We can all picture what a tropical island looks like. Powdery sand, clear water, palm trees. In our minds we can feel the cool ocean breeze tempering the beating sun, as we listen to the waves and drink something cold, fruity and spectacularly alcoholic.
This is not the reality of most islands, maybe any islands. But few will come as close as Thailand’s Koh Kood.
Thailand has many, many beautiful islands, and we’ve been lucky enough to visit a fair few of them. I think Koh Kood – and in particular the incredible Bang Bao beach – might well be the best of a very good bunch.
Stunning natural scenery, good food and beautiful hotels, but not over-developed. Definitely not one for the party animals, but if you’re looking for a place to unwind, Koh Kood could be it.
We’ve been here for four days in February 2022, and it’s a supremely good place to relax and recharge. It’s about as close as you’ll get to that tropical island in your mind’s eye.
Picture crystal clear water, white sand beaches, the smell of barbecued seafood in the air and the lapping of gentle waves breaking in a sheltered bay, and you’ve got a good idea of Bang Bao and Koh Kood in general. This was the view that greeted us at our resort. None of the pictures in this piece are filtered by the way, it really looks like this.
Situated at the southern end of the Koh Chang group of islands in the eastern Thai province of Trat, Koh Kood takes a little bit of getting to, but it’s still fairly accessible from Bangkok.
Koh Kood has been on our list of islands to visit for many years now, but have never got around to. It has always seemed a bit of a trek, and we would definitely recommend at least four days for this trip overall, but boy is that journey worth it. It’s also not the cheapest destination in Thailand, but we think that Koh Kood is worth a little extra outlay.
At the bottom of this post I’ll put some info on getting to Koh Kood, but to be honest there is a much better resource at Iamkohchang.com, which is an excellent one stop shop for all things Koh Chang, Koh Mak and Koh Kood.
So here I’ll talk a bit about what we got up to (not a lot), what to expect (magic) and a few tips (bring snacks) for making the most of this fantastic island.
The journey to Koh Kood
There are two ways to get to the ferry port for Koh Kood – you can drive, or you can fly.
Driving – or more likely taking a van, bus or taxi from Bangkok – is going to be the cheaper option, but it’s also a 5 hour schlep.
Flying is more expensive, but the flight from Bangkok to Trat is one of the most fun in Thailand. Like Samui, there’s only one airline (Bangkok Airways) which flies into Trat, and at time of writing there’s only one flight a day.
This isn’t your usual big Airbus, however. The Bangkok-Trat route involves a little propeller plane which bumps along at about 15,000 feet all the way, giving lovely views as the land below graduates from the dry, flat and dusty farmland around Bangkok out to the altogether lumpier, greener pastures of Trat.
Provincial Thai airports are an attraction of Thailand in their own right, and Trat is no exception. A dinky wooden carriage waits to transport the passengers the 50 metres from runway to ‘terminal’ (read: small wooden pavilion), while baggage reclaim involves the staff just bringing your bags on a little trolley and leaving them. From getting off the plane to leaving the airport takes about 5 minutes, but spend a little extra time enjoying their landscaping efforts.
A quirk of the Koh Chang islands is that each of them has a different ferry port. For Koh Kood that’s Laem Sok Pier, around 45 minutes from the airport down a tapering peninsula.
In normal times (what does that even mean any more?), a shared minibus runs between the airport and the pier. At time of writing in March 2022, you’ll need to arrange a private transfer which is 1,500 baht each way to run you down to Laem Sok.
As we were flying, the only ferry available was with Boonsiri, leaving at 14.20 and costing 500 baht each. Food, drinks and refreshments are available at the ferry office, and if you’re driving yourself there’s a big car park to leave your car (no car ferry to Koh Kood).
Our Friday afternoon ferry was busy, big groups of Thai people excitedly milling about and lugging what seemed like enough supplies and bags to last til doomsday. We began to wonder if we should have come more prepared than just bringing sunglasses, swimwear and fresh pants when we saw people toting crates of whisky and bin bags full of crisps.
I have a love-hate relationships with Thai ferries, mainly hate, but the Boonsiri catamaran on a breezy February day was smooth as silk. On the way out we sat outside on the top deck, and on the way back inside in the spacious, mercifully air conditioned cabin. Both were as comfy and calm as you’ll find on a boat here.
The sleek catamaran cuts a stark contrast to the pier at Ao Salad at the northern tip of Koh Kood, which looks like a selection of precariously placed wooden planks extending into the sea – a big golden Buddha watching serenely from the hill.
We disembarked and followed the flow of people up to the road. Your boat ticket includes transport to your hotel on Koh Kood. We called out our resort to the lady perched on a wall, she tapped at her notebook for a few seconds, scribbled something down and directed us to truck number 5.
The ensuing songthaew ride made us realise that Koh Kood is rather bigger than we had thought. I had pictured a puff of sand in the ocean, but it’s a long, densely forested and very hilly island in general.
The songthaew driver tackled the drive with the usual mix of driving panache and outright lunacy, the knackered pickup truck bumping and bouncing all over the place. At least the main road on the island is paved. The songthaews are among the only four wheel vehicles on Koh Kood, so they drop off returning residents as well as tourists. At one point we screeched into a school playground to drop off one of the teachers, kids in uniform waving from the back of their own school bus trucks waiting to take them home.
Bang Bao beach and enjoying Koh Kood
The journey to Bang Bao took around 30 minutes and we glimpsed some very beautiful bays along the way with just a couple of resorts and bungalows scattered around them. A far cry from the hyper-development that characterizes many of the more naturally picturesque places in Thailand.
We didn’t explore widely – more on that later – but if there are many more beautiful spots than Bang Bao I’d love to see them.
Bang Bao is a sheltered, circular bay with four or five resorts tucked around it. Boats don’t really come in and out other than a couple of dive boats in the morning and afternoon, so it’s pretty peaceful all of the time.
This being Thailand, many of the guests are not sun worshippers, and so we had the bay mostly to ourselves during the day. It gets busier in the evening as locals come down to enjoy the spectacular sunsets over Bang Bao beach.
At the southern end of the bay are some more simple resorts like Siam Beach, right on the sand, well-rated and coming in at just over 1000THB per night.
We went a little more upscale and chose The Beach Natural Resort, a pricier option at around 3000THB per night, but we found it extremely good for the money.
A tip: check recent reviews on wherever you stay. This is true of anywhere in Thailand at the moment, but some places are well rated overall but have, understandably, not been looked after for a couple of years now.
Any resort in Bang Bao – and this is probably true of Koh Kood in general – offers some of the best seaside views you’ll find in Thailand. The wooden piers that meander out into the sea add to the lazy island feel.
What really struck us about Koh Kood and Bang Bao bay was the incredibly clear water – crystal clear in the truest sense of the word, the kind of blue that looks synthetic in pictures, but is 100% real. It’s like a swimming pool.
Bang Bao benefits from gently sloping, pale sand all the way out. Along with the clear waters, we were able to spot big shoals of fish shuttling around, plus some truly brutal looking sea urchins stuck stoically against the pier legs. You really wouldn’t want to tread on one of those.
The only spoiler is the ever-present plastic waste, on Bang Bao limited to a few lone pieces bobbing around, but altogether more visible for the otherwise perfectly clear sea.
We were warned about sand flies before we came, but didn’t encounter any at all. A ready supply of mosquito repellent is a must though, especially at sunset!
Koh Kood is an ideal spot for those looking for some relaxation.
There’s not a lot around the beach at Bang Bao other than the resorts, the endless natural beauty and friendly dogs enjoying the sun.
There’s not a lot on Koh Kood full stop, and that’s one of the draws. No big towns, no supermarkets, no chains, not even a solitary 7-Eleven has managed to make it onto the island. No thudding beach bars or late night parties either – out resort turned the lights out at 10pm and all was calm and quiet. For party times, Koh Chang is just a boat ride away.
We ventured out precisely twice during our four days there. One of the best things you can do on Koh Kood is nothing at all. We sunbathed, read books, drank fruity cocktails and occasionally trekked the few metres to the bars and restaurants of the resorts beside ours.
On the one evening we did walk out to the excellent Bang Bao Home restaurant (try the squid in lime sauce), we came home with a dog who decided to adopt us for the evening and follow us home. We called him Muffin. It’s that kind of place.
That said, for those in need of adventure there are plenty options, but you will need transport, most likely in the form of a motorbike.
There are songthaews on the island, but few cars apart from that. The songthaews can be chartered, but at a pretty hefty cost – 600 THB per journey we were told. If anyone knows different please shout!
By far the easier option would be a motorbike – you could cycle as well but you’ll need your Tour de France legs on for some of the hills.
For various reasons we’ve never got round to learning how to ride motorbikes and we probably aren’t going to start on a random island, so we didn’t see much else of Koh Kood beyond Bang Bao.
Our friends, who are much more intrepid, did have bikes and were darting about all over the place. The roads are nice and quiet but off the few major roads you’re quickly onto dirt and even sand tracks, so be sensible!
With a bike there are many places you might want to check out. We were recommended Secret Sunset Beach in the north (not that secret, it’s on Google), mango margaritas at Peter Pan’s, and food at Fisherman’s Hut.
One activity that we would 100% recommend is snorkeling or diving. Your resort will be able to arrange this for you, and for snorkeling expect to pay around 1000 THB per head.
The snorkeling in Koh Kood was by some distance the best we’ve done – just four of us, an instructor and a driver on a puttering boat trundling to the dive spots.
We went out with Koh Kood Divers and they were brilliant, taking us to three spots through the day.
The clear waters of Bang Bao bay extended to our snorkeling spots, and we could see perfectly clearly to the bottom even when it was 12 metres below. We saw pufferfish, coralfish, angelfish and dozens of others. The highlight was an electric blue scrawled filefish (me neither), hovering for a moment near a fish trap before streaking away.
At points, shoals of fish would just swim right through us, surrounding us on all sides, hundreds of them going about their business, no doubt annoyed by the lumbering humans splashing about.
While we were lucky to get such clear visibility, this was one of the best 1000 baht I’ve ever spent, and I’m normally not that into sea activities. Snorkel trips can sometimes be a let down, but this trip with Koh Kood Divers exceeded expectations in every way.
If you’ve read this far you’ll know we were pretty taken with Koh Kood. I hope that it stays like it is – it’s a Goldilocks island, the ideal balance of unspoilt and developed.
That means it’s more expensive, and that means it’s harder to get to than other destinations, but I sincerely hope it retains this balance into the future. It seems quite well controlled at present despite already being quite well-known, so here’s hoping that remains the case long into the future.
Koh Kood is a gem of an island, a little slice of paradise in eastern Thailand, and well worth considering on any trip to Thailand.
Getting to Koh Kood from Bangkok
Since COVID, options for getting to Koh Kood are a little reduced, but still perfectly doable.
The nearest mainland hub for Koh Kood and the rest of the Koh Chang archipelago is Trat.
You can either fly to Trat or take a van from Bangkok, both will be early starts but will get you to Koh Kood in one day.
If you fly, Boonsiri Ferry at 14.20 is the only option. Tickets cost 500THB and airport transfer 1500THB.
General Koh Kood info
Beachside resorts on Koh Kood start from around 1000THB for a basic bungalow, about 3000THB for a mid-range luxury resort like The Beach Natural Resort, all the way up to 10,000THB for the high end Tinkerbell resort. It’ll be cheaper for inland resorts. Most accomodation is bungalow style.
If you’re really high-rolling, Soneva Kiri is about 100,000THB per night and has its own runway.
Food on the island is solid value and we found it to be great quality in and around Bang Bao beach. There are no major shops or supermarkets, but there are some small marts and your resort will likely have a small shop for snacks and essentials.
Motorbike rental is essential if you want to see more than your own bay, expect 150-300 THB per day. Individual trips and tours like snorkeling, visiting waterfalls and diving can be arranged via the hotels.