Complete Guide to Khao Lak

Considering a visit to Khao Lak, Thailand?

It may be surprising to some to know that back in 2004 this buzzing area on Thailand’s south west coast was devastated by a deadly tsunami which ripped through the area killing thousands and destroying almost everything in its wake.

But Khao Lak is a place with an unquenchable spirit, and it has bounced back with aplomb to be reborn as an enviable holiday destination with a happy atmosphere, long swathes of gold sand beaches, mid to upscale resorts perfect for families, great restaurants, excellent snorkelling and diving, and incredible unspoilt scenery.

Let’s find out more…

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Khao Lak Weather

With guaranteed warm weather all year round, there’s never a bad time to visit Khao Lak, although like all southern Thailand it has three seasons — hot, cool, and rainy.

khao lak thailand

The hot season from April to May sees temperatures ranging from 27°C to a blistering 36°C on average, with skies occasionally punctuated with brief thunder storms — mostly during the night — to relieve the pressure. The hot season is reasonably popular with tourists, but is not considered high season.

The cool season from November through March (when temperatures are still averaging 24°C to 32°C) attracts the highest volume of tourists as it is less humid and there is rarely any rainfall.

The months of September through to October bring the monsoon rains which fall in heavy bursts between bouts of sunshine, and sees temperatures drop to between 20°C and 30°C.

However this still remains a good time for sightseeing, particularly for nature lovers.

Bangkok to Khao Lak

By Air

At just 50 miles north of Phuket, the easiest and quickest way to get to Khao Lak is to fly into Phuket airport and travel by bus or taxi from there.

The route is well serviced, with around dozens of flights a day departing from Bangkok airports and prices starting as low as 1000 THB with low cost carriers like Nok Air and Thai Air Asia.

Flight time is around 1.5 hours.

khao lak weather

By Inchka (CC BY 2.0 licence)

Once at Phuket either hire a motorbike and make your own way to Khao Lak, or hire a taxi or minibus to get you there, which will set you back around 1,100 to 1,800 THB per person and takes around 1.5 hours.

At 80 to 120 THB the bus between Phuket and Khao Lak is a cheaper option, but takes roughly an hour longer.

By Bus

An alternative option is to take a bus from Bangkok to Khao Lak.

A daily night bus departs from near Hua Lamphong train station in Bangkok at 7pm and gets you directly to Khao Lak before 12pm the following day. A one way ticket costs 1050 THB.

There is also another night bus departing from Bangkok’s Southern Bus Terminal at around 7:30pm and costing just under 1000 THB, with a journey time of 11-12 hours.

Here’s a look at it going the other way:

Another option is the public day bus which departs from Bangkok’s Mochit station at midday and 4:30pm. Prices start at 450 THB, but the bus makes many stops so expect a long journey time of around 15 hours.

Things to do in Khao Lak

Phang Nga Bay

things to do in khao lak

By Diego Delso (CC BY-SA 3.0 licence)

One hours drive south of Khao Lak lies the magnificent Phang Nga Bay marine national park.

Made up of 42 stunning limestone cliff islands, this incredible natural wonder is home to an abundance of birds, animals, plants and marine life.

The tropical paradise of Phang Nga Bay has been used as a location for several films including James Bond, and the island where The Man with the Golden Gun was filmed usually features on the itinerary for one of the many boat tours that take day trippers to explore the coves, jungle covered hills, pristine beaches, turquoise lagoons, and coral reefs that are found here.

Lamru Khao Lak National Park

national parks in khao lak

By Sirapa Atikomchakorn (CC BY-SA 3.0 licence)

Named for the two largest presiding mountains — Lak and Lam Ru — the collection of craggy cliffs, rolling hills, tumbling waterfalls, granite mountains, pretty beaches, and tropical forest that make up the 125 sq km Lamru Khao Lak National Park is the perfect place to hike a trail and explore the incredibly diverse plant and animal life that live here.

Flying lemurs, porcupine, monitor lizards, crested eagles, macaques, giant toads, and colourful butterfly species are just a fraction of creatures that you may have the chance to come across on the trail.

Khao Sok National Park

khao lak

By Kittipong khunnen (CC BY-SA 3.0 licence)

The most popular national park in southern Thailand, Khao Sok is the ideal day trip destination from Khao Lak.

Nearly 740 square km of majestic mountain lake and ancient rainforest complete with caves and waterfalls, this unspoilt paradise offers the opportunity to glimpse large and rare forest dwelling land mammals including bears, gibbons, wild elephants, tapirs and even tigers, as well as a huge number of bat and bird species.

Also, the rare — and at up to 70 to 80 cm in diameter, enormous — Bua Phut (Rafflesia kerrii) flower can only be found here in Khao Sok National Park.

For more adventure take a boat out on the serene Cheow Lan Lake, or take a kayak out in the early morning mists to the sounds of whooping gibbons swinging in the nearby trees.

Bang Niang Market

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Big, bright and exciting, Bang Niang Market is the lively shopping hub of Khao Lak.

Open every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday from the afternoon until about 10pm, the market is composed of several sections.

Colourful fresh produce, fish and meats, freshly cooked street food delights and local delicacies, clothes and accessories, and traditional Thai handicrafts.

The atmosphere is laid back and the market doesn’t get too crowded, so it’s the perfect way to spend a relaxed afternoon shopping and eating.

Similan Islands

similan islands khao lak

Off the west coast of Khao Lak, the Similan Islands are an archipelago of 11 beautiful wild and forested islands which make up a 140 square km national marine park.

The island jungles and beaches can be explored on foot, but these islands are really renowned for the spectacular coral reefs and marine life in the crystal clear waters that surround them.

Huge underwater boulders jumbled in piles at depths of more than 35 metres make for an intriguing underwater landscape bristling with hundreds of different coral species, and teeming with colourful fish such as lionfish, clownfish, eels, stingrays, sharks, parrotfish, and much more.

This is one of the best sites in Thailand for snorkelling and diving, with something to suit all levels of experience.

International Tsunami Museum

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A testament to the natural disaster of 2004, the International Tsunami Museum in Khao Lak on the main road out of town is an informative way to learn all about tsunamis and about the tragedy that had such devastating consequences.

A poignant memorial, the museum exhibits not only show the horrifying effects of the tsunami waves that formed following an earthquake off the coasts of Indonesia, it also demonstrates the warning signs that could have saved thousands of lives if only people had been aware at the time.

The remains of a huge steel navy boat carried 2 kilometres inland just next to the museum also indicates the terrifying power of the tsunami.

White Sand Beach

Just 15 minutes drive from the main town of Khao Lak, White Sand Beach (aka Ao Thong) stretches out just over 2.5 km of heavenly powdery soft white sand fringed with trees.

This stunning beach is quiet and peaceful, and a perfect paradise to lie back in and relax and listen to the gentle lapping of the pristine azure waters against the shore.

There are only a few resorts on the beach, so it remains pleasantly unspoilt compared to other, more busy beaches in the area.

Surin Islands

what to do in khao lak

By Kent Wang (CC BY-SA 2.0 licence)

40 minutes offshore Thailand’s west coast, the Surin Islands Marine National Park holds some of the most breathtaking underwater treasures of the Andaman Sea.

These remote islands are covered with ancient rainforest which provide a home to a number of interesting species of reptiles, mammals and birds including flying foxes, pythons, and macaques.

Numerous underwater sheltered bays boast impressive coral reefs with more than 200 coral species which make for exciting dive sites and it’s common to see shoals of reef fish and ocean giants such as whale sharks and manta rays, and even sea turtles who come here to lay their eggs.

Several dive operators offer day or overnight trips here from the mainland.

Ton Chong Fa Waterfall

Hidden in the mountains of Phang Nga Bay national park 7 km from the Bang Niang main road, a steep, long and winding track leads through the jungle to Ton Chong Fa Waterfall.

This wide cascade tumbles down five natural tiers in the rock before thundering into the pool below which is perfect for taking a refreshing dip.

The climb to the top of the falls is not for the faint hearted, but can be rewarding if you’re fit and foot sure enough.

Khao Lak Hotels

X10 Khaolak Resort

khao lak weather

A tranquil tropical family escape in a premium location between Khao Lak Centre and Bang Niang Market, 5 star X10 Khaolak Resort features rooms and suites equipped to the highest standard and comfortably decorated in elegant modern style.

Accommodations are designed for families and couples, with flat screen satellite television, private balconies and en suite bathrooms.

Set amongst the resort gardens are 5 swimming pools including one with a swim up bar and 2 childrens pools.

There are a variety of gourmet dining options such as Thai and International buffet at The Main Restaurant, and á la carte seafood dishes.

The resort spa offers a wide-range menu of treatments including Thai aromatherapy and oil massages, facials and body scrubs, soothing cleansers, and treatments to nourish your body and renew your soul.

  • Beachfront location
  • 5 swimming pools
  •  Spa and wellness centre
  • Fitness centre
  • Choice of dining options
  • Bar
  • Kids club

khao lak hotels

JW Marriott Khao Lak Resort and Spa

khao lak thailand

The 5 star JW Marriott Khao Lak Resort & Spa boasts a dramatic and picturesque location on beautiful Khao Lak Beach.

Luxury Thai style guest rooms and suites feature private balconies, LCD flat-screen TVs, and marble en suite bathrooms, and private villas feature a personal outdoor terrace with whirlpool spa.

The lagoon style outdoor pool is the perfect place to cool down and unwind, and the Quan Spa, offers an array of healing treatments, including massages, facials and body scrubs to relax and rejuvenate.

Three different restaurants with pool or sea views serve up a choice of delicious Thai, Japanese or Mediterranean cuisine, and the Lobby Bar overlooking the pool is the ideal setting for sipping a tropical drink or a cold beer while watching the sun set.

  • Beachfront location
  • Choice of 3 restaurants
  • Bar
  • Deli
  • Spa and wellness centre
  • Fitness centre

khao lak hotels

The Sarojin

khao lak hotel

At the 5 star Sarojin, guests are offered a personalized luxury boutique beach resort experience in a secluded 11km long beach setting in Khao Lak.

56 luxury guest residences are situated within 10 acres of lush tropical gardens with direct beach access and feature spacious en suite bathrooms with rain showers, flatscreen TV, and private terrace with Thai sala.

Pool villas benefit from private pools, while spa suites offer separate spacious lounge areas, and outdoor circular relaxation pool.

The Sarojin’s restaurants — Edge and Ficus — create fine Thai and contemporary Mediterranean cuisine, and the wine bar with multi-award winning wine cellar features a range of the finest imported wines and spirits. The chic beach bar has spectacular views over the white sands and ocean.

The open air Pathways spa is hidden in natural surroundings, and treatments blend natural local ingredients with sacred harmony for spiritual and physical healing.

  • Excellent location very close to beach
  • Luxury personalised experience
  • Choice of 2 restaurants
  • Bar and wine cellar
  • Outdoor swimming pool
  • Fitness centre
  • Spa and wellness centre

khao lak hotels

Ramada Khao Lak Resort

best hotels in khao lak

The beachfront paradise of the 5 star Ramada Khao Lak Resort offers couples and families a place to escape and hideaway from the world and relax and enjoy the tranquil, safe and beautiful natural environment of Bang Niang Beach and the nearby outlying tropical islands.

Rooms and villas are decorated in a distinctly elegant Thai style, with fabulous views to the sea, tropical gardens or swimming pools from private balconies or sun terraces. Villas feature floor to ceiling windows and private pools.

Designed for both singles and couples, each pavilion at the luxury spa features private herbal steam room or sauna, a Jacuzzi bath and an outdoor rain shower.

Skilled therapists use a combination of Thai traditional herbal therapies merged with modern wellness practices to soothe body and mind. From a romantic and intimate dinner on the beach, to tasty Thai and international dishes at the beachfront restaurant and bar or a hearty American buffet breakfast, there’s much to please the palate at Ramada Khao Lak Resort.

  • Beachfront location
  • Spa and wellness centre
  • Fitness centre
  • Choice of dining options
  • Bar
  • Outdoor swimming pool with sea view

khao lak hotels

Have you visited Khao Lak, Thailand yet?


Featured image is by Pedro Krtička (CC BY 3.0 licence)



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