Nestled in the southern part of Thailand is a verdant green jungle, home to colorful bungalows floating on deep blue pools, hiding behind waterfalls and groups of jabbering monkeys — if you’re looking for a prettier place to relax, we wish you luck finding one!
Thailand keeps giving us the prettiest places to explore: With dense forests and pristine beaches, you’ll have a hard time narrowing down which adventure you want to tackle on your trip to Thailand ... unless you’re living here for an entire semester, of course.
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If you’re interested in seeing a rainforest that’s more diverse and untouched than the Amazon (possibly older, too), come to Khao Sok National Park. There’s something about kayaking through the jungle that makes you feel like you’ve stepped back a few hundred years that we can’t get enough of. It’s also one that’s a bit off the track, so you’ll likely only run into a handful of more adventurous tourists.
- About The Park
- Things To Do
- Booking These Tours
- Places To Stay
- Tips To Know
- Getting To Khao Soak National Park
About The Park
This protected region of Thailand is where all of your vacation dreams come true. It's perfectly situated on the mainland, found between Phuket and the other beachy destinations of southern Thailand. It's a rich area filled with green jungles that are only interrupted by a river that's an impossible color of blue (plus a few waterfalls and huge limestone cliffs). Visiting here means staying on floating raft houses while you take kayaking tours around the floating karats that emerge from the river around you. Can you believe a place like this actually exists?
It's a very remote area of the country, filled with a dense forest that's home to animals like parrots, monkeys, and even elephants and big cats. The park was first established in 1980 as the country's 22nd national park. For our ILP volunteers, it's a postcard worthy getaway that's a surprising chapter of Thailand: you knew you'd love the beaches and the temples here, but did you think you would find something like Khoa Sok? It's a must-visit spot if you ask us.
Costs To The Park
There is a 300 Baht ticket to enter the park. it’s valid for 24 hours, so you can leave the park for lunch and re-enter, but only if you still have your ticket (so don’t lose it).
Things To Do
The main pull of this park is trekking through to see if you can spot some wildlife (if you’re lucky you can spot jungle cats, elephants, and other animals), and spending time on the lake. There are some self-guided tours that are more like paths to waterfalls if you would like to go that route.
Guided tours — Kayaking, Tubing, Night Safari
Kayaking, tubing, and a night safari are also popular options. It is not required for you to have a guide to do everything here, but we suggest it. Hiring a guide with a tour means you’ll be much more likely to find your way through the jungle and spot animals, plus they can get you to the best parts of the jungle .... like the floating bungalows.
Visiting The Bungalows
Kate G. (ILP Thailand volunteer — also, a big thanks for all of her info for this post!) said that the floating Bungalows were the best part of the trip to Khao Sok — Here is what she said:
“The cheapest/easiest way to get to the Floating Bungalows is to book a tour as they will take care of all the transport. My group booked our tour with Smileys Bungalow as it was the cheapest and also included the most. We each paid 2800 baht (including the National Park fee) so about $80 for a 2 day 1 night tour. That 2800 baht includes all your transportation to the lake and bungalows, the stay in the bungalow, all your meals while you're there, and a morning safari, night safari, and jungle hike (during rainy season) or a cave hike (during dry season).
“If you stay at Smileys the night before you can just meet them at their lobby for breakfast and then the van will take you from there. If not you can arrange to meet them elsewhere. The van will take you to a market for snacks and an ATM and the dock and then you take a longtail boat on the prettiest lake through limestone cliffs covered in trees to the floating bungalows. You can swim, kayak, or relax in your bungalow that sits on the water (plus each bungalow can fit 4 people as they have 2 queen beds).
“Not only is it an amazing view but you also can't see any other bungalows or people besides whoever is staying with you so it feels really private. You have the option of going on morning and evening safaris with your guide on a longtail boat and you can see monkeys and all sorts of birds. Your group gets a private guide so it will be just your group on the boat with your private guide (all included in the 2800 baht). The second day you can do a jungle waterfall hike or a cave hike with your guide. We did the waterfall hike and loved it. We were in the middle of the jungle and got to swing on vines and see like 15 layers of this smaller waterfall. They will then take you back to Khao Sok and can arrange transportation back to Bangkok or Surat Thani airport for you.”
Sounds easy, right? We love this option because you get a taste of the highlights of what this national park has to offer.
Booking These Tours
You’ll find lots of vendors advertising their tours at all the guesthouses in the park and at the entrance. Unless you want to go with a specific tour company, you probably will be okay if you don’t book in advance.
If you’d like to do what Kate and her group did, book directly with Smileys Bungalow by emailing Phaiwan Rakbuathong to get the best bungalows and the complete tour package. <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This blogger had good things to say about booking tours at Khao Sok Good View resort, where Bao (the owner) was exceptionally helpful when it came to booking tours and helping out. His wife cooks at the resort and his brother leads some of the treks including a night safari. They also mention paying 10 Baht to hang out at Monkey Temple and watch a family of monkeys play and squabble.
Places To Stay
Kate G. stayed with her group at Smileys Bungalow. Here’s what she said “This place was seriously the cutest! They have these bungalows that are on stilts above all these trees and each one comes with a hammock. You can fit 4 people into each bungalow and we paid about $4 each when we split the cost. They don't always have warm water for showers and it can be slightly rustic but the atmosphere and view of the place make it well worth it (not to mention the cost).”
Book by emailing Phaiwan Rakbuathong: <email@example.com>
Khao Sok Lake Bungalows
We've also had groups book a tour package + overnight getaway with Khao Sok Lake Bungalows. Here there are tons of different options for floating bungalows to stay in, ranging from simple bamboo raft houses to luxury floating villas! When I went with my group we chose to stay in the most basic accommodations to save money. That means we essentially stayed in a little rustic bungalow made entirely of wicker bamboo with no electricity and just a small mattress for each of us. (If you love camping, then this will be perfect for you!)
Our tour guides were super fun and friendly and took us on several excursions on the traditional long-tail wooden boats throughout the day. For example, on the way to our bungalows, we stopped at Gui Lin (which is the famous photo spot in front of the craggy rocks covered in lush greenery poking out from the turquoise water) for photos and a dreamy swim in the bath-water temperature lake. They also took us on a jungle trek where we hiked up the mountain to a stunning view. And they also took us out on a wildlife spotting trip where we kept our eyes peeled for elephants and monkeys!
They also fed us breakfast, lunch, and dinner and it was the absolute BEST food I had while in Thailand! And during our free time, we were able to kayak around the lake, jump off the docks and swim, or just relax at the bungalow.
One major perk of booking with Khao Sok Lake Bungalows is you have the option to choose a "private tour" which means they will only take members of your group on the excursions, otherwise, you may be going on your excursions with a large group of strangers (which can be fun too!)
Tips To Know
This is best done on a 4-day weekend, or a 3-day trip if you are thinking of flying both ways to get to the park — buses (especially from Bangkok) are cheaper than a flight but take up a lot of time. This is definitely an adventure you want to squeeze in if you have time! My group did a two-day-one-night stay and it was absolutely worth it! But I would recommend staying for longer if you can swing it because this place is just that amazing!
Also, bring a dry bag for your adventures. It tends to rain here so you’ll want a place to store phones and cameras when it rains during your safari, and sprays during your boat ride to the bungalows. You'll definitely want to bring some bug spray as well! And we recommend bringing some Tiger Balm (which you can find at most grocery stores in Thailand) to help the itchiness if you do get bit by mosquitos or other insects. Also, you’ll find zero cell service or WiFi on the bungalows, so plan on just enjoying the view.
Getting To Khao Sok National Park
First off, you’ll need to know that this park is in the Surat Thani Province, which is about 3ish hours by car from Phuket if you’re heading north.
By Plane + Taxi/Mini Bus
The nearest airport to the park is Surat Thani. You can often book pretty cheap flights to Surat Thani from Bangkok or even from Phuket which could make this a good option.
Once you land, you’ll need to get a bus/taxi/car to take you to the actual park (it's about two hours away). You can hire a taxi and split the price, but it’s going to be a bit pricey that way.
One ILP group got to Khao Sok for $8-10, via a mini bus. They leave every hour and you can catch one directly from the airport. They can be booked beforehand on 12go.asia. The bus ride is about two hours and will drop you off on a corner, just down the road from the entrance to the national park. From there, you can hire a truck for $2 a person to take you up the road to your hotel, or just take the 10 minute walk to where you are staying (all accommodations are close to each other). We recommend just walking.
Good to know: NokAir does offer a package where you can fly into Surat Thani and have transportation to the park itself all in one for about 1400 Baht.
Buses run from Phuket to Khao Sok and are extremely affordable (about 130 -180 Baht). The ride length varies according to the websites you look at, but plan at least 3 hours and maybe up to 5. According to the Phuket Bus Terminal, there are six departures from Phuket to Khao Sok daily, but other sources suggest they leave roughly one bus per hour, from 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM. That link gives you an address to the terminal if you’ll be getting a bus from Phuket to Khao Sok.
There are buses from Krabi (another favorite vacation spot). That blog post has more info if you want to visit it for the details.
Other ILP groups have reported booking beforehand on 12go.asia — you can hire a 9-passenger van for around $10 per person on 12go.asia from a lot of different locations in the area. Hiring your own car will mean having more flexibility about when you leave and where you are dropped off.
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