Koh Chang is a large and beautiful island off the coast of Thailand’s province of Trat. Indeed, it is the country’s second biggest island. (There is another, smaller, Koh Chang off the southern coast of Ranong province, but this article is about the more famous and popular island in the eastern part of the country.)
With white sandy beaches fringing its edges, towering mountains dominating the landscapes, and lush jungles at its centre, Koh Chang is an ideal destination for people who love to combine days of blissful relaxation with an array of activities and outdoor adventures. Regular ferry services connect the island to the mainland, with a crossing time of around one hour.
You may also see the island spelt as Ko Chang. Ko / Koh means island in Thai. Chang means elephant, thus the name translates as Elephant Island. Elephants are not, however, native to the island – the name comes from the shape of the island looking somewhat like an elephant’s head!
Here are five ways to enjoy your time on Koh Chang:
1. Relax on sandy beaches
Koh Chang’s main beaches can be found on the western side of the island. White Sand Beach is the island’s most developed beach. It is a popular tourist spot with plenty of amenities and facilities within easy reach. Water sports, such as exciting rides on a banana boat, are readily available. Lonely Beach tends to draw a younger crowd, with mainly backpackers and party-goers gracing its shores, and the long Klong Prao Beach is a favourite with people looking for a more sedate and relaxing time along with an exclusive and up-market vibe. Other pretty beaches include Bailan, Kai Bae, and Chai Chet.
The east coast offers rugged unkempt shores, with very little in the way of development.
Whilst each of Koh Chang’s beaches offers a different atmosphere, they all have three things in common: powdery white sand, tempting blue waters, and beautiful ocean views. Why not try out a few before choosing your own personal favourite?
2. Spot nature in the jungles
You can head into the dense jungle on your own, following one of the marked trails, or arrange a trip with a local guide. Guides lead organised group tours into the wild, pointing out various interesting features like animal tracks and droppings. You may even see a diverse array of local wildlife, including colourful birds, monkeys, snakes, and lizards. Jungle excursions can be booked with numerous companies around the island. To really appreciate nature and increase your chances of seeing various creatures, it is also possible to book a private tour. Venture into the lush greenery with a private guide and see a different side of the island’s life.
As well as taking plenty of water and slapping on lots of sunscreen, it is also wise to carry mosquito repellent – they can be problematic during the daytime as well as in the evening. Leeches are also fairly common in the rainy season (May to October).
3. Visit picturesque waterfalls
There are several pretty waterfalls in Koh Chang’s interior. You can either join an island tour to see some of the most popular or enjoy independent explorations by rented scooter (around 300 THB / 8.30 USD per day). Do be careful though if you decide to hire a scooter and ALWAYS wear a helmet; Koh Chang’s roads are notoriously bad, with many inexperienced riders getting seriously injured on a regular basis. Car hire is available, but the narrow, twisty roads can prove quite tricky in larger vehicles.
Klong Neung / Nung Waterfall is the island’s tallest waterfall, with water plunging 120 metres into a small pool below. Whilst it is fairly calm, with a fairly small volume of water, in the dry season, it positively roars in the rainy season! Visitors need to hike for around an hour on fairly challenging paths to reach the waterfall. A private guide is highly recommended. There is no fee to visit the waterfall.
Klong Phu is an easy waterfall to visit independently. You can ride to the main parking area and then it is just a short walk (around 800 metres) to admire the cascading water. The surrounding craggy rocks are tempting for climbers and the sparkling pool is suitable for taking a cooling dip. Non-Thai visitors need to pay a 200 THB (approximately 5.50 USD) admission fee.
Other pretty waterfalls on Koh Chang include Than Ma Yom / Thaan Ma Yom / Thanmayom, Klong Nonsi, and Klong Jao Laem.
4. Admire gorgeous views
Whilst you can certainly lap up the lovely vistas from the beaches, there are several clearly-marked viewpoints around the island that offer unbeatable views of the sea in one direction and the greenery-clad mountains in the other. The views are especially wonderful at sunset.
A recommended viewpoint is in the south of the island, close to Bang Bao Village. Feast your eyes on the gleaming sands of Bang Bao Beach and the shimmering waters of Bang Bao Bay. Another excellent place for terrific views is just outside Kai Bae Village. The elevated position affords amazing views of the coast and distant mountains.
5. Explore the fascinating underwater world
You can book snorkelling trips with numerous operators across the island. Prices vary widely, so do check out a few places before making a final decision. The clear waters around Koh Chang and nearby islands are home to an abundance of marine life. Gaze as schools of colourful fish swim right in front of your eyes, peer down at gorgeous corals, spot long sea snakes and eels, and look out for sea turtles.
Boat trips may include a tasty seafood lunch and / or visits to other islands within the Mu Koh Chang National Park.
Other things to do and see on Koh Chang
There is a small military memorial in the south of the island to remember those who lost their lives in the Franco-Thai War of 1941. The memorial can be found at Laem Ngop. The colourful and revered Shrine of Chao Po Koh Chang is well-worth a visit. The Chinese-style shrine honours the island’s patron god and many local people go here to worship and make merit. Remember to dress modestly, with your knees and shoulders covered, if you do pay a visit to any of the island’s religious or spiritual sites. Entrance is free, although donations are appreciated.
There are several typical Thai Buddhist temples around the island, such as Klong Son Temple and Bang Bao Temple, and you can also enjoy cookery lessons, indulgent spa treatments, boat trips through dense mangroves, visits to quaint fishing villages, and more!
Book a trip to Koh Chang and enjoy numerous excellent activities on a stunning Thai island.
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