Khao Lak

Khao Lak is a beautiful but rather subdued resort town on the Andaman Sea. Surrounded by forest shrouded hills to the east and white sand beaches to the west, the town stretches more then 30km along the coastline. Blessed with a very moderate climate and easy access to the Similan Islands, more and more people know about this formerly hidden gem.

While the Similan and Surin Islands are famous the world over for their diving and snorkeling – there are several more dive sites that can’t be overlooked. Three local wrecks have incredibly rich marine life, nearby reefs feature species rarely seen elsewhere in Thailand and the muck diving is quite unique in the country.

Our Khao Lak Dive center serves as the base for all our activities throughout the region. From the dive center we offer Similan Liveaboards, Richelieu Rock trip, Khao Sok Diving, Surin Snorkeling trips and superb dive training.

We offer daytrips to all local dive sites and are happy to accommodate nearly any schedule or request.

Best Time to Visit

While many people who live here say that there is no bad time to visit Khao Lak – just do your research and you’ll likely not be disappointed. October to April is the driest of seasons. Khao Lak Diving is only available from October through May.

History

Khao Lak has long been a sleepy fishing and farming village laying on the main North-South road from Phuket to Bangkok. 20 years ago a few intrepid divers starting departing from the local pier and discovered the great diving around the Similan Islands. Soon after more and more resorts developed around the local beaches. The conservative nature of the local families has always kept the more nefarious elements away from Khao Lak – so the region is very family friendly and usually the town is asleep by 10pm. When the tsunami of 2004 ravaged the town, many people lost everything. A massive sense of community developed as we rebuilt the town and now the area is home to several of the most famous and highly rated boutique hotels in Asia.

Weather

October to April (cold weather season in the northern hemisphere) is high season as people escape their harsh winters and flock to nicer climates. Some people suggest November to February as the best time to come – when Khao Lak is its busiest. If you are a people watcher, it is also a fun time to just sip a beer and watch people walk by. Winter is also the time of year when the sea is calmer and the water much more clear – so perhaps better for scuba diving, snorkeling and swimming in the sea.

Our Khao Lak Dive Center offers only administrative services from June through September.

What to do in Khao Lak

Activities

  • Khao Lak Diving: The Local dives sites and the nearby Similan and Surin Islands
  • Snorkeling: Many famous snorkeling sites are available on daytrips
  • Trekking: The nearby parks feature pristine rainforests
  • Beaches: more than 30km of beaches mean a new beach every day of the week for more than a month!
  • Khao Sok: Birding, trekking, kayaking and more
  • Local markets: shopping, eating and experiencing the local life

Where to Stay

The area hosts several of the most famous (and expensive) boutique hotels in Asia, but also a broad selection of rooms and villas from backpacker basic to family friendly vacation bungalows. Most price ranges can be accommodated, but this is not the cheapest place in Thailand.Please select from the options below for accommodation…

One of the best options for accommodation – which we recommend – is the Baan Khao Lak

Getting There

Khao Lak is on the main road from Phuket to Bangkok and is easily reached by cars, buses and taxis. Phuket International airport is only 1 hour south and has dozens of arrivals per day. Our nearby harbor is safe haven for those arriving by private boat.

Trains

There are three classes – 1st, 2nd and…you guessed it….3rd class. The first class is nice, but it is certainly not the Oriental express! You can arrange your own cabin with two beds, sink and plenty of room. 2nd class is bunk style berths, which is quite nice as much of the travel is at night. 3rd class is on sturdy wooden benches.

We wish there were direct trains to Khao Lak, but unfortunately they don’t 🙁 The nearest train stop is Surat Thani, a few hours East of us. From there you can find many connecting buses and taxi service can be arranged. Expect 200 Baht for bus or 3000 for taxi. The total journey should take approximately 12-14. So if you have the time, go for it!!

Taxi Service

khao lak diving - friends
Once you get here…it’s all good

This is the most expensive option. We have really strong feelings about this. There have been many incidents of local taxi drivers exploiting tourists so we strongly encourage you to make reservations with Khao Lak Taxi or ask us to book one to meet you in advance. If you choose not to, then expect to pay between 1700 and 3000 Baht. The ride is only 1 hour (if they know where they are going) and it’s a straight shot from the airport to here. Should you choose to get your own taxi – also mke sure that they speak fluent enough English to understand terms like “slow down” or “Bathroom please”.

If you have more than 2 people or children – it is neccesary to book a minibus ahead of time. The above taxi service has children’s eat available 🙂

Wicked Tip – make sure the seat belt works! Most taxis actually remove them 🙁

While there are not so many incidents of exploitive taxi drivers from other locations to Khao Lak – they can be rather pricey if you do not know the actual prices :(. Please contact us for more information on prices from your location – or simply contact the above to book a dirver and car (or minibus) of your own.

Bus Service

If you come from either Phuket or Bangkok, just let the driver know that you wish to get off in Khao Lak at the Supermarket. That is the center of our town and quite close to our shop. If you are arriving from other parts of Thailand, you should be able to ask for Khao Lak (Pronounced “Cow Lack”). If it seems like you are getting a run around, ask for Takuapa (Pronounced Tock-oo-ah-pa) which is a main transit hub 30 km north of us. Frequent buses depart from there to our town. Again, just mention the supermarket and everyone knows what you mean.

Tourist Buses

These are called by many names – VIP, 1st Class, Luxury, Super VIP and many others besides. Generally Tourists buses are quite comfortable and will head on a pretty direct route to wherever you are heading. The routes are pretty clear, and you will usually depart from a main tourist area (Koh San Road) and arrive at a similar area. This saves you some steps, but you will not see the real Thailand and you will usually be dealing with “Travel Agents” who are trying o get you to book something (diving, hotels, mini-golf) with them at much higher prices than you would actually pay. You will also be away from competition that could offer you something better. Your trip will cost you as much as 3 times as much as you would pay for a government bus, for the same or lower quality

Government Buses

These are all blue or orange, with the destination and stops written on the front and sides. These are usually only available at Government Bus stations, though you may be able to hail one from a roadside stop. At Government Bus Stations you will often encounter people walking up to you to sell you tickets to the route you’re going on. Sometimes these are the boys who work on the buses and are trying to fill empty seats (they get paid on how full the bus is). They may also be touts that are trying to divert you to a private company bus for a higher price as well as commission on hotel rooms and other expenses you will incur. Be cautious. They will not rob you, but they may not be what they seem.

VIP Buses
Khao Lak diving - beaches
Khao Lak Diving – plenty of beach time!!!

The government VIP bus has larger seats (three across instead of four) that recline further. There is a restoroom on board as well as snack service and blankets. There are also fewer stops along the way. Generally these are the long routes (more than 8 hours) and run at night to avoid traffic. These are the most comfortable buses in Thailand and a GREAT way to travel.
You will need to pre-purchase your ticket for these. If a travel agent is purchasing one for you, he will adding a commission as these are a set price and non-negotiable. There is currently a system in place to order tickets online, but not for our sleepy little town. Keep chekcing back…

1st class buses

These buses are comfortable by anyones standards, with a toilet onboard, movies (usually a Thai version of old classics like Rambo or Predator or Terminator) and infrequent stops. The seats recline, but not all the way. You will stop at a roadside cafeteria for a meals.

2nd class buses

These buses are still comfortable but are budget. There will not be a toilet on board, the seats will only partly recline and there will be more frequent stops. These are fine for day time rides, as you can see the country side and the frequent stops allow you to get out and stretch your legs and use the restrooms at the bus sations. People selling local treats wil also introduce you to Thai fast food. Not recommended for overnight journeys.

The primary toursit bus departs Khao lak at 17.00 it costs 700 baht (or more, depending on which travel agent you go to)

Departures from Bangkok are very frequent, check travel agents (do not end up in Phuket and then taking a minibus back to Khao Lak – they will sell you this trip!) or better yet go to the government bus station and ask for your tickets there. There is usually a VIP departing at 19.00, and a 1st class separting at 7.00.