Cha-am is a resort town on the Gulf of Thailand in Ratchaburi Province.Hua Hin is about 30Km to the south.
Cha-am is an extremely popular destination for Thai day trippers and weekenders probably due to it's long strip of beach and it's relatively inexpensive seafood. Cha-am can become very crowded on holiday weekends. The area is also home to a sizable amount of expats, mainly Scandinavians. aside from the beach there is still plenty to see in this unique town. A fishing village north of Ruamchi Road features Thai shops, fishmongers, and restaurants. You could spend half a day touring the area and immersing yourself in one of the town's most important industries, fishing.
Because of the mix of tourists here, most things are written in both Thai and English.
Mainly served by a regular fleet of minivans from both the South (Hua, Hin, Pranburi) and from Bangkok. Long distance buses also stop at Cha am from Bangkok en route South or en route North. Minivans are much quicker but driving can be very erratic. There is a train station but the trip is long and arduous. Only a handful of trains stop at Cha-am. Private Taxis from Bangkok should be no more than 2000baht, although 1600baht -1800baht is possible with some bargaining.
A minibus from Rangsit will cost B180 and drop you on the highway as it continues to Hua Hin.
There are only motorcycle taxis here, and from the City Road bus stop to the beach will cost you about B40 (you should bargain if necessary). Otherwise, you walk.
From the first main set of traffic lights as you come from BKK, to the left is the beach and it is about a one kilometre walk. To the left is north beach, and it appears to be where the upmarket hotels are, and to the right is south beach where there are many street fish restaurants (and the prices are pretty upmarket also at March 2016!!!).
The Eurasia Cha-am Lagoon is a resort and residential comunity 3 km north of Cha-am. It boasts two free-form pools overlooking the gulf. It is free to the public and open 24 hours a day. A terrace restaurant serves Thai food that will cost you 100 to 300 baht. Beer and liquor will cost you more, so you might want to bring in your own drinks. This place is seldom crowded so it's the best place to hang out and take a dip.
Cha-am Forest Park is a small nature preserve as parks go, but it's still worth seeing. All-terrain vehicles are available for guided tours of the park. The rental ranges from 500 baht for half an hour to 900 baht per hour. There is also a restaurant within the park.
The summer palace Phrarachanivet Mrigadayavan was built in 1922 for the king and members of his royal household. Held open for the public as it is no longer used by royalty, it lies south of Petchakasem Rd, about 9 km from Cha-am. The palace consists of a group of teak houses on stilts connected by a maze of walkways. The rooms are airy and the walkways are raised. There isn't much information available in English so you may want to hire an English-speaking guide for the tour.
Khao Nang Phanturat Forest Park encompasses most of the mountain that overlooks Cha-am from the North. Free admission. There is a nicely maintained park at the visitor centre. A hiking trail that goes up into hills starts near the visitor centre and gives a close up of this sample of karst limestone. There are several curious rock formations, including a a rock window that is perfect for a romantic photo, and a cave (bring a flashlight).
Not alot to buy aside from Souvenirs and Seafood, although foreign tourists will welcome the lack of price gouging from the shop/stall owners, both Thais and Foreigners pay the same price and souvenirs (T-shirts etc) are substantially cheaper than you will find in other coastal resorts in Thailand that cater mainly for foreign tourists.
Otherwise, there are plenty of restaurants along the beach road, as well as one road back, and also along the streets leading to the one road back. The street fish restaurants are quite expensive.
From drinking on the beach from the vendors to drinking in one of the many foreign restaurants dotted along the beach road there is no shortage of options. Prices are also very favorable in comparison to other popular coastal resorts in Thailand. There is also a bar area south bound on the Beach Road named Soi Bus Stop, although is not recommended for families.
There are many hotels in the beach road area, and the upmarket ones appear to be to the north beach. However, one hotel was noticed along here not far from the intersection advertising fan rooms for B250 and aircon rooms from B400. The south beach area has many hotels, up the streets to the side and on the rear road.
At the end of the lane where is the Cha Am Guest House, on the opposite side of the road, is a minibus station, where minibuses go to Bangkok. They advertise all three BKK bus stations, (and to nowhere else.) Is written only in Thai.
Otherwise, since the bus station is quite some distance away, your best option is to go to the main road one kilometre distant, and get a bus/minibus from there. As you come out from the beach road and turn left, there is a bus stop not far along. A non aircon bus to Hua Hin will cost B30, and a minibus will cost B40.