Khao Lak is a paradisiac and soulful place for holidays and escaping winter for those who love the untouched tropical nature, beaches, and relaxation. I believe that Khao Lak is a rather alternative and undiscovered destination in Thailand because even during the high season, it's not crowded with tourists. Perhaps this will change in a few years, but for now, you have time to enjoy the authentic Khao Lak.
In this guide, you will discover what unusual food to try at the local night markets of Khao Lak, where are the most paradisiac beaches, where to see the most beautiful panorama, what unique activities to do, where to spend time with elephants, and many more exciting things.
Khao Lak - love at first sight
I discovered Khao Lak about six years ago when I went on a jungle trip to Khao Sok National Park.
On the way to Khao Sok, we drove through amazing, long, and EMPTY beaches.
I was shocked.
How can such beaches be empty in super touristy Thailand?
I looked at the map to find out the name of the place.
It turned out to be Khao Lak.
At that time, I did not visit Khao Lak, as I was driving further to the north of the country, but I promised myself to return there.
And a few years later, when I finally arrived in Khao Lak, I found it still a quiet, calm, and not crowded place.
In Khao Lak, on the beaches, it's not packed like sardines. There you can be the only person on the beach.
In Khao Lak, you can meet locals, and they are happy to get to know you.
In Khao Lak, on the first line of the beach, there are no night clubs and discos, but cozy, quiet hotels, tropical greenery, and even a coconut plantation.
In Khao Lak, fishers go to sea in traditional Thai boats not to attract tourists, but simply because they live like that.
I even found a small island there at low tide.
It is essential to know that in 2004, Khao Lak was severely affected by the most powerful tsunami.
More than 4 thousand people died here. All houses and hotels on the coast were destroyed.
Now, fortunately, life is in full swing again.
The buildings were rebuilt or reconstructed; new hotels, shops, and businesses were opened.
And only the tsunami memorial and the blue signs hanging everywhere, pointing the way to the hill, in case of a tsunami threat, remind about the tragedy.
In this guide, I give my recommendations, based on my experience, how to spend an unforgettable vacation in Khao Lak, a journey filled with adventure and discovery.
Fly to Khao Lak at the right time of the year
In Khao Lak, the dry season begins in November and ends in April.
But the most pleasant weather is in December, January, and February. During these months, you will find a calm sea with small waves, clear water, and a cloudless sky.
In November, in recent years, there have often been showers and storms, and in April, it is already becoming much hotter and sultry.
Locals say they feel global climate change. There used to be a clear separation between the dry season and the rainy season. And now there are deviations.
The nearest airport is Phuket International Airport.
It is located just 80 kilometers from Khao Lak. The journey to Khao Lak takes about an hour.
On KIWI.com, you will find the cheapest flights to Thailand.
Find "YOUR" most beautiful beach in Khao Lak
I have got good news for you!
The coast of Khao Lak is a HUGE 30 km sandy beach!
it's just a dream.
You will definitely find a beach there for your taste.
In Khao Lak, there are both quite wild, pristine, deserted beaches, and there are civilized ones, with developed infrastructure for vacationers.
What I really liked in Khao Lak was the possibility to combine such different preferences in one place.
Sometimes I want to be on the beach, where there is no soul, and just feel closer to nature, sea, waves, clouds, palm trees, and absorb all this beauty.
And then, when I have enough of loneliness and calm, I want to take a scooter and head to the beach where there are a party, joyful people, and a lot of delicious street food.
Here is a list of all the beaches of Khao Lak:
• Khao Lak Beach
• Nang Thong Beach
• Bang Niang Beach
• Khuk Khak Beach
• Laem Pakarang Beach
• Pak Weeb Beach - Coconut Beach and White Sand Beach are located in this area
• Bang Sak Beach
I explored all of them.
And I recommend you do the same.
I stayed at the guesthouse in Bang Niang Beach.
It is right in the middle of the Khao Lak coast.
From there it was very convenient and fast to go to different beaches, both north and south.
The trip took about 20-30 minutes.
There are few cars on the road.
Therefore, riding a scooter was a pleasure.
The beaches in Khao Lak are all good.
The only difference is that Khao Lak Beach, Nang Tong Beach and Bang Niang Beach are more developed and more built-up with hotels.
It is in these zones that you will also find many restaurants, grocery shops 7-11, and all kinds of shops with goods for beach and holidays.
Khuk Khak Beach, Laem Pakarang, Pakwib, and Bangsak are less built up. In these areas, you will relax on almost empty and even deserted beaches. The choice of restaurants and hotels there is smaller. But then nature and tropical greenery are closer.
Another difference between the beaches is the color of the sand.
On all beaches except Coconut Beach and White Sand Beach, the sand is yellow and even orangeish.
On this photo from the Bang Niang Beach, you can see how it looks like:
The beaches with snow-white sand in Khao Lak are like this:
And the color of the water is just like it should be in the paradise! :-)
Here you can learn about each of the best beaches in Khao Lak in detail.
Taste unusual Thai food at the Khao Lak's local markets
Well, to tell you the truth, food is my favorite part of travel to Thailand! :-)
When I think of Thailand, the first thing that comes to mind is not beaches and palm trees.
It's a riot of tastes and aromas of Thai cuisine.
I like to discover unusual Thai food at local night markets.
It's like one huge restaurant, where the advantage is that you already see the dish before paying for it. And since we do not know most of the meals and ingredients, it is often better to choose with your eyes than by the name on the menu.
OK, what did I find at the markets in Khao Lak?
Sushi with a centenary egg,
fried ice cream...
and many more strange for the Westerner and unusual foods.
Here is where to go in Khao Lak for a feast of the stomach.
There are several markets there.
Bang Niang Street Market
It's located near the tourist police and the tsunami museum.
Open every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday from 15:00 (sometimes earlier) to 20:00
Bang Niang Market is the oldest and the largest market in the Khao Lak area.
Here you will find a variety of street food, barbecue, clothes, souvenirs, fruits, fish, vegetables and much more.
Try sugarcane juice, fresh coconut water, and colorful Thai desserts.
If you like adventure, then for you there are caterpillars, crickets and scorpions.
There are also several bars and restaurants nearby. Here I spent many hours in a row. The Bang Niang market has it all.
Street Market "The Build" near the Build Factory Pub
This market doesn't have the name as such. It is a very local market. I rarely saw foreigners there.
The market was opened in 2015, next to the Build nightclub, so people call it like that, "The Build Market."
Like the Bang Niang market, you will find here numerous stands with Thai food, drinks, clothes, and fruits. Several permanent coffee shops have recently opened around the market.
The market works on all days when the Bang Niang market is closed.
It is open on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday.
It means that you can go to a different market every day.
I liked this market the most since it was here that I found the most unusual and authentic Thai food that I did not see in other markets.
I tried there colorful sushi, coconut pancakes with corn, purple dessers made of rice flour, Luk Chup, steamed sweet potato cake, Tako dessert, jelly with coconut, spicy chicken with rice steamed in bamboo leaves, and many more delicious things.
Khuk Khak Market
Khuk Khak Market is a grocery market that runs from early morning until noon. Here, locals and restaurants buy meat, fish, and vegetables.
The market is located next to Khao Lak Bus Station in Khuk Khak.
Khao Lak also has other spontaneous night or day markets.
They pop up in different places. There is no timetable. So, observe what you see around, and perhaps you will find such a market.
Usually, they are organized along the main road of Khao Lak. Often such markets are surrounded by and attractions for kids with colorful lights.
Enjoy the sunset and the most beautiful panoramas of Khao Lak
Samed Nang She Viewpoint
Completely unknown until 2016, the observation deck of Samed Nang She became a very popular place in just a few months after one Thai photographer discovered it and shared with the Instagram world.
Samed Nang She is a natural terrace located in the deep countryside of Phang Nga province (80 km south of Khao Lak). As it's not easy to get there, you can also go to Samed Nang She within a private tour with a local: Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island by Longtail Boat from Khao Lak.
From Samed Nang She you will be able to enjoy stunning views to the limestone islands of Phang Nga Bay.
The best time to visit Samed Nang She is at dawn.
Panoramas from the Hill of Lam Ru National Park
Lam Ru National Park is located on a hill with stunning panoramas. To find this place, search on the map Khao Lak View Point.
I highly recommend this place for calm walks in the greenery.
By the way, there is a small secluded beach nearby called Sandy Beach. It is very clean and not crowded, as it is located on the territory of the National Park.
However, you have to pay an entrance fee of 200 baht.
With this ticket, you can spend the whole day there and visit the National Park, the Sandy Beach, the observation deck, and the Chong Fa Waterfall.
Near the observation platforms, there are restaurants - National Park Restaurant and Muanlai E-Sarn Dining Restaurant. It's an excellent opportunity to have lunch and dinner with a panoramic view.
Sunsets at the Bang Niang Beach
I found the most beautiful sunsets in Khao Lak on Bang Niang Beach, near the Mukdara Beach Resort and Ramada Khao Lak Resort.
From there, the sun at sunset seems so big and red.
Take soft drinks or even dinner with you to the beach, and, along with the setting sun, just thank life for another day you lived.
Embark on unique tours and excursions from Khao Lak
You can, of course, spend days in Khao Lak as I did in this photo, lying in a hammock, listening to the waves, and with a cocktail in my hand.
But in the vicinity of Khao Lak, there are so many exciting places that wait for you.
Here is what you can discover.
The place that impressed me the most was Khao Sok National Park and Chew Lan Lake.
Pictures of this pristine jungle of Khao Sok and the human-made lake Chew Lan with fantastic landscapes still stand in front of my eyes.
It is an unforgettable place where you can reunite with nature and with yourself.
I spent a night there in a small bamboo house on the water.
Right from my bedroom, I was jumping into the clear turquoise water of the lake.
I went to Khao Sok with a tour. The program was full of activities and wonderful experiences: a jungle trecking, a boat safari, kayaks, crossing a dark cave in the water, visiting a mountain temple, and feeding the monkeys.
If you like adventure vacation, you will love going to the lake and the National Park.
Check here the current offers of tours to Lake Chew Lan and Khao Sok National Park with English-speaking guides:
I also went on an expedition where we were floating on Thai bamboo rafts down the river, enjoying the scenery. Then we went to the Sea Turtle Conservation Center, where we could get closer to these big beautiful turtles.
And if you want to snorkel or dive, to see colorful fish, giant turtles, and possibly leopard sharks, then you should undoubtedly go to the paradisiac Similan or Surin Islands!
There you can soak up on the white beaches and feel like Robinson Crusoe on a desert island.
See more details:
Find a square with fun colorful architecture
I was walking around the Bang Niang Beach area with the simple architecture of houses and shops, nothing special, and then I saw something completely different.
It was a beautiful small square with colorful buildings inspired by the architecture of Phuket's Old Town.
The address is 67/273 Bang Niang Beach Road, Bangniang.
In the middle of the square, there is a restaurant and bar where often in the evenings they organize concerts with live music.
Part of this architectural complex is the three-star CasaCool Hotel. It's a new hotel, opened in 2015, right after the tsunami.
CasaCool offers luxurious and stylish rooms at budget prices.
This square is a lovely place with a relaxing atmosphere.
Also, it's nice to come here because the adjoining BangNiag Beach Road is full of street food merchants in the evening.
There you can try green papaya salad, all kinds of Thai barbecue, fruit salads, and Thai iced coffee.
Spend time with elephants in Khao Lak
My friend, I intentionally do not write here, "go for an elephant trecking."
It turns out that it is not as harmless as it seems!
When I was invited to ride elephants, I immediately agreed without thinking. After all, elephants are so cute, calm, and friendly animals!
It was my dream to get closer to the elephant and spend time with him.
And, I thought, " this is the real exotic for which I fly to Thailand"!
I was so naive.
Later I discovered that elephant riding in Thailand is part of the animal cruelty industry. Elephants allow people to ride them only when they are constantly threatened with physical violence and psychological punishment.
You can learn more about how elephants get from nature to the elephant parks, how are they treated, and "educated" there if you google it.
You may also check articles and researches done by the organizations protecting animals: PETA, World Wildlife Fund, TRAFFIC, SAVE THE ELEPHANTS, Elephantics, Elephant Family, and AnimalsAsia.
When you discover what an elephant lived through to please you with a circus show or give you a ride, you will never want to go on such activities.
So, in Thailand, it is better to avoid the places and tours that offer elephant trekking and the circus elephant show.
But there are more ethical ways that you can spend time with elephants. You can look after them, feed, wash, or bath with them.
There are three places in Khao Lak, where you spend time with elephants.
Phang Nga Elephant Park
Phang Nga Elephant Park is a unique small family-friendly eco-park that is not a network or part of a major tourism organization.
Park employees strive to provide elephants with the best possible quality of life.
Elephant dances, circus tricks, and elephant riding are not practiced there.
Phang Nga Elephant Park offers ethical programs for travelers.
Here you can learn about the daily routine of Kwan-chang (a person caring for elephants) during an elephant health check. It's also possible to explore the jungle walking next to the gentle giant, prepare food for him, and then feed him surrounded by amazing landscapes of the jungle on the hillside.
You can wash or bathe with an elephant in the pool or river.
Elephant Park near Lam Ru National Park
It is easy to find this elephant park. You need to get to the entrance to the National Park and then walk towards the Chao Po Temple and Ton Pling Waterfall.
When I was in Khao Lak, this elephant park was offering elephant riding tours.
Perhaps now the situation has changed.
Elephant Camp near Laem Pakarang Beach
This elephant park is located on the main road of Khao Lak. You will definitely notice it if you go to Laem Pakarang Beach or Coconut Beach. Other landmarks to easily find it are Khuk Khak Temple & School and Chompu Resort.
This elephant park also used to offer elephant rides. But awareness of animal mockery is growing, so perhaps this place is different now, and other workers and other elephants are already there.
You can come there and ask to spend time with elephants in a way that will not hurt them.
An easy way to check if the elephant park is an ethical place is to see the conditions in which elephants live.
Another important thing is to observe what methods the coach uses when he wants to direct the elephant for some action. It should not be slaps, slivers, crochet pricks, and any other way of making pain to the animal.
Here is a tour where you can spend half a day with elephants taking care of them and swimming with them. Check it out:
Stay in the atmospheric hotel in Khao Lak
Where to stay in Khao Lak?
As I wrote above, the beaches in Khao Lak are excellent everywhere. Therefore, choose the hotel according to your style and budget.
Stylish hostels, guesthouses and bungalows
Khao Lak has many budget housing options - hostels, guesthouses, and bungalows.
The advantage of all accommodation in Khao Lak, in general, is that it is all relatively new since it was built (or rebuilt) after the 2014 tsunami. So even the guesthouses look pretty decent and are equipped with modern showers and air conditioning.
Accommodation prices in Khao Lak in high season start at $ 8.
Monkey Dive Hostel Khaolak is a modern and stylish hostel where everything is designed with a diving theme.
In this hostel, it is easy to meet other travelers as there is a large living room, a large table for working with laptops (which is very important for those who work while traveling), a garden with hammocks and a cafe-bar.
If you like romance and being outdoors, you can stay at The Garden Khao Lak Bungalow Complex and sleep right in the palm garden.
These traditional Thai bungalows are situated 150 meters from Bang Niang Beach.
The complex has a restaurant serving a continental breakfast in the morning, and Thai dishes for lunch and dinner.
The downside of such accommodation is the lack of air conditioning.
In Khao Lak, small guesthouses are very widespread.
They have only several rooms, often with a restaurant on the ground floor or another family business.
A good example of such a guesthouse is the cozy and atmospheric Les Fleurs House.
Unique and atmospheric hotels in Khao Lak
In Khao Lak, conceptual hotels have recently begun to appear that are different from others. These hotels offer more than just a place to sleep.
Casa De La Flora is a unique boutique hotel, ideal for those seeking complete relaxation, peace, and quiet.
The complex is located on the first line of the beach so you can have a room with a sea view.
Casa De La Flora has a very unusual architecture and design that will not leave anyone indifferent.
The hotel has a beautiful panoramic pool, and all rooms are equipped with private pools.
It's an excellent choice for those who love refined style and exclusivity.
Moracea by Khao Lak Resort is a resort with a unique and unusual design.
I would describe Moracea style as retro-chic or luxury traditional Thai bungalow suite.
The hotel is located on the first line of a beautiful beach near Lam Ru hill and has everything for unforgettable holidays.
La Flora Resort & Spa is a wonderful spa hotel with an infinity pool.
Here you can make for yourself a real retreat, as the hotel offers various procedures to relax both body and soul.
The treatments are based on traditional Asian medicine, ancient rituals, and modern complex remedies.
At La Flora, you can indulge in a variety of massages, including therapeutic, cleansing treatments with exotic coconut and tamarind scrubs, milk baths, and anti-aging facial treatments.
Explore Khao Lak from the aerial view
To do this, you can rent a private helicopter, or you can watch our video of Khao Lak, shot by a drone.
This video also got a few frames from Phuket (for example, a rooftop pool), but the rest we shot in Khao Lak.
To view the video, be sure to choose HD quality!
I hope this video inspires you to travel to Khao Lak!
Thanks for watching and reading!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hi, nice to meet you! I'm Sasha, a “free spirit” and a world citizen at heart who was born in the country that does not exist: Transnistria. I am on my adventurous journey to discover alternative, quirky, unique and unusual things to do and to visit in cool cities around the world. Join me and try something new! I write in Globish, since English is not my native language, so feel free to correct me or to make fun of me :).