Koh Mak Island Travel Guide

How to get there, what to do, where

by stephmylifetravel
With its idyllic beaches, stunning sunsets, and crystal clear water, Koh Mak is one of the best islands in Thailand.  This quiet paradise is privately owned, so unlike other Thai islands, it hasn’t been overrun with tourists or mass development. If you’re looking for pure peace, quiet and complete relaxation, hop on a boat to this tiny island. Here’s everything you need to know to plan your trip to Koh Mak!

Why you should go to Koh Mak

The vibe on Koh Mak is as far as you can get from brash tourist islands like Koh Phi Phi and Koh Phangan. There’s no backpacker strip or party hostels, you won’t find any large bars or clubs, and there are no ladyboy or ping pong shows. Instead, you are treated to warm crystal clear waters, white sand beaches, rustic beach bars, friendly locals, and rock-bottom prices. Overall,  Koh Mak Island is the perfect escape if you need some time to chill out and the ideal place to fall in love with Thailand all over again!

Thailand has always been our favourite country to visit in South East Asia. We often refer to it as our Asian home. It’s safe and friendly, the food is great, it’s easy to get around, and there’s a huge variety of things you can see or do.

Over the years, as Thailand became increasingly popular with tourists, the landscape has started to change. New hotels and hostels are constantly being built to cater for demand, upmarket resorts are taking over previously isolated beaches, backpacker party strips and beach parties are becoming increasingly popular, and a pub on the main strip in Koh Phi Phi even serves a Sunday roast! While this is great if you are looking for a party for a few weeks, it’s rather disappointing if you’re looking for the kind of off-the-beaten-track experience Thailand originally became famous for.

Koh Mak Island is a peaceful, idyllic paradise with no signs of changing. Because development is strictly controlled, it remains just as beautiful and charming as it was when we came here six years ago.

 

How to get to Koh Mak

To get to Koh Mak, take a speedboat from Laem Ngop pier, which is close to Trat town and a 4.5-hour drive east of Bangkok.

From Laem Ngop Pier, there are seven speedboats a day in high season, with a reduced service in the rainy season (from May to October). Boats depart from the pier at 10.30, 11.00, 11:30, 12:30, 13:15, 14:00, and 16:00, and a possible new addition at 17:00. These cost 550 baht / £12/ €14 per person each way.

Return boats leave Koh Mak at 08.30, 09.00, 09:30, 10:00, 10:45, 11:30, and 13:30, with a possible new addition at 15.00.

You can buy your boat ticket at the pier or call ahead to your resort and book your seats. You can purchase tickets from 12goAsia, where we buy many of our tickets (you will be pay more with 12Go than buying directly).

 

How to get to Laem Ngop pier

Depending on your budget, you have a couple of options to get to Laem Ngop Pier. You will likely have to start your trip from Bangkok, but we have also arrived from Cambodia.

Fly (From £71 one-way)

Bangkok Airways flies directly from Bangkok to Trat in 1 hour.  You can then take a taxi to the pier, a 30-minute drive away. This airport is privately owned by the airline, so this is the only route that goes to Trat, and it can get expensive.

Flights vary depending on the time of year and how far in advance you’re looking. The cheapest we have found is £71 one way.

Private Taxi

The next option is to take a private taxi or Uber. We’ve made the journey by taxi from Bangkok (approximately 5 hours) and Siem Reap (approximately 6 hours). Grab is a handy transport app in Thailand; you don’t have to worry about haggling or whether the driver is using the meter. Plus, the cars tend to be in good condition and have air conditioning and seatbelts—which a lot of Thai taxis won’t have!

A private taxi from Bangkok will cost approximately 4,500 baht / £103 / €116. Alternatively, a Grab will cost between 3,000 baht / £68.50 / €77 and 3,500 baht / £80 / €96. However, keep in mind that it will take a bit of time to find a driver willing to do such a long trip. It’s worth the wait to save the money and travel more comfortably! You can also book transport through 12goAsia if you want to have it booked in advance.

Tip: If you are getting a taxi or bus to Laem Ngop Pier, the driver may drop you off at a little shop just at the top of the pier to buy your bus tickets. Don’t buy them here as you will be overcharged. Walk down to the end of the dock where the boats leave from and buy your ticket directly for 550 baht / £12 / €14. We got caught for this once and paid double the price of the boat.

Local Bus (from £6)

The final and cheapest option is to travel by local bus. Numerous companies depart from Bangkok daily to Laem Ngop pier for as little as 290 baht / £6 / €7 per person.

Buses leave Ekamai bus station at 7:45 am via Suvarnabhumi airport bus station. Take the 999 Express bus, which travels directly to Koh Chang Thammachat Pier around 13:30. The bus usually continues to Laem Ngop Pier; ask the driver on the bus if they are doing this. If not, you are only 20 minutes away in a TukTuk. This ticket costs 292 baht.  Some companies offer a boat & bus ticket too, which will save you a few baht, so opt for this if you can.

Things to note: Bus and boat companies will offer you a return ticket, sometimes for a better price, but they will need a return date when you pay. I would advise booking this return ticket and then just calling them if you need to reschedule it. We’ve done that many times with no problem.

 

What To Do On Koh Mak

Koh Mak

Enjoying a glass of wine at Blue Pearl Bar.

 

The best thing to do in Koh Mak is to completely relax, but if you feel like getting off the beach for a bit then there are some great things to do:

  • Go to the Koh Mak Viewpoint to see beautiful views of the neighbouring islands and Ao Suan Yai beach.
  • Snorkel, swim, have an afternoon beer, and take in the views from Blue Pearl Bar. This small wooden bar is built at the end of a pier beside Coco Cape resort. It’s a gorgeous place to spend an afternoon. Snorkel equipment is available from the bar, and they have a swimming pool so you can take a dip!
  • Take a boat trip to nearby Koh Phee, Koh Kham, and Koh Kradat. Visit various snorkelling spots. Kayak from Ao Kao Beach to Koh Rayang, a tiny private island with the most idyllic white sand beach.
  • Take a sunset yoga class at Ao Kao white sand resort, followed by a relaxing massage by the ocean. Find a hammock, pick up a good book, and while away the afternoon.
  • Check out “The Kingdom of Somchai’s Affection”  to add something unusual to your itinerary! An outdoor museum of erotic sculptures made by a local artist in the pre-tourism days. While free to visit, the jungle has slowly taken over the sculptures, a unique experience on this tiny island!
  • Check out Ao Tao Kai (Turtle Beach). It’s not the easiest to find, so you will most likely be totally alone, and it’s wonderful. You’ll pass through mangroves and, at times, thick vegetation, but arriving at the pristine white sand and crystal-clear water is worth it.
  • Have a sundowner at Hidden Beach Resort: This laid-back resort is one of the newer ones on the island and is super chilled. They make excellent cocktails and are right on the beach. You can walk down along the beach to the horizontal palm tree for a photo, chat with the friendly staff, or chill in one of their hammocks for a couple of hours. They have parties on there every so often; stay updated on their Instagram @kohmakhiddenbeach
  • Run or ride a scooter to Ao Lom Beach: This is a running route that Tim and I love to do, but you can ride here on a scooter, too. The Google Maps location is linked, you can drive most of the way and then climb down a steep and rocky area to get to this stony beach. It’s usually completely empty, and gorgeous in the morning.
  • Drive across the island to Cinnamon Boardwalk – make sure you arrive at high tide. This is a nice thing to do when you have had enough of lazing on the beach. This long boardwalk is a good photo-taking spot and has excellent views. It’s probably not on my top 10 things to do, but if you’ve done everything else then go here.

 

Where To Eat & Drink On Koh Mak

There are some excellent places to dine and go for a sundowner on the island. Most options are very budget friendly, and there are great international restaurants so you can try a variety of things. However the Thai food here is spectactular.

  • Q Bar: This budget-friendly, family-run Thai restaurant is one of our favourites for a great lunch or dinner. Their massaman is one of the best I’ve ever had!
  • Clay Pot Restaurant: This Thai restaurant is great for dinner and is in a very central location on the main street. The menu is large and the food is tasty. They often have fresh fish grilling outside, so you can try the catch of the day. The owners are super sweet, they own Big Easy which is linked below.
  • M A Bistro: This restaurant is tiny and next door to Clay Pot. They service both Western and Western / Asian fusion dishes. Their Philly cheesesteak and breakfast options are very popular. This place is so small that you might often not get a table when you arrive. It’s popular with expats, so if you are travelling solo it’s a good place to strike up a conversation.
  • The Chill: This unassuming Thai restaurant was across from our accommodation, and we ate here nearly every day. They serve a mix of Thai and Western food, and the food is so simple and budget-friendly but so good. At least once a day we would drop by for food. Their Garlic & pepper chicken is great, and their crispy chicken wraps were a favourite of mine. They do great western salads too if you feel like a break from fried food.
  • By The Sea: This boutique hotel has both a boujee beachfront restaurant & roadside brunch cafe. The vibes here are great, and good for a date night or drinks with friends. Check out the evening menu here and breakfast/lunch menu here.
  • Ball Cafe: Our favourite breakfast spot, Ball Cafe, is budget friendly and has excellent bread and coffee (hard to find on Thai islands).  Bring bug spray as you sit amongst plants here, so there tend to be mozzies flying around. Definitely come here for breakfast at least once when you’re on the island.

How Much To Budget For Your Trip

It’s possible to stay on Koh Mak Island for as little as 1000 baht per person per day if you’re willing to stay in basic accommodation and don’t have too many Changs!

  • Accommodation varies depending on your budget. You can stay in simple wooden huts on the beach for as little as 350 baht / £8 / €9 per night or in a private house for 10,000 baht. My favourite budget accommodation options are listed below.
  • Food and drink can be very cheap on the island – if you’re in a budget hut, your meals can cost as little as 60 baht.
  • Having a bike is a great way to explore the many hidden beaches on the island. You can rent a motorbike for 300 baht / £7 / €8 per day, or a bicycle for 200 baht. The island is roughly 8km wide and 5km from North to South, so it’s small but not small enough to walk around the whole thing.
  • Laundry is approximately 50 baht / around £1 / €1 per kilo and usually takes around 24 hours to return.
  • Unlike some other Thai islands, there is no fee to enter Koh Mak.

 

Where to stay in Koh Mak

When you’re on a beautiful island, you should definitely stay on the beach! Ao Kao Beach is, in my opinion, the most beautiful on the island. As a result, it’s where we always stay when we visit. There are a number of different options for staying here – we have stayed in two. There are a total of around 30 options for accommodation on the island. If you’re coming before the end of January, you can usually turn up and find something – otherwise, I recommend booking ahead!

There is a lot of accommodation on Ao Suan Yai Beach, but bear in mind that boats leave and arrive at the pier all day, so it can be busier and touristy than Ao Kao Beach. I wouldn’t recommend staying here if you want to chill out.

Island Hut

This has become our go-to accommodation when we’re on Koh Mak. We love it so much; it’s at the top of my list of 5 best budget accommodations in Thailand!

Island Hut is cheap, basic, and as rustic as it gets. There are 33 wooden cabins nestled between the coconut trees, all just meters from the beach. In short, these huts are basic – they have bucket-flush toilets and are mostly fan-only. You’re getting back to basics when you stay here, but that’s part of the charm!

You pay as little as 350 baht / £8 / €9 per night for a hut with a shared bathroom. 550 baht / £12.50 / €14 for a hut on the beach. And, 1000baht / £23 / €26 per night for an air-conditioned hut on the beach. There are only four of these so book ahead if you want aircon!

Just steps away from the sea is the shared restaurant that serves up the best Thai food you will eat. It costs as little as 60 baht / £1 / €1.50 for a main course! This is a great place to meet people and chat with the Thai owners. Island Hut is a family-run business and some of the guests have been coming here for over 20 years so there is a great vibe here.

Big Easy

We stayed here on our first trip to Koh Mak while on a 3-week holiday before we gave up our jobs to travel. Therefore, our budget was a little higher than it is now! It costs approx 1,500 baht / £33 / € 39 per night for an air-conditioned beachfront villa in the low season and 3000 baht / £67 / €78 in the high season. Big Easy is a small affair, with just 7 Thai-style wooden villas.

Find more Koh Mak accommodation options here!

Koh Mak

When to visit Koh Mak Island

The high season starts in November and can last up until March. Most resorts tend to increase their rates after Christmas as that’s when the number of tourists really goes up.

We have been here in November, December, and January, and although it does get a little busier in the New Year, the island was still pretty quiet. You can read more about Koh Mak’s climate here.

How much time do you need?

Being a small island, you can easily see most of Koh Mak’s sights in a couple of days – but that would be missing the point! Koh Mak’s main appeal is to escape the real world and live in paradise for a little while. So, the longer you can stay, the better. Many people come to Koh Mak for a few months at a time, and considering that the journey to get here can take a while, I would recommend staying for at least a week. You can get great rates on beach huts if you stay a little longer. Also, there are several islands nearby if you’re craving some variety.

Koh Mak Tips

  • There is only one ATM on the island which can be frequently out of order so bring cash!
  • Sandflies can sometimes be an issue on the beaches around Koh Mak so be prepared and bring eucalyptus spray, or coconut oil and avoid sitting in shady areas. I find this bite pen really helpful to take the itch away!
  • If you like to keep fit, Koh Mak is a great place to run. The streets are quiet and there a some great viewpoints around the island that you’ll pass. We usually start our days there with a run and then jump right into the sea after!
  • Want to help keep Koh Mak clean? A local community group meets every Saturday to pick up waste from the beaches. Lots of locals and expats get involved so it’s a good way to give back. It’s also a great way to meet the people that live on the island. Find out more details here.
  • As always, my main tip for everywhere is to have insurance. You can never know where your adventures will lead you, and being prepared is essential.

 

*Some of the content of this post was initially written by me for Backpacker Story.

 

I hope this Koh Mak guide was useful and you get a chance to explore this wonderful island in all its glory. Feel free to add any comments or questions below!

Thanks for reading!
Steph
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2 comments

jaz November 9, 2018 - 6:32 am

all hail Steph!

Reply
Rebecca Coleman July 15, 2024 - 10:24 am

Hey Steph! Planning a trip for mid-October to Koh Mak. Are you aware if the restaurants and bars on the island tend to stay closed until high season?
Thanks for all the tips!

Reply

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