I visited Koh Chang twice over the course of a couple of months and I easily found the draw of this “elephant island”. With its hilly jungles, uncrowded beaches, and the feeling that you’ve reached one of the less touristy spots in Thailand, there is a lot to love about Koh Chang.
I never thought I’d be a long-term island girl, where I’d actually enjoy living on islands for more than a month or two. I love being busy, living in vibrant cities, going to live gigs, finding new architecture, cafes, and street art down alleyways.
But guys, I have to admit, I’m kind of addicted to island life now. And I would say that Koh Chang was the island that started that addiction.
Island life is the perfect balance to my personality and my hyperactive brain that is always two steps ahead of where I am. Being on an island where life is slower, I’m forced to simply enjoy the present and the ridiculously lovely scenery.
With that said, most people think of islands as a place to go to relax and not do much of anything. And although that’s true to an extent, there are quite a few islands out there that have countless experiences and adventure activities on them.
On Koh Chang, no matter what kind of island experience you’re looking for, you can probably find it. It’s a big enough island that there are numerous beaches and tour options to choose from, and the landscape is diverse and lush. It’s the perfect spot to get lost in for a few days or, you know, a couple of weeks.
So, if you want to go lay on a beach for a few days with a good book and a mojito, by all means, go do it! But if you’re looking for other unique experiences to have on the island as well, read on.
Volunteer at the Koh Chang Animal Project
If you’re an animal lover, there’s no better experience to have than volunteering at the Koh Chang Animal Project. Seriously, it was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had in Thailand.
I spent a full day at this clinic and met so many amazing animals. Lisa, the woman who runs the project is from New York but she has been living in Thailand for years. She’s a knowledgeable vet and an all-around awesome person to get to know.
Educate yourself about the project and what you can do to help, even if it’s just spending a few hours cuddling the animals. I plan on writing a longer post about my experience soon because it was one that stuck with me on Koh Chang.
If you want to volunteer, get in contact with Lisa through phone, 089-042-2347, or via email firstname.lastname@example.org, and please say hi to her for me!
Go ATV Riding
I was so wanting to hop on an ATV and let loose, but when I saw the price tag, I held myself back and went to the beach instead.
If the price isn’t an issue for you though, ATV riding would be fun to experience on Koh Chang. Monster Adventure is an ATV tour company on the island and they offer rides through forest trails, a rubber plantation jungle, and lead you to a local waterfall.
A 60-minute ATV ride will cost you a minimum of 2500 baht, or about US $73.
Trek through the Jungle
Koh Chang has such a lush tropical jungle it would be a shame to not experience it for at least a day. Trekking is a popular activity on the island for this reason and there are a lot of options for tours.
I was recommended to Tan, a local guide that you can only book with through calling him directly. He takes out tours every day, but make sure to check which tour he is doing because they’re different every day.
I went on a seven hour trek that literally wound through the jungle – as in, there were thick jungle branches hitting me in the face every few minutes and I came out with a lot of scratches on my legs. I’ve never done trekking like this before, where there wasn’t even much of a trail, you just went directly into the heart of the jungle.
We hiked up two large hills and we were rewarded with stunning views of the island.
The only downside to Tan Trekking is the fact that they offer elephant treks as well. I didn’t choose to go on any elephant trekking tours, but you will be supporting a company that offers those types of tours if you choose to go hiking with Tan.
On the other hand, he is known to be the best guide on the island, and you would be hard pressed to find any trekking company that doesn’t also offer elephant trekking.
To book a tour, call Tan at +6689 645 2019 or +6689 832 2531. Most of his tours cost anywhere from 900 to 1,000 baht (US $26 -$29) for a full day of trekking, including pick-up, lunch, and water.
Rent a Scooter
With its many steep hills and breathtaking hairpin turns, Koh Chang is by no means a spot to learn how to ride a scooter for the first time. If you’ve been riding scooters for awhile around Asia though, it’s well worth it to rent a scooter for a day or two to explore the island.
Koh Chang is bigger than most people think, and although pick-up taxis are inexpensive, there’s nothing like having the freedom to go wherever you want when you want. There are plenty of little spots to stop in at, lookouts to go see, and waterfalls to hike to.
Pick up a map of the island and hit the open road by yourself or with your partner in crime on the back.
Take Day Trips to the Surrounding Islands
Many people only go to Koh Chang and then move on to other parts of Thailand or Cambodia. However, I would recommend taking a day trip, or a couple of days, to explore the other tropical islands around this area.
I lived on Koh Mak for about a month and a half, and it is still probably the most beautiful island I’ve come across in Thailand. It’s tiny though so it is one of those islands where you can plan to pretty much lay on the beach all day. The beaches will be postcard worthy, the water that perfect turquoise color, and the locals some of the friendliest in the country.
Koh Kood and Koh Wai are also great options for a trip from Koh Chang. I didn’t make it to Koh Kood and I only went to Koh Wai briefly during a snorkel trip, but they both have their own charms as well.
You’ll soon find that most islands in Thailand have their own personality and character, it’s worth experiencing as many as you can fit in.
The waters around Koh Chang are ideal for diving because there are plenty of beautiful shallow beginner dive sites, but enough deeper and colorful coral reefs for the more advanced divers as well. Specifically, there’s Koh Rang National Park, which is a stunning place to dive.
Be prepared for a lot of snorkel boats on the surface there, but once you’re deep underneath the water, you’ll be some of the only divers there.
If wreck diving is more your thing, there’s also the HTMS Chang that was sunk in 2012 and is a popular dive site in Koh Chang. The ship is 100 meters long and it used to be a US and Thai navy vessel. And if that’s not enough to convince you, around the wreck is where a lot of the resident whale sharks have been spotted.
If diving doesn’t appeal to you, there are more than enough snorkel operators to try out. I went on one speed boat snorkel tour and honestly I didn’t enjoy it much. I felt like we were sheep being herded from spot to spot to check it off and move on. Our “guides” barely said two words to us and the group I was with wasn’t very social, mostly families and couples.
Instead, I would recommend snorkeling with one of the local dive operators. It’s going to be a much more personable day with knowledgeable guides, better equipment, and probably a smaller group. It’s worth the slightly higher cost.
Koh Chang is not only known for its jungles, but the many waterfalls you can discover inside the leafy green interior. One of the more popular waterfall hikes is to Klong Plu Waterfall because of its accessibility. They will charge you 200 baht, but I found it worth it if you plan to spend the afternoon there. There’s also a watering hole to swim in, although the fish are quite feisty.
The trail to get to the waterfall is very easy with rope handrails through most of it. It’s a very short hike to get to the waterfall and most people, even if you’re not fit, should be able to do it.
Other waterfall options if you have a scooter or another means of transportation to get there include Than Mayom, Klong Jao Leuam, Klong Nonsi, Klong Neung, Kheeri Phet, Kai Bae, and Kiripetch. I told you there were quite a few (and that’s not even all of them)!
Explore Some of the Best Beaches in Thailand
Koh Chang has arguably some of the best beaches I’ve come across in Thailand. I said if you wanted to just lay on the beach for a week, you should do it. Even if the beach is not your thing, you should spend at least one day exploring the many beautiful beaches on Koh Chang.
My favorite beach ended up being Klong Prao for it’s untouched nature and lack of people. I also witnessed some pretty amazing sunsets there and enjoyed many meals on the beach.
White Sand Beach is the largest and most famous beach in Koh Chang. It’s also the most touristy. I went there for a day just to see what all the fuss was about, and it really wasn’t that great.
After visiting Bali a few years ago I abhor beach vendors, and White Sand has plenty of people trying to sell their goods to you. At least they weren’t as pushy as the ones in Bali.
I found White Sand Beach to be a resort-heavy spot that was expensive, more glitz and glamor, and not very local. In other words, it wasn’t my kind of beach.
Other notable beaches to visit would be Lonely Beach, Kai Bae, Klong Kloi, and Bailan Beach.
Where to Stay
Koh Chang has every type of accommodation for whatever your budget may be. There are backpacker havens for $5/night and high-end luxury resorts. There are also mid-range bungalows for $15-$20/night, which I found to be a happy medium.
The first time I was on the island, I stayed in the backpacker area called Lonely Beach. It was a fun spot to be for a couple of weeks, but I would fall asleep to the bass beats from the parties down the street most nights.
The second time I came back to the island, I stayed in Klong Prao and enjoyed it much more. I stayed at Pajamas Koh Chang Hostel and could not recommend it more. I love hostels that have a pool and are clean! Klong Prao ended up being my favorite beach on the island as well so the location was unbeatable.
How to Get to Koh Chang
If you’re coming from Bangkok, go to the eastern bus terminal and take the government bus to Trat. From Trat you can take a pick-up taxi to the Koh Chang pier (Laem Ngop). It depends on how many people are in the taxi with you, but it shouldn’t cost more than 60 baht. The drivers may try and charge you closer to 150-200 baht if you’re by yourself or with only one other person.
If you’re coming from the Cambodian border (Koh Kong), get a minibus to Trat and follow the same directions as above. There should be minibus stands just a few minutes walk from the border on the right hand side. They all offer one set price, but usually won’t leave until they have a full vehicle.
The ferry to Koh Chang should only cost about 70-80 baht and they usually depart every hour. The trip is around 45 minutes.
Have you been to any Thai islands before? What would you be interested in doing in Koh Chang?
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