05 Aug Take A Road Trip to Khao Lak
Taking a road trip to search for surf is a great way to get away from it all. It’s exciting to break off from the normal routine, explore unfamiliar territory, and discover new surf breaks and other nearby communities.
Crowded line ups can be found at the more popular and well-known surf spots located in higher populated areas, particularly along the west coast of Phuket. But with 740 km of coastline along Thailand’s west coast border, there are sure to be unknown and unridden waves with no surfers in sight.
You can also score some surf at a few other nearby islands and coastal towns where surfers are more than content with less crowded lineups and far less-than-perfect waves. And thanks to Sarasin Bridge, driving north from Phuket along the west coast of Thailand can lead you to a fruitful journey of exploration.
One well known spot that’s off the beaten path and is sure to offer all the equipment and accommodations you need for a mini surf trip can be found around Pakarang Beach. The tranquil coastal wonderland is located in the beautiful, laid back, family-friendly community of Khao Lak. It’s only about 63 kilometers (from Sarasin Bridge) north of Phuket and even a quick turnaround day trip is definitely doable and well worth the drive.
Where to go
The place to be at Pakarang Beach is Memories Beach Bar. There’s a different vibe, a different scene, a different crowd. Everything about this place is laid back and you can feel it as soon as you drive down the windy dirt road path that leads you to the picturesque setting.
The locally owned beach bar and restaurant is the perfect set up for curling your toes in the soft sand while sipping on your favorite cocktail or local beer as you gaze out at the Andaman Sea. Chill out as you listen to reggae beats and feel the good vibrations while soaking in peaceful serenity.
Local Thai food and western food are served daily from 8 am to midnight.
In the evenings, enjoy live local music and exciting fire shows. Be on the lookout for other events such as the annual Khao Lak Surf Contest, typically held in the month of October.
What to do there
Of course if there are waves, you’ll have to rent a surfboard and paddle out. If you’re a beginner, have no fear, there are surf instructors who are happy to get you up, standing, and surfing! Before you even hit the water, you’ll learn the basic techniques of paddling, the ‘pop up’, and all that you need to know about ocean safety including how to spot rip currents and how to escape them.
You’ll find everything you need at Pakarang Surf Shop, which is located just behind Memories Beach Bar. They offer a pretty wide selection of surfboards ranging in all sizes – longboards, shortboards, and even boogie boards. Surf shop owner, Ching, and his team will surely have you covered.
There are plenty of other activities to enjoy if the ocean is flat. You can choose to go mountain biking, hike to waterfalls, take a Thai cooking class, get a beachside Thai massage, or just flat out relax and read a good book. If you’re not short on time, take a day trip to the world famous Similan Islands (only from October 15 – May 15). Considered one of Southeast Asia’s top ranked beach destinations, the chain of islands are renown for world class snorkeling and diving.
Be sure also to stop by the International Tsunami Museum at the nearby town of Bang Niang and pay respects to the 2004 Tsunami victims and their families. It’s an educational experience and your visit helps the community as the entrance fees of 100 Baht are donated to the victims of the tsunami.
When to go catch some surf
Your best chance of catching waves in Khao Lak is from April to November. The waves can be generally softer and well suited for longboarding. Because waves are mostly dependent on the southwest monsoon, be sure to check the weather and surf forecast for best conditions. If you have never surfed before, Pakarang Beach and other nearby beaches can be the perfect place to get your feet wet. Learning to ride the whitewater and practicing your pop up and balance with mellow waves will surely give you a positive experience and will have you wanting to go back for more.
Where to stay
There are plenty of options to choose from that will suit anyone’s budget or needs. From basic beachside bungalows to high end 5-star luxury resorts, you’ll find what’s best for you and your family.
How to get there
If driving from Phuket, head north and after crossing Sarasin Bridge, follow the route and take Highway 4 all the way up to Khao Lak. After driving for about an hour, you’ll pass the JW Marriott on the left side of the road. Keep an eye out on the left side of the road for a sign shaped like a surfboard (because it is a surfboard). It can be easy to miss if you’re not looking carefully. It’s just before the Elephant Camp. The surfboard sign for Memories Beach Bar is the entrance to a fairly narrow dirt road that’s almost 3 km long. Keep going until you get to the dirt parking lot.
Time to hit the road and experience new adventures that Thailand’s beautiful coast has to offer.