Khao Lak surfing takes off when the wet season swings around. It’s mainly mushburgers for learners but there are some reef breaks that can hold shape.
An introduction to Khao Lak surfing
Khao Lak is the name for a pretty lovely section of coastline on the Andaman about two hours’ drive north of Phuket. It’s an okay-ish stopover for surfers, offering at least one relatively reliable break and a couple of reef spots around a headland. However, being Thailand, we’d say it’s better not to come here just for the surf and never to expect too much. First off, you probably have to hit it up during the wet season to get the right conditions and that means sacrificing the still and balmy days on the beaches. Second, Khao Lak surfing ain’t Bali. Really, it’s just frothing mush that’s good for foamie renters.
The main action is on Khuk Khak Beach, a long run of silver sand that’s broken up by an estuary rivermouth to its south and meets a curled headland to its north. But the truth is that breaks are still being discovered here by the small crew of local rippers. They might not be quality, but they can be abundant when something rolls through the Andaman Sea. Come in the winter months (known as the dry season) and there’s likely to be seas flatter than a Thai rice noodle. That’s the season for sunning yourself and enjoying the shoreline Khao Lak hotels with their infinity pools and spas.
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This guide is just one part of our complete guide to surfing in Thailand
Khao Lak surfing at a glance
What’s in this guide to Khao Lak surfing?
Where is Khao Lak?
Khao Lak is one of the principal Koha resorts of the Phang Nga Province. It’s located about two hours’ transfer north of Phuket, Thailand’s largest island and probably the country’s main surf destination, on the side of the Andaman Sea. The best way to get in is to fly to Krabi Airport or Phuket Airport (which is a touch closer) and then get a ground transfer from there. You can also get the train from Bangkok to Surat Thani and then travel across the heart of central Thailand in a transfer that takes about four hours but goes through jungles trodden by wild elephants.
A guide to the Khao Lak surf spots
We’d say Phuket is the best place to go surfing in Thailand. Yes, it’s popular, but that’s helped to nurture something of a nascent surf scene, meaning board rentals and even surf camps are on the menu these days. The island – the largest in the country, no less – also has no shortage of options when it comes to breaks, from the lips of Nai Harn where the local crews rip it to the uber-chilled point rights of Kamala Beach.
Check out our full guide to the surf in Phuket right now
Khao Lak Beach
It’s possible to get small, cruisy longboard waves on the main Khao Lak Beach but it’s not quite as reliable as Khuk Khak further north. That’s mainly down to the steeper slope on the sand that turns most of the windswell into annoying shorebreaks, but this area is also more crowded in the peak season and dotted with some sections of reefs.
Khuk Khak Beach
Khuk Khak Beach is the picture of a beginner beach. Long and sandy, there’s not really a rock or a pocket of reef to be seen up its whole three-mile length. It angles slightly southwest into the Andaman Sea, which can help it get a touch of those summertime groundswells from the Southern Hemisphere (the very same that are powering up Bali from May to August) but you’re really relying on the windswell mush that passes through when the monsoon sets in…
That happens like clockwork one day in April most years. When it does, the waters of the Andaman get rougher and can peak up into unruly little sets that lip into green waves out back and then reform as fodder for the local surf schools nearer the beach.
You can rent boards at the Pakarang Surf Shop that’s next to Memories Bar on the north end of the beach. In fact, the spot right out front of Memories is the best section of the beach. A touch more exposed, it tends to get a bit more from the windswell and can hold longer period swells to give slightly glassier waves.
Venture north to the fishhook-shaped Cape Pakarang if you’re after the better waves in the region. Any SW swells will wrap around the mosaic of reef and sandbank here to give some decent potential for breaks that hold nicely and cruise more mellow than their compadres on the sands of Khuk Khak. The pinnacle of the cape is a series of small bays where the sandbanks form little coves and have waves that go left and right at the end of the breakwaters.
Where to stay when surfing in Khao Lak?
Part of the joy of surfing in Khao Lak has to be the top-quality hotels that are ready and waiting by this run of Thai shoreline. In the winter months they pack out to bursting. But, when it’s the rainy season and the surfers come, you can score some super bargains in hotels that might cost three or four times more in December as they do in August. Here are a few of our favorites close to the main break on Khuk Khak Beach.
Apsara Beachfront Resort & Villa – SHA Extra Plus
Straddling a winding river of teal-blue H2O on the edge of Cape Pakarang, the Aspara Beachfront Resort is the perfect base for wave chasers. You only need to wander up onto the sands from your suite and you’ll be within walking distance of both the secrete cape breaks and the beach at Khuk Khak. There’s luxury awaiting for when you retire – think a stunning sunset restaurant bar with bean bags and an infinity pool gazing at the Andaman!
JW Marriott Khao Lak Resort and Spa
The JW Marriott Khao Lak Resort and Spa gets you just steps off the middle part of Khuk Khak beach, which puts surf breaks right out front. But that’s not the reason to come. The reason to come is to score a truly fantastic luxury hotel for wet-season prices. It’s built with a whiff of old Siam and has grand architecture leading to classy spas and sprawling suites.
Devasom Khao Lak Beach Resort & Villas – SHA Extra Plus
A shimmering blue lagoon right next to the lapping Andaman Sea with just a sliver of silver sand between the two – that’s the backdrop to the five-star Devasom Khao Lak Beach Resort & Villas. Real luxury, one of the best pools we’ve seen in Thailand, and majestic suite options that open to both lagoon and coast views are part of the offing at this one!
Step-by-step guide to planning your [yoast_kw] trip right now
Step one: Book flights to the [yoast_kw]…Lately, we like Omio for searching flights. It’s a nice interface and has lots of airline options. We also use Skyscanner because that sometimes offers deals that even beat going direct to the carrier!
Step two: Book your surf camp Book Surf Camps is the numero uno online booking platform for fully-fledged surf-stay packages on the internet right now. Then there’s Booking.com. That has consistently unbeatable rates for hotels and a nifty map feature that lets you check EXACTLY how close your hotel is to a surf break.
Step three: Get insuranceThis is kinda’ important. Not just for surf trips but for any trips. SafetyWing is great for nomad travelers. They offer rolling contracts that cover amateur surfing.
Step four (optional): Rent a car If you’re surf camping then you might not need wheels. If you’re not then we’ll just say this: We’ve never been on a surf trip that wasn’t improved by having our own car. Use RentalCars – they’re the best.
Step four: Enjoy!
When to surf in Khao Lak?
Sadly, Khao Lak surfing really depends on the bigger wind and storm systems that come across the Andaman and the Bay of Bengal towards the middle of the summer season. We say sadly because that’s not in line with the peak months to travel south Thailand, so you’ll probably have to forgo the paradise beaches and the calm, turquoise seas. Occasionally, there can be summertime pulses from the deep south of the Indian Ocean, which send the stronger, cleaner waves into the Andaman coast from Phuket up to Khao Lak, but they are rare so don’t rely on it. The seas calm to almost swimming pool level by December.