In a nutshell
Why go to Koh Chang Noi
As with most of the quieter Thai islands, the number one activity here is beach hopping, with the majority of beaches scattered along the west coast. Koh Chang Noi's beaches are probably not the prettiest compared to other Thai islands, but they are the most relaxed and remote. All the beaches are great for swimming, but the cloudy waters aren't great for snorkelling. If you are content just enjoying some peace and quiet, with the option of a refreshing dip in the sea, the beaches of Koh Chang Noi will not disappoint.
The most popular and longest beach (3km) on the island is Ao Yai, which offers beautiful scenery, soft sand and great sunset views. The central part of the beach is great if you want to be able to visit the village nearby and enjoy a beer or two at the beach bars here. The northern part is the most remote, whilst the southern section is where you'll find the most "luxurious" accommodation on the island.
Further south, beaches such as Ao Tadaeng and Ao Kai Tao are even more remote, and the latter can only be reached by boat, or a hike through the jungle.
For those who enjoy trekking, Ao Siad is the perfect beach if you really want to be totally isolated and surrounded by rugged nature.
Ao Lek is similar, and probably the most peaceful spot on the island for camping. In the northwest, there are a few small bays, with one larger one that offers some spectacular views of distant Burmese islands.
Whilst we love to relax on the beach, we also enjoy keeping fit, and try to hike as much as possible when travelling. So, it was exciting to discover that Koh Chang Noi offers some fantastic hikes that wind through countryside and forests, before reaching some beautiful bays on the southwest coast.
From Ao Yai beach, a good starting point is at the Wat Pa Ko Chang temple in the north, and proceed to hike south from there towards the central section of the beach. It's best to keep close to the beach where possible, as the inland trails can be difficult to navigate without getting lost in the jungle! It's also a good idea to use your phones satellite navigation, and use the beach resorts as markers to keep you on track.
From Ao Yai, head to Ao Tadeang, and then follow the hiking trail to Ao Kai Tao. Here, you'll find another trail that goes south all the way to Ao Siad. The hike from Ao Tadeang to Ao Siad takes at least two hours, with some strenuous uphill sections, so make sure to take plenty of water and wear suncream! There are also some other hiking routes, so you won't be disappointed if you want to hike on multiple days. Just ask at your resort for some advice (or the very friendly locals), and they'll be more than happy to help you plan an off-the-beaten track route.
Keep in mind that the more remote parts of the island don't have phone signal, so try not to get too lost in the wilderness! Other activities on the island include diving (check out Aladdin Dive Safari for a unique adventure), kayaking, camping, yoga and snorkelling boat trips.
When to go to Koh Chang Noi
It's important to note that the island can only be visited during the dry season between November and April, and is best avoided when the monsoon passes through from May to October.
Things to take a note of
Other than rain, the biggest drawback of the island is that they have limited electricity, so don't be surprised if your accommodation runs out of hot water! Most of the generators are only switched on in the evening for a few hours, so it's not going to be the most comfortable trip of your life. However, if you think of it all as part of the adventure, you'll probably find yourself enjoying the simplistic lifestyle. It's so hot in Thailand too, that a cold shower really isn't the end of the world!
There are also no ATMs, so make sure to bring enough cash for the entire duration of your stay. Due to the lack of electricity, it's also worth packing a torch and a lamp if you want to stay up after 10pm. As previously mentioned, if you're looking for some luxury, this really isn't the island for you! The facilities here are basic and limited, with only a couple of small convenience stores and a medical clinic in the village. For more serious conditions or injuries, it's best to head back to Ranong where there is a hospital, although the medical facilities in Bangkok are better.
Where to stay on Koh Chang Noi
Accommodation is mostly limited to bungalows, and a couple of average resorts that aren't great value. But as long as you're happy to live with simple amenities, there are plenty of options available! The island never really gets too busy, so it's absolutely fine to book on arrival, once you've checked out the beaches.
Where and what to eat on Koh Chang Noi
Although it's quite a big island, there isn't much in the way of tourism here, so freestanding restaurants are few and far between. However, most of the resorts have a kitchen or restaurant of some sort, and there are some small cafes in the village near Ao Yai. There's also a nice bakery that serves as a great spot for breakfast.
How to get to Koh Chang Noi
To reach Koh Chang Noi, the most convenient way is to travel to the city of Ranong and catch a ferry from Ko Phayam Pier.
To get to Ranong, it's best to travel by either plane or bus from Bangkok, but buses also depart from other parts of Thailand, including Chumpon, Krabi, Phuket and Surat Thani. From Bangkok, bus ticket prices start from THB325.
Once at the pier, long tail ferries depart three times a day, at 9.30am, 1.00pm and 2.00pm. The ferry costs THB200 each way, the journey is approximately two hours, and drop-off points are at any of the beaches along the west coast.
To return to the mainland, it's as easy as flagging down a passing ferry from the beach and hopping on (ferries return to the mainland at 9.00am and 1.00pm).
There is also a speedboat service at 9.30am and 10.30am from the mainland, costing THB350, and the return journeys are at 8.00am and 3.00pm. Once on Koh Chang Noi, it's possible to rent a motorbike, but bicycle rental is very limited. This is probably the main reason visitors usually just choose a beach and stay there. If you like hiking though, you'll definitely get some good exercise her, as most of the beaches are connected by trails criss-crossing along the coast and through the jungle.