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 scrambling 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
Koh Mak Coco Cape Resort
I stayed (three times) at Koh Mak Coco Cape Resort (yes, this is an affiliate link) and I would recommend it with one major caveat, which I will get to in a moment. This hotel is located directly on the beach. The grounds are centered around an open-air lobby cum restaurant, surrounded by self-contained cottages and other rooms. The hotel has been built over the years with a diverse style across the different rooms. A small pool is located near the ocean with an outdoor area for massages. A long pier extends into the azure hued ocean.
What I like about the resort is the vibe. I just feel relaxed here, just meters from the ocean. The staff here is friendly, and service minded. They knew my name (and dog’s name during my first stay).
I have stayed here three times and have stayed in three different rooms. My advice is don’t stay in the cheapest rooms. My thoughts for the owner are they need to invest in some of the older rooms, they are dated. These rooms in some ways are overpriced. This hotel has been around for nearly 20 years and has a loyal following with repeat customers. I believe people are paying a premium for the great vibe, service, and the bar.
Laguna Cottage (Super Cottage)
I cheaped out on my first stay here and stayed in the least expensive cottage, 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.
Baan Rim Sraa (Baan Rimsra)
On my second visit, I stayed in the Baan Rim Sraa, which was a step up from the Laguna Cottage. This room was more comfortable and seemingly newer. But, I would not stay here again either.
Coco Rooms (Suite Panoramic Sea View, Deluxe B, and Suite – 2 Bed Room)
There are a series of rooms called Coco. On my third visit I stayed here and was satisfied with the room. It was big, comfortable, and also newish. There is a great balcony overlooking the ocean. It was awesome to hang out here and listen to the ocean.
You need to search for two nights minimum on Agoda. 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.
Here is the map of the rooms and all of their different names at the resort. In general, the rooms sold by the hotel are more expensive than booking with Agoda. The hotel and Agoda use different names for the hotel rooms. So it take a bit of art to figure out what room you are booking on Agoda with the room map provided by the hotel.
The Mak Trat Resort
This hotel has soft opened. As of publication it is not posted on Agoda. This is a high-end boutique resort. It looks like a fantastic place to stay with corresponding higher prices. The rooms are located on the beach, and up the hill is a restaurant/bar and infinity pool overlooking the ocean.
A newer hotel close to Koh Mak Coco Cape Resort on the beach is Mira Montra. There are cottages on the beach and some rooms further back on the hill overlooking the ocean. The beach is great and expansive. My friend stayed here and approved of the room, but the service needs to be improved.
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 during my first stay was not included and I found the pricing a bit irritating. A large vegetable omelet cost 240 baht, which is crazy expensive. On my third stay, the hotel price included breakfast and on busy days there will be a breakfast buffet.
The Mak Trat Resort
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 and dinner. The view is fantastic with its infinity pool placed high on the hill overlooking the ocean. I came here for my farang food fix including a pizza, grilled chicken, and a cheeseburger. There is also a bakery making homemade desserts and other goodies. Say hi to the manager, Kuhn Deer.
Q Bar and Restaurant
This bar is located on the main strip in Koh Mak. And the name is a bit receiving, it is really just a restaurant, but a really tasty open-air restaurant. I recommend the Ka Pow Gai and the Massaman curry. This is a simple operation with a limited staff. I want to thank and commend Chef Q for his proactive transparency. He shared with us due to a large party at the next table would mean our food would take 45 minutes and he understood if we went somewhere else. We decided to wait will slurping some chilly beers and were happy with the decision.
Little Red Oven/Koh Mak Pizza
This is a small island but they boast some pretty awesome pizza. This expansive open-air restaurant is powered with homemade, wood fired pizzas. The pizzas were legitimately delicious and were made in under 10 minutes. The base cheese pizza is 200 Baht, with additional toppings at 30 Baht. I suggest onion and salami.
This large orange building just down the street from Q Bar and next to Little Red Oven is another good option. I stopped in twice for a cheese and vegetable baguette with French fries. One day I added in a mango lassi and the next day a chocolate banana shake. Good and speedy service and recommended for a bite.
Koh Mak Seafood
Located on the water near the Ao Nid Pier. While I don’t eat seafood, this is one of the most popular restaurants on the island and known for its fresh and delicious seafood. I got some spicy Ka Pow Gai with rice and for dessert a mango with sticky rice.
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 multiple 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 seems to be the most popular watering hole on the island. This nightly sunset tradition was a highlight of the trip. (If you are not a guest of the hotel there is a 200 Baht entry fee, which includes a beer. If you come back a second night, the fee is dropped to 100 Baht.)
Mak Trat Resort
This is another great place for a drink, especially from 4-6 pm, when they have a two for one happy hour. I had some tasty drinks here, including a margarita. I like to come here for a drink and an afternoon swim, and they head over to the Blue Pearl Bar for sunset.
What To Do
If you are comfortable, I would suggest renting a motorbike. Despite the occasional hill, it is easy to drive around the island, visit the random beach, hotel, or café.
Koh Mak Musuem
I’ll be honest, this is not the Louvre. But if you have a moment and you happen to be at the Koh Mak Seafood Restaurant, which is next store, you should drop in here for a moment. You can see a map of the island and see how the island is divided into five parts, owned by the five clans of the island. I even met Kuhn Guy one of the grandchildren of the original clan who came over in the 1920s. For those trivia buffs, there used to be a steamship that would stop at Koh Mak on its way to Bangkok from Cambodia. The steamship took three days to go from Koh Mak to Bangkok.
Cinnamon Scenic Boardwalk
Stop by the Cinnamon Hotel which hosts the Scenic Boardwalk. This one-kilometer-long boardwalk jets out into the azure scene. The boardwalk is quite impressive, and it makes for a beautiful panorama. You can stop here for a passeggiata, a drink, or a swim. There is a 50 Baht fee to walk the boardwalk. Well worth it.
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.
This was a totally fun day, snorkeling in the Koh Rang National Park with BB Divers. They have offices on Koh Chang, Kood, and Mak. In Koh Mak, they have a really roomy, wooden orange boat. The day was a relaxing 9 am to 3 pm day with three stops for snorkel. All equipment, drinks and lunch are included. The day out cost 1000 Baht and a 200 Baht entry fee for the park. Highly recommended.
How To Get Around
Motorbike is the best way to get around. The roads are good and there are virtually no cars on the road, just the other occasional motorbike. The motorbike give you ultimate flexibility and it is a lot of fun and relaxing. I rented for CocoMak Cape Resort. List price is 300 Baht a day, on my third stay I negotiated for 200 Baht a day. You can also rent bikes “in town” for 200-250 Baht a day.
I have to give big props to Koh Mak for the taxis, which are songthaews (pickups with seating in the back). The cost is 50 Baht per person anywhere on the island. Anyone who has been to Samui or Phuket will breath a sigh of relief over this reasonable fee compared to the taxi mafia on the big islands.
How To Get There
First thing is 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 Ekkamai. Then boats will depart Laem Ngop (Krom Luang pier) for Koh Mak. The boat takes less than one hour. A songthaew will then pick up at the pier in Koh Mak and then bring you to your resort. If you need a driver to Trat, connect with Tony, a great driver who speaks English who will drive you for 3800 Baht each way.
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.
There is an ATM on the island.
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 (before Covid) during high season and drop off considerably during the rainy season with lower prices.
Traveling During Covid
I traveled to Koh Mak in June (and follow up visits in September and February of 2021) as Thailand has opened up significantly. 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.
There is no warning about crime or heavy traffic. My warning is in regard to sandflies. This in my opinion is the major detraction of Koh Mak. These bites are painful. I was advised by hotel staff to slather on coconut oil. Sandflies allegedly avoid this smell.
I cut my leg and it got infected. Not too smart of me by not keeping it clean. I went to the local clinic to get it cleaned and bandaged. I left with antibiotics and some other supplies. The entire cost 300 Baht.
Visiting Koh Mak