Thailand is known for its many stunning hiking routes and some of the country’s finest trekking options include trails on, or near, Phuket and Koh Samui. Tropical islands like Koh Samui and Phuket provide the perfect hideaway for holiday-makers.
Koh Sok National Park is rated among the world’s best hiking destinations
Tropical islands like Koh Samui and Phuket provide the perfect hideaway for holiday-makers content to spend their days lazing on the beach and relaxing, but the islands also provide an ideal launch pad to explore the rich rainforests of Thailand.
Each of these popular destinations offers a choice of intriguing hiking trails, winding through miles of pristine tropical forest, past cascading waterfalls and shimmering lagoons. Koh Samui and Phuket also provide a convenient base for longer treks on the Thai mainland, in destinations such as Koh Sok National Park and Sri Phang Nga National Park.
As well as providing a spectacular way to experience some of the Kingdom’s most remote rural scenery, trekking in Thailand also gives wildlife enthusiasts the chance to spot some remarkable creatures in the wild. From Asian elephants and tigers, to cheeky macaques and colourful winged creatures, Thailand’s evergreen forests are teeming with life.
We’ve rounded up a selection of our favourite hiking routes in Southern Thailand, from short afternoon treks to longer expeditions.
Samui’s cascading wonders
A stunning riverside path winds its way up to Hin Lad Waterfall
For those on the lookout for secluded jungle hideaways, Koh Samui’s Hin Lad Waterfall is an easy hike away. The path to the cascade winds up past a river, through tropical emerald flora and fauna. A key advantage of this trek is that it’s just two hours long, making it an easy expedition to fit into a single morning or afternoon. Once you reach your destination the sight of a crystal torrent plunging down the rust-coloured rocks rewards you. Situated just a few kilometres south of the port town of Nathon, Hin Lad is an ideal trek for anyone staying in a villa on the west coast of Koh Samui.
The twin cascades that form the Na Muang waterfalls are also a key attraction for hikers staying on Koh Samui. Situated 12km southeast of Nathon Bay, there are numerous paths you can take to reach the first of the Na Muang torrents. The first fall is fairly easy to ascend, while the second is slightly more challenging, requiring another 30-minutes’ uphill hike. Your final destination will be a cool and refreshing alternative to the beach and you can take a dip in the tranquil rock pools at the foot of the falls.
Short hikes on Phuket
Hike to the top of Phuket’s Kathu Waterfall and be rewarded with splendid views
Phuket is home to a stunning selection of cascading watery treasures, including Kathu Waterfall. While your first mental vision of a waterfall may conjure up pictures of sheer vertical drops and tonnes of plunging water, Kathu is slightly different. Instead, this pretty cascade comprises a series of drop pools winding their way through the emerald jungle surroundings.
A hike to the peak of the falls will reward visitors with splendid views of the tropical scenery. The best time to visit Kathu Waterfall is between June and November, when green season rains ensure the fall is at its most powerful. However, beware that if it has been raining, the path leading to the peak does get quite slippery at times.
Bang Pae Waterfall is another popular destination for keen hikers exploring the gems of Phuket. Unlike Kathu Waterfall, visitors that make their way to Bang Pae will be rewarded with a milky torrent of water, crashing down a sheer slope. Situated on the East Coast, in Khao Phra Thaeo National Park, Bang Pae is Phuket’s largest cascade. The tranquil site is a popular destination with locals, who often take a dip in the cool water at the base of the fall.
Phuket is the ideal jumping off point to explore Khao Sok National Park
Khao Sok National Park is, without doubt, one of the most sought-after hiking destinations in all of Thailand. Spread across an enormous area of 738km2, Khao Sok is also one of the country’s most treasured protected regions, and located a convenient distance from Phuket, for keen hikers that prefer to be based on the island for some of their holiday. The best time to visit Koh Sok is from December to March.
The velvety rainforest that blankets Khao Sok National Park is formed of tropical evergreen trees, in addition to tropical rainforest. A number of hiking tours are available through the park authority, many of which take in the jewel in the park’s crown – the spectacular manmade Cheow Larn Lake. There are also hidden lagoons, waterfalls and abundant orchards for hikers to explore. Many tours encompass extra activities in addition to the trekking, including caving, ziplining and boat rides. Kayaking and tubing are also popular pastimes for visitors enjoying the exotic surroundings of the park.
Pristine Phang Nga
Sri Phang Nga National Park is one of the country’s largest protected areas
Situated north of Phuket island, the Thai mainland’s Phang Nga province is home to a number of hidden jungle gems for hikers to explore – including Sri Phang Nga National Park in Khao Lak. Covering an area of 240km2, this protected area is positioned in the districts of Kuraburi and Takua Pa, adjacent to Surat Thani’s Koh Sok National Park (see above). Sri Phang Nga National Park is one of Thailand’s largest protected areas, and was established in 1988 to preserve one of the country’s last remaining areas of pristine rainforest.
Hikes through park wind their way through unspoilt emerald jungle, past rivers, waterfalls, craggy outcrops and towering limestone cliffs. There are many challenging routes to try with some areas that cannot be covered on foot so you may need to swim. A bamboo cane is also an essential tool for those making their way across the park’s untamed tropical wilderness. The area has become a sought-after destination with bird watchers, and is home to a number of intriguing mammals. The best time to visit the park is during the dry season, from December through to April.
Koh Sok and Khao Lak national parks are home to macaques
The pristine lakes, forests and rivers that comprise Thailand’s spectacular national parks are home to a number of intriguing animals. If you’re hiking in Phang Nga National Park or Koh Sok National Park, for example, a number of fascinating may make an appearance. In Koh Sok, wild mammals include Malayan tapirs, Asian elephants, tigers, bears and wild boars – in addition to a kaleidoscope of tropical birds. In Phang Nga, keep your eyes peeled for the lesser mouse deer, Malayan tapirs, serow, barking deer and gibbons.
If you’re planning a serious hike whilst on vacation in Thailand, make sure you pack these essentials:
- Hardy walking boots are the most essential piece of kit if you’re going on a hike in Thailand’s jungles. Breathable canvas versions are the favoured choice of many hikers, while sturdy leather boots are popular too.
- If you don’t want to stop every five minutes to take a swig from your water bottle, invest in a platypus. These handy pouches of water can be attached to your backpack, and come with a large plastic tube straw that hooks over your shoulder so you can sip on the go.
- If you’re heading to a waterfall, there’s a chance you might take a refreshing dip at the end of the trail. A light, quick-drying travel towel packs up so small it’ll take up hardly any space in your backpack, and it’ll give you something to dry off with after your refreshing plunge.