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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.
Thailand has some of the best national parks in Southeast Asia in terms of the wildlife you can see, including wild elephants in Thailand. The national parks in Thailand also boast stunning views, mountain ranges, impressive waterfalls and blue lakes you can swim in.
Different national parks are best for different activities depending on if you want to see wild animals, or swim in waterfalls or staying on a floating bungalow on a lake. For example, the best national park in Thailand for wildlife is Khao Yai National Park, whereas the best national park for waterfalls is Erawan National Park.
The best national park in Thailand for Wildlife: Khao Yai National Park
This is one of the best jungle areas to visit in Thailand and the best place to see wild elephants in Thailand. Along with wild elephants, Khao Yai National Park is the best national park to see and hear gibbons, see families of macaques, spot greater hornbills, eagles and other birdlife in Thailand as well as snakes, scorpions and spiders.
To visit Khao Yai national park you can visit as part of a wildlife tour, or alternatively use your own transport to enter the park and hike pre-marked trails within the Thailand national park. For my full Khao Yai National Park guide read here.
Best National Park for viewpoints Thailand: 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 you will see very few tourists here. 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. Stay 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 Thailand viewpoints, visiting deserted beaches, to going to see the secret shrine cave which is a highlight.
Best National Park in Thailand for Caves : 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. This is one of Thailand’s hidden gems and definitely worth a visit.
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 in Khao Sam Roi Yot
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 near Bangkok : Sai Yok National Park
Out of all the national parks in Thailand, this, along with Khao Yai, is one of the closest national parks to Bangkok. 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 that you can swim in and 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 in tourist areas of Bangkok and compare prices to get the best deal.
Sai Yok National Park entrance fee: free but subject to change depending on the government
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 in the province of Surat Thani. 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 elephants, if you are lucky. Fish eagles, dusky langur monkeys and gibbons are common to spot on the wildlife spotting boat trip or kayaking 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. For my full Khao SOk National Park guide and how to stay in a floating bungalow and a Thailand treehouse read this article here.
Best National Park in Thailand for Viewpoints: 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 in Thailand for waterfalls : Erawan National Park
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. Avoid bringing plastic bottles into the national park and there are small restaurants where you can eat at the bottom of the national park as there is very little higher up the waterfall steps. You will also find it quieter, the higher up you hike of the Erawan Waterfall. 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 Bangkok tour operators can offer this waterfall tour 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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