Koh Chang, or Elephant Island, is the second-largest island in Thailand. Located in Trat Province and part of the Mu Ko Chang National Park, Koh Chang is quickly developing into one of Thailand's most popular island destinations.
The relatively close proximity to Bangkok along with gorgeous beaches and calm water make Koh Chang a great destination for families with children. While once an island mainly popular for backpackers and budget travelers, prices have risen dramatically over the years.
Note: There are actually two islands named Koh Chang in Thailand; the other is a small, quiet island found on the Andaman (west) side of Thailand near Ranong.
What to Expect
Koh Chang is a large, hilly island with many beaches and small bays. Despite the size, the population of permanent residents is very low.
The island is very developed and you'll find plenty of ATMs, free wi-fi, cafes, shops, and more infrastructure than that found on other islands in Thailand.
White Sand Beach, the busiest and most developed beach, stretches along the west coast. Spectacular sunsets, palm trees on the beach, and fine, volcanic sand add to the paradise feel of Koh Chang.
White Sand Beach
White Sand Beach, or Hat Sai Khao, is the longest and most family-friendly beach on Koh Chang. Numerous bars, resorts, and restaurants stretch along the beach and open directly to the sea. Calm water and a soft-sand bottom that gently slopes to deeper water make White Sand Beach the best place to swim.
Although resorts have taken over most of the beach, budget travelers can still find a cluster of cheap bungalow operations on the very northern end (turn right when facing the sea) of White Sand Beach.
Lonely Beach, or Hat Tha Nam, is Koh Chang's party and backpacker epicenter. While there are a mix of restaurants and guesthouses for all budgets, many budget travelers end up on Lonely Beach to socialize and party. Unfortunately, most of the beach is rocky and not nearly as nice for swimming as other parts of the island.
Parties on Lonely Beach can go until 5 a.m. and there is little escape from thumping music. If you're after a peaceful island experience or good night of sleep, consider a different beach!
When to Visit Koh Chang
Koh Chang enjoys a slightly different and unpredictable climate when compared to Bangkok or other islands on the east side of Thailand.
The driest months in Koh Chang are between November and March. November is the best month for visiting Koh Chang, as temperatures have yet to rise and rainfall drops off sharply compared to other islands. You'll still find decent prices and smaller crowds in November, but both tend to rise between December and March.
Getting to Koh Chang
You'll find numerous travel agencies offering tourist bus tickets from Bangkok to Koh Chang for great prices, or you can make your own way to the Eastern Bus Terminal in Bangkok and arrange your own first-class bus to Laem Ngop in Trat province, then the ferry. Tickets sold at guesthouses and travel agencies typically combine the bus, transfer to the jetty, and ferry to the island -- a convenient package.
The bus from Bangkok to the jump-off point for Koh Chang typically takes between five and six hours with stops. You'll then wait for the next hour-long ferry to the island.
Ferries arrive at the top (north end) of Koh Chang. From there, you'll find songthaew trucks waiting to carry passengers to the various beaches along the west side of Koh Chang. The fare varies according to distance; White Sand Beach costs around 50 baht per person.
Seeing Koh Chang by Motorbike
Koh Chang is a very large island and looking around for better or different beaches by public transport takes time and money.
One option is to rent an automatic scooter/motorbike for 200 baht and independently explore the various beaches dotted around the island. Koh Chang is very hilly and traffic can be intense, so only experienced drivers should take the challenge.
See more details about renting a motorbike in Thailand.