Khanom Beach: A Visual Journey + Guide
Tucked away on Thailand’s southern coast, Khanom Beach is a well-kept secret, offering travelers an authentic and non-touristy experience. Surrounded by breathtaking mountain landscapes and graced with long stretches of pristine, empty beaches, Khanom is a haven for those seeking tranquility and natural beauty.
Unlike its more famous neighbor, Koh Samui, Khanom remains untouched by the crowds and commercialization, making it a hidden gem waiting to be discovered.
Despite its close proximity to Samui, stepping onto the sandy beaches of Khanom feels like entering a serene oasis far from the hustle and bustle of tourist crowds. Thankfully, Khanom’s shores remain delightfully deserted, offering a rare escape for those seeking solace.
Nature thrives here in its untouched glory, presenting an untouched landscape where wild beauty unfolds in every direction. In Khanom, time seems to slow down, allowing travelers to truly unwind and revel in the undisturbed peace that permeates the air.
Nestled within a traditional fisherman village, you’ll find ท่าเรือดูโลมาบ้านเขาออก, a marina brimming with the iconic rua hang yao, or long-tail boats. These traditional Thai watercraft are instantly recognizable with their slender wooden hulls, powered by a rear-mounted engine connected to a lengthy propeller shaft, providing unmatched maneuverability in shallow coastal waters.
From this fisherman village, 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 enigmatic pink dolphins belong to the Indo-Pacific humpback subspecies (sousa chinensis). Their mesmerizing pink hue, stems from an intricate network of blood capillaries beneath their skin. This remarkable adaptation enables them to regulate their body temperature, which is a vital asset for survival in the ocean.
To our surprise, every pink dolphin calf is born with a somber grey hue. However as they mature, a gradual metamorphosis occurs – whereby the muted shades of youth transform into the radiant shades of pink that define them.
With a population of merely 150 pink dolphins, these elusive creatures are a rare sight to behold. Among them, only five distinct pods, totaling around 60 dolphins, have chosen Khanom’s rustic coastline as their home. Here, they are able to find bountiful food sources to sustain their existence
Compared to other dolphin subspecies, pink dolphins have a small population size due to low reproduction rates, high calf mortality, and a limited number of suitable habitats.
As we cruised along the coastline, an hour slipped away, revealing no trace of dolphins near Khanom’s waters. Undeterred, our knowledgeable guide charted a new course, leading us towards Surat Thani. Drawing from his experience on a prior tour, he recalled a recent sighting of a pod of dolphins near Donsak Pier, where the ferries to Koh Samui set sail.
With renewed hope, we ventured forth, the boat slicing through the gentle waves at full speed.
Navigating past Donsak Pier, our guide’s instincts were rewarded as we spotted several pink dolphins gracefully gliding alongside a grey calf.
To our amazement, each dolphin held a freshly-caught fish in their mouth, showcasing their adept hunting skills.
For a half-hour, we were steadfast in our pursuit, our eyes intently scanning the water’s surface. Yet, keeping pace with the playful pod proved a formidable task, for these nimble creatures could effortlessly reach speeds of up to 37 kilometers per hour.
Every few minutes, they’d surfaced for a brief gasp of air, teasing us with their fleeting appearances.
Having experienced the exhilaration of spotting pink dolphins in their natural habitat, we began our journey back to Khanom Beach. Along the way, an intriguing stop awaited us at Khao Hin Phap Pha, where nature had crafted a unique geological wonder over countless millennia.
This multi-tiered formation of pancake-like rocks is a product of intricate sedimentary processes spanning hundreds-of-thousands of years. It’s rarely found elsewhere, with only a similar sight to be found in New Zealand’s Punakaiki, making the brief stop undoubtedly worthwhile.
Just south of Khanom Beach lies Mu Koh Thale Tai National Park – this untouched sanctuary presents a picturesque blend of crystal-clear waters, secluded coves, and pristine beaches embraced by jagged limestone cliffs which creates a picturesque collection of coastal viewpoints.
For a picture 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 park’s wonderful scenery.
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 a powerful spirit known as “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 today, performing a series of miracles that uphold his vow to Laung Phu Thuat.
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.
It’s believed that Ai Kai’s spirit has the power to bring people good luck, prosperity, and success in different aspects of life, such as business ventures, exams, or relationships. Thai Buddhist’s come to Wat Chedi to make offerings and perform rituals to seek the spirit’s blessings for prosperity and favorable outcomes.
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 Buddhists.
The act of applying gold leafs onto statues is a traditional practice that’s deeply rooted within Thailand’s Buddhist culture. It holds symbolic and spiritual significance rather than a purely aesthetic purpose, since gold is considered a precious metal that represents purity, enlightenment, and the divine nature of the Buddha.
Khanom Beach is definitely worth visiting for travelers that want a tranquil and unspoiled beach destination in Thailand. Below are the top 3 reasons why we believe Khanom Beach is worth a visit:
Serene and Uncrowded: Khanom Beach remains relatively untouched by mass tourism compared to more popular beach destinations in Thailand. If you prefer a peaceful and less crowded beach experience, Khanom is an ideal choice. You can relax on the soft white sands, swim in the clear turquoise waters, and enjoy the tranquility without the hustle and bustle often found in more developed tourist areas.
Pink Dolphins: Khanom Beach is famous for its resident pink dolphins, locally known as “Pla Tour.” These rare and captivating creatures can be spotted in the waters around Khanom, especially during the early morning or late afternoon. Embarking on a boat tour or hiring a local fisherman can give you the opportunity to observe these graceful creatures in their natural habitat.
Authentic Local Experience: Khanom Beach offers an authentic and laid-back atmosphere, allowing visitors to experience genuine Thai hospitality and immerse themselves in the local way of life. The town of Khanom provides a glimpse into traditional Thai culture and the opportunity to interact with friendly locals who are known for their warm hospitality.
Overall, Khanom Beach offers a serene and authentic beach experience away from the crowds. If you appreciate untouched natural beauty, tranquility, and the opportunity to witness unique wildlife, Khanom Beach is well worth a visit.
We highly 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.
The dry season, from December to April, is generally considered the best time to visit Khanom Beach. During this period, you can expect pleasant temperatures, minimal rainfall, and plenty of sunshine. The months of January and February tend to be particularly ideal, with cooler temperatures and lower humidity levels.
If you’re interested in encountering marine life, particularly pink dolphins, consider visiting Khanom Beach between February and April. This period corresponds to the mating season of these rare dolphins, increasing your chances of witnessing their playful interactions in the waters off Khanom Beach.
Quick Note: Thailand’s monsoon season lasts from May to November, which is characterized by higher rainfall and occasional storms. While it may still be possible to visit during this time, the weather conditions can be unpredictable, and some beach activities may be limited due to rough seas. If you choose to visit Khanom Beach during the monsoon season, it’s advisable to check the weather forecast and be prepared for intermittent rainfall.
Insider Tip: Be sure to check Thai government’s meteorological website for accurate weather forecasts.
Getting around Khanom Beach is relatively easy, as it is a small and peaceful destination. Below are the best ways to navigate and explore the area:
Motorbike or Scooter: Renting a motorbike or scooter is a popular and convenient option for getting around Khanom Beach. You can find rental services in the town center or near popular tourist areas.
This mode of transportation gives you the freedom to explore at your own pace, visit nearby attractions, and discover hidden gems in the area. However, make sure you have a valid driver’s license and adhere to local traffic rules and regulations.
Bicycle: Khanom Beach is relatively flat and has scenic routes suitable for cycling. Renting a bicycle is a sustainable and leisurely way to explore the surroundings at a slower pace. Many accommodations offer bicycle rentals, or you can find rental shops in the town. Cycling allows you to enjoy the coastal breeze, take in the beautiful scenery, and easily stop at local attractions and viewpoints along the way.
Tuk-Tuk or Songthaew: Tuk-tuks and songthaews (shared pickup trucks) are commonly available in Khanom Beach and are ideal for short distances or when you prefer not to drive. You can hail a tuk-tuk or negotiate a fare with the driver. Songthaews follow specific routes and can be a more affordable option for traveling between popular tourist spots. It is advisable to confirm the fare with the driver before getting on board.
Walking: Khanom Beach is a relatively compact area, and many of its attractions, restaurants, and accommodations are within walking distance. Taking a stroll allows you to soak in the laid-back atmosphere, explore the local neighborhoods, and enjoy the scenic views. Walking is especially convenient when visiting the beach, night markets, or nearby restaurants.
Private Transportation: If you prefer the convenience and flexibility of private transportation, you can hire a taxi or arrange for a private car or van service. This option is suitable for longer distances, day trips to nearby attractions, or when traveling with a larger group. Your accommodation can assist in arranging private transportation, or you can find local transportation providers in the area.
It’s worth noting that public transportation options in Khanom Beach are limited, and schedules may not always align with your specific plans. Therefore, having your own mode of transportation or relying on private options allows for more flexibility and convenience in exploring the area.
To travel from Bangkok to Khanom Beach, there are several transportation options available. Below are the most common ways to make the journey:
By Air and Land: The nearest airport to Khanom is Nakhon Si Thammarat Airport (NST). From Bangkok, you can book a domestic flight to Nakhon Si Thammarat Airport, which is served by several airlines. The flight duration is approximately 1.5 hours.
Once you arrive at Nakhon Si Thammarat Airport, you can take a taxi or arrange for a private transfer to Khanom Beach, which is approximately 70 kilometers away. The journey from the airport to Khanom takes approximately 1.5 to 2 hours by road.
By Bus: Another option is to travel by bus from Bangkok to Khanom. Buses depart from Bangkok’s Southern Bus Terminal (Sai Tai Mai) and travel to Khanom Bus Terminal.
The journey duration can vary depending on traffic conditions, but it generally takes around 9 to 12 hours. From Khanom Bus Terminal, you can take a local taxi or a songthaew (shared pickup truck) to reach Khanom Beach, which is approximately 15 kilometers away.
By Train and Land: If you prefer a scenic journey, you can take a train from Bangkok to Surat Thani, which is the nearest major railway station to Khanom. Trains depart from Bangkok’s Bang Sue Grand Station.
The journey duration varies depending on the train and class of service chosen, but it typically takes around 8 to 12 hours. From Surat Thani, you can take a bus or hire a taxi to travel to Khanom Beach, which is approximately 150 kilometers away.
Private Transfer: For a more comfortable and convenient option, you can also arrange for a private transfer or hire a taxi from Bangkok to Khanom Beach.
This allows you to have more flexibility in terms of departure time and can be arranged through various transportation providers. Private transfers offer a direct and hassle-free journey to your destination, although it’ll set you back more than 10,000 baht.
To travel from Phuket to Khanom Beach, you can choose from several transportation options. Below are the most common ways to make the journey:
By Car or Taxi: The most convenient option is to hire a private car or taxi for the journey from Phuket to Khanom Beach. The distance between the two destinations is approximately 250 kilometers, and the travel time is approximately 4 to 5 hours, depending on the traffic conditions and the route taken. Hiring a car or taxi gives you the flexibility to make stops along the way and enjoy the scenic views.
By Bus: There are no direct buses from Phuket to Khanom. However, you can take a bus from Phuket to Surat Thani, which is the nearest major city to Khanom. Buses from Phuket’s bus terminal travel to Surat Thani regularly, and the journey duration is approximately 4 to 5 hours. From Surat Thani, you can then take a bus or hire a taxi to reach Khanom Beach, which is approximately 150 kilometers away.
To travel from Koh Samui to Khanom Beach, you have several transportation options available. Below are the most common ways to make the journey:
Ferry and Land: From Koh Samui, you can take a ferry to the mainland at Donsak Pier in Surat Thani. Ferries operate regularly between Koh Samui and Donsak Pier, and the journey duration is approximately 1 to 2 hours, depending on the ferry operator and sea conditions.
Once you reach Donsak Pier, you can then take a bus or hire a taxi to travel to Khanom Beach, which is approximately 150 kilometers away. The journey from Donsak Pier to Khanom takes around 1.5 to 2 hours.
Speedboat or Private Transfer: If you prefer a faster and more direct option, you can arrange for a speedboat or private transfer from Koh Samui to Khanom Beach. Speedboats and private transfers offer a more convenient and comfortable journey, but are significantly more expensive than taking a ferry and bus combination.
To travel from Krabi to Khanom Beach, the most convenient option is to hire a private car or taxi for the journey from Krabi to Khanom Beach.
The distance between the two destinations is approximately 170 kilometers, and the travel time is approximately 3 to 4 hours, depending on the traffic conditions and the route taken. Hiring a car or taxi gives you the flexibility to make stops along the way and enjoy the scenic views.
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.
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).