Koh Chang is a popular destination for pretty much every type of tourist because of its close proximity to Bangkok. Backpackers, flashpackers, honeymooners, families and Thai tourists all make the 5 hour bus journey or 2 hour flight and ferry trip here searching out sun, sea and sand. Choosing the right place to stay is of paramount importance here though, as each beach or village has its own personality, something you realise quickly when you explore the island on a motorbike as many tourists do.
Luckily I’ve done that for you and have put together my candid guide of what to expect and where to book your next holiday. I’ll start by the pier and move round in an anti clockwise direction, as all the developed areas are on the west coast. The east coast is great for exploring with a motorbike to find some lovely hidden gems, and worth looking into if you want to stay somewhere isolated, a few resorts have started popping up.
This is a small town with a less touristy feel, but this also means accommodation and food options are lacking. There’s a great Italian bakery and restaurant in town or some unappealing Thai street food vendors. I’m all for the latter usually, but these seem to have more flying customers than I’m accustomed to. The beach is quite far from town, head to the Siam Royal View for a cocktail or inexpensive glass of wine at sunset. The beach is stunning so it’s worth a trip even if you don’t stay here.
White Sand Beach (Haad Sai Khao)
This is the most famous beach in Koh Chang mainly because of t he 3 kilometre stretch of yep, you guessed it, white sand. While it is indeed a lovely beach, I don’t believe it is any better than its neighbours, just longer. But remember, size isn’t everything. This is also the most touristy part of the island for anyone other than backpackers, so prices are high for any resort with beach access, and for those without it, well you might just be kicking yourself that you have to stare at rocks and cliffs all day from the pool. Food here is varied, if you’re not into the Thai cuisine there’s plenty of western options around, and lots of bars to drink at afterwards to.
Another stunning beach that’s a bit smaller than White Sand Beach, and difficult to find public access to. Many come here as an alternative to White Sand Beach if they’re looking for upscale resorts, there’s not many options if you’re on a budget though.
The main drag seems disjointed to me, too sparse and lacking the village vibe, if this is important to you, maybe stay elsewhere.
My favourite place to stay in Koh Chang, because it has everything. A beautiful beach, a range of accomodation options, great Thai and western food and a lovely vibe in the village. You can stay right on the gorgeous sandy beach for as little as 700 baht per night at Mam Kai Bae or Porn’s bungalows (we’ve had a good look around and couldn’t find a better deal than this anywhere) head for the former if you want a pool. There’s plenty of other resorts around but luckily Kai Bae doesn’t feel too over developed yet. The only downside to this beautiful beach are the elephants that come down to the water from the camp every day with tourists on their backs. Please don’t be a part of this awful industry, the elephant are not treated well in the camps here (apart from one sanctuary in the north of the island in the jungle), I’ll spare you the gruesome details but please do your research.
This is backpacker central so you’ll find plenty of cheap accomodation here, but it’s nowhere near their lovely beach. There’s a couple of resorts on the waterfront, but it’s a big walk into town. Not a great all rounder, but worth considering if you’re on a budget.
This has a nice town similar to Kai Bae, but the beach is rocky and disappointing anywhere other than in front of the Mercure Hotel. If the beach isn’t that important to you there’s some nice inexpensive resorts on the main road with pools that do the trick.
Bang bao (Khlong Kloi beach)
Right down at the opposite end of the island to where you’ll arrive is Bang Bao, the jumping off point to other islands like Koh Maak and Koh Kood. The village here is much more ramshackle, wooden beach huts are plentiful and it’s incredibly laid back. It feels much less developed than the rest of the island, more back to basics. No high end resorts in sight, for now. You can get a room on the beach for 800 baht with air conditioning, unheard of elsewhere on the island. Come here for some peace and quiet and a stunning beach and you won’t be disappointed.