Ko Rok

Ko Rok

Unspoilt twin islands

Brilliant white-sand beaches, crystal-clear water, vast coral reefs and metre-long monitor lizards: welcome to Ko Rok.

On this page: An introduction to Ko Rok

Why should you go to Ko Rok?

Protected as part of Mu Ko Lanta National Park, the twin Rok islands are two of the most beautiful in Thailand’s Andaman Sea. Most come as a day trip, and while it’s been possible to hang around for extended stays during high season in the past, that is on hold till at least high season 2020/21.

Oh hello beautiful. : Stuart McDonald.
Oh hello beautiful. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Long stays aside, if you’re a beach bum or a keen snorkeller, Ko Rok Nai and Nok are for you. By Thai standards, the snorkelling is excellent, and some of the beaches are just a-grade white sand delights.

Aesthetically similar to Ko Surin further north, Ko Rok refers to Ko Rok Nai (called the “inner” island since it’s closer to the mainland) and Ko Rok Nok (the “outer” island), both located some 30 kilometres south of Ko Lanta and 12 to 20 kilometres west of Ko Ngai, Ko Muk and Ko Kradan. Small and rugged, the twin islands are roughly the same size and sit only 250 metres apart, with hard and soft coral covering the channel in between.

When to go to Ko Rok

The Rok islands are subject to the same monsoon as the rest of Thailand’s southwest coast. The rainy season runs roughly from May to October, during which time the islands are closed. The tour boats stop running at this time and the park accommodation shuts down for the May 1 to November 1 rainy season. Across the dry season however, expect calm seas and brilliant sunshine.

Bloody awful. : Stuart McDonald.
Bloody awful. Photo: Stuart McDonald

One note if doing a daytrip from a nearby island, the wind tends to pick up in the afternoon making for a less comfortable boat trip. Leave for the islands early in the morning and aim to be on the way home by two or three in the afternoon to hopefully dodge a bumpy ride home.

Orientation

While Rok Nok is completely untouched apart from a few beach bums washing up on San Chao Beach, Rok Nai has a small ranger’s station, restaurant and accommodation zone just back from the 500-metre-long Ko Rok Beach. This is the landing point where daytrippers have their lunches and snap their customary “Look I’m in paradise” selfies. Excellent swimming and decent snorkelling can be enjoyed right off the sand, but the better spots are approached by boat.

Have a splash. : Stuart McDonald.
Have a splash. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Just over some rocks from Haad Ko Rok lies Haad Man Sai, a quieter 300-metre-long beach named after the banyan trees that drape over it. On the north side of Rok Nai is Ao Talu, a small cove with a mix of sand, rocks and mangroves. This is also where you’ll find the trail leading up to Pha Samed Daeng, a viewpoint affording sweeping northern vistas to Ngai and Lanta.

The normal entry fee to Ko Rok is 400 baht per person, but it was not being levied when we last visited. When they are levied, tickets are valid for a few days, so hold on to them if you’ve yet to visit other parts of the national park, like Ko Haa, Ko Chueak (one of the islets near Ko Ngai) or the beach and lighthouse at the far southern point of Ko Lanta itself.

I found Nemo. : Stuart McDonald.
I found Nemo. Photo: Stuart McDonald

A small cell tower is located on Ko Rok but the service on our AIS provider cell phone was patchy at best. No banks, ATMs, convenience stores or internet cafes are found on the island. The park rangers can help clean up minor bumps and bruises, but any serious injury would require an express run to Trang in one of the national park’s boats.


Where to stay on Ko Rok

Those looking to stick around can normally rent a standard-issue tent for 450 baht a night, plus a little extra for sleeping mats and pillows. Identical to (but more expensive than) those found on Ko Adang and Ko Tarutao, or any other national park island, the tents are pitched under the shade of trees and are large enough to sleep a family of four. Visitors are also welcome to set up their own tents for 30 baht and use the shared cold-water bathrooms.

Reef areas are roped off to keep the boats at bay. : Stuart McDonald.
Reef areas are roped off to keep the boats at bay. Photo: Stuart McDonald

When we last visited in late 2019 a park ranger told us all accommodation was closed till the 2020/21 high season. Keep an eye on the DNP’s page for Lanta National Park for future visits. The national Park entry fee was not being levied when we visited, though this may change in the future.


Where to eat on Ko Rok

The park station has a small restaurant, but as most people are currently visiting on a day tour, that tour should include, in the least, a simple meal. If you’re still hungry (or thirsty) hit up the park’s basic offerings.


What to see and do

While some snorkelling sites have names like “Bermuda Ridge” and “Seafan Garden”, it all blends together into one impressive reef system that supposedly spans over a square mile in all. Visibility is usually excellent and a little of the coral has retained its colour despite considerable bleaching in the past. Angelfish, pufferfish and anemones are among the vibrant and thriving marine life most commonly seen. You might spot a sea turtle, moray eel, sea snake or even a black-tip shark if you’re lucky.

File that extended leave form today. : Stuart McDonald.
File that extended leave form today. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Much of the coral is no more than five metres below the surface and easily explored with a snorkel. Though plenty of daytrippers hit the islands and the nearby dive sites of Hin Mueang and Hin Daeng, the overall traffic is moderate and the beaches nowhere near as crowded as on the Similans. On a recent visit in late 2019 we shared two of the reefs with just one other boat.

The interiors of both islands are blanketed in jungle, with some dark-grey limestone cliffs stretching up to 100+ metres high. Beaches covering the east coast of Rok Nok and south coast of Rok Nai are so white that they can be blinding at midday. It’s a joy to dig your bare toes into the super-fine coral sand.

Meet the primary day tripper beach. : Stuart McDonald.
Meet the primary day tripper beach. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Ko Rok also hosts its share of wildlife on land, including the small squirrel-like creature for which it was named. Monitor lizards crawl at the top of the food chain and have grown larger here than elsewhere in Thailand as a result. You’ll often see them lounging without a care amid fallen leaves off the beaches, so do watch your step. You’ll also see plenty of birds, smaller lizards and perhaps a snake or two.


Getting there and away

Boat

There are no public boats to Ko Rok; the only ways to get here are by booking a tour or chartering a private boat.

A ranger told us on a busy day the crowds can be easily 20x this. : Stuart McDonald.
A ranger told us on a busy day the crowds can be easily 20x this. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Most visitors book a speedboat day tour from any resort or travel agent on Ko Lanta for around 2,000 baht per person. These tend to pick up customers on all of Lanta’s west-coast beaches and will include two or three snorkelling stops, lunch, drinking water, snorkels, masks and fins. It takes around an hour to reach Rok from Lanta, and the tours usually run from 09:00 to 15:00. Similar tours can be booked in Pakmeng Beach on the mainland.

Ko Rok is also easily reached by private longtail boats from Ko Ngai, Ko Kradan and Ko Muk, which can be arranged through resorts or directly with the boatmen. We paid 4,000 baht for a boat from Kradan and saw prices ranging from 3,500 to 4,500 at various places on the three islands. These rates are per boat, not per person, so the price can be reasonable if you rustle up four or five heads. It’s an often bumpy 1.5- to two-hour ride by longtail.

By


62 other destinations in Southern Thailand

Learn more about Ko Pha Ngan
Ko Pha Ngan

More to it than Full Moon Parties

Learn more about Khao Sok National Park
Khao Sok National Park

Wise old wilderness

Learn more about Ko Chang Noi
Ko Chang Noi

The other Ko Chang

Learn more about Ko Yao Noi
Ko Yao Noi

Leave the crowds behind

Learn more about Ko Yao Yai
Ko Yao Yai

A bay all to yourself.

Learn more about Ko Lao Liang
Ko Lao Liang

Let’s keep this one a secret

Learn more about Ko Jum
Ko Jum

Ready to relax?

Learn more about Ko Surin
Ko Surin

Breathtaking above and below the water

Learn more about Ko Ra
Ko Ra

Unspoilt island wilderness

Learn more about Ko Phra Thong
Ko Phra Thong

Golden Buddha island

Learn more about Natai
Natai

Fancy pants beach time

Learn more about Ko Rawi
Ko Rawi

Pristine beaches and jungle

Learn more about Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park
Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park

Land of 300 peaks

Learn more about Ko Bulon Lae
Ko Bulon Lae

The tranquility runs deep

Learn more about Phetchaburi
Phetchaburi

Caves, beaches and a palace

Learn more about Ko Samui
Ko Samui

Dozens of beaches to choose from

Learn more about Ko Tao
Ko Tao

A popular spot to learn to dive

Learn more about Krabi
Krabi

Lively gateway to the islands

Learn more about Railay Beach
Railay Beach

Rock climbing paradise

Learn more about Ko Phi Phi
Ko Phi Phi

Popular party island

Learn more about Ko Lanta
Ko Lanta

Where the beaches stretch for miles

Learn more about Ko Muk
Ko Muk

More to it than the Emerald Cave

Learn more about Ko Libong
Ko Libong

Great choice for the quiet life

Learn more about Songkhla
Songkhla

Relax by the sea

Learn more about Ko Phayam
Ko Phayam

One laid-back island

Learn more about Kaeng Krachan National Park
Kaeng Krachan National Park

Thailand‘s largest national park

Learn more about Ko Sukorn
Ko Sukorn

Settle into a slower pace

Learn more about Ko Kradan
Ko Kradan

Great beaches, pricey food

Learn more about Prachuap Khiri Khan
Prachuap Khiri Khan

Mountains to the west, ocean to the east

Learn more about Ban Krut
Ban Krut

Set your internal clock to Thai time

Learn more about Khao Lak
Khao Lak

A family favourite

Learn more about Ko Kho Khao
Ko Kho Khao

No need to leave that beach chair

Learn more about Khanom and Sichon
Khanom and Sichon

Just kick back

Learn more about Similan Islands
Similan Islands

Say hi to the sea turtles

Learn more about Takua Pa
Takua Pa

Crossroad between islands and mountains

Learn more about Hua Hin
Hua Hin

Mainstream tourist hotspot

Learn more about Trang
Trang

Before you hit the islands... Eat!

Learn more about Ko Lipe
Ko Lipe

Welcome to paradise

Learn more about Ko Tarutao
Ko Tarutao

Awesome

Learn more about Ko Adang
Ko Adang

Ko Lipe’s wild neighbour

Learn more about Ranong
Ranong

Wave to Burma

Learn more about Ko Ngai
Ko Ngai

A comfortable island getaway

Learn more about Nakhon Si Thammarat
Nakhon Si Thammarat

Unadulterated Southern Thailand

Learn more about Phuket
Phuket

Thailand’s biggest and busiest island

Learn more about Narathiwat
Narathiwat

Muslim fishing life

Learn more about Bang Saphan Yai
Bang Saphan Yai

Low-key beach town

Learn more about Phattalung
Phattalung

Mountains, lakes and no tourists

Learn more about Ko Si Boya
Ko Si Boya

Take a break from it all

Learn more about Phang Nga Town
Phang Nga Town

Your base for Phang Nga Bay

Learn more about Hat Yai
Hat Yai

Largest city in Southern Thailand

Learn more about Satun
Satun

Don’t miss the local iced tea

Learn more about Cha-am
Cha-am

Like Hua Hin lite

Learn more about Chumphon
Chumphon

Gateway to Ko Tao

Learn more about Ao Nang
Ao Nang

Beach holiday hotspot

Learn more about Pattani
Pattani

Once a proud kingdom

Learn more about Betong
Betong

Almost Malaysia

Learn more about Yala
Yala

A low key spot

Learn more about Surat Thani
Surat Thani

Gulf coast island gateway

Learn more about Sungai Kolok
Sungai Kolok

Gateway to Malaysia

Learn more about Khuraburi
Khuraburi

Gateway to little-known islands

Learn more about Pakbara
Pakbara

Gateway to the Satun islands

Learn more about Tak Bai
Tak Bai

Historic for more than one reason