We're going to go out on a limb and declare Ko Kut (also spelt Ko Kood) to be the most beautiful island we've seen in Thailand over two decades of travel to the kingdom. There. We said it. It really is just drop dead gorgeous. And we strongly recommend you add it to your itinerary the next time you holiday in Thailand.
Set to the south of better known Ko Chang and Ko Maak, Ko Kut is a large, mountainous island whose interior remains largely jungle covered and whose western and southern coasts are dotted with glorious white-sand beaches. The waters surrounding the island are crystal clear and some beaches have an other-worldly Maldivian appearance. It's beautiful.
There is a good all-weather sealed road that runs much of the island's length from Ao Salad in the north to Ao Yai in the south and almost all of the accommodation can be reached by road (albeit sometimes a very rocky, rutted, hilly trail).
Ko Kut has in the past primarily been mostly visited by organised tours but that has not been the case for a few years now and while some resorts remain totally tour-group focused, others welcome independent travellers with open arms. Perhaps in a throwback to its tour-group heritage, despite the roads being good there is nothing in the way of regular public transport -- you'll need to either hire your own motorbike or bicycle or charter a songthaew (or hitch a ride on one) to get around -- this can make exploring the beaches a little more tedious, but believe us it is worth the effort.
Accommodation-wise, budget digs can be found, primarily back off Khlong Chao Beach, but this is not a 250 baht beach shack destination. If you want to be on the beach you'll be paying perhaps a little more than you're used to, but we'd say the beaches are worth it. The midrange is a mixed bag of standouts and tour-group flophouses, while for those accustomed to spending more, there are some very special places on the island.
Most of the eateries, cafes, bars and shops of interest to tourists are gathered around the Khlong Chao area but most resorts have their own restaurant so you'll not have trouble being fed. Ko Kut is not a nightlife destination -- yes, a couple of places stay open late, but you may well be the only one in them.
Ko Kut is a seasonal destination and while many of the hotels now remain open year round, most of the cafes, restaurants and bars close and the weather can get pretty horrendous during the monsoon from May through to October.
In high season though, especially over Christmas, New Year and Songkran, the island can get very busy and making a reservation in advance can be a good idea for those not keen on walking hut to hut.
There are no ATMs on Ko Kut. Bring enough cash to last your trip with you.
Internet access via 3G is okay on the main beaches, though can be very patchy. Many resorts advertise free WiFi but in our experience it often doesn't work. There is an internet cafe on the north side of Khlong Chao in the "Tourist Office".
Getting phone recharges can be difficult as there are no 7-elevens on the island -- we had luck at Baan Phor Coffee Koh Kood about three kilometres north of Khlong Chao.
The main tourist centre is at Khlong Chao. Here you'll find the largest concentration of budget accommodation, restaurants, bars, cafes and sunset views. The far southern beaches (Ao Jak, Ao Phrao and Khlong Hin) are primarily popular with Russian tour groups out of Pattaya and have a very different vibe to that found on the other beaches on the island.
By Stuart McDonald.