You have undoubtedly seen pictures of Khao Sok National Park – it is quite unique with it’s towering limestone pinnacles rising out of the beautiful emerald water of Cheow Lan Lake. Featuring centuries-old rainforests and limestone karst cliffs that are so distinctive to this part of Thailand, this park is not to be missed.
As the largest protected park in Southern Thailand, it boasts an extensive trail network, tons of outdoor activities, an abundance of wildlife, and plenty of jaw-dropping scenery. And luckily, Khao Sok has managed to remain off of the radar for most travelers so it is still relatively unaffected over-tourism.
Staying overnight in a rustic floating bungalow on Cheow Lan Lake was the highlight of my entire trip to Thailand!
I have put together this guide to Khao Sok National Park to highlight some of the park’s top activities as well as explain how to get to the park. If you’re up for an adventure and interested in experiencing more of Thailand than boozey buckets and Full Moon Parties, then you should add Khao Sok National Park to the top of your Thailand itinerary!
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Khao Sok National Park: Everything You Need to Know
Why you Should Visit Khao Sok National Park
Stretching across 280 square miles, this massive park encompasses some of the oldest rainforests found in the world. Khao Sok is home to hundreds of species of wildlife, including gibbon and macaque monkeys, Asian elephants, leopards, and over 300 species of birds including the great hornbill bird. It’s even rumored that there is still a small population of tigers in Khao Sok National Park though none have been spotted for decades.
Khao Sok National Park includes the small village of Khao Sok and the man-made Cheow Lan Lake – a huge aquamarine-colored reservoir that was created when the Ratchaprapha Dam was constructed in 1987. The lake is surrounded by majestic jagged limestone mountains and cliffs, including the picturesque “Three Brothers” – the most famous rock formation on the lake.
Whether you choose to hike to a hidden waterfall, go spelunking in one of Khao Sok’s many limestone caves, swim in the refreshing water of Cheow Lan Lake, or simply relax in your overwater bungalow, Khao Sok has something for every taste!
Where is Khao Sok Located?
Out of the hundreds of national parks found in Thailand, Khao Sok is one of the most breathtaking.
Located in the scenic Southern province of Phang Nga, the park actually sits in between some of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. It’s easily accessible from cities like Krabi, Koh Samui, and Phuket.
Surprisingly, Khao Sok National Park is much less frequented by tourists than the nearby islands of Southern Thailand so it remains more raw and untouched. If you’re tired of the overcrowded beaches of Phuket, Phi Phi Island, and Koh Samui, then escape to the solitude of Khao Sok.
How to Get to Khao Sok
From Surat Thani
The nearest airport to Khao Sok National Park is in Surat Thani (airport code: URT). There are dozens of bus companies that travel between Bangkok and Surat Thani as well as an overnight train.
From Surat Thani, it’s a ~2.5-hour minivan ride to the entrance of the park. A minibus ticket will cost you ~300 THB (~$10) and you can check all of your options on Bookaway. There are also public buses to Khao Sok from Surat Thani starting at around 120-220 THB, though you’ll probably find it much easier to just take a minibus for a few dollars more.
From the Gulf of Thailand
If you are coming from the islands in the Gulf of Thailand – Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, or Koh Tao – the ferry will drop you off at Don Sak Pier which is ~40 miles east of Surat Thani.
Most travel agencies on the islands can help arrange your entire trip. So when your ferry arrives at Don Sak Pier you’ll transfer directly to a minivan or bus that will take you to the national park. It’s better to arrange the direct transfer in advance so you don’t have to waste any time in Surat Thani.
If you prefer to book your own travel you can also easily book combo ferry-bus tickets online on Bookaway.com.
The bus ride from Don Sak Pier to Koh Sak National Park should take ~3 hours.
From Phuket and Koh Phi Phi
Another option is to fly to Phuket International Airport (airport code: HKT). From there it’s a 3-hour bus, minivan or taxi ride north to Khao Sok. And if you’re coming from Koh Phi Phi you’ll need to catch the ferry back to Phuket first.
From Krabi and Railay Bay
The Krabi Airport (airport code: KBV) is approximately the same distance (~3 hours) as Phuket is from Khao Sok National Park. As with the options above, it’s easiest to book a minivan transfer online or with a local travel agent.
Regardless of where you are coming from, you’ll likely be dropped off at the main road junction to Khao Sok, about one mile from Khao Sok village.
Most of the guesthouses and hostels are within walking distance of this junction. However, if you have heavy bags or your accommodation is further from the main road, you can get a tuk-tuk at the drop-off location for about 50 THB (~$2) per person.
If you are staying in a higher-end hotel or resort, they generally provide a free pickup service. Just make sure you notify them in advance of your arrival time.
What to Do in Khao Sok National Park
If you enjoy hiking you will definitely want to explore Khao Sok by foot! Dozens of hiking trails around Lake Cheow Lan lead to limestone caverns, stunning viewpoints, and cascading waterfalls. One of the park’s most popular hikes leads to Ton Kloi Waterfall and other great hiking options are the western trail to Than Sawan Waterfall and the northern trail to Sip Et Chan Waterfall.
Foreigners are generally discouraged from hiking in the park on their own. While it is technically allowed to hike in the park without a guide, there is a high chance you’ll get lost due to the thick forest and often unmarked trails.
While you’ll save a little money by trekking on your own you’ll probably find it more enjoyable to go with a guide that knows the way and can help you spot and identify interesting plants and animals along the way. If you’re lucky you might even spot a Rafflesia, the world’s largest flower!
You can arrange a hiking guide at the Khao Sok National Park Headquarters or through your accommodation. Be aware that leeches are quite common in Khao Sok, even when you’re not in the water. It’s best to always wear long pants when hiking and check your legs often for the little blood-suckers.
Another activity that you must do in Khao Sok is to hire a longtail boat and explore Cheow Lan Lake. Also, depending on the season, bamboo rafting, canoeing, and tubing may be available on the river that runs near the village of Khao Sak.
And the adventures don’t have to end after sunset! I would highly recommend arranging a guided nighttime jungle safari tour. The jungle really comes alive at night and there are so many opportunities to see creatures that you wouldn’t normally spot during the daytime.
The entrance fee for Khao Sok National Park is 300 THB per day. If you’re visiting on an organized group tour then the ticket price may already be included in the cost of your tour (make sure you ask beforehand). If you’re visiting the park independently then you’ll need to pay the entrance fee each day you plan on being in the park.
What to Do in Khao Sok Village
If you opt for a multi-day tour of Khao Sok National Park, you’ll most likely spend a day or two exploring the small village of Khao Sok before or after your group tour. And if you choose to explore the park on your own you’ll probably want to use Khao Sok village as your home base for arranging day hikes and other adventures.
During the day, you can take a Thai cooking class or find a swimming pool to cool off from the heat and humidity. And be sure to visit Wat Tham Phanthurat, a nearby Buddhist temple that is overrun by wild monkeys. Or you can rent a motorbike for the day and explore further afield.
Where to Stay in Khao Sok
In Khao Sok village, there are accommodations to fit every budget and style of travel. You’ll find affordable hostels, mid-range bungalows, luxurious resorts, and even tree houses. The best places to stay in the Khao Sok village are the Rock and Treehouse Resort, the Montania Lifestyle Hotel, and the Khao Sok Jasmine Garden Resort.
But if you are headed to Khao Sok, then you must spend a night (or two or three) in a floating bungalow on Cheow Lan Lake – it is one of the most unique experiences in Thailand!
An overnight stay in a floating bungalow is often included on multi-day tours of the park. Or, if you prefer to arrange your trip to Khao Sok independently, you can also book a stay in a floating bungalow on sites like Booking.com and Agoda.
Take note that the bungalows on Cheow Lan Lake are accessed via longtail boat and the departure point is at the Ratchaprapa Marina which is ~40 miles east of Khao Sok village. Some resorts provide a free boat transfer while others do not so make sure to ask before booking your stay.
The Best Floating Bungalows in Khao Sok
If you want to pamper yourself during your stay in Khao Sok National Park, look no farther than 500 Rai Floating Village! The most luxurious floating bungalows on the lake by a long stretch, this resort has beautiful wooden bungalows, an onsite spa, and even a floating swimming pool. After spending a couple of nights here you’ll probably never want to go back to dry land.
Backed by tall limestone cliffs, the location of Panvaree Resort is one of the most impressive of any floating bungalows on Cheow Lan Lake. You’ll have free use of kayaks and you can arrange other activities like a tour of the lake by boat or a hike in the park. Panvaree Resort also offers a free transfer via longtail boat from Ratchaprapa Marina once per day.
Keereewarin has everything you need for an amazing trip to Khao Sok – clean and comfortable wooden bungalows, free use of kayaks, and an idyllic setting. The restaurant is delicious and quite affordable. And you’ll have your own private balcony where you can watch the sunset each evening. It’s perhaps the best value on Cheow Lan Lake!
Khao Sok National Park Luxury Tour
If you want to experience the absolute best of Khao Sok on a tight schedule, then you should check out this 2-day/1-night luxury tour.
It includes pick-up at your accommodation in Surat Thani, Phuket, or Krabi. You’ll be transported to Cheow Lan Lake where you’ll ride a longtail boat through the amazing scenery before trekking through the jungle and exploring 2 caves. You’ll spend the night at the posh 500 Rai Floating Village where you can swim in the lake or go kayaking.
The next day starts with a morning safari walk through the jungle before another scenic longtail boat ride across the lake. You’ll then be transferred back to Surat Thani, Phuket, or Krabi.
Tours of Khao Sak National Park
For a truly unforgettable experience, I recommended booking an overnight tour of Khao Sak. These 2-day/1-night tours typically include meals, activities inside the park, and overnight accommodation in a rustic floating bungalow.
The floating bungalows are typically pretty basic and you should probably anticipate shared bathrooms. It’s more like camping than staying overnight in a hotel, but this only adds to the charm and adventure. The floating bungalows usually come equipped with kayaks and paddleboards so you can explore the lake in the afternoon when you arrive or early the next morning before your tour departs.
While it is possible to see the park independently and stay in one of the National Park’s official bungalows, it is a bit easier to experience the park as part of a group tour – especially if you’re short on time.
The online booking system to book the park’s official bungalows is confusing and complicated to do on your own. Instead, you can just book a group tour and sit back and enjoy the adventure. Plus, if you do a group tour, the guides are skilled at spotting wildlife that you’d most likely not spot on your own.
If you choose the overnight group tour, your food, accommodation, boat ride, and trekking guide are all typically included. If you add up all the costs associated with visiting the park independently, you may find that the savings are actually quite small.
When booking a group tour of Khao Sok, shop around at the many travel agencies in Khao Sok village to find the best deal. Or you can book a variety of tours of Khao Sok online on GetYourGuide.
What to Pack for Khao Sok National Park
If you are staying overnight in one of the more rustic floating huts, there may be limited or no electricity. So be sure to bring a portable battery pack to charge your phone, camera, and any other electronics.
Pack a headlamp for exploring the caves and hiking in the jungle at night. Stock up on bug repellant and wear long pants to fend off the leeches and mosquitos.
You may also want to invest in a dry bag to store your valuable while you’re kayaking on the lake or crossing streams in the jungle.
Finally, take note that while you’re trekking in the park or staying in the floating bungalows there will likely be no wifi and little phone reception. Take care of any task that requires internet before you head into Khao Sok National Park. Then you can truly disconnect and enjoy the adventure!
I hope you have an unforgettable trip to Khao Sok National Park!
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Carrie Back – About the Author:
Carrie is a part-time travel writer and full-time globetrotter based in Southeast Asia. Her most recent adventures include working in the Bolivian Amazon jungle, surfing in Sri Lanka, and exploring Laos via a slow boat up the Mekong River. She’s a slow travel enthusiast and loves to write about her experiences abroad.