The beach resort of Pattaya is about 190 kilometers from Bangkok, making it the closest place to the big city, and its big airport, where you can find some diving. I'm told the diving here is not as good as other places in Thailand, but it does seem to have the highest density of potential wreck dive sites, if you're into that sort of thing, or want to be.
Pattaya's rather idyllic beaches first started attracting visitors in the 1950s. Later, it became very popular as an "R & R" destination for American servicemen during the Vietnam war. This beget a rather sleazy "industry" to service the servicemen, if you'll pardon the expression. Pattaya is still trying to shake off that image, with only limited success.
Still, the area does boast several nice hotels in every price range, as well as many good restaurants to try, and you can easily avoid the more honky-tonk side of town. See the full Pattaya travel guide at ThailandForVisitors.com for all the details.
Pattaya Dive Destinations
The dive destinations around Pattaya can be divided into three areas:
- A group of inner islands, the largest of which is Koh Larn, which is popular with day-tripping snorkelers. There are several dive sites around the islands, although currents can be quite strong at all of them.
- A second group of six outer islands about 17 kilometers offshore. Currents here are generally much milder than at the inner islands. Just off the east coast of the most northerly of these islands, Koh Phai, is the "wreck" of the HTMS Khram, formerly the USS LSM 469. I put wreck in quotes because the ship was sunk on purpose, and specially prepared to be diver-friendly.
- The last dive area is well south of Pattaya, around the Samaesan peninsula. Among the dives in this area is another wreck, the World War II era Harddeep.
For a good resource on the airea dive sites, visit Pattaya-Scuba.net.
Getting to Pattaya
Getting to Pattaya comfortably can be a little bit of a challenge. There is an airport, but it is so far from the city that flying there from Bangkok will take much longer than drving there. In the end, about the only practical way of getting to Pattaya is by road, which will generally take around two hours. The cheap road option is by bus, which can be a very easy and convenient way of getting around Thailand. Buses leave Bangkok's Eastern Bus Terminal (Skytrain Ekamai station) on a very frequent schedule. Be sure to get the express bus, operated by Roong Reuang. They take the expressway and make only a couple of stops, at most, between Bangkok and Pattaya.
You can also get a bus to Pattaya directly from the Bangkok Airport. The Airport-Pattaya Bus Service is also operated by Roong Reuang. Buses depart from the airport terminal, on the first floor near doors 7 and 8, and go all the way to Jomtien. On the return trip, buses take you directly to the departure level of the airport. Cost of the trip is 124 Baht (about US$4) in either direction.
The most comfortable way to go is by private transfer service. You can usually arrange this through your Bangkok hotel. If you're staying at a place that has it's own property in Pattaya, and you're staying there as well, they may have a low-cost shared transfer service.
Hotels & Resorts
There are many places to stay in Pattaya, from inexpensive hotels, to luxury resorts. Our partners have a large selection of Pattaya accommodations, at the best prices, on the web. See below for a short list of what is currently on offer. Click through any of the hotels for more options.
Pattaya Dive Shops
Although Pattaya isn't as popular a destination as some other places in Thailand, there are still a number of dive shops and dive operators to serve you. I've listed a few below that seem to be the more legitimate ones.
- Mermaids Dive Center
- The oldest dive operator in the Pattaya area, Mermaids operates several of their own boats, and is a full service diver training center, offering all levels of education. They generally have a fixed daily schedule for three of their boats, so although Mermaids services quite a few customers every day, the boats are not over-crowded, and there seems to be no more than three or four divers per guide.
- Pattaya Dive Centre
- Seems to have the only "modern" boat in Pattaya. Dive shop is located right on Pattaya Beach Road.
Like the rest of Thailand, Pattaya experiences annual monsoon rains, which are heaviest from May through October (see graphs). The coolest and driest time of year is December and January, and this is generally when the diving is at its best as well, although conditions are generally good for diving all year around. For the current Pattaya weather conditions.