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An Overnight Trip to Khao Sok National Park

Khao Sok National Park Cheow Larn Lake

Towering limestone rock formations, deep turquoise blue waters, the serene quiet as the sun sets over the lake. This is Khao Sok National Park.

2 years ago, when we started planning our trip to Southeast Asia, we came across a national park with floating bungalows and fell in love with the idea of being there one day. This was one of the things we were looking forward to most. We finally made it and it exceeded our expectations by far!

In this post we share our 3 days in Khao Sok National Park and tips for your own visit. There’s nothing like swimming in the turquoise water, hiking, kayaking, and relaxing in this paradise. Khao Sok National Park is a dream destination for nature lovers!

Getting to Khao Sok

Getting to Khao Sok truly depends on where you are coming from. We came directly from Bangkok so our journey was a bit longer than others may be.

FLY + TAXI/BUS:

You can fly into cities closer to the national park including Phuket, Krabi, and Surat Thani (Phuket is the closest). Then, take a bus, minibus, or taxi to Khlong Sok. This is where most tours begin depending on how you have booked your trip.

TRAIN + TAXI/BUS:

There is a night train from Bangkok’s Train Station to Surat Thani. The train ride is roughly 14 hours, so pack snacks! We booked our tickets through 12GoAsia and it cost 650 baht per person for a first-class cabin. Then, book a minibus/van from the travel stand outside the train station to Khlong Sok (300 baht pp). This will be easy to find as many other visitors will be heading that way. Once you exit the train station, head left and walk down the street a short distance.

Tips for the train: It can get really cold in 1st class so make sure to have layers available. Also, there are no snack vendors throughout the ride, except one at the very beginning, so make sure to buy some beforehand. There was nothing open at Bangkok’s train station when we were waiting for our train so we advise you to purchase items before you arrive and bring them with you.

Oh and one more thing, our tickets were not checked until we were in our cabin and the train left the station, there wasn’t really anyone around to ask before our ride so pay close attention to the platforms and your ticket so you get on the right train!

Tip for the bus: You may be able to find a cheaper van/bus from the same shop if you are willing to wait for one to fill up with other travellers, however, since it was only a little more than we had expected for our own with direct drop-off, we decided to take the minibus! There is also a public bus that will take you from Surat Thani to the Khao Lak Bus Stop, however, this will include a trek to your accommodation or hiring another van/truck upon arrival to the edge of town.

Starting somewhere other than Bangkok?

This is most likely the easiet option! There are buses and taxies from cities like Phuket, Surat Thani, and Krabi!

On the Night Train

It was a long ride, just about 14 hours, but we had our own little air-conditioned cabin with bunk beds. Luckily, we had packed leftovers from earlier in the day so we had dinner because there wasn’t anything to grab right before getting on the train. This was a lot different than Sri Lanka trains which had vendors come through just about every other stop! It got really cold at night and the speed had Sam feeling like she would fall off the top bunk so we ended up sharing the bottom bunk for the rest of the ride.

We arrived at Surat Thani Train Station, around 9:30 am, and walked down the street to a travel vendor shop with many other travellers. We were able to get our own minibus/large van to take us from the stand to our accommodation for the night outside the park. It was all a bit chaotic as everything happened so fast but luckily we made it without a problem.


Tours in Khao Sok National Park

Khao Sok National Park is famous for its floating bungalows on Cheow Larn Lake and its unique wildlife. There are various types of tours in the park including guided day and night hikes, day trips to the lake, and overnight lake tours.

Guided Tours:

There are various options for hiking trips into Khao Sok National Park depending on your interest and ability. If you go during certain times of the year, you may even get a chance to see a rafflesia flower. We recommend making sure you know what you’re getting into before your tour. We met a couple who did a guided night hike and said it was VERY adventurous. If you’re not into scary insects and trampling through the jungle at night with a guy and his machete, maybe book something else haha.

Day Trip to Cheow Larn Lake:

A day tour to the lake often includes pickup from your accommodation or meeting point, lunch, a couple of hours at the floating bungalows, and then a cave hike, before heading back to the pier. If you ONLY have a day to squeeze Khao Sok National Park in, then this is a good option, HOWEVER, if you can take a few days we HIGHLY recommend spending a night or two on the lake for an incredible experience (more on this below).

2-Day, 1-Night Tour to Cheow Larn Lake:

DO THIS! We chose to do the 2-day, 1-night lake tour in Khao Sok National Park after finding a blog about it years ago. This tour includes accommodation in a floating bungalow, meals, sunset and sunrise rides around the lake, and an exciting cave trek! There is some free time to swim and take the (included) kayaks out on the lake too. We booked our tour with Smiley’s Lakehouse after reading some reviews and HIGHLY recommend them. We go into more detail about the tour below.

Khlong Sok

One of the towns closest to Khao Sok is Khlong Sok. It’s a small tourist town lined with guesthouses and eateries, as well as, travel shops to book your tour. We advise booking a tour in advance but if you didn’t get a chance or are just hoping for a day trip, you’re sure to find something here! Most visitors to the park arrive here to book their tours and get a night’s rest before their adventurous trip through Khao Sok National Park.

We stayed at Smiley’s Bungalows because we booked our overnight lake tour with them and enjoyed our room! The view right outside the bungalow was beautiful. Plus, it’s a short walk from some delicious restaurants!

Smiley's Bungalows in Khlong Sok
View from outside of our room at Smiley’s Bungalows

Our Overnight Lake Tour in Khao Sok National Park

This was one of our all-time favorite experiences throughout our first 6 months of international travel. After dreaming about visiting Khao Sok National Park for a couple of years, it exceeded what we planned and hoped for.

Our tour with Smiley’s Lakehouse included transportation to the lake houses from our accommodation in Khlong Sok, 4 incredible meals, an exciting cave trek, free use of kayaks, safari boat rides, and our floating bungalow accommodation! Originally, we booked the normal 2-day, 1-night tour, but upon arrival in Khlong Sok, we met someone who recommended staying longer on the lake if possible. Since we didn’t have specific plans for a couple of days following the tour, we decided to book an extra night, and boy was it worth it!

Note on Smiley’s Lakehouse: The staff were super friendly in helping us reach our next destination, timing our departure correctly to catch the right transport! If you have extra time in your itinerary to spend another night or two on the lake, talk to the tour operators about your options. With Smiley’s Lakehouse, it was very affordable for an extra night with meals included!

Cheow Larn Lake in Khao Sok National Park
Can you spot the long boat in this picture?

Heading to Cheow Larn Lake

We were picked up at 9 am with other tourists heading to the park. Most guests were only heading to the lake for a day tour. It was about an hour’s drive to the lake, including a stop at a 7-Eleven for snacks. We picked up a waterproofing bag there as well, which we highly recommend doing!

When we arrived at the pier inside the national park we paid for our national park tickets and joined our tour group on the longboat. We were directed where we needed to go and it went very smoothly. There were 6 others on the tour, a family of 3 from Thailand and a group of 3 girls from another country (we aren’t sure where).

The longboat ride to the bungalows took about an hour and we were in awe of the limestone rock formations jutting out of the water, the mini islands full of jungle, and the bright blue of the water.

The Lakehouse and Floating Bungalows

The Lakehouse is made up of a restaurant/common area and 20 floating bungalows lined up on each side. It backs up to a small island but is not connected to the land. The bungalows are all connected by a long dock, lined with tubes and kayaks for guests to use. Some bungalows are smaller and used for daytrippers, while others are for overnighters.

TIP: If you book directly with Smiley’s Lakehouse you seem to get the better bungalows compared to booking with an outside agency

The water beneath the floating lakehouse and bungalows is deep. One of the workers said it was 40 meters deep. We don’t know if that’s 100% true but we couldn’t reach or touch the bottom when jumping in so it was deep enough to not want to drop anything into!

Floating Bungalows at Khao Sok National Park

Our Floating Bungalow in Khao Sok

Our bungalow was the very last one in the row which was so nice! Instead of having guests on either side of us, we had 3 walls of windows and views. All of the overnighters were spaced out amongst the bungalows too so we had space between us to enjoy the quiet.

Our accommodation consisted of two sheeted mattresses, a chair, and a fan with large windows on every wall except the the back wall. Out back there was a toilet, sink, and a shower (each had a door for privacy). Although it was very “basic” accommodation, the views took it to a whole other level.

Amazingly, there were NO MOSQUITOS, a major plus for Sam who is always the one bitten up.

A Full First Day in Khao Sok

At lunch, we were served two vegetable curry/dishes, a huge bowl of white rice, papaya salad, fruit, and deep-fried veggies. Everything was so tasty and they offered to bring more if needed. We always had PLENTY of food during our stay, all included in the total of our booking.

After stuffing our faces, we had the rest of the afternoon free. During our free time, we could swim or take a kayak out and explore. We did both, cooling off in the lake before taking a kayak out for a little bit and exploring a small area of the lake.

Swimming in Khao Sok National Park

Our next activity on the itinerary was at 5 pm. We went for a longboat ride to watch the sunset and look for animals on the shores. We saw some monkeys jumping from tree to tree, hornbills fluttering near the top of the canopy, and some wild cattle poop…but sadly no wild cattle. 

After a delicious dinner of more delicious curries, we decided to make some friends and joined another tour group’s table. We met some people from different countries in Europe and the UK. We chatted with them until everyone was ready to pass out for bed!

Our Grumpy Neighbors

We mentioned before that there were no tourists staying in the bungalow next to us but we still had some neighbors that weren’t too happy to have us there. There was a swallow nest outside our bungalow and the adults (at least 3 of them) were not a fan of our stay. Before we saw the nest we were confused why this bird kept flying at us and acting like it was going to get us before swooping away. 

Every time we were in the back by the shower or too close to the left edge of our front dock, the birds would dive at us in warning. We tried to stay away from their side but they made it obvious we were not welcome there.

Another Day of Adventure in Khao Sok National Park

In the morning we had an early start. We got in the boat and took another hour’s drive around the lake for sunrise. We saw some more monkeys and an eagle!

After the ride, we ate breakfast and got ready for our next excursion. A cave trek! At 9 am we left on the boat to head to the trailhead. To reach the trailhead, we had to climb out of the boat and into the water and make our way to the shore. We trekked about 2.5 km through the jungle on our way to the cave.

We listened to the cicadas ring, birds chirp, and the sound of the leaves crunching beneath our feet. Our guide told us about some of the plants and animals in the park, before preparing us for the cave. Throughout the hike we crossed a creek several times, walking ankle-deep through the water, but that was nothing compared to what came next. 

Cave Entrance at Khao Sok National Park
At the mouth of the cave

Trekking through the Cave

At the mouth of the cave, our guide handed us headlamps and told us about what we would experience. He said the cave would be about 800 meters long and had deep water in some parts. We definitely thought he was exaggerating when he said the water could be up to our necks or higher (BUT HE WAS NOT).

Bats in cave

He told us that if when we see the bats we say “WOWWW” the bats might give us cookies…. We weren’t interested in the “cookies” so we made sure to keep our mouths shut when looking up at the bats. (In case you missed it, he meant bat poop)

Throughout the first part of the cave, we were rarely in the water and when we were it was just our feet. We saw hundreds of bats (including babies) crickets, fish, frogs, and some of the SCARIEST SPIDERS! Seeing their eyes reflect the light of the headlamps was very spooky.

The cave was dark and the only light we had was from our headlamps. Luckily, as a group of 9 people, there was enough light to feel comfortable for the most part. 

Wading through Water

About 2/3 of the way through, the cave got narrower and the water got deeper. There were multiple times we were hanging on to the wall or swimming through the water because neither of us could touch. We waded through the deep water and made our way through the narrow cave. In some parts, the cave was only a little over 3 feet wide.

It was honestly such a crazy and thrilling experience. One of the coolest things we’ve ever done! 

Back at Smiley’s

We got back from the cave trek, had lunch, and then after a restful nap. The people from our tour group were taken back to the pier after lunch, but since we extended our stay another night we got to enjoy the peace of this place a little longer (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED).

We had a relaxing afternoon, spent a few hours in the water, and watched the sunset over the lake before dinner. That night we sat outside and watched the sky grow darker and the stars come out. Truly breathtaking.

Last Day in Paradise:

In the morning, we got up to watch the sunrise and sipped our coffee on the dock. We had breakfast and relaxed since we didn’t need to check out for a while. We took one of the kayaks out and tried to reach some of the cool rock formations, but even though we were moving forward, it never seemed like they were getting closer. The sun was HOT so we eventually gave up and headed back to the bungalows.

We made our way back, packed up, and said farewell to our bird neighbors. After lunch, we headed back to the pier, taking the longboat back through the stunning limestone rock formations.

Honestly, we both could have stayed here for longer if we didn’t have other plans made for the following days. Staying on the lake was such a magical experience. We will definitely be back one day!

Final Thoughts: Khao Sok National Park

Honestly, we both could have stayed here for longer if we didn’t have other plans made for the following days. Staying on the lake was such a magical experience. We will definitely be back one day!

If you are heading to Thailand and Khao Sok isn’t on your list yet, we hope it is now! Our overnight trip on Cheow Larn Lake was one of the highlights of all of our travels so far.

The overnight lake trip to Khao Sok National Park has a little bit of everything for everyone. You can relax on the water, watch the wildlife, kayak around the lake, and trek through a cave. Khao Sok is a nature lover’s dream.

Rock Formations in Khao Sok National Park

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