Visiting Khao Lak: Everything You Need to Know (2024)

A guide to visiting Khao Lak
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Khao Lak is a stunning area in the Phang Nga Province of southern Thailand. Located on the Andaman Sea, this serene coastal region is only an hour north of Phuket but has an entirely different atmosphere. If you’re looking to escape the crowds but still experience the stunning beauty of Thailand, Khao Lak could be the answer. In this post, I’ve shared everything you need to know about visiting Khao Lak.

Khao Lak is a great alternative to Phuket. It’s close to the Phuket Airport and can be easily reached via private transfer or coach. Since recovering from the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, Khao Lak’s popularity has boomed in recent years. Despite this, it still feels very much off the beaten path compared to other areas in Thailand. Home to pristine unspoiled beaches, lush jungle and crystal-clear waters, Khao Lak is a beautiful destination in Thailand.

For an even more off the beaten path location, consider visiting Koh Yao Yai.

Guide to visiting Khao Lak

I spent one week in Khao Lak between Ao Nang and Koh Yao Yai. I wanted to see the Phuket area but also wanted to be away from the crowds and chaos. Turns out Khao Lak was the perfect place for doing just this.

Note: I’m a little short on photos of Khao Lak due to a bit of a malfunction with my phone (long story!). I’m working on adding some photos to the post.

How to get to Khao Lak

Since recovering from the devastating tsunami in 2004, Khao Lak has grown in popularity making it a relatively easy destination to reach. Its location close to the popular areas of Phuket and Khao Sok means it’s easy to build into most Thailand itineraries.

The closest airport to Khao Lak is Phuket International Airport. From here, you can get a taxi or shuttle to Khao Lak.  

Khao Lak from Phuket

Khao Lak is about 80 kms north of Phuket. It takes an hour or two to reach depending on how you choose to travel. There are three different options to get to Khao Lak from Phuket. The cheapest option is to use the bus which departs from Phuket Bus Terminal 2. This costs around 220 Baht ($6 USD). The bus takes between 2 and 3 hours and drops you off in the main town of Khao Lak.

The second option is to take a shuttle bus. This is slightly more expensive but will pick you up from your accommodation in Phuket, avoiding the need to get to the bus station. The price of this varies between 500 and 900 Baht ($14 & $26 USD). The shared shuttle bus also runs from the Phuket airport.

You can book both the bus and shuttle bus through the reliable 12Go Asia.

The third and final option to get to Khao Lak from Phuket is to get a private transfer or taxi. This will be a lot more expensive than the two options above, but it’s a common route for taxi drivers. To book this, speak to your accommodation in Phuket or find a taxi rank.

Khao Lak from Ao Nang

I stayed in Ao Nang before heading to Khao Lak. The best way to get between Khao Lak and Ao Nang is to take a shared shuttle bus. This takes approximately 3 hours and is good value at around 440 Baht ($13 USD).

Book your transport from Ao Nang to Khao Lak using 12Go Asia.

How to get from Ao Nang to Khao Lak
Ao Nang

Khao Lak from Bangkok

To visit Khao Lak from Bangkok, your best option is to fly to Phuket International Airport and get a private transfer or shared shuttle bus from here. There are regular flights between the two airports.

If flights are too expensive, there is a bus that runs between Bangkok and Khao Lak. This is a 16-hour overnight bus and costs about 1400 Baht ($40 USD).

It would also be possible to get the train from Bangkok to Surat Thani which is the nearest train station. From Surat Thani, you can get a shuttle bus to Khao Lak. However, I’m not convinced this would be worthwhile. Time-wise, it wouldn’t be much different to just taking the coach.

Discover how to spend the perfect day in Bangkok.

Khao Lak from Khao Sok National Park

Khao Lak is a great stop between Khao Sok National Park and Phuket. Many of the shuttle busses running between these two destinations drop people off in Khao Lak.

Visiting Khao Sok? Consider a stay in one of the Khao Sok floating bungalows.  


Is Khao Lak worth visiting?

Yes and no. It really depends on what you want. If you’re looking to escape the crowds, slow down, relax on a stunning beach and enjoy a more peaceful side to Thailand, then Khao Lak is well worth visiting. With a range of hotels, varied restaurants and day trips to popular attractions, Khao Lak is a great destination for families.

If you’re a backpacker or someone looking for social hostels, parties and endless things to do, your time and money are probably spent better elsewhere. My friend and I were the only backpackers on our shuttle going to Khao Lak, everyone else stayed on the van to Khao Sok National Park. Having said that, I really enjoyed Khao Lak and seeing a quieter side to Thailand.  

Read more: is Khao Lak worth visiting?

Jungle in Khao Lak
Lush jungle surrounds Khao Lak

How long to spend in Khao Lak

Khao Lak is a popular tourist destination and many visitors spend their entire vacation there. With golden sand beaches, crystal clear water and several day trip options, Khao Lak is a great spot to base yourself for a week or two if you simply want a relaxing holiday in Thailand.

If you’re a backpacker or visitor who is trying to see as much as Thailand as possible in your timeframe, you don’t need more than two nights in Khao Lak. Two nights is enough time to see the main sights and explore the beaches.

Best time of year to visit Khao Lak

Khao Lak follows the same seasons and weather patterns as the nearby Phuket area. This means the best time of year to visit Khao Lak is between December and April. The weather is normally the most settled during this period.

The Khao Lak high season tends to be between January and March. You may find accommodation is more expensive during this period as visitors head there to enjoy the warm weather and clear skies. Khao Lak is also popular as a Christmas holiday destination.

Best beaches in Khao Lak

Khao Lak is home to several postcard worthy beaches. Think beautiful beaches, palm trees and clear waters full of marine life. The Khao Lak area is quite big and with a few beaches to choose from, none of them feel too crowded.

One of my favourite things about Khao Lak was how unspoiled most of the beaches felt. While there are a few beachfront resorts and bars, it doesn’t feel anywhere nearly as commercialised as the likes of the nearby Phuket and Ao Nang.

Here are some of the best beaches in Khao Lak.

Khao Lak Beaches
Khao Lak Beaches

Bang Niang Beach

This is arguably the most popular beach in Khao Lak. The Bang Niang Beach is a 2km long stretch of sand lined with coconut trees, bars and hotels. The water is perfect for swimming and there are some incredible sunsets in the evenings.

While it’s worth spending some time on Bang Niang Beach, I wouldn’t say it’s the absolute best beach in the area. It can get a little busier than other places and is the most commercialised of the Khao Lak beaches.

Khao Lak Sunset
Bang Niang Beach Sunset

Nang Thong Beach

Nang Thong is next to the Bang Niang Beach. This golden sandy beach stretches on for as far as the eye can see. In my opinion, it’s one of the most beautiful beaches in Khao Lak. It’s much quieter than the neighbouring Bang Niang, but there are still a few bars to grab a drink and watch the incredible sunset.

White Sand Beach

The Khao Lak White Sand Beach is exactly as the name describes. As the white sand beach meets the blue waters, the perfect backdrop is created.

White Sand Beach is a little further north than the other beaches, but there are still several hotels and bars to choose from. The beach is close to Coconut Beach which is well worth visiting if you have the time.

Although a little more secluded, White Sand Beach is well worth a visit.

Khuk Khak Beach

This is another wonderful beach in the Khao Lak area. Known for its luxury resorts and magnificent views, the beach tends to be a bit more on the quieter side.

For a peaceful day relaxing on the beach with the option for a Thai massage, Khuk Khak Beach is a must.

Scenery in Khao Lak
Perfect beaches in Khao Lak

Sandy Beach

Sandy Beach is one of the best beaches in Khao Lak. It takes a bit of effort to reach, but it’s worth it. It doesn’t get more idyllic than relaxing on Sandy Beach.

To visit Sandy Beach, you need to go to Khao Lak-Lam Ru National Park. It’s a little out of the main area but can be reached by taxi or by hiring a moped. From the park entrance, you’ll need to hike about 45-minutes through the lush jungle to reach the beach.

Alternatively, there is a small parking lot further down the main road. From there, it’s a 15-minute walk to the beach. I’d recommend the full hike however, especially for nature lovers. It’s a beautiful walk and one of the best things to do in Khao Lak.

It costs 200 THB ($6 USD) to enter the park, but this also includes entry to the Ton Chong Fa waterfall.

Other beaches worth visiting in the Khao Lak area include Bangsak Beach and Sunset Beach. If you’re up for hiring a bike, you could spend a day or two beach hopping between these tropical paradises.

Discover more about the best beaches in Khao Lak.

Khao Lak-Lam Ru National Park
Hidden beaches in Khao Lak-Lam Ru National Park

Where to stay in Khao Lak

It’s important to know that the Khao Lak area is big and there isn’t just one main area. Many of Khao Lak’s beaches have their own accommodation and restaurants around them, each with their own unique charm.

The busiest area of Khao Lak is Bang Niang Beach. This is where you’ll find the Bang Niang Night Market and plenty of restaurant choices. If you want to experience some nightlife in Khao Lak, the Bang Niang Beach area is the place to be.

For a quieter side of Khao Lak, consider the Nang Thong Beach area which is where I stayed. It’s still lively but a bit more laid back. We went to the beach for sunset and barely saw another person. The accommodation and food in this area tends to be a little cheaper. Nang Thong Beach is close to Bang Niang Beach, you can get a TukTuk between the two or even walk along the main road.

If you want to completely escape the crowds, try the Khuk Khak area. Home to several 5-star resorts and close to Khuk Khak beach, this beautiful area offers a peaceful escape.

Another area to consider is the Pakarang Area, which is close to stunning White Sand Beach and Coconut Beach. The area is a little more secluded but still has everything you need with luxury accommodation, restaurants and bars.

If you’re after luxury, one of the best hotels in Khao Lak is the JW Marriott Khao Lak Resort Suites. The hotel is close to Khuk Khak Beach and Khao Lak Village. With a beachfront pool and private beach area, this is without a doubt one of the most luxurious places to stay in Khao Lak. For something a little more secluded, try the world class Sarojin. This is the definition of luxury and even has suites with private pools.

Nang Thong Beach
Nang Thong Beach

For something more affordable, try the TUI BLUE Khao Lak Resort in the Nang Thong area or the Mukdara Beach Villa & Spa Resort in the Bang Niang area.

For budget accommodation in Khao Lak, consider the Srichada Hotel Khao Lak. This is where I stayed. It’s simple but budget friendly and in a convenient location. The Theppahrak Hostel Khaolak is a popular hostel choice and a short walk to many great restaurants and the beach.

From luxury beachfront hotels to budget hostels, Khao Lak has something to suit all styles of travellers.

Where to eat in Khao Lak

The main streets of Khao Lak are lined with restaurants and delicious eateries. It was some of the best Thai food I had on my trip to Thailand.

Here are some of the best places to eat in Khao Lak.

Bang Niang Night Market

The Bang Niang market is a popular night market in Khao Lak. The area is filled vendors selling traditional Thai street food and souvenirs. While this wasn’t the best night market I visited in Thailand, it’s still a must visit while in Khao Lak.

The market is only open on certain days of the week. When I visited, it was open on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. This is subject to change however, so I’d advise checking in with your accommodation before visiting.  

The Khao Lak Night Market is the perfect place to immerse yourself in local life, enjoy a drink and try some traditional Thai street food.

Bang Niang Night Market
Bang Niang Night Market

Best restaurants in Khao Lak

There are endless restaurants to choose from in Khao Lak ranging from traditional Thai food to Italian and Mexican.

One of the best Thai restaurants in Khao Lak is P’Ann. The setting is basic, but the food is full of flavour and at a reasonable price. This is without a doubt some of the best food I had in Thailand (try the tamarind chicken!).

Another incredible restaurant in Khao Lak is Pam’s who also offer cooking classes. The food here is delicious and the setting is lovely. It gets very popular, however, and we had to wait twenty minutes for a seat. For more Thai food, try Nom’s Family Restaurant. The food here is fantastic (and has some of the cheapest beer in Khao Lak).

If you’re vegetarian or want a break from Thai food, try Pita shop. It has some of the BEST falafel I have ever had in my entire life. The ratings on Google don’t lie, this is a must visit restaurant. The staff were so friendly too. Another great vegan restaurant is Beyond the Root Vegan Food which serves up vegan versions of American and European style foods.

For a simple restaurant on the beach with a sunset view, try the Lah Own Restaurant. It’s a little more expensive than similar places in the main town, but it’s worth it for the views.  

Best coffee in Khao Lak

If you’re like me and need a daily coffee in your life, you’ll be pleased to hear that Khao Lak has a couple of high-quality western style options.

For the best coffee in Khao Lak, head to The Eighth Room. The menu here boasts traditional and unusual coffee items. It also serves up western foods such as sandwiches, waffles and pancakes.

Another great coffee choice in Khao Lak is the Yellow Snail and Café Gallery which offers traditional coffees such as lates and cappuccinos.

For a slightly cheaper option, consider Ruk Coffee which also has budget breakfasts.  

Things to do in Khao Lak

Khao Lak has a range of activities that cater for nature lovers, adventure seekers and those who simply want to relax. Relaxing on the beach is by far one of the best things to do in Khao Lak, but there are several other activities for those who want to see more of the area.

Is Khao Lak worth visiting?
Khao Lak Sandy Beach

Visit the Tsunami Museum

To learn more about Khao Lak’s past, consider a visit to the Tsunami Museum. The museum stands as a tribute to the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami which destroyed Khao Lak and other areas in the Indian Ocean. Khao Lak was one of the worst affected areas of Thailand. Inside the museum, you’ll find exhibits, photographs, and survivor stories sharing insight into the disaster and the community’s resilience and recovery.

At the museum, you’ll find the famous Boat 813. Once a police boat, it was swept inland by the tsunami waves. It’s now preserved as a memorial and a reminder of the destructive tsunami.

Go Scuba Diving or Snorkelling

For scuba divers or those who want to experience the underwater marine world, consider a day trip to the Similan Islands, a group of nine tropical islands in the Andaman Sea. The islands are known for their unspoiled beauty and rich marine biodiversity, making them a popular destination for snorkelling and diving. The islands are part of the Mu Ko Similan National Park.

Khao Lak
Stunning waters off the shores of Khao Lak

The Similan Islands boast pristine white sand beaches surrounded by lush vegetation. It doesn’t get more like paradise than these beautiful islands. The marine life around the Similan Islands is what draws people there. With colourful coral reefs, exotic fish species and even turtles, the Similan Islands are an absolute must for diving enthusiasts. You can choose a day trip or for scuba divers, consider a live-aboard.

The incredible Surin Islands are also popular for diving and snorkelling.

Go on a day trip

Khao Lak is close to many popular attractions in Thailand including James Bond Island (Khao Phing Kan) and the Phi Phi Islands, including Maya Bay. Each of these destinations offer stunning views of incredible rock formations, limestone cliffs, picturesque scenery and water-based activities such as snorkelling.

Other day trip options from Khao Lak include to Khao Sok National Park.

Visit the turtle sanctuary

Khao Lak’s Turtle Sanctuary is a vital conservation effort dedicated to the preservation of endangered sea turtles. It’s possible to visit the turtle sanctuary as part of a day tour with other activities such as bamboo rafting.

Khao Lak Beaches
Khao Lak Beaches

Hike through the National Park

Khao Lak is home to the Lak-Lam Ru National Park, an incredible untouched area full of lush vegetarian and hidden beaches.

Entry to the park costs 200 THB, but is well worth it. I’d suggest heading to the visitor centre and joining the hiking trails there. If you follow signs to Sandy Beach, you’ll reach a lovely hidden beach with some of the best scenery I saw in Thailand. It’s the definition of paradise.

Lak-Lam Ru National Park
Hiking in Lak-Lam Ru National Park

Entry to the park also includes entry to Ton Kloi Waterfall Khao. It’s a 20-minute drive from the visitor centre to reach this so you’ll either need a bike or jump in a taxi. I skipped this as the staff warned us that the waterfall was completely dried up. I visited in the height of the dry season (March) so it’s no surprise.


I hope you’ve found this guide to visiting Khao Lak useful. Close to several beautiful attractions but away from the crowds, it’s the perfect place to base yourself in Thailand. It’s also a great spot for travellers going between Khao Sok and Phuket.

Up next: pros and cons of visiting Khao Lak

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