It’s no secret that Thailand is a beautiful country. With its lush tropical climate, crystal clear waters, and roaming elephant herds it’s hard to find another place in the world quite like it. However, few who visit Thailand ever see much beyond Bangkok or the tourist-trodden beaches of the southern islands. Should you wander just a little further, you'll discover that Thailand is home to dozens of spectacular national parks — some that put even America’s to shame. That said, we’ve put together a list of the most beautiful national parks Thailand has to offer, so you can make the most of your next trip.
Kui Buri National Park
Known in Thailand to be the best park for natural wildlife, Kui Buri National Park is truly impressive. Nestled along the Burmese border, Kuri Buri is home to wandering herds of elephants that are often found playing in the watering holes near the edge of the park. Visitors have the option to either view the plentiful wildlife from afar, or up close on a guided tour. You can even stay overnight in the park itself, in a tent or bungalow. We recommend you avoid the wet season between November and May, and visit during the direst months of June or July. Whenever you choose to go, we’re sure you'll be impressed.
Kaneg Krachan National Park
Almost completely hidden in a thick mist, the hilltops of Kaneg Krachan National Park create a spectacular illusion of floating tropical islands. The largest national park in all of Thailand, Kaneg Krachan is well known for the diverse wildlife that thrives there, and the beautiful rainforests that cover the park. There are over 400 species of birds living in the park, which attracts bird watchers from all over the world. If that's not quite your thing, maybe hiking through the dense rainforests or scaling one of the park’s many tall peaks might be more your speed. The best time to visit Kaneg Krachan would be between December and March — the mist is at its thickest, and the heat isn’t yet sweltering.
Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park
Translated to English, ‘Khao Sam Roi Yot’ means the “mountain with 300 peaks.” With a name like that, you'd better believe that Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park is unlike any other national park on the planet. Besides the impressive limestone hills and vibrant bird population, many visitors come to Khao Sam Roi Yot to see the stunning Phaya Nakhon Cave. This open-roof cavern is home to a Buddhist temple that looks more like a work of art than a temple of worship. If you’re not planning to camp, the best way to visit Khao Sam Roi Yot is to stay at the nearby village of Hua Hin and drive in.
Khao Yai National Park
Located in central Thailand, Khao Yai National Park is a mountain climber's dream. Nestled along the Sankamphaeng mountain range, there are plenty of cliffs worth scaling. Afraid of heights? Don’t worry — there's plenty of hiking trails that pass through vast grasslands and tropical forests filled with natural wildlife like leopards, monkeys and elephants. There are also several waterfalls scattered throughout the park, the largest of them being Haew Narok which spills into a clear blue pool of water. Travel conditions to Khao Yai are good nearly year around, so no need to worry about visiting on the wrong season.
Erawan National Park
Known for the seven-tiered Erawan Falls, Erawan National Park is a stunning stretch of wilderness located in the Kanchanaburi Province in western Thailand. Visitors can scale up the side of Erawan Falls and bathe in one of the tiered pools that under a certain light are a gorgeous sky blue. As well as several waterfalls, Erawan has a system of stunning forested caves that visitors can explore. If you can’t tear yourself away from the park, rent a rainforest bungalow and stay overnight. Getting to Erawan is fairly easy as every day buses from Kanchanaburi shuttle visitors into the park.
Mu Ko Surin National Park
Scattered in the Andaman Sea, Mu Ko Surin is a group of islands that draw travelers on the regular. Along white sand shores, visitors can enjoy snorkeling in the clear waters, deep-sea diving off the coast, or hiking through the lush tropical forests that make up each of these islands. The water off the coast of the Mu Ko Surin islands are teeming with exotic wild life, from sea turtles to vibrant coral reefs. Mu Ko Surin is also home to the legendary Richelieu Rock, which is known as one of the best diving sites in the world. If you decide to stay overnight, you can rent a bungalow along the coast of one of these islands and have a stay that's on par with a five-star resort.
Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park
Jutting out of deep blue seas, Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park in the Gulf of Thailand is a massive national park that makes up 42 different islands. These islands play host to glorious white sand beaches, and mountain peaks that offer spectacular hiking trails. The best way to get around the park is by boat. Visitors can either rent a boat for themselves or take a tour and island hop through the park. There are plenty of campsites on these islands, and shore-side bungalows are plentiful if you'd rather rent than rough it. Expect to see a wide variety of wildlife on land as well, as the Mu Ko Ang Thong islands are home to monkeys, otters, wild boar, and so much more.
Khao Sok National Park
Tucked under forested mountain peaks that literally leap from the water, Khao Sok National Park is a spectacular space filled with overgrown rainforest. Off the coast of a vast body of crystal clear water, visitors can rent floating bungalows that have perfect views of the surrounding mountain peaks. Considered the wettest part of Thailand, this National Park is best visited during the dry season between June and October. We highly recommend you avoid monsoon season which sits between April and June, as flooding is common and makes getting to the park a little difficult.
Mu Ko Similan National Park
Mu Ko Similan is a mind blowing National Park made up of a archipelago of eleven different islands in the Phang Nga Province in the Andaman Sea. Every single island in this National Park offer picturesque views of white sand beaches, clear blue waters, and rain forest-covered granite mountain peaks. Teeming with vibrant marine life, this space offers some of the best snorkeling and deep sea diving sites in the world. There are even several travel companies that offer diving tours of the island for beginners. If you really can’t get enough of these perfect blue seas, you can rent a boat to stay out overnight. And if you don’t want to rough it on a boat, some of the islands, like Ko Miang and Ko Simlan, offer luxury stays at shore-side hotels. We recommend you travel here between December and April, as the waters are at their clearest thanks to gentle tides.
Ao Phang Nga National Park
Located in southern Thailand, Ao Phang Nga National Park is a massive space in the center of a bay made up of 42 breathtaking karst islands. Some of these islands look more like giant grassy stone pillars that jut out from the reflective blue waters. The park is fairly large, and offers more than can be done in a single day, so we recommend you rent a bungalow or try camping. On the bay there are a number of caves and lagoons to get lost in. Koh Panak Cave is particularly popular, and takes an entire day to see all of it. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to hire a tour guide as the cave can only be reached by boat. Probably the most popular spot at Ao Phang Nga is James Bond Island, named as such for its appearance in The Man with Golden Gun. If hiking or cave spelunking isn’t your thing, enjoy a relaxing evening on sandy shores where all your tropical island fantasies can be satisfied.
While in Thailand, visit an elephant sanctuary.