in Hua Hin and the surrounding area.
The best hikes in Sam Roi Yot include the challenging hour-long climb up Khao Deng and the incredible 90 minute trek up to the peak at Phraya Nakhon Cave, with its magical Buddhist temple set inside the cavern. Early morning is the best time to do the latter; aim to arrive at the cave by 9.30 AM to catch the sun’s rays shining through the top of the cavern and lighting up the temple.
Conditions for hiking in Hua Hin:
Most of the trails for hiking in Hua Hin and the surrounding area are well-trodden and clearly marked, so they’re very easy to tackle yourself without a guide. The terrain is a mix of dirt, fallen leaves, and some rocks. In some cases, such as the Khao Deng hike, there are sections where you need to do some vertical climbing up steep rocky faces. While it’s nothing the average fit person can’t manage, it may be difficult for young children, elderly, or people with reduced mobility. As mentioned above, the condition of the trails for hiking in Hua Hin deteriorates during periods of heavy rainfall, so it’s best not to go up the mountain until things dry out somewhat.
Cycling & Mountain Biking in Hua Hin
Mountain biking in Hua Hin has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years. There are several schools and clubs operating in the area, working hard to maintain trails in the jungle-clad mountains just outside of the city. On top of that, Hua Hin is often used as a tour stop for the Loose Riders Gravity Series, making downhill mountain biking in Hua Hin especially popular.
Most of the downhill mountain biking trails in Hua Hin have been forged up in the hills to the west of the downtown area, reachable after little more than a 15 minute bike ride from the city center.
As well as downhill mountain biking, there are also plenty of opportunities for cross-country and enduro mountain biking in Hua Hin, too.
Best time to go mountain biking in Hua Hin:
It’s possible to go mountain biking in Hua Hin at most times of the year, although there are short periods during the rainy season (July-October) when the trails become slick with mud from all the downpour. Before planning a trip at that time of year, we advise contacting one of the local schools to find out the current condition of the trails for mountain biking in Hua Hin.
Best place to go mountain biking in Hua Hin:
Khao Hin Lek Fai (otherwise known as Mount Radar) is the most popular peak for downhill mountain biking in Hua Hin. Apart from the giant telecom towers at the top of the hill, the mountain is covered in rugged forest and wildlife- a far cry from the traffic and flashy shops of the city, just a few kilometers away.
Mount Radar boasts a modest collection of half a dozen trails, including the hairraising ICU Downhill Trail and the tamer Sen Bon (Upper) Trail. The ICU is fast, steep, and short (less than 1 kilometer) with a smattering of rock gardens. Meanwhile, Sen Bon is somewhat milder (although in parts, more technical) and offers one of the longer runs for mountain biking in Hua Hin.
Conditions for mountain biking in Hua Hin:
Downhill: fast, steep mountain trails with technical rock gardens
Cross-country & enduro: on and off-road; trails and tours lead past the beachfront, fruit plantations, coastal mountains, and Sam Roi Yot National Park.
Top tours & companies for mountain biking in Hua Hin:
Velo Bike Shop Hua Hin: With another HQ in Bangkok, these guys are one of the most renowned shops to rent or buy gear for mountain biking in Hua Hin. They stock a full arsenal of GT and TREK mountain bikes which they rent out to customers looking to tackle any of the local trails. They maintain 3 downhill trails in the area and also operate a number of cross-country and enduro tours for mountain biking in Hua Hin, too.
Hua Hin Bike Tours: Rated number one on TripAdvisor in the category of tours for mountain biking in Hua Hin, they organise a mix of half-day, day, and multi-day mountain biking tours in Hua Hin and the surrounding countryside. Their tours are ideal for beginners, families, and travelers keen to see the local sights from a fresh perspective.
See this complete listing for additional contacts and shops for mountain biking in Hua Hin.
Tips for beginners when mountain biking in Hua Hin:
If you’re planning on doing some sightseeing in the countryside or taking on a 2-wheeled cross-country adventure, you don’t need to worry about much. There are dedicated bicycle lanes along most of the country roads, and outside of the city center, traffic really isn’t a threat. Now, if you’re planning on trying your hand at some enduro or downhill, the easiest and safest way to get started is by hooking up with a local tour company. They’ll be able to offer full guidance, advice, and safety equipment.
Where to stay in Hua Hin
Being the fast-growing city that it is, there are tons of options when it comes to finding places to stay in Hua Hin. As is the case with most developing cities, you can choose to spend as little or as much as you like when looking for accommodation in Hua Hin- depending on the standard and style of lodgings that you’re looking for.
At the most basic end of the spectrum, you can rent a room out in a local guest house in Hua Hin for as little as $10/night. For this price, you can expect to have free WiFi and a very basic, small space. For as little as $5/night you can get a bed in a dorm room in any one of Hua Hin’s backpacker hostels. Definitely a good option for short term travelers on a budget, but if you plan on staying longer term, you’ll likely want to splash out a little more on a larger, more comfortable space.
Meanwhile, short term travelers looking for a little luxury will do well to check out any of Hua Hin’s high-end international resorts, such as the Intercontinental. Booking.com has a huge selection of well-priced guest houses, hostels, and hotels in Hua Hin.
Medium and long term travelers should definitely consider looking into apartment rentals in Hua Hin. AirBnB has hundreds of listings in Hua Hin- many of which are located conveniently downtown or next to the beach.
Coworking Spaces in Hua Hin
Coworking Space Hua Hin is the only official coworking space in the city. It’s located 4 km outside of the city center in the direction of the famous Cicada Market (more on that in the next section).
Open since November 2017, Coworking Space Hua Hin is equipped with printers, scanners, working desks, private meeting rooms, and their WiFi speeds measure in at a cool 100 Mbps. They also offer restaurant, coffee, and bakery services. Guests can purchase a hourly (equivalent $4.50 USD), daily ($7.50), weekly ($42), or monthly ($105) pass for Coworking Space Hua Hin.
Markets & Food in Hua Hin
For your everyday bits and bobs (household products, drinks, snacks, and so on), pop into any local corner store (you can’t throw a stone without hitting a 7/11 in these parts, so this should be easy). For big grocery shopping trips, Tesco Lotus is the place to go. For cheap, bulk buys, go to Macro just outside the city center. For imported products, you’ll want Villa Market on the main road or Gourmet Market in the BluPort shopping center.
The eating out culture is big here. And the really good news? There’s so much choice; not just Thai food, but flavours from around the world- American burgers and grills, Italian, Japanese sushi, Indian curries, and more. We definitely recommend checking out Hua Hin Vegan Cafe. Their potato pancakes and cauliflower buffalo ‘wings’ are the best!
As is typical in Thailand, street food is totally a way of life in Hua Hin. Head down any of the smaller streets off the main boulevard and you’ll find someone frying, steaming, or grilling up something delicious. Keep an eye out for the popcorn lady; she makes chocolate covered popcorn that’ll rock your world.
In terms of Hua Hin’s markets, your stay in the city wouldn’t be complete without checking out the famous Cicada night market. Held during the weekends, the market kicks off at sunset and hosts a hodgepodge of local vendors selling not just food, but crafts, artwork, fashion, vintage products, and more. Apart from Cicada, there are scads of other smaller night markets in Hua Hin that take place on different nights all over the city, including the Chatchai Market and Chatsila Market.
How to get to & around Hua Hin
It’s mercifully simple to get to Hua Hin, which is likely one of the reasons it’s become such a popular holiday destination for so many.
Hua Hin has its own international airport, though as of right now, there are very few flights operating in and out. If you come up short with direct flights, your best option is to go from Bangkok to Hua Hin. Just fly into Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport and, from there, take the luxury coach directly from the arrivals terminal to Hua Hin (it costs the equivalent of $8 USD and takes around 3.5 hours).
Alternatively, you can take the train or public bus from Bangkok city center or a private vehicle (which is the fastest option and will set you back roughly $70).
Once in Hua Hin, it’s easy to get around via public transport. Taxis and tuk-tuks are also widely available and fairly affordable. That said, if you plan on staying in Hua Hin a little longer, you’ll probably find you have the most flexibility if you rent a motorbike/scooter.
Rentals are extremely easy to come by (just walk down the main street and you’ll see plenty of signs), and local competition keeps prices between vendors pretty similar. Expect to pay $70-100/month for a motorbike rental in Hua Hin.