Surat Thani is a city located in southern Thailand, most commonly known as a jumping-off point to other attractions rather than for its own activities.
For travellers on a tight time frame, Surat Thani is probably best suited as just a transportation hub and entryway to the popular islands on the Gulf of Thailand (Koh Samui, Koh Phanghan and Koh Tao) or the Andaman coast (Krabi, Phuket, Koh Phi Phi).
However, for those with a bit of time to spare it may be worth setting aside some time to get a glimpse of the ‘real’ Thailand that is slowly becoming buried by tourism.
Here are our favourite things to do in Surat Thani:
New to Surat Thani? Our compact Surat Thani city guide shows you the best areas to stay, restaurants you don’t want to miss and many more tips for your visit to Surat Thani!
#1 Spend all day and night exploring markets
No matter how many markets you’ve already seen, and there’s A LOT in Thailand, there’s always time for one or two more!
Pra Cha Rat Floating Market
Bangkok’s floating markets might be vibrant and exhilarating but they are also bustling with tourists.
Pra Cha Rat is different! Unlike in Bangkok, this market isn’t for the tourists but a way for locals to make their living, giving it that authentic feel Bangkok’s sometimes lack.
Once you step through the ornate green and gold archway, your eyes will be met with local stalls selling cheap and delicious food served in bamboo and banana leaf bowls.
Cast your eyes to the riverbank to see it lined with boats filled with locals from the surrounding rural areas, who all come to sell their produce and products.
In addition, most of the boat vendors also offer trips up and down the river, offering insights into local life and the flourishing mangroves.
Surat Thani Night market
Rated highly for its spectacular food and low prices, Surat Thani Night Market allows you to immerse yourself in an experience central to community life in Thailand.
With the majority of vendors selling traditional Thai food, it’s the perfect chance to try something new. We recommend the Pad Thai noodles, salted duck eggs and refreshing, tropical fruit to cleanse your palette afterwards.
Here you’ll also find many locally-crafted goods that can be hard to find elsewhere. One of these is Phum Riang silk. The designs are intricately produced using techniques passed down through generations in a near-by Muslim village called Phum Riang.
#2 Take a day trip to Khao Sok National Park
We would recommend dedicating more than a day to appreciate all that Khao Sok National Park has to offer. However, if you just can’t find the time, you can make a day trip from Surat Thani.
Just 2 hours away, there are local buses and shared minivans that will get you there for 100-200 baht one way. The journey gives you a perfect opportunity to catch up on some sleep or just admire the views.
The national park is believed to be 160 million years old, making it the oldest evergreen forest in the world!
And that’s not the only amazing thing about Khao Sok National Park. You can’t help but be wowed by the limestone mountains sprouting above the green carpet of swaying tree canopies, or the diverse wildlife that’s thriving all around you.
You may even be lucky enough to spot an elephant or tiger skulking amongst the trees whilst trekking through the jungle. Or you can give your legs a rest and float down the rivers in a canoe or kayak.
#3 Make sure to visit Cheow Lan Lake and Dam
Hidden within Khao Sok National Park is the enchanting Cheow Lan Lake and Dam. It’s easy to believe that Cheow Lan is one of Mother Nature’s greatest creations. In fact, this 185 square kilometrelake is actually man-made, but this in no way takes away from its beauty.
The hydroelectric dam was built to provide electricity for SuratThani and other areas in southern Thailand as well as for flood control.
Whilst being heavily protected by the Thai government, you will be able to witness Thai anglers in their element before they retire to their floating raft houses.
Take this all in whilst gliding effortlessly across the tranquil water in a long boat whilst shoals of silver fish dart and dance under the water.
#4 Join a temple tour around Surat Thani
Guarded by several proud elephant statues sits the Surat Thani Pillar Shrine.
A place of respect and tranquility, it is said to house the city’s ancestor’s spirits and is visited daily by locals praying and paying their respects.
Take the time to admire this stunning white shrine which has been kept in pristine condition and the intricate details.
Next up, Chaiya. In this tiny fishing village surrounded by rubber tree groves, you’ll find Wat Phra Borommathat. Inspired by the eye-catching Javanese style, it stands as the most elaborate example of Srivijaya influence remaining in Thailand today.
Enjoy the peacefulness of this site without the hordes of other tourists at most other temples.
#5 Grab a beer at Night Boat Pier
The rustic vibe is taken to the extreme with the set up consisting of plastic chairs and make-shift tables.
I know, we’re not really selling the whole set-up, but it creates a super laid-back hangout spot for locals and travellers alike.
It’s a great place to grab a cheap beer and some street food whilst conversing with the new friends you’ve just made.
Also check out How to get to Surat Thani from other destinations around Thailand!
DD Modern House - Budget Friendly
DD Modern House, as the name suggests is a modern, clean and bright hotel that will make you feel instantly at home. It’s amazing value for money with king rooms costing just $14 per night. The beds are huge and the room comes with everything you could need.
The rooms even have their own balcony overlooking Surat Thani. Plus, you won’t have to go too far to find a number of restaurants and shops. This place books up fast, so don’t miss out!
- Huge and comfortable beds
- Spacious and clean rooms
- Private balcony
- Good location
Private rooms start at $14 per night.
Garden Homestay - Budget Friendly
Looking for authentic Thai culture and a welcome like no other? Garden Homestay is the best choice for you! The hosts are known to be extremely friendly and enjoy spending time with guests, showing them around town and taking them to the sights.
A wonderful Asian-style breakfast is included every morning and the homestay is centrally located.
- Extremely friendly and welcoming hosts
- Breakfast included
- Very comfortable beds
- Garden area
Private rooms start at $20 per night.
Blu Monkey Hub and Hotel Suratthani - Budget Friendly
Set centrally in Surat Thani, the Blu Monkey Hub and Hotel Suratthani is a quirky monkey-themed hostel/hotel. It’s a great place to meet other travellers as the place offers free activities and also free bike rental. All day there’s complimentary drinking water and juice to enjoy.
And don’t forget about the delicious Asian breakfast that’s included in your stay. In need of coffee? They have an onsite coffee shop.
- Very comfortable beds
- Onsite coffee shop
- Walking distance to the night market
- Delicious breakfast included
Private rooms start at $23 per night.
Bangsrai Cottage - Mid Range
Enjoy the stunning river views from the terrace at this centrally located cottage in Surat Thani. The outdoor swimming pool is the perfect place to cool down after exploring the area and the cottage gardens.
There is also a shared lounge, free Wi-Fi and free bike rentals for guests to enjoy. A delicious continental breakfast is included with your stay too.
- Delicious breakfast included
- Swimming pool
- River views
- Centrally located
Private bungalows start at $41 per night.
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Kate is a writer, (ex)Management Consultant and avid traveller. She recently returned from a 2-year career break exploring the world and decided corporate life wasn’t for her. She’ll soon be testing life as a digital nomad. She’s visited over 40 countries and fell in love with Latin America in particular. Her travelling has inspired a passion for yoga, salsa, hiking and Spanish.
Based in Bali, Maarten’s passion for travel is undeniable. In 2016, he decided to quit his job as a stock analyst and started doing what he always dreamed of: travelling through South East Asia and helping other people plan their trips. When he is not working on Gecko Routes, you’ll find him surfing in the ocean or exploring the best gems of Indonesia.