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Extraordinary beaches ring deep wilderness and mangrove-draped rivers on Ko Kut, one of the most beautiful islands we’ve seen in more than two decades of travel in Thailand. When calm, the crystal-clear sea meets soft coral sand in settings that could be mistaken for the Maldives.

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At 105 square kilometres, Ko Kut is a large, mountainous island set to the south of Ko Chang and Ko Mak in the eastern Gulf of Thailand, some 50 kilometres due west of both Thai and Cambodian mainland. Its size and relatively pristine condition make it unique among Thai islands considering that no national park oversees its protection.

Where do we start? The beaches are ok. Photo taken in or around Ko Kut, Thailand by David Luekens.

Where do we start? The beaches are ok. Photo: David Luekens

Home to perhaps 1,000 Khmer-Thais whose descendants ventured here a century ago to fish out of the sheltered bays, most of Kut was never settled or developed. Vast swathes of the north, east and south coasts are accessible only by boat. Old-growth trees tower above waterfalls and wildlife in hills reaching above 300 metres. Even on the west coast with its patches of tourism-related development, some beaches back into nothing but coconut groves.

As nearby Ko Chang’s popularity soared in the 1990s and 2000s, Kut’s lack of infrastructure and far-flung location helped to keep it a secret guarded by package tour organisers, who have carted Thai and Russian tourists here for decades and continue to do so today. Sealed roads and ATMs are relatively new additions to an island that now welcomes independent travellers, including those on a budget, with open arms.

Seafood over the back side of the island. Yummo. Photo taken in or around Ko Kut, Thailand by Stuart McDonald.

Seafood over the back side of the island. Yummo. Photo: Stuart McDonald

But it seems like the cat is slowly outgrowing the bag as the island draws increasing numbers of travellers each year. This is not a “just show up and find a bungalow” kind of destination in high season, when resorts and guesthouses often burst at the seams.

For now, Kut really delivers if you’re after a quiet holiday in a spectacular setting with family or a sweetheart. Solo travellers might feel out of place. Small pockets of backpacker accommodation exist along with a few dozen pricier resorts that lend the island an upscale, impersonal vibe (with plenty of exceptions). The most famous, Soneva Kiri, fetches a cool 40,000 baht per night minimum.

Do some exploring. Photo taken in or around Ko Kut, Thailand by Stuart McDonald.

Do some exploring. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Most roads are in good shape but there is no regular public transport; you’ll need to hire your own motorbike, bicycle, boat or kayak, or charter a pricey songthaew (or hitch a ride on one) to get around. With roads running to a dozen beaches and at least eight more reachable only by boat, you could spend weeks getting to know Ko Kut.

Visitors who haven’t secured a room in advance should expect scant choices from late December to late February, around Songkran, and really on any weekend from November through April, when reservations are highly recommended. While some ferries operate and most resorts stay open year round, most restaurants close and public island-hopping boats stop running during the monsoon from May through October.

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As the sixth largest and easternmost island in Thailand, Ko Kut sits around 40 kilometres south of the mainland coast of Trat province, where ferries depart from a pier in Laem Sok. Ko Chang looms around 25 kilometres north of Kut and in between you can hop from Ko Wai to Ko Mak to Ko Rang.

Peel yourself off the beach to explore the interior. Photo taken in or around Ko Kut, Thailand by David Luekens.

Peel yourself off the beach to explore the interior. Photo: David Luekens

A sealed road begins at the mainland ferry pier in Ao Salad on Ko Kut’s northeast coast and cuts south past the more developed west-coast beaches, each of which has at least one resort. Further south, the road turns east to access a few south-facing beaches that are popular with Russians, before ending at the Ao Yai fishing village in the southeast. It’s 24 kilometres from one end of the road to the other with several long, development-free stretches in between. Most of the landscape is hilly, especially towards the south.

Centrally located on the west coast, Khlong Chao hosts the island’s largest cluster of resorts, bungalows, cafes and bars on either side of the eponymous river. You’ll also find one ATM and a couple of dive shops, but this is hardly a bustling “main drag”.

Did we say already we love this place? Photo taken in or around Ko Kut, Thailand by David Luekens.

Did we say already we love this place? Photo: David Luekens

A few kilometres north of Khlong Chao, the main road through the Ao Tapao area hosts Ko Kut’s police station, hospital and another ATM at Government Savings Bank—head there for currency exchange. Elsewhere on the island you’ll a handful of convenience stores (no 7-elevens), pharmacies and freestanding eateries on the main roads. If staying in more remote areas such as Khlong Yai Ki in the north or Ao Jak in the south, all of your food and drink will come from the resorts unless you head several kilometres further afield.

After seeing queues at both ATMs and hearing that they sometimes run out of money, we still suggest withdrawing cash on the mainland or Ko Chang before you come to Ko Kut.

The 4G internet on our cell phone worked fine at all beaches with accommodation, and virtually all resorts offer free WiFi that ranges from surprisingly fast (especially in Khlong Chao) to barely usable. Some of the minimarts can top up Thai-provider cell phones with minutes and data.

Koh Kut Hospital: Ao Tapao ; T: (039) 521 852
Koh Kut Police: Ao Tapao ; T: (039) 525 745 ; (039) 525 191
Koh Kut Rescue: T: (081) 762 4360


What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Ko Kut.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Read up on where to eat on Ko Kut.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Ko Kut.
 Read up on how to get to Ko Kut, or book your transport online with 12Go Asia.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Ko Kut? Please read this.
 Buy a SIM card for Thailand—pick it up at the airport when you arrive.
 Browse the web securely while travelling with TunnelBear. Try with a 7–day free trial.

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