Get Lost in Nature’s Playground: A Traveler’s Guide to Khao Sok National Park (2023)

Introduction

Khao Sok is a breathtakingly beautiful national park located in southern Thailand. This large virgin rainforest covers an area of over 700 square kilometers and is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, including the largest flower in the world—Rafflesia arnoldii. Khao Sok will be any nature lover’s paradise because of its towering limestone cliffs, crystal-clear lakes, and rushing waterfalls.

I’m a part-time digital nomad who travels a quarter of the year to see and explore places to trek, climb, and visit all while I work in my full-time job. I’ve visited Khao Sok and other areas in Thailand, and hopefully, the following guide to Khao Sok can provide some answers to questions people have when considering Khao Sok as a digital nomad destination.

What is Khao Sok known for?

Khao Sok National Park is best known as the largest virgin rain forest in Thailand. The rainforest has it all—a large freshwater lake, caves, limestone mountains, lush jungle, and plenty of wildlife.

Island on Cheow Lan Lake
Islet on cheow lan lake

What is the atmosphere in Khao Sok?

The people who stay in Khao Sok are mostly tourists, and locals who live there are usually there to accommodate tourists. Unlike Krabi, Khao Sok does not have much nightlife aside from one or two bars that are open late midnight. If you enjoy having peaceful evenings, this may be the place for you.

Is Khao Sok a safe destination?

Yes, it is. If there’s anything to be worried about, it would have been because you ventured into the rainforest too late in the evening and disturbed wildlife.

How long to stay in Khao Sok?

This will depend on how much you love the outdoors. If you’re there to just see what the rainforest is like and to see some animals in the wild, two to three days is more than sufficient. However, if you enjoy hiking as much as we do, you can go on for two weeks exploring the trails and you still won’t cover them all.

Long-term stays do not seem to be available in the area because it is a national park.

What is the weather like in Khao Sok?

Khao Sok has cooler temperatures compared to other places in Southern Thailand. This can be best attributed to the lush vegetation and its proximity to Cheow Lan Lake. I usually have a hard time sleeping when it’s too hot or too humid, but did not have any problem sleeping without any air-conditioning in Khao Sok. It became cool enough that I bundled up with blankets in the early morning of February.

  • Rainy season. April through December are the months when Khao Sok expect their rains, with the heaviest rains in June through November. Rains here only last for a couple of hours though so there’s still time to enjoy
  • Dry season. The rest of the year—November to April—represent its dry season. This does not mean though that there will be no rain. Because it’s in tropical rainforest, rain is expected throughout the year, and it usually comes in the late afternoon. Still bring a rain jacket because when it rains in Khao Sok, it rains heavy.

How do you get to Khao Sok?

It’s easy to get to Khao Sok from popular tourist destinations like Phuket, Khao Lak, Krabi, Koh Samui, and Bangkok. Because getting to Khao Sok primarily requires a couple of transfers, we’re breaking it down based on origin.

From Bangkok

If you’re coming from Bangkok, you can take either a flight, night bus, or a train to Surat Thani.

  • Plane. This option takes 1.5 hours and there’s a variety of direct flight options available like Thai AirAsia, Thai Lion Air, and Nok Air.
  • Bus. This takes anywhere between 10-11 hours. We found it easiest to book through 12go.asia
  • Train. It will be around 12 hours

From Sura Thani, you can take a local bus booked to Takua and they can drop you off at the edge of the Khlong Sok village.

From Phuket

From Phuket, it’s best to just book a minivan through a tour operator and it can take around an hour or two depending on where you are in Phuket.

There’s also an option to take the local bus from Phuket town but you’ll have to go through Surat Thani, which takes longer. From Surat Thani, you can take a bus to Takua that gets you to the Khao Sok national park.

From Krabi

It’s also best to take a minivan booked through a tour operator from Krabi town that will take you straight to Khao Sok. It will take 2-3 hours depending on whether it’s a direct bus or the tour operator makes detours.

While there is the option to take a plane ride, it just didn’t make much sense considering that you fly into Sura Thani airport then take a two hour minivan ride to Khao Sok.

Pro tip: We found that almost every accommodation in Thailand is really a tour operator in disguise, so just ask your host. However, make sure still to compare prices with at least 2 to 3 operators to see if their markup is excessively high.

Where to stay in Khao Sok?

  • Khlong Sok village is the main street leading to the national park entrance where tourists can choose from a variety of accommodations. Some of them are not even on booking sites like Agoda or Booking.com. From the main intersection where buses and vans drop off tourists, it will be around 20-30 minutes walking to get to any accommodation within the area.
  • The 50km highway between Khao Sok Valley and Cheow Lan Lake is Khao Sok Valley—home to higher-end resorts, which usually have their own private fleet of vehicles to pick up guests from the airport. From the entrance of the park, these resorts are approximately a 20 to 30-minute drive.
  • Staying at Cheow Lan Lake itself is the ultimate accommodation in Khao Sok. To stay here, you’ll need to book overnight stays through local tour operators. Important to note that the lake is an hour away from Khlong Sok village, so staying here means you’ll need to account for the extra time required to get there.

Recommended Places to Stay

Get Lost in Nature's Playground: A Traveler's Guide to Khao Sok National Park (2023) -

One of the best hostels in Khao Sok is Chillax @ Khao Sok. There is a free water refill among the many other amenities:

  • Airport transfer
  • Shuttle service
  • Free Wi-Fi in all rooms!
  • Fitness center
  • 24-hour check-in
Get Lost in Nature's Playground: A Traveler's Guide to Khao Sok National Park (2023) -

Just an 8-minute walk from Khao Sok National Park, Coco Khao Sok Hostel is another favorite among visitors

  • Airport transfer
  • Free Wi-Fi in all rooms!
  • Luggage storage
  • Cash withdrawal
  • Bicycle rental
Get Lost in Nature's Playground: A Traveler's Guide to Khao Sok National Park (2023) -

Boom Hostel @Khaosok is among the newest hostels in Khao Sok, and most guests noted how clean the rooms are.

  • Airport transfer
  • Free Wi-Fi in all rooms!
  • Luggage storage
  • Contactless check-in/out
  • Spa

Among all areas to stay, the best area to stay in is Khlong Sok. While staying at Cheow Lan Lake is great, it limits you to activities that tour operators run and you’ll have fewer options for food.

Get Lost in Nature's Playground: A Traveler's Guide to Khao Sok National Park (2023) -
Khao Sok National Park is a one-street tourist hub

Getting around Khao Sok

Khao Sok National Park is massive. It is the among the largest rainforests in the country after all. To give you a sense of how big the park is, I made the map below and pinned a couple of the park’s landmarks.

https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/edit?mid=13qjjB1KywIqF3tyHze95f36xpd6lyuM&usp=sharing

Because the accommodations are within the national park, the amount of transportation options is limited. If you took a bus or shared minivan, you’ll be dropped off at the edge of the village. You can either walk or take a taxi to get to your hostel or hotel for around 100 THB. If you choose to walk, most accommodation will take around 15-30 minutes to reach.

From Khlong Sok village, it takes approximately an hour of drive to get to the Cheow Lan Pier. If you’re part of the tour, transportion is usually included. If you plan to do it yourself, you can rent a motorbike.

Best Things to do in Khao Sok

Hike along the river trails

There’s an endless number of trails to hike inside the national park. It’s best to start at the Khao Sok National Park Headquarters. You will need to pay a daily park fee of 200 THB to get in. You can hike on your own until you reach the Bang Hua Rat Waterfall. However, if you intend to go beyond that, they recommend that you get a guide so you know what to watch out for. While we ended up ignoring the recommendation, I admit that getting the guide is worth it (we took one on our next visit) because there’s no clear signs on where the trail leads. There is also plenty to learn from having a local talk you through what you’re seeing.

Guide to Khao Sok
Map of the Khao Sok National Park
Get Lost in Nature's Playground: A Traveler's Guide to Khao Sok National Park (2023) -
We were told that past bang hua rat, we need to get a guide to take us to the end of the trail

Rent a motorbike for a daytrip to Cheow Lan Lake

To explore Cheow Lan lake for a day, you can rent a scooter and drive yourself to the Ratchaprapha Pier. You can negotiate but a privately chartered boat will set you back by around 2000 THB

Stay at Cheow Lan Lake for 2 to 3 days

You can stay right by the lake and join tours that will take you wildlife spotting and kayaking

Join a night safari with a guide

This may be among the coolest experiences we’ve had in Thailand. We hiked inside the national park at night and spotted some nocturnal creatures in the wild. Curious to know what to expect with this tour? Check our post here.

Take overnight survival courses

Once you get to Khlong Sok village, you should see local shops offering overnight survival courses. We did not enough time to try out these courses but thought it was an interesting thing to try out if you have extra time in Khao Sok.

Take a dip in a river or at Cheow Lan Lake

It gets hot at Khao Sok so a great way to end the day is to swim in Cheow Lan Lake or in one of the many rivers within the national park. If you’re staying at a lake house, you’ll have an easy access to the blue waters of the lake. There’s also a swim spot near the Khao Sok National Park headquarters, you’ll just need to hike towards Bang Hua Rat waterfall.

Khao Sok Bang Hua Rat River
Swimming spot at bang hua rat waterfall

Canoe or kayak your way to caves

If you book a tour with one of the local operators, you should be able to also use their canoes or kayaks as part of the tour. From there, you can make your way to popular caves like the Nam Ta Lu cave, Diamond cave, or Coral cave.

Conclusion

Khao Sok is a great place to go to disconnect or find some refuge in nature. Those that are looking for outdoor activities will also enjoy hiking the park’s very rugged trails or kayaking on the vast lake of Cheow Lan lake. If these are the type of activities that you’re looking for, I would highly suggest staying for a week at Khao Sok National Park. Otherwise, two to three days would suffice if you only want to see the highlights of the park.


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