Visiting Koh Mak. Koh Samui, Phuket, Koh Phi Phi. When travelers think of Thai islands, these are some of the islands where travel plans are made first. And not without good reason. There are some fantastic beaches, great restaurants, and awesome resorts. But, these islands are overflowing with tourists who are scramble between a McDonalds and a Starbucks.
There are over 1,400 islands in Thailand so consider avoiding Phuket with its 15 million annual visitors. On the east side of Thailand is the well-known island of Koh Chang, Thailand’s second-largest island. Within the Koh Chang archipelago is the smaller tropical island of Koh Mak.
Koh Mak is only 16 square km with just 800 permanent residents. The island is privately owned by a small group of families who have successfully developed the island. Less than 30 resorts dot the island without any jet ski touts or night club scene. Besides tourism, the island’s economy is powered by tapping rubber trees and growing fruit.
I categorized this post as off the beaten path, a really subjective classification. But comparatively, this island is much less known as its popular Thai island peers.
Where To Stay
I stayed at Koh Mak Coco Cape Resort (yes, this is an affiliate link) and I would recommend it with one major caveat. This hotel is located directly on the beach. The grounds are centered around an open-air lobby and restaurant, surrounded by self-contained cottages. A small pool is located near the water with an outdoor area for massages. A long pier extends into the azure hued ocean.
I cheaped out here and stayed in the least expensive cottage (about 1,200 Baht), which was a bit dated. But my bigger irritation is that the cottage is not sealed, meaning there are literally gaps to the outside in the structure. A ton of insects made their way into the cottage and on a couple of occasions, I grabbed a broom and literally swept the bugs out of the room. So in other words, stay at the resort but do not choose the Super Cottage as it is called on Agoda. Simply choose the next more expensive room at a minimum.
You need to book two nights minimum. If you are booking on Agoda and you select one night, no rooms will be displayed. This resort is pet friendly. I brought my dog here for a reasonable one-time fee of 500 Baht.
Where To Eat And Drink
I ate many meals at the hotel in their open-air restaurant partly on the beach and partly covered by a roof. Lunch and dinner are reasonably priced with some tasty food. I found it quite strange there was no farang food on the menu only Thai dishes. A tasty and hot green curry chicken or pad thai would set you back a reasonable 120 Baht. Breakfast does seem to be included and I found the pricing a bit irritating. A large vegetable omelet cost 240 Baht, which is crazy expensive.
The Mak Villa
They are still building this high-end resort, but the restaurant and the pool are open. I came here a couple of times for lunch. The view is fantastic with its infinity pool placed high on the hill overlooking the ocean. I came here for my farang food fix with a pizza one day, and a cheeseburger the other day. I also had some tasty drinks here, including a margarita. Say hi to the manager, Kuhn Deer.
Blue Pearl Bar
I mentioned a long pier at Cococape Resort, which serves several purposes. But my favorite functionality is the Blue Pier Bar which sits at the far end of the pier. I spent four sunsets in a row taking in the incredible views in conjunction with a series of pina coladas. Say hi to bartenders Kuhn Chi and Chawan. This nightly sunset tradition was a highlight of the trip.
What To Do
If you are comfortable, I would suggest renting a motorbike (300 Baht from the hotel and 200 Baht in town). Despite the occasional hill, it is easy to drive around the island, visit the random beach, hotel, or café.
Koh Kham is a tiny speck of an island, peaking with a central hill, thickly green. An abandoned high-end resort is half-built, covered in verdant greens. But there is a great beach, a clear blue ocean to swim or snorkel in, and a shack to buy cold drinks. From the pier, Cococape Resort will escort you on their boat for 150 Baht. It is a five-minute trip. Other nearby hotels also offer boat trips as well to Koh Kham. There is a 200 Baht fee to spend time on the island, which includes a free drink.
Koh Kradat is a private island northwest of Koh Mak. It is miniscule island, only a kilometer long. Kradat in Thai means paper which is referring to the lack of hills on the island. About ten people live on the island tending to the coconuts and fishing. There is also a small hotel which is closed during the low season.
There is a long white sandy beach at least a couple of hundred meters long on the east side of the island. The ocean was almost too warm. The benefit of Koh Kradat is we were the only visitors. There was no one else on the beach. Bring your own supplies and you could have an awesome picnic here.
The island is also famous for deer that roam around. Over 200 deer make their home here.
Head to the Laem Son on the corner of the island. There is a small overpriced, outdoor bar/restaurant. The owner will bring you to Koh Kradat on their boat. It is a brief five-minute ride. The roundtrip ride will set you back 800 Baht roundtrip which also includes the entry fee to the island which includes a motorbike ride to the secluded beach.
How To Get There
First thing first, you need to get to Trat, which is the launching point to the islands. You can fly to Trat airport, drive if you have a car which will take about five hours, or take a minivan from Eakamai. Then boats will depart Laem Ngop (Krom Luang pier) for Koh Mak. The boat takes less than one hour and will cost you 900 Baht for the roundtrip.
A songthaew (price included) will then pick up at the pier in Koh Mak and then bring you to your resort. Door to door if you time everything well, the journey will take eight hours.
When To Go
High season is from November through February. You can expect sun, heat, and very little rain. Summer rolls in with high temperatures in March and April. Next up is the rainy season, where you can either expect the occasional shower or non-stop torrential thunderstorms. Cross your fingers. As you can imagine, crowds are overflowing during high season and drop off considerably during the rainy season with lower prices.
Traveling During Covid
I traveled to Koh Mak in June as Thailand has opened up significantly. At the resort and the around the island, there was the occasional face mask in addition to the occasional bottle of hand sanitizer, but otherwise you would not realize there is a global epidemic. The exception being that the vast majority of people on the speedboat and the songthaew wore facemasks.
Visiting Koh Mak