Khao Sok National Park is a huge 739 km2 nature reserve in the southern province of Surat Thani. It is a spectacular, diverse and highly recommended National Park, which is also not yet part of the main tourist trail.

Intro to Khao Sok National Park

What makes Khao Sok one of the most complete National Parks in all of Thailand? Besides a jungle area somehow similar to what you can find in any other National Park in Thailand, in Khao Sok you’ll find the huge Chiew Lan lake, surrounded by limestone cliffs and lush jungle, which you can explore by boat.

The main entrance of the Park and its headquarters are located in Khlong Sok, a beautiful and quiet town that concentrates most of the accommodation and small tour agencies in the area. In any of these agencies you can book all kinds of adventure activities, including rafting on bamboo rafts, tubing, elephant camps, trekking, and boat rides on Chiao Lan Lake, among other options.

The varied flora and fauna is another of the main attractions of the Park, although the sighting of wild animals is always complicated and requires time and patience.

Among the endless list of species that inhabit here, it is common to see macaques and gibbons, monitor lizards and numerous species of exotic birds. The famous Rafflesia, the largest flower in the world, can only be admired if you visit the Park between January and February.

🧘‍♀️ Sleeping in a floating cabin in Khao Sok National Park is one of the 20 best things to do in Thailand, find out the other 19 experiences here.

Chiew Lan lake, Khao Sok National Park

Chiew Lan lake: the stuff dreams are made of

Three Things you should know about Khao Sok

There are 2 areas in the Park: Lake and Forest

The Park is divided into two well-differentiated areas:

  1. The jungle area near the main entrance of the Park, where you can hike in the beautiful Sok River area.
  2. The Chiew Lan Lake, a huge 165 km2 man-made lake surrounded by towering limestone cliffs and jungle. In some areas, the spectacular rock formations emerge from the water, creating a beautiful landscape many refer to as “Little Guilin”.

It can be reached from Surat Thani, Phuket and Krabi

If you visit from Bangkok, the most convenient way to reach Khao Sok is flying to Surat Thani first, and then taking a bus to the Park. But if you are already in southern Thailand, you can get to Khao Sok National Park from Surat Thani (100 km), Phuket (130 km) or Krabi (150 km).

It wouldn’t make sense to visit Khao Sok as a day trip. You should allow at least two full days, and ideally 3 days/2 nights or even longer.

Entrance fee is 300 THB for adult foreigners

To access Khao Sok National Park (be it the jungle area or the Chiao Lan Lake area), you need to pay an entrance fee of 300 THB/adult and 150 THB/child. Visiting Khao Sok is recommended for all types of travelers. If you’re feeling active, you can spend a full day hiking in the Sok River area, or kayaking in Chiew Lan lake. If you just want to relax, you better head straight to the lake, take a boat trip, spend the night in a floating cabin and just enjoy the views over one of the most amazing landcapes you’ll find in Thailand.

Floating Houses Chiew Lan Lake Khao Sok

🥾 Hiking in Khao Sok

Hiking is the best activity one can do in Khao Sok’s jungle area

The best way to get to know the Khao Sok jungle is to go hiking. You can book the activity either at any local Khlong Sok tour agency or at the Park’s Visitor Center, and even do it on your own.

Khao Sok Hiking Map

Basically the trail follows the course of River Sok, with a few optional detours to some other neraby interest spots.

Hiking with a guide

Hiring a Park guide costs 600 THB for a half day excursion, and it is cheaper than booking the tour with an agency. But bear in mind that the chances of a Park Ranger speaking moderately comprehensible English are lower, and they often don’t do much more than making sure you don’t get lost.

If you choose to hire the trek with one of the many small private agencies in Khlong Sok, the price is between 600 and 1,200 THB/person. Price variates according to the difficulty, duration and number of participants, but with a little shopping around it is not difficult to find an experienced guide with and a good English level.

If you want to do some serious hiking, it is better to hire the services of a local guide.

Jungle Trekking Khao Sok

Hiking by yourself

If you prefer to trek on your own, at the Visitor Center of the Park (in Khlong Sok) you can grab a basic schematic map with 9 points of interest that can be reached on foot from there. Mostly waterfalls and natural pools in the river which are especially enticing to take a dip.

All points in the map are accessible through a set of trails that mainly run along the Sok River, as well as a section of its small tributary Bang Lan. The nearest of the 9 attractions is just 2.8 km from the Park entrance, while the furthest is 7 km away.

Although a huge signboard makes clear that hiking without a guide is prohibited, if you ask the Park workers they will tell you that it is actually allowed to go on your own as far as point number 4, Bang Laeb Nam waterfall, which is 4.5 km from the entrance.

The truth is that many visitors turn a deaf ear to this prohibition and walk the trails without a guide beyond point 4. In fact, if you follow the sound of the river and have a minimum common sense it is difficult to get lost, although at some spots it can be somewhat confusing.

A Night Safari is a rewarding short trip even if you don’t manage to spot any remarkable wildlife!

Night Safari

Night safaris are a very popular activity that can be booked either in the National Park offices or in any local tourist agency, for 600 THB/person. In short, this activity consists in walking through the jungle in complete silence, led by a local guide with experience in spotting wildlife at night. Night safaris are organized both in the jungle area near the Headquarters and in the vicinity of some floating lodges on Chiew Lan Lake, such as Nang Prai.

Trekking in Khao Sok Thailand

🚤 Boat trip in Chiew Lan Lake

Don’t miss out exploring the most amazing area in all of Khao Sok

Chiew Lan Lake is the most unique and special area of the Park. Beyond kayaking on your own, there are basically two ways to explore the lake:

  1. On an agency-organized boat trip (you can book it either in Khlong Sok or in your floating cabins).
  2. By going on your own to the Ratchaphrapa pier and once there, charter a boat for a half-day or full-day trip. In any case, don’t forget your swimsuit!

Before deciding whether to book an agency tour or do it on your own, bear in mind that agency tours, thanks to the fact of going with a local guide, are more varied. Basically they include more activities, such as a visit to the Nam Thalu cave or small walks through the jungle around the lake.

If you hire a boat on your own -without an accompanying guide- you will only be able to navigate and enjoy the scenery, but you will not be able to explore land terrain.

If you want to combine the sailing with some activities in the mainland, then better book the boat trip with a tour agency.

Agency boat tours

The price of of agency group tours -maximum 10 people- is usually 1,500 THB/person, plus the 300 THB/person entrance fee to the National Park.

Duration is full day, departing from Khlong Sok around 08:30 and returning in late afternoon.

In addition to navigating the lake and stopping for lunch in an area of ​​floating cabins, they usually include an excursion to visit a cave or viewpoint in the area, as well as free time to swim and kayak.

Another option are the 24-hour overnight tours, which in addition to all of this include a night in a simple floating cabin on the lake, and return the next day after breakfast, for a price of 2,500 THB/person.

No boat trip in Chiew Lan Lake is complete without some sailing around spectacular ‘Little Guilin’.

Chiew Lan Lake, Khao Sok National Park

Hire a private boat

You can also go on your own to the Ratchaphrapa pier and hire a boat to sail on the Chiew Lan Lake. Boats operates from 06:00 to 16:00. You will see signboards displaying the fixed prices of the different boat tour options.

These tours always include some sailing around the most spectacular area of ​​the lake, known as “Little Guilin” because of the limestone karsts that protrude from the water, and a stop at an area of ​​floating cabins.

Prices are not per person but per boat, with a maximum capacity of 10 people, and vary depending on the duration and total distance traveled. Starting at 1,700 THB -stopping at the popular floating huts in Nang Prai-, and 2,300 THB -stopping at the Smiley floating huts further west-. The most expensive option, which stops at the distant Khlong Saen Raft House floating huts, costs 4,500 THB.

The boats depart from 6 in the morning, and in fact early morning is the best time to start your boat trip, since at that time the lake is usually covered by a low fog that runs among the limestone karsts and the trees that protrude from the water, further enhancing the beauty of the landscape.

Tours finishing in late afternoon are also a good option, since they allow you to enjoy the landscape with a gentle light and little presence of boats.

Early morning and late afternoon boat tours allow to experience Chiew Lan Lake at its best.

🛶 Sail in the River Sok

Besides hiking along its surrounding trails, you can enjoy the Sok River by paddling aboard an inflatable canoe, by sitting on a bamboo raft or by tubing, which consists of sitting on a large individual donut-shaped tire and just letting the current drag you downstream.

All these activities can be done both from the town of Khlong Sok and from some businesses along Highway 401 in other parts of the Khao Sok valley, such as Family Bamboo Raft or Khao Sok River Canoe.

Tubing is the cheapest of these options, at 500 THB/person, while canoe and bamboo raft are usually 800 THB/person. There is always a local guide directing each boat, or in the case of tubing floating on a tire with the rest of the group.

The experience varies greatly depending on the time of year, due to the weather and the water level. In the rainy season, the large flow makes the experience more exciting, while the reduced flow in the dry season provides a more relaxing experience. In both seasons departures are sometimes canceled, either due to rain, excessive flow, or insufficient water level.

Sok River, Khao Sok National Park

🏨 Where to stay in Khao Sok

Undoubtedly, the most charming accommodations in Khao Sok National Park are some of the floating cabins on Chiew Lan Lake. But getting there requires more time than sleeping in one of the mainland accommodations near the Headquarters of the Park. In case you are staying for a single night, make sure to arrive in the morning and depart next day in the afternoon, or otherwise sleeping on the lake may be too hasty an option.

Floating cabins on Chiew Lan Lake


There are almost twenty options to choose from, some managed by the National Park itself, and others privately owned.

It is preferable to make a booking in advance -via internet or by phone-, or book from the Visitor Center in Khlong Sok on arrival -in case you arrive there-.

It is even possible to go to the Ratchaphrapa pier without a booking, and just ask the dock staff to check the accommodation options available for you.

Keep in mind that it is a very large lake, and getting to the cabins takes time: first you have to go to the pier, a journey that usually takes just under an hour and a half, and then take a boat trip 20 minutes to the nearest cabins, or several hours to the furthest.

All the floating cabins have kayaks for the use of their guests -sometimes included in the room price, sometimes separately- ideal for exploring the surroundings at your own pace.

Park owned cabins

➡️ The floating cabins managed by the Park are the cheapest, with a price of 400 THB/night. On top of that you must add around 600 THB/night for the cost of meals and kayak rental, and the entrance fee to the National Park, 300 THB.

➡️ They are simple wooden and bamboo huts standing on plastic barrels, moored along the shore. The interior is truly spartan, with little more than mattresses on the floor and a mosquito net. Electricity works only between 18:00 and 22:00 and bathrooms are communal.

➡️ But the charm is not in the cabins themselves but in the beautiful natural surroundings, which compensate for any discomfort.

➡️ They can be booked in advance from the official website https://nps.dnp.go.th/, or in person at the Park Visitor Center (in Khlong Sok town).

➡️ Of the various groupings of cabins managed by the Park, the most popular is Nang Prai, due to its central location and its spectacular setting of karsts jutting out of the water.

Private business cabins

➡️ The floating cabins managed as private businesses have different categories, although they all offer more comforts than those managed by the Park, and almost all of them fall in the medium or high range.

➡️ The most sophisticated ones have 24 hour electricity, a/c and hot water.

➡️ The advertised prices usually include roundtrip transfers to/from the pier, all meals, the use of kayaks and sometimes even some short tours and activities.

➡️ The cheapest private cabins cost around 2,500 THB/person, such as the Smiley and the Phutawan Raft House. The most luxurious option is the 500 Rai cabins, with capacity for up to 5 people, and priced between 18,000 and 35,000 THB/night. In between these two extremes there are almost a dozen other options.

Khao Sok Family Fun

Camping inside the Park


➡️ The most basic and inexpensive option within the Park is to sleep in a tent. The camping area is located next to the Visitor Center.

➡️ Tents are rented for a price between 225 and 780 THB/night, depending on both size -with capacity from 3 to 6 people- and the additional camping equipment required –mats, sleeping bags, pillows, etc.–. If you bring your own tent, the camping price is only 30 THB/night.

➡️ There is a basic community building with toilets and cold showers.

Resorts outside the Park


➡️ Beyond the floating cabins on Chiao Lan Lake, most of the accommodation is concentrated along Highway 401, which outlines the southern edge of the Park, and especially in the quiet town of Khlong Sok.

➡️ Khlong Sok town concentrates the cheapest accommodations, hostels and resorts with double rooms at a price that mostly ranges between 500 and 1,500 THB/night.

➡️ There are also even cheaper options such as the Khai Jungle Experience, which rents simple bamboo huts for 350 THB/night, and tents for 250 THB/night.

➡️ Both in Khlong Sok and elsewhere in the Khao Sok valley -along Highway 401- there are other more upscale options, such as The Cliff and River Jungle Resort, 11 km east of Khlong Sok, wich has a spectacular location next to impressive limestone cliffs.

Floating Houses in Chiew Lan Lake

☀️ Best time to visit Khao Sok

There is not a clear answer to when is the best time of the year to visit Khao Sok: it is humid all year-round, temperatures only change by a few degrees, and rain can happen at any time.

The lush jungle habitat gives Khao Sok a humid environment year-round, but especially during the rainy season months, with the heaviest rain in June through November.

Temperatures are slightly cooler during wet periods, but in fact the temperature highs and lows over the course of the year only vary by a couple degrees. On average September and October are the coolest months, March and April the warmest.

But actually in Khao Sok there can be rain in any day of the year, since it lies right in the center of the Kra Isthmus, which gets rain from both the East and the West monsoons.

So although you better pack your raincoat, don’t worry too much about the rain ruining your visit to Khao Sok. Even in the rainy season it is extremely uncommon to find a 24/7 rainy day, and most days there’s just a torrential downpour of that lasts one hour or two, and blue skies and sunshine for the rest of the day.

TINY BLOODSUCKERS!

As in many other tropical jungle areas, and especially if it has rained during the previous day, in the jungle areas of Khao Sok National Park it is common to find leeches. But there’s no reason to panic! The bite of leeches doesn’t cause any pain nor disease … and after all, many Hollywood celebrities pay big money to get covered with leeches in expensive detox treatments!

In any case, you can always buy the special socks sold at the Park Visitor Center, which cover up to the knee, and complete your outfit with good shoes and long pants. This way, the tiny bloodsuckers will have a real hard time reaching your skin.

Thai guides often use a homemade solution based on tobacco, salt and other ingredients, which are an effective leech repellent when applied on the skin.

In case you discover a leech sticking on you, ignore the urban legend which advises to burn them with a lit cigarette butt, since it is completely unnecessary and you could easily end up burning your own leg.

To detach it, a few taps with your fingernail are usually enough, and even if you wouldn’t take it off, it will fall by itself once it becomes a chubby ball completely satiated by your sweet blood.

🕰️ How long to stay in Khao Sok?

How many days does it take to visit Khao Sok?

To visit Khao Sok you need a minimum of 2 days/1 night, although it is much better if you can extend it to 3 days/2 nights.

It is important to plan in advance if you prefer to visit the jungle area, the lake, or both, in order to choose which is the appropriate area to stay at -they are quite far from each other-, and where to jump off the bus.

Obviously the best would be to have enough time to visit both areas, but if you have to choose just one, definitely choose the lake, since it is really unique. The jungle area, although beautiful, is similar to what you can find in other National Parks in Thailand.

Ideally: 3 days/2 nights

Day 1 – Arrival in the jungle area of ​​the Park (Khlong Sok) and trekking on your own along the River Sok.
Day 2 – Transfer to Chiew Lan Lake and boat trip to explore it. Night in a floating cabin.
Day 3 – Relax by the lake and kayak. Return to the pier and transfer to your next destination.

I have only 2 days/1 night, is it worth going?

It is worth it if you visit the lake area and spend a night in a floating cabin, but only if you make sure you arrive the first day in the morning and leave the second day in the afternoon. Arriving late and leaving early is definitely not worth it.

Khao Sok National Park Boat Ride

🧭 How to get to Khao Sok

FROM BANGKOK

If you want to go to Khao Sok from Bangkok or any other distant Thai region, the fastest option is to fly to Surat Thani first, but if you travel on a tighter budget you can get there by train or bus. From there, head west by road for the remaining 80 or 125 km, depending on the area of the Park you want to hit, lake or jungle.

🛫 BY FLIGHT

Fastest and most comfortable option.

📍  Surat Thani Airport (Code: URT)

➡️ The closest airports to Khao Sok National Park are Surat Thani (URT) –105 km to the east–, Phuket (HKT) –13 km to the southwest– and Krabi (KBV) –150 km to the south–.
➡️ The three of them offfer very frequent connections to Bangkok, and less frequent to other destinations such as Chiang Mai.
➡️ Flying from Bangkok, Nok Air airline offers a combined flight ticket to Surat Thani plus van to Chiao Lan Lake (Ratchaprapa Dam).

➡️ The airlines offering the cheapest flights from Bangkok to Surat Thani, Phuket and Krabi are Air Asia, Nok Air, Thai Smile and Thai Lion Air.

🚍 BY BUS

Inexpensive and most common option.

➡️ If you depart from Bangkok, there are departures from the Hua Lamphong train station between 08:00 and 22:00.
➡️ The journey usually takes between 10 and 12 hours.
➡️ The best option is to opt for a night train, to make the most of both the day of departure and arrival, sleeping on board in a reasonably comfortable bed.

 

🚊 BY TRAIN

Inexpensive and good for sleeping.

➡️ From Bangkok’s South Station, Sai Tai Mai, several buses depart daily to Surat Thani, both in the morning between 08:00 and 09:00 and in the afternoon between 17:00 and 17:00. 20:20
➡️ The journey usually takes around 10 hours, and prices range between 450 and 850 THB.
➡️ If you choose a night bus, we recommend spending a little more and choosing a VIP bus, since the price difference is more than compensated by its comfortable and spacious reclining seats.

🚖 How to get to the Park?

If you have not booked in advance, you can either hire private transport on arrival –which is the fastest but most expensive option, between 2,500 and 3,500 THB/van–, or go to the local bus station and take a bus to Khao Sok. We give you more details in the next section.

FROM SOUTHERN THAILAND

If you want to go to Khao Sok from Bangkok or any other distant Thai region, the fastest option is to fly to Surat Thani first, but if you travel on a tighter budget you can get there by train or bus. From there, head west by road for the remaining 80 or 125 km, depending on the area of the Park you want to hit, lake or jungle.

FROM SURAT THANI

📍  105 km

➡️ How to get to the Jungle area: from Surat Thani bus station you can take one of the many buses that run along road 401 to Takua Pa, Khao Lak or Phuket. Get off at the closest point to Khlong Sok town –125 km–, where the headquarters of the Park and its main access are. From there you will have to walk 1.5 km to the town, unless you have booked accommodation and have asked the hotel to come pick you up.
➡️ How to get to the Lake area: If you want to skip the jungle and go directly to the lake, you will have to get off the bus earlier, in Ban Ta Khun village –74 km from Surat Thani–. From there, you’ll have to find another transport to the main jetty of the lake, only 14 km away, or simply hitchhike –there is no public transport for this section-.

FROM PHUKET

📍  130 km

➡️ From Phuket Bus Station there are hourly departures to Surat Thani between 07:00 and 18:00, stopping at Khlong Sok, for a price of 120 THB. If you want to go straight to Chiao Lan Lake and skip the jungle area, then you have to ask the driver to stop 50 km later, in the town of Ban Ta Khun, where you will have to look for a vehicle to take you the remaining 14 km to the pier -there is no public transport-.

 

FROM KRABI

📍  150 km

➡️ From Krabi town you can take one of the minibuses that make the circular route that connects Krabi – Phang Nga – Khao Lak – Khlong Sok, leaving every two hours from early in the morning until mid-afternoon. You should know that this option is slow, since it takes a considerable detour and has a few intermediate stops. For the return to Krabi there is usually a direct bus that leaves Khao Sok at 08:00, although it is essential to check the transport options and schedules in advance.

🚖 How to get from the Park Headquarters (Jungle) to Chiew Lan Lake?

The simplest and most common way to travel the 65 km that separate Khlong Sok from the Chiao Lan Lake pier is to book transportation at your own resort or a local tourist agency. The journey takes about 75 minutes. The cheapest option is to take any bus, van or songthaew heading east until the village of Ban Ta Khun, 50 km away, and once there look for transportation to cover the remaining 14 km to the jetty.

📸 Photos of Khao Sok

Jordi Pla

Jordi Pla

Author of ‘Laos, a cultural guide’, a very complete Spanish book about the culture, history and society of Laos. Jordi, from Barcelona, traveled to the region for the first time in the 1990s, and since then has worked as a blogger, tour leader and travel designer for Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

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