Khanom Beach: A Visual Journey + Guide

Khanom Beach: Footprints in the Sand

As one of the last hidden gems of Thailand’s southern coast, Khanom Beach is a non-touristy destination that’s full of striking mountain scenery and many long, empty beaches to relax on.

When in Khanom, you’d never guess that the overly-touristic Koh Samui was only 25 km offshore.  

Despite the proximity, Khanom seems to be far away from the bustling shores of Koh Samui. At least, it certainly feels that way. Unlike Samui… the beaches here are deserted, the turquoise waters are calm, the nature is wild and untouched.

It’s truly an unspoiled beach destination where you can unwind and relax, undisturbed.

Khanom Beach

Spotting Pink Dolphins

Nestled within a traditional fisherman village, ท่าเรือดูโลมาบ้านเขาออก, is a marina that’s full of rua hang yao (long-tail boats) – Thailand’s most distinctive form of watercraft.

From here, we chartered a 3-hour long-tail boat excursion for 1,200 baht ($33) to search for the ubiquitous pink dolphins of Khanom Beach

According to research by the Phuket Marine Biological Center, Khanom’s pink dolphins are a subspecies of the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin and are a rare sight to behold – even on a tour.

There only ~150 of these pink dolphins living around the Gulf of Thailand and only 5 pods (~60 dolphins) have made Khanom’s rustic coastline their home. 

During our first hour of cruising the waters near Khanom, there were zero signs of any dolphins.

So our guide decided to take us further afield towards Surat Thani. On a tour the previous day, he had spotted dolphins swimming near Donsak Pier (where the Koh Samui ferries depart from). 

As we cruised past Donsak Pier, our guide’s intuition was proven accurate. We immediately spotted several pink dolphins and a grey calf emerging from the turquoise depths below – all with freshly-caught fish in their mouths!

For ~30 minutes we diligently followed the pod around the harbor by constantly scanning the water with keen eyes. However, it was incredibly difficult to keep up with the dolphins since they’re capable of swimming as fast as 37 kph and only resurface for air every 5 minutes!  

After successfully spotting pink dolphins in the wild, we decided to head back to Khanom Beach.

On the way to ท่าเรือดูโลมาบ้านเขาออก, we stopped off at Khao Hin Phap Pha – a multi-tiered structure of pancake-like rocks that formed from a natural sedimentary process which occurred over hundreds-of-thousands of years. 

Only here and in New Zealand’s Punakaiki can you experience this unique style of geological formation – trust us, it’s worth the quick stop. 

Khanom Beach

Mu Koh Thale Tai

Just south of Khanom Beach is Mu Koh Thale Tai National Park – a picturesque collection of coastal viewpoints and pristine beaches.

For a perfect canvas of awe-inspiring colors and warmth, make an effort to wake up early and drive through the park’s windy and hilly roads during golden hour – the soft light will add a beautiful dimension to the scenery. 

Nakhon Si Thammarat

Wat Chedi (Ai Kai)

Around 45 minutes from Khanom Beach is one of the most eclectic temples we’ve seen in Thailand, Wat Chedi (Ai Kai) aka the Chicken Temple that’s home to the spirit “Ai Kai.”

Ai Kai (which means “egg boy”) is the benevolent spirit of a 9-year-old child that was a disciple of Luang Pu Thuat – a revered Buddhist monk that’s believed to have performed miracles during the Ayutthaya period. When Laung Phu Thuat visited Wat Chedi ~250 years ago, he instructed Ai Kai to stay on the grounds and serve the locals – which he vowed to do.  

Unfortunately, Ai Kai drowned in a nearby river shortly after Luang Pu Thuat left. Yet, worshippers fervently believe that his spirit still lingers on the temple’s premises.

Thai Buddhists, rich and poor, come from all over the country to pay their respects at Wat Chedi. By donating chicken statues, lighting firecrackers, and rubbing gold leaves on Ai Kai images, they hope to placate his spirit and have their wishes granted in the form of material gain.       

Throughout Wat Chedi’s ubosot, shimmering images of Ai Kai and Luang Pu Thuat sit encrusted with lumpy coats of gold leaves. Remnants that enshrine the hopes and dreams of Thai people. 

Khanom Beach Travel Guide

Actionable Information

Where To Stay: We recommend staying on Khanom’s main beach as this is where the highest concentration of resorts and restaurants are located. In our humble opinion, Khanom Sea Beach Resort, is the best place to stay for a relaxing trip.

For a more wallet-friendly stay, there are a variety of guest houses near the Khanom Market – they typically charge 400-600 baht per night for a room with WIFI and aircon. 

When To Visit: Khanom Beach is worth visiting year-round, but the best overall experience will be during Thailand’s high season (November – February). The clear sky and water during this time of the year will offer you the best chance at being in “paradise.” Alternatively, we visited the during the peak of rainy season (August) and didn’t have any issues with the weather – plus this is a better time to have a chance at sighting Khanom’s pink dolphins.  

How To Get To Khanom Beach: the easiest way to get to Khanom is to fly into Surat Thani or Nakhon Si Thammarat – both airports are ~2 hours from Khanom. The remaining part of the journey can be completed by booking minibus or taxi from the airport to your hotel. Alternatively, you can reserve a private car with an airport pick-up (best option).

Getting Around Khanom Beach: motorbike rentals are readily available – your hotel can help you secure a booking if needed. The roads around Khanom are mostly well-kept and easy to drive.

Tip #1: The best beach within the Khanom Beach cluster is Ao Thong Ching (review the first three photos in this article). The road that leads to the beach is in bad condition, mostly dirt, and steep at certain sections – it may be difficult to drive a motorbike over.   

Tip #2: The best time to see the pink dolphins is in the early morning from 7:30am – 9:00am. There’s no reason to book advance, just pay a fisherman when you arrive at either ท่าเรือดูโลมาบ้านเขาออก or Laem Prathap Cape – we recommend the former as it’s less touristy.

Quick Fact – the dolphins’ characteristic pink color is due to a thick network of blood capillaries underneath their skin which helps them regulate body temperature. All of the calves are born grey and turn a rosy pink as they mature.

Tip #3: When visiting Wat Chedi Ai Kai, please behave and dress appropriately – refrain from making loud noises and wear long-sleeve shirts + long pants. 

Tip #4: The Thai food in Khanom Beach is undeniably lackluster – it’s some of the worst food we’ve had in Thailand and its generally overpriced relative to the portion size served (especially when compared to Trang). Our favorite spot for dinner was the Dusty Gecko (western food) and for lunch, we’d go to any local Khanom Chin shop that was open (typically 30 baht per plate).  

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