If you love adventure, the outdoors, hiking and wildlife then consider heading to the best National Parks in Thailand. For me these are Thailand’s best kept secrets as you can get off the tourist trail, stay away from the crowds and discover nature and wildlife in Thailand’s national parks. This is, by no means, a full list of National Parks in Thailand but the most impressive ones I have been to so far and would definitely recommend visiting. Read on for the best National Parks in Thailand for waterfalls, swimming, beauty, nature and wildlife.
Best National Park for getting to from Bangkok: Sai Yok National Park
Out of all the national parks in Thailand that I have been to lately, this is the most recent. You can go to Sai Yok waterfalls as part of a day trip from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi which also includes a museum visit, visit to the town of Kanchanaburi and a world war cemetery. You can also organise your own transport to Kanchanaburi. The park is around 2 hours from Kanchanaburi town. It has an impressive waterfall, which was crowded when I was there as I visited on a public holiday but I believe it would generally be a quiet non-touristy area to visit in Thailand. For more quiet areas around Thailand, check out these off the beaten track beaches in Thailand. You can even stay overnight on floating bungalows in Sai Yok National Park.
How to get to Sai Yok National Park from Bangkok: I recommend a day trip from Bangkok. You can book with tour operators around Khao San Road. I recommend comparing prices to get the best deal.
Sai Yok National Park entrance fee: free but subject to change depending on the government
Best National Park for views: Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park
Found about 3-4 hours South of Bangkok in Prachuap Kiri Khan province, this stunning national park is home to 300 birds and the amazing Khao Sam Roi Yot mountains, meaning 300 peaks. For me, it is one of the best national parks in Thailand because it is a lesser known area and therefore not crowded and I didn’t see any other tourists on the hike and only a handful inside the huge Praya Nakhon cave. It’s an excellent place to rent a motorcycle for the first time in Thailand as the area is flat, quiet and it won’t be so easy to get around unless you have your own transport. I stayed at the small, cute and fairly cheap Namaste Resort, the owner June was very helpful with renting motorbikes and booking onward travel. There are quite a few different activities to do in this national park, from hiking to view points, visiting deserted beaches, to going to see the secret cave which was a definite highlight for me.
Best National Park in undiscovered Thailand: Khao Sam Roi Yot
Praya Nakhon cave is one of the most famous areas inside the national park. Inside it has a small but striking blue shrine (which looks like a temple) inside an enormous cave. The hole in the roof of the cave allows the light to filter down where trees and plants are now growing. To get here you can hike about 30 minutes to the beach, and then another 30 minutes after that or take a boat around to the beach if you want to limit your hiking time. The views from the hike are definitely worth it as it goes all the way round the coastline, as you can see from the photo above. I think this is one of Thailand’s hidden gems and if you have time to spare I definitely recommend visiting this national park.
Sam Phraya beach is found just inside the national park. While not a beach for swimming, it’s worth a photo stop of the colourful fishing boats and to marvel at just how far the tide goes out – it seemed like it was on the horizon!
Best Viewpoint in Thailand
Khao Daeng Viewpoint has been one of my favourite viewpoints in Thailand so far. It’s about a 30 minute hike up a fairly steep slope with rocks around, so I don’t recommend doing it in flipflops. The trail is only officially open from 8-3.30pm but some visitors risk it for a sunrise/sunset view which I am not sure I recommend but if you do decide to hike outside these hours then bring a flashlight for safety. I hiked during the afternoon and had these impressive views of both the mountains and the ocean.
Getting to Khao Sam Roi Yot from Bangkok: Take a minivan from the Southern Bus terminal in Bangkok to Pranburi and then motorcycle taxi into Khao Sam Roi Yot.
Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park Entrance Fee: 200 baht for foreigners
Best National Park for elephants: Khao Yai National Park
This is one of my favourite areas of jungle to visit. Visit the various waterfalls, do the visitor trail near the visitor office, keep your eyes peeled and ears open to see macaque monkeys, gibbons and there is a high chance of elephants, particularly in rainy season (June-Oct). Most people in Thailand agree that this is the best place to see wild elephants in Thailand. Remember wild elephants are extremely territorial and dangerous so do not get too close! They are best to see from the road side or from the look-out point near the lake. It’s a great place to stop and chill for lunch too!
Getting to Khao Yai National Park: You can take a minivan about two hours from Bangkok from Ekkamai bus station to Pak Chong. I recommend Greenleaf Tours if you would like an incredible guide to find you lots of wildlife and help you spot elephants. If you are confident on scooters then rent a motorcycle in Pak Chong and head into Khao Yai itself for independent travel. I recommend taking a map from the visitor office as this shows the routes to the waterfalls (no swimming allowed due to the wildlife) and camping grounds. If you enjoy camping this is my favourite place to camp in Thailand as we saw fireflies and porcupines while camping here. You can rent tents from the campsite, basic toilets and showers are provided but make sure to bring your own food.
Khao Yai National Park Entrance Fee: 400 baht for foreigners
Camping in Khao Yai National Park: For the adventurous, ask the visitor office about camping. For around 250 baht you can rent a tent at one of a couple of camp sites and stay the night. Bring your own food and drink as there are no shops available in the park. The entrance fee is expensive so I recommend staying inside the park to make the most of your money.
Tours of Khao Yai National Park: Alternatively take a guided tour with Greenleaf tours, they will collect you from Pak Chong and take you into the park in songtaew trucks. Tour includes trekking, guide, lunch and transport and lasts the whole day!
Best National Park in Thailand for floating bungalows: Khao Sok National Park
Another area of astounding beauty, this park is about two hours north of Krabi. From your accommodation you can arrange trekking, wildlife spotting with a guide and an overnight stay on the beautiful floating bungalows on the lake, which is definitely worth it. You can rent kayaks and kayak around Chaew Lam Lake trying to spot monkeys, gibbons and even the odd elephant! (or so I’m told!). We saw fish eagles, dusky langur monkeys and gibbons on one of our boat trips around. If you want to visit I recommend arranging transport from Krabi and try booking into a treehouse! I usually use Agoda for hotel bookings in Thailand and compare with booking.com for the best rates.
Floating bungalows in Khao Sok National Park: arrange an overnight stay through your accommodation inside the park or from Krabi
Best National Park for mountain views: Doi Ithanon National Park
These mountains contain the highest peak in Thailand and they are the start of the foothills of the Himalayas. You can join a Doi Ithanon day tour from Chiang Mai which also includes waterfalls and a lunch stop. Book through a tour operator in Chiang Mai.
On a clear day you can see fairly far into the mountain ranges and the unusual temple pagodas are worth a look, like something out of Star Wars. The gardens are also stunning with so many different kinds of flowers and a riot of colour.
Best National Park with a deserted beach: Khao Lak National Park
I only visited an extremely small area of this but it’s worth it if you find yourself in Khao Lak for a couple of days as I am not a big fan of the town itself. If you take a short hike into the national park then you can stumble across golden sand, deserted hidden beaches with no tourists which is definitely worth it, in my opinion. There was a small entrance fee (I think around 40 baht). Most people are here as it is a jump off point for the dive sites around the Similan islands for divers or snorkelling trips to Koh Similan, one of Thailand’s most beautiful islands.
Best National Park for Thailand’s best waterfall: Erawan National Park
I’ve written about this place before but it is definitely worth a visit to see the impressive Erawan waterfalls – one of the best waterfalls in Thailand. You can spend the day hiking in the jungle and swimming in gorgeous blue pools of fresh cool water. The colours of the water appear bluer the higher you climb so be prepared to head up to the top most step, the 9th one. Bring your own food and water as there is little on offer here You will also find it quieter the higher up you go as the lower and closest steps are often full of local children playing! It’s about 45 minutes drive from Kanchanaburi town.
Erawan National Park entrance fee: 200-300 baht
Erawan National Park tour: book a day trip from Bangkok, many tour operators on Khao San road can offer this which also includes some history and museums in Kanchanaburi town first.
Don’t Forget to Take:
- Insect Spray – National Parks in Thailand can be full of mosquitoes so make sure you take insect repellent with you. I recommend 50% DEET if you are prone to being bitten. Try this Repel DEET Pump Spray from Amazon
- A practical bag – I’ve spent many a time faffing about with the wrong bag, it’s size or style and I’ve finally found that dry bags are the best way forward for any destinations in Thailand that will involve water or sand! Buy yours in all sorts of great colours from Amazon here: Water Proof Dry Bag
For backpacking essentials that I actually use and are very practical check out my blog post here
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