Although Pattaya is a coastal city, most people don't know it for its beaches. This stems from two facts: the seedy reasons for which many people come to Pattaya (and, of course, medical tourism), and the perception that Pattaya's beaches aren't all that great. Whether or not Pattaya deserves its scandalous reputation is a subject for another article to tackle, but the city definitely has its fair share of beautiful beaches that are well worth a visit.
Located just south of Pattaya's city center (and main beach), Jomtien Beach has a lot going for it. It's quiet enough that you won't feel like you're at a party, but there still plenty of things happening. Bordered by glistening condo towers where expats and wealthy Thais alike make their coastal homes, Jomtien is a bit cosmopolitan compared to some of the other beaches, though there's plenty of Thai flavor here—literally, thanks to all the street food stalls on the main road.
Jomtien is nice, but if you want to enjoy a truly beautiful beach experience near Pattaya, you'll need to get on a boat. Thankfully, the ride from Pattaya's main pier to Koh Larn (aka Coral Island) isn't very long and boats leave frequently. In recent years, the reputation of the pristine quality of beaches like Ta Waen has become more common knowledge, which can lead to unruly crowds on Koh Larn at peak times. As a result, you should try to come here during the week and avoid holidays, if you can.
Dong Tan Beach
Pattaya is famous for its LGBT scene, though largely for reasons local tourism authorities would deem unflattering. One place to go to enjoy largely PG-13 fun is at Dong Tan Beach, which is a popular and inclusive hangout for gay travelers and locals alike. Geographically, Dong Tan beach is located just south of Jomtien.
Like Koh Larn, Koh Phai (which literally means "Bamboo Island") requires you to get on a boat. But as is the case with Coral Island, Bamboo Island is a paradise that feels much farther away than it is. This is especially the case because the island, which is as famous for its beaches as it is as a scuba destination, is only accessible via charter from Bali Hai pier.
Bang Saray Beach
Located the farthest south among all the beaches on this list, Bang Saray also feels the most isolated. This is perfect if you're looking for some R&R and don't want to be stimulated, intellectually or otherwise. However, you can make the journey all this way worth it by visiting the nearby Ramayana Water Park, or stopping at Pattaya Dolphin World en route.
Koh Si Chang
If you plan to visit Bangkok after you're finished in Pattaya, why not make the backtrack worth it? Specifically, you'll want to stop in the port city of Si Racha, where you can get a ferry to Koh Si Chang. Not to be confused with Koh Chang, which is located farther east in the Trat province, Koh Si Chang is the closest island to Bangkok and, in addition to having some of the best beaches near Pattaya, is home to colorful villages, lush jungles and huge temples.
Naklua Beach, located just north of Pattaya's main beach (but south of Jomtien) doesn't have the whitest sand or the bluest waters. However, it is utterly secluded, which definitely earns it some points when compared with other beaches in Pattaya. Additionally, you can enjoy views of the stunning Sanctuary of Truth as you bathe, which is a reason to come here all on its own.
It might seem strange to list Pattaya Beach as the last on this list of the top beaches in the city—but it'll make sense once you get there. Indeed, these crowded and not-always-clean sands aren't necessarily the first place you'd want to sun yourself, even if they are convenient. However, if you can come and go before the seedy walking streets just offshore get going, you can really enjoy your time at Pattaya Beach.