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 Khao Sok National Park
Khao Sok National Park is one of Thailand‘s most beautiful and diverse natural areas. Located in the Surat Thani Province, the park covers an area of 739 km² and is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including elephants, snakes, boar, monkeys, and many species of birds.
With its lush rainforest, abundant wildlife, limestone mountains, and stunning lake views, Khao Sok National Park is a must-visit destination for nature lovers.
From exploring caves and waterfalls to spotting wildlife, there are plenty of activities to enjoy in this stunning park.
And the biggest attraction of Khao Sok is the vast Cheow Lan Lake.
The Cheow Lan Lake of Khao Sok National Park was artificially made in 1987 when they dammed the Pasaeng river to generate energy, control floods, and supply water for the region.
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.
And the coolest thing there are the Cheow Lan Lake floating bungalows, the only places where you can stay on the lake, as no accommodation is allowed on the shore.
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.
Did You Know?
Cheow Lan Lake of Khao Sok National Park is one of the only places in Thailand with 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.
For all reptilian lovers, there are over 90 reptile species in Khao Sok National Park. And there’s likely even more hiding deep inside the thick forests.
Khao Sok National Park is a gem of nature, but it’s no longer hidden, unlike what some others might say. Many travelers visit Khao Sok National Park daily since it’s now among the top things to do in Thailand.
But, it’s absolutely A LOT more relaxed than other nearby touristic places.
Areas of Khao Sok National Park
There are two distinct areas in Khao Sok National Park that you can visit, which are 67 km or 1-hour drive apart, the Khao Sok Village and the Cheow Lan Lake.
The first area, the Khao Sok Village, or the town where most people stay, is where you will likely do the Jungle Safari, go river tubing, kayaking, see caves and waterfalls or go trekking.
And the second area is Cheow Lan Lake, known for its stunning water color, high limestone cliffs, and floating bungalows. The lake is usually visited on overnight or day trips from either Khao Sok or nearby tourist hotspots.
The iconic limestone cliffs coming out of the water at Cheow Lan Lake remind us of Ha Long Bay in Vietnam.
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How to get to Khao Sok National Park
It’s easy to get to Khao Sok National Park in about two hours from Surat Thani and Krabi or about 3 hours from Phuket with many local buses, minivans, or even taxis.
There are no train connections to Khao Sok National Park. And the closest airport to Khao Sok National Park is the Surat Thani International Airport.
If you’re traveling from Bangkok down to southern Thailand, Khao Sok National Park is a convenient stop for a few days.
Bangkok to Khao Sok combo transfer
We came to Khao Sok National Park from Bangkok on a combined transfer, an overnight bus to Surat Thani, and then another bus to Khao Sok Village.
The combo transfer worked great for us, as it was the cheapest way. And we arrived at Khao Sok Village right before check-in time in our accommodation.
We highly recommend this as it’s the most affordable and reliable way to have your connections line up perfectly.
NOTE: The bus transfer from Bangkok only makes sense if you want to come to Khao Sok National Park in the cheapest way possible.
Bangkok to Khao Sok train or flight
The train or flight option is the most comfortable way to get to Surat Thani. From there, you have just 2 hours and a half ride in a minivan, bus, or by taxi to Khao Sok.
From: Surat Thani
Coming to Khao Sok National Park from Surat Thani is convenient, with frequent vans for 8 USD in 3 hours.
If you’re renting a car in Surat Thani, the roads to Khao Sok National Park are great, with fantastic views along the way to enjoy.
We want to rent a car in Surat Thani for our next visit and visit Khao Sok, then continue towards the Andaman Sea and Khao Lak. It seems like a great way to explore that whole area.
The easiest way to get to Khao Sok National Park from Krabi is with a minivan transfer for about 11 USD, taking 5 hours.
These buses go hourly from Krabi, from 7 am until 4 pm, and take from 4 to 5 hours to drop you at your Khao Sok hotel. (it says three and a half hours when booking, but it’s usually more).
Getting to Khao Sok National Park from Phuket is easy, with many minivans throughout the day that cost about $25 and take about 3 hours.
From: Khao Lak
Frequent minivans and buses are going on the line between Khao Lak and Surat Thani that pass through Khao Sok National Park, taking about 1 hour and costing $17.
From: Koh Samui and Koh Pha-ngan
It’s straightforward to get to Khao Sok National Park from Koh Samui and Koh Pha-ngan on one of the combo ferry + bus/minivan transfers for about $17 in 7 hours.
Note: When you book the combo transfer to Khao Sok from Koh Samui or Koh Pha-ngan, you will first go with the ferry across to the mainland. And then sometimes transfer to another bus in Surat Thani before going on the final leg of the journey towards Khao Sok.
From: Koh Tao
You can book a combo transfer of ferry + minivan from Koh Tao to Khao Sok National Park for about $35 that starts at 9 PM in Koh Tao and arrives at 9 AM in Khao Sok.
And if you don’t want to travel overnight, we recommend booking the tickets separately and not the combo transfer.
You can book the earliest ferry from Koh Tao to the pier near Surat Thani. And then a minivan/bus to Surat Thani (if it’s not included in the ferry ticket), and then a ride from Surat Thani to Khao Sok.
Best time to visit Khao Sok National Park
The best time to visit Khao Sok National Park is from December to April in the dry season.
Although the rainy season in Khao Sok National Park is also okay to visit because nature is very lush and there are even more animals, the waterfalls are full of water, and the river is in full flow.
So essentially, you can visit Khao Sok National Park anytime and have a great experience with plenty of activities to enjoy.
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Top things to do in Khao Sok National Park
Although the main attraction and the biggest drive of most tourists coming to Khao Sok National Park is Cheow Lan Lake with its floating bungalows, there are many other things to do around.
Good to know: Some of the things you can do in Khao Sok are part of the Khao Sok National Park and require tickets, but not all.
1. Stay in a floating bungalow on Cheow Lan Lake
The top thing to do in Khao Sok National Park, and what the park is most famous for, is an overnight stay in a floating bungalow on Cheow Lan Lake.
The most common way to organize your overnight trip to the lake is to book it with your accommodation in Khao Sok.
There are different types of floating bungalows and accommodations on Cheow Lan Lake. And to choose the floating accommodation on Cheow Lan Lake, you need to speak to your accommodation or the travel agency.
That way, you can find the one closest to some of the attractions you want to visit. For example, if you want to go on a hike, you need to be closer to that trail’s starting point.
One of the highlights of staying overnight at Cheow Lan Lake is the possibility of seeing wild elephants.
Let’s hope you’re one of the lucky ones!
2. Observe wildlife on a Night Jungle Safari
Going on a Night Jungle Safari in Khao Sok National Park is a great way to see some animals you wouldn’t otherwise be able to see during the day, as they become active at night.
You can book the guided safaris directly at the national park headquarters or with your accommodation.
We didn’t know what to expect from the Night Jungle Safari. But it was a great experience, and we could see a lot of animals, from tarantulas to snakes to monkeys and more.
Our guide Rango was amazing. And we had a great time going through the forest trails and seeing some incredible animals. He excels in knowledge about spiders as he researches them.
Check his YouTube channel, RGSpider, if you want to learn more about spiders found in the area. But it’s in Thai. 😀
One of the coolest things we got to know at the Night Jungle Safari was that tarantulas are essentially blind. So if you don’t come close to them, they don’t see you, which is great because we’re not really fans of spiders.
Also, there was this cool spider called the trapdoor spider. It digs a hole in the side of a hill and builds a door that it uses to grab nearby prey.
And we finally got to see what the famous cicadas look like.
Cicadas are the animals that you will definitely hear when you come to Southeast Asia because they are crazy loud and tough to miss.
The story of the cicada’s life is quite sad because they spend about five years (some 17 years) in the ground before they come up. Then they lay their legs and live for a few more weeks before they die.
Note: Khao Sok is also famous for being the home of many leeches that are especially easy to come by during the rainy season. But don’t worry, as they don’t carry any bacteria, viruses, or toxins.
And the single coolest thing we saw on our night jungle safari was the super cute slow loris.
3. Go river tubing, kayaking, and canoeing
One of the adventurous things to do in Khao Sok National Park is river tubing, kayaking, or canoeing. And there are even some night safaris that you can do in a kayak on the river.
It’s something you can easily do even if you’re not visiting the official area of the National Park or Cheow Lan Lake.
On our visit to Khao Sok National Park, it was the dry season. So the river in the Khao Sok Village was very shallow. We had to push ourselves from the shallows quite a few times when we got stuck. So it wasn’t as good of an experience as it would typically be.
4. Go bamboo rafting on the river
Khao Sok National Park is full of rivers and streams, and one of the more peaceful things you can do is go on a bamboo raft down the river.
You can organize the bamboo rafting through your accommodation or any travel agency in town.
Please note that the water levels of rivers and streams in Khao Sok National Park depend on the season.
As our visit was in January, in the dry season, the water level was about 2 to 3 meters lower than what it can be in the more wet part of the year.
We went down the river for about 20 to 30 minutes and stopped on the side of the river for a short coffee or tea break. They served us coffee and tea from bamboo cups that you can take as souvenirs. And the cool thing was that they boiled the water in bamboo sticks above the fire.
And you could also jump in the river for a short swim, but as it was very shallow, we didn’t do it.
While going down the river on the bamboo raft, you can also see some animals. We managed to see some pretty monkeys.
5. Go hiking and trekking
There are quite a few hiking trails around Khao Sok National Park that you can do.
Although you must know that some of these hiking trails are inside a protected area and require a ticket and sometimes even a guide.
Hikes in and around Khao Sok:
- Ton Kloi Waterfall Hike
- Hike to Kaew Cave
- Khlong Pae Nature Trail
- Rafflesia Hike
- Bang Man Cave Hike
For guided trekking, you can find more information on what’s currently available at your accommodation or the park’s headquarters. And then choose between different itineraries.
We went for a 45-minute hike up a hill to explore the Kaew Cave.
Fun fact: The Kaew Cave is actually in the Khlong Phanom National Park, which borders the Khao Sok National Park. And you might visit that park without even knowing. Yes, there are a lot of national parks in Thailand.
6. Visit waterfalls
There are some nice waterfalls in Khao Sok National Park worth visiting, especially after more rain.
Here’s a list of waterfalls of Khao Sok National Park that people love:
- Mai Yai Waterfall
- Ton Kloi Waterfall (7km trail that passes by many other waterfalls)
We decided not to visit any as they were mostly dry during our visit. But we plan to return to Khao Sok National Park again in the wet period of the year.
7. Go swimming
While the river in Khao Sok is not the best place for actual swimming, you can swim in Cheow Lan Lake.
Use your chance at the lake to cool off in the water, which is not really cold.
8. Find the biggest flower in the world
Another cool thing you can do in Khao Sok National Park is to hike for 4 hours to find Rafflesia, the biggest flower in the world.
The Rafflesia flowering season in Khao Sok National Park is between November and April.
We didn’t manage to go on this hike, as we had limited time in Khao Sok.
9. Cooking class
If you’re interested in learning more about Thai cuisine and even how to cook it, you can join a Thai cooking class in Khao Sok Village.
Things not to do in Khao Sok National Park
One of the things we would advise against doing in Khao Sok National Park or any location in Thailand is visiting any of the elephant, tiger, or other animal shows or so-called sanctuaries.
Just because a place has ‘sanctuary’ in its name, it doesn’t mean it is actually a sanctuary!
These are often not true sanctuaries as they employ morally questionable tactics to get elephants and other animals to perform for tourists. We have yet to find an actual elephant sanctuary in Thailand.
Please check what “elephant crushing” is on Wikipedia or YouTube; you will understand why we do not support elephant tourism.
If you want to see free-roaming elephants in the wild, you can see them around Cheow Lan Lake or in the Khao Yai National Park, about 3 hours from Bangkok.
If you really need to visit an elephant sanctuary in Thailand, please avoid the ones that offer elephant rides. And yes, even bathing/washing with elephants is questionable!
Try to find the one where feeding the elephants is the only interaction offered and even that in small groups. Also, make sure to read the reviews on Google. Select the lowest rating to see why people dislike certain places – that’s how you can find questionable practices.
If you’re arranging the tour with your accommodation, please ask them which sanctuary they are working with. And do YOUR OWN research.
Together we can help these elephants have a better life by not supporting bad practices. 🙂
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Can you visit Khao Sok without a tour?
There are things in Khao Sok National Park you can do without a tour, like going for a trek or tubing down the river.
But you need a tour to go to Cheow Lan Lake or the night jungle safari.
How much does the entrance ticket to Khao Sok National Park cost?
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.
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 and then the next day used it again on Cheow Lan Lake.
How expensive is a Khao Sok National Park trip?
Visiting Khao Sok National Park for a few days costs between 150 and 250 USD per person, which includes a night or two in Khao Sok Village, staying in a floating bungalow on Cheow Lan Lake, and some activities.
Note: Khao Sok National Park isn’t the most affordable destination because the national park fees and tour costs do add up.
There are, however, different accommodation options now in Khao Sok. So you can go the luxurious way or even stay in one of the hostels.
Some of the possible tickets:
- Ticket for the Khao Sok National Park for activities like Jungle Night Safari and visiting Cheow Lan Lake (300 THB – 9 USD)
- Hike to Kaew Cave (or similar) in the nearby Khlong Phanom National Park (200 THB – 6 USD)
- Pier fees at Ratchaprapha Marina (20 THB)
- Coral Cave visit on Cheow Lan Lake (200 THB – 6 USD)
For example, we visited on the 4 days 3 nights Khao Sok Active tour package from Our Jungle House, costing about 250 USD per person for 2 nights in a treehouse and an overnight trip to Cheow Lan Lake.
Khao Sok National Park Tours
The most common way for visitors to explore Khao Sok National Park is an organized pre-booked tour package.
The tours to Cheow Lan Lake usually include meals and activities like night and jungle safari, trekking, and checking out a cave or a hike to a viewpoint.
However, they might not include entrance fees, so make sure to check that.
While you can do a lot in Khao Sok National Park alone, organized tours will allow you to cover more ground and do it more effectively.
And there are plenty of daily tours to Khao Sok that offer various packages of bamboo rafting, jungle hiking, river tour, or even a sunset cruise on the lake.
A Khao Sok National Park day trip from Khao Lak costs between 70 and 110 USD, and a day trip from Phuket or Krabi costs between 100 and 150 USD.
Day trips from Khao Lak
There are more daily tours to Khao Sok from Khao Lak, as the driving distance is smaller, so you have a more extensive selection.
- Full-Day Cheow Lan Lake Tour
- Half-Day Sok River Bamboo Rafting
- Khao Sok Jungle Hike & River Tour
- Cheow Lan Lake Sunset Cruise with Drinks
- Khao Sok Lake, Cave, & Emerald Pool
Multi-day trips from Khao Lak
- Khao Sok Overnight Treehouse Trip with Meals
- 2-day Cheow Lan Lake & Wildlife Tour
- Khao Sok Wildlife 2 Days (focused on seeing wildlife)
Trips from Krabi
Trips from Phuket
Is the overnight stay at Cheow Lan Lake floating bungalows 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.
And the top thing you can do on the lake is to take one of the kayaks and go around the beautiful lake a bit by yourself. That was the highlight of our lake experience.
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.
Overnight trips to Cheow Lan Lake include a few activities like a hike or morning/night safari. And it’s during the safari that you can see free-roaming elephants.
However, on our first day, we were told by our guide that elephants moved to higher ground. So we decided to skip it (they did not see them). But we heard them while we were kayaking!
Where to stay in Khao Sok National Park
Whether you’re looking for a budget-friendly hostel or a luxurious escape, Khao Sok National Park has something for everyone!
Floating bungalow on Cheow Lan Lake
The top choice for staying in Khao Sok National Park is a floating bungalow on Cheow Lan Lake.
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 and especially if you stay two nights and not only one.
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.
Important: If you’re staying on Cheow Lan Lake longer and plan to explore some other parts of Khao Sok, for example, going on a night jungle safari next to the park’s headquarters, it would take a lot of time and money to get there.
This is because you would first need to get a boat ride back to the lake’s pier and then another ride of about 1 hour to Khao Sok Village.
So that’s why everyone stays both in the village and on the lake.
Staying in Khao Sok Village
The best place to stay to explore waterfalls, go on treks, do a night jungle safari, go tubing, kayaking, or rafting down the river is in Khao Sok Village.
And Khao Sok Village is also the location of the park’s headquarters.
Nowadays, there are many accommodations in Khao Sok Village. That’s different from how it was about 10 years ago when Khao Sok National Park was still a hidden gem.
Our Jungle Camp and Our Jungle House
We loved it there and plan to return for a few more days.
And we would especially love to return to stay at one of the treehouses at Our Jungle House. A forest of high trees surrounds all the treehouses, and you can hear the sounds of birds, monkeys, and crickets.
It’s the closest you can get to living in the rainforest. It’s simply stunning there!
Right next to the property on the river, we also saw a mangrove snake and a big owl. And to our surprise, during our breakfast at Our Jungle House, a monkey stole some fruit from our plate.
The properties are connected by road. But the best way to go between is on this beautiful nature trail next to the river that goes through the forest and a rubber plantation.
Even though they are close to one another, each property has its own restaurant. And we got served some delicious food in both.
We highly recommend staying at Our Jungle Camp and Our Jungle House, as they are the top properties in the area.
They focus on preserving as much of the nature around them as possible. And they give back to the community through many initiatives and eco-efforts.
Where to eat in Khao Sok
Nowadays, the Khao Sok Village is equipped with everything for a comfortable stay. So you can find about 20 restaurants with local Thai, Italian, and other cuisines.
All the restaurants are pretty much along the main road in the village leading toward the National Park’s headquarters.
On Cheow Lan Lake, all the floating bungalow accommodations have on-site restaurants, providing you with breakfast and lunch. Ours was basic but pretty tasty.
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 in Khao Sok National Park?
For most travelers, two to three nights in Khao Sok National Park is enough to see and experience the main things. But staying for a few more days is recommended, as nature is just phenomenal.
Travel tips and packing list
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.
When you’re going on the river for bamboo rafting, canoeing, or on the lake, it’s advisable to take a spare pair of clothes so you can change into if they (when) they get wet.
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 it’s very likely that 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. Bring mosquito repellent
Khao Sok National Park is located in the tropics, and you’ll be in and around the jungle and rainforest. So make sure to bring mosquito repellent (natural if possible).
But we were somehow lucky and had no real problems with mosquitos. And our stay in the village had an excellent mosquito net.
When we arrived at our floating bungalow on Cheow Lan Lake, they said there were no mosquitos on the floating platforms for some reason. We 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 the clothes a lot before washing them.
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4. Bring your camera
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).
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 Jungle Safari.
Is Khao Sok National Park safe to visit?
Khao Sok National Park is safe to visit for all travelers.
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Is Khao Sok National Park worth visiting?
Khao Sok National Park exceeded our expectations and is worth visiting for all travelers, from young to old, families with children, and backpackers.
We are so happy that we went to the Khao Sok National Park, as it was one of the best experiences we had in Thailand.
Hopefully, our extensive guide has given you enough information to plan a fun visit to Khao Sok National Park.
And if we missed something and you have any questions, leave a comment. We will try to answer to the best of our knowledge.
And don’t forget to read our detailed article about the floating bungalows of Cheow Lan Lake.
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