Pattaya and Jomtien
Near Bangkok is busy Pattaya, divided into north, central and south. Accommodation is varied and always available. Although the beach is nothing special, dining and entertainment abound and water sports (water-skiing, windsurfing, parasailing, jet skiing and fishing) keep beach goers satisfied. South of Pattaya, Jomtien is a nicer, quieter beach offering similar facilities. North of Pattaya, Wong Amat's narrow beach is a complete break, with just a few restaurants staying open late. Diving and snorkeling are available around the islands off Pattaya, but visibility is not as good as it is off the southern islands.
Four hours by bus from Bangkok, Hua Hin is a lively, breezy town with a long white-sand beach. Tourists can take pony rides, and Wat Khao Takiap rewards those who walk there with a nice sea view. A few catamaran, parasailing and jet ski operators work off Hua Hin beach, but it is mostly peaceful.
Koh Samui has lovely beaches to suit everyone. The most active are Chaweng and Lamai, which offer similar activities to Pattaya plus mountain bike, motorcycle and jeep hire. Chaweng also has vibrant nightlife. Northwards, Koh Phangan is cheaper and quieter, except for the riotous full moon parties at Had Rin. Northwards again, Koh Tao is a restful (but busy in the high season) getaway with great diving.
Phuket offers all the above activities and entertainment, and hiking is possible, even outside bustling Patong Beach. Runners can join the local Hash House Harriers' foot races.