The quality of National Parks in Thailand varies pretty widely. A lot of them have nothing more than a single waterfall and feel more like a money grab than anything else. Others though are fantastic and have a variety of different stunning landscapes and natural features.
Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park (อุทยานแห่งชาติเขาสามร้อยยอด) near Hua Hin is one of the better ones. With beaches, coastline, mangrove forests, limestone karsts studded with caves, and a huge freshwater wetland, this is among the most varied parks you’ll find anywhere in Thailand. If you’re ever in Hua Hin or passing through the northern area of Southern Thailand, we highly recommend checking this place out for at least a day.
About Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park
Khao Sam Roi Yot means mountain with three hundred peaks. The limestone hills here reach up as high as 600 meters. To the east of them is the Gulf of Thailand, and to the west is the largest freshwater marsh in the country. Driving around from one side to the other can take up to an hour. By far the most famous part of the park is the Phraya Nakhon Cave (ถ้ำพระยานคร) and it’s definitely worth visiting, but there are a lot of other places worth seeing here.
When to visit and entrance price
This national park and all of its attractions are open year-round and there is no bad time to visit. During the rainy season (mid-May through October) there will probably be some rain, but we almost never advise against traveling during this time. Often you get the most beautiful scenery when storm clouds part and sunlight pours down from a dark sky.
The entrance price here is 200 Baht for foreigners and 40 Baht for Thais. A ticket is good anywhere in the park for the day of purchase only. Boat trips are extra, and the park rangers here seem strongly incentivized to sell you these everywhere you go.
Guided tours of the park
Below is a self-guided tour that we put together, but it requires you having your own car or motorbike, or at least a driver who you can communicate all of it to. If you would prefer to book a tour and have a personal guide, you can reserve a tour of Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park with the company Take Me Tour. This is a company that we highly recommend as they have great customer service, work with local guides, and the tours are almost always high quality in our opinion. Currently there is only one Khao Sam Roi Yot tour and it only visits Phraya Nakhon Cave, but if you message the guide through the website, you can probably work out a custom trip. He is a science teacher in the local school, and a very nice guy. You can view the trip details here.
Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park one day itinerary
The different attractions here are spread quite far apart, some as far as an hour from others. We put together this itinerary that shows you the best way to see each of them in a single day, and the best order to see them in for ideal lighting and to avoid the worst of the afternoon heat. If you do have more time you can definitely see more here, and get in some beach time, but most of the National Park attractions require a ticket and they are only good for the day they were purchased. If you do need to pay for a second day, it’s not really that much money.
Morning – Phraya Nakhon Cave
If you’re an early riser, you could head to any of the local beaches and catch the sunrise. If not, we recommend starting your day with a visit to Phraya Nakhon Cave. This is by far the most popular part of the park and it seems that most visitors come here and skip the rest. Even so, it is definitely worth seeing. If you want to see the iconic shafts of sunlight streaming down into Phraya Nakhon Cave you need to make that your morning activity. Peak times for that are generally between 9 am and noon, and it takes at least 45 minutes to reach the cave from the parking area. To get there, you need to drive in and park your car at this location. There are plenty of restaurants here and places to buy cold drinks. There is an okay beach that’s good for a photo but there’s a nicer beach you’ll be on soon.
Phraya Nahkon Cave hike
Here you will need to pay the national park fee (or show your ticket if you come later have already bought one for the day). You then have to decide if you want to walk or take a boat to the start of the cave hike. The boat costs 400 Baht for up to six people. You will get your feet and ankles wet doing this. The other option is to walk. There is a trail that is clearly signposted but the rangers try to discourage you from taking it. They say it takes two to three hours which might be true if you include the entire hike which you still have to do if you take the boat. The part of the hike you do instead of the boat is really only about 15 minutes and has some nice views. It seems like the rangers in this park get a cut of the boat fees.
Whether you walk or take the boat, you arrive on another beach. There is a restaurant here and some free toilets. 100 meters back in from the beach the hike begins. It’s steep and tiring and the trail has a lot of limestone, some sharp, some worn down to the point of being slippery. You need to be in decent shape to do this hike without taking a lot of breaks. The cave at the top is absolutely worth it. Two different chambers have open roofs and their own mini-jungle ecosystems growing in them. The largest chamber is massive and has an important royal pavilion built by the beloved King Rama V.
Early afternoon – Khlong Khao Daeng boat trip
After you return from the cave you should eat, then head back to the main road and drive south to this location. Here you’ll find the village of Khlong Khao Daeng (คลองเขาแดง). Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park operates longtail boats here that do really nice tours of the river and out into the sea. The cost is 500 Baht per boat, and you’ll need to show your National Park ticket. You head upstream first through mangrove forest with towering limestone cliffs above you. There are some really nice birds flying around, and you’ll probably see crab-eating macaque monkeys hoping for a food handout. Sadly much of this area is scarred by old abandoned shrimp farms where the mangroves have been cleared, and the National Park doesn’t seem to be doing any reclamation work.
After about 25 minutes the boat heads back toward the coast and out to sea briefly, passing through the village piers along the way. The tour takes an hour total and is definitely worth doing. After you finish, the temple at the pier is nice and worth a short walk around. It’s set against the cliffs and has a resident troop of monkeys hanging around. Just down the road there is the Khlong Khao Daeng viewpoint hike. We skipped this since we’d had enough uphill trekking at the cave, but if you really want to punish yourself you can try it. Based on reviews and photos, it’s a tough 45-minute hike with very nice views from the top. Bring good shoes and water if you try it.
Mid afternoon – Park headquarters and porcupine cave
Heading south from Khlong Khao Daeng just a couple of minutes you’ll reach the Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park headquarters. There is a small museum here with some history of the area and a fairly impressive rhinoceros skeleton that was found in the area. Most of the signs here are in Thai only, or unintelligible Google Translated English. Behind the visitor’s center, there is a boardwalk through the mangrove forest which isn’t very impressive but maybe worth a fifteen-minute stroll. A fair amount of people were coming here when we went, but none did the much better hike just across the road.
We were going to skip the porcupine cave and horseshoe cave hike but a friendly ranger came to talk to us and encouraged us to do it. He even lent us headlamps for the cave. Just across the road from the visitor’s center, there are two paths. One is a dirt road going off to the left, another is a path leading up fairly steeply. Take that up first for less than one minute and you’ll find the entrance to the porcupine cave. Most of this cave is open and well lit and even if you’re claustrophobic you shouldn’t have a problem.
Look for the small details
There are a lot of cool little details in this cave if you poke around a bit. Some lower areas have the remains of oyster shells attached to the rock from a few thousand years ago when ocean levels were higher. There are lots of cave crickets with long antennae. There are also lots of huntsman spiders which are not at all aggressive but you should be careful. Caves like these also sometimes have snakes so watch out for that. If you peak into holes in the rocks you can see cracked eggshells from snakes and lizards. We saw one very cool gecko that was purple and yellow. We also found a few porcupine quills which is how we realized why the cave is named what it is.
After the cave, head down and take the dirt road. This doesn’t go very far and it just parallels the main road, but it cuts through some nice forest and we got up very close to a troop of dusky langur monkeys. These are super cool because they aren’t aggressive around humans like macaques, but they also are not too scared of you either. The ones we saw were just above our path and didn’t move even when we were watching them from about four meters away.
Bueng Bua marsh boardwalk
Leaving the visitors center you need to drive west all the way out to the main Highway 4 then back into the park to this location. It’s about a 35-minute drive and we’d recommend stopping to pick up food or snacks to eat on the boardwalk. When you arrive you have to show your ticket again and the rangers will try to sell you on a private boat trip through the marsh. You’ll notice that’s something of a theme here. We skipped it as we were tired of forking money over to them for boats, but honestly, it’s probably very nice. This is Thailand’s largest freshwater marsh and it’s gorgeous. Bueng Bua marsh is probably the most beautiful part of Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park.
Looking out across the high grasses you’ll see six covered gazebos each linked by the boardwalk. you can only walk out to the first two since the boardwalk is rotting away past that. This is pretty annoying since the park obviously gets plenty of revenue. They just seem more interested in selling you boat tours than fixing the park infrastructure. That said, even just the first parts that you can walk are stunning. The views out over the marsh and grasses with the towering limestone mountains above you lit up by the afternoon sun make this one of the nicest landscape scenes you’ll find in Thailand. A lot of birdwatchers come here for the wide variety of species, especially the purple swamphen which are beautiful and really are purple.
Bueng Bua tower
You’ll see from the boardwalk that there’s a tower near the last gazebo, but you can’t walk there since the boardwalk is closed after the second gazebo. You can get to the tower though. At the back of the parking lot, a gravel road continues straight along the edge of the marsh. There is a gate but it was open when we were there. You can drive along this road or walk about 400 meters to the tower. The tower stairs don’t have the wooden treads but if you’re careful you can walk up the steel frame. From the top, you get a pretty nice view. 50 meters past that, the other end of the boardwalk meets dry land. It’s not in great shape over here, but it wasn’t blocked off or closed when we went so we carefully walked out to the first gazebo on that end. If it’s crowded when you’re there consider coming to this area as you’ll probably have it all to yourself.
Other things to do at Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park
Above is what we recommend if you have one day, but there’s plenty more to do in the area. This is really a nice place to come for a few days to escape from Bangkok. There is an actual town set along the sea to the east of the Sam Roi Yot mountains. There is a very long stretch of beach that isn’t the most beautiful you’ll find in Thailand, but it makes up for it in chillness and charm. There is jet skiing and ATV rentals at the beach, but the beach is big enough that you can always find a quiet spot. The whole road behind the beach is lined with small hotels, bars, and restaurants. You can’t go wrong doing it Thai style here and setting up a grill, a cooler, and hanging on the beach all day.
Where to stay at Khao Sam Roi Yot
You could stay in Hua Hin or Pranburi and drive down to this area, but there is plenty of nice accommodation in Sam Roi Yot town just outside the national park. There are options right along the main beach road, and some less expensive places back inland a kilometer along the small highway 4020.
The sea in this part of Thailand is fine for swimming, but it is honestly pretty murky and not that nice. We recommend booking a place with a pool if you plan on doing a lot of swimming.
Our absolute favorite place to stay in Sam Roi Yot is the Minitel By The Sea. It offers great value, has fantastic rooms and facilities, and a gorgeous pool set right behind the beach.
If you’re on a budget and looking for something unique, Numpu Baandin Guesthouse has simple but nice rooms in a beautiful setting around a central pond with the Sam Roi Yot mountains as a backdrop. It’s a short drive from the beach where most of the accommodation is more expensive.
If you are coming mostly to relax and you really want to ball out, the Sheraton Hua Hin Pranburi Villas is about twenty-minutes’ drive further from Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, but is the best hotel in the area. The private pool villas here are really stunning.
There is a wide range of accommodation options in this area for most budgets which you can find here on Booking.com.
Let us know in a comment if any of this information needs to be updated or if you find any cool spots in the area that we missed.