Sam’s muchbetter Guide to Khao Lak

Why Khao Lak and surrounding?

If you love diving or snorkeling, kayaking or trekking Khao Lak can provide a base for your adventures in Southern Thailand.

If like me diving is your vice, or youre a keen snorkeler, then heading out to explore the Andaman Sea is a real treat. Only 50km away from Khao Lak is the Similan Islands National Park offering long white sandy beaches, clear blue waters with 20-30m visibility, and a huge variety of marine life. If you head north of the 9 Similian Islands you find Koh Bon, known for regular sitings of the positively exquisite mantas, and Koh Tachai where its not unusual to see leopard sharks.

Further north still is the infamous Richelieu Rock where you never know what will come your way! To the northwest of Richelieu lies the Surin Islands where jungle meets the ocean and offers the best snorkeling around. Liveaboards head out every week to these islands providing the chance to wake up on the ocean and get in the water before 7am when everything is waking up, nothing better in my book! But if thats not your thing there are day trips every day.

If youve had enough of reefs and boulders you could always go wreck diving to the local sites at Boonsung and Premchai. Boonsung is a particular favourite providing a juvenilles playground and home to a stonefish that doesnt appear to have moved during the whole year!

There are also trips running to Khao Sok National Park to go fresh water diving in caves. If youre an experienced diver and want to do something different I can totally recommend it. I went earlier this year with Wicked Diving and being in fresh water that doesnt move is a whole new magical experience.

Above the water a visit to Koh Sok National Park, about 100km north of

Khao Lak, is a must. Its the biggest national park in Southern Thailand with majestic limestone cliffs, waterfalls, jungle and fresh water lakes. This sophisticated ecosystem provides a vast array of wildlife including wild elephants, serow, banteng, gaur, dusky langurs and more than 180 species of bird.

There are numerous tours and trips you can take here including trekking, kayakingand nature walks, its up to you. What are particularly novel are the bamboo rooms you can stay in that float on the lake. Means you can wake up and jump straight in!

So if youre a beginner wanting to learn to dive, youre looking for your next diving or snorkeling adventure, or you want to go exploring in Khao Sok you can do it all from Khao Lak.

Khao Lak itself consists of a number of small villages and has managed to avoid the mass tourism of many of its neighbours. This makes it a lower key escape and allows for a friendly, family feel.

Favourite spot for diving?

Has to be Richelieu Rock as you can see marine life here that you dont see anywhere else in the Similans, and new discoveries are made on every dive. At this isolated pinnacle, dropping down to 40m, it is not unusual to find seahorses, ghostpipe fish, harlequin shrimps and numerous species of nudibranchs. Schools of snapper, trevally and barracuda are also common, and if you look into the blue theres always a chance you might be lucky enough to see a manta gracefully gliding by. Or even every divers dream, a whale shark. Check before you go how many dives you get there because one is never enough!

Favourite spot for snorkeling?

The Surin Islands are the most magical spot for snorkelling with clear blue waters and reefs that are flourishing. Whats really special here is the amount of juveniles you see. Look out for 3 day 2 night trips where you can stay on the islands, consume yourself in the peace and quiet, and snorkel to your hearts content.

Favourite places to grab some food in Khao Lak?

Cheap and cheerful is pad thai from the street vendor outside of Nang Thong supermarket, cant beat it for price and convenience. For something a little more special try Phu Khao Lak where they serve delicious thai food in a garden setting, and have proper brown bread for breakfast. And if youre like me and cant go too long without a cake fix, head to Stempfer Caf for the finest choice of cakes around!!!

Favorite places for a drink in Khao Lak?

While The Happy Snapper is the place to be for post diving banter and live music from the legendary Keith from Liquid, I personally prefer the lower key Monkey Bar just up the little side street by the stream. Theres live music by local guys and a more chilled out atmosphere.

Whats the best time of year to come to Khao Lak?

Between November and May, outside of this the Similan Islands National Park is closed and it gets rather rainy with the monsoon.

Anything else you need to share for people planning a muchbetter adventure to Khao Lak?

If youre planning on coming to Thailand to party every night Khao Lak is not the place for you. Theres a number of bars and lots of restaurants, but it is not a full on party town.

Interested in visiting Khao Lak?

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If you, like Sam here, know Khao Lak like the back of your hand and have more information to add to this guide, leave your comments!