Guide to Khao Lak, Thailand: Exploring Paradise

Are you considering a trip to Khao Lak, Thailand for your next visit to the land of smiles? If you’re wondering whether it’s worth adding to your packed schedule, read on to discover everything you need to know about this little slice of Thai paradise.

nok beach bar khao lak

Is Khao Lak worth visiting?

I get it, planning a trip to Thailand is overwhelming and it can be really hard to decide where to spend time and where to skip. If you’ve got this far, you’re probably wondering is Khao Lak worth visiting really? During our recent holiday to Thailand I researched long and hard to decide if Khao Lak was worth adding to our pretty packed schedule.

Now we’re home I can firmly say that it’s a resounding yes. I love that Khao Lak is more laid back than neighbouring Phuket, I love that it is easier to navigate than nearby Krabi and I love that even now, it’s a lot quieter than both. The whole area is very well set up for tourists, the resorts are stunning and mainly located right on the beach. There are heaps of great value bars and restaurants right on the sand and you’ll never struggle to find something to do. In fact I don’t know how it’s managed to retain its local charm and slow pace of life.

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jungles in khao lak

Fantastic things to do in Khao Lak

Khao Lak is home to some amazing beaches. They’re old school chilled, think relaxed beach bars and deserted stretches of sand rather than luxury beach clubs and adrenalin fuelled watersports. For me, beaches like Ao Nam Mao in Krabi offer better views but I don’t think you can beat the vibe of Khao Laks beaches.

Khao Lak beaches you’ll want to visit

Bang Niang Beach

Bang Niang is the most central beach in Krabi. It’s easy to walk to from the middle of town and home to some brilliant hotels. It’s still fairly quiet so no need to worry about crowds. Bang Niang is a popular place for swimming, the water is lovely and warm although it’s not very good for snorkelling. The sand is a lovely soft orange and lined with massage salas, beach bars and hotel restaurants.

Coconut Beach

Coconut Beach Khao Lak is my personal favourite of all the beaches in the area. It’s a short drive out of the centre of town which means it always feels super quiet. You’ll find a handful of locally run bars and restaurants right on the sand which are amazing value and super friendly. Apart from that there is very little to do apart from wander down the soft sand and listen to the waves.

karen quinn and piper standing each side of a sign saying coconut beach

Nang Thong Beach

Another popular beach in Khao Lak in Nang Thong. The sand is golden and the sea is warm with large boulders to climb and explore. There are plenty of bars and restaurants along the beach, perfect for taking in the sunset with a cocktail or cold beer. Whilst you can walk from Bang Niang to Nang Thong beach along the sand, a fun way to get there is by ferry at high tide, it only takes a few minutes and who doesn’t love a boat trip!

Turtle Sanctuary

A visit to the Khao Lak Turtle Sanctuary is a must do for any animal lovers in Southern Thailand. It’s around a 20 minute drive from the centre of Khao Lak and located on a Thai Naval base. They rescue thousands of Turtles each year, releasing them back to the sea when they are strong enough. You’ll get to see turtles of all ages and stages in their tanks and learn all about their lives and conservation efforts the sanctuary is involved in.

close up of large turtle at the khao lak turtle sanctuary

Tsunami Museum

In 2004 Khao Lak experienced a devastating Tsunami that destroyed much of the area. Much has been done to make the region safe with evacuation routes planned and signposted and a new Tsunami Museum highlighting everything to do in the event of a Tsunami. The museum commemorates the events of the Boxing day Tsunami and is where you’ll find the police boat that was washed 1.5km inland. The museum doesn’t take long to visit but it’s an important place for remembrance and learning.

Check out more great things to do in Khao Lak.

Best tours from Khao Lak

Khao Lak is a great place to base yourselves for tours in this part of Thailand. And if you can tear yourself away from the hotel it’s well worth venturing away from the main strip and discovering the natural local beauty.

Lam Ru National Park

If you fancy experiencing the Thai jungle then a trip into Lam Ru National Park is well worth a visit. You’ll be taken on an off road jeep tour heading high above sea level. You can also cool down with a swim in a waterfall, canoe amongst the mangroves and enjoy a typical Thai meal at a local restaurant.

Book your visit to Lam Tu National park from Khao Lak.

Phang Nga Bay and James Bond Island

Phang Nga Bay is a selection of limestone karsts jutting out of the Andaman Sea is a secluded bay. It’s breathtakingly pretty and home to James Bond island, one of Thailands most famous landmarks due to its starring role in The Man with the Golden Gun.

Book your day trip to Phang Nga Bay and James Bond Island.

epic vies of the limestone islands of phang nga bay

Similan Islands

Khao Lak is a great starting off point for a visit to the Similan islands. It’s way closer and cheaper than from Phuket. This is a good place for wreck diving. You’ll find several boats such as Atlantis X under the water which are now home to a wide variety of marine life. The Coral is stunning and the beaches are pristine. What more could you want!

Book your trip to the Similan Islands from Khao Lak.

Samet Nangshe

If you want a view of Phang Nga Bay from above then Samet Nangshe is arguably one of the best viewpoints in Thailand. It’s around an hours drive from Khao Lak and then you’ll take an exhilarating songthaew drive up the steep hill to be rewarded by the most epic island views. It’s best to book a private transfer for this one either with your hotel or on the Grab app. Entrance to the viewpoint is not expensive.

young girl with long wavy hair sitting in a heart shaped woven swing with her bacl to the camera. you can see the islands of phang nga bay in the background

Things to do in Khao Lak at night

Khao Lak is not somewhere you come to find club nights or hedonistic full moon parties. The vibe is laid back and relaxed. It’s more watching the sunset with a few cocktails than staying up till 4am downing buckets all night. This is how we like to travel, perfect for families but perhaps a bit quiet for the gap year kids. These are a few things to do after dark.

Markets in Khao Lak

Bang Niang market is my favourite place to pick up souvenirs in Khao Lak. It’s also a fantastic place for dinner as the street food is amazing quality and value. Bang Niang market is open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays from 2pm until late. If you fancy a cocktail, there are plenty of those to go round, all for about 100 Baht.

scruffy archway to bang niang market in khao lak

Watch a fireshow at a beach club

We absolutely love Kokulo Beach club at La Vela hotel. We stopped by for a fabulous dinner, cocktails and then enjoyed the fireshow. The beach club is located right on Bang Niang beach with a few beach swings and super soft sand to end your evening.

fireshow in the dark in Khao Lak

Enjoy the atmospheric Beach Bars

Whilst I’m a sucker for a fancy beach club, I absolutely adore authentic, laid back beach bars. You know the ones where you sit on plastic chairs with your toes in the sand. Khao Lak has so many of these and they’re all surprisingly good value. Many have live music well into the night, just wander along Nang Thong Beach, you’ll be sure to find one you like.

Best hotels Khao Lak Thailand

Khao Lak is home to some glorious hotels and resorts, many of them located right on the beach. We stayed at the lovely Waters Hotel in the centre of Bang Niang. It’s walking distance to to the Tsunami Museum, markets and beautiful Bang Niang beach. The hotel is home to 7 pools with many rooms having direct pool access. Read my Waters Khao Lak review for more reasons why we loved it.

one of the swim up pools at the Waters resort in Khao Lak

We also visited La Vela hotel during our stay. This gorgeous, modern hotel is located right on Bang Niang beach with an excellent beach club and entertainment nights. This hotel is also home to a huge skatepark so perfect if your staying with kids.

reception area la vela hotel

I can also highly recommend the Outrigger Khao Lak which is located on a very quiet beach, ideal if you want complete relaxation. The resort offers heaps of onsite activities like beach yoga sessions, Muay Tha, kayaking, pool table, air hockey and table tennis.

Read Next: Best family resorts in Khao Lak.

Best restaurants in Khao Lak Thailand

This really does depend on what kind of food you’re after. Essentially every restaurant we tried in Khao Lak was excellent. The majority of hotels will let you use their restaurants even if you’re not guests and we had a brilliant meal at the Kokulo Beach Club at La Vela Hotel. You can have A La Carte or try their extensive buffet.

restaurant at la vela hotel

For great value Thai food I recommend heading to Coconut beach and visiting Nok restaurant, a short walk along the sand. The food is simple but delicious plus it’s super cheap. And make sure to stop by Bang Niang Night Market to try the street food, you’re sure to find something you like.

Where is Khao Lak in Thailand

Khao Lak is located in the Phang Nga province in Southern Thailand in the Takua Pa district. It is part of the mainland and is situated about 60km North of Phuket.

How to get to Khao Lak

There is no airport or train station in Khao Lak so however you arrive, the last bit of your journey will have to be by car or bus. Most people fly into Phuket then take a private transfer North up to Khao Lak.

It’s fairly easy and very kind to the budget to get a bus. From Bangkok, the bus to Khao Lak costs just £22 but it takes over 16 hours. You can check the schedule on 12Go.Asia.

very tall trees on the way to khao lak from krabi

What airport do you fly into for Khao Lak?

The closest airport to Khao Lak is Phuket which is about a ninety minutes drive away. You can also fly into Krabi airport which is around two hours away. Most domestic airlines fly into both Phuket and Krabi so you will be able to get there from all over Thailand. Several international airlines fly in to Phuket making it a good place to head to if you are looking to skip Bangkok.

I recommend you prebook your airport transfer to save having to hail a cab at the airport. That way you know how much the transfer will cost you and save you having to queue on arrival. We use Kiwitaxi for transfers from Krabi airport and Holiday taxis for transfers from Phuket airport.

Car Rental Khao Lak Thailand

It’s a good idea to have a car for your stay in Khao Lak, the best beaches are fairly spread out. We found the roads easy to navigate, if a little narrow. We collected a rental car at Phuket airport and returned it there, booking with Discover Cars. It was very straightforward and saved us money having to book a transfer.

If you want to rent a car or scooter when you are there, I recommend asking your hotel for reputable agencies.

Is Khao Lak better than Phuket?

This really does depend on what you’re after. Phuket is definitely better for nightlife, for more tourist attractions and variety of locations. Khao Lak is probably better for romantic breaks and families. It’s quieter, slower paced and easier to get around. I love both but Khao Lak just about tops it for me.

beach restaurant in Khao lak

Which is better Krabi or Khao Lak?

Krabi is more similar to Khao Lak than Phuket. It probably has better views straight from the beach than Khao Lak due to the myriad of limestone cliffs jutting from the sea. It’s larger than Khao Lak and the tourist region of Ao Nang has a pretty vibrant nightlife scene. It’s also a great place for island boat trips and hiking. However, Khao Lak feels a lot quieter, more undiscovered and a bit more authentic which I absolutely love. There’s also no need to hop onto boats to visit the best beaches as there is is Krabi making it ideal if you don’t fancy the choppy seas.

Weather in Khao Lak

Khao Lak has a tropical climate which means it’s pretty warm year round. Like the rest of Thailand it has three distinct seasons, rainy (June – October), dry (November – February) and hot (March – May).

Rainy Season peaks in September with downfalls pretty much everyday. These can be short and easy to shelter from or last longer, forcing everyone back to their hotel. There will still be periods of sunshine each day so don’t be too put off. Temperatures will be around 30 degrees celsius and hotel rates are pretty low.

Dry Season is also known as cold season and is the peak time for tourists meaning room rates will be high and some beaches, attractions and restaurants will be busy. Average temperatures for the season are 27ºC dropping to 23ºC during the night. You may still experience some rain but showers will be few and far between. Most days are super sunny and perfect for relaxing at the beach.

walking past a fallen tree with roots still attached on a beach in khao lak

During Hot Season, temperatures can reach a balmy 34 degrees celsius meaning you’ll need to escape the sunshine during the hottest parts of the day. Nighttime temperatures don’t drop much under 25ºC making it difficult to sleep without strong air con. Humidity is also at its peak during this season, it can feel incredibly oppressive.

When is best to visit Khao Lak

We visited Khao Lak in April and loved it but it was very, very hot. I loved that there were fewer crowds but would probably opt for a January trip next time. This is also the time of year when the sea is calmest making sea swimming and boat trips much more pleasant.

The Similan and Surin National Marine Parks are closed for conservation from June to October so if these are important parts of your itinerary, avoid this period.

How expensive is Khao Lak

Generally Thailand is a very cheap country to visit for Westerners. You can find luxurious accommodation for a fraction of the price you would in the USA or most of Europe. It’s want makes the high price of the flights totally worth it.

That said, Thailand is becoming more expensive compared to other low cost South East Asian countries and Khao Lak is probably one of the more costly areas in Thailand. We found it cheaper than Koh Samui but pricier than the North.

karen quinn and piper quinn on beach swings

As a rough idea, you can get a lovely 4 star hotel for around £50 per night or a stunning 5 star property for £100 per night. Local bars and restaurants are super cheap with Thai meals just a couple of pounds and local beers under £1. Meals in the five star resorts will obviously be more expensive. The three of us enjoyed a delicious dinner at La Vela with cocktails and drinks for around £60.

Wine and Western food will is pretty expensive and pretty much the same as what you would be used to at home.

To keep costs down, find a hotel that includes breakfast and stock up on drinks and snacks from 7-Eleven. Beaches are obviously free to visit and you can prebook tours from companies like Get Your Guide to make sure you get the best price.

huge turtle beach waste clean up sculpture

In summary, Khao Lak is an amazing part of Thailand to visit. It has a delightfully slow pace, amazing beaches and makes a great starting point for tours. I highly recommend it for family travellers and couples, if you’re looking for party islands head to Koh Samui or Koh Phangan but for a pretty authentic Thai holiday, you can’t do much better.