Khao Sok National Park
The oldest evergreen rainforest in the world and southern Thailand’s largest area of protected parkland, Khao Sok National Park is certainly one of the hidden wonders of this world.
With views of majestic limestone cliffs and endless plains of jungle, this awe-inspiring place is a must see for those who love nature for all its worth and want to get a glimpse of one of Asia’s most untouched regions.
Khao Sok National Park is located in the Phang-Nga province of southern Thailand that stretches across 739-square-kilometres, including the 165-square-kilometre Cheow Larn Lake, a man made lake created by the construction of the Rachaprapha Dam back in 1982. The area is a forest sanctuary to hundreds of species of wildlife such as Gibbons, Pangolins and Asian Elephants, as well as over 300 species of bird life.
It is certainly a place to put on your Thailand itinerary if you love jungle trekking, wildlife spotting or the idea of spending some peaceful days surrounded by nothing but nature.
Khao Sok National Park lies on road 401, which connects the provinces of Phang-Nga and Surat Thani. The easiest way to get there is by land and minibus services run regularly from Phuket, Khao Lak, Krabi or Surat Thani. Prices vary from location (Around 200 – 600 Baht one-way).
To leave Khao Sok there are many places in the main street of town where you can purchase bus tickets to your next destination. The best place to buy minibus tickets in town is the tourist information centre about 20 metres from the Khao Sok Rasta Bar. They sell their tickets around 50 to 150 Baht cheaper than other places in town.
There are two main entrances to the National Park and they are both separated by about 50 kilometres of road. Most of the tourist accommodation is located on a stretch of road located near the first entrance to the park and you can easily walk from one side to the other. This is also the area where most hotels, restaurants, bars and facilities are located.
To get to the other entrance, the Cheow Larn Lake entrance, it is easiest to take a taxi to the lake however if you’re more fitness savvy you can hire a bicycle for 250 Baht per day. The roads are relatively flat and make for an easy ride.
There is also the option to hire a motorbike or scooter for 300 Baht per day and you can negotiate the price down if you are hiring it for several days. Many places around Khao Sok are reachable by motorbike including the Rachaprapha Dam, waterfalls, hot springs and various nature walks.
Many of the tours in Khao Sok involve a trip on the Cheow Larn Lake so, most of the time, transport to this entrance is included in the tour price.
What to do
There are many activities available in the National Park and you can organise these either from your accommodation or through one of the many tourist information centres located on the main street of Khao Sok. The prices of the tours won’t vary too much as the National Park has set the standard prices in order to provide fair opportunity so that certain companies do not undercut others.
Overnight stay on Cheaow Larn Lake
One of the must-do’s in Khao Sok National Park is the opportunity to stay on a floating bungalow in the middle of the Cheow Larn Lake. Surrounded by serene forests and mountains these floating bungalows sit over 40 metre deep, fresh, clean water and you can literally step outside of your bungalow and jump into the lake for a swim. Strict conservation laws, which make it difficult for anyone to litter or pollute the area, have preserved the lake and local groups run weekly cleaning schedules to ensure no rubbish or pollutants make their way into the water.
On a tour, the overnight stay in a bungalow will cost 2500 Baht, which also includes 3 meals, hiking, nature spotting and cave diving in the Nam Taloo Cave, a 800 meter long, water eroded cave in the heart of the National Park.
It is also a possibility to book the stay without the added activities however there are few companies which allow bookings, and you will also need to pay for a boat transfer to and from the bungalows which costs 1500 Baht for the round trip.
There is a range of hikes you can do inside the Khao Sok National Park, either on your own or with a guide. The entrance to the park will cost you 300 Baht either way.
If you are trekking on your own the best entrance will be the Visitor Centre located in the main part of town. Here you can trek a number of trails where you have the chance to see birds, reptiles and insects. As this entrance is located closer to the tourist area there is lesser chance of seeing larger animals.
If you want to head further into the jungle we recommended getting an experienced guide or joining a tour. Tours range from 1/2 day to 10 days and can also include a camping experience in the jungle. Prices vary depending on duration.
Canoeing & Tubing
Just outside the grounds of the National Park there is the Sok River. Spend half a day relaxing on the river, seeing the natural beauty of Khao Sok and spotting a variety of wildlife while you paddle slowly and quietly down the stream. These activities are best for spotting birdlife, as the birds are not scared off by the loud sounds of the motorboats.
Tours range from 500 – 800 Baht per person, the price comes down if you have more people.
There are many Elephant experiences in Khao Sok, unfortunately some more unethical than others. If you do decide to participate we recommend using Elephant Hills, an Elephant experience that does not allow rides on Elephants, only the chance to interact with these creatures by washing and feeding them, and watching them in their natural environment.
Thai Cooking Class
Lek and Noi, a Thai couple that have been living in Khao Sok there whole lives, offer a wonderful cooking class in their home on the outskirts of the Khao Sok National Park. Spend the afternoon learning to make Gan Kiawan Gai (Green Chicken Curry), Tom Yum soup and a variety of other deliciously tasty Thai cuisines while you chat with them about their lives here in Khao Sok. Learn about the ingredients, specifically the spices, that go into making the unique Thai flavours that we all enjoy so much, and cook up a storm. You can arrange the cooking class from your accommodation and it will cost you around 800 Baht per person. Be sure to ask for Lek and Noi and be sure to arrive on an empty stomach, as the servings are plentiful.
Food & drink
Khao Sok has some of the most traditional and delicious Thai food on offer in the whole of southern Thailand. With most of the ingredients grown locally you can pick up a Thai main meal for around 100 Baht. There are a variety of restaurants located on the main strip of Khao Sok that all provide a range of both Western and Thai meals, and most of the restaurants are similarly priced.
For cheap fruit shakes that will set you back a mere 30 Baht, head down to Da Pipino Pizzeria on the main strip. Khao Sok also has it’s own small Rastafarian Bar scene with a number of Bob Marley decorated bars located in the main tourist area. Head to Jumanji Bar for 100 Baht happy hour cocktails from 4 – 8pm, or to the Rasta Bar for some reggae tunes with sunset mountain views. There are a number of mini-marts located on the main street, as well as a few ATM’s in town, all that cost a 200 Baht withdrawal fee.
The main collection of accommodation in Khao Sok is located near the visitor centre entrance to the National Park. There is accommodation to suit all budgets, as well as a good choice of cheaper accommodation for the backpackers.
A great place to stay for the budget traveller is Monkey Mansion, also known as Khao Sok Jungalows, where you can pick up a cosy eco bungalow for only 500 Baht per night. They are known for their friendly atmosphere, environmentally conscious practices and extensive knowledge of Khao Sok and it’s surroundings. They also do great, cheap Thai food.
For a little higher budget there is Our Jungle House, an environmentally friendly resort located in the heart of the jungle, just 1 km from the main street of Khao Sok. The resort is the oldest in Khao Sok and supports local projects like the Burmese Learning Centre for women, a centre in the Kuraburi area that provides education to disadvantaged Burmese migrants in the community. A stay in one of the bungalows will cost you from 900 – 1800 Baht per night.
If you have your own transport then you could also opt for something more remote in the Khao Sok Valley along route 401, east of Khao Sok village and towards Ba Ta Khun. Here there are a handful of places to stay that are generally more expensive than in the village but are very scenic and are perfect if you’re looking for absolute peace and quiet.
View more accommodation options in Khao Sok here.
The medical facilities in Khao Sok are fairly basic and can only provide basic first aid assistance. For the closest hospital you will have to head to the neighbouring towns of Krabi or Khao Lak.
Police Stations are located at both entrances to the National Park. The Emergency Police number is 191 and the Tourist Police number is 1155.
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