Khao Sok National Park was at the top of our list of things to do for our first 3-month visit to Thailand. And it was something that we didn’t want to miss, no matter what!
About Cheow Lan Lake floating bungalows
The Cheow Lan Lake of Khao Sok National Park was artificially created in 1987 when they dammed the Pasaeng river to generate energy, control floods, and supply water for the region.
Cheow Lan Lake is known for its stunning water color, high limestone cliffs, and floating bungalows.
The iconic limestone cliffs coming out of the water at Cheow Lan Lake remind us of Ha Long Bay in Vietnam.
It’s a great natural preservation, where many animal species can be found, from birds, wild boar, monkeys, fish, black bears, and even elephants if you’re lucky.
Since they had to relocate a few villages during the creation of the lake, those villagers and their families are now the only ones that have the right to set up accommodation on the lake.
So that’s why there are only a few private floating bungalows, and most are government-operated.
It took a few years for the area to fill up with water. And although some animal and plant species died at first because of it, it was a great idea to dam the river. Now, this stunning lake is again booming with animals and vegetation.
Khao Sok National Park is one of Thailand‘s most beautiful and diverse natural areas. Located in the Surat Thani Province, it covers an area of 739 km² and is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including elephants, monkeys, and many birds.
Khao Sok National Park Entrance Tickets
To enjoy Cheow Lan Lake and everything that Khao Sok offers, you need to pay an entrance fee.
The entrance ticket to Khao Sok National Park costs 300 THB or $9 per day for a foreign adult and 150 THB or $4.5 per day for foreign children.
On top of the entrance fee for the Khao Sok National Park, you also need to pay the pier service fee, which is 20 THB per person (about $0,60).
Tip: If you buy your ticket for the Khao Sok National Park after 16:30, you can visit the park the next day with the same ticket. That’s what we did. We bought the ticket for our night safari in Khao Sok Village and then the next day used it again on Cheow Lan Lake.
Best time to visit Cheow Lan Lake
The best time to visit Cheow Lan Lake and stay in a floating bungalow is from December to April in the dry season.
Although the rainy season at Cheow Lan Lake is also okay to visit, as nature is very lush and there are even more animals.
So essentially, you can visit Cheow Lan Lake anytime and have a great experience with plenty of activities to enjoy.
How to visit Cheow Lan Lake
1. Overnight Cheow Lan Lake tour package
The most common way to visit Cheow Lan Lake and stay in a floating bungalow is to book the overnight tour package for 2500 THB (70 USD), which includes transportation, food, and activities like wildlife safari, hiking, and kayaking.
The easiest way to organize these tour packages is with your accommodation in Khao Sok or at any of the local travel agencies. And you can choose your raft house depending on the activities you wish to do.
We organized our overnight stay at a floating bungalow on Cheow Lan Lake through our stay at Our Jungle House and Our Jungle Camp (sister properties).
And along with the local tour package, you can also book a Cheow Lan Lake overnight tour package online.
- From Khao Lak: Khao Sok Overnight Treehouse Trip with Meals
- From Khao Lak: 2-day Cheow Lan Lake & Wildlife Tour
- From Khao Lak: Khao Sok Wildlife 2 Days
- From Phuket: Cheow Lan Lake Overnight Resort Stay
2. Stay in a private floating resort
You can choose to stay in a private floating resort like 500 Rai Floating Resort and Panvaree Resort and organize any extra activities with them.
This way you can choose your accommodation easier and opt for something more luxurious than the simple government-run facilities.
Some of these resorts have quite luxurious options and even have rooms with a jacuzzi, on-site massages, and similar.
3. Day trip to Cheow Lan Lake
There are plenty of daily tours to Cheow Lan Lake, each offering something a bit different.
But most of the day trips include transportation, food, and activities like a longtail boat ride, hike, and kayaking.
You can book a day trip to Cheow Lan Lake at Khao Sok Village or the lake marina for about 1500 THB (43 USD) per person.
And you can book the daily tours online in advance.
There are many daily tours to Cheow Lan Lake from Khao Lak.
- From Khao Lak: Full-Day Cheow Lan Lake Tour
- From Khao Lak: Cheow Lan Lake Sunset Cruise with Drinks
- From Khao Lak: Khao Sok Lake, Cave, & Emerald Pool
Unfortunately, as of April 2023, the daily tours that used to run from Phuket are still not operational.
But there are a few daily tours from Krabi.
- From Krabi: One-Day Tour Khao Sok Cheow Lan Lake
- From Krabi: Full-Day Tour to Cheow Lan Lake
Cheow Lan Lake overnight tour package itinerary
Most travelers to Khao Sok visit Cheow Lan Lake on the “official” tour package that includes transport, meals, an overnight stay in a floating bungalow, and activities.
This is the usual itinerary you can expect:
- Pickup from Khao Sok hotel in the early morning
- Drive towards Cheow Lan Lake
- Stop at a market to stock up on snacks and similar
- Reach Ratchaprapha Marina and board the longtail boat
- Longtail boat ride around Cheow Lan Lake scenery
- Check-in to the floating bungalow
- Lunch at the floating restaurant
- Hike to a viewpoint or cave
- Return to the floating bungalow
- Short time off
- Sunset/evening safari or kayaking
- Sleep in the floating bungalow
- Morning safari or kayaking
- Free time for kayaking or swimming
- Longtail boat back to the marina
- Return to Khao Sok or continue the journey elsewhere
Top things to do on and around Cheow Lan Lake
The main attraction and the biggest drive of most tourists coming to Cheow Lan Lake are its floating bungalows.
And some of the top things you can do there are hiking, exploring caves, going kayaking, and swimming.
1. Go swimming in the lake
The top thing to do while staying in a floating bungalow on Cheow Lan Lake of Khao Sok National Park is to go for a swim!
Use your chance at the lake to cool off in the water, which is not really cold.
It feels like you are on the seaside, and it reminded us a lot of Ha Long Bay in Vietnam. But you will notice that you’re not on the seaside when you jump in the water, and you do not float.
2. Visit the famous Guilin Rocks – Three Brothers Rocks
Something that’s on every Cheow Lan Lake itinerary is a short visit to the famous Three Brothers Rocks, also known as Guilin Rocks, because of the similarity to Guilin in China.
It was our first stop before checking in at our floating bungalow.
3. Kayak around the beautiful lake
Among the absolute top things you can do on the lake is to take one of the kayaks and go explore the beautiful scenery.
Kayaking around just before sunset and right after sunrise was the highlight of our Cheow Lan Lake experience.
Note: You might need to pay a deposit to rent the paddles for a kayak. So make sure to have some money with you!
4. Wildlife watching on a night or morning safari
Khao Sok National Park is home to a wide range of wildlife species, making it the ultimate destination for wildlife safaris.
Taking a boat ride around the lake at dawn and dusk is the best way to spot several animals as they approach the lake to drink water.
Most overnight trips to Cheow Lan Lake include a morning or night safari to see animals like monkeys, many variations of birds, wild boar, and deer. And, if you’re super lucky, free-roaming elephants.
Of course, you must be lucky to see the big animals, but at least you might be able to see some monkeys.
During our visit, we decided to skip the night and morning safari because, on arrival, our guide told us that elephants moved to higher ground and away from the lake’s shore.
We instead used our free time and went kayaking both at sunset and just before sunrise.
But we heard the elephants while we were kayaking!
Did You Know?
Cheow Lan Lake is one of the only places in Thailand with free-roaming elephants.
5. Hiking and trekking around Cheow Lan Lake
There are quite a few hiking trails around Cheow Lan Lake that you can do, like the Nam Talu Cave hike, the Coral Cave hike, and the hike to Kri Sorn Viewpoint.
TIP: Try to decide which hike you want to do beforehand as that may affect in which raft house you’ll stay.
NOTE: Some hikes around Cheow Lan Lake require buying an additional ticket, like the Coral Cave hike, which costs an additional 200 THB or 6 USD per person.
5.1. Hike to Coral Cave
The Coral Cave hike in Cheow Lan Lake is an easy, 40-minute hike suitable for all ages.
The Coral Cave hike takes you through a beautiful forest trail where you can learn more about the flora and fauna of this area. This is perfect if you didn’t choose to do a night safari in Khao Sok Village, as you can see and learn more about animals here.
The hike leads you through a forest towards a lagoon tucked in between mountains. And then, you board a bamboo raft that takes you to the cave’s entrance.
The total duration of the hike to Coral Cave, the bamboo ride, and exploring the cave lasts between 1.5 and 2 hours.
5.2. Kri Sorn Viewpoint hike
Kri Sorn Viewpoint hike is a challenging 1 and a half hour climb up to a mountain that offers a stunning view of Cheow Lan Lake.
We didn’t manage to go to the Kri Sorn Viewpoint this time, as you can only do one activity if you stay for 1 night. But we would definitely return for it!
5.3. Hike to Nam Talu Cave
The hike to Nam Talu Cave is another challenging hike perfect for adventurous souls. It leads you inside the cave, where you’ll have to wade and swim in the water.
The hike to Nam Talu Cave should take around 3 hours in total.
NOTE: The Nam Talu Cave hike is usually available only in the dry season. And it’s not suitable for non-swimmers or children under 12 years old.
5.4. Hike to Bang Hoi Waterfall
The 2 to 3 hours hike to Bang Hoi waterfall is easy and suitable for all ages.
NOTE: The hike to Bang Hoi waterfall is recommended in the rainy season when there’s more water flowing down the cascades.
How to choose your floating bungalow on Cheow Lan Lake
Choosing the best floating bungalow on Cheow Lan Lake is hard because it depends on what you want to do on your visit.
For example, if you want to go on a hike, you need to be closer to that trail’s starting point.
You can stay in a government-operated floating bungalow or one of the few private ones.
To choose the best government-run one, you need to speak to your travel agency or accommodation in Khao Sok if you’re booking through them.
Please note that the bungalows at Cheow Lan Lake are pretty basic. Though clean, the beds aren’t the most comfortable, the bathrooms are shared, and the power supply is usually limited to 12 hours from 6 pm to 6 am.
But we didn’t mind the basic accommodation.
On the other hand, if you want a more comfortable stay, there are some luxurious floating bungalows on the lake, the most famous being the 500 Rai Floating Resort and Panvaree Resort.
IMPORTANT: If you want to explore some other parts of Khao Sok during your stay in a floating bungalow on Cheow Lan Lake, it can cost quite a bit of money and add a lot of travel time.
This is because you would first need to get a boat ride back to the lake’s marina and then another ride of about 1 hour to Khao Sok Village, where most other spots worth visiting are.
Are there restaurants on Cheow Lan Lake?
On Cheow Lan Lake, all the floating bungalow accommodations have on-site restaurants, providing you with breakfast and lunch.
The food at our floating raft house was basic but pretty tasty, and we were quite happy with it.
They also have options for vegetarians and vegans or other dietary requests. But just make sure to let them know in advance.
How long to stay on Cheow Lan Lake?
Most travelers to Cheow Lan Lake stay for one night in the floating bungalows as part of an organized overnight trip involving activities.
But we would highly recommend at least 2 nights in a floating bungalow on Cheow Lan Lake to have enough free time to swim and kayak around.
That way, you can do everything from the regular tour itinerary, like hiking to a cave and a morning or night safari, but with more free time.
The nature at Cheow Lan Lake is just phenomenal. And on our return, we wish to stay for at least a few nights on the lake. And do some other activities we haven’t on our last visit (hike to a viewpoint!).
If you arrange an overnight tour through your stay in Khao Sok village, you might be able to store your big bags with your accommodation. And then you can only take a day bag to your overnight stay on Cheow Lan Lake. That’s what we did, and it was a lifesaver!
And when we came, we couldn’t choose our rooms (unless we paid for an upgrade beforehand). Instead, we got them assigned by ‘lottery’ – picking a paper with the number of the raft house on it.
Make sure to take some money with you. On the way to the lake, there’s a stop at the store if you wish to buy anything for your lake stay. Our raft house also had a small shop with some essentials like candy, chips, soft drinks, and even toothbrushes.
Our raft house didn’t have enough kayaks for every bungalow, as many were out of service. Usually, there should be one kayak per bungalow, which wasn’t the case at ours.
That meant that we needed to plan our kayaking accordingly. If this happens to you, make sure to be the first one to kayak after daily activities. Otherwise, you might miss it!
Also, you might need to pay a deposit for the kayak paddles (we had to).
Keep in mind that overnight tours to Cheow Lan Lake usually have a pretty packed schedule.
You’ll likely have little time to peacefully enjoy the scenery at your raft house. Of course, you can always skip some activities like we did if you wish. Or try to arrange a 2-night stay on the lake if you can. 🙂
If you’re finishing off your visit to Khao Sok with the overnight trip to Cheow Lan Lake, you can continue your journey from the Ratchaprapha Marina (if you have all your bags with you).
You can book your private transport right there for about 1600 THB to Surat Thani Airport, 2800 THB to Khao Lak, 3000 THB to Krabi, or 3500 THB to Phuket.
But we highly recommend booking your transport in advance online.
While there are different seasons in Khao Sok National Park, the packing list is about the same for all seasons.
1. Prepare for water activities
You will likely partake in at least one water activity. So we recommend bringing your swimming suit and a towel for drying off later.
Also, it’s always smart to bring clothes that you are okay with getting wet or that dry quickly.
As we were around water a lot, especially on the lake, we had our waterproof bag to put all our valuables like our camera gear, drone, and money.
Our overnight trip to Cheow Lan Lake was organized through our accommodation at Khao Sok Village. So we left all the baggage we didn’t need with them. And we only took our waterproof bag and one smaller daypack.
2. Protect your skin
For your trip to Cheow Lan Lake, we highly recommend sunscreen as you will be in the sun for quite a bit.
It’s very likely that on the boat ride, you will be sitting somewhere where there will be sun directly on you. And since the boat ride can be up to 40 minutes long, you can quickly get sunburned.
As always, we highly recommend taking a reef-safe sunscreen. And yes, even though there are no reefs or corals here, it’s a lake that we should preserve. And reef-safe sunscreens are the best choice.
Read more: Environmental effects of sunscreen (Wikipedia)
2.2. Mosquito repellent
Cheow Lan Lake is located in the tropics, and you’ll be on the lake and around the jungle and rainforest. So make sure to bring mosquito repellent (natural if possible).
Although when we arrived at our floating bungalow on Cheow Lan Lake, they said there were no mosquitos on the floating rafts for some reason.
So we actually had no problems, but we might have just been lucky. In places like this in our home countries, there would be thousands of mosquitoes, and we would be eaten alive.
3. Take light, breathable clothing
We traveled to Khao Sok National Park with our favorite clothes from Unbound Merino, which were great because the material is warm but still thin and light to pack.
And the best thing is that all our clothing from them is breathable. And if we get wet, all pieces dry fast. Plus, the clothing doesn’t smell, even after wearing it many times. So we can reuse clothes a lot before washing them.
TIP: Use code SHIPPEDAWAY for a special 10% discount at Unbound Merino.
4. Bring your camera
Remember to bring an action camera like a GoPro to take some cool photos and videos and not worry about it getting wet. Or simply take a waterproof phone case.
Also, bring at least one power bank to charge your phone or camera batteries if there is no power on the lake. And take a universal plug adapter, as you might need it once the power is on.
5. Other useful things to take
Make sure to bring sunglasses, as when the sun is out, the glare from the lake is powerful. And you will be squinting your eyes so much that your head will start hurting (talking from experience).
Next, we also packed our trusted raincoats that fit a camera bag underneath. But we didn’t need to use them in the end.
And we took our reusable water bottles to refill them and did not rely on the small plastic bottles the whole time.
Finally, if you wish to do a lot of night wildlife watching, take a headlamp. However, you will be provided one by your tour guide on your night safari.
Frequently asked questions
Yes, all floating bungalows on Cheow Lan Lake have electricity, but it’s mostly limited to between 6 pm and 6 am.
There is no wifi in the floating bungalows of Cheow Lan Lake, and phone reception is very limited. The only network available is AIS, and even that is quite limited to only a few spots.
No, Cheow Lan Lake is no longer a hidden gem and is frequently visited by both local Thai and foreign tourists. But it’s true that it’s still very far from being as busy as other Thailand hotspots.
Visiting Cheow Lan Lake without a guide is not possible.
Yes, children of all ages can have a great time at Cheow Lan Lake.
Is Cheow Lan Lake safe to visit?
Visiting Cheow Lan Lake and staying in a floating bungalow is safe for all travelers.
The longtail boat ride is calm as this is a lake. So there are no real waves, and you’re not going fast, unlike in some destinations that you reach with a bumpy speedboat ride.
Also, while hiking, you are always joined by an experienced guide.
No matter the general safety situation, we always advise against traveling outside your country without valid travel insurance.
We recommend the following for Thailand:
- Heymondo (get 5% off as our reader)
- SafetyWing (we currently use this one)
Is staying in a floating bungalow on Cheow Lan Lake worth it?
An overnight stay at Cheow Lan Lake is absolutely worth it because it’s a very unique experience staying in a floating bungalow on this vast lake surrounded by high limestone cliffs.
The scenery is stunning, and while it does cost a bit of money, it’s really worth it. And especially if you decide to give yourself more free time there by staying for two nights and not only one.
The floating bungalows on Cheow Lan Lake are exactly what’s advertised, a simple stay in beautiful surroundings, and we can highly recommend a trip there to everyone.
Hopefully, our detailed review of the trip to Cheow Lan Lake and staying in the floating bungalows has given you enough information to plan a fun visit.
And if we missed something and you have any questions, leave a comment. We will try to answer to the best of our knowledge.
Also, don’t forget to read our extensive Khao Sok National Park Travel Guide.