The relatively unknown natural beauty of Thailand is Khao Sok National Park, and visiting will let you experience Thailand in a completely new way. Khao Sok(also called Khao Lak) is a paradise situated away in the Phang Nga region of Thailand, just north of Phuket.
It’s a hidden treasure away from the overcrowded tourist trail spots of Maya Bay, Phuket, Phi Phi and Koh Samui in the South, so if you want to do something different on your trip to Thailand, why not go and see this beautiful National Park!
After living in this region for a year and a half, and visiting Khao Sok around 10 times, I’ve figured out the best spots, activities, and places to stay that I want to share with you all.
It can be a little hard to find information about the area, so for some guidance and inspiration, here is all you need to know to visit Khao Sok National Park!
WHAT MAKES KHAO SOK SO SPECIAL
Khao Sok National Park is a nature reserve containing ancient dense jungle, and huge limestone rocks towering over a beautiful lake.
The National Park itself is made up of Khao Sok Town and the man-made Cheow Lan Lake, a 165 square kilometer area contained by the Ratchaprapha Dam and made in 1982 which provides a source of hydro-powered electricity to southern Thailand.
The National Park was declared in 1980 and it is Thailand’s 22nd National Park, covering an area of 3,500 square kilometers, making it half the size of the island of Bali!
Cheow Lan Lake is boasted as Thailand’s most wonderful freshwater lake where adventurer seekers meet to explore what the lake and surrounding jungle have to offer.
HOW TO GET TO KHAO SOK NATIONAL PARK
Fly into Phuket International Airport and catch a two-hour bus, minivan or taxi North towards Phang Nga.
This is one of the most beautiful regions of Thailand surrounded by lush mountains and forests to one side and the blue Andaman sea to the other. This area holds the oldest evergreen forest in the world with an abundance of hiking and exploring opportunities!
Alternatively, you can fly into the nearest airport which is Surantani and take a minibus for 250 baht ($8), a public bus for 120 baht ($4) or a taxi which is considerably more at around $30-50 – all of these options can be found right outside the airport.
KHAO SOK TOWN AND SURROUNDING NATURE ACTIVITIES
When you arrive in Khao Sok town, it becomes obvious that the small local area that is more like a village. The Park is popular with Thai tourists who venture to the lake in the hot dry season, often from big cities like Bangkok.
There are lots of guesthouses and small unique resorts to choose from, as well as restaurants, bars, convenience stores, ATMs and guided nature activities.
To get the most from the trip, it’s worth spending a night or two in the town itself, exploring the surrounding jungle, rivers, and caves, before venturing to the Lake to stay on the floating raft houses there overnight.
Hiking trails are endless in this area but as you can only venture 3km into the park alone, so it is worth hiring a guide to show you the best sports for about 600 baht ($20) for a half-day.
There are many small waterfalls and places to swim and most of these require a nice hike to reach, which is a perfect way to spend half a day in nature.
Hike the Western train to Than Sawan Waterfall to see huge bamboo trees, go for a dip, hopefully, see some monkeys and you will usually have the spot to yourself!
There is also a small shelter that sells fruit and drinks along the way.
Other activities for more adventurous souls are river tubing, canoeing and bamboo rafting. This is a lovely way to see the park from the Khao Sok river you’re your guide will point out some interesting plants and wildlife to you.
Generally, guides will also take you on a hike and to try some local food on these trips too. The cost for these adventure days is usually around 1200 baht ($36 USD) and includes refreshments along the way.
You can find guides in any of the guesthouses or information shops in the town.
CHEOW LARN LAKE
A long-tail boat along the Cheow Larn Lake is the best way to see the full effect of the towering limestone rocks that are so distinctive to this part of Thailand.
The three options to see the lake are: to hire a travel company to do a day trip (1500/$45 USD) baht, hire a travel company to do a tour of the lake plus an overnight stay (2500 baht/$76 including meals and room) or finally, by individually by renting a motorbike and private longtail boat driver (1500 baht/$45 USD for 6 people) and paying the 300 baht ($10) Park Entrance fee.
I would recommend going with a company, as it can be quite tricky to organize everything yourself and you won’t really save too much money.
The guides also know the best places to go and explore and where to go for lunch!
The long-tail boat rides typically take about two hours to get from one end of the lake to the other, with extra time needed to see some of the sites on the lake. The most famous site on the lake is the “Three Brothers Rock” situated right in the middle of the lake, which is the perfect spot to cliff jump and has a swim.
There are more hiking trails and caves only accessible by the lake and this is a great way to do some more exploring and stretch your legs after being in the boat.
WHERE TO STAY IN KHAO SOK TOWN – JUNGLE RESORTS AND TREE HOUSES!
To make the most of your trip it’s worth spending a few days in the area.
It’s worth staying for one or two nights in Khao Sok town itself There are some beautiful resorts in the middle of the mountains, great restaurants and you can even rent motorbikes to explore the park yourself.
There are endless eco-resorts in Khao Sok, but one of my favorites is the Khao Sok Jungle Resort, located outside of the tourist area about 3km into the nature reserve. Its slogan is “the place for nature lovers”, and that is exactly what it provides!
The jungle vibe is incredible and the individual rooms are surrounded by greenery and peacefulness. It’s a perfect place to eat some good food, go for a relaxing walk or do some yoga and meditation practice.
The hotel also has a shuttle service to bring you into the town to explore further.
Another one of my favorites is the Khao Sok Treehouse Resort. This is the perfect place to let out your inner child and stay in a real-life treehouse!
The rooms are built on stilts between the trees and the outdoor showers look over the canopy which makes for a really magical experience.
WHERE TO STAY ON KHAO SOK LAKE – UNIQUE FLOATING BUNGALOWS!
Visiting the lake and exploring the park is a beautiful experience, but there is nothing like going a step further to stay at one of the many raft houses along the lake to enjoy the incredible sunsets and sunrises.
This gives you an extra day on the lake too so you are not rushed to take everything in with a day tour. There’s no wifi at most of these floating hotels which makes the experience even more precious. Each floating resort has diving boards, kayaks, and paddleboards, which you can rent for free (just a deposit is needed!).
This is a fun way to see parts of the lake on your own and really sense the magic of the area.
There are several types of floating bungalow and these all range in price. The cheapest rooms are the most basic; no AC, a simple mattress on the floor and you generally share a common bathroom and shower with the other huts.
Keerweewarin Resort offers simple but practical accommodations at around $35 per night, encouraging you to spend the time using the free kayaks and sunbathing decks.
The most expensive rooms have AC, an ensuite bathroom, a proper double bed and are much bigger.
The resorts sometimes even have outdoor pools and spa options. The swankiest floating bungalow on the lake is 500 Rai Floating Bungalow, costing around $300 for a double room or $700 for the honeymoon suite! There is something for everyone!
I personally enjoy staying in the more basic rooms as it encourages me to spend most of my time outside doing enjoyable activities such as:
- swimming in the lake
- reading my book in the sunshine
- camping-like experience in nature and more
All the guests tend to chat after dinner with a beer and the hotel staff will sometimes put on a little show for you such as traditional Thai Dancing.
For a fully inclusive overnight stay + a tour of the lake for around $78, Smiley Bungalows is a great option.
They are a family-run business with years of experience on the lake.
INCREDIBLE SUNSETS & SUNRISES
Wake up early to see the beautiful pink hues over the lime structures and hear the National Park wake up with sounds of monkeys and birds in the distance – it’s an incredible experience and guaranteed to give you goosebumps!
It is also one of the most peaceful places you will ever experience and a perfect place to really switch off your mind. Stargazing at night time is also an unforgettable experience, with clear skies, no sounds (except the occasional cricket or tokay lizard) and utter peacefulness.
WILDLIFE IN KHAO SOK NATIONAL PARK
The Park is home to a wide variety of tropical wildlife including Great Hornbills, Asian Elephants, tigers, and long-tailed macaques.
The best time to see wildlife is early in the morning no later than 7 am or as the sun is setting around 6 pm, depending on the time of the year.
It’s also possible to see some wild elephants if you are lucky! They will usually be on the edge of the lake foraging for food. Similarly, female monkeys with their babies clinging on to their bellies, are often sighted in the mornings scouting out their breakfast.
Look up to the sky to see some beautiful colorful birds heading out for the morning solo or in a group. Kingfishers, Hornbills, and Herons, along with other wading water birds are abundant in this area. You can read more about the Fauna of the Park.
If you are staying in the floating bungalows, your tour guide will often include a 7 am “safari boat ride” where the boat will take you along the edge of the river at sunrise to try to spot some wildlife.
The tour guides usually have a great eye at spotting animals, so definitely take them up on this offer to see some of the world’s best nature before sitting down to a hearty breakfast on the lake.
WHEN TO GO TO KHAO SOK NATIONAL PARK
No matter what time of the year, you will always have some rain in Khao Sok, usually in the afternoons. But don’t worry- this only adds to the beauty of the surroundings!
The dry season is the best time to visit the National Park to ensure you get to see the best of the reserve without all-day rain and storms. The dry season is between November and April of every year but it will still be hot and humid in this area!
Most resorts close in the wet season between May-October and activities will be limited so double check before booking your trip.
WHAT TO BRING
I would highly recommend good walking shoes and loose breathable clothing. A dry bag will also be a lifesaver to protect your valuables in the rain.
A good book to substitute for your phone, a camera to take a snapshot of the panoramic sunset views, swim gear to explore the lake and a hand lamp to allow you to see if you explore some caves in the area.
If you’re staying on the lake overnight, battery packs are a must as electricity will only be available for a few hours to charge up your electronics.
It can also get hot and sunny on the boat during the day, so sunscreen and a hat are worth bringing too.
Khao Sok National Park really is a hidden gem of Southern Thailand. It’s worth the extra travel North of Phuket to get away from the large tourist crowds, turn off your phone and get back into nature!
We hope that this article has helped inspire you to visit Khao Sok National Park. If you have any questions about the destination or have your own travel tips to share please leave these in the comments below.
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Our Top Places To Stay in Khao Sok National Park, Thailand:
- Khao Sok Jungle Resort
- Khao Sok Treehouse Resort
- 500 Rai Floating Bungalow
- Keerweewarin Resort
- Find the best price on hotels in Khao Sok, Thailand
- Sign up to AirBnB with this link and receive a US $35 off your first booking
Read More About Thailand
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- 3 Days In Chiang Mai
- Visiting The White Temple In Thailand
- 6 Reasons Bangkok Is More Than A Layover City
- How To Spend 3 Days On Koh Samui
We Are Travel Girls Contributor Caroline Fitzgerald
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