Watch out for sandflies
Published/Last edited or updated: 20th April, 2018
Most of Ko Mak’s beaches are long and pretty, often with clear water and good kayaking opportunities around the offshore isles. None of them are overdeveloped and you’ll find nothing but coconut groves and forest backing sizeable stretches of sand all around the island.
Do ask locals about the sandfly situation, as the red bites left by these buggers will leave you itching in paradise. Also keep in mind that prevailing winds make Ao Suan Yai and other northern beaches blustery with choppy water from rainy season until around January. Then it switches and south-facing Ao Kao becomes the windy beach. The wind brings its share of tidal garbage—consider joining the Trash Heroes for a clean up session starting 10:00 every Saturday at Coco Bar.
Stretching for some three kilometres along the south coast, Ko Mak’s longest beach dips at the far eastern corner to afford sunset views. The powdery tan sand almost appears pink in the sunlight, striking a tone closer to white towards the eastern end. The water starts out shallow before gradually sloping to a swimmable depth after more than 100 metres. Lots of pine-like son trees provide shade while also dropping their prickly pinecones on the sand. The western end also goes by the name Ao Kratueng, but there's no headland or other geographical marker separating that end from the rest of the beach.
Ao Kao’s beachfront hosts 13 small resorts found between stretches of undeveloped areas, with restaurants and a few smaller places to stay found on the main road that cannot be seen from the sand. A concrete pier at Makathanee Resort reaches from the centre of the beach and this area draws its share of boat traffic, especially when the sea on this side of the island is calm. But for the most part Ao Kao is a sleepy affair, ideal for long walks on the sand.
Just west of Ao Kao beyond a headland is this forested cape with a small beach backed by a pair of old-style bungalow joints. We dig the laid-back vibe and there’s plenty of room to lounge on pinkish sand that’s grainier than elsewhere. Offshore rocks and coral make swimming difficult at low tide, but you could grab a snorkel when the tide comes up. Tukkata is also the place to rent a snorkel for a paddle around the offshore isles of Ko Rayang.
Ao Suan Yai
Reaching nearly two kilometres along the northwest coast, this crescent of khaki sand has a grain ranging from coarse to fine, and a stretch to the south is among the widest on the island. Beyond the sand with its four beachfront resorts you’ll find large coconut groves, with forest extending north from the beach towards a rocky cape. At the centre stands Koh Mak Resort’s wooden pier, used for much of the island’s ferry docking.
Ao Suan Yai hosts only resort restaurants so you won’t find the variety of food and drink available near Ao Kao. However you do get a scenic outlook to Ko Chang and other islands, and this is the place to arrange a kayak or motorboat for a day trip to Ko Kham’s white-sand beach.
Head west from Ao Suan Yai and you’ll hit a patch of rocks and mangroves at Cococape Resort before the shore bends back west along the sand of Ao Phra. Most of the beach is narrow, practically disappearing at high tide, and the lack of resorts results in considerable build up of tidal garbage. But the beach’s eastern end is well worth a trip if you seek a sunset in solitude.
The best part of Ao Phra lies to the west and only an old house was found here on our previous visits. Since then developers constructed an upscale resort—Mira Montra—and visitors may feel like interlopers if not staying there. But the resort does not own the beach itself and you can walk here along the shore from closer to Cococape.
Another beach with only one place to stay, the powdery tan sand of Ao Pong is easy to miss despite its location just south of Mak’s largest pier at Ao Nid. It’s a pretty beach shaded by banyan and umbrella trees, and the owner of Ao Pong Resort told us the snorkeling offshore is “probably the best on Ko Mak.”
Well worth a day trip, the clay-red sand of Laem Son centres at a bend within sight of Ko Kradat at the island’s easternmost point. Son trees line the beach and we reckon that no trip to Ko Mak would be complete without cruising here for a seafood meal at Laem Son Restaurant, which consists of little more than a tiny shack hiding a kitchen and a handful of picnic tables.
This restaurant is the only development on Laem Son save a fisher house and Little Moon Villa, which is hidden away in the far southern corner. To get here you’ll need to cruise into Mak’s largely undeveloped eastern reaches and then follow the signs down a sandy track. This is also a sunrise venue.
Address: All around the island
David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.