finding family-friendly beach resorts in Thailand is not difficult; choosing is

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Recommending family-friendly, true beachfront resorts is complicated by the fact that families travel with children of different ages: toddlers and teenagers have entirely different sets of needs, as do those in between. On Thai beaches we see more families with younger children – perhaps because teenagers often prefer to go their own way, and not accompany parents on holidays. So our resort choices here take in the needs of families with pre-teen children.
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If Phuket seems over-represented in this list it not due to prejudice for this island – we looked hard for family-friendly resorts across Thailand's many beach destinations. However, it is difficult for smaller resorts to compete with large establishments when it comes to satisfying children. Only a big resort can built and staff a full range of resources for children.
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The amount of planning a beachfront hotel's owners have put into the needs of families is relatively easy to measure; look first at the swimming pool, or preferably, the pools. Toddlers love the water too, and for safety they need especially shallow water. Does a resort have a separate pool, of portion of one suited to the youngest of the young, as well as one for running, jumping swimming kids?
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Kids' clubs, organized activities, open grassy spaces and the suitability of the beach for playing and swimming are also considered here, as are the provision of children's meals. A rare few resorts even have special pricing for families or small children. The predominance of large, international resorts on this list does not mean that smaller resorts are not well suited to families, too. The large number of young toddlers and babies seen on the beaches of Koh Lanta, for example, suggest that this island is one of Thailand’s most family-friendly destinations, despite that no single hotel has enough facilities to make it onto this list. Koh Samui, too, has any number of resorts well suited to families and children.
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Here, however, is our well-researched list of family-friendly hotels from across Thailand, with reasons for our choosing (not in order).

  1. Centara Pattaya, Pattaya

  2. Centara Phuket, Phuket

  3. Cha-Da Beach Resort, Koh Lanta

  4. Sheraton Hua Hin, Hua Hin

  5. JW Marriott Khao Lak, Khao Lak

  6. Outrigger Laguna Resort, Phuket

  7. Pullman Khao Lak Katiliya Resort, Khao Lak

  8. JW Marriott Phuket, Phuket

  9. Sunwing Resort & Spa Bang Tao Beach, Phuket

  10. Mercure Hideaway, Koh Chang
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Centara Grand Mirage Beach Resort Pattaya; a great water park makes this kid's heaven

Centara Grand Mirage Pattaya holds so much attraction for children that it's a major magnet for many families from Bangkok. With kids loaded in the car on Saturday mornings, they drive directly to this huge, true beachfront resort – or more specifically to its water park attraction. The fun features in the jungle-like area between the hotel block and beach include water slides, tunnels, swings, artificial beaches and water running through hidden nooks and crannies. It's a child's delight, but plenty of adults float through the water maze enjoying themselves too.
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In addition to this best-in-the-country kids' water heaven, Centara has a pleasant beach, though parents should look at water colour and clarity before deciding if the kids can take to the ocean. Most children, however, will exhaust themselves in the water park. Centara offers the widest range of children's activities found in the country, including their group-wide Camp Safari, free for younger ones, and a teens' clubs. While Centara's original focus was on Thai families, today its clientele is broad-based international. Children's activities and baby-sitting services are available. The different swimming pools have varying hours.
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Remember, however, that here in the biggest water park found in any beachfront hotel in the country most kids will be interested mainly in sliding and swinging, swimming in and floating through the tunnels for most of the day, getting themselves thoroughly worn out and ready for a good night's sleep.
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Sunwing Resort & Spa Bang Tao Beach; purpose built to keep babies, toddlers and all kids happy

The fact that Sunwing Resort & Spa Bang Tao Beach is purpose-built for families with young ones is easy to see – take a glance over the pools. Yes, there are two big ones with lots of shallow areas for children to frolic in safely (plus another adult pool) – a requirement for all family-friendly, true beachfront resorts. But to get near the top of this list a resort need more, and Sunwing has it with two additional pools; one for youngsters in the 3-5 year range, those super-active little rascals who love to run around, splash and fall in the water; and importantly, one purpose-built and shallow enough for babies and toddlers to splash around in – a their mothers' very close by, of course.
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In addition, Sunwing has a well-fitted and staffed kids' activity centre, a children's menu and family-friendly pricing. The beach in front of the hotel has soft, clean sand and a shallow gradient into the water, again making this fun and relatively safe for children – until it gets too hot, of course. But then Bang Tao beach also offers quite a lot of shade below big casuarina trees, allowing children to remain outside by the beach even when the sun and sand are beginning to burn.
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Sheraton Hua Hin; here's enough waterways to delight and exhaust a tribe of kids

Every parent knows how far a good swimming pool can go in keeping their children happy. A great pool can put little ones in holiday heaven – obviously something that the planners of Sheraton Hua Hin were well aware of. Here they offer three separate pools for children, the Lion Kid's pool for toddlers, Elephant Tower Kid's pool for young ones and a partially shaded pool attached to the children's Star Club; that's both child friendly and smart.
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Guaranteed to keep older children fully engaged, the resort has a huge, winding pool that meanders through vast gardens for a claimed 560 metres. Most is quite shallow and safe for children familiar with the water. Swimming pools thus appear all through the resort, and it is difficult to see what is connected to what. Parts of pools nestle up to rooms, giving jump-in access.
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For children there is also a climbing wall, three trampolines, a wooden slide, a sandbox and swings. For teens there is a room with high speed internet access and electronics that include three computer stations with computer games, a PlayStation and DVD cartoons. The high view of Sheraton Hua Hin and its true beachfront location shows a huge, intermingled patchwork of two distinctly child-friendly colours; green for lawns and gardens, blue for swimming pools.
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JW Marriott Khao Lak Resort; swimming pools, swimming pools - all shapes and sizes to delight children

The JW Marriott Khao Lak Resort is a true waterworld. Aside from the beautiful, virtually empty beach stretching far to each side of the resort, waterways and swimming pools run throughout the expansive grounds. The entire resort centre revolves around water features and pools, while long moat-like pools run along most accommodation blocks, giving all lower rooms direct, slide-in access. Marriott Khao Lak even boasts 'the longest resort pool in Southeast Asia'.
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Children simply love the multitude of pools and different watery playgrounds. The sound of kids having fun pervades parts of this resort, though it is so huge that couples can easily find space away from the families – and then there is that long, lonely beach. Being a well-known American family chain, Marriott naturally has a good kid's club and children's activities.
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The Marriott's distinctly Thai-style architecture and the unique, true beachfront environment it creates will also arouse interest in older children, providing the inquisitive with something of a lesson in Thai culture.
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Cha-Da Beach Resort & Spa, Klong Dao Beach, Koh Lanta

Koh Lanta is one of the most family- and children-friendly beach destinations in Thailand, and large numbers of young children are seen playing in its sand and water. That’s particularly true on Klong Dao Beach, which I have identified as particularly well-suited for young children due to the wide sand and exceptionally gradual slope into the ocean. The wide area of shallow water this creates close to shore also has a sandy bottom without rocks or coral, all helping to make this fun and safe for little ones.
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The reason there are no other resorts on Lanta in this list is due to size; this large island has mostly small resorts with budget or 3-star bungalows in gardens. They are priced right for young families, but small resorts cannot afford the multiple facilities found in big hotels.
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Cha-Da Beach Resort is the big exception, and a 5-star one at that, with 196 rooms in both luxury garden bungalows and low-rise hotel blocks. The outstanding feature here that keeps the kids frolicking all day is swimming pools – this hotel has lots of them, and huge ones. Close to the beach, the main pool offers both kids and adults a huge area for swimming, with various channels and backwaters to explore.
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As popular as that pool is, even more excitement awaits children whose families manage to secure a ground floor room in one of the hotel blocks to the rear. These buildings are lined by more large pools, giving direct pool access from the ground level. As the photos show, here we find water slides, Jacuzzis, a pool bar and various water toys.
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In addition to the vast water world here, Cha-Da also offers the standard children’s club with organized activities run by full time staff. There are also additional play areas in the sprawling gardens. This is definitely a winner with the kids.
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Centara Grand Phuket Resort; another with its own water park - just what kids dream of

Don't be surprised to see another Centara topping the list of Thailand's most family-friendly resorts. Centara Grand Phuket Resort , too, has built a water park within the resort, and its slides, water tunnels and jungle-like atmosphere are such an attraction for kids that it's become an island-wide attraction open to families from outside the hotel – after buying a full-day ticket at reception, of course.
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The Centara Group has put considerable effort into creating family-friendly, true beachfront resorts, and has created a web page displaying all children's facilities and activities across all of their resorts. Parents can thus see in a flash what is available in which resort, and what not. If keeping the kids happy on holidays is a high priority, this resort chain has lots on offer, and makes the choosing easy.
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Centara has two group-wide kids' clubs, Camp Safari, an activities centre for the young ones between four and nine, and E-zone, an entertainment centre for the older ones and teenagers. These are found in all Centara resorts within Thailand. Toddlers can attend Camp Safari with a parent. However, for most kids the biggest attractions are the waterways within the fun park. To view the full range of children's activities in all Centara resorts visit their web page: http://www.centarahotelsresorts.com/Kidsclub/
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Outrigger Laguna Phuket Resort; Phuket's first themed water park in a hotel, still going strong

When built, this true beachfront resort was under a different brand, but the developers set out to make it a true haven for both children and adults. Here they built Phuket's first swimming pool in the style of a theme park, with a great waterslide falling down into a pool surrounded by crocodiles and demons in bas relief carvings. Built in stone, this mini park transported guests to a mythological world of ancient Asia.
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Outrigger Laguna Phuket Resort opens onto an excellent sandy beach, and has another major advantage for children and families – a big, calm lagoon at the back. This flat body of water with a sandy beach is used as a training ground for various water sports, including kayaking, wind surfing and catamaran sailing – all great activities for older children to take up, or for smaller ones to enjoy with parents.
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A couple of other beach resorts have joined Outrigger Laguna in building fancy water slides and even a theme park, but none has the additional advantage of that big, beautiful lagoon to the back.
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Pullman Khao Lak Katiliya Resort; great pools, delightful beach; lawns & playgrounds; kid's club & more

Pullman Khao Lak Katiliya Resort prides itself on being especially family-friendly, and backs this up with a range of children's facilities and activities that few resorts can match. For beginners, it has three pools, two of them very large and in interesting shapes, with enough shallow areas to be safe for children with limited swimming ability. The toddlers and small kids' pool is one of the best, with an artificial beach running into it and an array of playground slides etc.
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Pullman Katiliya Resort kid's club is well supervised and offers a range of creative activities to keep kids well entertained. That, with baby-sitting and child minding services, allows parents some free time.
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The huge resort area in a rather isolated, true beachfront location will suit many families, especially those with younger children. The resort is built through expansive gardens with waterways that home swans and squirrels. There are ample grassy spaces for outdoor play. But the remote location and the sense of tranquillity it affords might not suit teenagers, unless the family is active and ready to join tours to waterfalls, rainforest parks and other outside activities.
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JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa; tired of those great swimming pools? try the great beach right beside

This second JW Marriott resort might make the family-friendly list appear as a conspiracy favouring big-name hotel chains. The reality is that big resorts have significant advantages in the family-friendly stakes; both the experience and finance to create the additional facilities required to keep children of different ages happy. And Marriott is famed as an up-market, family-friendly American chain.
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The JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa follows tradition with three swimming pools that hold lots of intrigue and fun for children of all ages. The main kids' pool twists and turns around garden and sun bed islands, and is lined with elephants and giant turtles, making this a fun place for youngsters. Varying depths cater to different ages, though there is no specific babies pool.
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As in JW Marriott resorts everywhere, this offers a supervised, daytime kids' club with varied activities that are planned month to month, depending on the season. Baby-sitting and child care services also allow parents the opportunity to get out for private time. All restaurants have a children's menu.
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The beach in front of Marriott, Mai Khao, offers clean, soft sand and, through the high season, exceptionally calm water that makes it ideal and fun for kids. The water runs deep in some places, making it one of Phuket's best swimming beaches, but requiring closer parental watch when very young ones want to splash in the salt water.
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Mercure Koh Chang Hideaway; another great pool by a calm, shallow beach; rainforest all around

The sprawling, yellowish-green swimming pool around which Mercure Koh Chang Hideaway is built has a number of shallow wings to the side, showing that children were much in the minds of the developers. A toddlers' shallow area off to the side and the signs leading to a kids' club confirms this as a family-friendly resort, though its rather isolated, true beachfront location keeps it out of the mainstream family market. Getting to Mercure Koh Chang requires a five-hour road trip, a ferry crossing and finally a mountainous ride to the south end of the island.
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The Mercure has one of the few sandy beaches in this part of the island, with shallow water – ideal for children. The thick rain forest clothing all mountains around the resort might also give older children some opportunities for exploring and learning. The elephant camps on the island can provide interest and excitement. For those kids old enough to really take things in and learn, a trip to this island can be something of an adventure.
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A resort in so remote a location can't provide as many family services as a large, easy-access one, and here the children's club is not staffed and there are no regular, organized activities. Mercure Koh Chang Hideaway does provide children's menus, though. With child care services available, parents of younger children have opportunity to relax and take in some of what this remote but comfortable resort has to offer in full measure, absolute tranquillity.
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by John Everingham

Need help planning the ideal beach holiday in Thailand? True Beachfront’s founder and resident expert John E has over 30 years experience on Thai beaches, and offers free advice through this site. E-mail john@beachf.com