Ko Chang is so big, we’ve split it up into areas, select one of the below for detailed accommodation and food listings in that area. Sights and general overviews for Ko Chang as a whole can be found via the icons above. Don’t know where to start? Read an overview of Ko Chang’s different areas.
Each of Ko Chang’s notable beaches has a distinct character with varying degrees of scenery, crowds, remoteness, accommodation and activities. Whether you’re a backpacker looking for a place to crash on the sand, a family in need of calm and shallow water, a high-roller seeking a plush beach-side spa treatment, or a perfectly normal person who happens to sleep with your snorkel, you’ll find it all on Ko Chang.
Often overlooked in favour of the more popular beaches found further south, Khlong Son bay has a surprisingly long and well-sheltered crescent of slightly grainy tan sand that’s nearly always empty. Anchored by the reasonably tasteful Siam Royal View housing development, the beach is ideal for quiet lounging but is rather shallow and muddy as you wade out. This is more of a spot for sandcastles rather than snorkelling.
While there’s no cheap accommodation to speak of, Little Sunshine is an interesting small-scale boutique spot on Khlong Son beach — if you can afford it.
Haad Sai Khao
Otherwise known as “White Sand Beach”, Ko Chang’s longest and most developed beach spans two kilometres interrupted only by beach vendors and bikini-clad sun worshipers. While the whole shebang is big, bright and beautiful, the central and southern portions have a package holiday feel and tend to get crowded. This lively scene isn’t a bad thing if you’re looking to mix it up at a stylish (and expensive) beach bar.
On the other hand, Haad Sai Khao’s laid-back northern section offers a completely different scene. Here you’ll find thinner crowds on a magnificent beach that’s set to the backdrop of lush hillside rather than cement hotel blocks. The northern beach is also home to several bungalow operations offering cheap rooms and chilled-out vibes; this is where you’ll find the artistic institution that is Independent Bo. While it’s far from a surf break, all of Haad Sai Khao can get a little choppy.
Not really a beach at all, “Pearl Beach” apparently took its name from the fist-size rocks that make up most of its shoreline. They don’t look anything like pearls to us, but hey, it sounds better than “fist-size rock beach”. Though Remark Cottage has a tiny human-installed stretch of sand, you’ll probably want to employ flip-flops to prevent against stubbing toes when wading. The advantages of quiet Haad Khaimook are some decent snorkelling opportunities and excellent boutique accommodation at places like Saffron on the Sea.
Often clumped together with Khlong Prao, Chai Chet beach is a long and narrow stretch of powder-white sand rimmed by deer’s ear trees and large resorts. Ideal for swimming, the clear and calm aquamarine water makes it a family favourite. You’ll also be treated to some breathtaking scenery, with mountains stretching seawards to the south and an estuary flowing just north of the bay.
Accommodation comes exclusively in the form of large midrange to upscale resorts, including Chai Chet Resort and Paradise Resort, both of which are very good but can get crowded with package holiday-makers. Backpackers and seclusion-seekers should look elsewhere.
Arguably Ko Chang’s best all-round beach, Khlong Phrao is a long stretch of feathery white sand that’s broken up by a trio of emerald-water estuaries, including the “Coconut Canal” after which the whole area is named. There’s no shortage of flash resorts joined by a handful of budget spots, but the area hasn’t been developed even close to the point of Haad Sai Khao. It retains a quiet, relaxing atmosphere both on the beach and amid the stilted houses that line the estuaries.
Parts of the beach remain totally free of resorts, with thick coconut groves and a few rag-tag beach restaurants providing the only backdrop. Khlong Prao is a very long, mostly exposed beach that sees slightly higher waves than you’ll typically find in the more sheltered bays, though it’s by no means dangerous on an average day.
With shallow water interrupted by a fair amount of rocks and seaweed, Kai Bae isn’t the best swimming spot on Ko Chang. It is however one of the more quintessentially “tropical” settings thanks to palm-fringed off-white sand, lots of hammocks and beach dogs, and the jungle-clad mountains that loom to the north.
Though the main drag through Kai Bae is more densely developed than anywhere on Ko Chang other than Haad Sai Khao, the beach itself, which is fairly narrow, is occupied only by a handful of long-running resorts that are spread over relatively large stretches. While most of these are nothing to write home about, Porn’s has a great backpacker atmosphere with nightly fire-spinning shows.
Known as Haad Tha Nam to the Thais, Lonely Beach was a secluded hideaway for intrepid backpackers before a road was cut over the headland from Kai Bae. Though not huge, the beach is outstanding: a wide strip of fine white sand with great swimming and a green jungle backdrop. A few mostly forgettable midrange and luxury resorts have cornered the best of the beach, with only one crumbling budget spot remaining on the sand itself.
Most backpackers now stay a little further south in the village, which hosts loads of cheap places to stay along with plenty of reggae bars and tattoo shops. From there it’s a pleasant 10-minute stroll up to the beach. Despite the influx of pricier resorts in recent years, Lonely Beach is still the heart of Ko Chang’s backpacker party scene; expect to meet some wily (read: wasted) characters around here.
Just south of Lonely Beach, the even lower-key Bailan bay has only two slivers of sand to speak of. The first is a tiny blip between the numerous rocks and mangroves at Bailan Bay Resort, while the area’s longer but still not massive beach is occupied mainly by a luxury resort further south. Bailan isn’t a bad choice for accommodation if you’re looking for somewhere that’s quieter than Lonely Beach, but the beaches aren’t worth going out of your way for if not staying here.
Down on the distant east side of Bang Bao bay, Khlong Kloi beach is a fairly long and enticing strip of almost-white sand with a relaxing vibe. Five years ago, it hosted only a few beach shacks that drew a handful of dedicated customers who felt that this was their own little secret.
A half-dozen small bungalow operations and several more bars and restaurants have since emerged to make Khlong Kloi a destination in its own right. There was even techno music blasting during our last visit.
Named after the quirky boat-themed resort that charges 50 baht per person for the privilege of setting foot on its property, Aunchaleena beach is located at the far end of Ko Chang’s western road. It’s a fine patch sand — we adore the two-person swings that are hung from slanted trunks of coconut trees — but Ko Chang has a lot of other great beaches that don’t charge an entry fee.
On the other hand, the day fee also bags you access to a small waterfall and the resort’s floating swimming pool, which is worthwhile mainly for the novelty factor.
This small but lovely beach in a hidden cove on the east side of Salak Phet bay might go by another name, but we know it only by the simple bungalow joint found here. We had the impression that the thatched huts are usually booked out by a contingent of European longstayers who are keen to keep this spot a secret.
And we don’t blame them. The gorgeous palm-rimmed beach boasts almost-white sand to go with clear water and a rickety old wooden pier, all sheltered by rocky outcrops on either side. Even if you don’t stay here, it’s worth stopping by for a quick splash en route to the less spectacular Long Beach.
Way, way down at the southwestern point of Salak Phet on Ko Chang’s sleepy east side, Long Beach was apparently named by a now defunct bungalow operation that hoped to entice travellers to journey many miles, partially over a very rugged road, to a beach that’s no better than average. It’s quite narrow, not very long, and was littered with garbage during our visits.
What Long Beach used to have going for it was a laid-back hippie hideout atmosphere, though that’s since been threatened by a less inspiring resort that plunked a featureless concrete block on the hill overlooking the beach. While this certainly isn’t a bad spot to kick back for an hour or two, the best part of the whole experience is the scenic adventure getting here.
Haad Wai Shak
At the end of an unmarked dead-end lane that shoots west from Salak Phet, Wai Shak beach is the spot for those seeking serious seclusion and tranquility. Though not huge, the beach is an attractive strip of soft white sand with clear cerulean water that’s sheltered by peninsulas on either side. A couple who had been camped on the beach for a month told us that some good snorkelling can be enjoyed here.
Wai Shak is also home to a bare-bones bungalow joint with a hippie-commune atmosphere on the rugged hillside overlooking the beach. Water runs down naturally from a stream and there’s no electricity, but it could be worth checking out if you don’t mind roughing it. Stop by for a beer in any event; they’ve even lugged a pool table out here.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 12th March, 2014.