A Mini Guide to Koh Mak – Our Favourite Thai Island So Far
Sometimes when we arrive on a Thai Island, it takes us a few days to get a feel for the place, and with others it’s love at first sight. Koh Mak was definitely the latter. From the moment we stepped foot off the speedboat from Laem Ngop pier, we knew there was something special about this little traveled island off Thailand’s east coast. This feeling didn’t leave the whole time we were there, in fact, the more time we spent exploring, the more we fell in love with the place. We’ve been to eighteen different Thai islands and Koh Mak is our favourite so far.
Dwarfed by the much more visited and considerably larger, Koh Chang, Koh Mak is yet to see the large tourism numbers that its big sister island enjoys year round. Don’t get me wrong, there are resorts on this island and tourists, but a busy place this is not. Koh Mak seems to strike the right blend between being a tranquil island getaway and having enough to do to stop you getting bored stiff.
The best way to navigate the island, if you feel comfortable, is by scooter which you can rent from any resort for 200-300 baht a day. If you’ve never ridden a scooter before, Koh Mak is a great place to learn as it’s so quiet. Just make sure you wear your helmet!
Koh Mak is located in the Province of Trat, bordering Cambodia. The largest Island in the archipelago is Koh Chang followed by Koh Kood, Koh Mak and Koh Wai. Inland on the Island is mainly made up of rubber tree plantations so it lacks the dense jungle of Koh Kood or Koh Chang but more than makes up for it with the array of stunning beaches and coves scattered around the island.
A few of our favourite beaches
Ao Pra (editors choice)
The Cococape Resort boasts a wooden jetty that shoots 100m out to sea with stunning views of the tiny island, Koh Kham. There’s not too much in the way of sand around the resort it sits in the calmest bay that we have ever seen, with Ao Pra to the left and Ao Suan Yai on the right. You can canoe over to Ko Kham which is one of the most stunning beaches we’ve seen. It’s a 20 minute canoe ride from the resort. If canoeing isn’t your thing then they run a boat service to Koh Kham for 200 baht per person.
Further around to the west of Ao Pra beach lies the Mira Montra Beach Front Resort, a stand alone resort with beachfront rooms and a pool. This quiet, palm tree lined stretch of sand has a cut off from the world, desert Island feel to it. If you want to get away from it all, Ao Pra is your place.
Ao Suan Yai
A long stretch of sand running northwest from Ao Pra, this is a close second favourite. The beach enjoys the same calm sea as the neighbouring Ao Pra and if you’re looking for direct access to the beach from your room, this is the one for you. The amazing boutique resort, The Seavana Resort takes up half the beach and we had the pleasure of looking around and it’s a fantastic place to stay.
If you like a bit more going on, or you don’t want to ride a scooter, then Ao Kao might be for you. It’s the busiest area of beach on the Island, well, as far as Koh Mak goes as it never really gets that busy. It’s the closest beach within walking distance to the town’s restaurants and shops on the main road. Resorts here include Makathanee Resort, Koh Mak Cottage, Ao Kao White Sand Beach and Monkey Island. We saw a lot of people trying to get the boat from here to Koh Rayang Nok and being told it wasn’t running. The best place to catch a boat over to the island is actually at Laen Tukata.
This tiny little cove is nestled on the far southwestern tip of the Island is where you’re going to want to head if you’re looking for a cheap beach bungalow with a hammock. The laid back Maruay Beach Resort offers clean, air conditioned and fan rooms starting at just 700 baht (£16 / $22). The sand is a bit yellowish compared to the rest of the island but you do get beautiful views of Ko Rayang Nok and the resort offers a boat service to the island for 200 baht (£4.60 / $6).
Where to eat?
Island food in Thailand is often a huge disappointment to me compared with the mainland towns and cities. Koh Mak, however, has enough options for decent Thai and western food to keep you from going hungry.
The only real ‘local’ place we ate was at a legendary local place named Paew Restaurant near the crossroads going towards Ao Nid Pier. The chain smoking owner/former chef now oversees the cooking. We tried the gaeng sapparod koong – red curry with prawns and pineapple and the krapow nuea – stir fried beef with holy basil and both were excellent and extremely cheap. This place isn’t for the faint hearted and definitely not winning any awards for ambience but is known locally as having the best Thai food on the island.
Another spot that’s a little more tourist friendly and in the main ‘town’ is Table Tales where we had pad kee mao talay spaghetti – drunken noodles with seafood, which was excellent and with the amount of seafood in it, the 100 baht price tag makes it an absolute bargain! They also do a great massaman curry, which is their grandmother’s recipe as well as a few solid western dishes and decent coffees.
There are plenty of other local shops selling standard Thai Island fare on the parade of shops in the town that runs parallel to Ao Kao beach.
Koh Mak has a decent amount of solid western options scattered around the island, including a surprisingly good woodfired pizza. For your coffee and cake needs, we suggest heading to Ball’s Cafe where they bake their own bread daily for their fresh sandwiches. If Mexican food is your thing then head over to the excellent Bamboo Hideaway for some of the owner, Jake’s killer burritos. If after a stroll on the beach you to want to cool down with a nice cold ice cream, Island Gelato has got you covered. Don’t miss the coconut and mango flavours!
The Best Sunset on the Island
Okay, so this is a tough one! Cococape definitely comes close to the top of the list as its wooden jetty is the perfect place to grab an ice cold Beer Lao and watch the sunset, sitting directly over the calm waters of the bay. For our money, though, you can’t beat the aptly named Banana Sunset Bar as the ultimate spot for a sundowner. Located on the southwestern tip of the island, you can watch the sun setting over the islands of Koh Rayang Nok and Nai while sipping on what Helen described as ‘the best banana daiquiri I’ve ever had’. The bar is hard to describe; its got a backpacker feel, with low tables and cushions on the floor, without being overrun by backpackers! The cook is Cambodian so they also serve some classic Khmer food if you want to try something a little different from the standard Thai island food. Banana sunset is the ultimate island chill out bar!
Where to Stay
Our top pick would have to be The Seavana Boutique Resort on Ao Suan Yai. With two story villas with direct beach access (and we mean ten feet from the sea beachfront access) starting at 5,200 (£120/$160) baht a night, this boutique resort is our number one choice for a slice of Koh Mak luxury. The rooms are massive, tastefully decorated and come with an upstairs balcony overlooking the ocean complete with fixed hammocks (no swinging about!) and a downstairs seating area pretty much on the sand. There are cheaper rooms at the back of the resort, running parallel to the islands organic farm, that start at 2900 baht (£65/$90) if direct beach access isn’t a necessity. They also have a decent sized swimming pool if sea swimming isn’t your thing.
The Cococape Resort boasts a wooden jetty that shoots 100m out to sea with stunning views of the tiny island, Koh Kham. There’s not too much in the way of sand around the resort it sits in the calmest bay that we have ever seen, with Ao Pra to the left and Ao Suan Yai on the right. Besides, the bar and sun lounging area at the end of the jetty more than make up for the lack of quality beach. You can grab a snorkel from behind the bar, climb down the wooden ladder and away you go! The resort also offers canoe rental for 400 baht so you can make your way over to the stunning Ko Kham which is a 20 minute canoe ride from the resort. If canoeing isn’t your thing then they run a boat service to Koh Kham for 200 baht per person.
The rooms here are a bit random; we stayed in two different rooms and both had a slightly odd layout but were clean and tidy and had a decent shower and English TV channels. You don’t come to Koh Mak to sit in your room, though, and the location of the hotel and the view from the pool and jetty make up for any of the resorts shortcomings. Cococape could be included as our best value option, as in low season you can pick up a room for as little as 1000 baht (£22/$30) but as we paid 2500 baht (£60/$80) in high February, it makes the midrange bracket.
The Bamboo Hideaway Resort has to take the crown of best value accommodation on Koh Mak as the rooms range from 1000 baht (£22/$30) to 1600 baht (£35/$50) year round. All the rooms here are made from local bamboo wood and have air conditioning. There’s no direct beach access, Ao Pai beach is a ten minute walk from the resort, but you do get a sea view from some of the rooms as well as from the hotel’s bar/restaurant. There’s a small swimming pool at the hotel and although you won’t be doing any Olympic style training in it, it’s a nice way to cool off after a day exploring the island. The Bamboo Hideaway is run by American owner, Jake, meaning that despite the low price tag, the rooms are kept to a western standard and are spotlessly clean. The Thai staff all speak good English and are extremely friendly as are the two resident dogs. Jake spent some time living and learning about the food in Mexico and has brought that knowledge back to Koh Mak to serve some solid Mexican comfort food at the resort. Don’t miss the beef burritos, the guacamole and the killer homemade sauces.
Don’t forget to watch the video from our time in Koh Mak. If you like what you see, you can subscribe to the channel to make sure you never miss another video.
Getting to Koh Mak
The province of Trat is just close enough from Bangkok, around 4.5 hours, to make the option of flying redundant in our opinion. Currently, only Bangkok Airways fly to Trat making it very expensive and once you factor in the time spent getting to and from the airport, you won’t save much time, if at all.
If you’re on a budget, we suggest taking the bus from Ekamai or Morchit to Trat and then taking a songthaew (shared open back taxi) to Laem Ngop pier for 260 baht (£6/$8). From there, it’s a 45 minute, 450 baht (£10/$14) speedboat ride to the Island.
We suggest breaking up the journey and spending a day exploring the charming riverside town of Chanthaburi for some awesome eastern Thai food.
Your other option is to rent a private taxi straight to Laem Ngop Pier in Trat. This will set you back between 4500 and 5500 baht (£100-£125/$140 – $175) and you could spit that between four people. If you need us to arrange you a taxi with a trusted driver you can contact us via our contact form or Facebook messenger.
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