Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park
With its soft, irregularly-shaped mountain peaks, Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park (Mu 2, Ban Khao Daeng, Kuri Buri, 03/261-9078, 400B) has one of the most distinctive skylines of any national park in the country, and some consider the park’s physical landscape to be among the most beautiful in the country.
The park’s name means “mountain of 300 peaks,” and while there may not be quite that many, there are certainly scores of majestic gray limestone mountains to be seen and climbed.
In this coastal park, which is easily reachable from Hua Hin, Cha-Am, or Pranburi, you’ll also find salt flats, freshwater marshes, and caves, as well as a canal on which you can rent a boat and explore a mangrove forest. There are also quiet beaches and bungalows for rent should you decide to stay for longer than a day.
Sights and Recreation
If you’re in the park in the early morning, start off with a hike to the Khao Daeng Viewpoint. From the top, about 152 meters above sea level, there is a panoramic view of the park’s mountains, marshes, and coastline. The hike is moderately difficult and should take 30-45 minutes for reasonably-fit hikers. The trailhead is about 0.5 kilometer from the park headquarters; you can either drive to it or walk along the paved road until you see a sign or the trail.
Laem Sala Beach is a small cape surrounded by water on three sides, backed by casuarina pine trees. The coast here is wide but slopes very slowly, so it’s a great place to take small children and new swimmers. You may find yourself walking out for a while to hit deeper water. There are beach-bungalow facilities and campsites, a small cafeteria-style restaurant, and bathroom and shower facilities. To get to the beach, you’ll have to hike about 30 minutes along a well-marked but at times steep trail. You can also arrange to hire a boat from nearby Bang Pu Village for 100 baht per person.
Sam Phraya Beach is a small pine tree-backed beach with a small restaurant and camping facilities for visitors. This beach has a shallow drop-off similar to Laem Sala and is a few kilometers north of the main park headquarters.
Perhaps Thailand’s most photographed cave, Phraya Nakhon Cave is a 30-minute hike from Laem Sala Beach. The cave complex is actually two large sinkholes whose roofs have collapsed, allowing sunshine to pour into the structure and creating a skylight effect during the day. Inside is a royal pavilion built for a visit by King Rama V in 1890, which, during the right light, takes on an eerie and mystical appearance. The uphill trail that leads to the cave starts just off the beach and is a 0.4-kilometer steep uphill climb. Make sure to wear appropriate footwear if you’re visiting—no flip-flops!
Bird-watchers will love this park. More than 300 species of birds have been recorded at Khao Sam Roi Yot—this number becomes even more impressive when you consider that the park covers less than 105 square kilometers. The park attracts plenty of wetland birds, including Malaysian plovers, and the best place to find them is at the freshwater marshes throughout the park. You’ll also find Caspian tern, white-bellied sea eagle, greater spotted eagle, and Oriental hobby. There have also been sightings of the endangered spoon-billed sandpiper.
Macaque, dusky langur, and slow lorris are among the primates that call the park home, as do deer, fishing cats, mongoose, and goat-antelopes. Offshore, dolphins have been spotted near the park’s beaches. One of the best ways to see animals in their natural habitat is to take a boat trip on the Khao Daeng Canal. The loop takes about an hour; if you go in the early morning or around sunset you’re likely to see plenty of bird life. The start of the route is about 1.5 kilometers from the park’s headquarters. Stop in at the headquarters to arrange a boat tour, which will cost around 1,000 baht for the whole boat. For those who’d rather propel themselves through the water, there are kayaks available for rent at park headquarters; they cost around 200 baht for the day.
Getting to Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park
There are no buses that go directly to the park, so if you don’t have your own wheels the best bet is to get to Hua Hin and then take a motorbike or taxi the rest of the way. A taxi from Hua Hin to the park will run about 300-500 baht, but like all national parks, arriving without transport makes it very difficult to enjoy the park.
If you are going by car, follow Highway 4 south past Hua Hin until you get to Pranburi. Turn left at the main junction in town, then follow the road another 1.6 kilometers until it forks to the right. After another 1.6 kilometers, you’ll see a small police kiosk, at which point you will turn right and continue down the road for another 19 kilometers until you see a sign for the park.
Although the park is right on the coast, it’s a little tricky to get to unless you are familiar with the roads. From Pranburi you can see the mountain peaks in the distance and it’s a good way to orient yourself if you get lost. From Pranburi, the trip will take about 40 minutes; from Hua Hin, about an hour.
© Suzanne Nam from Moon Bangkok, 5th Edition