Khanom, Thailand – A Hidden Paradise with Pink Dolphins!
Khanom, on the Southeastern coast of Thailand, is the definition of an unspoiled gem. Home to long, untouched beaches, surrounded by jungle-clad mountains, a turquoise and warm sea with incredible beaches, rubber, fruit and other farms, and green-golden rice fields.
The calm town with its friendly people offers a relaxed way of life, and its many beaches will give you an off the beaten track feeling. It is not YET exploited by tourism.
Here in Khanom, you will not be faced with hundreds of tourists crowded together on the beaches… there are no beach chair sellers, no noise and a lot of space to relax! At the same time, there are many exciting activities to do in Khanom for the adventurous traveller, and many memorable sights to see.
The biggest attraction of Khanom would be the unique pink dolphins, that are surprisingly easy to see here! This is why you will see many pink dolphin statues around Khanom, it is the symbol of this town.
Thinking of taking a pink dolphin tour?
If the main reason you’re heading to Khanom is to see the pink dolphins, then be sure to choose a travel company who run a boat tour that is mindful of the environment and the conservation of the dolphin’s habitat.
We recommend local company, Khanom Tour, ran by the kindhearted and charismatic Khun (Mr) Daeng. Along with planting mangroves to help erosion of the coastline, Mr Daeng, is active in many local conservation projects to protect the beauty of his beloved Khanom. His eco-tourism boat tour is a great and educational day out for all the family.
Says traveller, Dawn – “Mr Daeng is certainly an amazing knowledgeable guide and a true conservationist. His determination and work over six years with local fisherman has allowed the family of over 100 pink dolphins to find a safe home in Khanom waters.
Our trip started that morning travelling to the highest point in Donsak to look out at the open waters of the bays to find the dolphins. Once we located them we head out by boat to see them at sea. It was truly amazing to see a handful of them around us. We were also lucky to see a family of humpback dolphins!
The day tour also included a visit to a rock museum of over 3000 carved fish from rocks, a visit to a local plantation with home grown lunch provided, a visit to a natural fish foot spa and a visit to Khanom cave. All of which Mr Daeng shared so much history of each place. Truly amazing and highly recommended tour.”
What else is there in Khanom?
Even though Khanom is a calm and unspoiled beach destination where you can find a lot of peace and plenty of time to relax undisturbed, there are also (along with the pink dolphins), many things to keep you busy!
You can discover fantastic natural fish spas located by beautiful rivers, huge cave complexes to explore, exciting and refreshing waterfalls with amazing views, great markets every day, a beautiful river with kayaking that will take you right through the heart of the mangrove forest into the national park, white sand beaches that stretch more than 10km and much more! See below for more on the top 10 things to do in Khanom.
Where to Stay in Khanom
There are many mid-range and high-end options for accommodation in Khanom, but it is also easy to find cheaper alternatives – both in town or by the beach. Almost all places offer free Wi-Fi, air conditioning and are always located close to everything! Note – that Khanom is sometimes referred to as ‘Ao Khanom’ when booking accommodation.
Particularly good options in Khanom ranging from budget to luxury are…
Khanom Garden Suite – Budget – This offers great value for money, with spacious doubles starting at $15 USD / night. The owners are delightful, the rooms are spotless, scooter rental is cheap and the WI-FI is fast. The place also comes complete with an entourage of cute puppies. Who could ask for more?
Sea Breeze House – Mid Range – Is a beautifully clean option, right on Naiplao Beach and with incredibly friendly owners. Doubles start at $25 USD / night.
Hallo Villa Khanom – Luxury – Spacious and clean bungalows located in a beautiful setting around a lovely big swimming pool – what more could you ask for? With a great location, close to the beach and the town, as well as a delicious on-site restaurant, this is the perfect place to relax. The price is very reasonable at $35USD for a 2-person private bungalow.
Besides all the things to do in Khanom (see top 10 things to do below), the main thing you can really enjoy here is peace and quiet and the beauty of nature! Visit any one of Khanom’s amazing beaches, and you will find yourself with a lot of space, powdery white-yellow sand under your feet, swaying coconut palms and the soothing sound of the beautiful sea. This really is a special part of Thailand!
The most popular beach is called Nai Plao Beach, but some other, less visited beaches include Thong Yee, Feng Phao Beach, and the 9-kilometre long Nadan Beach, one of the longest beaches in the country! It isn’t hard to find your own stretch of beautiful white sand here…
Top 10 Things to do in Khanom
1. See the unique pink dolphins on a boat tour
This is undoubtedly the biggest tourist attraction of Khanom. Everybody loves dolphins, and these ones are pink! These unique creatures are a sign of clean waters with a healthy eco-system, and the locals also do their part by planting more seaweed for the animals to lay eggs in.
The pink dolphins are not the only awesome thing to see on a boat trip though, believe it or not. On a longtail boat tour, you will pass by beautiful, high mountains with cave systems, incredible white sandy beaches and “pancake rocks” – named so since the many layers of rock make them look like a pile of pancakes!
You can also stop by a very small island, where you can find a holy freshwater well, surrounded by seawater! An unforgettable experience.
Note: If you want to see the pink dolphins in Khanom, be sure to choose an eco-friendly boat tour that is conscious about the conservation of both dolphins and their natural habitat. We recommend the highly rated Pink Dolphin Conservation Tour with local company, Khanom Tour Thailand.
2. Explore the countryside by motorbike
Khanom is full of dense green jungle, that clothes the high mountains and surrounds the green-golden rice fields. There are some incredible hidden beaches that you can find – only after a little hike through the jungle!
3. Relax in a refreshing waterfall
Khanom offers many refreshing waterfalls, some more easily accessible than others. The water is cool and exhilarating, and since they are mostly located up in the mountains, they come with a great view. You could easily stay here all day, especially if you bring some drinks and something to eat!
4. Visit the Khao Wang Thong Cave Complex
This huge cave complex is regarded as one of the most important tourist attractions of Nakhon Si Thammarat province, Khanom district. After climbing the high stairs, you will enjoy a breath-taking view of the mountains and the green jungles. If it’s a clear day, you can even see Koh Samui!
Monkeys are usually jumping around this viewpoint, which is a perfect place for a drink of water and to catch your breath before entering the cool cave entrance.
Just inside the entrance, there is a small temple shrine, where the forest ranger, that always accompanies you, will usually stop and pay respects for a minute.
Then you can continue on into the cool limestone and iron ore-coated rooms, where you can find many amazing stalagmites and stalactites with many different shapes, such as curtains, pagodas, dinosaurs and many more.
5. Laugh and relax in a natural fish spa:
The rivers of Khanom make excellent places to relax. In a few of these places, “Doctor Fish” finds a place to live.
The minute you stick your feet into the water, tens and then hundreds of them will rush to cleanse your feet.
If you can stand the tickling for ten seconds you will be fine, and when you take up your feet again after a few minutes, they will be smooth as baby skin!
These places also have ropes to swing from along with water toys, for those of you who want to go swimming with the fish!
6. Mangrove Kayaking
Kayaking on the main river of Khanom is an amazing experience, perfect for photography enthusiasts. After a small trip on the big river, you can enter the small canals that lead straight through the Mangrove forest.
You will come very close to nature and be amazed at how quiet it can be so close to town, except for the many mysterious sounds of the mangrove.
You can spot tropical birds of all different colours and the wonderful mangrove monkeys (crab-eating macaque). You can also see the many small creatures that use the mangrove as a kindergarten, such as crabs and mudskippers.
When you get out of the smallest canals, you can also see and learn more about the crab farms that you pass on the way out.
7. Visit the local markets
Khanom loves markets, and there are big markets almost every day, sometimes in the morning and sometimes in the afternoon. You can really find anything here, lots of retro Thai clothes, tools, toys and flavourful foods.
On Saturdays, Khanom organizes a great ‘walking street’ market in the middle of town and though it is a new event, it has become so popular right from the start, that it is impossible to stop it now!
8. Learn how to make rubber
Southern Thailand’s largest yield is rubber, and it comes from the many huge rubber tree farms around here.
The plantations themselves are amazing to see, with thousands of rubber trees in spectacular rows, each with its own coconut-cup to collect the sap.
If you visit the small farms in the middle of these rubber jungles, you may learn how to produce rubber from this sap – a very educative and interesting experience.
9. Visit a temple on a mountain
Khanom has a lot of temples around, each with its own special beauty. There is one, however, that stands out. After climbing the high stairs up to the temple site, the sun will make the building shine in a dazzling way.
If you look out to the sea, you can see both Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, along with many small islands around.
It is truly breathtaking, and after having enjoyed it you can learn more about Buddhism by entering the temple. A must-do in Khanom!
10. See the wonderful views
In Khanom, there are many places to go if you want to marvel at amazing views.
Besides the specific viewpoints, that show both the sea with its wonderful beaches, the green-clothed mountains and coconut tree jungles, green-golden rice fields and much more, there are also higher mountains to climb, where you can see even further, we recommend Dat Fa Mountain (732 metres).
How to get to Khanom, Thailand
Since Khanom is located close to many big travel hubs, it is very easy to get to. There are three airports in the proximity: Nakhon Si Thammarat and Surat Thani on the mainland and Koh Samui island.
- From Koh Samui, it is only a 45-minute speedboat or 1.5-hour ferry ride to arrive at Don Sak Pier, then about 20 minutes by car to Khanom.
- Coming from the north (Bangkok) it is easy to connect with Nakhon Si Thammarat or Surat Thani train or bus station, from which it is around 1-1.5 hours to Khanom.
- Even from Phuket, it is easy, with van services to Nakhon Si Thammarat or Surat Thani!
Where to go next?
- Nakhon Si Thammarat: Only 1.5 hours away, you find the big city of Nakhon, with lots to do. It is a big hub for travellers and connects not only with all of Thailand, but also many places of SE Asia by air, train, bus or van!
- Surat Thani: Also a big town with many things to do, a known travel hub with a lot of foreign travellers also connecting with SE Asia by air, train, bus or van.
- The islands: The popular islands of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan are close enough to see from the beaches of Khanom, and are reached after 45 minutes on a speedboat or about 1.5 hours on a ferry from the Don Sak Ferry Pier, located about 20 minutes from Khanom. After 3 hours by speedboat from Don Sak, you can also reach the wonderful island of Koh Tao, where wonderful diving, along with other activities, awaits.
- Chumphon: An off the beaten track destination heading north up the coast with national parks, deserted beaches and jungle.
Written by Putte Hellström