enough PROS in Khao Lak to keep most visitors happy

The best possible beach hotel deals in Khao Lak come when you make a Private Deal and Book Direct:
We display hotels that GUARANTEE, in writing, to discount the lowest rates found on-line for guests who book direct. This cuts out middlemen, saves money for the hotel – and we take no commission. See our GUARANTEE list on this page, then contact hotels via the e-mail box on each hotel page.
We also sell DISCOUNT HOTEL VOUCHERS for some hotels – the very cheapest rooms available – but they are limited. See Top Deals above.

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More POSITIVES than NEGATIVES in this 25-kilometre string of beaches

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Khao Lak is a relatively new beach destination, in an area that previously had virtually no local population or nearby villages and towns. So many of the positive and negative points herein are tied to the local environment rather than urban development or surrounding local communities. It's a relatively quiet beach resort area for Thailand, ideal for those who want a reasonable level of peace and quiet, but not suitable for those who need entertainment and activity by night.
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The growth of two tourism villages however, has seen the arrival of restaurants, bars, convenience stores, local markets, shops, street food and sometimes a little entertainment in the peak seasons. So visitors can now make a choice between absolute isolation in the northern beaches, or choose a beach within walking distance of these commercial centres.
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Here is my take on the positive and negative points of Khao Lak. Depending on personal perspective, some people might decide that things I call a negative are, for them, a real positive. So it’s indeed subjective.
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less crowded beaches; visitors can choose their level of development

Before the arrival of the first tourist hotels in the 1990s Khao Lak had zero tourism development and very little local community. Today it has strings of resorts along a number of beaches, two strips of urban development along the highway and 20 kilometres of beach that have only scattered resorts and are still largely deserted. Visitors can thus choose their own level of density on the beach.
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The two small tourist villages are strung out along the highway that follows the coast – just small shops and strips of low-level, commercial 'shop-houses'. The highway is generally set a far back from the Khao Lak's beaches, putting traffic noise well out of hearing range, leaving the resorts and their guests in complete peace and quiet.
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Commercial development is densest at Bang Niang and Nang Thong, where urban sprawl has begun to fill the 600 metres separating beach and road.
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many beaches with few resorts offer near complete tranquillity

Khao Lak is a 'peace and tranquillity' beachfront destination, and in this it succeeds admirably with a range of beaches ranging from quiet to entirely lonesome. Some of the northern beaches like Keuk Khak are so peaceful that potential guests should consider carefully – do you really want that much tranquillity? While the idea of an empty tropical beach might sound great from an icy land, many days of nothing save sunbathing and relaxing by the beach can turn out to be too much of too little for some people.
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But for those who really do appreciate a lonesome and natural beach environment, Khao Lak could be ideal. The beach 'lonesome scale' – a range of beaches from quiet to absolutely lonesome, is excellent in Khao Lak. Beaches at the south end have a little development, some restaurants and beach bars that provide low-key entertainment. Move north however, and the scale slides to the ever-more-tranquil. Beaches in the mid section – Keuk Khak area – have a little access to local restaurants and beach bars, while the northern ones – Bang Sak and Koh Kho Khao – offer complete isolation.
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good variety of resorts. budget to 5-star

Good quality hotels and resorts is one of Thailand's major advantages in the tough competitive arena of global tourism. The country has 30 years of competitive experience building and managing good beachfront resorts since international tourism discovered Thailand's world-winning beaches in the early 1980s. The ugly box hotels that Thai entrepreneurs once built have long since been replaced by well-designed, tropical-style resorts with space, gardens and world-class luxuries.
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Khao Lak also has its share of these, plus a good supply of smaller, family-style bungalow resorts. There smaller bungalows built to satisfy the tastes of budget world travellers at the south end. The special ingredient in Thailand's world-winning formulae, however, is one that few other countries of the world can match or muster – exceptionally warm, friendly service.
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wide variety of different beaches to choose from

Khao Lak is not just a beach, but a 25-kilometre stretch of coast encompassing many linked stretches of sand. They are divided by one headland, several rocky breaks and one sandy cape. But separate they are, even though the distinctions are often not great. The density of beachfront resorts is thus the major difference. The beaches start with side-by-side hotels in the south, scaling down to one for kilometres of sand in the north, and low density in the central area.
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True Beachfront identifies and maps seven distinct beaches on the main coast of Khao Lak, with an eighth being that on the island of Kho Khao. The major differential that should influence a new visitor's choice is density of hotels on the beach, and the availability of nearby places to visit for food, entertainment and shopping. Do some research before choosing your beach.
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Thailand's biggest and best-preserved forest is right behind

No matter where you are in Khao Lak, there is always a backdrop of mountains clothed in thick, primary rainforest (except on Koh Kho Khao). This beautiful range and forest run the full 200 plus kilometres from near Phuket to the Burmese border at Ranong. It might bring one to conclude that Thailand has plenty of natural forest. It doesn't, unfortunately, and this long strip of lush rainforest is a unique sight in Thailand. This is part of the country's largest natural forest.
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There are very few entries into this forest. Despite a number of national parks and forest reserves, few walking tracks have been created. Walking in the forest does not fit Thailand's cultural ideals. The one exception where forest walking is encouraged is at Khao Sok National Park, and hour's drive east of Khao Lak. Despite the large size of this forest, and the supposed protection of national park status, most of the large wildlife has been shot and eaten. It is believed that a few remnant tigers have avoided the bullets, and cling to survival here.
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good options for road tours and day trips nearby

The province of Phang Nga, of which Khao Lak is a part, is exceptionally scenic, and surely one of the most beautiful areas of Thailand. Phang Nga's bay of towering rocky mountains is most famous, however there are many other places to tour in this area. But of course you need to rent a car or motorcycle – quite easy in Khao Lak. The road network is good, and there are several loops that one can make from Khao Lak, passing either Khao Sok National Park or the provincial capital, or both, if you have time. The countryside is attractive and the local people exceptionally hospitable, and helpful if a foreigner gets lost or into trouble.
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Khao Sok National Park and the big dam that runs right through the middle of it make one of the best trips from Khao Lak, and ideally an overnight stop. The lake gives a unique opportunity to get right into the middle of the rainforest, something that the walking tracks by the park headquarters – where most people go – do not. But getting out on the lake takes time. The best way, by far, is to sleep overnight in one of the floating raft hotels run by the National Parks Department. That’s a real experience.
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now the Cons .... what NEGATIVES in peaceful Khao Lak?

Even in a remote and rather undeveloped beach resort like Khao Lak we can find negative points. This was not one of the early places chosen as a beach destination, for it's not among Thailand's more spectacular places.
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Some visitors would consider the very lack of things to do here a Con. However, we try to explore the full range of things that might disappoint or upset visitors here – and perhaps help them make a better decision on the Thai beach resort that really suits their tastes.
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not many attractions other than beaches

In so many ways Khao Lak is quite the opposite of its near-neighbour Phuket. The most obvious difference is the high level of development in Phuket, and almost complete lack of it here in Khao Lak.
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In Phuket one can a select from a myriad attractions and things to do, plus a huge range of dining and nightlife options. In Khao Lak there the options for entertainment and things to do can be counted on one hand. This 25-kilometre long beach resort is not for those seeking fun and exciting things to do. You might see advertisements for exciting white water rafting, but even that is only available after the right amount of rain. Khao Lak is really a relax and chill-out destination, and on those merits it keeps thousands of visitors very happy each year.
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few islands, bays, headlands or other oceanic features

Unlike nearby beach destinations Phuket, Phang Nga and Krabi, Khao Lak is geographically poor, even boring. There are none of the beautiful bays that Phuket enjoys, no dramatic karst formations of the kind found in Phang Nga Bay and none of the islands and stunning beaches that make Krabi so fascinating.
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The coast of Khao Lak is almost completely straight, with only low rocky patches, not headlands, breaking it into sections. Despite that there are big mountains to the back, these fall completely flat along the coast, adding no geographic wonder to the beaches. But Khao Lak wins when it comes to finding tranquil, unspoiled beaches – even if they are not spectacular.
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poor snorkelling & diving options; swimming just OK

The 25 kilometres of the Khao Lak coast is rather flat and straight, with no major geographic features like headlands, bays and islands. The beaches also slope into relatively shallow water that does not flush completely with the ebb and flow of the tides, leaving the water clarity mediocre only. Swimming conditions are just OK on most beaches, good on a couple and poor on others. The underwater topography is flat and boring, with few refuges for marine life, and cloudy water often gives poor underwater visibility. And with no offshore islands nearby, there are few chances to find deep, clear water with interesting rock formations, so the snorkelling and diving on the Khao Lak coast is poor. And finally, there are few coral reefs in the area, unless you make the long, and sometime rough trip out to the Similan Islands.
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Khao Lak restaurants; Thai cuisine is 'tourist', to low

Little local community results in 'tourist' quality food. Why? Before tourism arrived Khao Lak was an empty coast with virtually no habitation. Everything we now see along both beaches and highway has come to service the tourism business – and that includes the restaurants, set up to cater to foreign tourists, not locals. That alone changes the food significantly, from 'Thai' to 'tourist'.
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There are three basic reasons. First, most foreigners can't eat the chilli-spiced dishes that dominate Thais' daily cuisine. Second, tourist restaurants can catch customers with attractive ambiance, even when serving second rate food. Third, many Thai cooks are completely convinced that they must change Thai spicing significantly when serving foreigners. The Thai food served in Khao Lak thus satisfies most foreign visitors, but not those who want the 'real thing'.
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Khao Lak’s new urban development following the old, ugly model

It’s easy to imagine what the built-up commercial and urban parts of Khao Lak – Bang Niang and Nang Thong – will look like in twenty years. Just look at Pattaya or Phuket. Or a poor suburb of Bangkok.
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There’s hope that the beaches will remain reasonably natural, or the way they now are, with quite attractive resorts lining the beach. But the urban areas now filling in between the beach and the two commercial villages are following Thailand’s standard, poorly-planned development model; narrow streets, few footpaths, cheap concrete buildings right up to the road, no trees and lots of ugly wiring hanging in tangles masses from the electric poles. It’s already a work in progress, and it’s sad that still no Thai beach destination has been built to the theme of ‘tropical paradise’. It’s all just concrete jungle.
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by John Everingham
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need advice about Thai beaches, beachfront hotels etc? try this for free.
Ask John E, the author here. He has photographed 1,100+ hotels on virtually every beach in Thailand with beachfront accommodation (and more in regional countries) over the past 30 years. “I try to answer all queries, and help as best I can.” E-mail: john@beachf.com