Lovely, laid-back Khao Lak is one of Thailand’s most appealing beach destinations. This stretch of coastline hasn’t witnessed the same level of development seen in nearby Phuket or Krabi and consequently Khao Lak enjoys a more genteel atmosphere. Tourists arriving here in search of exciting nightlife are barking up the wrong palm tree. The epitome of a family-friendly destination, Khao Lak is an excellent choice for families or couples looking to book a relaxing beach break in Thailand. Base yourself in the quiet beach resort of Khao Lak on the mainland and you can explore all the delights this part of the Andaman Coast has to offer.
What to see and do in Khao Lak
If you can drag yourself away from the seductive sands of Khao Lak, the small town of Takua Pa makes for an interesting excursion. With some delightful old buildings, an enjoyable Sunday market and a picturesque riverfront, Takua Pa isn’t short on charms. It’s also the location of the ‘Little Amazon‘ with leisurely kayak rides along the Khlong Sang Ne waterway providing the opportunity to spot a myriad of wildlife along the way.
Staying in Khao Lak also places you perfectly for a day trip to the outstandingly beautiful Cheow Larn Lake and Khao Sok National Park. Heading south, Phuket is an easy bus ride away and to the east, the magnificent Phang Nga Bay beckons with more sightseeing options.
From November-February, something magical happens on quiet stretches of beach in the Khao Lak area as sea turtles come ashore under the moonlight to lay their eggs. To learn more about this and even have the chance to release a turtle to the sea, visit the Phang Nga Coastal Fisheries Research and Development Centre.
Khao Lak is a great base for anybody wishing to experience the outstanding dive sites in the vicinity including the Similan Islands and Surin Islands. Stunning above and below the waves, the warm tropical waters around the Similan Islands and Surin Islands teem with aquatic life and provide amazing memories as you swim with sea turtles for company. All travel agents in Khao Lak and the majority of hotels can arrange trips for you. If you don’t want to dive or snorkel, you can opt instead to stay on the boat and relax whilst the others are donning their masks and flippers. However, there are not usually any discounts for non-swimmers and set rates apply for all passengers.
Thousands lost their lives on this particular stretch of coast when the Boxing Day Tsunami struck in 2004. The area has rebounded since those dark days, but there are memorials in place in Ban Nam Khem and at Ban Niang where the police patrol boat is a poignant reminder.
Where to stay in Khao Lak
The stretch of coastline that makes up Khao Lak extends for around 20 miles and it can be confusing when you begin to research where to stay. Although there is a small beach called ‘Khao Lak’, the area that is usually described as Khao Lak in guidebooks and by travel agents incorporates a number of different beaches and small towns.
Nang Thong beach sits in the centre of the Khao Lak area and it is here where you’ll find Khao Lak’s most extensive range of accommodation and dining options and is a good option if you are traveling with children. Just to the north of Nang Thong brings you to attractive Bang Niang. Away from the beach there is a night market and a small bus station so it does have some local appeal whilst remaining tourist-friendly.
Heading further north along the Khao Lak coastline the area becomes even quieter still as you reach the serene beaches of Khuk Kaak. This area may be too quiet if you are travelling with children, but it is a great choice for couples. Wherever you choose to base yourself in Khao Lak you can expect a wonderful beach holiday.
Apsara Beachfront Resort and Villas
Casa de la Flora
Devasom Khao Lak Beach Resort & Villas
JW Marriott Khao Lak Resort and Spa
Khaolak Merlin Resort (Read more: Hotel with a heart: Khaolak Merlin Resort)
La Flora Khao Lak
La Vela Khao Lak
Outrigger Khao Lak Beach Resort
Food & drink in Khao Lak
Khao Lak isn’t a typical Thai town. With the number of tourists outnumbering the locals, there isn’t the usual thriving Thai street food scene you would normally expect to encounter. Prices for eating out in Khao Lak tend to be higher compared to many other beach resorts in Thailand and with more Western customers than Thai, the chefs at some restaurants have a tendency to go easy on the spice. There is, though, an excellent little market at Bang Niang which is open on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. This is a great place to get your Thai food fix in relaxed surroundings.
Elsewhere, there are lots of laid-back restaurants scattered around the Khao Lak coastline so you should have no trouble finding one near your hotel that you may adopt as your go-to place during your stay.
The recently expanded Michelin Guide for Thailand now features a number of restaurants in and around Khao Lak. This includes the excellent Nai Mueang and Takola. And if you’re looking for an unforgettable location to dine under the stars with fabulous food, look no further than The Sarojin Resort for one of the most romantic dining experiences in Thailand. Enjoy a private dinner on the beach or let The Sarojin take care of all the details for you as you relax at an amazing waterfall location in the jungle.
Travel to Khao Lak
The nearest airports to Khao Lak are Phuket (1.5 hours away) and Krabi (2 hours away). Frequent flights operate from Bangkok to both airports. There are two airports in Bangkok with most low-cost carriers (Air Asia, Nok Air, Thai Lion Air) flying from Bangkok Don Mueang (DMK). Thai Airways and Bangkok Airways fly from Bangkok Suvarnabhumi (BKK). There are also direct flights from Chiang Mai to Phuket and Krabi in addition to services from Pattaya U-Tapao to Phuket.
Good to know
The best weather in Khao Lak and the offshore islands is from November-April which also corresponds to the diving season for the Similan and Surin Islands. The best underwater conditions for divers and snorkelers can usually be found in February and March. The Similan and Surin Islands are open to visitors from October-May. Outside of these months, the marine parks are off-limits to tourists.