Once travelers step away from Bangkok, it soon becomes clear just how many awesome places there are to visit in Thailand. The Southeast Asian nation is incredibly diverse, with the islands of the south nothing like the destinations in the northern mountains. More often than not, the most interesting places to visit in Thailand are the country’s fantastic national parks.
Thailand has over 140 national parks, which together cover almost 20 percent of the kingdom’s territory. To help you plan your trip we have handpicked the best national parks in Thailand for you. With them, you’ll be able to experience the landscapes, wildlife and nature of Thailand in all its glory whenever you get your next chance to visit.
1. Khao Yai National Park
With the honor as the first official national park in the country, it’s little surprise that Khao Yai is one of the best national parks to visit in Thailand. Located in Nakhon Ratchasima Province, Khao Yai is a fantastic place to see animals in Thailand, as its forests and grasslands are home to all sorts of wildlife, including birds, elephants, and bears. Beyond its plentiful wildlife, this World Heritage listed national park near Bangkok also delights with its majestic waterfalls, one of which was where the waterfall jump scene in The Beach was filmed.
2. Kaeng Krachan National Park
Head to Kaeng Krachan National Park if one of the things you wanted to see in Thailand was the country’s diverse wildlife. Sitting along the border with Myanmar, this is Thailand’s largest national park, which explains why it’s home to possibly the broadest range of wildlife in the country. Touring around Kaeng Krachan you can witness a diverse array of animals, from leopards to elephants, gibbons, monitor lizards, porcupines, and plenty of birds. The landscape of Kaeng Krachan is quite interesting as well, with patches of rainforest poking through clouds of mist a common sight.
3. Erawan National Park
Home to one of Thailand’s best waterfalls, Erawan National Park is a destination sure to be on most backpackers’ bucketlist. But there’s much more to this national park near the Myanmar border in Kanchanaburi Province than many people realize. Yes, the seven-tiered waterfall Erawan Falls is the park’s most popular attraction and can easily fill your time as you explore each level, but it’s certainly not the only thing here to see. Erawan also features four caves that are able to be explored and a few short walking trails through its pretty forest.
4. Kui Buri National Park
If one of the big reasons for your trip is to see the wildlife in Thailand, then you won’t want to miss Kui Buri National Park. Yet another national park found along the border with Myanmar in the Prachuap Khiri Khan Province, Kui Buri is most famous for its wild elephant spotting. Travel through the protected parts of the park is done with tours in pickup trucks and 4×4 vehicles, while there are special-built viewing platforms for watching the wild elephants from afar. Those wanting ethical animal experiences in Thailand will be pleased by this park’s setup.
5. Khao Luang National Park
Those seeking somewhere to immerse themselves in pristine nature in all its glory will want to head for Khao Luang National Park. Found down in the Nakhon Si Thammarat Province of southern Thailand, the park offers the south’s tallest mountain and vibrant, diverse forest. Hiking is the most popular activity in Khao Luang National Park as it allows you to visit all of the park’s picturesque waterfalls, streams, and mountain viewpoints. Khao Luang is also known for its biodiversity and is home to creatures like panthers and leopards, as well as rare plants including a local orchid.
6. Hat Chao Mai National Park
Thailand is famous for its beaches and islands, so it only makes sense that areas of its coastline like Hat Chao Mai National Park are protected areas. This particular coastal park covers the islands of Ko Muk, Ko Kradan, and Ko Cheuk in the country’s southern Trang Province, plus the marine life in the waters around them. As you explore Hat Chao Mai National Park by boat you have the opportunity to see all kinds of rare and endangered creatures on and off land, including dugongs, sea otters, and pangolins.
7. Ao Phang Nga National Park
Of all of Thailand’s islands, the most popular and most photographed has to be the iconic James Bond Island in Ao Phang Nga National Park. But while this towering karst island is impressive, it’s just one of 42 karst islands within this marine park in southern Thailand. The islands of Ao Phang Nga National Park are also home to formidable cliffs, stunning beaches, romantic lagoons, and epic caves, making it a real treat for those who visit. There’s even the hidden Koh Panak Cave, that’s only accessible from the water.
8. Doi Inthanon National Park
Known as “The Roof of Thailand”, Doi Inthanon National Park is one of Thailand’s best national parks thanks to all the different attractions and activities available to visitors. As it’s situated in the country’s north in Chiang Mai Province, the park features a mountainous terrain and is home to the highest mountain in Thailand called Doi Inthanon Mountain. Besides the ones from this lofty peak, there are countless breathtaking viewpoints to visit in the park. Then there’s the hiking trails, waterfalls, and small villages that showcase another side of Thailand.
9. Khao Sok National Park
To experience the jungles in Thailand at their most primeval you’ll want to head to Khao Sok National Park in Surat Thani Province. That’s because this expansive national park in southern Thailand is brimming with rainforest and jungle, some of which is believed to be the oldest evergreen rainforest in the world. Besides trekking through dense jungle, Khao Sok offers plenty of activities like visiting waterfalls and caves, wildlife spotting, elephant encounters, and canoeing out on Cheow Lan Lake. There are also unique accommodation options here, like staying in the floating bungalows on the lake’s edge.
10. Mu Ko Similan National Park
Covering the eleven Similan Islands in the Andaman Sea, Mu Koh Similan National Park is a great destination for travelers looking to explore beneath the waves. Found off the west coast of southern Thailand, this national park is a prime location for diving and snorkeling thanks to its crystal clear waters, thriving sea life, and vibrant reef. As for the bits of Mu Koh Similan that are above for the water, they provide stunning white beaches backed by lush rainforest and granite boulders, as well as a superb night sky.
11. Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park
As the first of many marine national parks in Thailand, Khao Sam Roi Yot is a trailblazing protected area in Prachuap Khiri Khan Province. Part of what makes Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park so interesting is its variety of landscapes. The park not only covers the coastline, but also a range of limestone hills and the largest wetlands area in Thailand. It’s up in the hills though that you’ll find the most popular attraction of the park, the breathtaking Phraya Nakhon Cave with Khuha Kharuehat Pavilion inside it illuminated by the hole in the ceiling of the cave.
12. Thung Salaeng Luang National Park
For a side to Thailand that few expect, make your way to Thung Salaeng Luang National Park. That’s because this national park split across Phitsanulok and Phetchabun Provinces is home to broad savannahs full of wildflowers and pine trees. Thung Salaeng Luang shows that Thailand is far more diverse than just jungle and islands, while also fitting in a couple of waterfalls as well. Trekking and hiking are the most popular activities here, especially since the park includes some decent climbs up into its limestone hills.
13. Mu Ko Surin National Park
Visiting national parks doesn’t always have to be about rushing around sightseeing or hiking everywhere, especially when it comes to places like Mu Ko Surin National Park. With a trip to these protected islands in the Andaman Sea, you can spend your time there relaxing on pristine white beaches and snorkeling among all manner of interesting sea life. For something a little more active, head to Richelieu Rock, widely agreed to be one of the best diving sites in the world. Below you have the chance to see some magical coral reefs, sea turtles, and a wide variety of fish.
14. Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park
A short trip from popular Thai islands like Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park is a great day trip option for tourists interested in time on the water. This marine park in the Gulf of Thailand actually covers 42 islands and is a fantastic choice for water sports and activities, including kayaking, boating, snorkeling, and diving. Then there’s all the things to do on the islands themselves, from lounging on white sand beaches to hiking up to mountaintop viewpoints for their magnificent vistas.
15. Namtok Phlio National Park
Although it’s one of the less well-known Thai national parks among international tourists, Namtok Phlio National Park is immensely popular with Thai locals. And it’s easy to see why thanks to the park’s vivid greenery, waterfalls and natural pools that are ideal if you want to cool off. Elsewhere in this national park in Chanthaburi Province, you’ll come across mighty mountains and historical religious landmarks that date back to the time of King Rama V. Namtok Phlio National Park really does offer a broad range of things to do, much of which you’ll have to share with many other foreign visitors.
16. Pha Taem National Park
Offering not only gorgeous nature and wildlife, but also a unique look at the region’s history, Pha Taem National Park is quite a special place to visit in Thailand. For one thing, it’s situated by the Laos border in Ubon Ratchathani Province, a long way from many parks on this list. But what really makes Pha Taem special is its considerable rock art found along cliffs by the Mekong River. This art is said to date back 3000 years and includes depictions of activities like fishing and farming, as well as interesting geometric designs.
17. Doi Suthep–Pui National Park
The north of Thailand is known for its mountains and temples, two things that Doi Suthep–Pui National Park has in great supply. Located in Chiang Mai Province, this national park is named after two of its mountain peaks, Doi Suthep and Doi Pui. Both are considered sacred sites, in part thanks to Buddhist temples at their summits, including the majestic Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple. As for the nature there, Doi Suthep–Pui National Park offers rainforest and cloud forest to explore as you hike or bike your way to the top.
18. Tha Pom Khlong Song Nam
One of the smaller national parks on this list, Tha Pom Khlong Song Nam is still no doubt a remarkable place to visit in Thailand. Situated in a remote part of Krabi Province, this national park is far removed from the usual tourist trail through southern Thailand. But those that make it to Tha Pom Khlong Song Nam are in for a treat, as the park features crystal clear rivers that flow through dense mangroves, which you can explore by boardwalk.
19. Khao Lak-Lam Ru National Park
It can almost feel like Khao Lak–Lam Ru National Park has a taste of everything that makes Thailand so enjoyable to visit. With this national park along the coast of Phang Nga Province, you have beaches, forest, mountains, waterfalls, and wildlife. Really, what more could you ask for? Khao Lak–Lam Ru earns its name from two of its mountain peaks, Khao Lak and Lam Ru. However, the main attractions here are the park’s secluded beaches and the beautiful Ton Chong Fa Waterfall.
20. Sai Yok National Park
Rounding out this fantastic collection of parks we have Sai Yok National Park in Kanchanaburi Province. Found among the forests of Kanchanaburi Province, this national park is often overlooked for the province’s better-known Erawan National Park. But with waterfalls, caves, and walking trails to explore, all without the crowds of Erawan, Sai Yok offers a more peaceful experience. On the darker side of things, the park is also home to remnants of the Death Railway, built by forced labor under control of the Empire of Japan during WWII.
So there you have it – a list of the best national parks in Thailand. Looking through them, you’ll hopefully see just how diverse and wonderful this country can be.