One of the 102 National Parks in Thailand, Khao Sok National Park is home to the oldest evergreen forest in the world, covering an area of 738 square kilometres. Incredibly, it consists of rainforest which is older and more diverse than the Amazon Rainforest!
Khao Sok National Park boasts an amazing array of flora and fauna, including wild beasts such as the Malayan Tapir, the Asian Elephant, Sambar Deer, Wild Boar, Pig Tailed Macaque, White Handed Gibbon and even bears, leopards and tigers!
Many nature lovers flock to the park as it is one of the few places on earth where you can catch a glimpse of the world’s largest flower, the Rafflesia, which only blossoms for five days each year and when it does it is said to emit a stench akin to rotting flesh!
Khao Sok National Park is also famous for the manmade Ratchaprapha Dam, which, when it was built, created the beautiful Cheow Larn Lake. The dam was created in 1982 to ensure a steady supply of water to the South and as a large mountainous area was flooded, over 100 tiny islands were formed.
Stunning limestone rocks jutting out of the emerald green water against the blue sky has been compared to Guilin in China. Many travellers choose to experience the lake on a short one or two day tour, spending a night at one of the floating bungalows on Cheow Larn lake. (Book your Khao Sok floating bungalow trip here!)
Where to Stay in Khao Sok National Park?
Khlong Sok Village
Khao Sok Village, also known as Khlong Sok Village, is where most travellers base themselves for a visit to Khao Sok National Park. The village is located just walking distance from one of the national park entrances, where most people go trekking for the day. (More on that later!)
However, many backpackers do not realise that the village is actually an hour’s drive (60km away) from the iconic Cheow Larn Lake, with its floating bungalows and boat trips. However, don’t worry, it’s still much more economical to stay in Khlong Sok Village and take one of the many day trips offered by travel agencies in the village to the lake.
The village itself is quite small and cute, with a friendly traveller atmosphere, consisting of a few restaurants and some lively reggae-style bars that stay open until about midnight. Don’t expect big parties, but the backpacker vibe is alive and well; though with a much more chilled out feel than the nearby islands.
There are lots of massage places offering foot massages for around 250 THB, which are very welcome after trekking in the park all day! In terms of restaurants, there are loads of places serving cheap Thai and Western food on the main street, places to get decent coffee, and a pretty good pizza at Chao Italian Ristorante located near the entrance to the national park.
When it comes to hostels and guesthouses in Khao Sok Village, there is a range of accommodation to suit all budgets, from tree houses to wooden huts and fancier hotels. If you’re looking for more of a countryside escape than there are many places to stay that are closer to Cheow Larn Lake which offer more of a resort experience, you can check these out on booking.com, however, we will focus on places to stay in Khlong Sok Village in this guide.
The Best Hostels and Resorts in Khao Sok – From $6 – $40 US Per Night
With dorm rooms around $6 USD, Khao Sok Jungle Hostel is a very popular choice amongst backpackers. The owner is extremely helpful, even providing the necessary equipment for overnight treks. Everything is very clean and the location is great!
With fabulous reviews, this comfortable, clean and friendly hostel is hard to beat for the traveller on a budget. For $7 USD you’ll have your own comfy single bed (not a bunk) in a 4-bed dormitory room. The on-site café serves delicious baked goods and great coffee, perfect to set you up for a day hiking in the jungle! A good place to meet fellow travellers. Coco Hostel also run some excellent tours into the national park and one of the best Khao Sok floating bungalow trips, which you can read more about here in this review.
If you’d prefer a private room, Khaosok Bamboo Huts Resort offers (surprisingly enough) bamboo huts from around $15 USD. The huts have a bathroom with hot shower. They’re in a quiet location, are nice and cool at night and free tea and coffee are included in the price.
This resort is a bit of a novelty act. The way to your tree house room (depending on the room) involves walking along platforms seemingly deep in the jungle. There is, of course, something very pleasing about such a setup. However, some might go as far as to call the place a little tacky. What’s more, depending on the day, prices can skyrocket. It’s worth checking out, as if you catch them at a good time, you could get your room for $20 USD, in which case, you’ll be laughing.
With a gorgeous natural setting overlooking the river, these lovely wooden cottages with attached restaurant and massage centre is an excellent place to base yourself in Khao Sok, especially if you’re looking for something a bit special! Rise early in the morning and have breakfast as you watch monkeys, kingfishers and other birdlife frolicking by the river. From $33 USD per night for a double or twin room, it’s great value for money for a real jungle experience.
If you’re after a bit more of a luxury stay, Khaosok Good View Resort has you covered. Bungalows start at around $40 USD. Everything’s spotless, the staff are lovely, the food is great, there’s a fantastic swimming pool for soothing away some of that sticky jungle heat and the views from the resort are considerably better than “good”.
How to Explore Khao Sok National Park
Hiking in the National Park
Entrance Fee to Khao Sok National Park
The cost to enter the National Park is 300 THB for one day, which is around $9 USD. It’s officially the most expensive national park in Thailand, on account of its popularity, but you can’t really come here without experiencing the jungle treks or taking a trip on the lake!
The best thing to do is to get up super early, pay the fee, and make the most out of your day’s access to the national park. If you still have enough energy left, a night trek is also an option – especially for those of you who want to get your money’s worth out of your daily ticket! A night trek is a great way to spot some of the larger animals which may hide during the day when there are more tourists around. However, you are not allowed to enter the park when it’s dark without a guide.
Note: The 300 THB ticket also allows you access to explore the nearby Cheow Larn Lake. You cannot take a tour of this area or a boat trip on Cheow Larn Lake without purchasing a ticket to the National Park.
Map of Khao Sok National Park – Hiking Trails
Below you can see a map of the trails in Khao Sok National Park. You can pick up this map for free at the park entrance when you buy your tickets. There are two main trails to do in the park which both begin from the visitor’s centre.
The shorter trail (2 hours): The shorter trail which goes to point 8 on the map, San Yang Roi, is the shorter, the most difficult and least rewarding of the two, as you climb for around an hour up a steep staircase towards the top of the jungle canopy. While being in the heart of the jungle is fun, what’s disappointing is that you never reach a point where there’s a view or a waterfall (as it says on the map) and at times it is unclear which way to go as the path is very overgrown.
The longer trail (6 hours): This trail is definitely the most popular and the most interesting of the two, with many opportunities to side-step the path and seek out beautiful waterfalls and riverside spots. Most people make it to point 6 on the map where there’s a small café and a few benches where people take a rest and watch the spectacled langurs playing in the trees.
However, the trail doesn’t get really exciting until you pass point six (which takes about 2 hours to reach) and start to walk along a smaller trail deep in the jungle. From here, the wildlife gets considerably more exciting, probably because fewer people make it this far, and we had a right shock when we disturbed two enormous monitor lizards relaxing by a water-hole! It’s possible to hire a guide and camp overnight at the side of the river in this part of the national park.
Hiring a Trekking Guide in Khao Sok National Park
Hiring a guide will cost you around 700 THB per person if there are 1-2 people, and around 500 THB if you can gather a group of 4 or more people. This cost is negotiable at the main entrance to the national park where you can book your trek with the camouflage-clad park rangers.
Should you do it?
Trekking independently or with a guide is an essential activity in Khao Sok National Park. Windy trails will take you right into the heart of the jungle where you can find bathing pools, waterfalls and an incredible array of plants, not to mention the Rafflesia, the largest flower in the world. There are so many animals to spot, from the spectacles langur to huge monitor lizards.
Boat trips on Ratchaprapha Dam (Cheow Lan Lake)
Cheow Lan Lake, created by the Ratchaprapha Dam is the most famous sight of Khao Sok National Park and a must see while you’re there. The lake is actually located a 60km drive from the main area where most travellers stay and getting there by car, van or motorbike will take you about an hour. (As the crow flies the lake itself is much closer.)
You can take a minivan with a driver for a day trip to get there or if you’re feeling adventurous, you can hire a motorbike for around 300 THB / day from Khlong Sok Village and make your own way to the lake. (Most backpackers take a boat trip which is arranged as part of a tour from the main village. We’ll cover that later.)
If you have arrived at the lake independently with your own transport, without a tour, you can arrange boat trips on the dam from the main pier. At 750 baht each for 2 hours (which includes your park entrance fee), the boat trips are a little pricey but well worth it to get closer to the unusual scenery. (The cost from Khao Sok village including transportation and the boat trip is double that, at 1500 THB per person.)
Khao Sok National Park Tours
As well as treks in the jungle, motorbike trips and boat rides on the lake there are many other outdoor adventures on offer in Khao Sok National Park. Kayaking or canoeing down the river, tubing and elephant trekking (we don’t recommend it!) can all be organised from guest houses and travel agencies in Khao Sok Village.
An idea of prices that we picked up from a local travel agent (March 2018):
- Camping raft house 2-day, 1-night – 2,500 THB
- Camping tent by the lake 2-day, 1-night – 2,500 THB
- 2-day, 1-night camping at the foot of a waterfall – 2,500 THB
- Lake tour 1 day – 1500 THB
- Elephant tour (we don’t recommend it) – 800 THB
- Canoeing tour – 800 THB
- Trekking in National Park half day – 800 THB
- Trekking in National Park full day – 1200 THB
- Rafflesia flower tour (2 hours) – 700 THB
- Tubing tour in Khao Sok River (2 hours) – 500 THB
Overnight stay in the floating huts:
One of the highlights for many backpackers to Khao Sok National Park is staying overnight in a floating hut located on Cheow Larn Lake. Wake up in the heart of the national park to the tranquillity of the lake amidst beautiful scenery.
You can book this experience from travel agents in the main backpacker village or you can book online in advance. The cost is around 2,500 THB for a one-night, two-day tour, or 3,500 THB for a two-night and three-day tour, depending on where you book. (Look around for the best options as prices and quality of the tour varies.)
Recommendation – Looking for a tried and tested Khao Sok floating bungalow experience? We highly recommend this Khao Sok Floating Bungalows Tour run by the friendly folks at Coco Hostel. The 3-day, 2-night experience was recently reviewed by two of our travel writers, Kristen and David, and given a big thumbs up all round! You can read a full review of their experience on the tour here.
Other ways to explore Khao Sok National Park
Exploring on a motorbike:
The entire area is blessed with spectacular scenery and hiring a motorbike is a great way to get around and see as much of the place as possible.
Bright green mountains covered in palm trees and dense forest – you’ll be stopping your bike every two minutes to take photos. A motorbike will set you back about 300 THB for the day and can be hired from hostels or travel agencies in Khlong Sok Village.
Khlong Phanom National Park
Just a short drive away, you’ll find another national park with trekking trails and viewpoints. This park is just 100 THB to enter and there is only one 2km trail, as well as an interesting fish cave.
Only really worth it if you have your own transport and are passing by on the way to the dam. The scenery around here is Jurassic!
Do you want to experience Khao Sok National Park as part of a Group Adventure?
Tru Travels are a great company for backpackers wanting to cram in a lot of adventure into a short amount of time! On their 8-day Highlights and Hidden Gems Tour of Thailand, you’ll discover Khao Sok National Park with a group of fellow, fun-loving travellers, plus get to spend a night in a floating hut on the beautiful Ratchaprapha Dam. There’s tubing, kayaking, spelunking and lots more!
When’s the Best Time to Visit Khao Sok National Park?
Khao Sok National Park is open every day of the year, however, there are definitely important factors (ahem, weather!) to consider when planning your trip!
Backpackers should beware of visiting Khao Sok National Park during the rainy season. As the mountains face monsoon rain from both the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea, the park is the recipient of the heaviest rainfall in all of Thailand (about 3,500 mm per year)! Therefore, a visit to the park is best avoided during the monsoon months of May – November.
Which means the ideal months to visit Khao Sok fall between December – April, as the weather is typically dry at this time! However, it’s best to keep in mind that temperatures peak around March-April, so it may be a bit hot.
How to get to Khao Sok National Park
Khao Sok National Park is drivable distance from the airports and town centres of Surat Thani, Phuket, and Krabi. Once you’ve reached those destinations, you can arrange for a bus, minivan, or private car to take you to the entrance of the park.
While transportation to the park via private car definitely offers convenience and ease of travel, this is by far the most expensive option. If you prefer this option, transportation can be arranged with your accommodation provider beforehand.
Note: If you’re taking a bus or a shared minivan to the park, you’ll be dropped off at the entrance to the park. You will then need to catch a taxi to your accommodations.
How to get to Khao Sok National Park from Surat Thani
- Surat Thani is the closest airport to Khao Sok. Once you land, you’ll need to catch a bus, minivan, or private car to the park.
- You can book this prior to your arrival on popular travel sites like Phantip or 12Go.asia or you can simply walk outside to negotiate your fare with the drivers eager for your business!
- Alternatively you can find transportation at the Surat Thani bus station in town or go directly to the Phantip station to buy a ticket for a minivan or Phantip bus.
- The ride should take about 2 hours. You’ll be dropped off at the entrance to the park where you can catch a taxi to your accommodations.
How to get to Khao Sok National Park from Phuket
- Of the airports in the surrounding area of Khao Sok, Phuket is the largest. Therefore, depending on where you’re traveling from it may be the easiest airport to fly into! Once you’ve arrived in Phuket you will need to take a taxi to Phuket town or take the public bus from the Airport to the central bus station in Phuket town.
- From the central bus station in Phuket town, buses to Surat Thani depart roughly every hour from about 7AM to 3PM. Get off at the Khao Sok bus stop at the entrance to the park.
- The ride should take about 4 hours. You’ll be dropped off at the entrance to the park where you can catch a taxi to your accommodations.
How to get to Khao Sok National Park from Krabi
- Similar to Phuket, once you’ve arrived at Krabi Airport you will need to take a taxi to Krabi town where you can catch a bus or minivan to Khao Sok.
- There is one direct minivan departing daily at 12 noon from the van station on Soi Roi Tha.
- Alternatively, The Black Tiger Travel Agency in Krabi town runs hourly vans and buses heading to Khao Sok National Park (note: the van makes stops along the way!).
- The ride should take around 4 hours. You’ll be dropped off at the entrance to the park where you can catch a taxi to your accommodations.
How to get to Khao Sok National Park from Bangkok
- A flight is the most efficient way to get a little closer to Khao Sok National Park from Bangkok.
- However, if you’re up for a new experience, consider taking an overnight train to Surat Thani from Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong Train Station. The 2nd class sleeper train is air-conditioned and rather comfortable! The 7PM train arrives at Surat Thani at about 6AM (about 11 hours total, if there are no delays).
- From the Surat Thani train station, you can catch the Surat Thani – Phuket bus to Khao Sok. Exit the train station and walk 30m to the right.
- The ride should take around 2 hours. You’ll be dropped off at the entrance to the park where you can catch a taxi to your accommodations.
Section written by Kristen Toman.
Where to go Next?
From Khao Sok National Park, you’re spoilt for choice with amazing destinations to go next. Wedged perfectly in-between two coast lines, you’ve got the stunning Andaman Coast and Krabi on one side and the islands of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao on the other, just where will you choose?
- Koh Phi Phi: On the Eastern Andaman Coast, backpackers go dewy-eyed at the gorgeous island gem, Koh Phi Phi, where you can take a long tail boat to explore ‘The Beach’ made famous by Leonardo Di Caprio in the film of the same name.
- Railay and Ton Sai: Nearby Railay and Ton Sai, beaches located on the mainland yet inaccessible by road, are popular amongst the rock climbing crew.
- Koh Lanta: Chilled out Koh Lanta is an underrated castaway island which is fantastic to explore by scooter making a stop at beautiful beach after beach.
- Koh Samui: Hopping over to the other side of the Peninsula, you’ll find Koh Samui. Flashpackers will delight in Koh Samui’s abundance of restaurants, activities and nightlife.
- Koh Phangan: The island lures thousands of backpackers each month to experience what is probably the best beach party in the world – the Full Moon Party.
- Koh Tao: Diving is the order of the day and many backpackers get their underwater licence by taking a PADI course.