Cha-Am is about 170 km from Bangkok, which is approximately a 2.5 hr drive. The beach is long and beautiful, with plenty of facilities and activities for tourists. You can rent a bicycle and ride along the beach road, have fun on the banana boat, drive a jetski, ride a horse, or simply relax on the beach. Every Wednesday the umbrellas and chairs are put away, so you can enjoy the natural state of the beach.
There are many things to see in and around Cha-Am, like the fishing pier, nature parks (Forest park, Khao Nang Phanturat park), temples (Cha-Am Khiri temple and Neran temple), the summer Teack Palace of King Rama VI, and, farther away, Kaeng Krachan natural park. There are also amusement parks, like Santorini waterpak, Camel Republic and the Swiss Sheep Farm.
Cha-Am is famous for the beach and also for the fresh seafood, whether it is shrimp, fish, squid, crab... There are restaurants on the beach, plenty of food stalls at night, pubs... all in a relaxing and laid back atmosphere.
When in Cha-Am, make sure you visit the morning market and also the large Wednesday night market. For more shopping at discounted prices, stop at the Premium Outlet on the way back to Bangkok.