Koh Mak: A Wonderfully Quiet Thai Island

This page contains affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more info.

What’s your perfect island like?

We like long, empty, white sandy beaches with warm turquoise sea, a lush green jungle interior with lots of coconut trees and tropical flowers, and very little traffic. We don’t want a completely deserted island though as we’d like a comfortable beach bungalow with wifi for work, the choice of a few decent places to eat and some activities like diving and snorkelling.

It didn’t seem like we’d find our perfect island in Thailand where development has gone crazy and the images we see of gorgeous beaches hide the realities of sex tourism, rampant over development, pollution and hordes of tourists getting wasted on buckets. In fact, we avoided Thailand’s beaches when we were last in SE Asia and headed for Malaysia instead. But our friend told us that it is possible to find quiet, unspoilt Thai islands and this time we headed to Koh Mak.

Koh Mak is located on the eastern Gulf Coast, so it’s much nearer than the southern islands, just a 5 hour comfortable AC bus and 1 hour speedboat ride away from Bangkok. Our bus was half full, mostly with foreigners, but they were all heading to the neighbouring party island Koh Chang, and we were the only ones unceremoniously chucked off the bus in the middle of nowhere and told to wait for a car to take us to the Koh Mak boat. It was one of those times when you realise how much trust you place in strangers when travelling. Within five minutes we were on our way to the pier where we transferred to the comfortable speedboat.

It was October, off season, and on our first day on Koh Mak we saw a total of four other tourists, two were on the boat with us, and not many locals. It felt a little eerie, like a ghost island, and we wondered if we had gotten more than we bargained for when wishing for a quiet island. It didn’t take long for us to sink into the relaxed pace of life though and enjoy the blissful peace. Over the weekend things picked up a little, and although the beaches remained thankfully empty, our favourite restaurant was hopping on Saturday night with six other people!

A typical road in Koh Mak
A typical road on Koh Mak

Koh Mak did a great job of meeting our ideal island requirements. I’d describe the sandy beaches as golden rather than white (yes, the Cook Islands have spoiled us), but they were empty and undeveloped, lined with coconut trees rather than big hotels and the sea was warm and clear.

Koh Mak Beach

We stayed on a small hill in the centre of the island with wonderful views across the jungle and coconut plantation covered interior to the sea beyond. Koh Mak has mostly unpaved roads of orange dirt with only a few cars. Most people ride mopeds, which is a good way to explore the 16 km2 island, although we were happy walking the quiet lanes. The loudest things on the island are the cicadas, which can reach deafening levels.

One of the things I love most about the tropics are the beautiful, colourful flowers. Different varieties are found all over Koh Mak.

Flower on Koh Mak

This is the busiest road in town…

Busiest street in Koh Mak

At first the row of about five tourist restaurants didn’t look promising. We feared the “same same” menus you often find in places like this, and we couldn’t find any street stalls or local eateries as alternatives. Luckily we found a big vegetarian menu at Hawana Bar & Restaurant, and the friendly lady who runs it cooks delicious, spicy (to taste) meals in the open kitchen.

Hawana Restaurant, Koh Mak
Our favourite restaurant on Koh Mak

The food was so good and reasonably priced (50-70 baht/ US$1.60-2.30) that we ate here twice a day for four days, working our way through the menu. Huge watermelon shakes, stir fried vegetables with red curry and vegetable noodle soup were our favourites.

Thai noodle soup at Hawana Restaurant
Vegetable Noodle Soup

Although Koh Mak is a quiet island, and the owners seem committed to keeping it that way, there is still plenty to do. You can get a massage, take a cooking class, ride an elephant along the beach, take a boat trip to neighbouring islands, rent a motorbike, kayak to a deserted island, or arrange a snorkelling or scuba diving trip. But somehow it is easy to pass the days lazing on the beach and taking sunset strolls.

Koh Mak sunset
Koh Mak sunset

How to Get to Koh Mak

The Koh Mak guide has useful information on the island including how to get there and bus times. On the way there we took the bus from Bangkok Ekkamai station to Laem Ngop Pier. It doesn’t seem you can get this bus back to Bangkok, so you have the choice of a tourist minibus from the pier or getting a taxi to Trat and picking up the government bus there (we did this).

Our hotel stay on Koh Mak was sponsored by Good Time Resort.


  1. I keep reading about your adventures and every time i read another article I want to go to that location, I have now decided on Koh Mak for my short stay, but would like to know if you actually dived and snorkelled from this location, as you mentioned you can but never suggested you did? i’m not intending to travel light as I want my own regs/BCD, any further info on Koh Mak diving would be welcomed.

    Reply ↓

  2. Hey Erin,

    I’m heading to Thailand with my partner and resonate with your travel style and how you share your journey! We were thinking of going to Koh Mak but were concerned about sand flies that Lonely Planet wrote about at those beaches. Did you have any issues with them while you were there?

    Reply ↓

    • We didn’t have any issues with sand flies but I don’t think we spent a huge amount of time lying on the beach.

      Reply ↓

  3. Cracking post! I’m looking for a bit of paradise to get into some work for about 3 weeks and I think you’ve found it for me! How was wifi on this island of solace, guys?

    Reply ↓

    • We weren’t there to work but we did manage to pick up a wifi connection from a neighbouring hotel and it was surprisingly decent. I can’t say for sure but I think you’ll find it OK. Enjoy!

      Reply ↓

  4. can’t wait to go there we booked ..January 1013.. for one week :) we will stay at the Plubla Resort I hope we like it?

    Reply ↓

  5. I hope your post won’t inspire too much people to go there cause it looks really fantastic and I’d love to go find the same peace :)

    Reply ↓

    • Good point! Luckily I think the family who runs much of the island is committed to keeping it from becoming over developed.

      Reply ↓

  6. Looks close to heaven to me. My latest entry (below) is about a similarly idyllic and beautiful location. Seems to be the week for it.

    Reply ↓

  7. This place sounds amazing- right up my alley, can’t wait to visit. Thank you for introducing me to this lovely, unspoilt island.

    Reply ↓

    • It was just what we needed after Bangkok! No traffic, no motorbikes on the pavements (no pavements!), no noise. Bliss.

      Reply ↓

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *. Your email address will not be published. By clicking the Submit button, you give consent for us to store your information for the purposes of displaying your comment and you accept the terms of our Privacy Policy.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.