Discovering Phraya Nakhon Cave and Sam Rot Yoi National Park

Discovering Phraya Nakhon Cave and Sam Rot Yoi National Park

Phraya Nakhon Cave looks like a still from a movie scene. It’s hidden 500 metres up a mountain and has a beautiful pavilion and forest inside. If you get there at the right time, you can see an almost holy beam of sunlight shoot through the crack in the ceiling.

Phraya Nakhon Cave Royal Pavilion
The Royal Pavilion

Whilst on a thrilling overland journey spanning the length of Thailand, we settled down for a few days in Sam Roi Yot National Park. This is the best place to explore the unbelievable spectacle of Phraya Nakhon Cave.

Sam Roi Yot means ‘mountain of 300 peaks’. It’s an area on the coast, 240 km south west of Bangkok. Unsurprisingly, its name describes the setting perfectly. The roads are mostly flat, but flanking either side are colossal limestone cliff peaks. There’s also a huge expanse of natural wetland, home to an impressive 355 bird species and lotus flower lakes.

Phraya Nakhon Cave Panorama
Phraya Nakhon Cave

Phraya Nakhon Cave is part of Sam Rot Yoi National Park and its discovery is the stuff of legend. Rumours say that a shipwreck caused the crew to flee on to the beach and seek refuge in the cave. Others suggest that a Thai nobleman found the cave whilst walking in the area and deemed it ‘fit for a king’.

Prior to the cave’s first regal visit, a royal pavilion (called Phra Thi Nang Khua Kharunhad) was constructed inside. This was placed in a position to catch the sunlight bursting through a huge crack in the roof of the cave. Carrying a pavilion up the mountain would have required huge effort, but the final results are worth it. In all my travels I’ve never seen anything quite like it. There’s an ethereal beauty when you first lay eyes upon the illuminated pavilion.

Visiting Phraya Nakhon Cave

Starting the morning in Sam Roi Yot at the Blue Beach Resort, we hired a scooter from our hotel and set off. After a 10km journey past jaw dropping mountain scenery, we arrived in the beach settlement of Bang Pu. There’s little more than a Buddhist monastery, some food shacks and a small beach. You’d be forgiven for thinking “is this it?”. Yet it is here where you buy the ticket to enter Sam Rot Yoi National Park.

The path to Phraya Nakhon Cave is on the other side of the mountain, leading off from Laem Sala Beach. This predented us with two options. The first; hike over the mountain to Laem Sala Beach. The second; hire a boat from Bang Pu and take a five minute journey across the sea to the other side of the mountain. At a cost of 200 Bhatt ($6 USD) per person, that seemed quite expensive for a budget backpacker.

It was time to start hiking!

Coastal beach walk along stairs
The coastal walk over the mountain to Laem Sala Beach

Off we went, climbing an unassuming concrete staircase for half an hour. With the steep ascent we broke a sweat in no time. Our efforts were rewarded en route, with stunning views overlooking the Gulf of Thailand and tropical islands in the distance. The descent down to Laem Sala Beach required careful footing, but the sign informing us “Your Health is Still Strong” brought some light relief.

Motivational Sign
Thailand helping you to stay positive

Stopping at the beach restaurant, Rose stocked up on Coca Cola, which was needed for what came next. The path leading to Phrya Nakhon Cave is a tough 500 metre winding uphill trail on a rocky path through dense forest. It was a tough hike and we followed a school trip along the path where the kids were dropping like flies!

Steps to Phraya Nakhon Cave
Steps to Phraya Nakhon Cave – go steady!

Reaching the summit, we could see stalagmites and stalactites lining the path in to Phraya Nakhon Cave. As we carefully made our way down, the royal pavilion peered in to view. I felt like a true explorer, finding a hidden ancient relic. Light was bursting though the ceiling illuminating the vast open space. With so few visitors, there was a tranquil silence. The silence only broken by the occasional chirp of a bird or humming insect.

Stalactites and Stalagmites Thailand
Stalactites and Stalagmites at the entrance to the cave

With no guards monitoring the area we were free to explore at leisure. The pavilion is on a rock in the middle of the cave, but there’s so many crevices to explore around its base. I spent plenty of time looking at it from every angle and wandering along hidden dark corridors. There’s also a small forest. Gnarly routes and trees clamber for the available sunlight and insects scuttle around the jagged rocks.

In Thailand there’s an innumerable stray dogs. The inside of Phraya Nakhon Cave was no exception and some four legged friends had made their way here. Rose always carries dog food, so we sat down and relaxed whilst they enjoyed feeding time. It’s always a good feeling to help in any way we can.

Phraya Nakhon Cave
Feeding a stray dog in the cave

There’s only one way in and out, so after resting for a while it was time to retrace our steps and climb out of the cave. Back at the restaurant on the beach we sat down for some welcome refreshment, looking out to sea and feeling grateful for the experience.

How to get to Phraya Nakhon Cave

Sam Roi Yot is one of 127 National Parks in Thailand, but rarely visited by the throngs of tourists that the country sees each year. Whilst it’s not secluded, it does take a little effort to get there. There is no public transport shuffling hordes of people around, so you have to make the journey yourself. This makes a visit even more rewarding.

Hua Hin is a sea side resort which receives regular buses and trains from Bangkok (2.5 hours / 200 km) and beyond. This is an ideal base to start your journey. Once in Hua Hin, you will need to hire a taxi to Sam Rot Yoi. Haggle for the best price and expect to pay 700 Bhatt ($21.50). The journey takes approximately one hour.

If you wish to hire a taxi driver for a return day trip from Hua Hin, I would expect the price to be around 2,00 Bhatt ($60 USD).

Map of Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park
Map of Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park

Phraya Najhon Cave can be visited on a day trip from Hua Hin. However, to see other things in the area and have a more rewarding experience, I recommend staying in Sam Rot Yoi at the beach front resort of Phu Noi village.

From Phu Noi you can hire a scooter (180 Bhatt / $5.50 USD per day) or bicycle and reach Phraya Nakhon Cave in around 15 – 20 minutes.

Scooter Hire Thailand
Our trusty scooter

Best Time to visit Phraya Nakhon Cave

The best time to enter Phraya Nakhon Cave is around 10AM when the sun is directly above the crack in the roof. This means you want to start walking up from Laem Sala Beach around 9 – 9:30 AM.

Phra Thi Nang Khua Kharunhad Phraya Nakhon Cave
Phra Thi Nang Khua Kharunhad Royal Pavilion

Where to stay near Phraya Nakhon Cave

Sam Rot Yoi has a few choices and we stayed at the Blue Beach Resort on the beach front settlement of Phu Noi. The accommodation is amazing with great priced foods and the cheapest beers in town (I checked and the owner’s claim is true!!).

There’s also a private swimming pool on site and you can hire scooters and bikes for a good price.

Even better, you can arrange onward transport here to Bangkok (300 Bhatt / $9 USD per person). As public transport isn’t available, this is a great way to save money and reach Bangkok without having to go back to Hua Hin.

Do I Need a Phraya Nakhon Cave Tour?

No. You can visit independently with a bit of effort. However, this isn’t for everyone and some people prefer the convenience of an organised tour. The best place to visit is Get Your Guide. There you will find a local expert offering a tour and you can read reviews from previous tourists.

Phraya Nakhon Cave Entrance Fee

The entrance fee is 200 Bhatt ($6 USD), but this also gives you access to other caves and sites in Sam Rot Yoi National Park.

Essential Items for Your Trip to Thailand

It’s always useful to have a guide that helps you plan your travels. The Lonely Planet Guide to Thailand is ideal. Also available as Kindle.

The Rough Guide South East Asia on a Budget is also an exceptional travel planner. Ideal if you are planning to adventure further through the area. Also available as Kindle.

I have taken one of these across the world. This power strip is essential for international travel. It charges multiple items at once and takes any kind of international plug. Perfect if you’re in a hostel dorm with limited plug sockets or have a lot of tech to charge.

You’ll need sun cream to fight against Thailand’s scorching sun. I recommend an eco friendly reef sun cream. This means if you also use it to go swimming, you won’t be harming the underwater environment and animals. You won’t get burned either!

Save the environment and stay hydrated with a bottle that filters your water. This is ideal for travelling overseas where people don’t have the luxury of potable tap water. It will mean you don’t get sick or use a lot of non-recyclable plastic.

Get the best value accommodation in Thailand here:


Phraya Nakhon Cave Guide

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