In a nutshell
Thailand has a number of beautiful islands, but unfortunately some are becoming too popular and developed. You might think it’s impossible to find an untouched Thai island, but that’s probably because you haven’t heard of the hidden gem that is Koh Mak.
Why go to Koh Mak
This tiny beauty can be found just a few kilometres south of Koh Chang, and it’s home to some of the best beaches in the world.
The landscape of the island is very different to that of Koh Chang and Koh Kood, as the primary industry here is agriculture, not tourism.
The island is made up of various types of plantation, including rubber trees, cashews, pineapple, and coconuts. Tourism is purely just a side project for the landowners here, so it’s extremely undeveloped and a great place to visit if you want to experience life on a rural island!
Other than the agricultural reason, Koh Mak was previously plagued by sandflies, causing visitors to leave bad reviews. These days, they aren’t really a problem, and the east coast of the island is a haven when they occasionally increase in numbers. Here you will find some lovely red sand beaches, shallow waters, and zero sandflies!
Koh Mak’s popularity has definitely increased slightly in the last couple of years, but it still remains a quiet retreat that’s perfect for families and anyone wanting to experience a slower pace of life. If you are happy to just lounge on the beach all day, eat good food and enjoy spectacular scenery, then Koh Mak is 100% worth a visit!
When to go to Koh Mak
While Koh Chang is more or less all-year destination, Koh Mak is best visited during November–April period. In summer, many of not so numerous accommodations close from May to October and while you can score great deals during the low season period, you can also be caught by tropical rains.
Which beach on Koh Mak to choose
It’s likely that during your stay on Koh Mak, you’ll spend most of your time as we did, exploring the various beaches dotted around the coast. The more developed beaches and resorts can be found on the west coast, with the most popular beaches being Ao Kao, Ao Suan Yai and Ao Phra.
Ao Kao (located in the southwest) is the longest beach on the island, and its north facing location makes it perfect for catching some rays. A number of resorts can be found here, as well as a number of restaurants, several bars, and even a couple of shops. The water is very clear, so great for swimming, and the two micro-islands of Koh Rayang Nai and Koh Rayang Nok are only a short kayak away from the shore.
Ao Suan Yai is located in the northwest, and is the best spot for sunset views. This is also the best beach to kayak to the micro-island Koh Kham, or you can hike to the mysterious Turtle Beach from here.
Close by to Ao Suan Yai is Ao Phra, a much quieter bay with the most sparkly, turquoise waters you’ve even seen! There’s zero development here, making it as close to paradise as you are going to get on the west coast. Although the west coast could hardly be called developed, the east coast has barely anything there, except for the beautiful Laem Son beach, and some of the best food on the island.
In addition to lots of chill time, visitors can also enjoy snorkelling and diving, thanks to the clear waters surrounding the island. The best snorkelling spots can be found at some of the smaller bays, including Ao Phra, Laem Son and Laem Tookkata, and around the micro-islands.
There are also several dive shops here, including the reputable BB Divers, whose main office is on Koh Chang.
Other activities include a cooking class at Koh Mak Seafood restaurant in Ao Nid and windsurfing at Koh Mak Resort. And of course, you could easily spend a couple of days exploring the island by kayak, bicycle or motorbike. Also, the micro-islands provide a great excuse to go on a kayaking expedition (entrance fee of THB100 for each island).
Ko Rayang Nok has some lovely beaches, and some excellent snorkelling spots. It’s also possible to take a boat to this island, and there’s even a midrange budget resort here if you fancy staying a bit longer (Rayang Phurin Resort).
Other islands include Ko Rayang Nai, Ko Kham and Ko Kradad. It’s worth noting that Ko Kradad is an exclusive island with private accommodation, so you may be politely asked to leave if you decide to venture here!
Where to stay on Koh Mak
As far as accommodation is concerned, Koh Mak has a range of charming resorts, many of which are great value for money. You will definitely find a place to suit your needs, regardless of budget, and the selling point is likely to be the stunning surroundings. It’s just a matter of choosing your favourite location!
Where to eat in Koh Mak
In regards to food, Koh Mak may be small but there is a surprising amount of choice, for both Thai and Western food. The majority of these eateries can be found in Ao Kao, which is also where you’ll find the islands only decent nightlife.
Ao Nid is also a superb spot for food lovers, as it is home to a fantastic seafood restaurant and a steakhouse. Finally, make sure not to miss out on some budget grub over at the beach shack on Laem Son. If you are a big fan of tom yum soup, you’ll be in heaven!
How to get to and from Koh Mak
As with both Koh Chang and Koh Kood, the best way to reach Koh Mak is to travel from Bangkok to Trat, either by bus or plane.
Flights are available throughout the day, with one-way fares starting from THB600. Buses to Trat leave from Ekkamai station in Bangkok, and there are also buses running between Trat and Pattaya. The price for a joint bus and ferry ticket from either Bangkok or Pattaya starts from around THB600-THB800.
Once at Trat, you can take a songthaew (pick-up truck) to Laem Ngop pier (THB60 per person) where you can catch the ferry to Koh Mak. There are several boat options available, leaving regularly throughout the day. The slow boat costs THB300, and if you decide to opt for a speedboat, expect to pay from THB450 one-way.
It’s also possible to travel by boat from several of the piers on Koh Kood and Koh Chang. This means you can easily combine a trip to Koh Mak with one of the more lively islands, or just take a day trip there. The main piers on the island are located at Ao Kao and Ao Suan Yai, but songthaews wait at the main piers to take you to other destinations.
Is Koh Mak a safe place to visit?
In terms of safety, there isn’t really much to say, other than that you should definitely try to avoid beaches that have lots of sandflies. They can cause quite nasty bites that can become infected easily in the humid weather. If they are a problem, try exploring the east coast beaches instead. As with Koh Chang and Koh Kood, there is little in the way of medical facilities, so you should head to the mainland if any serious medical attention is required.