10 Aug Koh Chang Island – The 7 Hotspots for Your Family Adventure
You want to visit a Thai island that is not an overcrowded westernized party location? As a family with kids you need some comfort but still want to experience the true Thailand? You want to set down the pace? You want to eat authentic thai food, relax on beautiful beaches, go on adventures with animals and explore local nature? Enjoy Thai hospitality and a nice sparkling cocktail at sunset?
So did we. We were looking for affordable but still comfortable accomodation to start our big travel adventure. Out of the more than 500 islands we decided for Koh Chang Island. It is the second biggest Thai island (30km length and 13km width), located on the East coast close to the Cambodian border.
Why? Mainly because after a whole lot of confusing research online as well as talking to frequent Thailand travelers, we felt that Koh Chang Island would provide the right mixture of original countryside, thai culture and comfortable resorts to make it a gentle start into the big wide world of travel for the children.
Koh Chang Island, compared to other Thai islands, still is rather original and remote, free from mass tourism. As a former backpacker island, now developing to a more exclusive kind of holiday destination, it still offers a hideaway feeling and is meant for travelers who seek their bit of freedom. Plus, it’s affordable for family budgets and easy to reach. From Bangkok Airport you either hop on a bus (3 hrs.) or take a flight with Bangkok Airlines (1 hr) to Trat. You are then automatically taken right up to the footsteps of your hotel by air conditioned minibuses via ferry for a reasonable price. It’s very convenient, it’s all taken care of and organized by the very charming little Trat Airport.
Especially for a family there are many good reasons to come to Elephant Island. That’s what Koh Chang means in Thai – because the place is thought to have the shape of an elephant on the map. Which I – maybe due to lack of imagination – am not able to see. You can go on a rainforest adventure (80% of Koh Chang is a nature reserve jungle), spend days at the beach building sand castles and go swimming, make friends with elephants and monkeys, enjoy the great food. The water temperature stays above 25°C, waves are nonexistent and there is always a nice wind that makes it easier to stand the heat.
These are our 7 family hotspots you simply cannot miss.
1. White Sand Beach – the Pearl of Koh Chang Island
This is probably the largest and most developed beach on Koh Chang. It offers wide, sandy areas to the north and more rocky areas to the south – perfect for little feet to climb on. With its calm shallow waters, affordable beach chairs, shade spending trees and lots of cafés and shops it is an extraordinary spot for families to spend some relaxing hours. As for us, we perfectionized our sand castle building as well as air bed riding skills. There was ice cream for the kids and great coffee (check out 15 palms beach bar and restaurant) as well as cocktails for the grown ups.
At dawn there is a little night market on the main street of the village with great street food. It’s cheap and definitely the best authentic thai food you can get around here. Choose between spicy rice dishes, freshly sliced fruit and fruit shakes, corn, grilled meat, fish or seafood skewers. Try a banana – chocolate – pancake for dessert.
Find your way back to the beach, sit on the steps of a staircase and enjoy the beautiful night skies. No need to go to a restaurant.
2. On Top of Koh Chang Island
Treetop Adventure Park
South of Bai Lan Beach you find the Koh Chang Treetop Adventure Park right at the gates to the tropical rainforest. It was designed by a team of French and Thai experts who operate 3 similar parks all over Thailand. European safety standards secure a lot of fun without regret. The parc is officially inspected and certified by France’s certification bodies (SEREC). Staff training is based on „Operateur de Parc Acrobatique En Hauteur (OPAH)“ standards.
Besides a treetop adventure for adults and children from 140 cm height (or 7 years of age) there is also a special kids rope course. It provides a great climbing experience already for adventurous 4-year-olds. Julian, our 4.5 year-old, refused to get off after his first rather careful moves on the ropewalk. He would climb the wall, jump on the flying sled and enjoy the swinging branches no matter how many mosquito bites he suffered from. It was his number one experience on the island by far. Make sure you are wearing flat sneakers (no flip flops), insect repellants are provided. The price for the kids’ treetop adventure is THB 400, for adults it is THB 1200.
When you finally pulled your children off the ropes, take the short stroll to Lisca Beach. The beach itself I wouldn’t even care to mention, even though it’s a nice one. What makes it unique and a real gem is the beach bar and pizzeria that is located here.
They simply got it right! There is not one thing about this place that I would change (maybe the prices – but for this perfect place I would have paid even more). Run by Italians, it offers the best pizza I would say in all of Thailand right on the beach. And no matter if I’m talking of the pizza, diverse organic dishes or the drinks – it’s all so good and tasty, as well as perfectly arranged and beautifully decorated! You’ll find nice wooden tables decorated with fresh flowers, blue and white painted chairs as well as a small colorful lounge and bar. Accompanied by a good choice of background music you’ll never want to leave!
Should you ever happen to be on Koh Chang Island, be sure not to miss out on this!
3. Ban Kwan Chang Elephant Trekking
Is it Ethical to Visit an Elephant Camp?
I really don’t want to start the discussion if elephant camps are against the nature of the animals. Of course they are. And of course animal welfare is an important issue to us. We cannot overemphazise the role each person can and should play in helping hurt, sick or endangered species. Abandoning sites that are hurtful to animals is one way to do so.
On the other side, we also have to put up with the circumstances under which animals live today. Crying out for the ideal that every animal should be free is simply not realistic. Elephants have been working animals for centuries in this part of the world, just like horses and oxen in Europe. Or camels in Arabia. Some have been treated well, some haven’t. Elephants these days mostly live with man just like cows and horses do, and they remain working animals, not pets.
There certainly are people who misuse their power over the grey giants out of greed or ignorance, but I am sure the Ban Kwan Chang Elephant Park is not one of them. The elephants here have nice, shady areas in the woods, lots of space to move around and seem to be well taken care of.
About the Experience
That being said, it was a great and very special experience for us as well as for the kids. One of our favourites on Koh Chang Island.
The 2 hour encounter consists of a walk to a cool river puddle where you can take a bath with two of the elephants, get up close to them, scrub their back and sit on them if you like. To be honest, I was concerned about the brownish river water – elephant poo floating by, and various standing water-borne diseases striking my mind.. But once I got it in was perfect. I felt the smooth waters around me and watched the beautiful giant animal next to me. Tessa and I pet the elephant and sat on her for a couple of minutes.
You then head back to the camp and get a 40 minute ride (maximum of 2 riders per animal) along beautiful jungle tracks and rubber trees. In the end there is plenty of time to feed the elephants with baby bananas, which especially the children enjoyed very much.
Thanks to this very well maintained park and our guide – with this hands on experience we learned a lot about elephants and their keeping. I am sure, these animals are better off than their mates in some zoos, circuses or on working plantations.
4. Bang Bao – an Ancient Fisherman’s Village on Koh Chang Island
Located at the South end of the island, it takes us about 1 hour to get here from the very North. As we had read, this old fashioned fisherman’s village is a “must-do” on the island. We would get great original seafood along with some shopping opportunities and beautiful views from the pier.
Okay. Want the naked truth? Except for some crabs and crayfish you can watch in those big blue boxes placed at the entrance of some of the restaurants, this place has nothing to do with a fisherman’s village anymore. Most of the fish they sell here doesn’t even come from Bang Bao since it all goes out for export.
The place probably used to be a couple of streetfood stands and small local shops on both sides of a pier, but meanwhile has evolved to a roofed indoor market selling the same stuff that you find in all the tourist villages across the island. Rounded up by some restaurants serving mostly continental food. It’s like walking through a 350m long, not even 2m wide tunnel where it naturally gets pretty crowded at times. You’ll have to watch your own and your kids steps because there are some spots where you might just fall off the pier.
Somehow Bang Bao is still charming though, since you get beautiful views from the end of the pier over colourful shipwrecks and across the whole bay from the peninsula.
Bang Bao Diving and Fishing
If you are looking for some adventure afterall, there is probably no better place to do some diving and snorkeling around the island than Bang Bao. There are a couple of good diving schools right at the beginning of the pier. For instance visit BB Divers or Scuba Dawgs. You can also do some fishing either at the end of the pier or on one of the tourist boats.
If I was to choose again I would still visit Bang Bao village since it offers some ridiculously beautiful views. Beyond the tourist trapping it still is one of the places you’ll have to see on Koh Chang Island. The children enjoyed the unique former fishing and now tourist boats as well as the lighthouse. They would also find ever more wrecks sticking their noses out of the shallow waters.
5. Take a Snorkeling Trip to Koh Wai
Favour a few hours away from Koh Chang Island? There are a lot of snorkeling opportunities departing from Bang Bao, most of which include jumping off the boat and swimming in the deep water. The waters may not always be as pristine as in the South of Thailand, but it’s definitely worth it since you’ll be able to see loads of fish.
However, with two young kids who are not confident swimmers yet, we decided for a half day trip to Koh Wai. The tour is operated by Bangbao Boat. It’ll cost you THB 400 per person (kids from the age of 3 pay the full price). You’ll get full equipment (suitable for kids and pretty much nice and clean) as well as a food voucher for the pier restaurant.
After half an hour ride you’ll be dropped off on the beach at around 10 a.m. The kids can walk into the water and paddle around looking for Nemo as long as they want to. It’s perfect for a first snorkeling experience. The tour boat will pick you up again after lunch at 1 p.m. That way you will have the beach and the fish all to yourself except for the guests from the nearby resort. You will avoid the tourist masses who get dropped off here as part of their full day tours in the afternoon.
6. Lonely Beach
The last resort for partying backpackers on Koh Chang Island. An original. A must-see. So one of the things I definitely wanted to do. We went there on our way back from Bang Bao Village on a sunny afternoon. Just my opinion: it’s nothing more than just another beach. Overrated. Dirty. No (clean) facilities. Beach chairs more expensive than at White Sand Beach. Don’t have to go there if you are over 30 and not keen on getting one of those tattoos. Go there if you have it on your bucket list like we did, but please don’t set your expectations too high.
7. Explore the Jungle of Koh Chang Island
Take a walk on the wild side! If you like nature hikes and waterfalls, you can find some nice places to go to on Koh Chang. Best time to visit is around October to January since then there will be enough water in all of them.
Klong Plu Waterfall
The most visited and best known waterfall is Klong Plu, situated about 1 km inland from Klong Phrao Beach, in Mu Ko Chang National Park. The entrance fee is 200 THB for adults and 100 THB for children. It will take you about 20 min by foot to get there. You will find the main pool below the waterfall and some smaller ones downstream for swimming. There are rocks and cliffs to climb on for the kids and maybe to jump off for us grown ups. Be aware that it can be a bit crowded at times.
Klong Nonsi Waterfall
Also very nice and free is Klong Nonsi Waterfall on the northern East Coast. You will have to drive to Dan Mai by car or scooter, pass the hospital and the police station and find the sign that points out a relatively new road to the river which ends pretty much directly at the waterfall. There is an easy access well prepared route to level 1 and 2 of the waterfall. If you are a bit more of an adventurer, explore the next levels. They provide some trickier parts including a narrow path and the possibility to fall down a couple of metres. So don’t go further than the first 2 levels with younger kids. For bigger ones and grown ups it can be a nice adrenalin rush.
When You Are Done Exploring
Here are two tips for family friendly eateries in the North of Koh Chang Island. At least somewhat cheaper than hotel prices and close to the beach you’ll find the “Little Sunshine Resort” restaurant. They offer authentic thai cuisine as well as continental dishes (nice to have for kids who aren’t used to asian cuisine). There is a little park area and a pool as well as some board games to entertain the children. They also have a very patient cat who Julian and Tessa fell in love with right away. Only thing to moan about is the time it takes until you get your food. Otherwise very nice and welcoming staff.
Our favourite restaurant however was the “Blues Blues Arts and Food” in Klong Son. This family owned Thai restaurant is not only a great place to get traditional food for good prices on a spacious patio. It also has an art gallery as well as a water fountain which is home to some toads and fish. The owner himself is the creator of the gallery and the unique garden with its colorful flowers and statues. His wife prepares all the food herself. You’ll find very good traditional dishes here, but nothing too exceptional, if that is what you are looking for. It’s popular with locals as well as with foreigners, and for us was the perfect choice!
Still need to know more about Koh Chang Island? Visit the website IamKohChang. The information you will get here will answer all the questions you could possibly have about Koh Chang Island. In a very informative, engaging, honest in a sometimes slightly sarcastic (and very funny) way.
What is your favorite Thai Island? Have you been to Koh Chang already and if yes, how did you like it? Leave your comments in the section below.