Khao Lak, just under two hours’ drive from Phuket is like a quiet oasis compared to the bustle of Phuket. This strip of the coastline was devastated by the tsunami, but Khao Lak has re-emerged as a charming string of stylish resorts scattered fairly spaciously along that seemingly endless stretch of golden sand.
While it has no particularly impressive sights or activities, we thought it was a lovely family holiday destination. But as most parents know, there is always somebody in the family that needs a bit more than swimming and naps for an ace holiday. We did a bit of digging before our trip, and this is a list of activities in Khao Lak that may help you make the most of your Khao Lak holiday.
Kid-friendly activities in Khao Lak
Island tours – Similan and Surin
Similan and Surin islands are famous for their sea life, and snorkeling and diving trips can be booked practically everywhere in Khao Lak. These are all-day trips though with an early start and involve a speedboat journey of roughly 1,5 hours and up each way, so may not be suitable for the youngest of fish fanatics.
Surfing and bodyboarding on Pakarang beach
The majority of Khao Lak’s beaches have just enough waves to make your inflatable donut rock gently, but especially between March and November good waves can be caught on Pakarang Beach. We went at Christmas time and had enough waves for the kids to have fun on their bodyboards.
Memories Beach Bar has sun loungers on the beach. It gets extremely hot during the day, but at sunset it’s a perfect spot to enjoy a cold drink. We were not overly impressed with the food but they have an extensive menu. There is another, similar place next door. Apsara Beachfront Villas & Resort is located on this beach, if you are looking for accommodation nearby.
The Royal Marine Turtle Sanctuary at the navy base at Tab Lamu is about 20 minutes from Khao Lak, and the larger Marine Conservation Unit at Thai Mueang about 45 minutes away. More info here.
The tsunami memorial at Baan Nam Khem, just north of Khao Lak is simple, beautiful and heartbreaking all at the same time. There is also the Tsunami Police Boat Memorial
Khao Sok National Park
Khao Sok is perhaps the most famous national park in Thailand, and can be visited on a day trip from Khao Lak – or you can book an adventurous tree house accommodation in the park. Kayaking, river trips, hiking and limestone caves sound all fantastic – we hope to do this trip next time.
There are a few lovely waterfalls in the area, all within easy access by car and a short walk – more info here.
Klong Koo Restaurant – Dine in the river
This is something our kids thought was pretty cool. This small restaurant is something of a tourist attraction in Khao Lak and all they’ve done is put plastic tables and chairs in the river. But it works! The food is the usual Thai fare, but the kids had a good time paddling in the river and it definitely was an experience to have little fish nibble at your toes while you’re having your lunch.
The hotels arrange the usual range of tours and activities such as cooking and Thai boxing. Given the rampant mistreatment of animals, we would stay clear of stopping on a random elephant camp in Thailand. If you want to experience a family day out with elephants without riding them, consider the Phang Nga Elephant Park about an hour’s drive away. When we visited some time ago we were told they are working hard to make their operations responsible and are moving away from rides – you can read more about our trip in this post about a family trip to Krabi. For tours and rental of baby equipment check out Raya Divers in Khao Lak and Phuket.
Best hotels for families in Khao Lak
Manathai Khao Lak
We stayed at the Manathai and cannot fault it with anything, if not a slightly remote location. You can read our review of the Manathai here, but in a nutshell we would recommend it to families who are looking for a nice, modern hotel with a beautiful pool and a great beach.
Based on our research, these would be also great family hotels in Khao Lak:
JW Marriott Khao Lak Resort & Spa
JW Marriott seems to set the bar for family resorts in these parts, and the facilities do look amazing.
The Sands in Khao Lak
This newish hotel with a more minimalist look offers family rooms with a kids’ area, a slide and bubbles in the pool.
Mai Khaolak Beach Resort & Spa
A family friendly with new section with water slides and a fab looking pirate ship playground. It even has an internet room for teenagers! Many reviewers note that it is a used by large European package tours, though.
Pullman Khao Lak Katiliya Resort
A true 5 star option has all the bells and whistles!
Centara Seaview Resort Khao Lak
An older, large hotel near restaurants and shops. A pool with a slide and lots of action for kids.
X10 Khaolak Resort
A brand new resort with slides and a splash play park, family rooms and a kids’ club.
That beach looks so peaceful.
Hi how do you travel from to Khao Lak, was it to fly in to Phuket then hire a car?
Hi! We flew to Phuket and arranged a transport from the hotel. If I remember correctly it was about 90 minutes to get to our resort. On the way back we booked a local taxi, it was a bit cheaper. You could also hire a car, it is practically a straight road =) but especially if you land at night beware that the local drivers on the road can be fast and furious!