How to Spend a Day In Khao Sok National Park (+Photos)

Most of us know and love Thailand for its tropical islands, magical mountainous landscapes, and bustling capital, but there’s another spot that’s been making waves for some time now.

Khao Sok National Park is a spectacular nature reserve in the Surat Thani province of southern Thailand. Home to jaw-dropping limestone cliffs, dense rainforest, enchanting caves, and incredible wildlife, this park should go right to the top of your Thailand to-do list.

A perfect mix of adventure and relaxation, a visit to Khao Sok will have you lounging in a floating bungalow one minute and preparing for a hike through the rainforest the next.

Having heard nothing but rave reviews of Khao Sok National Park, I knew I had to set aside some time to explore the wonderful nature this part of the country has to offer on my next visit to Thailand.

Now, with plenty of first-hand experience, I’m hoping to share all the tips and tricks with you ahead of your visit, including what to expect and how to get there.

Getting to Khao Sok National Park

Khao Sok National Park Sign

How you get to Khao Sok National Park will depend on where you’re starting your journey, though you’ll most likely have to make your way to the city of Surat Thani first.

Surat Thani is a fantastic transport hub in the south of Thailand, located just a bus away from Phuket and Krabi or a boat ride from the Gulf islands of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, and Koh Tao. From here, you’ll take a two-hour minivan or bus to Khao Sok, which will drop you off at the village where most of the accommodation is located.

I was visiting from Bangkok, so my journey to Khao Sok took quite a bit more time. If you’re coming from the capital, your best option is to book an overnight train from Bang Sue Junction station to Surat Thani.

This trip typically takes around 10-12 hours, and I’d recommend booking into either first or second-class, as both these cabins have air conditioning. For a second-class sleeper ticket, you can expect to pay around 1,100 THB ($31.45).

Once you arrive in Surat Thani the next morning, your minivan will pick you up from the station and take you right to the park if you’ve opted for a combined ticket. Otherwise, you’ll first need to take a quick taxi to the office of a bus company called Phantip to get your transfer to Khao Sok.

Planning Your Activities

Planning Your Activities

After you touch down in your accommodation, you’ll likely want to start planning exactly what activities and experiences you’re hoping to include in your visit. Most of the guesthouses and hostels in the area will help you organize all your excursions and will have plenty of suggestions to make your trip as enjoyable as possible.

I decided to go for a day tour rather than an overnight experience, though the latter is becoming an increasingly popular option. If you choose to spend a night within the park itself, you’ll spend the night in one of the floating bungalows that Khao Sok has become famous for, rather than returning to your hotel room.

With this tour, many of the activities will be the same as the day trip, but you’ll explore at a slower pace and have a lot more downtime.

There are a bunch of amazing aspects to each tour, including a boat trip that sails past the endless limestone formations, swimming in Cheow Lan Lake, and wildlife spotting in the jungle.

Boat Trip to Explore the Limestone Rock Formation

Boat Trip

The following morning, things got started around 8 a.m. when the shuttle bus picked up a group of us from the guesthouse to make the short drive to the pier.

At this point, you may need to pay a park fee of 300 THB ($8.58) before boarding the boat, but many of the tours include this cost in your package, so be sure to check this with your provider beforehand.

From here, you’ll hop aboard a wooden Thai-style longtail boat, where you’ll spend the next two hours cruising past the hundreds of magnificent rock formations through glistening emerald waters.

From Cheow Lan Lake, you’ll also notice the lush rainforest that surrounds the area, which has plenty of remarkable residents, including deer, monkeys, wild boars, and Malaysian sun bears. If you’re fortunate, you might even spot an elephant wandering around the water’s edge from your boat.

Something I wish I’d thought of ahead of time was to ensure I’d packed a jacket. As warm as the Thai sun is, it can get quite chilly out on the lake when the boat starts to pick up some speed, so be sure to come prepared!

Swimming and Lunch at the Floating Bungalows

Floating Bungalows

As your boat tour starts to wrap up, you’ll make your way over to one of the many floating accommodations scattered around the park. We arrived here at around 11 a.m., which meant we had some free time before lunch was served.

For around 30 or 45 minutes, you can spend your time jumping into the refreshing lake from the edge of the bungalows, taking a kayak out into the water, or just lounging along the floating walkways and soaking up the sunshine.

The bungalows we pulled up at had plenty of showers to use should you want to freshen up after swimming, but make sure you’re prepared to go without hot water on this occasion!

Next up was lunch, which was an impressive line-up of local fare, including fresh fish, a couple of chicken dishes, rice, noodles, and some tasty vegetarian options. For dessert, you’ll be served up some fresh fruit platters and your choice of tea or coffee.

Once we’d fueled up on delicious food, it was time to start preparing for the next activity on our itinerary, an adventurous and scenic hike through the jungle.

Jungle Trek

Jungle Trek

Before setting off from the bungalows, you’ll need to make sure you’re properly prepared for the (often very muddy) trek that lies ahead.

If you’re not wearing suitable footwear, which tends to be hiking boots, sneakers, or closed-toe shoes with a firm grip, you’ll be able to rent a pair for around 50 THB ($1.43).

This is the rainforest, after all, so there’s always a chance of a heavy downpour, which means it’s best to leave your valuables with the staff at the bungalows or pack your essentials into a waterproof bag.

Once you’re good to go, you’ll jump back on the boat for around 5-10 minutes before pulling up to the starting point for your hike.

The trek itself isn’t strenuous, and the path is quite flat, but it involves walking through streams, making your way through patches of thick and deep mud, and occasionally climbing over rocks.

Overall, you can expect the round-trip to take around four hours. We got stuck in torrential rain on our way back, which meant it may have taken us a little longer than average. A couple of us in the group also fell victim to the leeches found all over the park, adding a few minutes to the trip!

A Visit to a Hidden Cave

Hidden Cave

The first half of the hike led us to a cave around two hours from where we started the journey. Because the wet season wasn’t long past, the cave was filled with chilly, chest-level water.

As a result, anyone from the group who wanted to venture inside had to either brave the cold in a swimsuit or spend the remainder of the journey in wet clothes (as I previously mentioned, we were stuck in heavy rainfall on the second leg of the hike, so this ended up not mattering so much!).

Unless you’ve got your phone in a waterproof case that hangs around your neck, you’ll need to leave this and the rest of your belongings at the entrance to the cave if the water level is high. At this point, your guide will provide you with headlamps and some safety tips to be aware of.

You’ll spend around 15 minutes exploring the cave’s stalagmites, stalactites, and pillars, all while trying to keep your balance on the ever-so-slippery cave floor.

In some cases, mostly during the peak of the rainy season, many of the caves will be off-limits if the water has risen too much, so this is something to be aware of when planning your visit.

Nighttime Safari

Nighttime Safari

After the boat ride back to the pier came the day’s final activity, a jungle safari after dark. Although Khao Sok National Park has quite a wide array of wildlife, this safari focused on smaller animals rather than the likes of elephants and monkeys.

Wearing insect repellent is always a good choice in this kind of environment, but it’s especially important at this time of day. Once you’ve applied plenty of repellent and been kitted out with a headlamp, your guide will take you through a portion of the thick rainforest that makes up most of the park.

Over the course of two hours, you can expect to stumble upon a ton of majestic creatures, from snakes and unique lizards to jungle cats and colorful frogs. Many of these animals are much more difficult to find than you might think, but the guides are experts at following patterns and spotting clues.

Unsurprisingly, there are plenty of insects and other critters to keep an eye out for while you’re here, such as scorpions, spiders, and praying mantis’. In all honesty, I’m not particularly fond of bugs, but seeing the likes of tarantulas and jewel beetles in person was a super cool experience.

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