Siam Island Hopper Guide to Koh Chang
The origin of its name is in constant debate. Does the island resemble the shape of an elephant, or was it the age-old myth of a domesticated elephant’s escape and her three children who drowned while trying to save her, that created a three-rock formation off the northern coast still visible today. Whatever the legend may be, Koh Chang remains the quintessential Thai island, and is dubbed “beast of the east” due to its sheer landmass. From hippie hangout spots to luxury resorts, steep mountains to sublime beaches, traditional fishing villages to its neon-lite nightlife, Koh Chang offers something for everyone.
Koh Chang pier and Lonely Beach
Marking its territory as the 3rd largest island in Thailand, following Phuket and Koh Samui, the majority of Koh Chang’s 220 square kilometers retain lush rainforests, cascading waterfalls, and abundant wildlife intertwined with the concrete jungle.
Get Your Beach On
You could easily dedicate a decent number of days towards beach hopping here in Koh Chang. Every beach has its own charm and vibe. Whether you’re looking for a traveler and backpacker community, off-the-beaten path, or pristine and serene beaches, you can be sure that Koh Chang has something to match your fancy.
Koh Chang’s beaches can be divided into two groups, the more popular and touristic west coast beaches, and the largely unexplored east coast beaches.
Lonely Beach & Bailan Bay
The not-so-lonely Lonely Beach, commonly referred to as Haad Tha Nam by the locals, is Koh Chang’s version of Bangkok’s Khao San Road or Koh Phangan’s Haad Rin beach. Not nearly as raging of course, but think chilled-out party scene and the hippest traveler congregation hub of Koh Chang. Lonely beach has a more “out there” feel attracting backpackers, budget travelers, and Bob Marley worshippers. Offering a never-ending array of reggae bars, and a handful of tattoo shops for you to make some great in-the-moment but overall bad life choices, Lonely Beach is the ultimate place to party the night away, socialize and meet fellow backpackers with kindred spirits.
By day you can easily practice the art of beach-bummery along the powdery white sand basking in turquoise water shadowed by giant palm trees. Lonely Beach is the perfect destination for your hippie soul to hang free on hammocks while sipping some Singha beers. Daytime goers will experience a much more relaxing and quiet atmosphere compared to the lively nights. Walking approximately 15 to 20 minutes down south brings you towards the rocky Bailan Bay, where you’ll find blissful isolation. If you want the vibes of Lonely Beach but don’t want to stay in the heart of it all, then Bailan Bay, Lonely Beach’s laidback neighbor, is sure to give you a good night’s sleep!
Ao Klong Prao
Klong Prao Bay, or “Coconut Canal” flows near a beautiful breezy coconut grove. Although the name refers directly to the canal, it also covers the 5-kilometer stretch of coastline, boasting feathery white sand. Head towards the end of the beach, past the rocky shoreline of Chai Chet village, and you’ll find the most picturesque spot in all of Koh Chang (you’re welcome!). Its several estuaries, abundant mangroves, stilted wooden houses, and evenings filled with twinkling fireflies only begin to explain its sheer beauty.
In Klong Prao, the vibes are a bit more romantic, and less of a travel community feel, unlike the character of Lonely Beach or White Sand Beach. This area is known for its upscale resorts, so if you’re looking to throw around some cash for the greatest escape with your significant other, here’s the place to do it.
White Sand Beach
White Sand Beach
Known to locals as Haad Sai Khao, this beach is the most popular and developed beach on Koh Chang. Those who love the concrete jungle, and are looking for a lively atmosphere with an excessive supply of restaurants, bars, and comfortable accommodation will be well taken care of. Towards the far northern end of this beach resides a small and negligent backpacker village, delivering a setting of a different destination entirely. Adorned with affordable and funky bungalow joints, White Sand Beach’s northern strip is a popular option for backpackers and long-term beach bummers.
Looking for some quiet and off-the-beaten path beaches? You might need to take a pretty long trip to get there, as majority of the undeveloped and unexplored beaches are situated on the east coast of the island. However, a closer option without having to travel so far would be to go further down south to Klong Kloi Beach. This might be Koh Chang’s best kept secret that remains true to the definition of “tropical paradise”.
Party on Koh Chang
Reggae Bar + bungalows on Lonely Beach
Most of the Koh Chang nightlife is relaxed and centered around live music. Expect to belt out tunes like “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” along with long-haired Thai musicians, who double for Asian Bob Marleys at Oodie’s Bar, Cheap Thrills, or our personal favorite, Stone Free; nicely different from the other bars with its wooden décor and hippie blues feels.
Fire shows on White Sand Beach
However, if you’re looking for a more upbeat party scene, Koh Chang has plenty to offer as well, especially at night along the transformed Lonely Beach, with its 100 baht happy hour buckets, beers, and dance parties at Ting Tong Bar or Himmel Bar.
Sleeping It Off
Koh Chang is anything but a small island, which means being mobile and getting around the island can be quite difficult and tedious, given all the steep mountains you would have to battle. Choosing the right location to stay is key, especially if you don’t plan on renting a motorbike or a car to explore various parts of Koh Chang.
If you’re on a budget, you’re likely to end up at some eco-friendly guesthouses on Lonely Beach. Oasis Bungalow and Nature Beach Resort are a few backpacker and wallet-friendly options that come to mind.
A less budget option would be the quirky Baan Rim Naam guesthouse offering rooms with a view, and tucked away in a quite estuary. This place is a short canoe paddle to the most peaceful stretch of beach on the west coast of Koh Chang in Klong Prao.
For a more exclusive experience, The Chill Resort and Spa, a luxury resort offering privacy and modern pool villas at Kai Bae Beach, might just be perfect for you. While you’re there, trek up to the beautiful Kai Bae Viewpoint for a new perspective on the island. Beware though, as the luxe accommodation here will take a hit on your wallet!
Where to Eat
Seafood on Koh Chang
Leave your European food cravings behind, as we’ll be deep diving into some of the best Thai dining options on Koh Chang. Why would one choose to eat anything but Thai food when in Thailand? Unless you have a deathly allergy to peanuts, then I can understand your hesitation. We love our peanuts here.
Happy Turtle is our favorite healthy option along Bailan Beach. We swear it’s not just because of the name. The food here has no MSG and fresh produce is delivered to the kitchen daily. If you want to give yourself a nice detox from the previous night’s shenanigans, then Happy Turtle is a great way to spend your afternoon refueling. They even offer cooking classes if you’re interested to go on a culture trip.
A local, no frills mom-and-pop shop dining experience would be at Kati Culinary located on Klong Prao. A Thai family runs this place and everything is made-to-order on the spot from scratch. Be a bit patient, as the food can take some time. Trust us, it’s worth the wait.
On the hunt for a romantic venue? We recommend trying Saffron on the Sea located in a tropical garden setting by the sea at Pearl Beach. Expect to be surprised by tasty combinations you may not have experienced in Thai cuisine, alongside the stunning plating. It is a more expensive option than the other ones, but the prices are not out-of-reach either.
And finally, how can you leave Koh Chang without indulging in a fresh catch of the day? Seafood is at its highest quality at the fisherman’s village of Salak Phet and Salak Kok. You can always wander through and find yourself a nice spot by the river, or you could go to Salakphet Seafood, a popular choice among the local Thai visitors. That’s the perfect giveaway of an authentic place!
The Real Koh Chang
To get a glimpse of local lifestyle, villages, and mangrove forests that are untainted by an influx of tourists or any major developments, we highly recommend hiring a motorbike and heading over to the fishing villages of Salak Phet and Salak Kok. If you dig around and take a few “wrong” turns, you are likely to discover some isolated beaches in this area as well. You can also get a feel for local life with a night of squid fishing. Bring some beers and catch and eat fresh squid under the night sky.
Squid boats off the coast of Koh Chang
Khlong Phlu Waterfall
If you’re tired of lounging around the beach, and are up for a bit of an adventure, hire some transportation and make your way to Khlong Phlu waterfall. You will need to hike about 700 meters through the jungle to reach the actual waterfall itself. Don’t worry if you don’t want to pack your runners. This short trek is doable in flip-flops too… unless you have two left feet. The three-tiered cascade provides pools of swimmable crystal clear water that is cooling, refreshing, and the perfect escape during peak sun hours if you’re looking for something different.
Klong Phlu Waterfall
Situated near Koh Maak and Koh Kood, vacationers at Koh Chang have several day trip options at their finger trips. Koh Maak is Thailand’s preserved treasure, being privately owned by a Thai-Chinese family, and with no plans for modernization in the near future. For yoga and meditation lovers, head to Koh Kood, an island that exudes luxury and tranquility on every level, and is known for their various yogi practices along the beach. If this is not enough, feel free to choose from the remaining 49 islands in the Koh Chang archipelago!
Convinced that Koh Chang is the island for you? Good! Make sure to visit the island either before or after monsoon season, which lasts from July to October. To have the best island hopper experience on Koh Chang, we recommend going during November to January, when the Mu Koh Chang National Park is at its greenest, and the waterfalls actually have some power to them!
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