Hidden deep inside a cave near the seaside resort of Hua Hin in rural southern Thailand, there is a fantastic sight. The magnificent gold and green Kukha Karuhas pavilion, the smallest temple in Thailand, is a religious landmark in the Phraya Nakhon Cave, one of Thailand’s most beautiful and most photographed caves. The giant limestone cave is a popular tourist attraction with trees reaching for its rooftop openings. However, its remote location makes it challenging to get to and limits the number of visitors who can catch a glimpse of this stunning sight.
The cave’s tranquil atmosphere consists of two chambers, each with a rooftop opening that allows the sun to shine through. The in-flowing sunlight contrasts with the cave’s darkness to create a mystical sensation. A forest growing within the cave makes it a bright and colourful natural attraction.
Getting to the Phraya Nakhon Cave
The Phraya Nakhon Cave is located in the depths of the Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park in Thailand’s Prachuap Khiri Khan province. To get there, prepare yourself for a long, hot trek. You will begin by taking a 45-minute drive from Hua Hin to the small village of Bang Pu by the beach. Along the way, you will be treated to magnificent views of beaches, mountains, and forests.
At the beaches of Bang Pu village and Laem Sala, you will find restaurants and small shops to visit. From there, you travel by boat around the cape to Laem Sala Beach or hike for 30 minutes across the hill. The boat ride costs 150 to 200 baht per person round trip and can be combined with a visit to Monkey Island, while the hike consists of tracks and stairs with viewing platforms along the way.
You still have a challenging 430-meter hike from the beach of uneven and steep steps through the forest. The climb is steep enough to require a hand rope and takes roughly 30 minutes. There are rest stops where you can catch views of the beach, sea, and small islands nearby. Take your time, wear solid shoes, drink enough water, and wear insect repellent. As you approach the top of the hill, the path gets more accessible as it starts descending into the first cave.
Phraya Nakhon Cave
When you finally arrive, you will find a sizeable rustic restaurant, be assigned a guide, and pay a National Park fee of 200 baht. There is no admission fee for the cave. An information board with a map will show you the layout of chambers and attractions. In the first chamber is a dry waterfall, and stalactites and stalagmites formed hundreds of years ago. Holes in the ceiling caused by earthquakes long ago let in light rays.
A short wooden path called the crocodile back path, because it looks like the back of a crocodile, leads from the first to the second cave. King Chulalongkorn the Great (Rama V), who loved the area’s beauty, built the second chamber in 1890. Its centrepiece, the Kuha Kharuhas (Kharuehat) royal pavilion, is illuminated by the sunlight falling from a circular hole in the saddled ceiling. The temple stands on a hill surrounded by trees and vegetation. Sparkling finials surround a statue of Phraya Nakhon, and bushes and trees grow inside.
King Prajadhipok (Rama VII) visited the cave in 1925, and King Mongkut stayed in Khao Sam Roi Yot to see the total solar eclipse with European guests in 1968. Both of these kings inscribed their names on the cave’s walls. The recent king of Thailand, King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), also visited the cave but did not write his name on the wall.
Phaya Nakhon Cave Royal Pavilion is the symbol of Prachuap Khiri Khan province. Behind the hill with the pavilion is a rock that looks like a crocodile. Langurs, a type of monkey inhabiting forests, can be seen playing and jumping around the cave, but serenity and tranquillity pervade inside the cave.
The best time to visit the caves is in the early morning when sunlight enters and illuminates the hilltop altar draped with a pink cloth over it. After you finish your climb and cave visit, stopping by the restaurant for refreshments is a great way to end your adventure.
Tips and Practical Information
If you would like to stay in the area, you can rent family bungalows on Laem Sala Beach or camp in tents or a boutique resort in Hua Hin. Visiting during the week is a great way to avoid crowds and to have a more tranquil experience, as the weekends and holidays can be pretty busy. If you are short on time or energy, catch a ride to the cave in a minivan. Finally, hiring a guide who knows the area will help you make the most of your visit.
Two hundred years ago, a Thai man named Chao Praya Nakhon Sri Thammarat sought cover from the rain and discovered a cave. Named after this man, the Praya Nakhon cave is home to Thailand’s smallest temple. The Praya Nakhon Cave and its royal pavilion are magical and magnificent landmarks. Although the climb to them is steep and rugged, seeing them is well worth the effort.
Praya Nakhon Cave FAQs:
Q: How do I get to Phraya Nakhon Cave?
First, to reach Phraya Nakhon Cave, travel to the Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park in the Prachuap Khiri Khan Province of Thailand. You can either drive or hire a taxi from Hua Hin. From the park, take a boat ride to Laem Sala Beach, followed by a 30-45 minute hike to the cave entrance.
Q: What is the entrance fee to the cave?
An entrance fee for visiting the Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park is 200 THB for foreign adults, 100 THB for foreign children, 40 THB for Thai adults, and 20 THB for Thai children. There may also be additional fees for boat rides and parking.
Q: What is the best time to visit the cave?
The best time to visit Phraya Nakhon Cave is in the morning, between 10 am and 11 am, when sunlight streams through the cave’s opening and illuminates the Kuha Karuhas pavilion. This creates a stunning visual effect and the perfect opportunity for photography.
Q: Is the hike to the cave difficult?
Visitors with mobility issues or those who are not confident in their physical fitness should exercise caution. The hike to Phraya Nakhon Cave is moderately challenging, with steep inclines and uneven terrain. It is advisable to wear sturdy shoes, bring water, and be prepared for a 30-45 minute hike.
Q: Are there guided tours available?
Guided tours can be arranged at Hua Hin or through local tour agencies. A guided tour can provide valuable information about the cave’s history, geology, and the surrounding national park.
Q: Are there food and restroom facilities available?
Some basic food and restroom facilities are available at Laem Sala Beach, but it’s a good idea to bring snacks and water for the hike. There are no facilities within the cave itself.
Q: Is photography allowed inside the cave?
Photography is allowed inside Phraya Nakhon Cave, and visitors are encouraged to capture the stunning beauty of the cave and the pavilion. However, it is essential to be respectful and avoid using flash photography, as it may disturb the natural environment.
Q: Can I swim in the cave?
There is no water body inside the Phraya Nakhon Cave suitable for swimming. However, you can swim at Laem Sala Beach before or after visiting the cave.
Q: Is the cave open all year round?
Phraya Nakhon Cave is generally open all year round. However, it is best to visit during the dry season, which runs from November to April, to avoid heavy rain and slippery hiking conditions. Always check the local weather forecast and park announcements before planning your trip.