Khao Sok National Park: The Complete Guide

Cheow Lan Lake, Khao Sok National Park
Cheow Lan Lake, Khao Sok National Park.

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Khao Sok National Park

Address
62 Tambon Khlong Sok, Amphoe Phanom, Chang Wat Surat Thani 84250, Thailand
Phone +66 77 395 154

Khao Sok National Park in Thailand combines an aquatic and wilderness experience into one expansive park. Covering 285 square miles in Surat Thani Province south of Phuket, the park consists of a 64 square-mile artificial reservoir (Cheow Lan Lake) surrounded by karst cliffs and old-growth jungle.

The Ratchaprapha Dam that created the reservoir was completed in 1982. Prior to the dam’s completion and Khao Sok’s gazetting as a National Park, the area was overrun by Communist rebels, who were able to prevent loggers and miners from stripping the countryside bare. Thankfully free of rebels today, Khao Sok’s jungle and lake represent two different zones in the park, with two different experiences depending on which one you visit.

Things to Do

Visitors to the park must pay an entrance fee of THB 300 (about $9) upon entry. Between the official park activities and arranged itineraries from your Khlong Sok hotel or resort, you can create a Khao Sok to-do list that squeezes the most out of the jungle-covered karst landscape.

From the visitors’ center, you can pitch a tent, explore the jungle trails, and find your way to the park’s waterfalls and caves. From the Ratchaprapha Dam entrance, you can book boat safaris that explore the jungle skirting the lakeshore and the majestic karst cliffs rising from the water.

Guided treks through the park can be arranged at the visitors’ center. Beyond the regular daytime treks, you can also arrange a “night safari”, where guides take visitors around well-established short trails after dark. Expect to encounter nocturnal animals like pygmy deer, slow loris, and a glorious chorus of grasshoppers and cicadas.

Private tour companies around Khlong Sok (and the hotels, by extension) can arrange other tours, like visits to the Khao Sok Elephant Sanctuary and their four rescue elephants; jungle cooking lessons using rustic materials like bamboo cylinders over glowing charcoal; and cycling tours of the Khao Sok countryside.

Kayak on Cheow Lan Lake, Khao Sok

lkunl/Getty Images

Water Sports

The Sok River is accessible from the Visitors’ Center. Private tour companies can arrange canoe, rafting or rubber-tubing expeditions down the river, where you can paddle or drift with the current and enjoy the jungle sights and sounds while you float by.

Visitors to Cheow Lan Lake have far more watersports options available to them, and a much more striking backdrop to their activities: the karst cliffs and glowing emerald waters look glorious, particularly when seen from a kayak you’re paddling yourself.

Motorized tourist boats can also take tourists around the lake’s many corners. Regular lake tours make the most of the awesome lake views, while boat safaris hover closer to shore, all the better to spot native wildlife like longtail macaques, great hornbills, or even elephants pausing to take a drink!

Best Hikes and Trails

Trekkers hitting the hiking trails in Khao Sok National Park will find the experience to be well worth the challenge. And it really is challenging, at least for the longer trails. For instance, the waterfalls are at their most scenic during the rainy season between May and November, and are a major attraction for hikers—but the rains also bring mud and leeches.

Beyond a few marked self-guided trails, the park requires that you hire experienced guides to take you through the longer ones. Guides charge THB 600 (about $18) for a half-day’s hike, and can be hired either at the Visitors’ Center, through private travel companies, or your local hotel.

The trails range from moderate to difficult. Threats from tigers and boa constrictors are rare, but the monkeys can be aggressive to visitors. Bring plenty of drinking water and mosquito repellent.

Wear loose-fitting long pants, long-sleeved hiking shirts, and hiking sandals. Hiking boots will only get wet and very, very heavy along the way.

  • Khao Sok Main Trail: The first section of this 2.8-mile trail extends east from the park’s western entrance, skirting the Sok River and going through thick jungle. This part is easy, and can be easily attempted by beginners. That’s not the case once you get past the halfway point, guarded by a ranger station. The trail gets muddier, and more dangerous for the less sure-footed, until the trail’s end at Ton Kloi Waterfall.
  • Bang Man Cave Trail: This scenic but challenging trail begins at the Bang Man Village and takes visitors right through a cave at one point. Hikes may be canceled without notice on account of the weather—heavy rains can flood the cave, killing any hikers foolish enough to be stuck inside.
  • Orchid Trail: starting at the Main Trail, the three-mile Orchid Trail veers south and crosses the Sok River through parts of the jungle that are overgrown with wild orchids and the Rafflesia, if you go during its blooming season from November to March.
  • Sip Et Chan Trail: starting at the park entrance, the Sip Et Chan Trail goes some 2.5 miles north along the Bang Laen River through thick jungle. Birds like bamboo woodpeckers and great hornbills may be spotted by trekkers along the way. The trail ends at the Sip Et Chan Waterfall, an 11-tiered waterfall where you can stop for a picnic before heading back.
Camping at Khao Sok, Thailand

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Where to Camp

The campsite next to the Visitors’ Center sits at the head of two trails into the park, and is the perfect balance of price and location for a full Khao Sok experience. Expect only basic, cold-water shower and toilet facilities and a rudimentary cafe in the premises. Tents, blankets, pillows, sheets and sleeping bags are also available for rent.

Outside the park gates, a few private properties offer camping and glamping experiences with a little more comfort.

  • Khai Jungle Experience: located just beyond the park entrance, this campsite offers a choice of tents or bamboo huts, set in the proprietor’s own back yard. Breakfast and dinner are also available, served from the outdoor kitchen. Rates start at THB 250 ($7.50).
  • Khaosok Boutique Camps: Just off Highway 401 some six miles from the Visitors’ Center, this camping-style resort provides guests with air-conditioned tents with furnished decks and bathrooms en suite. Its hillside location offers great views of the surrounding landscape. Other onsite facilities include a restaurant, cafe, and outdoor swimming pool. Rates start at around THB 1,800 ($53.50).
  • Tanoshi Glamping: Guests stay in large luxury tents with built-in hammocks and terraces overlooking Surat Thani. Located six miles from the park entrance, Tanoshi compensates for the distance with creature comforts and tour packages for trekking and other activities in Khao Sok.

Where to Stay Nearby

You can choose from two types of park-run accommodations within the park grounds: the basic accommodations around the visitors’ center, and the floating cabins on Cheow Lan Lake. If you’d like to sample the private accommodations outside park limits, you’ll have more to choose from, for as high (or as low) a budget as you can manage.

Most of your accommodation options off the visitors’ center can be found in the nearest town, Khlong Sok. Your budget options (hostel beds or private rooms at budget hotels) can go for as low as THB 300 in Khlong Sok. The more you can afford to pay, the more varied (and more comfortable) your options: from bamboo huts to treehouses to luxury villas.

All Khlong Sok accommodations provide access to paid tours, car and driver packages, and boat trips to the lake.

  • Anurak Community Lodge: Don’t expect hotel-style comforts like a swimming pool or in-room TV. Instead, Anurak Community Lodge promises closeness to nature through stilted bungalows nestled close to the jungle. Prices start at THB 1,800 baht ($53.50) a night.
  • Baan Khao Sok Resort: This family-owned resort is a comfortable budget-boutique hotel in Khlong Sok, with garden bungalows and treehouses starting at THB 1,500 ($44.50) a night.
  • Montania Lifestyle Hotel: The establishment’s Thai-style villas and swimming pool overlooking the valley are among the Montania’s top draws: a great example of the kind of inexpensive luxury you can expect in Khlong Sok. Prices start at THB 1,800 baht ($53.50) a night.

Visitors to Cheow Lan Lake can stay on the waters, by booking a floating bungalow from either the Park or from private rafthouses. When you stay on a floating bungalow, you can take in the waters as you please: dive into the lake right from your bungalow; go kayaking; or enjoy the gorgous karst backdrop.

  • Nang Prai: This is Cheow Lan’s most popular park-run rafthouse, due to its central lake location and views of the karst cliffs that have granted it the nickname “Little Guilin”. Basic accommodations, but you can’t beat the view.
  • Khlong Kha: Set at the southernmost part of Cheow Lan Lake, Klong Ka is another park-run rafthouse with basic but scenic bamboo bungalows. Modern-style rooms are available, but are often booked long in advance.
  • Keeree Warin Deluxe Floating Villas: like Krai Son, Keeeree Warin enjoys the wildlife-driven advantages of its Klong Yee location; unlike the park-run rafthouses, this private establishment offers two-storey deluxe floating bungalows and electricity that doesn’t cut out late at night!
  • 500 Rai Floating Resort: this privately-owned rafthouse offers both “family” and “honeymoon” floating villas on Klong Long on the western end of Cheow Lan Lake. Their bigger villas are recommended for larger groups, and those with extra money to pay for creature comforts like air-conditioning, hot showers, and wooden finishes.
Khao Sok cave and lake

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How to Get There

There are two entrances into Khao Sok National Park, separated by some 30 miles in between. The western entrance leads into the park headquarters from Khlong Sok. The eastern entrance goes to the Ratchaprapha Pier, where you can book rafthouse stays and boat safaris on Cheow Lan Lake.

The nearest airport to Khao Sok is Surat Thani Airport (IATA: URT). The Park entrance is also accessible by bus services from Phuket, Krabi and Surat Thani town. Public transport will only drop you off at the Park entrance and the on Highway 401; walk 1.2 miles to the Visitors’ Center once you disembark. To get to Ratchaprapha Pier, you can take a minibus from Surat Thani Airport, or hire a car and driver to take you there.

If you’ve pre-booked a stay at one of the hotels or resorts in the area, arrange a private pickup from the airport or any of the towns along the highway (Khlong Sok or Ban Ta Khun, the stop along Highway 401 to Ratchaprapha Pier).

Tips for Your Visit

  • Khao Sok is one of Thailand’s wettest areas, receiving record amounts of rainfall during the rainy season between May and November. The rain will determine the kind of activities you can do when you visit: activities like jungle camping and caving at Nam Talu will be banned in the rainy season. On the other hand, higher water volume and swifter currents make Sok River canoeing or tubing more fun during the rainy season.
  • Khao Sok’s caves can be visited through the park’s guided trails, but require some physical strength and agility to enjoy. Some caves are easy to explore, like the Pakaran Cave; Nam Talu Cave, on the other hand, requires wearing head torches and wading through an underground stream.
  • Some floating bungalows are run by the Park management. These offer little beyond the basics: mattresses on the floor, cold-water bathrooms, and electricity that cuts off at 10 p.m. Park-run bungalows can only be booked within two days in advance.
  • Large animals can usually be spotted along the lakeside during early mornings (no later than 7 a.m.) or before sunset. 
Article Sources
TripSavvy uses only high-quality, trusted sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Hiking Project. "Khao Sok Main Trail." 2019

  2. Khao Sok Riverside Cottages, "Khao Sok Park Cave Hike," 2015

  3. Hiking Project. "Orchid Trail." 2019

  4. Hiking Project. "Sip Et Chan Trail." 2019

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Khao Sok National Park: The Complete Guide