Get Your Body and Mind in Shape – Wellness Vacation in Pranburi and Hua Hin, Thailand

Wild elephants, jungle river SUP paddling, and hiking to a cave fit for an adventure movie. An active traveler finds the perfect destination for a wellness vacation in Pranburi, Thailand.

“Is it a long way to the cove? Is it worth walking all the way?” I asked a Frenchman I encountered on a steep hiking trail that goes over a rocky cape at the Southern end of Pranburi’s Pak Nam Pran Beach.

Beh oui, absolutely! It’s my favorite beach there,” he replies with a thick Gallic accent. He tells me that he lives nearby Hua Hin and comes to that hidden cove at the end of the trail whenever possible.

“It’s beautiful. It’s deserted. There’s no one there!” he declares.

And so, I regain my strength and continue hiking along the trail. The one-kilometer uphill path is a sweaty workout, but it’s suits me just fine as I have come to Thailand for a wellness vacation. My goal is to move a lot, enjoy nature, eat healthy, and relax with massages. I hope to return home as a rejuvenated person.

After fifteen minutes of heavy exercise, I finally arrive at the beach which carries the name Khung Sai. I sigh with delight. The Frenchman wasn’t exaggerating at all. The beach between the rocky cliffs is pretty and completely deserted. It gets its unique charm from its reddish-colored cliffs and caves, where you can seek shelter from the midday sun. I ran into the waves.

During the dinner I take a bite of my delicious dish, Thai-style sea bass with lemon sauce, and congratulate myself of choosing Pranburi as my holiday destination. Few have heard of the place, even though it’s only 30 kilometers south of the popular Hua Hin beach resort and about a three-hour drive from Bangkok.

While Hua Hin is a bustling city-like beach destination, Pranburi is peaceful and rural. Instead of large hotel complexes, its long beach is only dotted with a few small and cozy boutique hotels.

I am staying at the loveliest of the lot: Aleenta Hua Hin. It’s round and white, thatched-roof villas create a village-like atmosphere. The beachfront villas are stylishly decorated, and many of them come with private plunge pools. The hammock on the terrace is perfect for lounging after physical activities. The food is superb, and the massages are top-notch.

Alongside its peacefulness one of the big advantages of Pranburi is its proximity to stunning natural attractions.

“How good are my chances of seeing wild elephants?” I ask the safari guide in Kui Buri National Park, where I am heading the next day.

“About 90 percent,” he replies as I climb onto the back of a pick-up truck for a wilderness ride. “You are almost certainly to see them.”

We spot the first elephant in less than ten minutes. It’s a young, solitary male that devours leaves in the middle of a dense bush. It seems like Kui Buri is rightfully known as the best place in Thailand to see wild elephants.

It takes only few more minutes, and we arrive to an open savanna surrounded by jungle-covered hills. A herd of ten elephants is marching in a line toward a watering hole. Two cute baby elephants stroll among them.

Although safari drives can’t be called workouts, admiring wild animals is soothing for the soul. It feels wonderful to see that there are still such pieces of paradise in the world where elephants can live freely and carefree, as if it were the dawn of the world.

Animal encounters continue the next day when I go stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) on the jungle river in Pranburi. Colorful kingfishers fly past, and a large monitor lizard dives into the water from the jungle just in front of my board.

SUP paddling is a fun activity that improves balance and core muscles. According to my paddling guide Uzi, it’s suitable for all ages. “My oldest guests were a couple in their seventies. They decided to paddle the longest, 15-kilometer route.”

“And what about the monitor lizards, should I be concerned?” I ask.

“They might look like small alligators, but they are completely harmless,” Uzi chuckles.

It’s early in the morning when I pedal along a peaceful country road that runs along the turquoise sea. The kilometers add up, and the strangely shaped, sharp-pointed mountains on the horizon keep getting closer.

I could have, of course, rented a scooter or joined a guided tour to reach them, but I decided to borrow a good road bike from my hotel, Aleenta. Cycling in the tropics is not as crazy as it may sound. You don’t notice the heat while riding because the airflow cools you as if you had a fan with you.

Cycling is one of the most fun ways to move around even in Thailand. You get exercise and you have ample time to enjoy the scenery.

Eventually, I reach the mountains and arrive to Sam Roi Yot National Park, which is located about 30 kilometers South of Pranburi. One of the mountains hides a enormous cavern that ranks as one of Thailand’s most beautiful attractions.

I lock my bike and start hiking towards Phraya Nakhon Cave. First the trail leads over a rocky headland, then along a sandy beach, and finally, it’s about fifteen minutes brisk walk uphill.

I arrive to a cathedral-like cavern, in the middle of which stands a light-blue, Thai-style pavilion. King Rama V, who visited the cave in the late 1800s, had this graceful pavilion built.

Part of the cave’s ceiling have collapsed, and through the opening, you can see the blue sky. At ten o’clock the heavenly rays of the morning sun begin to flood through the opening towards the pavilion and paint it in gold. The sight would fit perfectly as the setting for the climax of an Indiana Jones movie.

The days pass in a relaxing rhythm: I enjoy the outdoors, eat well, and lounge in the hammock at my terrace. At the end of my vacation, I spend a few days in Hua Hin. The hustle and bustle of the beach town provide a nice change of pace from the tranquility of Pranburi. I go shopping at Hua Hin’s shopping center and the bohemian Cicada Night Market, where local artists and designers gather to sell their creations on weekend evenings.

More Great Things to Do in Hua Hin

Beach destinations Hua Hin and Pranburi are located just 30 kilometers apart, so you can easily visit these attractions also from Pranburi.

Travel in Time at the Old Railway Station

Hua Hin’s beautiful old railway station from the early 20th century is a must see. It’s gingerbread blend of traditional Thai and Victorian styles makes it look like something out of Roald Dahl’s children’s book character’s home.

Have a Cup of Coffee in Thailand’s First Beach Hotel

Thailand’s first beach hotel was opened in Hua Hin in 1923. The guests arrived by train. The hotel’s name has since changed from the Railway Hotel to, but the old charm remains intact. Even if you are not staying at the hotel, you can soak up the historic atmosphere in its coffee shop called The Museum.

Relax in Awe at The Barai Spa

Hua Hin is blessed with so many excellent spas that it could easily be named the spa capital of Thailand. The most memorable of these spas is The Barai, designed by the renowed Thai architect Lek Bunnag. The building, inspired by the ancient temples of Angkor and enchanting Moroccan palaces, is a sight to behold in its own right.

Print Your Own Shirt

Since 1948, Khomapastr factory has been producing beautiful Thai cotton fabrics and clothing. Visitors are welcome to explore the factory and witness how the beautiful patterns are still hand-printed onto the fabrics. For a small fee, you can also try fabric printing yourself, creating a Thai-style design on a t-shirt. (Address: 230/8 Phetkasem Road, Hua Hin)

Free the Crabs

Why not do something good during your vacation? For years, former fisherman Mr. Thai Chuck has been managing the Blue Swimming Crabs Bank and releasing billions of tiny crab eggs back into the sea. He collects the eggs from local fishermen and releases them into the sea every morning at 9 AM at the end of Soi Takiab 1 road in Hua Hin. The operation of the crab bank is sustained by small donations from participants.

Thailand’s First Golf Course

Play a round of golf, or even ten. Thailand’s king Rama VII was such an avid golfer that he established Thailand’s first golf course in Hua Hin in 1924. The beautiful old course at Royal Hua Hin Golf Course is one of Hua Hin’s approximately ten excellent golf courses.

I stay at the renowned Let’s Sea Hua Hin hotel, which started the trend of direct pool access rooms in Thailand 15 years ago. The hotel is modern in design but pays homage to Thai traditions with some fun details. The doors of the rooms are painted in vibrant colors like the cottages in Thai fishing villages, and the terrace is made of wood, just like the traditional houses along the canals.

I dive straight from my terrace into the 120-meter-long pool. I only get out when it’s time for a massage. Like Aleenta, Let’s Sea’s spa is excellent. First, you choose the type of massage you want, relaxing or muscle-rejuvenating. Then, you pick your favorite massage oil.

The massage therapist is one of the best I have encountered. She presses and stretches my body with just the right intensity. In addition to her hands, she uses her feet and her whole body. My muscles loosen up.

When I finally get up from the massage table, the therapist supports me by the elbow, and it’s a good thing she does. I am so relaxed that I can barely walk straight.

I sigh deeply. Life feels perfect. Thailand has done it’s magic again.

Text by: Antti Helin

Photos by: Antti Helin and TAT