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How to Plan the Perfect Trip to Khao Sok National Park with an Overnight on Cheow Lan Lake

Nestled amid limestone cliffs, the stunning green and blue waters of Cheow Lan Lake (also called Cheow Larn Lake) offer an amazing destination and this special place was one of our favorite parts of visiting Thailand.

You can visit Khao Sok National Park on a day trip, or even better plan an overnight on one of Khao Sok’s floating bungalows. Read below for a complete guide on visiting this beautiful part of Thailand with exactly where we went and suggestions on how to plan your own trip. We spent 2 weeks exploring Thailand and will share the details we learned to help you plan your visit.

Looking for more on Thailand? Check out the Thailand page or see our Itinerary for 2 Weeks in Thailand (including visiting Khao Sok).

Overview of Cheow Lan Lake in Khao Sok National Park

Before you start booking places to stay and a tour to the Khao Sok National Park floating bungalows, it’s helpful to understand a bit more about the park including the general overview and how to get to Cheow Lan Lake.

Quick History of Khao Sok National Park

The area that is now part of Khao Sok National Park has a special and varied history. There is history of humans as early as 50,000 years ago, but more recently, there is evidence of human settlement in the 1800s when locals hid in the jungle during the reign of King Rama II. In 1944, an epidemic swept through the area, killing or displacing the locals. This was devastating, and also limited development and kept this area more pristine.

In 1961, route 401 open the area up to logging and other development. Then in 1970 a group of Thai Students as part of a communist insurgency group set up in the hills. This continued to keep out mining, logging, and development.

In 1980 Khao Sok National Park was established and two years later, the Rajjaprabha Dam was built creating Cheow Lan Lake (one of the largest freshwater lakes in Thailand). The dam created the lake, but also caused the loss of many fish species.

Cheow Lan Lake Floating Bungalows
Cheow Lan Lake Floating Bungalows

Overview of the National Park

The National Park covers 739 acres and includes rainforests, plains, limestone karsts, and a deep freshwater lake. The park is home to a rich biodiversity of flora and fauna, including 200 wild Asian elephants and even some endangered tigers. You can find excellent information on the park on the Khao Sok Website.

Where is Khao Sok?

Khao Sok is located in the Southern area of Thailand about 2 hours north of Krabi. If you are coming from Bangkok, you can fly to one of several airports and either rent a car, take a taxi or bus. Here are some common distances from the nearby towns and airports:

  • Phuket to Khao Sok: 2 hours
  • Krabi to Khao Sok: 3-4 hours
  • Suray Thani to Khao Sok: 5 hours (plus a ferry ride)
  • Koh Sumui to Khao Sok: 4.5 hours
Looking for other adventures in the area?  Check out this itinerary to Koh Samui.

How to Get to Khao Sok National Park and Cheow Lan Lake

As mentioned, there are many different ways to travel to the National Park. From the nearby airports, you can get an airport transfer or rent a car. There are also many tours that offer pick-up in nearby locations such as Krabi. If you are looking to spend less money, you can also come by bus but depending on who and where you are traveling from, it’s worth doing your research.

Enjoying the Boat Ride on Cheow Lan Lake in Khao Sok National Park
Enjoying the Boat Ride on Cheow Lan Lake in Khao Sok National Park

Best Time of Year to Visit Cheow Lan Lake

The best time of year to visit Khao Sok is during the dryer months, although you can expect rain throughout the entire year. The area is quite lush. The rainy season is typically April-December (the heaviest rain comes June-Nov). This can also be a great time to visit since you may have torrential rains for an hour or two and clear skies the rest of the day and you will have far fewer people also visiting this time of year.

Our Visit to Khao Sok National Park and Overnight on Cheow Lan Lake

This is an exact description of what we did on our visit to the Khao Sok Lake and National Park. Below you can find specific information about the different places we stayed.

Cheow Lan Lake in Khao Sok National Park
Cheow Lan Lake in Khao Sok National Park
We spent 2 night visiting Khao Sok National Park in February of 2020 as a family of 5.  Freja was 8 when we visited and Hadley and Fin were 11.  After an early morning flight from Bangkok, we rented a car in Krabi and drove 2 hours to Our Jungle House in Khao Sok National Park.  We spent the afternoon relaxing, walking the nature trail and along the river and walked into town for some food in the afternoon.  

We enjoyed a delicious dinner at the restaraunt on site.  Early the next morning we spent the morning watching the monkeys play on the cliff at the rivers edge, ate a quick breakfast and headed off in the van for our overnight on Khao Sok.  Since we booked through Our Jungle House, there were several other guests from here on our bus and we met up with a few more.  Overall there were about 12 people total in our group.

We arrived at the dock at Cheow Lan Lake where we bought entry to the National Park (not included in the tour price) and boarded our longtail boat with the driver and a guide.  We were given a quick history and headed out on the lake.  This ride was stunning as we wound through the limestone cliffs.  After an hour or so we headed to the far side of the lake where there are a number of floating bungalows.  

We were grateful for the chance to cool off for a bit before boarding our boat again for a hike.  The hike took us to an overlook and was a moderate hike that lasted about an hour.  We stopped often so our guide could point things out, but it was new very difficult until the end when there was just a bit of scrambling.

The view from the top was a wonderful overlook of the lake and a good perspective (depending on the weather, this may also be a cave exploration instead of a hike). We enjoyed a family style dinner with the rest of the group before turning in for the night.

The floating bungalows we stayed in were very basic with basic mattresses on the floor.  You get what you pay for in this situation, but we were perfectly happy  and you can step right out the front door and jump in the water. If you want a bit more comfort, you can find other tours similar to this that costs slightly more.

This Overnight Khao Sok Tour from Krabi is almost exactly what we did except it picks you up in Krabi.  We needed two rooms to fit our family of 5.

The next morning we had an early breakfast and took a 'wildlife tour' in the boat.  This was calm and nice, but we didn't see much besides a few birds. It is possible to see wild elephants or other animals.  

We returned to the bungalows for a last swim and to collect our things before taking the boat ride back.  On the way we stopped at a place to swim and made it back to the dock right around lunch time.  

After the tour brought us back to Our Jungle House, we grabbed some lunch and heade back down to Krabi in our car.  For us, this was the perfect amount of time to spend on Cheow Lan Lake.  

Watch a short video of our time in Khao Sok National Park.
The River at Our Jungle House: Khao Sok National Park
The River at Our Jungle House: Khao Sok National Park
Watching the  Sunset from one of the Khao Sok floating bungalows
Watching the Sunset from one of the Khao Sok floating bungalows

Visiting Khao Sok National Park

We loved spending 2 nights in Khao Sok National Park, but there are several ways to visit the park if you don’t have this much time. Below you can see recommendations on how to make a boat trip to Cheow Lan Lake part of your time in Thailand.

The view from the hike in Khao Sok National Park
The view from the hike in Khao Sok National Park

Visiting for a Few Days

If you have a few days to spend visiting the area, you should prioritize visiting one of the Khao Sok floating bungalows. We really loved our night out on the lake. This means you will likely spend one night in a nearby hotel, and then head out on a two-day tour of Khao Sok National Park. Since most park tours finish midday, you can easily move on that afternoon to your next destination.

Two days and one night is the perfect amount of time to spend out on the lake – there is plenty to see and do, but I think 2 nights on a Khao Sok floating bungalow would have been too much, especially with our family of five.

If you are looking to spend more time in the area, you could easily add on another day to stay in the surrounding area. There are hiking, tubing, and more to explore nearby and we could have easily spent two nights staying at Our Jungle House. You can see a few additional accommodation suggestions below and many of these can book an overnight tour for you or you can book your own directly.

Kayaking from our Cheow Lan Floating Bungalow
Kayaking from our Cheow Lan Floating Bungalow

The Best Khao Sok Tour

We booked our overnight on the Khao Sok Bungalow and the tour on the lake directly through Our Jungle House, but we looked extensively at other tours in the area. The biggest difference is cost and this dictates how fancy your overnight lodging will be (although none of the tours committed to a specific floating hut on Cheow Lan Lake and they may visit a different lodge based on availability). Most of the tours seem to offer about the same activities. Depending on the weather and the season, you might get the opportunity to hike, visit a cave, or take a kayak tour.

This Overnight Khao Sok Tour from Krabi is almost exactly what we did except it picks you up in Krabi. This is another similar tour that starts in Khao Sok.

You can also book tours for just a day trip to the Lake – although as I mentioned, the Cheow Lan lake floating bungalows were a highlight for us. Booking the tour in advance ensures that you get out on the lake, but we also saw people at the lake booking tours or boat rides the day of. This could be an excellent option and will be less expensive. If you want to book in advance, you can find tours like this one on Viator.

Sunset over Cheow Lan Lake
Sunset over Cheow Lan Lake

Khao Sok Day Trip From Krabi or Other Nearby Locations

If you are spending time in one of the nearby destinations, and want to visit Khao Sok directly you can also book a tour to visit for either a day or two.

Exploring a River Near Khao Sok National Park

The Best Khao Sok Accommodations

Even if you are spending a night on one of the Khao Sok floating bungalows, you may also want to stay in a nearby Khao Sok hotel. The area has been developed relatively recently with a focus on sustainability and you will find several eco-resorts. We really enjoyed our stay here and wish we had a bit longer to explore.

Our Jungle House: We stayed here in one of the treehouses that comfortably slept our family of 5. We felt like we were right in the jungle and loved being able to see the river from our balcony. Our kids adored staying here! We were also able to book our overnight tour through Our Jungle House.

Our Jungle Camp: This eco-resort is similar to our Jungle House and offers fun places to stay and excellent food. You can also book your Khao Sok Floating Bungalow overnight directly through the camp.

The Bliss Khao Sok Boutique Lodge: This resort also gets excellent reviews and looks great for couples.

For a bit more luxury on your overnight, you can also book your Khao Sok Floating Hotel directly at 500 Rai Floating Resort or Panvaree The Greenery.

Other Things to do in Khao Sok National Park

If you are looking for more things to do in this beautiful area, or don’t want to spend a night out on Cheow Lan Lake, there is still plenty to do in the region, and you can find a variety of Khao Sok National park tours. One option we considered was to do an Elephant experience. You can see more about this here, but ultimately we decided to book a tour at Krabi Elephant Sanctuary.

You can also look into river tubing, raft rides, cave exploration, and jungle treks. There are several great options if you look on either Viator or Get Your Guide.

Have questions about visiting Khao Sok? Let me know if the comments and I’ll try to answer or update this article.

Summary of Visiting Cheow Lan Lake

Cheow Lan Lake in Khao Sok National Park was one of the highlights of our visit to Thailand and we would go back in a heatbeat. This is an incredible destination and we highly recommend spending a night on one of the floating bungalows.

Cheow Lan Lake

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