The attractions of visiting Thailand are many and varied. For some it’s about the friendly people, the traditions and culture or perhaps Thai cuisine. Enjoying a lifestyle that embraces the beaches, recreational opportunities and natural surrounds is also high on the list.
To enjoy these attractions, the weather must allow visitors to get outside unhindered by inclement conditions; that is temperature, humidity and especially persistent rain.
During September in 2019 parts of Thailand experienced extreme weather conditions after tropical storms including ‘Podul’ and ‘Kajiki’ wreaked havoc on northern provinces and Koh Chang cut off from the mainland by stormy seas.
Meanwhile weather on the Royal Coast, the region centering on Hua Hin and stretching from Phetchaburi, past Cha-Am to Pranburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan, remained uneventful with only intermittent showers hardly disturbing the outdoor lifestyle. This region enjoys more sunny days during the monsoon season than any other beach destination in Thailand.
The weather advantages that the Royal Coast has over other regions in Thailand seem to be forgotten when it comes to promoting and marketing; an omission that is hard to understand.
The monsoon has less overall effect on daily life and holidays here than in any other part of the country for two major reasons.
First there is a mountain spine running the length of the Thai-Malay peninsula, rising just twenty kilometres behind Hua Hin. Despite these mountains being quite low, averaging below 2,000 metres, they cast a distinct rain shadow over the 20 kilometre-wide coastal plain.
When other parts of Thailand are being inundated by monsoon rain and floods, the Royal Coast often remains dry and sunny. That’s not always good for agriculture along the coastal plain facing the Gulf of Thailand. Areas around Pranburi may be too dry to grow some crops however the farmland in the hinterland grows pineapples and coconuts, the iconic crops of this region and sugarcane.
Among the mountains to the west, the valley of Pala-U is entirely different. Here there is much more rain; the soil is especially fertile with Thailand’s prized durians grown along with a host of other tropical fruits.
On the other side of the mountains, Myanmar has a much higher rainfall.
The second reason the monsoon has a less impact than it does the beaches along Thailand’s west-facing Andaman coast, the islands in the gulf such as Koh Samui and its nearby neighbour Koh Phangan, comes from the region’s beaches facing the east.
When monsoonal winds and rain power in, the beaches lie in a calm lee. While many beaches in Thailand, especially the Andaman ones, are pounded by waves, these beaches enjoy flat, calm seas with excellent swimming and water sports conditions – one of the only places in the country like this from May to October.
The average daily temperature is remarkably consistent throughout the year. There is a greater variation in the amount of rain, however when compared with other regions in the country, these variations pale into insignificance.
This may be described as a tropical savanna climate, with temperatures ranging from warm to hot throughout the year. The waters are consistently warm throughout the year and the region has one of the lowest rainfall measurements of the entire country during the wettest season.
Taking a Closer Look at the Royal Coast Weather
Sitting on the north-eastern side of the peninsula, there are three main seasons. Let’s take a closer look at these seasonal variations in the Region and especially how they may impact on enjoying the tropical lifestyle.
The Peak Season – December to February
The “cool and dry” season lasts from December to February. The nights reach a welcome cool of around 22°C and the average daytime temperature is around 26°C through the entire season but peaks still reach 30°C so don’t expect to be cold!
There is glorious sunshine 9 hours per day, although it is not as intense as the rest of the year, and the waters are perfect for all kinds of aquatic fun, with a constant temperature of 28-29°C.
December is the driest month of the year, and rain is rarely experienced during this period or up to 10 mm at the most. Humidity is gentle at 70% on average, and the chances of clouds are also minimal. Christmas in Thailand is a favourite time for many foreigners as the weather is comfortably hot and dry enough to make a seaside holiday an absolute delight compared to the wintery weather experienced in Europe.
The Shoulder Season – March to June
Extending from March to June, the temperatures become higher with an average of 29°C. During 2019 the temperatures were hotter than usual with temperatures frequently in the mid 30’s and evenings staying hot and sometimes uncomfortable. However compared with some regions, particularly with northern locations rising to the 40 degree mark, outdoor activities weren’t out of reach and a cooling breeze from the ocean always present for beach goers.
This is also a dry season with only a light shower or two appearing towards the end of April to signal the welcome cool change to come. The humidity is still moderate, at 75-78% on average, but it tends to become higher towards the end of the season. This is a time when SPF protection lotions, water and a hat are essential when you’re out and about in the summer sun.
The Off-Peak Season
The season between July until November is still labelled by some as the ‘Wet Season’ the ‘Monsoon Season’ or perhaps the ‘Green Season. However the ‘Green Season’ is only avoided by ‘green tourists’!
There are fewer European visitors at this time of year; although that’s really because these ‘snow birds’ who avoided the cold and gloom or their winter returned to a summer at home. However the chances are that the European summer will be both cooler and wetter than they would have experienced here!
This means a quieter time for year-round residents, with lower priced seasonal ‘specials’ including hotel room rates, rental properties costs and restaurant offers. Maybe the ‘Green Season’ really refers to golf course green fees, which may be up to 50% lower than during the Peak Season.
The ‘Wet’ and ‘Monsoon’ labels are really unnecessary, without the full monsoon effect experienced by both the north and south of Thailand. Temperatures dwell around 28°C on average with the higher end at 33°C, and evening humidity levels are around 83% on average.
Mornings can be overcast, but most days tend to be hot and humid rather than gloomy. Rainfall will average about 200mm in October as the wettest month of the year. October waters are a favourite for kiteboarding and parasailing and you can enjoy the beaches with plentiful sun for around 7 hours per day.
More good news is that the rain tends to come in short bursts and will not fall every day. There aren’t long periods of drizzle, as you will see in North America and Europe, which means that outdoor enthusiast are not deterred on most days. It’s really just a matter of being prepared. An afternoon downpour late in the afternoon may mean seeking shelter for 30 or 40 minutes before resuming your bike ride under clear skies.
These short, sharp showers may also be restricted to small ‘zones’. We’ve driven into the Hua Hin airport tunnel with windscreen wipers at full speed to emerge on the other side to a dry road without a dark cloud in sight!
To demonstrate that this time of year is fine for recreation, the annual Centara Masters Golf Tournament is held each May or June. Around 500 golfers return each year, undeterred by the weather; there is rarely a round cancelled. They are predominantly Australians escaping the winter; it does get cold in Australia and other countries of the southern hemisphere at this time of year; yet another marketing opportunity!
The bottom line is that the region’s year-round weather is unparalleled for those who want to enjoy the outdoor lifestyle. Light clothing will be all you need at any time of year. Taking care of yourself in hot weather (drink lots of water) is much more important than being protected from storms, persistent rain and gloomy weather. Even if you do get caught in a rain shower you may be wet, but not cold!
Sure you should have an umbrella on hand at times and sometimes need to seek shelter either undercover or in the comforts of air conditioning; but you’ll still be able to enjoy the great outdoors on Thailand’s Royal Coast any day, any time of the year.
Graphs by www.travelfish.org/weather/thailand