For years our top two getaway destinations for escaping Bangkok and getting some “vitamin sea” has been either Koh Samed or Koh Chang. Both are quick, easy, and affordable to get to and have great beaches. That is why we’ve been to both many, many times over the years. But a couple of weeks ago, we wanted to try out a new place and that landed us on Koh Mak.
This article is a little guide based on our 5-day experience. It includes how to get there from the Big Mango, where we stayed, the places we ate, and things we discovered biking around the tiny island. I’ve also included my personal impressions and a shout out to some of the nice folks we encountered during our visit. By no means is it a complete guide–but I will include some resource links to help fill in any gaps you might have.
If you are looking for a beautiful island with quiet, unspoiled beaches and crystal clear waters to get your “vitamin sea” fix, this Koh Mak article is for you!
This short video is just a taste of what we experienced in Koh Mak and why I’m eager to share it with you.
If you liked what you saw, and want to visit this palm tree island oasis then read on!
I want this article to be informative, so I reckon the best way to kick it off is to answer that burning question travelers may have, “How do I get there?”
How to get to Koh Mak from Bangkok
If you research how to get to Koh Mak there’s a myriad of choices. Fly to Trat. Rent a private driver. Take a bus, minivan, or taxi. All have varying costs, and all lead you to one point–a pier that will take you to where the speedboats will whisk you off to Koh Mak. For this article, I will tell you how we got there, which is probably the most inexpensive, and easiest way to do it.
From Bangkok, we took the Government “999” bus from the Ekamai Bus station. This bus takes you directly from Bangkok to the Centerpoint Pier (across from Koh Chang) in Laem Ngop with a 10 minute stop in Chanthaburi en route. The buses are clean, comfortable, and equipped with a good bathroom. Snacks and water are also served. The cost is 498 baht per person for a roundtrip ticket.
Contrary to what many websites claim, due to the limited tourism Thailand is experiencing, there is only 1 government bus that leaves the Ekamai bus station and that is at 07:45 every morning. This bus gets you to Centerpoint Pier a little after 13:00 which gives you time to take a songthaew (truck taxi) (between 50-200 baht per person depending on the number of passengers) to the Krom Luang pier. From here the Leelawadee Speedboats will take you to Koh Mak (450 baht/person) at 14:00.
The speedboat trip is about 45 minutes (provided you don’t lose an engine–we did on the way back, it took an hour and a half to return).
Getting back to Bangkok
The return bus to Bangkok departs at 14:30 from Centerpoint Pier–I recommend taking the 11:30 speedboat back to the mainland to ensure you make that return! That would get you back to Bangkok around sometime around 8 pm.
Pro Tip: Make sure to book early to ensure you have a space reserved (especially around holidays) and bring your passport with you for the booking!
Where to stay in Koh Mak?
There are many, many accommodations in Koh Mak ranging from luxury to backpacking beach bum.
Because of the COVID-19 epidemic and its huge impact on tourism in Thailand, many have shuttered their doors. Some have stayed open but have closed their bars or kitchens or limited those opening hours. There may be more to do/see on those holiday weekends when the island receives an influx of Thai tourists. So I hesitate to recommend what may look like a great place on travel sites but in reality, lack comfort and service.
I’m quite happy to recommend the place where we stayed which scored both high marks in comfort and service, Lazy Day the Resort.
Upon arriving at the Koh Mak pier we were greeted by Khun Tookta and Lazy Day’s songthaew for quick transport to the resort. Our beachfront villa was spacious, comfortable (a soft mattress a plus!), and offered loads of natural light with an expansive view of the placid ocean before us.
Unspoiled beach and puppers…
After stowing our backpacks and donning swim shorts, our first impression from seeing our room was further positively reinforced from the moment our toes touched the soft sands of the resort’s private little beach. Throughout our stay, we further explored the crystal blue waters and rich sea life surrounding the nearby reefs, with the resort’s complimentary snorkel gear. It was blissful having this beach all to ourselves.
Okay. Maybe not “all to ourselves“. We did receive an enthusiastic furry welcome when we arrived. These friendly puppers made us feel most welcome. They were non-aggressive, healthy, and happy to see some new faces around the place. Thankfully, they were also quiet at night which is a bet I lost.
This is “Pan” but we started calling him Dopey because of his floppy ears and constant dopey grin. These dogs are neutered, healthy, and friendly. For us, who wanted a break from our cats at home, this was welcome attention.
Food and drink
The staff at the resort really went out of their way to ensure we had an enjoyable stay. This is especially true of their kitchen staff. Often times we ate “off the menu” accepting whatever fresh, catch of the day seafood they had to offer. This steamed fish with chili, garlic, and lime sauce was the best I’ve experienced in Thailand. It was so good we ate it for 3 out of the 5 dinners we had on the island.
These steamed crabs landed on our dinner menu when they asked us during lunch if we’d be interested in having steamed crabs for dinner. Khun Tookta showed us pictures of what they had at the market at the moment. Our response, “Let’s do it!”
Our looking forward to each meal was due to the culinary prowess of this kitchen rockstar, Chef Ruod. A bit camera shy, she absolutely deserves mentioning because her cooking really made our stay at Lazy Day over the top wonderful.
After a day spent trying to fill-in my farmer’s tan with some sun rays, this tiny little beach bar was our oasis for 150 baht high octane cocktails (buy 2 get 1 free!) and 70 baht cold beers.
If you’re looking for a pristine beach, with comfortable accommodations, and a staff dedicated to your enjoyment, I highly recommend Lazy Day the Resort.
Places to eat and drink nearby…
As great as the food and drink were at Lazy Day, I wanted to spread the wallet around to support other local places. Though we did explore around the island by bike, most of our eating and drinking was spent at places nearby the Lazy Day (nearby if you have some wheels under you, I’d add).
Here are a few that we enjoyed that I’d recommend.
If you want to watch the sun go down, eat delicious food, and power down some 100 baht cocktails, Banana Sunset is the place to visit.
The menu offers many local Thai favorites and boasts being the only place on Koh Mak island with Khmer cuisine.
But a big surprise is their starter/bar snacks menu. These French fries and thick fried spring rolls stuffed with melty cheese were just the thing our body was craving after a day of biking about.
It’s a very chill place where reggae softly plays along with the kitchen sounds of scraping woks. For me, it’s a happy place where I can have a vodka tonic in hand, a friendly pupper beside, and an amazing sunset in front.
My recommendation is to look up the sunset time in Koh Mak and then plan to get there an hour before that to secure a nice unobstructed view and put some food and drinks in your belly beforehand. It gets dark quickly after the sun sets. I mean, dark dark. So if you’re on a bicycle you won’t want to stick around too late. If you have a scooter you’ll be fine, though.
A special mention…
This is Vicky, who runs the Banana Sunset. She’s what I’d label an “unsung hero”. Vicky also runs the non-profit Koh Mak Animal Care Clinic. The reason many of the animals on Koh Mak are healthy and neutered is because of the good work she and her volunteer staff are doing there.
This clinic operates entirely on donations and unfortunately because of the COVID-19 pandemic and lack of tourism to Koh Mak their funding has been severely impacted. If you would like to help please consider donating to their online campaign here.
Located across from the Koh Mak Temple, Dum Restaurant offers some of the best, authentic, and affordable Thai Food on Koh Mak Island.
Recommendations for those who don’t mind spicy are the Pad Prik Gaeng, and Pad Krapao. Basically, anything on the menu with a red chili next to it is going to fire your butt up later.
They don’t mess around here. If enough fiery dishes are ordered at a time and you sit inside you’re going to start to feel like someone opened a canister of tear gas nearby.
For this reason, if spicy is something you dig, then I highly recommend this wallet friendly eatery!
Ohm Restaurant is a small family-run roadside stand with a few tables for sitting. Despite its rustic kitchen appearance, they offer a large menu in English of Thai favorites on the cheap. It’s a great place for a quick tasty bite and to support local businesses.
After a day of biking about this lunch of a bowl of clear noodle soup with chicken was a great pitstop before parking our bikes back at the hotel so we could cool off in the ocean.
Getting around Koh Mak
Koh Mak is a very small island, but to see it you’re going to want wheels under you. That could be by coordinating with the hotel for a local taxi, or by renting a scooter (Lazy Day offers scooters), or bicycle. We decided that in order to earn all that food and adult beverages we’d be enjoying we should rent bicycles.
We chose to rent our bikes from the Koh Mak Information and Bike Rental place for two reasons: it was a 15-minute walk from Lazy Day and they offered sturdy mountain bikes. Rentals are normally 250 baht/day but they gave us a 200/baht day rate as we were renting for a couple of days.
With wheels underneath us, Koh Mak lay before us to be discovered.
Unlike Koh Chang, Koh Mak is relatively flat with very few hills that taxed our legs. That doesn’t mean we didn’t get a solid workout, though. But from our biking about, we came to the conclusion that where we were staying offered the most of what we were looking for. We breezed through the popular “Walking Street” simply because many of the places were shuttered and few folks were walking about.
A beach to recommend…
One beach that we found enjoyable was the Ao Soun Yai Beach. Once a major tourist destination for its long stretch of sandy beach line, luxury resorts, and ferries shuttling tourists over to Koh Kahm, we found ourselves to be the only folks around.
The beach bar and restaurants are still open, so if you’re looking for a wider strip of sand to soak up some sun, or if you want to check off Koh Kahm from your bucket list, this beach is worth a visit!
If you are someone who loves sun, sand, snorkeling, good food, and friendly locals Koh Mak is a destination for you. No need to pack fancy clothes for this trip. Just bring a book, and measure the time of day by the meals and drinks you enjoy. Don’t be surprised if you start getting sleepy just a couple of hours after the sun sets.
But don’t take my word for it. Visit Koh Mak. Recharge your batteries and support these local families that want to show you a slice of paradise.
I want to hear from you!
Should you decide to travel to Koh Mak I’d love to hear your feedback in the comment section below, directly to me, or via message on either the Chow Traveller Facebook page or Chow Traveller Instagram (and feel free to like/follow these pages if you want to learn about more foodie gems). However you choose, I’d love to hear from you!