Skydiving – The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Khao Sok National Park in Thailand

Khao Sok National Park in Thailand is truly a magical place, with looming pillar-like mountains that seemingly erupt out of the shimmering turquoise waters of Cheow Larn Lake. It’s no shocker that many tourists in Thailand have this national park on their bucket list, especially since it’s relatively close to popular cities and islands. From wild Asian elephants to clay beaches and floating bungalows, Khao Sok really offers a unique experience, and if you’re asking the question “Is it worth it to visit?”, then the answer is an overwhelming yes! However, there are great ways to visit the park and some not-so-great ways in terms of tours, accommodation, and activities. This traveling writer learned some hard lessons on her visit and we are happy to share that in-person knowledge with this guide to Khao Sok National Park so that visitors like yourself can avoid tourist traps and get the most out of their time in the park! 

History of Khao Sok National Park

Khao Sok National Park is Thailand’s 22nd national park and was only given this land title in 1980. However, while the park might be newer, the land and rainforest date back millions of years ago. In fact, the rainforest is believed to be older than the Amazon, making it one of the oldest rainforests in the world. The area was also once part of an ancient coral reef and evidence suggests that the giant reef was five times larger than the Great Barrier Reef, stretching from Borneo to China some 280 million years ago. It’s believed the first migration of nomadic hunter-gatherers to the Khao Sok area was around 37,000 BCE when sea levels dropped, allowing migration from Java, Malaysia, and Borneo. The tribes that inhabited the parts around Khao Sok are thought to be descendants of the Sakai mountain people who inhabit Trang and the Thai-Malay border. The Sakai community lived and still lives in a remote interior of Sumatra, Indonesia. Many Thai people also migrated to the area during the Burmese invasion of the Thai Andaman Sea coast in the 1800s. 

While many ancient jungles and forests were destroyed by logging during the 20th century, Khao Sok had one saving grace and that was communist insurgents. A group of radical student communists who sought political change in Bangkok found refuge in the caves of Khao Sok jungle, and due to the harsh terrain, deterred military action. Their threat also repelled logging efforts in the area, effectively saving the ecosystem and rainforest from mass deforestation. The students stayed in their stronghold in Khao Sok from 1975 until 1982, two years after the park was established. 

Birdeye view of Ratchaprapha dam Khao sok national park at suratthani,Thailand
tokkyneo /

Topography and Wildlife at Khao Sok National Park

Khao Sok stretches 739 square kilometers (182,611 acres) but also has three bordering national parks as well, which totals 3,500 square kilometers (864,868 acres), or in other terms, half the size of Bali! Within the park is the man-made lake of Cheow Larn Lake, which is a big draw for tourists as boating through the waters is the best way to see Khao Sok. The lake is the result of a dam that was built in the 1980s to bring hydroelectricity to southern Thailand, but today, the shimmering lake waters are the biggest tourist attraction in the park. 

Tons of incredible and inquisitive creatures can be found in Khao Sok, including gibbons, Asian elephants, tigers, clouded leopards, mouse deer, and vampire bats. King cobras, reticulated pythons, and red-tailed green rat snakes could also be found, but snake sightings are rare as they are mostly nocturnal.

Best Time to Visit Khao Sok National Park

Khao Sok National is one of the most popular parks to visit in southern Thailand and according to Statista, roughly 198,000 tourists visited in 2022 alone. The best time to visit that park really depends on what activities you’re looking to do while there and if you want to avoid crowds. 

In terms of weather and seasons, Khao Sok experiences heavier rainfall than most other areas of Thailand due to its proximity to the Indian and Pacific Oceans during the monsoon season and the influence of high mountains in the area. The wet season lasts from May to November with the wettest month being September. December to April is the dry season and visitors can expect clear skies, with the driest month being February. However, it is a rainforest environment, so it could rain on any day of the year!

Those looking to escape the crowds and limited accommodation of the busy season will find the best months to visit Khao Sok National Park are May, June, September, and October when summer holidays (like in Australia) are over. These months are also when you can find some great budget accommodation and discounts. March can also be hit-and-miss with crowds, but usually, it’s better than December to February when the summer holidays are on. 

Where to Stay in Khao Sok National Park

Visitors have three options in terms of where to stay in Khao Sok. They can choose to stay in a floating bungalow within the park or stay in one of two small towns adjacent to the park. 

Staying Outside the Park

A majority of travelers will opt to stay outside of the park, either near the trekking trails of the rainforest area in the town beside Khao Sok National Park HQ or in the town beside Ratchaprapha Marina and Cheow Larn Lake. Both are excellent options and come with perks. 

Editor Note: Due to high activity by the Taxi mafia, Grab is not available in the town areas. However, if you walk outside of either of the towns towards a main road, you could order a Grab if a driver is willing to take the risk (this was our case when we visited). Otherwise, your options for transport between towns are private taxis, buses, or scooters. 

Staying Near HQ

Those who stay near HQ will find a quaint, quiet town with plenty of restaurants and activities, like night hiking, elephant sanctuary visits, river kayaking, trekking trails, swimming holes, and much more. Tours and transportation can also be booked from the HQ area to Cheow Larn Lake, which takes roughly an hour to get to by van. 

The Bliss Khao Sok Boutique Lodge is one of the best places to stay in the area as it offers comfortable, clean, and spacious air-conditioned rooms along with an excellent free breakfast and friendly, attentive staff. Another great option is Khao Sok Palmview Resort, which offers air-conditioned cottages that can sleep up to four guests for a great budget price. The hotel also boasts an on-site restaurant, tour booking, and massage services. For backpackers and solo travelers seeking a good hostel in Khao Sok near HQ, Coco Khao Sok Hostel is the place to go. The hostel offers single pod-like beds in five-bed mixed dorms that are air-conditioned, as well as an on-site bakery and café, free towels, and on-site tour tickets. 

Staying Near Cheow Larn Lake

Those who would like to stay near Cheow Larn Lake will have the benefit of lake tours right on their doorstep, along with other activities like hiking and rafting/kayaking. Khumkalahua Farmstay is an excellent option in the area for those looking for a nature retreat. The hotel offers air-conditioned wooden huts in a beautiful garden setting and boasts an on-site restaurant, an indoor play area for kids, and packed lunches for guests heading out on a day adventure in the park. Belong Jin The Dam Resort is also a fantastic choice, offering large air-conditioned rooms with access to a semi-private pool, a larger on-site pool, and an on-site restaurant with billiards and live music. 

For backpackers and solo travelers, there aren’t many hostels near the lake, but Bansuanphutarn does offer affordable twin rooms with a shared bathroom. Rooms only come with a fan but can be quite pleasant to sleep in at night as the cool mountain air rushes in and circulates. Breakfast is included in a room and there is also a paid shuttle service. 

Staying Inside the Park

Staying in one of the floating bungalows inside Khao Sok National Park is on many travelers’ bucket lists, and it can be surprisingly affordable if you book in advance! There are roughly 15 floating hotels in the park and the benefit of staying in one is that you’ll have lake activities literally on your doorstep. These floating hotels also offer day trips to caves, waterfalls, and hiking trails along with kayak rentals and swimming.

500 Rai Floating Resort is one of the most recognizable and popular floating hotels. They offer a variety of rooms, villas, and family suites, along with free breakfast, on-site masseuses, and a floating pool! Panvaree Resort is another good option, boasting a free breakfast, an on-site restaurant serving authentic Thai food, and unique loft-style bungalows and villas for families or groups of up to five people. Those looking for a budget-friendly floating bungalow in Khao Sok National Park should consider staying at Khaosok Eco Lodge. The hotel offers private fan rooms with shared bathrooms, free breakfast, and an on-site restaurant. 

How to Get to Khao Sok National Park

Khao Sok National Park is relatively easy to reach depending on where you’re coming from. The best towns to travel to Khao Sok National Park from are Krabi, Phuket, and Surat Thani. Surat Thani is the normally cheapest airport to fly to in most cases and it’s only a two-hour minibus ride from the park. Traveling from Surat Thani is ideal for those coming from Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Bangkok, or Koh Tao. Those traveling from the west side of Thailand (Phuket and Krabi) can find minibus transport that takes around four hours to get to the park. Travelers can opt to book their transportation through a travel agency in any of the towns or on 

Another option is to take a day trip to Khao Sok from Krabi with this full-day tour to the park. The tour includes roundtrip transportation, a longtail lake tour, a cave tour, lunch, and free swimming/kayaking time on the lake. Those coming from Khao Lak should consider this full-day tour to Khao Sok, which includes roundtrip transportation, bamboo rafting, a lake tour on a longtail boat, lunch, a cave tour, and free time swimming. 

How Much is the Entrance Fee to Khao Sok National Park

There are plenty of activities and tours within and outside the national park. Some activities are found on the outskirts of the park, such as kayaking and rafting, and others are inside the park, like night hiking and trekking trails. If you sign up to participate in any of the activities in the national park, you will have to pay an entrance fee of 200-300 baht for day use. 

Best Things to Do in Khao Sok National Park

Elephant Sanctuary

One of the most popular places to visit near the park is Khao Sok Elephant Sanctuary. However, we do not support using animals for profit and do not recommend a visit to this sanctuary due to ethical concerns. Being an ethical tourist in Thailand might mean going out of your way to support sanctuaries that are actually doing rehabilitation and honest work, and that is the case with elephant tours in Khao Sok. Those who wish to experience Asian elephants in Thailand should take a look at the privately funded organization Responsible Travel. The group has released a list of acceptable and unacceptable elephant sanctuaries in Thailand and around the world. One sanctuary they support is Elephant Hills Rainforest Camp in the north of Khao Sok National Park. This luxury remote glamping hotel is home to one of the only chain-free elephant sanctuaries in Thailand and offers genuine interactions with Asian elephants in their natural habitat in the jungle. Please do not trust visitor reviews as a source of finding out whether a sanctuary is ethical or not as most tourists do not have the training or know-how to spot red flags. Reviews are a good place to start, but consult well-known non-profits and companies that specialize in ethical travel and animal abuse, like Responsible Travel. 

Hiking and Guided Trekking

Hiking through the lush jungle hills is one of the best ways to explore the park and all its beautiful wildlife and tourists have quite a few options in Khao Sok National Park. The easiest hiking to do without a guide is at Khao Sok National Park HQ. Here, visitors will find a roughly three-kilometer (1.9 miles) hiking trail that follows the river (making it easy to navigate) that they can explore themselves. Along the way, there are plenty of swimming holes, waterfalls, and wildlife to be found, such as monitor lizards, monkeys, and snakes. At the end of the trail is a small hut with water and snacks for sale, but to continue past this point tourists will need to hire a Khao Sok National Park guide (roughly 700-1500 baht). 

Overnight trekking tours into the jungle are also available to be booked from Cheow Larn Lake or HQ. For an unforgettable Khao Sok multi-day experience, check out this three-day, four-night excursion that includes overnight stays in bungalows and a raft house, river tubing, hiking, bamboo rafting, cave exploring, and more. 

Canoe, Kayaking, and Bamboo Rafting

In all areas of the park, including both HQ and Cheow Larn Lake town, visitors can embark on a river adventure either by kayak, canoe, or bamboo raft. Bamboo rafting is easily the most relaxing way to explore as tourists will have their own raft guide that drives the raft down the river. Tourists can book river excursions either through their hotel/hostel or through a travel agency in town for either a half-day or full-day tour. 

Cheow Larn Lake Boat Tour

A longtail boat tour of Cheow Larn Lake is easily the most popular tour in the park. Aside from staying in one of the floating bungalows, touring Khao Sok National Park by boat is the best way to experience the park’s classic terrain as the rugged white-pillar mountains create a juxtaposition with the calm blue waters, creating a stunning sight that has become a viral sensation. 

Now, longtail boat Khao Sok National Park tours can be booked in multiple ways, either through a hostel, hotel, travel agency, or third-party seller like GetYourGuide. Please be aware that most hotels and hostels run their own tour agency and booking directly through them may be cheaper, but also may not be what is advertised. In my experience, we booked through the hotel which advertised a waterfall hike, a cave tour to a specific cave, and a small group lake tour in a longtail boat. Confirm everything advertised with whoever you book a tour with! We ended up in a regular longboat that would comfortably seat 14-16 people on wooden benches, but instead, we were packed in with 22 people. This can put a really big damper on your tour as each longboat has a shade cover, and if you’re packed into a middle seat, you’ll not only have barely any space to hold a bag but you won’t be able to even see out of the boat to appreciate the full beauty of the mountains and landscape! We also weren’t told until after we paid and got to the pier that the waterfall was dried up and we ended up being taken to a completely different cave than what was advertised without warning. Based on my experience, I recommend confirming all excursions and stops along the way before booking so that you are well-informed of what the day will look like and confirming group size so that you know if you will be fighting other tourists over a good seat. 

Honestly, the best way to guarantee an amazing boat tour on the lake is to pay for a private longtail tour at Cheow Larn Lake. This way, you have a boat to yourself with plenty of wiggle room, a private guide, and plenty of opportunities to take those Instagram-worthy photos. 

Tips For Visiting Khao Sok National Park

As with any attraction, there are always a few tips and tricks that can make your experience better — be it for yourself or the environment. Below we have listed our top tips to ensure you have a memorable time in Khao Sok National Park and leave no trace behind! 

  • Bring a dry sack as almost all the activities like jungle trekking or boat tours pose the possibility of getting wet.
  • Bring a raincoat, this is a rainforest after all and it can rain at any time!  
  • Pack good hiking shoes. 
  • Carry a reusable water bottle as most boat stops have a place to refill a bottle. 
  • Always bring lots of water when heading out on excursions, especially when self-guided hiking. 
  • Use a waterproof phone case.
  • Confirm your tour group size when booking a longboat tour. If the group is larger than 16 people, confirm whether that will be broken into two boats or one. 
  • Book transportation in advance. 
  • Book a private longboat tour.
  • Bring earplugs for the longboats as the engines are extremely loud and you will be on the boat for the majority of the day. This is especially important for those traveling with small children.

FAQ and Facts About Khao Sok National Park

How Long to Spend at Khao Sok National Park?

A full-day tour is sufficient enough to see a good majority of the park. However, to get the most out of your time in Khao Sok, we recommend two to three days. Spend one day on a longboat tour exploring caves, the lake, and waterfalls, another day doing trekking near HQ, and a third experiencing a rafting or kayak tour. 

When Was Khao Sok National Park Built?

Khao Sok received national park status in 1980 which was followed by the damning of Sok River and the creation of Cheow Larn Lake. 

Are there tigers at Khao Sok National Park?

Yes! Tourists can find tigers, leopards, primates, pythons, Asian elephants, Malayan sun bears, and many more beautiful creatures. 

Do You Need to Book a Tour to See Khao Sok National Park?

In short, no. You do not need to book a tour to Khao Sok National Park just to see the park. However, if you wish to explore the lake or venture deeper into the jungle on a trekking tour, a guide is required. 

Where is Khao Sok National Park Located?

Khao Sok National Park is located in southern Thailand between Khao Lak and Surat Thani. It is only accessible by bus or van and the closest airport is Surat Thani International Airport. 

Are there restaurants in Khao Sok National Park?

Yes and no. There are plenty of restaurants in the towns surrounding the park, but the only places to eat within the park are at the hotel restaurants in the park. 

Do You Have to Pay an Entrance Fee at Khao Sok National Park?

Yes, every visitor who wishes to visit Khao Sok National Park and enter must pay between 200-300 baht as an entrance fee. 

Is Khao Sok National Park Pet-Friendly?

No, unfortunately, your furry friend will have to stay behind in the hotel room while you explore the park.

There you have it, the ultimate guide for those planning a trip to Khao Sok National Park! Whether you visit on a day trip or a multi-day excursion we’re positive you’ll enjoy the incredible beauty and friendly locals at Khao Sok.

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