Khao Lak is a refreshingly uncrowded tourist destination close to the Phang-Nga area’s rugged natural beauty. It’s made up of a few towns and white-sand beaches – all scattered along a 15-mile stretch so no spot ever feels too busy. For travellers who like their holidays low-key, Khao Lak’s easygoing, local feel is enticing enough to return year after year.
There’s a good choice of quality local restaurants and shopping at the two main centres, Bang La On and Bang Niang, which are both easily reached from most resorts by taxi. The regular night market at Bang Niang is a popular stop for shopping or a late-night snack, or you can go further afield to the Sunday market at Takua Pa Old Town where stalls are set up among pretty Sino-Portuguese buildings.
Nature lovers can soak up the slower pace and go hiking around Chong Fah’s waterfalls or combine the Khao Lak’s beaches with a few nights in the incredible Khao Sok National Park. Home to elephant sanctuaries, one of the oldest rainforests in the world and floating camps like the one at the award-winning Elephant Hills, Khao Sok is a delight for anyone with a love for the outdoors. For keen snorkellers and divers, the Surin and Similan Islands are just two hours from Khao Lak by boat. These islands are some of the best places to dive in Thailand and are part of a protected national marine park.
Where is Khao Lak?
Khao Lak is on Thailand’s mainland in the beautiful Phang-Nga region on the west coast. It’s an hour north of Phuket and stretches across 15 miles of the Andaman coastline. The easiest way to get to Khao Lak is a road transfer from Phuket airport (around an hour), which is linked by international flights from the UK and domestic flights of Bangkok (approx. 1½ hours). From Khao Lak, you can reach Krabi by road in around 2½ hours and Khao Sok National Park in two hours, while the Surin and Similan Islands are 1 to 2 hours from Khao Lak by boat for excellent snorkelling and diving. With a tropical climate that’s similar to Phuket’s, Khao Lak is affected by the south-west monsoon and is generally warm year round. See our best time to visit guide for information on Khao Lak’s weather by month.
Taxis and tuk-tuks are the best way to get around Khao Lak. Local taxis are generally cheaper than hotel taxis; it’s good practice to agree on a price beforehand. A speedboat is the fastest way to get to the Surin and Similan Islands.
Diving & snorkelling
Khao Lak has easy access to the Surin Islands and the Similan Islands, which are collectively some Thailand’s best areas for diving and snorkelling. As part of a protected national marine park, both parks are open between 15 October and 15 May and are reached by around 1½ hour’s speedboat ride from Tab Lamu pier close to Khao Lak. Sea temperatures are warm year-round and visibility can reach over 30 metres during peak season between November and April. Divers can hope to see manta rays, whale sharks, leopard sharks, hawksbill turtles and plenty of tropical fish.
Food & drink
Thai cuisine is world-famous, thanks to its distinctive combination of salty, spicy, sweet, bitter and sour flavours. Most hotels and resorts offer American, English and continental breakfasts with Thai savoury dishes like congee (porridge-style rice) and fried rice. Around Khao Lak, there’s a good choice of quality local restaurants serving up authentic local food like pad thai, tom kha soup and fried rice. You can find sweet treats and delicacies at night markets, and Western cuisine is generally easy to find – most resorts and hotels serve familiar favourites at a dedicated restaurant or as à la carte options.
GMT +7 hours
Thai. English is widely spoken at beach resorts.
• You need a full EU 10-year passport. We recommend that the expiry date is at least six months after your arrival back in the UK.
• You only need a visa if you’re staying longer than 30 days (29 nights), and you can get one from the Thai Embassy.
Theravada Buddhism. Minority religions include Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Sikhism.
• Thais revere their royal family, so never express disregard for it.
• Outward expressions of anger are regarded as crude and boorish.
• Each Buddha image - large or small, ruined or not - is considered sacred. Never climb onto one to take a photograph or do anything that might show lack of respect.
• Public displays of affection between couples are frowned upon. Westernised Thai couples may hold hands but that’s as far as it goes in polite society.
• It is considered rude to point your foot at a person or object.
No vaccinations are compulsory but some are recommended. For more information, contact your GP or a specialised vaccination centre.
Tip porters and hotel staff if you’re happy with their service. If a service charge isn’t added to your restaurant bill, tip 10-15%.
• Dress neatly in all religious shrines - never go shirtless or in shorts, hot pants or other scanty attire.
• Take off your shoes when entering private Thai homes, chapels that house Buddhist images, and mosques.
Go diving and try watersports such as catamaran sailing, kayaking and windsurfing.
Your resort might offer tennis, beach volleyball and badminton. Tee off at one of the nearby golf courses and trek in Khao Lak National Park.
In La On Village, eat at a host of international eateries and browse the endless tailors. Visit Bang Niang’s market for clothes, fruit and vegetables, silk and souvenirs.
• Nang Thong Beach is perfect for long walks along the sand.
• Owtang Beach is less developed than its neighbours, a haven of peace and relaxation.
• Lam Kaen Beach is the southernmost beach of the Khao Lak region, where the jungle reaches up to the fine sand.
• Most hotels offer American, English and continental breakfasts, and you may find western-style fast food outlets, snack bars and ice cream parlours.
• Thai cuisine is a spicy mix of noodles, curries, sweet-and-sour dishes, slow- and fast-cooked ingredients, exotic spices and condiments.
• Don’t drink the tap water or ice – stick to bottled mineral water or purified water in hotels.