The best places to stay on Ko Chang, Thailand
First published 9th March, 2014
Sometimes called the "Beast of the East" thanks to its sheer mass and location in the eastern Gulf of Thailand near Cambodia, Ko Chang might just be the quintessential Thai island destination. From breathtaking mountains to idyllic beaches, hippy hangouts to salubrious resorts, and traditional fishing villages to neon nightlife, "Elephant Island" truly has something for everyone. Having something for everyone also means there are hundreds of places to stay on Ko Chang. How is one to choose? Let us help.
When it comes to accommodation, Ko Chang satisfies even the most peculiar of tastes. You'll find an abundance of big beach resorts and basic bungalows, but also hipster havens, romantic hideaways and humble homestays. After visiting over 130 properties, we would highly recommend at least 30 across all budgets. In no particular order, here are 10 favourites.
Perched high on a jungle-backed hill with commanding views over Lonely Beach and the open sea, Oasis has a name that fits like your favourite hammock. Thoughtfully done bungalows represent phenomenal value in the low-end range, and the service strikes a casual yet attentive balance. It wasn't easy prying ourselves from the bountiful flowers and birdsong.
Hangin' at Oasis.
Saffron on the Sea
Few of Ko Chang's boutique resorts can match the enchanting experience of Saffron on the Sea in Haad Khai Mook. Balinese-inspired rooms are beautifully done with unexpected touches, like laterite stone terraces and bronze elephant showerheads, but it's the atmosphere that sets Saffron apart. Served on a seaside terrace, artistic Thai cuisine adds to the tiny resort's stylish and romantic allure.
Relaxing seaside at Saffron.
This artsy institution isn't for everyone, but there's something to be said for a resort that refuses to get a telephone. Independent Bo keeps that old-school bohemian vibe kicking with a melange of murals, chill spaces, musical instruments and bits of curio from around the globe. Anchoring Haad Sai Khao's northern backpacker village, Bo also delivers solid low-end value on a great beach.
Independent Bo -- did I just see a ghost pirate up there?
Of Ko Chang's many high-end resorts that will cater to your every whim, only Nirvana Resort has the creative bent of a grown-up who has matured in fortune while staying true to a free spirit. Along with an impressive list of luxuries, rooms feature psychedelic Grateful Dead posters and framed photos of John Lennon smooching Yoko Ono. We also dug the resort's secluded sunset perch that hangs over Bang Bao's distant southwestern peninsula.
Looking back north from Nirvana's coastal walkway.
The Mangrove Hideaway
Tucked along a mangrove-lined estuary in the quaint Salak Phet village, every inch of The Mangrove Hideaway is designed to relax the body and mind. Gently lapping water, soft classical music, fragrant candles, abundant greenery and numerous chill-out spaces conspire to woo you into a soothed out state. The eco-friendly guesthouse also lets you escape the "real world" while treading lightly on the environment.
The view from Mangrove Hideaway.
A list of Blue Lagoon's selling points reads like Michael Jordan's record book. Inexpensive cottages are thoughtfully designed with huge terraces overlooking a scenic canal, the powder-white sand of Khlong Prao beach is a minute's walk away, and a fantastic cooking school holds classes on site. We guess that's why even the cheapest rooms come with fridges -- got to have somewhere to keep that handmade curry.
Small rooms but huge balconies at Blue Lagoon.
Amber Sands Resort
Ko Chang's west coast gets most of the attention, but according to Amber Sands' friendly owner, the east coast is best. After checking out this intimate boutique resort on a distinctively amber-sand beach with Cambodian mountain views in the distance, we were convinced. The secluded setting is oh-so-peaceful and the rooms romantic, though it's the attention to detail that sets Amber Sands apart.
Amber Sands: five-star quality at three-star rates.
Beyond the faded block-letters of what first appears to be a bland package resort in Haad Sai Khao, Top Resort is arguably Ko Chang's finest family option. Sizable, reasonably priced rooms are studded with quality furnishings and appliances, and the family villas boast separate living areas and full kitchens. The German-run resort is known for personable service, great views and over two dozen varieties of European beer.
A five-minute stroll from Top Resort.
Of all the cheap bungalow joints that vie for business across Ko Chang, Porn's Bungalows in Kai Bae nails the laid-back tropical vibe with slow-paced perfection. Hammocks strung to thatched porches are prime material for kicking back with a book, and "sheesha lofts" in the treehouse-esque restaurant provide ideal seats for the nightly fire-spinning shows. Like most of the guests, the staff move methodically -- and we wouldn't expect it any other way.
Typical day at Porn's.
Baan Rim Nam
Set beside a calm canal in a renovated old fisherman's house that's an easy stroll from Khlong Prao beach, Baan Rim Nam offers a taste of what Ko Chang felt like decades ago. Rooms are comfortable, but the soothing setting is the main draw. After chatting with the laid-back owners and obliging the house golden retriever with a belly rub, dip your toes in the emerald estuary as fireflies light up the mangroves.
The entrance to Baan Rim Nam.
Though we'd be quick to defend our picks, narrowing them down was no easy task. You could easily make a case that several other spots deserve to be among the top 10, and ultimately it comes down to a matter of opinion. Here are some of those that almost made it.
Motorised Floating Picnic Table (MFPT) at Moley's.
KP Huts in Khlong Prao competed with Porn's for the best cheap beach bungalow spot, and Moley's nearly made it thanks to its motorised floating picnic table (the guesthouse isn't too shabby either). Over in Salak Phet, good vibes and idyllic settings are found at both Little Gipsy and Karang Bayview, with the latter especially notable for its hidden beach location. We also can't forget Wai Shak Bungalow for its communal, back-to-nature scene that reminded us of The Beach.
Watch your head at White Sand Resort.
The "best location" award probably goes to White Sand Beach Resort, which covers a huge swathe of an exceptional beach to the north of Haad Sai Khao, though the accommodation is just okay. Remark Cottage in Haad Khai Mook is a worthy alternative to Saffron on the Sea, and you could make a strong case that Chai Chet Resort beats Top Resort for an affordable family holiday.
Koh Chang Sea Hut -- those are some "huts".
Kai Bae's K.B. Resort is another well-done midrange beach resort, while Warapura Resort in Lonely Beach nearly made the top 10 thanks to its stylish rooms set right next to the sea. You also can't go wrong with a hectagonal cottage perched over Bang Bao bay, complete with a water slide, at Koh Chang Sea Hut. Nirvana was our clear favourite among the high-end set, but we also liked Little Sunshine's gorgeous villas in a serene Khlong Son location.
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