8 Fabulous Things to Do in Khao Lak, Thailand

8 Fabulous Things to Do in Khao Lak, Thailand

Thailand’s beach resort of Khao Lak has great opportunities to relax, explore, and learn more about the area’s tragic tales.

Khao Lak is a beach resort in Southern Thailand’s Phang Nga Province. Popular for many years thanks to its 20-kilometre strip of beaches along the dazzling waters of the Andaman Sea, Khao Lak is like a phoenix that has risen from the ashes. It was Thailand’s worst victim during the devastating Boxing Day tsunami in 2004. The area was almost completely destroyed and there were huge losses to life but today, it is thriving once again. There are three main towns, each with an assortment of accommodations and places to eat and drink. Offering a quieter, more family-friendly vibe than many other southern destinations, there are many ways to enjoy a few days (or longer!) in Khao Lak. Here are some recommendations of things to see and do:  

1. Relax on sandy beaches

things to do khao lak thailand

Image credit: Tore Bustad

things to do khao lak thailand

Khao Lak became popular in the past for its lovely sandy beaches, and the fine pale sands and clear waters continue to draw many holidaymakers. The beaches rarely feel packed, though, and it’s easy to enjoy peace and quiet as you bask in the sunshine. Look out for the small and almost translucent ghost crabs skittering across the sands and making small balls and burrows.

The casuarina- and palm-lined beach of Nang Thong is Khao Lak’s busiest beach. There are many facilities and amenities between the sands and slopes of the verdant mountains. Sunset Beach, Bang Niang Beach, Khuk Khak Beach and South Beach are also great options with a good selection of services close to hand. For a more remote feel, head to Pak Weep or Bangsak Beach.

A ten-minute boat ride carries passengers to the island of Koh Kho Khao where you’ll find even more beautiful beaches, and Khao Lak is a major starting point for people wishing to visit the sublime Similan and Surin Islands with their excellent snorkelling and diving opportunities.

2. Pay your respects at the International Tsunami Museum

On 26 Dec 2004, Patrol Boat 813 was working as normal. The day’s duties were to guard Khun Phum Jensen (grandson of the late Thai king) on his vacation. As the holidaymakers jetskied and had fun, two police boats watched over them, everyone unaware of the huge wave that was about to destroy the area and claim many lives. Khun Phum Jensen perished in the tsunami, along with others from his group and the crew of a police boat that sank. Patrol Boat 813 was swept some two kilometres inland on the ferocious wave, and it remains where it settled, an eerie reminder of the area’s past devastation. It is now a memorial to those who died in the Boxing Day Tsunami, and there is a concrete monument and a small museum with shocking images.   

3. Admire the scenic Sai Rung Waterfall

Known in English as Rainbow Falls, Sai Rung Waterfall is within easy reach of Khao Lak. Admission is free and you can swim in the refreshingly clear and cool waters at the base of the tall waterfall. It’s just a short walk from the car park too, making it easy to get to. There are steep and rocky walking trails around the falls and plenty of places to sit and relax. Colourful butterflies flit through the air, the sounds of clacking insects provide a soothing melody, and the atmosphere is tranquil.  

4. Visit Khao Lak’s serene and spiritual churches

Along with temples and mosques, Khao Lak is home to an unusually large number of Christian churches. More than 20 churches opened in the coastal area after the gigantic tsunami, providing faithful locals and visitors with a place to reflect, pray, and seek solace. Interestingly, a substantial number of locals converted to Christianity after the natural disaster. Many of the churches have simple but attractive details, with statues of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ, large crosses and crucifixes, stained glass, bell towers, and more. Some of Khao Lak’s churches include Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church, Phang Nga Victory Church, Phra Khun Baptist Church, and Tambon Khukak Pakping Christian Church.

5. Take a drive through the countryside

Khao Lak’s hinterland is a lush blanket of greenery, with many trees and plants providing the ideal habitat for an array of local wildlife. The scent from frangipani and other trees drifts through the air. Mountains and hills rise from the terrain and there are small traditional villages scattered through the area. It’s easy to glimpse the local way of life just a short way from the popular beaches and resorts.  

6. Honour tsunami victims at Ban Nam Khem Tsunami Memorial Center

Sitting on the coast opposite the island of Koh Kho Khao, Ban Nam Khem Tsunami Memorial Center is an attractive site that remembers all those who died during the tsunami. There’s a large memorial wall in the shape of a gigantic wave. Stroll through the middle and you’ll see memorial plaques to individual victims. A large number of German and other European tourists didn’t survive the tragic events, and there are many simple memorials dedicated to them. Some are complete with photos and flowers. The memorial also features a colourful boat statue. There are several small shrines close to the sands along with a large seated golden Buddha statue. You can also learn more about the heroic efforts and collaborations between local residents, travellers and tourists, expats, monks, medical professionals, and the local authorities in the aftermath of the disaster.

7. Watch fishing vessels and dine on delicious seafood

It’s easy to spot small fishing boats out on the waters and moored along the coast. You may also notice people hauling catches from the boats, ready to take fresh produce to local restaurants and markets. Many Khao Lak eateries offer a wide range of dishes that use seafood and fish, with affordable prices and the freshest tastes.  

8. See the sorrowful Blue Boat and Orange Boat

things to do khao lak thailand

Somewhat like large eerie ghost ship tombstones, two vessels remain where they landed after being swept from the ocean on the back of the huge tsunami. Often referred to locally as the Red Devil and the Blue Angel, it’s quite sobering to see the former fishing boats deserted and decaying far from the sea. They remain in situ to remember the 6,000-plus people who died in Thailand because of the tsunami.

Khao Lak may have a dark history, but it is trying its best to carry on after suffering one of the biggest natural disasters of the 21st century. The scars are still evident and the area tries hard to ensure that people of today do not forget the horrors of the past, but with beautiful beaches, stunning national parks, and an array of bars and restaurants, holidaying in Khao Lak is, today, also very pleasurable.   

About Author

Sarah W
Sarah W

Sarah W is a travelling cat-lover who enjoys exploring places that are a little bit quirky or away from headline attractions. Favourite things include delicious falafel, snuggling under a thick duvet, (badly) belting out karaoke at the top of her lungs, and, of course, her family, friends, and furry pets.


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