The 30 km or so of Khao Lak beaches are among the best beaches in Thailand yet to be ‘discovered’. Khao Lak was our first stop on our Thailand trip, and was a wonderful surprise: It has miles of pristine golden beaches, and is nowhere near as developed as Phuket, two hours’ journey to the south. There are numerous Khao Lak resorts along the coast, but much of it is still largely untouched, with some stretches backing onto jungle.
The best beaches in Khao Lak are a varied bunch. They all face westward to the tropical turquoise Andaman Sea, and travelling around them brings some great rewards. The beaches near Khao Lak town are the most developed, and are some of the best for families, with the convenience of shops close by.
Venture further north, and you’ll find some of the best secluded beaches in Thailand, well off the beaten path. We were amazed to come across one of the best Khao Lak beach bars at one of them, after a visit to the Khao Lak elephant sanctuary.
Read on to find why we rate Khao Lak one of the best beach destinations in Thailand for families.
- 1 WHERE IS KHAO LAK IN THAILAND?
- 2 HOW TO GET TO KHAO LAK?
- 3 GETTING AROUND KHAO LAK
- 4 OUR PICK OF THE BEST BEACHES IN KHAO LAK: PAKARANG BEACH
- 5 BANG SAK BEACH
- 6 PAK WEEP BEACH
- 7 WHITE SAND BEACH KHAO LAK
- 9 COCONUT BEACH KHAO LAK
- 10 CAPE PAKARANG
- 11 KHUK KHAK BEACH
- 12 BANG NIENG BEACH
- 13 NANG THONG BEACH
- 14 SUNSET BEACH
- 15 LAM KAEM BEACH
WHERE IS KHAO LAK IN THAILAND?
Khao Lak is on the Andaman Sea coast of south-west Thailand, around 80 km north of Phuket International Airport.
Khao Lak town is a long, straggling affair, with most of it along one street several kilometres long. The southern end of the town is level with (and less than 500 metres from) Nang Thong beach, which is often referred to as Khao Lak beach.
The town continues 6km or so north, merging seamlessly into Bang Nieng, home to the main night market Khao Lak has on a Sunday evening.
HOW TO GET TO KHAO LAK?
We arranged a transfer by car from Phuket airport to Khao Lak, which cost us 1500 baht (30 GBP) from the airport.
Bear in mind that Phuket airport is in the north of the island, the closest part to Khao Lak. If you’re planning to travel from elsewhere in Phuket, you’ll be paying more, especially if you have to negotiate traffic-clogged Patong.
GETTING AROUND KHAO LAK
The roads around Khao Lak are nowhere near as busy as those in Phuket, and hiring a car did cross our minds. We eventually decided against it, opting for the local truck taxis (songthaew) for short journeys and Boss Taxi Khao Lak for longer journeys, including our return transfer from Khao Lak to Phuket.
OUR PICK OF THE BEST BEACHES IN KHAO LAK: PAKARANG BEACH
This is what Thailand was like in the ‘90s, before mass tourism came along. It’s one of the top beaches in Thailand, secreted away down dirt roads behind watermelon fields, Khao Lak elephant home and jungle. Getting there is an adventure, one our little fellow loved. Suddenly the bright light sears through, and there you are, a magnificent long stretch of prime Andaman sand.
We went back a couple of times. Memories Beach Bar is one of our favourite beach bars in Thailand, a prime dining and chilling spot with great food, cold beer, a gentle reggae soundtrack and the red ball of sun sinking slowly towards the horizon.
It was only when I went for a walk after sunset that I found two resorts across the stream estuary from Memories. The Apsara Resort and Villa and The Grand Southsea Khao Lak Resort are discreetly set back from the beach, an ideal spot to get away from it all.
Getting there: by dirt road left off the main Khao Lak road.
BANG SAK BEACH
Bang Sak is the northernmost Khao Lak beach, a lovely empty tropical paradise with miles of empty, untouched sand to yourself. There is comparatively little development here – a couple of low-key resorts, one or two cafes and restaurants and a few stalls selling pad thai or chicken skewers. Everyone we saw there seemed to be local, with a few families picnicking in the shade of the trees just behind the beach.
All in all, one of the best Thai beaches we visited: let’s hope it stays that way.
Getting there: Left off the main road the turn after the Bang Sak minimart.
PAK WEEP BEACH
After the tranquillity of Bang Sak, its neighbour to the south, Pak Weep, was bustling. The beach itself is sublime, the trees providing morning shade before the sun comes around to the sea in the afternoon.
The area behind the beach is much more developed, with a street of cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops. Several locals I spoke with said that watching the sun set at Pak Weep was one of their favourite things to do in Khao Lak. It’s pretty difficult to disagree.
Getting there: There’s only one road there and back. If you’re driving north, take the left turn at the Pak Weep Minimart.
WHITE SAND BEACH KHAO LAK
White Sand beach is the southern continuation of Pak Weep beach, and you sometimes hear it referred to by its Thai name, Ao Thong. As with the other beaches around Khao Lak, it has managed to stave off the worst excesses of development, and it remains relatively quiet.
It has exactly what its name suggests, acres of sparkling, bright white sand, lapped by the crystal-clear Andaman Sea. It has a few bars and restaurants scattered along its length, with a few Khao Lak accommodation options tucked away in the hinterland. One of these is the five-star Sarojin Khao Lak, one of the best resorts in Khao Lak.
Getting there: White Sand beach is a few minutes’ drive off the main road. The Sarojin seemed to be better signposted, so follow the sign for that, keeping an eye out for a turn through the trees on the right, which takes you to the beach.
COCONUT BEACH KHAO LAK
In turn, Coconut Beach is the southern continuation of White Sand beach. There’s not a great deal of difference with its neighbour. It’s closer to the Cape Pakarang headland, and enjoys more of a view up the coast to the north.
Again, it’s relatively quiet, reached by backroads through the Khao Lak jungle. There’s a restaurant, the Nang Sib Song, and some hotels and villas in the forest hinterland.
Coconut Beach has a reputation as one of the most beautiful beaches in Thailand. It’s definitely one of the most scenic ones we’ve visited, and a short walk from the car park takes you out to the firmer, wetter sand along the shore, which the wind sculpts into some striking patterns.
Getting there: It’s less than five minutes from White Sand beach.
Cape Pakarang is well off the beaten path. The headland is at the northern end of the beach of the same name, and there is a long, broad estuary beach the other side.
You’ll hardly see another soul here. The shade-free walk around to the beach is worth an hour or so, especially if it’s out of hot season. The reward is endless beach all to yourself, your own vast slice of paradise.
Otherwise, there’s not a whole lot here: a garish orange lobster sculpture, a few fishing boats and a café with a couple of sheltered tables. If you want Thailand off the beaten track, this is the place for you.
KHUK KHAK BEACH
Khuk Khak is the southern end of Pakarang beach, and it’s considerably more developed. It’s more outstanding tropical shoreline, albeit with much better access, more resorts, restaurants and bars. These include the JW Marriott Khao Lak Resort & Spa, one of the most popular Khao Lak hotels.
Getting there: There are several access points to the beach, and the main road there passes the splendid Khuk Khak temple and the Khao Lak Village shopping mall en route.
BANG NIENG BEACH
Bang Nieng is another classic Khao Lak beach, across the lagoon entrance from Khuk Khak. It’s also known as Bang Niang, it’s close to the main Khao Lak market, which takes place on Sunday evenings.
Several beach resorts are set back from the beach at Bang Nieng, including the Ramada and Sudala.
It’s another excellent beach, great sand and sea, ideally suited for relaxation and getting around to the other main Khao Lak things to do.
Getting there: Take the turn across the street from the International Tsunami Museum. The road continues to the excellent Chong Fah restaurant, but this doesn’t have good beach access. It’s easier to reach the beach by taking the left turn level with the Pinocchio Pizzeria.
NANG THONG BEACH
Nang Thong is the most popular Khao Lak beach. It’s also commonly called Khao Lak beach, partly because it’s situated so close to the main street of the town.
We stayed within a short walk of it, and despite it being one of the most developed Khao Lak beaches, it still has a tranquil, relaxing feel and rarely seems busy. We stayed around 300 metres from Nang Thong, and had to walk through a small patch of countryside to get there, which added to the quiet laid-back feel of the place. Some of the best hotels in Khao Lak, including the Centara and Baan Khaolak, face onto this fine beach.
We made several return visits to Nang Thong, enjoying a few meals in the shade at Coconuts beach bar, which is connected to one of the resorts there. The beach is ideal for bathing or swimming, and it’s a great sunset spot with a lighthouse perched on a small;l rocky islet in the bay.
Getting there: It’s an easy walk from the main road through Khao Lak village, with several footpaths and roads leading down to it.
Sunset beach is the southern end of Nang Thong beach. The coast suddenly changes in character here, with a rocky headland perfect for soft clambering for kids. There are also several stone sculptures at any one time which look great silhouetted against the setting sun.
The Khao Lak Bayfront Resort looks out onto the beach, and its outdoor restaurant is a great place to dine while watching the sun’s colourful evening flourish.
LAM KAEM BEACH
Lam Kaem is the southernmost of the Khao Lak beaches. It’s a few kilometres south of Nang Thong and Sunset beaches, separated from these by the coastal rainforest of the Khao Lak Lam Ru National Park.
Unsurprisingly, it’s another excellent beach. It’s a little out of the way from the main action, and the fact much of it backs onto resorts adds to the laid-back, quiet feel of the place.
The resorts close to the beach include the Khao Lak Merlin, Khao Lak Emerald Beach and Hive Khaolak Beach Resort. If you’re planning holidays to Khao Lak with the kids, they all offer a brilliant environment for kids, with pools and play areas in addition to the beach. Lam Kaem is also close to several other Khao Lak attractions, including a nearby elephant feeding centre and the National Park.
Getting there: Lam Kaem beach and the surrounding resorts are just off the main Phet Kasem Road which runs north from Phuket through Khao Lak and onto Ranong.
David Angel is a British writer and photographer who has been travelling and photographing the world for over 25 years. His work is regularly featured in worldwide media including the BBC, the Guardian, the Times and the Sunday Times. His images are frequently used throughout the world by tourism bodies such as Visit Britain and Visit Wales.