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Khao Sok National Park is one of my most anticipated stops on my month-long trip across Thailand. Arguably famous in the backpacker circles, I hadn’t heard of it until I dug deeper into my research. The small town of Khao Sok is the base for all those who want to explore the area, most notably the Cheow Lan Lake.
It wasn’t that easy to find information on Khao Sok tours available and the surrounding, and to be fair I was still half confused when I was there. It took me four days but I’m excited to share this comprehensive Khao Sok National Park guide:
Update: I spent another wonderful 5 days in Khao Sok in May 2022 and updated the article!
- Check out my full Thailand series for more tips
Khao Sok National Park Essential Information
Khao Sok National Park is a large area but the town itself is small with a main road. Unless you are staying at a resort or accommodation with a package for Khao Sok National Park tours and food, I would not venture far from the main road. Unless you plan to rent a scooter, otherwise getting around is on foot only.
Is Khao Sok National Park Worth Visiting?
Absolutely! It remains one of my favourite parts of Thailand and despite having visited it twice already, I’d go back to visit Khao Sok National Park in a heartbeat.
It’s a slice of nature home to ancient forests, looming karst mountains, turquoise water, and plenty of wildlife.
If you like nature, adventure, and off-the-beaten-path locations, Khao Sok National Park is perfect.
What is Khao Sok National Park known for?
Khao Sok National Park is best known for Cheow Lan Lake, which was created in the 80s by the building of a dam to produce hydroelectricity. While it has flooded a large area of the forests, it now flourishes with plenty of wildlife such as elephants, hornbills, monkeys, and lemur living there. Although spotting is extremely rare, Khao Sok National Park is also home to tigers, leopards, and sun bears.
What is there to do in Khao Sok National Park?
Most activities in Khao Sok National Park require a guide, except for a short hike from the national park entrance. For any tours in Khao Sok National Park you do or if you want to do the one hike that you can do by yourself, the national park fee applies.
It’s 300 baht per day (except for the Khao Sok lake tour, which you only have to pay once for) is mandatory and not included.
The main town itself is quiet, with nothing going on, as there are plenty of Khao Sok National Park day trips to take.
The few mini-marts along the main road close at 10:30 and everything shuts by midnight, so it’s not a party destination at all. But it’s perfect if you like nature and want to have a more quiet time.
Khao Sok Itinerary
The best Khao Sok itinerary is 1-2 days of trekking with a 2 days 1 night trip to Cheow Lan Lake. But it depends if you have enough time!
How To Get to Khao Sok National Park
Khao Sok is about an hour from Surat Thani in Southern Thailand, about 2-3 hours north of Krabi and Phuket. There are several ways to get to Khao Sok National Park, depending on where you’re traveling from. Aside from flights, I use 12GoAsia to get around Thailand or booked through my hostel. With 12GoAsia, I can pay online, while booking through the hostel usually guarantee a direct pickup.
Bangkok to Khao Sok National Park
From the capital, the fastest way to reach Khao Sok National Park is to fly to Surat Thani airport, then arrange a transfer through your hotel or hostel. The ride there can be expensive as you’re looking at private transfer, so it might be worth booking a Khao Sok National Park tour that includes that.
I did a 3D2N trip with Khao Sok Lake that includes a day of community visit, farm stay cooking, and canoe ride followed by a 2D1N Cheow Lan Lake overnight tour.
Some accommodations also offer pick-up, so you can have a look.
Train to Khao Sok National Park
You can also take the night train from Bangkok or Hua Hin to Surat Thani train station, which is not in Surat Thani center. There is supposed to be a connecting public bus you can take from the train station to Khao Sok, but I have never trained it before.
This would be an overnight train and I recommend getting at least a second class sleeper AC for comfort! You don’t want to arrive at your destination tired.
Bus to Khao Sok National Park
For those who are not a fan of trains, you can also take night buses or general bus or minibus transfer to Khao Sok.
There are also several minibusses daily to and from Phuket and Krabi, both within 2-3 hours away. I recommend having a Thai number that can make calls, but both of my transfers are smooth to and from Khao Sok.
From further afield like Bangkok and Khao Sok, it’s most economic in terms of time and money to take a night bus.
Night buses in Thailand are not as comfortable as Vietnam’s, which have reclined seats. That said, it was definitely value for money, even if we were all bleary eyes and ready to fall asleep again arriving in Surat Thani just before sunrise.
What to do in Khao Sok National Park
The main things to do in Khao Sok National Park involve trekking. As someone who have visited twice, I’ve explored as many options as I can and I have to say that it’s much easier to organise a visit through a tour company.
Here is a comprehensive list of activities:
Rungfah Farm Stay
Do you want to experience life in Khao Sok before the dam was built and the lake makes it an attractive destination? Rungfah Farm Stay is a short car ride from the Khao Sok town and offers a step back in town in its lovely farm.
Yuu grew up in the area and his cooking class is a chance to learn about ingredients used in Thai dishes and get really hands-on with cooking a delicious lunch. His wife and younger daughter Blue Sky are here to help and we did everything from making our own coconut milk to deep frying banana flowers and long beans.
The father-daughter duo has many stories to tell us and we had so much fun just spending time with them and cooking. The lunch was so scrumptious that despite being full, I was determined to eat as much as I could.
So if you want to experience a warm family farm stay and cooking class, this is the best choice!
P.S. you can also stay with the family soon as they have built several huts in their garden for homestay.
Address: VGGM+7PV, Khlong Sok, Phanom District, Surat Thani 84250, Thailand
Find them on Facebook and Instagram
Village Hand Weaving Community
Weaving is an important skill in the Thai culture and Chuen, a local from the village Khao Pang, has decided to open a community for other women in the village to weave and for others to come and learn.
The village is halfway between Khao Sok and Cheow Lan Lake, making for a great stopover option on the way to or back from the lake.
Chuen was also our tour guide for Cheow Lan Lake and the most wonderful human. They offer a lunch tour and also receive school visits.
Contact them on Instagram
Kayaking in Khao Sok
There are several rivers linked to Cheow Lan Lake and all of them are beautiful to kayak in. On our first day, Khao Sok Lake organised our trip from the Village Hands straight to kayaking.
Our guide did the paddling and steered us between looming karst mountains of all shapes and sizes. It was pretty cool to see one that looks like the back of King Kong.
He also made us tea and gave us biscuits when we took a break, boiling the water in bamboo!
It was very well organised, we were dropped off at the starting point and met our kayak guide, then the van was waiting for us on the other end and took us to Rungfah Farmsttay.
River tubing in Khao Sok
This is the one activity I didn’t do yet, since I think choosing one water activity was enough. River tubing is probably more fun for group of friends but it’s also seasonal as the river gets very shallow during dry season, but also can get dangerous in wet season.
There are bars and such along the way for people to stop, but COVID has meant that many of them were not operating. It’s best to check with your hostel or hotel about this on arrival.
Khao Sok Jungle Trekking
Khao Sok National Park trekking requires a guide except for one. If you are a solo traveller, it is not the easiest thing to do as it relies on your hostel/tour operator to get a group together otherwise you might end up paying for your own guide. Which happened to me.
In general, hikes are either morning, afternoon, full day, or at night. If hiking in Khao Sok is high on your list, try to get a group together yourself is the best thing to do. Cost does NOT include national park fee.
Bang Hau Rad Nature Trail
The only trail in the national park that allows visitors without a guide, it’s a 5km trek parallel to a river where you can find some rapids and swimming spots.
It’s not a difficult hike at all and the path is wide and straightforward, ending at a restaurant where you can find refreshment.
You’d need to have a guide if you want to continue up to the waterfalls higher up, and if I’m being completely honest the ones I saw on the way aren’t really that special.
There is a chance you’ll run into a few monkeys and it’s a good 2 hours trek if you already did a half day hike in the morning.
Tip: the park closes at 6 pm but tickets purchased after 4 pm are valid for the next day, so it might be a good walk if you need a ticket the next day.
Ton Kloi Waterfall Trail
If you want to go up to the waterfalls, you’ll need a guide. It’s a half day trek as well, lasting 4-5 hours. You can actually combine this hike with the rafflesia hike into a whole day trek that I think would be worth it. Unfortunately, since I was solo, it wasn’t an option.
It is also the most popular hike to do in Khao Sok National Park. If you opt for a hike, it’s most likely going to be this one. You can hike to it year-around but the waterfall is most majestic in the wet season.
The trail for the rafflesia hike is not at the national park office but along the main road out of the town. You do need to get a ticket first before setting off. I opted to go in the morning when it’s less hot and met my guide at 8am at my hostel.
Usually, you do need to arrange and pay (sometimes extra, sometimes included) for pick up and drop off. But since I was solo, I hopped on my guide’s motorbike for the short drive over to the starting point.
Cost: 1000 to 600 baht per person depending on how many in the group. Can go higher depends on your tour operator
KM.99 Khlong Pae Nature Trail
This is a new trail that starts at the kilometer marker 99 some distance from the Khao Sok town and ends at Cheow Lan Lake, hence its name. It’s not the most popular trail and you would need to request through your tour company or hostel/hotel reception to organise it.
While this is a great challenging hike option, as elephant spotting is possible on the trail but it’s not advertised as far as I can see, I’d advice choosing another if it has rained recently. We were attacked by leeches throughout the hike and it made the experience more like an endurance test rather than a fun hike.
It’s a full day trek that’s about 6 km in and out the same way. While I enjoyed the view of Cheow Lan Lake, the waterfall or rafflesia hikes would definitely be more enjoyable.
If spotting animals is more your thing, a night safari is the activity to go for. That said, be aware that it’s unlikely you’ll get good photos because it is at night.
You’ll spend about 2-3 hours trekking through the national park in the dark in a quest to spot its many nautical residents. We spotted a lemur, a sleeping bird, monkeys, and plenty of frogs!
Cost: ~600 baht
Khao Sok Lake tour
Khao Sok’s best tour is the Cheow Lan Lake tour. You can do either a day trip or an overnight tour, and I highly recommend the latter.
I have done this overnight trip twice, once with my hostel on a basic lake house, a second time through Khao Sok Lake Tour staying at a much nicer bungalow. See my in depth review here.
Cost: 2500 baht
Massages in Khao Sok
The general price point for an one hour Thai Massage in Khao Sok is 300 baht and upwards, which is more than the usual 250 baht around Thailand. I went to Aunchalee Thai Massage and had an okay experience. The massage itself was decent and might just be what you need after a long day hiking. Although the staff kept talking to each other so it wasn’t very relaxing.
Restaurants in Khao Sok
There isn’t a lot of choice in Khao Sok and I ended up eating only at a few places near my hostel. Prices are on the higher end compared to other cities, but it is in a remote location. These are the two that I like:
Recommended by my hostel owner, Pawn’s Restaurant is one of the most highly rated restaurants in Khao Sok that serves traditional Thai food but also some western dishes.
It’s a little pricey even for Khao Sok, but the green curry I had there is pretty good and the portion runs on the larger size.
Opening times: Thurs – Tues 9:00 – 21:00; Weds 10:00 – 21:00
PizzaZo Khao Sok
Compared to Pawn’s, I prefer PizzaZo since it is cheaper hence value for money and also tastes good. It doesn’t hurt that it’s closer to my hostel even by just a little.
I ended up eating here twice since it’s convenient and I enjoy all of their fuss-free thai dishes with rice. A rice dish with fruit smoothie costs around 120 baht, which is pretty decent in this part of Thailand.
Address: two shops down from Jungle Hostel
Opening times: 6:00 – 22:00
Khao Sok Accommodation
There are a range of Khao Sok National Park accommodations to choose from. For those looking for Khao Sok hotels, those tend to be further from the main street but there are still quite a few choices, so here are my top picks:
Budget: Jungle Hostel is a tiny hostel with only 6 beds – all of them single beds, with shelves in between for privacy. Sunny keeps the place very clean, and there’s enough bathrooms for all of us without queuing. He also lends us all the equipment for free, which is a bonus since as backpackers most of us don’t have a wet bag, wet shoes etc.
I did get bitten by bed bugs but it was an isolated incident as no one else had issues. It also takes a while to book the tour and get all the information from Sunny, but I don’t speak Thai and that’s my problem 🙂 He’s not always at the reception either, but just call his name or wait around a little. It’s not as social as other hostels, since most people only stay 1 night and leave for the overnight lake tour. But I like it since you come back every day tired, but that could be a deciding factor for some.
For non-solo travelers, Khao Sok Jungle Huts Resort up the road is affiliated and a good choice. I can vouch for their good breakfast and staff are helpful. A hostel option that’s very clean with free fruits and drinking water is the Chillax Hostel.
Mid-range: The Bliss Khao Sok Boutique Lodge is on a small road 10 minutes from the mainstreet which means it’s quieter. Guests love the clean and modern room as well as the surrounding.
Splurge: it can be tough to be out in the heat all day (or overnight) so if you want to treat yourself, look no further than Montania Lifestyle Hotel. It occupies a space by the main road in the southern section so it’s convenient to reach but still secluded. Did I mention they have a pool?