The PERFECT Khao Lak Itinerary; Things to do in Khao Lak
I’ve been using my time ‘stuck’ in Thailand during COVID, to explore the country. From 3 days in Chiang Mai recently, the white temple in Chiang Rai, figuring out all the amazing things to do in Kanchanaburi, or chasing 3 headed elephants in the Erawan Museum in Bangkok, or taking a day trip to Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, even cycling 2000km the length of Thailand! Anyway, you get the picture! Finally, I wanted to go and check out the south of Thailand too. I’ve never been a big fan of Phuket, and for that reason Khao Lak (an hour or so north of Phuket) never grabbed my attention. However, having done a little more research, I discovered Khao Lak couldn’t be more different than it’s noisy neighbour of Phuket. It’s beautiful, untouched stretches of white sand beaches, with tropical jungles chasing right up to the beaches. It’s much quieter, and it’s home to some amazing hotels (I took my partner to the best Khao Lak resort, the Devasom – more on that below). Remember, when people say ‘Khao Lak’ they’re referring to a 20km stretch of white-sand beaches. There is no town called ‘Khao Lak’, I explain more about that in my Khao Lak Itinerary below.
WHERE IS KHAO LAK?
In the south of Thaliand. 90km north of Phuket airport, about 80 minutes drive or so. You can take
WHY GO TO KHAO LAK? THE CHARM
As I mentioned above, Khao Lak is heaven to people who don’t want the neon lights of Phuket or the number of tourists in Bali. It’s laid back, but still with the beauty of Thailand. Uncrowded national parks, non-pushy tourist industry. Untouched beaches. Khao Lak retains the laid back energy that made Thailand famous and long may it continue. Come here to relax, recharge and soak up the beauty. There are also a handful of amazing luxury places to stay, some of the best in all of Thailand, my stay at Devasom was one of the best hotels in my life!
Khao Lak is also a great place to base yourself as you explore the area north of Phuket. I go through a suggested Khao Lak Itinerary further below, but in terms of things to do in Khao Lak, here are the things you shouldn’t miss when you’re here. So if you can’t be bothered to read on, fair enough, but mark these down!
Khao Sok National Park & Cheow Lan lake: These guys include both for 2600THB!
Ao Phang-nga national park, Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island (if you want to go by traditional longtail boat, these guys do it)
HOW TO GET TO KHAO LAK?
Get yourself to Phuket airport. It’s also possible to fly to Krabi and connect, but Phuket (HKT) airport is much closer.
Nok Air offer flights to Phuket and then mini-van transfers which is great. A taxi from the airport is about $40 or so (1200THB after negotiation). If you pre-book accommodation in Khao Lak, they’ll generally have a shuttle service (although not always free).
HOW LONG SHOULD YOU SPEND IN KHAO LAK?
Personally, I spent 3 nights and 3 days in Khao Lak. Looking back, it wasn’t enough. I would recommend 5 nights, to give yourself time to explore the amazing Phang Nga bay, Khao Sok National Park and at least one of Similan or Surin Islands – each of those is a full-day trip in itself. So 5 days in Khao Lak would still only leave you with 1 or 2 days to just relax and explore! If you have the time, try to give yourself a week, but you can squeeze it into 5 nights for sure.
BEST TIME TO VISIT KHAO LAK
Khao Lak experiences 2 seasons, rainy (April to October) and dry (November to March). Dry season is preferable to visit, but all year round can work. I visited in September, and although it rained every day, it normally only rains for 1-3 hours in the late afternoon, often leaving the rest of the day sunny, so don’t overthink it too much if the dry season doesn’t fit your schedule!
THINGS TO DO IN KHAO LAK, A 6 DAY KHAO LAK ITINERARY:
As I said, I made a mistake and only spent 3 days in Khao Lak, ideally you’ll spend a few days more so you can squeeze more things into your Khao Lak itinerary. Anyway, from my experience, this is the best way to plan your time in Khao Lak.
DAY 1: Arrive in Phuket airport, and either rent a car, a scooter or have your Khao Lak resort organise your shuttle to take you north to Khao Lak beach area (cheapest transfer from Phuket to Khao Lak, remember, is these guys for 700THB). That journey takes between and hour and 90 minutes. Aim to land in Phuket airport early in the morning, so you can get to the hotel around Lunch. Your accommodation can be anywhere along the 20km stretch that is known as Khao Lak. There are 3 main towns that make up Khao Lak (and none of them are called Khao Lak, which refers just to the area, not a specific place). Bang La On, Bang Niang, and the quiet Khuk Khak. Bang La On is often called ‘Khao Lak’ by tourists, as it’s the main town. Bang Niang is more of an evening/bar area, and Khuk Khak is super quiet. If you have to choose, probably best to be near Bang La On, but it’s not so important, as the towns aren’t that special anyway. You’re here for the beautiful tropical vibes, the beaches, the jungle etc.
Today, you should recover in paradise. Khao Lak resorts are affordable (especially since COVID has been around!) so treat yourself. The spa in the Devasom is a great way to see in your first afternoon.
DAY 2: Time to explore. If you make it to Khao Lak, don’t miss out on the epic views of Phang Nga Bay, home to James Bond Island Photos of this place are often the most famous photos in Thailand, it’s SPECTACULAR. You have a few options to do it. You can book through your hotel, you can book through a local agent, or you can book online (cheaper and easier). If you dont want to take a boat trip, then at the very least drive to the Bay and check out ‘Samet Nangshe Viewpoint’. That alone is worth the 90 minute drive each way. The most famous day trip in Khao Lak though is to James Bond Island.
DAY 3: If you took the boat trip to James Bond Island and Phang Nga Bay, or even just drove your scooter or car there yesterday, then today is the time to relax a little more, and see what Khao Lak is all about. For a start, there are multiple ‘beaches’ in Khao Lak but in reality, it’s one huge, long 20km stretch of the same, beautiful, pristine beach. So it depends what you’re after. If you want some busier action, Bang Niang beach, for quieter vibes Khuk Kak Beach, and if you want to try your hand at surfing, then Memories beach is for you. The best plan is to have a lazy brekkie at your Khao Lak resort, then rent a scooter or bicycle, and spend the next few hours jumping in and out of each beach. Also, when you reach Bang La On, don’t miss the cute Khao Lak Phu View coffee shop. Quite a steep drive, but beautiful views of the town and ocean from up top!
Surfing at Memories beach can be organised just be showing up, they have a great beach bar with 90THB cocktails to keep you occupied before and after too. Enjoy!
DAY 4: Get your exploring boots again, you didn’t come all the way to Thailand just to do nothing, right?! Day trip to the spectacular Khao Sok National Park and Cheow Lan Lake today. Khao Lak to Khao Sok is just an hour or so, so it is drivable if you prefer to be independent, but for this one, in my opinion, it’s better to have a guide or book a tour. Khao Sok is huge and it’s hard to know the best bits to see, and what not to miss. So better book it through an agent in Bang La On, or through your hotel, or online in advance.
Oh and make sure to ask them to bring you to nearby Cheow Lan Lake, it’s often skipped, but it’s a beauty!
DAY 5: We’re onto day 5 on your Khao Lak itinerary already! So now it starts to depend on how long you have here. If you have a week or so, then absolutely kick back in your Khao Lak resort. Chill, sunbathe, read a book. You have time to spare. But if, like me, you’re always on the go, then today you can choose to hit up paradise once more with a day trip to either the Similan Islands or the Surin Islands (or both in multiple days if you can’t get enough!). Both need to be booked as a tour, with a van pick-up, then boat trip, snorkelling, and back to the hotel around dinner time, so it’s a long day but it’s often said that the water at the Similan Islands is THE clearest water in all of Thailand. It’s one of my partner’s fav spots in the world too, so it’s pretty special.
If you have time, do both. If you can only do one, do the Similan islands.
DAY 6: You’re outta here.
On this 6 day Khao Lak itinerary, you’re outta time! Back to Phuket airport, or if you’re lucky onwards to continue your travels around Thailand.
OPTIONAL or ONWARDS: From here then the most obvious onwards trips would be a live-aboard scuba trip, or transfer to Phuket or Krabi. For me, it was back home to Bangkok to work, and train for my Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai ultra-marathon.
THE BEST KHAO LAK RESORT:
In a nutshell, The Devasom. There are big brand hotels across Khao Lak, but there is one less-known, Thai-owned beauty sitting pretty right on the beach. A friend of mine had told me about the Devasom in Hua Hin, a family-run business. They opened a new property recently in Khao Lak, and even despite Covid they’re sitting almost sold out. The word has got out to the Thai market, but not the international market yet! So make sure you check it out before you book the wrong place!
Why the Devasom?
It is seen as a Khao Lak Resort, but it carries much more of a boutique feel, where the staff remember your name and you don’t feel like a Western Chain hotel processed in-and-out (I hate that!). Also, they bought the most spectacular piece of land to build the property on, right on the beach so you have private access, but also in the tropical forest, so it’s palm trees, rivers and then the beach, all with the most amazing architecture built within it. It’s become quite famous on Instagram because of that!
A highlight and a half! They have various room types from standard to beach villas. I stayed in the standard, then thanks to a late cancellation had the opportunity to upgrade the next day. So here’s my advice! If you’re booking in advance, it’s worth it to book the Seaside Pool Paradise room. It’s often sold out but try! The views of the ocean are right there from the bed, it has a huge bathtub, a suite if you wanna chill, drink wine and work or watch Netflix as you winddown in the evening. Check out the views from the balcony.
From the hotel shuttle from Phuket Airport, to the luxurious spa, the Devasom went the extra mile to create an opulent atmosphere that makes you feel like you live in your own palace. The breakfast is expansive (And great for veggies) and a glass of wine as the sunset, at the beachfront bar and restaurant is heaven.
A great gym, epic spa, beautiful architecture throughout, beachfront infinity pool, private suites, free use of paddleboards and snorkels etc, and a concierge who can organise day-trips for the very next day. Oh and wildly delicious Pizzas (that we ended up eating on 2 of the 3 days!!). In an era where everyone likes to say 5*, this is a true 5* luxury experience. It’s the kind of hotel that makes you sad to leave, but you come to terms with it because you know you’ll be back. Heaven.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON VISITING KHAO LAK
If you’re thinking ‘Phuket or Khao Lak’ it’s a tough decision I know, for me, Khao Lak beats it 100 to 1 though. If you’re looking for parties, and tourist-stuff, of course, Phuket wins. But everything else, Khao Lak is on top. Khao Lak is a great base to explore Surin Islands, Similan islands Phang Nga Bay and James Bond Island. You can also check out Khao Sok national park, all as day-trips from Khao Lak. That’s so convenient. I wish I had researched and written this article BEFORE I went, so I could plan my things to do in Khao Lak a little better, and I would have stayed a little longer. But at least you guys get the benefit! Enjoy.
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