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Here is a link to a map of the wider Phang Nga Province showing the main roads used in these trips.
For a nice short trip to familiarise yourself with one of Khao Lak’s most scenic areas, drive north along Highway 4 in the direction of Takua Pa until you reach the sign for a left turn to the Toklaburi and other resorts. There is a 711 store on the corner where you make the left turn. Continue down this road passing the turn off to your right for the Sarojin and Kantary Bay Resorts, Aow Thong/White Sand Beach and the Boatyard Restaurant, until you come to the T-junction at the end passing the Palm Galleria on the left. A left turn at this junction will take you past the Toklaburi Resort, the former South Sea Grand Resort and the Apsara Beach Resort. Park here and go onto the beach where you will find Memories, a local beach club with a restaurant and bars. Surf boards can be hired here too. Turn right at the junction and it will take you along Cape Pakarang itself. Park at the far end where, in season, you may find a small restaurant/bar. If the tide is out you can walk a good distance along the exposed rocks bleached white by the hot sun, admiring the views along the southern Khao Lak coastline to the south and the more impressive ones to the north with their mountain backdrop.
Return in the reverse direction, turning left at the T-junction and continuing to the highway or turn left at the junction signposted The Sarojin etc. and then take the next left turn, going straight on past the Kantary to Coconut Beach (you’ll find out why when you get there) and park near the Boatyard Restaurant at arguably the best part of the best beach in Khao Lak – Pak Weeb Beach .
Return back and turn left past the Kantary, following this winding road to first the famous and very popular White Sand Beach , then the Sarojin and then before following the road back to Highway 4 further north, there is a track to the left to the also popular Rim Lay Restaurant. Park here, have a drink or a meal or both and take the opportunity to stroll this stretch of beautiful beach which fronts the adjacent Le Meridien Resort.
This short trip can be enjoyed in its own right or combined with any trip going towards or returning from Takua Pa. Continue along Highway 4 north past Le Meridien and the Royal Bang Sak Beach Resort on the left, then shortly after the highway widens with the King’s School on the right, turn left signposted Haadson Resort. Proceed down this road bearing right near the beach and you will reach the first stretch of the Bang Sak Promenade which has restaurants on the right with small cabanas and dining areas set on the grass verge looking down on the beach and ocean. There are some free loungers on the beach if you want an after lunch snooze or just a drink. Continue along the road following the beach until you reach the next stretch of the promenade, which has the Haadson Resort on the right then another few restaurants with dining areas opposite. This is a favourite place with locals, especially at weekends and holidays but visitors are more than welcome at all times. It is a wonderful spot for a sunset dinner. Continue along the promenade to the end, leaving it to the right, proceeding past the new Gracelands Resort (where there are a couple of beach restaurants just past it and some near its main entrance) to a T-junction. Turning left will take you to a desolate point just past the huge shrimp factory but with great views back to Khao Lak to the south and to Koh Kho Khao to the north. Turn right to bring you back to Highway 4, then left to Takua Pa or right back to Khao Lak.
Go north on Highway 4 until you reach the entrance to the Le Meridien resort on your left. Take the next right onto the made up road not the track just before it. Follow that road and turn right signposted Sairung (or Pakwib or Rainbow) Waterfall and park at the bottom of the waterfall. There is a small restaurant here. Return to the main road and turn right and follow this road following signs for Takuapa and Kapong. You pass another waterfall on your right which involves quite a walk to the falls after parking your car. Continue along this road and either take the left branch to Takuapa or continue towards Kapong and when you reach the main T-junction turn left to Takua Pa . Proceed through the Old Town then following signs for Phuket to the main junction that is controlled by traffic lights showing time remaining to change and turn left back onto Highway 4 all the way back to Khao Lak.
Kho Khao Island (or just KKK as it is commonly known) is a beautiful small island often overlooked by visitors to Khao Lak, although currently the addition of new resorts, several restaurants and bars has increased both its visibility and its popularity. It is equally appealing to day trippers as well as overnight and longer staying visitors. Combine KKK with a visit to the Tsunami Memorial which is located on the mainland near the village of Baan Nam Khem and is a poignant reminder of that fateful day on 26 th December 2004 when so many lives were lost as the Tsunami wreaked its terrible havoc across the Indian Ocean. This makes for a leisurely day trip, one that can be made even more enjoyable by dining at sunset at one of the beach restaurants near the Memorial or calling at Bang Sak Promenade which is the subject of a separate trip. To reach the ferry drive north along Highway 4 in the direction of Takua Pa for about 20 kilometres until you reach a major left turn signposted to KKK resorts and the Memorial. Take this turn, following signs to the Memorial if you want to go there first, otherwise, follow the road to the end where you will find the pier and ferry which runs every hour from 7am to 6pm. Ensure you catch the last ferry back or you will have to stay on the island. Visitors on motor bikes can take them across more frequently on longtail boats that run all day and later into the evening. After leaving the ferry there is a long, very well made and quiet road that takes you right to the tip of the island. You can make left turns along the way visiting the resorts and beaches at the ferry end. Turning right takes you into largely uninhabited and undeveloped territory with roads often petering out into tracks and dead-ends. Right at the very tip is a lovely restaurant with loungers and magnificent views, aptly named the Sunset . However just before you reach this on the right if you have a 4WD vehicle or truck with high ground clearance or a motorbike, there is a deeply rutted track to the very aptly named Virgin Beach with white sand and beautiful clear water. There was a very good local restaurant here, now sadly closed, but the setting here is stunning, especially with views to the mountains to the north. Don’t attempt to go down the track in a normal car or you are likely to damage its underside. Return the same way to the ferry, where you can enjoy a drink on the terrace of the restaurant overlooking the harbour while waiting for the ferry to load. If you haven't visited the Memorial on your outward trip, look for signs to the right as you return back towards the highway. See article with pics via this link.
There are several attractions described here that can be combined in one or more self-drive tours. Drive north from Khao Lak until you reach the left turn that you would take to Koh Kho Khao. This is situated in the small town of Bang Muang . Turn right just past this turning where there is a signpost for the Tsunami Cemetery . Take this road which goes past the cemetery where the remains of the unidentified victims of the 2004 Tsunami are buried. Continue past here, through a rubber plantation and the school on your left and take the next left turn. This takes you through more rubber plantations with latex drying in the sun outside some places and beautiful countryside with opportunities to stop and take refreshments at a couple of places en route. When you reach the T-Junction at the end, turn left then right to enter Takua Pa Old Town . Go on a Sunday afternoon and there is a very lively local market in the main street. Once the centre of the Tin Industry there are signs in the old buildings of various types of architecture. At the bottom of the main street, which is closed off for traffic when the market is on, is a newly built temple. Leave the old town on the main road signposted Phuket and follow this for about 3 km looking for a sign on your right just past an ornate bus stop for the Pata Restaurant . Follow the track until you reach the restaurant and park up at it on your left. It is wooden construction and you dine on the platform with fabulous panoramic views of the fields with buffalo grazing, marshes with wading birds and the awesome backdrop of the mountains in the background. This is a very local restaurant, so be prepared to experiment a bit with what you get. The Tom Yum Goong is superb as is the chicken satay. Big portions and cheap! Return back to the main highway and turn right and it will bring you to the main intersection just before you turn left back onto Highway 4 to Khao Lak. You will reach this intersection coming north from Khao Lak if you don’t want to follow the loop. Go straight through the intersection and follow the highway through the New Town until you reach the bridge over the river. Turn left and park near the Bus Station and have a walk around the indoor market, taking in the sights and smells of the produce on offer, and the local shops which surround it on both sides. At the far end of the market there are two restaurants, one overlooking the river and a smaller one next door. Returning back towards Khao Lak, just before the bend in the highway, turn right past the Takua Pa Police Station and follow the road into the countryside bordering the river. After a few kilometres you will reach signs for Little Amazon . This is the departure point for the motorized version of a newly emerging tour. You negotiate the tour with one of the locals here and leave on a small two person longtail boat, one driver + one passenger per boat. These nippy little craft take you on an exciting trip down the river, taking in the surrounding sights and being shown the native wildlife. Take a picnic with you if you want to stop off at a secluded spot for a very private lunch. Local tour operators in Khao Lak offer Little Amazon by canoe if you want a more sedate trip. If you continue up this road deeper into the countryside where the road crosses the river you will find a floating restaurant on your left. Go back to the highway; turn right to the main intersection where you turn right to return to Khao Lak.
A day trip to these destinations makes for a long but very rewarding day, especially to do justice to both, but here are the very straightforward directions on how to get there then visitors can decide, having researched elsewhere what is on offer, just how long they want to stay. Go north from Khao Lak keeping to Highway 4 all the way through Takua Pa New Town (left at the intersection in the centre). Once out of Takua Pa, Highway 4 goes to the left through to Ranong (and eventually Bangkok) so take the right fork on to Highway 401 which will take you straight to the entrance to the Khao Sok National Park on the left at the KM109 marker. This road is bordered by most of the accommodation, local restaurants, bars, shops and tour shops. You enter the National Park right at the end where at the gate house you will have to pay the National Park Entrance Fee. Park just inside, have a look around the Visitor Centre and get copies of maps for the treks from that point. You can book tours here or engage a guide although booking in advance is recommended. There is a restaurant next door. There is also an entrance to the restaurant of an adjacent resort overlooking the river where, as well as dining or just having a drink, you can book tours, typically a canoe trip on the river and/or an elephant trek. Go back up the highway and turn right back onto Highway 401 to return to Khao Lak or for a short detour, turn left and a few hundred metres on your left there is the entrance to an abandoned temple. Go down here and park up to view the remains of the temple and the hoard of wild monkeys of all ages jumping and clambering about and coming upto you to take peanuts that you have thoughtfully brought with you. To this point from Khao Lak is about 75 minutes. Continue another hour along Highway 401 past the junction where Highway 415 joins the 401 on the right and you reach the small town of Ban Takhun with slip roads either side of the highway. Follow the sign for Rachaprapha Dam on the left. Drive down until you reach a gatehouse where you will be asked where you are going. Just tell them the Visitor Centre or the Lake and they will direct you up the road to the right. Follow this and the signs for the Visitor Centre that will take you (Camera at the ready!!!) down and across the Dam itself. On the other side of the Dam drive into the Visitor Centre and park up near the far end. Go through the beautifully maintained garden area and enjoy your first fantastic views of the amazing Cheow Lan Lake . It is only here that you fully appreciate the scale of what was Thailand ’s biggest civil engineering eco project. There are some snack bars, shops and eating areas here. If you want to return back to Khao Lak just turn right back over the Dam and follow reverse route. If you want to go down to the pier for a closer look at the Lake, go left over the Dam and follow the road down. At the pier there are some restaurants and shops and the Booking Centre where you can book a longtail boat trip (or where you will depart from if you come on a tour). These trips range in duration from 1 hour to 5 or more depending on what you want to do and see in the time available. Take the reverse route back to the 401 to return to Khao Lak.
Mix these trips around Tab Lamu which is the first town you reach only about 15 minutes from Khao Lak coming over the mountain on Highway 4 south towards Phuket. As you reach Tab Lamu the highway becomes a dual carriageway with the Post Office and a petrol station on your left. Take the road on the left after the petrol station signposted to a waterfall. A few kilometres down this road heading into the countryside you will reach stalls on the side of the road with their occupants waving you down to offer you raft rides on the river that now borders the road. If you are interested you would park here then you would be transported up the road to a point where you board bamboo rafts and be poled back very lazily through the beautiful countryside, admiring the flora and the fauna on the way to either the car park or to where transport is waiting for you. The road continues to the waterfall but ends some distance before it and you are faced with a trek on foot. Back to Highway 4, turn left and go past the right turn signposted Koh Similans National Park and as you leave the township there is a lovely large temple and grounds for some really nice photo opportunities. Leave the temple grounds and turn left for a short distance on Highway 4 and make a U Turn back in the direction of Khao Lak. Turn left at the signpost for Koh Similans National Park . This road takes you to the pier which is the main starting point for trips to the Similan Islands and worth a short visit in its own right. On your right you will reach the entrance to the Royal Thai Navy Base and Golf Club. You will be stopped at the barrier to confirm where you are going and may be asked to show or leave some ID at the gatehouse (a copy of your passport is a good idea to carry around with you). Your answer should be “to see the turtles” because at the bottom of the road after passing the entrance to the Golf Course, with its cartoon characters on guard rather than Marines, turn left and then take the third turn on the right to take you down to the Thai Royal Marines Turtle Sanctuary. Baby turtles hatched on the Similans are brought here and reared until they are about a year old and then returned to their birth place for release into the ocean, thus improving their chances of survival from less than 10% to over80%. There are some older, large specimens for you to admire too. Donations gratefully accepted. Back to the highway (not forgetting to collect any ID you had left at the gate) turn left back onto Highway 4 and Khao Lak. If you feel like something to eat or just a drink, just before you reach Khao Lak (South) Beach where you climb over the mountain, turn left, signposted Poseidon Bungalow Resort . Follow the road into the resort and park near reception which adjoins the lovely wooden floored restaurant perched overlooking the estuary and back to Tab Lamu. As well as a variety of fish in the water beneath you may be fortunate to see turtles in their natural environment. You can also walk through the resort and its bungalows perched high on the hillside and down to the secluded Poseidon Beach. If you have enough time you can walk along the beach to where it adjoins Khao Lak (South) Beach by the Merlin Resort. Or on another occasion you can park down by Jo Seafood coming down from Highway 4 and stroll along the lovely promenade separating the handful of resorts there from the beach and along to the Poseidon or stop anywhere in between at one of the beach restaurants or massage places. If you continue past the Poseidon resort you will find the Preecha Elephant Trek one of several in and around Khao Lak.
Drive south down Highway 4 for about 30 minutes until you reach the main intersection in Thai Muang where normally you would turn left to continue to Phuket. When you reach the traffic light in the centre of Thai Muang (it may or may not be operating) turn right and continue along the beach road where there are a few local restaurants on your right. After passing them, also on the right, you will find the entrance to the Turtle and Marine Life Conservation Unit . Entrance is free (voluntary donations welcomed) but you need to register and receive a pass at the Visitor Centre directly opposite the entrance. Park up there and the tanks housing the various specimens are to the left. Return to the intersection and turn right (or if you are coming from Khao Lak go straight through the intersection) under an arch with a small temple on your left, continuing towards Bo Dan Beach. Follow that road through lovely countryside, until after about six kilometres you will see a sign for Water Jade on your left. This is a lovely small resort with a handful of bungalows overlooking a lagoon. There is a very nice restaurant where you can dine inside or on decking also overlooking the lagoon on local cuisine you won’t find anywhere in the Khao Lak area. After a further kilometre or so you will come to a T-Junction. Turn right and over a small bridge you will reach the beautiful and totally unspoiled Bo Dan Beach . Most of the time you will have the beach to yourself. Returning from the beach follow the road back out to the main Highway 4 where you turn left to get back to Thai Muang or right to head down to Phuket - and the Hot Springs Drive – see separate instructions below.
Follow Highway 4 south from Khao Lak passing through Thai Muang (turn left at the intersection in the centre) until you reach the town of Khuk Kloy. Turn right at the main intersection in the centre of town signposted the Hot Springs Resort until you reach the turn for the resort. Follow that beachside road for several kilometres to the resort. You are welcome to wander around the resort and view the hot spring pool in the centre and take a stroll along its pier before returning back until a right turn takes you back to Highway 4. There are more beaches all along this road in an area that is seeing the development of luxury resorts and very expensive private properties. There is a very nice established beach restaurant here, the Rubiang Lay, where it is well worth stopping off for a meal or just a drink. This road continues back to Highway 4 where you can turn right to go to Phuket or left to head back north to Khao Lak.
There are a number of waterfalls in and around Khao Lak but perhaps the nicest is Lampi which can be found on the left of Highway 4 about 25 minutes south near the KM32 marker after passing through Thai Muang. Turn off the highway and drive to the waterfall which is within the National Park and is subject to a visitor fee. There is a small gift shop and restaurant here. You can swim in the large pool at the base of the falls. Good shoes are recommended if you want to go up the path to the upper levels and care should be taken if it has been raining as the track is slippery when wet. Continuing south on Highway 4 towards Phuket you will come to Pracha Tikaram Temple on the right and Thai Muang (or Taymueng) Vittaya School on the left. Just before the school is a road that is signposted Sawasdee Lagoon. Take this road and follow the signs for Sawasdee Lagoon , the entrance to which is about 4km on the left after you have passed the Lumpinee Temple and then about ¾ km down that track. There is a beautiful lagoon at the side of which a tented camp site has been built. It is a lovely place to walk around and have a snack or meal or just a drink. Return back the same way or if you are adventurous, turn right after leaving the entrance to the camp site to drive through some beautiful countryside, always keeping to the left at any junctions. This will bring you onto local route 4240 which rejoins Highway 4 north of Thai Muang.
Wherever you are staying in Southern Thailand if you are near enough to Phang Nga Bay you mist visit one of the world’s most wonderful natural destinations. The fact that it is only about 75 minutes from Khao Lak makes it unmissable and very straightforward to drive to. There are two options depending where you are staying. The first parts can also be followed to go to Krabi. This journey takes about 2 ½ hours altogether. If you are staying in Bang La On or on Nang Thong Beach or over the mountain on Khao Lak (South) Beach, take Option 1. North of these areas take Option 2. Option 1: Drive south along Highway 4 until your reach a fork in the highway with the main highway continuing to Phuket. Take the left fork and keep to the left as the road becomes the 4240, signposted Phang Nga National Park. Continue along this very scenic road until a major T-junction with Highway 4175. Turn right until you reach Highway 4 again, just north of Phang Nga City . Option 2 also arrives at this point. Option 2: Drive North past Le Meridien and take the first turn on the right. Continue along this road until the end and turn right onto the 4175, signposted Kapong/Phang Nga National Park. Continue until it reaches Highway 4 north of Phang Nga City . Options 1 & 2: Turn left onto Highway 4 to go to Krabi taking care as the highway becomes steep, narrow and twisty but very scenic as it goes over the mountain. Follow the well marked route to Krabi, whether to Krabi Town or to the beach areas such as Ao Nang. Options 1 & 2: Turn right onto Highway 4 proceeding through the built up area, past the main turning for an alternative route to Krabi to the road on the left signposted Ko Phang Nga National Park. Continue down this road past the entrance to the National Park HQ until you reach the Education Centre on the right. Park here and one of the local longtailboat operators will approach you to offer you a tour. Take care that if you want a sea canoe trip into the Hongs that this included or not in the price quoted so as to avoid confusion when you reach the sea canoe floating platforms. This full tour using James Bond Island as a turning point lasts about 2 ½ hours if you do not get off at the Island (very commercial and usually very full and you have to pay a separate National Park entrance fee) or at Koh Panyi (Muslim Island) for a meal or drink. When you return to the car park you can go further down that road where there are some local restaurants if you want to have lunch there. Go back up to Highway 4 and turn left towards Phuket. Proceed for about 5 kms until you see the sign for Wat Suwannakuha on the right. You will need to do a U Turn then drive back a short distance and turn left down to the temple which is unmissable on the right. Go left inside the entrance and around to park in front of an area full of stalls where it will become immediately apparent why the more familiar name of this temple is Monkey Cave Temple as first the stallholders try to sell you bananas and then monkeys of various ages and sizes come to beg for them from you. Proceed into the cave and the caverns beyond the awesome giant gold reclining Buddha and you will encounter many more. To return to Khao Lak either go back to Highway 4 and turn left and reverse the route through Phang Nga City to Highway 4175 signposted Khao Lak Beaches (among other destinations) and following Options 1 or 2. Alternatively turn left onto Highway 4 until you can make a U Turn onto Highway 4 in the direction of Phuket. Follow Highway 4 to Khuk Kloy, dual carriageway for most of the way, so although longer is more direct and faster, then turn right in Khuk Kloy staying on Highway 4 all the way back to Khao Lak. See pics including route map in this album.
Budget World Class Drives and Khao Lak Lovers Drives Budget Car Hire has some self-drive itineraries for Phuket and other parts of Southern Thailand including maps for downloading here and there are more here under What to see and do.
Cycle and scooter tour maps - here is a link to some suggested cycle and scooter tours together with distances.