Khao Lak Holidays
The area commonly referred to as Khao Lak is a 30-kilometre string of white-sand beaches along Phang Nga's Andaman coast, set against a scenic background of jungle-covered mountains. Just an hour's drive north of Phuket, on the west coast of Thailand's southern peninsula, it is dotted with resorts and tourist facilities without being over-commercialised. It's well away from the party scene, but Khao Lak holidays are increasingly sought after by families, couples, nature lovers and scuba divers.
The name Khao Lak means Lak Mountain, the mountain being the centrepiece of Khao Lak Lam Ru National Park, and forming a headland as it plunges into the sea, to mark the southern boundary of the region. The gorgeous beaches of the coastline are bordered by palms and casuarina, while the interior rises to meet the soaring hills covered in magnificent natural jungle, and carved by streams and cascading waterfalls. Surrounding the area are rice fields and plantations of coconut, rubber and palm.
Featured Khao Lak Hotels
This area was hit harder than anywhere else in Thailand by the devastating Boxing Day tsunami of 2004. Although the local people will never forget the events of that day, the area has made an astonishingly impressive recovery. The resorts, which were totally destroyed, have been rebuilt, and larger numbers than ever before are looking for holidays to Khao Lak.
Three Main Centres
The resorts along the coast are grouped mainly into three main population centres, Nang Thong, Bang Niang and Khuk Khak. Nang Thong, also known as Bang La On, is the most commercial, with plenty of restaurants, shops, dive centres and hotels. Khao Lak proper is a smallish village with a quiet beach, 5 kilometres south of Nang Thong.
Three kilometres north of Nang Thong is Bang Niang, more Thai and less commercial, with a beautiful long stretch of golden sand, and a developing tourist village behind it. Khuk Khak, further north again, is even more Thai, a charming and picturesque village ideal for a romantic getaway. Beyond this, with increasingly quiet and deserted beaches, you come to Pakarang Beach and Cape, a headland and popular place for sunset-watching, and Pakweeb and Bang Sak where you will find the most exclusive accommodation.
The World's Best Diving
One of the greatest attractions for Khao Lak holidays is the Ko Similan National Park, for which the area is a popular departure point. An archipelago of 11 islands about 70 kilometres off-shore, Ko Similan enjoys deserted white coral-sand beaches, crystal clear waters, a rich marine life, and spectacular hard and soft coral reefs, and is regarded as one of the best diving sites in the world. Covered in ironwood, gum trees, rattan and bamboo, the islands are home to bird species like Nicobar pigeon, white-bellied sea eagle and black kite, and animal species including crab-eating monkeys and dusky langurs.
However, the most striking features of the islands are the huge boulders and piles of strangely-formed stones, some as big as houses, that are strewn around many of the islands, including Sailing Boat Rock, the extraordinary formation that teeters above the cove on island no. 8. These boulders spill down in jumbled heaps beneath the surface of the sea, where under-water caves, passageways and canyons provide some of the most exciting diving conditions in the world.
Although best known as a destination for diving and snorkelling, Ko Similan is becoming increasingly popular for sailing. There is no accommodation on the islands, and they are mainly reached by day trips, with Khao Lak being the nearest departure point. The National Park is closed for diving between May and October, and boats may stop running altogether during these months, because of choppy seas.
Best Time to Visit
Most holidays to Khao Lak take place between November and April, the driest months, December to January being the busiest and most expensive time. February to April is recommended as a good time to come, when it is less crowded, the weather is at its best, and the seas are at their calmest. During the wetter months from May to October, it is not at all crowded and room rates are much lower, but a lot of restaurants and shops are closed.
If you are visiting Thailand looking for a party scene and a lively night life, Khao Lak may not be the place for you. However, it's an ideal destination for family getaways, for nature lovers, and for those just wanting to get away from it all. Khao Lak holidays offer an unspoilt and beautiful paradise, with a wealth of natural wonders just waiting to be explored.