The ultimate destination for nature lovers who want to disconnect from technology and immerse themselves in one of the most unique natural surroundings in the world. You'll feel like you traveled back through time as you experience one of the most majestic national parks in Thailand
A few months ago, we mentioned that jungle trekking in Indonesia and coming face-to-face with orangutans in the wild was THE most unforgettable experience we've had. Now we can add another to the list: witnessing the otherworldly beauty of Khao Sok and hiking through a water cave. Read on to find out how you can experience this once-in-a-lifetime adventure for yourself.
Why Khao Sok National Park
Khao Sok National Park is one of Thailand's most beautiful national parks and a magical hidden gem destination. The locals often compare its landscapes to Guilin in China and Halong Bay in Vietnam, but for those like us who love our fantasy movies, it is better known for its Jurassic Park/Avatar-like scenery. And the cherry on top? A fraction of the tourists compared to Guilin and Halong Bay and for most nationalities, you don't need a tourist visa to visit Thailand. That means no more photos with tourists holding giant iPads in your photo's background, and no queuing for tourists visas at the airport. Now that's what we call a win-win situation.
Top attractions of Khao Sok National Park
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How to get to Khao Sok National Park
We recently shared a post on the cheapest way to get around Thailand using public transport, but Khao Sok is so infrequently visited that even 12Go Asia only has expensive taxi or minivan options to get from Phuket to Khao Sok. This could easily cost more than EUR100 per way and is probably the main reason why travelers don't end up discovering this hidden gem. But don't despair, we've got you! The trick is to use the real public bus, not the privately operated ones. This should cost a fraction of the price at around 220 Thai Baht per person or EUR6.50. Here's how:
Getting from Phuket to Khao Sok
Getting from Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao to Khao Sok
Want to head straight from the beach to the rain forests and it looks too much of a mission? Don't worry, there is an easy way to get to Khao Sok from Koh Samui, Koh Phangan or Koh Tao via ferry and bus. It will take 7-9 hours to get there, but we promise it is worth it. Book your transfer online and save yourself time and hassle later.
Khao Sok Lake Tour: Overnight tour vs Day tour
We highly recommend staying over for at least one night to make the most out of this unique experience. That way, your tours won't be as rushed, you have a higher chance at spotting wildlife and you can enjoy kayaking or swimming in the lake with many toothless fish. We actually opted to stay over for an extra night (2 nights, 3 days) so we could have an entire day to ourselves, kayaking from island to island, swimming in the lake and have time to appreciate the lake and the beautiful surroundings.
If you're short on time, then a day tour is better than nothing. If you're arriving by bus from Phuket, stay the night in Khao Sok village and book your day tour for the following day. Find out how much it costs and what it includes below:
Price of Khao Sok Lake Day Tour
1500 Thai Baht (EUR42) per person and 750 Thai Baht (EUR21) for children under 120cm tall.
What does the Khao Sok Lake Day Tour include
Price of Khao Sok Lake Overnight Tour
2500 Thai Baht (EUR70) per person and 1250 Thai Baht (EUR35) for children under 120cm tall - this is for 1 night and 2 days and includes the lake bungalows accommodation and all meals. The kayaks and tubes are free to use. Sounds like a great deal but don't be fooled by these innocent boats. They can end friendships and relationships...
If you want to extend your stay by an extra night like we did, it costs an extra 1500 Thai Baht per person and included all meals for the extra day.
What does the Khao Sok Lak Overnight Tour include
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Where to stay at Khao Sok Lake
Make sure to ask which accommodation it is if not having your own bathroom is a no-go for you. The bamboo bungalows look very pretty and romantic, but none of them have their own bathrooms, so you may need your own torch to get to the loo at night.
If you don't want to hike to the bathroom (ok, maybe "hike" is over exaggerating) then make sure your tour operator books you to stay at Smiley Bungalows. The accommodation is also very basic, but each bungalow has its own bathroom attached to each unit.
If it's a special occasion and you don't mind paying more, there are also some luxurious options available:
Khao Sok Lake Accommodation Review
This part is more for managing expectations rather than a review. The accommodation on the lake is very basic. You're on a lake after all, surrounded by one of the most ancient rainforests in the world. At least you don't need to set up your own camp and dig a hole to handle your business right?
At Smiley Bungalows, each unit can sleep up to 3-4 people but the minimum is 2 in each unit. So you may be paired with someone if you're traveling alone. There is no A/C, but there is a fan in the room. The shower is cold to lukewarm at best. We found the accommodation to be more than sufficient. The only thing that can be improved is cleanliness. The bed sheets and pillow cases are not changed on a daily basis even though new people arrive every day (we're only slightly OCD...)
If you're addicted to the internet, you going to have to detox here as there is no cellphone signal or wi-fi. As internet addicts ourselves, we can tell you that it wasn't so bad and was actually quite liberating. To conserve electricity, the rooms only have electricity between 6PM and 6AM, but you can charge your phones and cameras at the dining/bar area anytime of the day.
What to bring for the Khao Sok Lake Tour
We would recommend you pack everything into your dry bag and leave the rest of your luggage at your accommodation's reception or storage area. Some tour operators will even store your luggage for you. It is important that you only take what you need. We recommend getting the Ocean Pack 25 litre dry bag, as it is the most versatile. If you love adventure, particularly ones that involve water, this bag will come very handy for all your future trips. In Khao Sok town, they cost around 400 Thai Baht (EUR11) but you can also buy it on Amazon. There are cheaper dry bags, but the quality is not great and won't last as long as Ocean Pack. We've had ours for 6 years and it's still in perfect condition.
What shoes to wear for the Khao Sok Lake Tour
If you don't want to ruin your trainers, you can rent rubber shoes for the jungle trek for 50 Thai Baht (EUR1.40) at Smiley Bungalows. They will give you more grip than trainers, so we would recommend you rent these rather than wear your trainers. We wore our usual Mares Dive Booties for the entire hike. They are meant for diving, but we use them for all our water sport activities and even hike with them when the terrain is muddy and slippery. We absolutely love that they are super lightweight, versatile and very resilient. We've have had ours for over 6 years and besides a small hole in the front, they work perfectly and are easy to clean.
Things to do at Cheow Lan Lake (Ratchaprapha Dam)
1. Hiking through Ta La Kum Cave (Khao Sok Water Cave)
This was no doubt the highlight of the trip and one that shouldn't be missed. Your tour operator will take you for a short long tail boat ride to the start of the hiking trail through the rainforest, to get to the entrance of the cave. It's a short 3km walk to the entrance of the cave, which was not difficult at all and mostly flat.
When you get to the cave, that's when the real adventure and fun begins. It was our first experience hiking through a pitch black cave, with only our headlamps to guide us, amongst bats, frogs, spiders and who knows what else (eeek!). And to add to the adventure, the water in some parts of the cave are over 2 meters deep, which means we had to muster all the doggy paddling skills we had to maneuver ourselves through some very narrow sections of the cave. It was one of the most exhilarating experiences we've had to date and we would do it again in a heartbeat!
2. Morning Jungle Safari Tour in Khao Sok
Early morning wake up at 5:30AM to start your morning safari around the lake. If you're lucky and the sky is clear, you'll get to see the most magnificent sunrise, peeking out between the majestic limestone cliffs. Thereafter, it's a 90 minute lake safari tour with the chance of spotting some wildlife. We saw monkeys, a large monitor lizard, a variety of birds and a family of river otters. If you're lucky, you'll see gibbons, elephants and cobras that often hang in the tree branches.
3. Pra Kay Petch Cave Hike in Khao Sok
A small cave you will visit on your way back to the Ratchaprapha Marina. This cave is dry and much easier to navigate through than Ta La Kum Cave, but also less exciting. The highlight of this cave is seeing coral rocks that are thousands of years old, spotting snake eggs and even a live snake! Don't worry, they'll be long gone by the time your brain figures out what you just saw.
Where to book the Khao Sok Lake Tour
The price of the tour is pretty much standardised but what you get will differ. Some tour operators are only able to book the bamboo hut bungalows, which has a communal bathroom to share amongst all the units. Other tour operators will be able to book you into bungalows like Smiley's where you can have a bit more privacy with your own bathroom. With or without bathroom, both tour packages will cost exactly the same. So take your pick based on your personal preference.
We booked our tour at the Montania Lifestyle Hotel (renamed from Khao Sok Royal Cliff Resort and Spa), where we were staying and they packed toiletries and extra toilet paper for us to take with so we wouldn't need to buy. The hotel also kept our luggage safe in their storage room while we were on the Lake Tour so we didn't have to pay for accommodation we wouldn't use.
It was honestly so refreshing to meet and befriend him. Someone who wants travelers to come and enjoy every moment in his home country, rather than just trying to make a quick buck off tourists. If it weren't for him, we wouldn't have enjoyed Khao Sok as much as we did and be able to share all these travel tips with you.
How many days should you stay in Khao Sok
If you're traveling alone or looking for a more budget friendly option, check out Khao Sok Jungle Hostel. It's very affordable and you get great value for money.
Is there malaria in Khao Sok National Park
No but there are mosquitoes, so make sure you get some bug spray. But don't worry, you'll get a good night's rest at the lakeside accommodation as there are no mosquitoes there.
Is the Khao Sok lake tour safe for children
Best time of year to visit Khao Sok National Park
The best time of the year to visit Khao Sok is outside the rainy season, between November and April. But with that being said, it may rain even in the dry season since the province receives some of the highest rainfall in Thailand. You'll need some luck with the weather because some of the activities are weather dependent, like hiking through Ta La Kum Cave (water cave). If it looks like it will rain or is raining, then that leg of the trip will either have to be cancelled or postponed. No one wants a repeat of the Thai soccer team cave rescue mission (unless you want to sign a deal with Netflix).
Thailand's Ultimate Hidden Gem
We loved every moment in Khao Sok, from its friendly people to its unique, mystical natural scenery. If you're on an extended trip in Thailand, why not explore more of its beautiful landscapes and other hidden gems? We have a complete guide on how to get around Thailand using its extensive public transport system. This is how we got to some of the most beautiful beaches in Thailand on the island of Koh Phangan.
If you like a bit more adventure and want to experience some of the most exciting hiking adventures in Thailand, then check out our 3 day itinerary in Krabi. If you're more of a water baby, why not scuba dive around the Similan and Surin Islands? It is voted as one of the top 10 scuba diving sites in the world. Make sure to read our first scuba dive liveaboard experience in Thailand before chartering on your own adventure.
What's your favourite place in Thailand? Let us know in the comments below.
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We're Michael & Chloe!
An adventure travel couple from South Africa. We've hiked up mountains, dived the depths of the ocean, free-fell through the sky and finally walked down the aisle together. We love exploring the adventurous outdoors and discover hidden gems. Our dream is to inspire others to travel more consciously and responsibly while having an adventure of a lifetime.