Once a popular playground for families and avid scuba divers, this stretch of fabulous beach is now down in the history bo oks as the area in Thailand most devastated by the 26 December 2004 tsunami. Today, many of the resorts and businesses have rebuilt and re-opened, and are struggling to bring back visitors. The beaches here remain pristine and it will only be a matter of time until the area is once again thriving. The Thai Government has built a Tsunami Warning System which can be used in the areas that are most under threat.
Khao Lak is a one-hour drive north from Phuket International Airport. It is much closer to the Similan Islands than Phuket, making it an optimal base for a scuba diving holiday. And, since scuba divers are on boats or under the water for most of the day, the beaches are quiet and clean for non-divers and for the days in between diving.
Khao Lak beach is the most popular among foreign visitors and is good for swimming and near all the tourist amenities and hotels. Bang Niang beach is not far away and is good for those looking for a bit more privacy. Bang Sak beach is where local Thais go for picnicking, and you’ll find some charming little beachside stalls here. Thai Muang beach, about half an hour away, is located inside a national park and is nicknamed Turtle beach for the sea turtles that lay their eggs here from November to February.
Khao Lak is also home to a few pretty waterfalls, as well as the Khao Lak Lamru National Park with its lush vegetation and variety of wild animals.
This stretch of the Andaman coast is pristine and mostly undeveloped offering a wonderful appendage to the beach area which is enjoyed by few other resort locations in Thailand. The park is typified by lofty hills, waterfalls and soaring cliffs, with gorges that can be explored by canoe. The mangroves are also pretty, particularly the Klong Thap Liang estuary which can be explored with the long-tail boats on offer. There are a few coastal trails and some bird and occasional wildlife can be spotted if you are lucky. Bungalows are also offered in the park headquarters.
There is plenty of accommodation in Khao Lak ranging from inexpensive bungalows to five-star luxury resorts and most are offering discounted rates, especially during the low season (approximately May to November). The main stretch in Khao Lak offers plenty of dive shops providing speedboat daytrips and live-aboard trips to the Similans. Here, you’ll also find accommodation, restaurants, and quiet bars.
Most facilities cater to foreign tourists and you’ll find shopkeepers can speak English and sometimes German and Swedish as well. Many people find Khao Lak to be a superb getaway from the bustle of Phuket and the area is definitely worth a visit.
Getting to Khao Lak by car/taxi or bus from Phuket takes just 60 minutes. From Bangkok you can fly to Phuket or can take the train to Surat Thani (a 12 hour journey) and then take a 2 hour bus journey to Phanga Town and from here a bus to Khao Lak. The bus from Bangkok to Phanga Town takes 12 hours. Local travel agents in Thailand can arrange all the connections for you very easily.