Exploring Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park: Our Adventure in the Wild
Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park (sometimes called Sam Roi Yod, which we can literally translate to Mountain of 300 Peaks) is a drop-dead slice of paradise on the western side of the Gulf of Thailand.
Filled with marshes, mangroves, mountains, farmland, beaches, islands, and tiny authentic villages, Khao Sam Roi Yot is Thailand’s first ever marine national park — and offers passersby a chance of adventure, adrenaline, and a peek at everyday life in the beautiful Thai countryside.
After nearly a year of staying in Thailand, one of my favourite places in the whole country is still our backyard.
Behind our tiny home is a big, rocky, scrub-filled hill where our adopted ‘soi dog’ (read: street dog) likes to romp around with her other scruffy soi dog friends.
From the top, we’ve got a 360 degree view of the surrounding countryside that’s so friggin’ beautiful, it’s criminal that we still pay for a Netflix subscription (vices, man…).
To the east, there’s a scattering of rolling hills covered in dense bamboo forest, wild peacocks, and a small Buddhist temple.
To the west, we’ve got a sweeping view of the Pranburi countryside; the houses, villages, pineapple fields, and palm trees stretch for miles and miles until they reach the furthest mountains at the base of the Pranburi Dam.
In between each of these vistas, we’ve got a clean view of our main feature, Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park.
Though we’ve driven through Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park literally dozens of times on our motorbike, we only yesterday got around to doing something we’ve wanted to do for ages:
Cycle from our home in Pranburi to the National Park.
Needless to say, today my legs are as stiff as the lock on a nun’s chastity belt- but that gives me an even better reason to knuckle down and write this article about Sam Roi Yot and its insane outdoor adventure potential.
So here we go, chappies:
This is your jam-packed travel guide to Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park. I’ll be giving you the low-down on the best outdoor adventure activities you can do there, as well as a bunch of other valuable tidbits about the weather, highlights, how to get there, and where to best fit it into your Thailand itinerary.
7 ridiculously awesome outdoor adventures to have in Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park
Hiking to Phraya Nakhon Cave
If there’s one thing you might already know about Sam Roi Yot National Park, it’s probably Phraya Nakhon Cave.
Accessible via Laem Son Beach, getting to the cave involves an hour(ish) hike up the steep mountainside until you reach the two gaping sinkholes, which is where you’ll find the magical-looking pavilion built in honour of King Rama V.
An iconic symbol of the Prachuap Khiri Khan Province, Phraya Nakhon Cave and its inner pavillion are best viewed when the morning sunlight peeks through the collapsed roof and illuminates the inner cavern.
Aim to start your hike by 8am and make it to the cave by 9.30. On your way back down, stop off at the beach and plunge into the water to wash off all that sweat and cave-y grime!
Phraya Nakhon Cave has made its mark in the viral internet world, with pictures and videos of the pavillion amassing millions of views and sparking the attention of adventurous travelers bound for Thailand.
Yet even with its newfound internet fame, the remote location of the cave (and small-scale tourism in the area) means that Phraya Nakhon is still peaceful and (mostly) free from crowds.
Go now, before it all changes.
Paddle boarding at Sam Roi Yot Beach
If you’re anything like us, you’ll agree that SUPing (or stand-up paddle boarding) is one of the best ways of combining water time, fitness, and sightseeing in one. Whenever we travel to a new location by the coast or a river, we love renting a couple of paddle boards and setting off to explore.
Sam Roi Yot Beach, which faces out over Dolphin Bay, is an ideal spot for paddle boarding. The sheltered bay rarely gets anything in the way of waves, the water is crystal clear, and there are a couple of offshore islands within paddling distance.
Back on the beach-side, we’re talking golden sand and palm trees- lots of palm trees.
Apart from a few fishing boats and the odd tourist here and there, the beach is usually empty. How often do you hear that being said about Thai beaches?! If there’s one thing that Sam Roi Yot beach makes clear, it’s that getting off the well-trodden tourist trail is seriously rewarding.
There are a few local businesses along the beach road that rent out paddle boards for around 300 baht/hour (less than $10 USD). Just look for the signs or- more obviously- the boards stacked up on the roadside.
Kayaking to Monkey Island
Remember those islands we mentioned above? One of them is Monkey Island, which- as you can guess- is one of the best places in Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park to check out our cheeky, furry, poo-flinging friends (just kidding, I actually have no idea if these monkeys are the poo-flinging kind).
Typically, most tourists choose to take a spin out to the island on one of the local fishing boats, but we reckon an even cooler way to get to Monkey Island is on your very own kayak.
Kayaks are available to rent from many of the local businesses along the road at Sam Roi Yot Beach, and usually cost around 200-300 baht/hour (with discounts available for half day and full day rentals).
Paragliding above Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park
If you thought this place was beautiful from ground level, just wait until you get a load of it from above. And you can, too, since Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park is home to the most established clan of paragliders on this side of the Gulf: 300 Peaks Paragliding.
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Named after the National Park itself, the 300 peaks crew offer exhilarating tandem rides and pilot training courses in and around the Khao Sam Roi Yot area. Typically, their flights start with a tow-up on the beach and take you flying over the mountains, flats, and beaches.
UPDATE (August 2019): 300 Peaks Thailand are not currently operating, as the pilots are focusing on other projects. Sadly, this activity isn’t currently available in Sam Roi Yot! Contact the 300 Peaks team via Facebook or on their website for further details.
Cycling through the foothills of Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park
This is the outdoor adventure we’ve been most excited to tell you about, since this is the one that we just cracked yesterday.
Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park is an epic place to go on a two-wheeled adventure, thanks to its beautiful scenery, peaceful tree-lined roads, and hidden dirt tracks through the farmlands.
Apart from the mega steep mountains, the terrain around Sam Roi Yot is mostly flat with little elevation at any point. This makes for an awesome combo of easy going road riding and slightly more technical off-road mountain biking.
We rented a couple of great lightweight mountain bikes from Bike Point Pak Nam Pran and cycled the 20 km from their HQ to the end of Sam Roi Yot Beach, and through the foothills of the mountains on the way back.
For sure, the whole National Park is amazing to explore by bike (you can appreciate the calm and quiet so much more than when you’re roaring down the road on a motorbike), but the highlight for us was exploring the tiny rural roads at the foothills of the mountains. Expect to see authentic Thai homes, tons of friendly faces, and coconut trees for days.
Camping at Laem Sala Beach
So, this is one of the outdoor adventures in Sam Roi Yot that we still have yet to tick off our own list (because, well, it’s rainy season, and the tent that I bought looks like it’d struggle to defend itself from a spitball, let alone a tropical downpour. In fairness though, it only cost 250 baht!).
Even so, camping at Laem Sala is top of our to-do list once the weatherman starts cooperating with us! And it should be yours, too.
Laem Sala Beach sits at the bottom of the mountain where Phraya Nakhon Cave is located. It’s remote, quiet, uncrowded, and pretty damn gorgeous- if we do say so ourselves. A likely part of the reason why Laem Sala Beach is still free of the crowds is because the only way to access the beach on land is by undertaking a half hour trek over the hill.
Apart from a scattering of bungalows and a local restaurant or two, there’s little else on Laem Sala Beach than pine trees and sand. Tents are available to rent onsite for 150 baht/night.
Getting lost at Secret Beach
In a way, it kinda pains us to write about this one because we’d only love to keep it all to ourselves. But as travel- and life in general- teaches us, nothing is permanent, change is inevitable, and sharing with likeminded people can bring many unexpected pleasures.
So here you have it, our own personal Khao Sam Roi Yot favourite:
Now, it’s actually called Secret Beach, which I guess is pretty ironic in its own way. I mean, the name is right there for the viewing on Google Maps and all.
Best reached by scooter or bicycle from the main road in Sam Roi Yot, Secret Beach is a wide, sandy expanse that runs along the coastline facing Ko Rawing and Ko Nom Sao. The beach is covered in gorgeous wee seashells- quite different to the ones that we find on our local beach in Pak Nam Pran, so we like to stroll around here and collect a few special shells from time to time.
There’s only one occupied building that overlooks Secret Beach: Brassiere Cozy Beach Resort- and believe us when we say this beachside villa is an absolute beaut. With its whitewashed walls, breezy balconies, and lush garden (with a pool) this is easily one of the most idyllic places to stay in Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park.
Other outdoor activities in Khao Sam Roi Yot
Sam Roi Yot Beach is home to pink and grey nosed dolphins, while up in the mountains you might find macaques, dusky leaf monkeys, pangolins, and fishing cats. Bird watchers will be in their element, too, with more than 300 species said to live in the National Park.
But the most famous member of the wildlife clan in Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park is- I shit you not- a GOAT ANTELOPE (otherwise known as a serow).
Mangrove Forest Nature Trail
Like many other areas in Prachuap Khiri Khan, Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park is the home of a manmade mangrove forest.
Rich in exotic wildlife, the mangroves are home to tons of different kinds of birds (including electric blue kingfishers and purple heron) as well as macaques, crabs, and giant-ass monitor lizards.
Apart from being a phenomenal contributor to the ecosystem, the mangroves also provide some welcome shade from the scorching Thai sun. Exploring the mangrove nature trail in Sam Roi Yot is as educational as it is enjoyable.
Pssst: if you like the sound of this, you should definitely check out Pranburi Forest Park (pictured above) which is located just 30 minutes away and features a beautiful mangrove reserve, pine forest, and picnic area by the beach.
Khao Daeng viewpoint
The hike up Khao Daeng is fast and intense; it only takes half an hour or so to reach the peak, but it’s steep and the rocky terrain is uneven in places- so best only doing this one if you’re in good physical health (it might be too much for young children or elderly).
The view from the top, though, is well worth it. At just shy of 160 meters altitude, the Khao Daeng viewpoint offers pretty badass views of the surrounding coastal landscape.
Like some of the other tourist attractions in Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, the Khao Daeng hike is only open for visitors between 08.00-15.30 and, if you have a dog, you’re not allowed to bring them on the hike with you (which is why we don’t do this one often!).
Kaeo and Sai caves
Often overlooked in favour of their famous neighbour at Phraya Nakhon, the Kaeo and Sai caves are also worth a gander themselves. Filled with bats, stalactites, and stalagmites, both caves are reachable via a rocky, remote hike.
Sam Phraya Beach
Sam Phraya Beach is a nice alternative to Laem Son Beach, should you feel like mixing things up a little. Lined with pine trees, the sandy beach doubles as a campsite, with tents available to rent for just over 200 baht/night.
Now, we were thinking of visiting Sam Phraya Beach recently, but when we pulled up at the entrance we were pretty surprised to be asked for a 200 baht entry fee for EACH of us (that’s the price for foreign visitors, and if memory serves right it’s 40 baht for Thai visitors).
We felt like that was pretty steep, since we were only looking to go for a stroll on the beach- not stay there all day. Instead, we opted to drive a little further down the road and visit Secret Beach, which is free.
Thung Sam Roi Yot freshwater marsh
The marshy wetlands in the middle of Khao Sam Roi Yot used to be one of the most popular tourist attractions, until recently when the boardwalk that led visitors around the marsh started to disintegrate- yikes!
Thankfully, the boardwalk has been repaired and is now open to the public once again. Head there to explore the marshlands, enjoy some bird watching, and relax in a family friendly environment.
How to get to Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park
Even though visiting Sam Roi Yot can make you feel like you’re way, way off the beaten path, it’s mercifully easy to get to thanks to Thailand’s pretty great public transport system.
Aside from renting a private car (which will set you back something like $80 USD), you have two main ways of getting to Sam Roi Yot from Bangkok: bus or train.
Read more: 5 coolest things to do outdoors in Bangkok
If you’re coming directly from the airport (BKK) you can take the direct VIP coach from the airport to Hua Hin (or the local bus from Mo Chit Bus Terminal) and from there it’s easiest to rent a motorbike (or salang, which is like a tuk-tuk) and explore the area yourself. Expect to pay around 250-300 baht/day for a motorbike rental.
If you don’t feel keen on driving, there are plenty of local tour companies who will take you in their car for the day, too.
You can also take the train from Bangkok to Pranburi, and from there rent your own motorbike or ride along with a local tour company.
Best time to visit Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park
Weather-wise, the best time to visit Khao Sam Roi Yot is from February-May when the thermal winds come and rain is rare. Most days bring clear skies, warm weather, and not too much humidity.
Rainy season runs from June-October in this part of the Gulf of Thailand, so if you’re banking on doing some outdoor adventures in Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, you might want to consider avoiding these months.
That said, if you’re planning on sticking around the area for a longer period of time, you’ll find that rainy season often throws out spells of dry days- and often when it rains, it’s only for a short period of time. We cycled from Pak Nam Pran to Sam Roi Yot in September (which is supposedly one of the wettest months) and we had blistering sunshine all day!
To sum it up: rainy season is unpredictable, but doesn’t make exploring the outdoors impossible.
Where to fit Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park into your Thailand itinerary
Whether you’re looking for a break from the big city or hoping to find some offbeat alternatives on your Thailand backpacking adventure, visiting Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park is definitely something you should consider.
But don’t think you’d need to plan a visit to this part of the country and only visit the park:
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