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Ko Maak

Travel Guide

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Just a few kilometres south of Ko Chang but a world away from its heavy development lies Ko Maak, undoubtedly an overlooked gem in Thailand's crown. Ideal for those who prefer the quiet life, this decidedly rural island has so far escaped the grasp of major developers. Though a sprinkle of tasteful new resorts have appeared in recent years, it appears that Maak will remain a sleepy, family-friendly destination for the foreseeable future.

Ko Maak is blessed with long stretches of palm-fringed white sand that were once listed among the top 10 beaches in the world by the British newspaper, The Sunday Times. At certain times of year, the island's notoriously aggressive sandflies are keen to debunk this award. Should this be the case during your visit, head for the sandfly-free red sand beaches found along the east coast. All around Ko Maak, the calm and shallow water is an obvious draw for families with young children.

As the island's longest beach, north-facing Ao Kao is great for lounging, while the more sheltered Ao Suan Yai offers a romantic sunset setting. The most magnificent cerulean blue water is found at the small and hidden beaches of Ao Phra to the northwest and Laem Son on the remote northeast coast. Incredibly, neither of these sublime spots has been developed with anything more than an old fisherman's house and beach shack serving home-cooked seafood.

Almost the entire island is owned by relatively few descendants of Chao Sua Seng, a Chinese-Thai coconut baron who purchased the island a century ago. Coconuts are still widely grown along with pineapple and cashew nut, but rubber trees now cover most of the interior. According to an expat islander, tourism is little more than a hobby for landowners who reap considerable wealth from vast groves that are passed down through generations.

With such a deep-rooted agricultural tradition, it's no surprise that Ko Maak's landscape is distinct from its larger and more rugged neighbours, Ko Chang and Ko Kut. Red dirt roads ramble over rolling hills and through tiny villages settled by workers who maintain the rubber trees. Though arid in places and generally lacking the exotic feel that comes with thick jungle, Ko Maak is imbued with a relaxing air.

Lazing on the beach is by far the most popular way to pass the time; you won't find elephant camps, snake farms or muay Thai fights on Ko Maak. Some very good snorkelling sites are found off the island's more secluded bays, like Ao Phra, Laem Son and Laem Tookkata, and around the tiny islands that sit like little green moons just off the coast. Scuba divers are also well served by BB Divers, Paradise Divers and Koh Mak Divers. Other activities include cooking classes at Koh Mak Seafood in Ao Nid, windsurfing at Koh Mak Resort and exploring the island by bicycle, motorbike or kayak.

An excellent mix of accommodation is another of Ko Maak's selling points. The island hosts around 30 mostly small resorts that lean towards the intimate and artistic, with several budget to midrange spots offering good value and memorable locations. Many of these places fill up during high season; advanced reservations are a good idea from December to February.

Ko Maak is a seasonal destination; some resorts close while others offer greatly reduced rates from May to October.

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Text and/or map last updated on 16th March, 2014.

Last reviewed by:
Usually found exploring Bangkok's side streets or south Thailand's islands, David Luekens is an American freelance writer & photographer who finds everyday life in Asia to be extraordinary. You can follow his travails here.

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