In our family, we have a special love for Khao Lak. We have been enjoying the long walkable beaches with all those incredible sunsets since the pre – tsunami times. It did take some time from the tsunami 2004 until we came back again though. Not so much out of fear of a new tsunami, more of a coincidence. But once we were back we just kept coming just like in the old days. From Chiang Mai it is very convenient to fly to Phuket. Less than two hours and then it is just 1.30 to 2 hours drive to Phang Nga province and the paradise of Khao Lak. We just prefer the more quiet laid back atmosphere compare to the more intense Phuket. (Well, talking pre-Covid Phuket).
But when you have passed over the 660 meters long Sarasin bridge that separates Phuket from Phang Ngha is feels like you are entering a slower and more relaxed world. Up to what you like of course, but for us the winner is the more tranquil and classy Khao Lak area. Khao Laks name comes from the top of a mountain, basically the Lak mountain. Basically, it was just a small village and a rubber farming community when some Thai people started up some bungalow business in 1986.
I personally always loved the lush and the green and the fact that Khao Laks resorts are embedded in this environment and the don’t kind of interfere with each other. The owners of the hotels in Khao Lak almost seem to have some kind of consensus (again pre – pandemic) as to not allowing big, low cost group tour agencies to push them around regarding the prices. Even though you see groups in hotels in Khao Lak, no company or nationality has ever been too dominant on a particular resort we have stayed in. Sun chairs are rarely directly on the open beach, you will find them in the shade in direct connection to the beach. They can be quite close to one another but you still don’t get that feeling while walking the long beaches
Khao Lak is also perfect if you don’t fancy boat transfers. The transfer from Phuket Airport is a scenic transfer apart from the first part that you might spend in heavy traffic on Phuket island. There is also a possibility to reach Khao Lak from Krabi. So you don’t have to feel restricted to Phuket Airport. Krabi airport is expanding at the moment. The transfer from Krabi will take you 2,5 to 3 hours counting in the traffic.
I will not claim that these are the best resorts in Khao Lak. But we have great experience in the family from the four resorts listed below.
Very new hotel. Bali meets Santorini kind of style. Stylish with Feng Suei installations, bamboo and straw roofs. Very good pool and an enjoyable stretch of beach. Just outside the hotel, there are a few restaurants and shops. A short car ride ride from the hotel you find the “Loud Burp” restaurant offering some of the best seafood in the area. The restaurant has seatings for dinner. Popular among the local crowd. The a bit strangely named Isarn Seafood restaurant is very close to Eden as well.
The food in Eden is decent, and the breakfast ok. Maybe it is richer during non pandemic times. However the breakfast room is quite small. What is impressive is the bakery at Eden, both the cakes and the presentation is something to write home about. One of the owners bakes herself, so it is a great homemade touch. Loved their Macadamia cake. Just 1h 15 minutes to Phuket Airport.
Another impressive and modern Khao Lak resort. Very close to Eden. Kalima has more than one pool area and lots of different activity areas, you can borrow a kayak and paddle into the mangroves and close to the elephant nature park. Actually, you can see the majestic animals coming down for their morning baths. Very kid friendly resort, almost an all inclusive touch. The beach is ok, but a little less impressive than the other hotels mentioned here. We enjoyed the restaurants very much, but the breakfast had a feel of quantity before quality. The hotel is also close to Phuket Airport.
Mega sized and classic installation in Phuket and Khao Lak, this hotel is very close to Khao Lak downtown. Easy just to walk there. The hotel has a lot of sunbeams, a nice pool. Great Thai decorations and some birdlife in the area. If there is anything to complain about it will be the size of it all. But again a luxury problem, older people can find the walk to and from the lobby quite tough. Some heavy stairs on the way. The hotel has a fantastic breakfast, in a fanciful breakfast room.
We have been to Manathai three times. When the kids were younger Manathai had many great offers for kids. We could sleep in one room all four of us. No need to book two rooms. They also had free ice cream for kids everyday in those days, and if adults ate in the hotel restaurants the kids could get free meals. They also have a very nice club for children. Manathai is 4 star hotel but with a 5 star hotel service. Great pool, great beach, and many choices for breakfast. The hotel is a bit far from downtown Khao Lak and a longer drive from Phuket Airport. We honestly didn’t leave the hotel much. There were two restaurants very close to the hotel on the beach. Hope they will reopen after Covid.
Haven’t stayed at JW Marriott but it is apparently top class according to friends that are regulars there. Many families choose Sands hotel because they have built a kind of waterpark within their hotel area. It is nowadays a play-land for kids. Personally, I have never been disappointed anywhere in Khao Lak. But that is maybe just because I love the area so much. But on the whole, hotels here are top – notch.
Excursions you can make from Khao Lak, Ko Khao Kao, Surin, Similan and Tachai islands. In April 2021 the charge to go to Similan Islands was about 1800 baht per person. Or why not go over to Takua Pa for a great food experience. Famous for Dim Sum and authentic Chinese food. This is a very friendly old mining town and once a harbor. Read more here about a wonderful Dim Sum brunch at Takua Pa.
Don’t miss the chance to visit the wonderful Khao Sok nationalpark with its stunning scenery at the Chaew Lan lake. Read more here: Khao Sok and Chaew Lan lake.
There are also excursions to learn Thai cooking and visiting Elephant Conservation camps. Again a bit unclear what the situation will look like post – covid.
Hotels in Khao Lak have been offering amazing promotions during the pandemic. Eden Hotel as low as 1200 baht per night for a standard room. Eden hotel have been selling vouchers on their website during the pandemic.
A friend of mine stayed at Marriot for 3500 baht per night, inclusive of breakfast. So as long as the pandemic is here, there are definitely discounts.
Sunsets are exceptional in Khao Lak. To quote Angela Abraham, “The sunset comes as a settled heart to the horizon, as if the sky itself could speak of love”. Angela Abraham@descriptionari
The loud, noisy, big Burp restaurant. Excellent local seafood place In Khao Lak that often fills up with the local crowd. See the link here.
For fair European, or rather more Scandinavian food Viking was always the place we would go. The restaurant always included Swedish style pizza salad to all main dishes. Last time we were in Khao Lak, the restaurant seemed to be closed though.(Will advise you to do a you an update via Google Maps).
E-Sarn Seafood next to Eden Resort was surprisingly good.
Be Friend restaurant just outside Manathai used to be the local favourite. Tables and chairs in the sand. Great sunsets. Hard to say if they are still there due to the pandemic. But just a 5-10 minutes walk to the right from Manathai.
Most of the time we have ended up eating in the hotels, or just a short walk on the beach you might find a great local restaurant.