We say ‘white sand’, ‘blue sea’; you think Khao Lak, whether you’ve been there or not. This place feels like the first paradise there ever was. Play tourist in this southeast Asian Eden and do things you simply can’t do anywhere else.
GETTING THERE: Khao Lak is roughly ninety minutes south of Phuket. There is no direct flight to Khao Lak, so you’ll have to fly into Phuket and head from there. No problem. The drive takes you through Phuket Town (not to be confused with Phuket), where the tourist numbers are considerably thinner and you can steal a glimpse of what Thailand’s like without tourists. It’s quite something.
A cab from Phuket Airport should set you back about 1,800 baht, maximum ($68 AUD).
WHEN TO GO: Aim for February, off the back of Thailand’s cool season, which runs from November until March. The Christmas crowds will be long gone, it’ll be manageably hot and you shouldn’t get too much rain. Avoid booking from July until October or pit yourself against torrential rain and humidity that envelopes you like a big wet parka.
HOW LONG: Two weeks maximum, four days minimum. Like most places in Thailand there are a lot of things to do, so give yourself at least four or five days to explore and let things happen. Stay in luxury long as you want, but resolve to fit in at least one adventure, one that takes you far from the comfort of your swim-up bar stool and makes you breathe a little.
CROWD: Known as Phuket’s relaxing little brother; Khao Lak attracts a different kind of crowd. While you can still find a bar in which to dance away the night, most people are in Khao Lak to switch off. Expect to see a lot of loved-up couples, young families and very relaxed retirees.
THINGS TO DO
Fitness freaks: Going on holidays doesn’t mean you have to let yourself go. Khao Lak is full of activities designed to keep you trim, taut and terrific!
- Muay Thai: Channel your inner martial artist with a visit to the prestigious Rawai Muay Thai gym. The place has four large boxing rings. You can participate in morning and afternoon classes. For those wanting to combine the beach with their love of boxing, the school runs Saturday sessions at nearby Khuk Kak beach. You don’t need to know much – anything at all, really – about Muay Thai to learn and achieve. The trainers are friendly and helpful.
- Cycling: seeing Thailand on two wheels is one of those singularly memorable experiences we all desire.Khao Lak Cycling organise half and full day tours. You’ll pedal your way to Memories Beach, passing through coconut, rubber and pine trees before cruising past a palm oil plantation. Trips also include a traditional Thai lunch or dinner.
Nature buffs: Get your great outdoors fix by adding these unique plans to your holiday hit list.
- Lamru Khao Lak National Park: named after its two mountain ranges – Khao Lak and Lamru – this national park is where Khao Lak natives head to take a load off. You can set up camp for 225 Baht ($8 AUD) or hire a bed for around 2000 Baht ($76 AUD). In the morning, join the locals for a dip at one of the park’s two waterfalls — Ton Chongfa to the north and Lamprao to the west.
- Golf: Khao Lak is home to some of the country’s best golf courses. The Tap Lamu Golf Course is the top pick, nestled between the Khao Lak Mountains and the Andaman Sea.
- Thai Muang Turtle Sanctuary: Open daily and free to enter, the Thai Muang Turtle Sanctuary is a must-see for lovers of the environment. Guests are shown the hatching tanks, before being introduced to the baby turtles. For a small donation, visitors can release a turtle into the Andaman Sea. You’ll be given a crash course in marine biology, as well as a history of the local sea life.
Typical tourists: Khao Lak has you covered when it comes to ticking off items on the typical tourist itinerary.
- Temples: The best bet is the Three Temple Tour. It’ll take you through the Dragon Cave, Bang Ring Pagoda and Suwanakuha temples. Each one is different but each has its own charm – keep an eye out macaque monkeys at Suwanakuha.
- Snorkelling: No trip to Thailand is complete without a snorkelling session. Khao Lak is the closest mainland point to the Similan Islands, which are a 70km boat ride away. If you’re serious about underwater sightseeing, this is where you want to be.
- Elephants: Tours take place in the Khao Lak jungle, ten minutes from centre of town. You’re given the chance to bathe, feed and ride these gentle giants – a family-friendly day out.