When we’re looking for a fun, laid-back, and inexpensive beach vacation in Thailand, our go-to spot is Koh Chang. A Thai friend of ours introduced us to this island several years ago and since then we’ve gone back several times. During this latest trip to the island, we took some close friends with us and showed them our favorite things to do on Koh Chang. As it turned out, it’s been their best vacation in Thailand to date. And it could be yours, too.
Koh Chang (pronounced gaw chahng) is Thailand’s second largest island to Phuket. It’s in the Gulf of Thailand, much further north than the more well-known islands of Koh Phi Phi, Koh Samui, and Koh Pha Ngan, but its beaches still look like what you’d see in travel magazines.
Koh Chang offers visitors the best of all worlds. It’s clean and beautiful and relaxing. It’s international traveler-friendly (i.e., you don’t need to speak Thai to go there). And the island as a whole is easy on the wallet. There’s no other island we’ve been to (yet) that offers all of these perks.
Click the links below to instantly jump to different sections in this post
- Kayak to Koh Man Nai
- Drink cocktails at Tapas Bar
- Kai Bae Viewpoint
- Visit the gypsy village at Bang Bao Pier
- Snorkel with Sea Adventures catamaran
- Lounge on the best beaches
- Hike and swim at the Moh Koh Chang National Park
- Watch the sunset
- How to get to Koh Chang
- Where to stay in Koh Chang
- Best restaurants in Koh Chang
Things to do in Koh Chang
We spent ten days vacationing in Koh Chang with our good friends Elias and Kati. It was the perfect amount of time to unwind, which we spent alternating between ‘do nothing’ days and days with mild activities the next. We also ran into Caitlin from tinyrambler.com and spent a few days with her while she was on the island for a friend’s wedding. Small world!
Kayak to Koh Man Nai
There are several islands near Koh Chang. Some, such as Koh Mak and Koh Kood, are best visited if you have at least 24 hours to spare but others nearby can be visited in a few hours. One morning, we kayaked to the nearby island of Koh Man Nai (a 30-minute paddle from the dock) and spent a few hours lounging around, searching for seashells and coral, and hunting for hermit crabs. This island can be seen from the shoreline of Kai Bae Beach as well as from the Kai Bae Viewpoint.
We rented kayaks from a little shop on the northern end of Kai Bae Beach, right beside Kaibae Hut Resort. The equipment, which included good quality life vests, paddles, and kayaks, cost 100 baht per hour or 300 baht for four hours.
|TIP: There is nothing on this island aside from sand and trees so pack water and some snacks. Bring a waterproof bag to store your towel and electronics.|
Enjoy Beach Cocktails at Tapas Bar
Our favorite beach bar on the island by far is Tapas Bar at White Sands Beach. We’ve vacationed in Koh Chang three times, and each trip we’ve made our customary visit because the bartenders at Tapas Bar are friendly and know how to pour the best cocktails.
It’s the epitome of a tropical bar. Guests can stroll up to the wooden hut decorated with seashells, feet in the sand, and order cocktails and then plop themselves down in colorful lounge chairs under the broad-leafed trees with a lovely view of the beach.The Long Island Iced Teas and mango coconut smoothies are to die for.
Kai Bae Viewpoint
If you have an hour to spare, stop by the Kai Bae Viewpoint for a scenic view of the nearby islands (which includes the one that we kayaked to!) It’s a nice place to stop off on your way to another part of the island and is well-marked from the road. There are also bathrooms if you need a pit stop.
Visit the Gypsy Village at Bang Bao Pier
Near the ‘end’ of the island is the Bang Bao Pier, which extends far off the shoreline. Along the pier is a little community with shops and residences suspended several meters above the water.
There are tiny, one-room bungalows perched on top of stilts along the pier, several highly rated restaurants, and lots of shops selling water gear, beachy knick-knacks, and even leather goods.
Snorkel with Sea Adventures
Our splurge of the trip was a day trip with Sea Adventures. Captain Angelo – who looked every bit of a seafaring captain – took us to three different islands where we went swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking.
The boat was a no-frills but orderly 13-meter catamaran with a nice bathroom (Soap! TP! Thank you!), a canopy that provided plenty of shade, and two front-of-the-boat nets that suspended sunbathers above the water.
The crew prepared us fresh fruit for snacks and a hearty lunch of freshly grilled skewers of chicken and veggies, chicken wings, vegetarian green curry, mixed rice, and stir-fried vegetables. Beer and sodas were available to buy at about the same price as you’d buy from a convenience store.
Although we booked through a no-name tour agency along the main road in Kai Bae, you can book a day trip by contacting Sea Adventures directly. It was a great way to see the mountainous Koh Chang island from a distance and enjoy the fresh sea breeze.
Lounge on the Best Beaches
We spent the first two days of our trip driving up and down the west coast of the island and getting the lay of the land with our friends. After taking a peek at the beaches, we decided that White Sands Beach and Kai Bae Beach were our favorites. (Here’s a detailed map of Koh Chang’s beaches). They are both several kilometers long, very clean, and have shops and restaurants conveniently nearby.
Every other day between more adventurous activities we sunbathed, napped, read, walked, and played Frisbee on the soft cream-colored sand. Relaxing on these beaches was among our favorite things to do on Koh Chang.
One particular place we continued to gravitate to was K. B. Resort. It was a stone’s throw from our hotel (which wasn’t on the water itself), so we’d pack our towels and Frisbee and hang out at the stretch of Kai Bae Beach in front of the resort. We enjoyed several meals at its restaurant as well as a few piña coladas. The resort also let us use their bathroom facilities and outdoor shower to rinse the sand off our feet.
Thailand is sorely lacking in domestic beers varieties, but we came across a new kind during our beach trip: Shogun Orange Lager by Cheers. It’s refreshing – not unlike a summer shandy – and was a welcomed change from the usual pale lager Thai options (Leo, Singha, Chang). It’s definitely worth seeking out at a nearby 7-Eleven or mini Tesco.
Hike and Swim at the Moh Koh Chang National Park
Koh Chang’s national park is huge and one of its major attractions is the Khlong Phlu Waterfall. Beginning at the ticket booth, there’s an easy to hike 1-kilometer long trail that goes through the cool forest and opens up to a tall waterfall. It’s unique in that it also has a natural swimming pool. A word of warning: the water is quite chilly and it’s home to schools of fish that aren’t afraid to nibble swimmers!
We brought our woven mats (around 150 baht from a street vendor), water and some snacks. No alcohol is allowed, but it’s a nice spot to enjoy a picnic. Be sure to wear your bathing suits under your clothing. There are clean bathrooms with soap and toilet paper at the park’s entrance but not at the waterfall.
Price: 200 baht for adults, 100 baht for children
Watch the Sunset
With several sporadic evening showers, we weren’t sure if we’d catch a good sunset during our time on the island. It turned out that most days it was pretty but one particular evening it was GORGEOUS.
Where to be when there’s a sunset? Here are our favorite spots:
- Nature Rocks at Nature Beach Resort
- Saffron by the Sea
- K. B. Resort
Other things to do in Koh Chang
- Take a fishing day trip to Koh Wai
- Visit Koh Ngam Beach
- Explore Salak Phet Bay
- Dine in the tree pods on Koh Kood
- Hike from Khlong Phlu Waterfall to Thom Mayom Waterfall
How to get to Koh Chang
Koh Chang is in the northeastern area of the Gulf of Thailand, just off the mainland of the Trat Province. It’s a 5-hour drive by car (rental car or private driver) from central Bangkok.
By bus, it’s roughly a 6-hour trip from Bangkok’s Mo Chit Bus Terminal or Ekkamai Bus Terminal to Koh Chang. You can buy tickets online up to two days in advance or buy them in person at least one day in advance. Some ticket prices include the cost of the ferry ride, too.
There is no airport on Koh Chang, but you can fly to Trat Airport (TDX) (20-minute drive to the ferry) and Utapao International Airport (UTP) (3-hour to the ferry). After landing at the airport, book a VIP van, bus, or rental car the rest of the way to the island from one of the airports’ transportation kiosks. We made a rental car reservation at UTP during our latest trip and the pickup was effortless.If you take an early morning flight into Suvarnabhumi Airport, you can buy a VIP van ticket from a kiosk on the ground floor. The driver will take you all the way to your hotel on Koh Chang.
Once you’ve arrived at the mainland pier (Centre Point Ferry or Laem Ngob Pier), hop on the ferry for a 45-minute ride to the island. After arriving at Koh Chang, it takes another 45 minutes to drive from the pier to the farthest point on the island.
If you are making the trip from Bangkok or Chiang Mai, we’ve written an in-depth transit guide to Koh Chang.
Where to stay in Koh Chang
Across our three trips to Koh Chang, we’ve collectively spent 20 nights on the island. If you’re wondering where to stay in Koh Chang, these are places we recommend:
Paradise Bungalows – No frills bungalows with nice staff, clean grounds, and centrally located.
Nature Beach Resort – Offers a variety of room types for all kinds of budgets. Has a beachfront bar and restaurant, which makes it a good place to hang out on the weekends.
Nest Sense Resort – Beautiful infinity pool, natural decor, and private villas that have a view of the water.
We also enjoy using Airbnb from time to time.
Best restaurants in Koh Chang
We always look forward to going to the beach because that’s when we get our fill of fresh seafood. Some of our favorite Thai dishes are grilled squid (blah muek yahng ปลาหมึกย่าง) with spicy dipping sauce, stir-fried dry yellow curry with crab (pad pawng guree bpoo ผดผงกะหรี่ปู), and fried prawns with tamarind sauce (goong tawt sawt makahm กุ้งทอดซอสมะขาม).
For dishes such as those, try out the White Sands Beach Night Food Market (on the main street behind Tapas Bar), Nong Bua Seafood, and Chow Lay Bang Bao Seafood.
If by chance you find yourself craving non-Thai food, there are some fantastic international restaurants on Koh Chang. We ate at all of these restaurants listed below (some more than once) and the Western flavors really hit the spot.
- Italian: Ziva Ristorante Italiano
- Greek: El Greco
- Import Beer: World of Tapas
- Mexican: Barrio Bonito
- Western Breakfast: Sanook Sanang Bistro
- Burgers: Burger Station
- Indian: Emperor of India
If you’re hungry for more affordable beaches in Thailand, check out Koh Lanta and Ao Nang, two places we’ve enjoyed on a handful of occasions. And if you need help planning your trip around central Thailand (or anywhere in Thailand for that matter), just ask!
If you’ve ever been to Koh Chang, what was your favorite part of the island?