The Best Thai Beach Town You've Never Heard Of

Jessica Padykula

Thailand is a popular tourist destination – and with good reason. The justifiably well-trodden Southeast Asian country is home to an abundance of beaches, culture, amazing food, history and enough attractions to keep even the most jaded traveler happy. But there's always certain excitement to coming across a destination that seems somehow undiscovered. That’s not easy to do in Thailand – but it is possible. 

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Where Is Khanom?

Jessica Padykula

Word of mouth is pretty much the only way you’ll find out about Khanom, a sleepy beach town blissfully free of the throngs of tourists that you’ll find on nearby Koh Samui or Koh Phangan. You won’t find the famous full moon parties here, nor opportunities to stay out all night bouncing from beach club to beach club. But you will find your own stretch of paradise. Just a one-hour bus ride from Surat Thani, most people overlook Khanom on their way to more popular nearby Thai islands, but that’s a mistake. Life may be slower here, but it you’re truly looking for a way to relax, this is the place to do it. Home to hidden waterfalls and ornate temples, small but bustling markets and laid-back beach bars where you sip your drink barefoot in the sand, Khanom really is a hidden travel gem.

Located in the Nakhon Si Thammarat province on the Gulf of Thailand. Khanom’s more well-known neighbors, Koh Phangan and Koh Samui, pull the crowds and tourists away— but anyone who bypasses this hidden gem is missing out. 

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Why Visit Khanom?

Jessica Padykula

Aside from having a blissful beach paradise practically to yourself, there are a several other reasons to plan a trip to Khanom. One of the main reasons to visit is for peace and quiet. This is not the place to go if you’re looking for action — you won’t find it. But if you find yourself craving some time away from other tourists and relaxing somewhere with a slow pace and serene surroundings, Khanom is the perfect choice. In terms of beaches, the main stretch of sand here is palm tree-fringed Nadan Beach, one of the longest beaches in Thailand, clocking in at nine-kilometers. Even though a large portion of Khanom’s accommodation options are found along Nadan Beach, you can walk along this soft, white stretch of sand any time of day and see only a handful of people soaking up the sun or swimming as you stroll.

Good to know: There is no public transportation in Khanom, so unless you’re planning to stay put on your chosen stretch of sand (which would be totally justified), you’ll need to rent a scooter or motorbike to get around. There are several places to rent scooters in and around town. Roads are paved and there is little traffic to worry about. 

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Things to Do in Khanom

Jessica Padykula

Khanom isn’t just known for its beautiful beaches. If you’re looking for something else to keep you busy during your stay (and you have a scooter or motorbike to get around), a visit to Samet Chun Waterfall is a great way to spend an afternoon. A scenic ride and brief hike along a jungle path will get you to a large, aquamarine pool. The cold, clear water is extra-inviting on a hot day and you’ll likely have the picturesque swimming spot to yourself. Ask a local or inquire at your hotel for directions

If it’s some poolside relaxation you’re after, take a trip to Racha Kiri Resort and Spa where you can enjoy the expansive, lagoon-style pool as long as you buy a drink or something to eat. The pool is gorgeous and you’ll often have it all to yourself.

Another option? Try to catch a glimpse of Khanom’s elusive pink dolphins. If you just want to see the dolphins, you can hire a boat for a few hours (for up to six people) for 1000 baht from Laem Prathap Pier. Usually there are a few people milling around who are also interested ina dolphin trip, so if you’re looking to save money, see if you can share a boat with other travelers. It’s worth it for the boat trip alone — the scenery is stunning. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot some dolphins frolicking in the water; although they aren’t a vibrant shade of pink, they do have a pale pink hue and are extremely rare. If you’re in the area, a good place to refuel following a trip to see the dolphins is Zum Gruenen Baum or just “Dieter’s” as it’s locally known. The friendly German restaurant serves large portions of home-cooked food (even the bread is made in-house) in a lovely garden setting. 

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Jessica Padykula

The easiest way to reach Khanom is to hop on a flight to Surat Thani. Once you land, you can get a taxi to Khanom (70 minutes, around 1500 baht) or a bus to Surat Thani (1 hour, 100 baht) and from there a minivan to Khanom (1 hour, 100 baht). Depending on where you’re staying, you may be able to arrange transportation with your hotel or guesthouse.

In terms of places to stay, some options include Jam Bay (backpacker vibe, excellent beach bar), Talkoo Beach Resort (clean, basic rooms on or across the road from the beah), Leeloo Cabana (rustic cabanas on the beach), Aava Resort & Spa (more upscale and refined) and the aforementioned Racha Kiri Resort and Spa, which lies further south of Nadan Beach along Nai Plao Beach.

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