Kai Bae Beach Tourist Guide
✔ Locally owned beach bungalow resorts plus three of the islands top resorts
✔ A good range of small shops, bars and restaurants within a few minutes walk of almost all accommodation
✔ The best ‘all round’ family option on Koh Chang
Kai Bae is probably the beach for you if White Sand beach appears too developed and resorts in Klong Prao are too quiet or the village lacks the variety of bars, restaurants and shops you’re looking for
Kai Bae beach was one of the original areas where locals first opened their homes to travellers. I’ve met people who stayed on this beach with local families in the mid-80s at a time when there were no restaurants, bungalow resorts, roads or even electricity – other than old generators. The locals have now moved on from renting out their spare room and many now own their own resorts.
In fact, one extended family owns virtually all the land in the southern half of the beach and inland. They wisely refused to sell to outsiders and are now reaping the rewards.
The story of the original village of Kai Bae goes that although a few Thai fishermen lived around the island, most of the current population of the island are descended from immigrants who came to Koh Chang by boat from southern China. They stopped off, looked around, saw plenty of edible wildlife and thought that the island would suit them nicely.
The families here originally settled in Salakaphet, the large bay in the southeast of the island, and then headed off to explore the island and eventually settled here. A few generations later and the patriarch of the family that owned most of the land in the Kai Bae area decided to split his land between his children.
The favoured kids, the males, got the valuable, inland farmland where they could grow rubber, and fruit. The four unfortunate kids, all female, who must have upset Dad at some point in their lives, got the virtually useless, infertile land by the sea.
How could you ever make money out of a few coconut palms and a beach?
And then, in the mid 80s, a few adventurous backpackers began to appear and started asking around for places to stay, there weren’t any so the families near the beach let people stay for free or a token 20 baht a night. Those backpackers told their friends and soon the first guesthouses on the island opened up in Kai Bae.
The rest as they say is history. Many of the beachfront resorts in Kai Bae are all still owned by members of the same family and they seem to be making a pretty good living off what was until twenty years ago considered worthless land. The oldest inhabitant of Koh Chang also used to live here, the matriarch of families that own most of the land and many of the bungalow resorts in the area. She thought she was 108, family members weren’t sure of her age exactly but were sure she was over 100.
Until recently, as she’s sadly passed away, you’d see her pottering around Kai Bae Hut.
Around Kai Bae village
There has been a lot of development here in the past few years, mainly in the number of roadside shops and the beachfront resorts upgrading old huts to make more expensive accommodation, including a couple of almost 5 star options.
But whilst there are nice resorts, Kai Bae isn’t really a destination for many package tourists, it’s more for families and independent travellers who appreciate some home comforts but still like to stay in a comfortable airconditioned bungalow by the sea.
The amount of development is quite surprising given that the beach at Kai Bae is nothing special when compared to the northern half of White Sand Beach or Klong Prao beach. Yet the overall ambiance is a good compromise between the touristy yet convenient White Sand Beach and the independent, thatched hut dwelling traveller vibe of Lonely Beach all rolled in with a small community of local villagers.
The vast majority of the accommodation is pricier than Lonely Beach, Porn’s Bungalows next to Sea View Resort & the newer Siam Cottage ( rebuilt in 2015 ) being the 1,000 Baht / night beachfront exceptions
My choice of mid-price places to stay here would be KB Resort (which has a very nice beachfront restaurant) and Kai Bae Beach Resort both have a choice of fan and AC rooms but prices seem to increase by 10% a year, so whilst they are good bets for families and anyone on a two week holiday, they aren’t for people travelling the world on a finite budget. KB Resort also boasts a new pool and family sized teak wood bungalows which can easily sleep 4-5 people.
There’s a large restaurant and the adjoining 3 storey hotel block that was built to cater to the influx of Russian visitors a few years ago. The bungalows have seen some refurbishment but haven’t really changed in the past decade and are now looking a bit tired. Especially when compared to their neighbours at Kai Bae Beach Resort.
Kai Bae Beach Resort has also undergone a radical transformation with a new hotel block, pool, reception area, beach restaurant and beachfront rooms all being built within the past 2 years. It is a big improvement on the old resort and the beachfront coffeeshop and bar is a popular place for guests and visitors to hang out. You’ll get great views looking out to the islands offshore.
Also worth mentioning is Mam Kai Bae. At first glance it isn’t an attractive resort, with accommodation in bland hotel blocks but the rooms are value for money and they have a rooftop swimming pool with great views.
I should really have started this accommodation run down at the north end of the beach, this is dominated by two resorts from the same wealthy Thai family – Chang Park & Cliff Beach. These occupy the prime beachfront real estate in that area. But Cliff Beach and Chang Park are both showing their age and emit a tired, lethargic vibe that seems to announce acceptance of their fate as a first choice for Russian visitors but for no-one else.
Chang Park is undergoing some long overdue renovations with their old beach bungalows being renovated and sold off to foreign buyers on long leases. Will be interesting to see how that pans out should the owners ever want to sell the resort. But it does means that there should be some good value beach houses listed on Airbnb soon.
Cliff Beach is the better bet for couples, head up to the clifftop pool to escape the brats and you’ll be rewarded with peace, quiet and amazing views. Chang Park is the better option for families. There’s plenty of open garden area near the pool for kids to play in. And a big plus plus is that beach here is very nice indeed and the resort will almost certainly have vacancies at any time of year.
Adjacent to Chang Park is the small White Knot Resort which bills itself as a resort for people getting married. Interesting design but a bit of an odd concept.
A Bit of Luxury
Back to the better places to stay. If you want to splash out then Gajapuri Resort, in the centre of Kai Bae, is probably the best ’boutique’ ( i.e. small & expensive) beach resort on Koh Chang. Spacious wooden bungalows and villas in a landscaped garden by the sea. Definitely recommended if you want to be a name rather than a room number and have some seclusion but with all the small restaurants, bars and shops you could wish for on your doorstep.
50 metres south lies The Chill, a similarly priced resort but with a bit less charm – however it does have a cracking pool which runs the length of the property. Adjacent there’s another upmarket addition, Awa Resort which opened in late 2014 and is proving to be very popular. It’s a large resort but the architecture is far more interesting than most generic hotel blocks, something that many guests comment on. The main thing to be aware of is that the hotel has 120 rooms and only a narrow beach frontage. So you probably aren’t going to get a sun lounger with a sunset view. You’d be better off at one of the resorts on Klong Prao beach if that is a priority.
These three are all safe bets for a good 4 star by the sea. The one downside they all share is that the beach outside the hotel isn’t great. It’s short & narrow and there are quite a lot of stones at low tide. If a long sandy beach is a priority, then you need to either walk a few minutes to the southern end of Kai Bae beach or pick a different area to stay.
Just south of Awa Resort, Coral Resort is another decent mid range choice, mainly because of the large pool & excellent views. The range of new bungalows have satellite TV and a daily maid service – a good choice, if pink paintwork doesn’t upset you too much. If it does and you want to save money and also be able to use the Coral Resort pool, stay next door at Nang Nual Bungalows. Not directly on the sea, but 1 minute walk to the beach and under 2,000 Baht / Night in High Season.
From Nang Nual you are only a 2 minute walk to KB Hut, KB Resort and the longer southern stretch of beach. Wander along the beach for 10 – 15 minutes and at the far southern end are Porn’s Bungalows, Sea View Resort and Siam Bay Resort.
Sea View Resort is popular with families. Go for the newer hotel rooms rather than the old, musty bungalows which cost virtually the same. The resort’s new hillside restaurant has amazing views, great for a sunset cocktail, but is over-priced and not on a par with the roadside restaurants in the village. It’s also the only resort on the island with it’s own suspension bridge – and coincidentally also the only resort where the National Park are claiming that a suspension bridge has been illegally built on their land.
Close by, Siam Bay Resort has a range of bungalows and was recently overhauled. There are now some value for money pool villas in addition to the beach bungalows and older bungalows just off the beach behind the reception area.
Shops and Restaurants
Roadside offers the usual hotch-potch of restaurants, bars, tailors, internet cafes, minimarts etc. At the very north of the beach, opposite Cliff Beach Resort, there’s ‘ Walking Street’, a small side street lined with bars and cheap restaurants. If you just need the simple things in life, a cold beer, cheap Thai food and a chit-chat with an expat bar owner you’ll find it here.
Close by ‘Sir Henry Morgan Pirates Pub’ serves up food cooked by a chef from St Petersburg to minibus loads of Eastern European visitors who probably don’t realise Sir Henry Morgan was Welsh and never made it to South-east Asia. It’s a lovely teakwood building with a tacky lighthouse outside and rates very highly on the Russian ‘Tourist-trap-ometer’
On the opposite side of the street more mini-shop units of not more than 8 or 9 sqm in area, line one side of the road. Most are closed now and those that are open won’t hold your attention for long. Opposite are a couple of bars which tend to change owners annually. One is currently called ‘Boobs’ – enough said.
These hide what was Koh Chang’s only crazy golf course which is located behind them, barely visible from the road. Nine holes of fun for all the family, provided the family have very low expectations and are easily pleased. Needless to say, that too has been closed for a couple of years.
Just south, ‘339 Avenue’ offers a more upmarket shopping experience, well that was the plan. But it turns out Kai Bae isn’t quite ready for a sophisticated retail experience. The roadside shops are only half occupied at present those at the rear of the plaza are deathly quiet and many have never been occupied. So, in keeping with the rest of the area, most businesses there have closed too and the restaurants change names / owners every year or so. The place is crumbling slowly.
The good news is that on the opposite side of the main road is a shiny, new building housing the stylish ‘Hurban’ – which, although only opened in mid 2016, has gained the reputation for having the best fish & chips on the island.
Moving south you pass the first of the two 7-eleven minimarts, clusters of shops selling identical beachwear, small restaurants and a section of road where you’ll see half a dozen tailors shops in the space of 100 metres.
‘Friend Seafood’, just before the bank and the first 7-eleven is one of the better roadside seafood restaurants in the area. Decent prices and good food too and owned by a local family who also have fishing boats and catch their own fish.
Also in this area ‘Kai Bae Wine Gallery’ is a good place to stock up on hard to find imported beers & wines and they have an outdoor seating area if you fancy a coffee or snack. But bear in mind that wine in Thailand is very expensive due to high taxes, far better to stick a couple of bottle of your favourite tipple in your suitcase before you leave home.
Kai Bae’s largest roadside bar and restaurant ‘ Ploy Bar and BBQ’ ,is located one the opposite side of the road just before you reach the first 7-eleven. They have regular live music plus an open air dining area.
Opposite, a far better choice for an evening meal is the small ‘Chez David‘ – run by a guy called David. Only a small menu, but some very good quality Belgian and European food plus a large selection of imported beers. Try the all you can eat mussels. Delicious. And also a deli section with all the cold cuts and cheeses you need to make a sandwich every bit as good as the one you make at home.
A little further south, another popular dining option is ‘Gung Ka Ta’ at the entrance to Coral Resort. This is a very big buffet restaurant. Basically, you cook your own food at the table and eat as much as you can, including prawns, for 199 Baht. It’s a bargain, it’s good fun and a great spot for people watching too. It’s probably the busiest restaurant on the island and is packed even in low season. Opposite is ‘Mak Mak ‘restaurant which is another popular choice with visitors as it has a good choice of Western and Thai dishes.
Poolside at Coral Resort is where you’ll find another new eatery – Salt bistro and bar, which does Thai and Western dishes with a hipster touch. The place to go if you’re hankering for a a Quinoa Salad.
The central section of the beach is slightly more upmarket, with a small beer bar enclave now having been removed and replaced with several restaurants and cocktail bars. As mentioned before, Gajapuri Resort, The Chill and Awa Resort the three plushest resorts in Kai Bae are in this area. Catering for the 4 star guests is a lovely little place called ‘Moo 4’ Bistro on the opposite side of the road. Excellent quality food and drinks but without the 5 star prices.
100 metres south, just past the Tesco Lotus minimart, at the entrance to Nang Nual Resort, more old bars have been knocked down to make way for a new streetfood area. This comprises a dozen or so stalls selling cheap food just off the main road. It’s clean, nicely designed, there’s plenty of seating and I’m sure it will be popular with visitors.
There are still a few small roadside bars in the village. But this isn’t really a beer bar type of area, there aren’t enough handsome single guys in need of a wallet lightening, ego massage staying in Kai Bae to make it an area that will disappear under the weight of neon bar signs.
Close to the streetfood area, Backstage and Filou are a couple of good roadside cocktail bars. Also worth trying is the nearby ‘Mojito Lounge‘ – which is probably the best bet for a late night out in Kai Bae if you want a DJ and a laid back place to chill.
If you need a break from Thai food then you’ll find a very good Mexican restaurant ‘ Barrio Bonito’ directly opposite Filou. It’s run by a French / Mexican couple and gets rave reviews from people who know their ‘real’ Mexican food. Cracking cocktails too.
Also for cheap eats, try Kai Bae Hut Noodle Shop. Excellent noodles, but also good Thai dishes at prices that everyone can afford, which means you get the whole range of diners from the local security guards, to hotel owners and local business people, to expats and tourists. Or, in the centre of the village adjacent to the Tesco Express, and close to the new streetfood area -‘Tuk Ka Ta Kai Moon’ is a large open sided restaurant that does the full range of Thai dishes and , whilst not the best Thai food on the island, is value for money and better than many more expensive restaurants.
Also hidden away in the valley, accessible along the dirt track adjacent to this 7-eleven is a picturesque, rarely visited waterfall which isn’t marked on maps or mentioned in guidebooks. Some photos and directions here
And for the adventurous, here is a 5km walk I put together around Kai Bae involves walking along the beach, up to the viewpoint, following a trail over a hill, walking along a a dry riverbed and clambering down the side of this waterfall. The Kai Bae Loop, photos, Googlemap and PDF But note that the last section, coming down the side of the waterfall can be tough.
Opposite the second, southernmost, 7-eleven is the access road for KB Hut, if you need to rent a speedboat – book it here. On the opposite corner of the junction you’ll see the Kai Bae Meechai Elephant Camp. This is home to several elephants who spend their days in a shelter swaying from side to side. If you must visit an elephant camp, there are better ones on the island. But this camp does have a couple of young elephants who are often seen on the beach enjoying a swim in the sea. That’s very photogenic and fun to watch, as they obviously enjoy splashing around.
You can pay to have your photo taken with them, and although they are undeniably cute, you can’t help feeling that this isn’t the ideal place for them to be. The restaurant 50 metres along the access road, ‘Kai Bae Hut Noodle Shop’, is great for a cheap lunch too. KB Hut’s real attraction – their crocodiles, which are still mentioned in some guides, have sadly now gone to meet the great handbag maker in the sky.
On the inland side of the road you can’t fail to notice a huge sign for the island’s newest elephant camp. This is just off the main road, so if you feel the urge to take a ride, it’s pretty obvious where to go. You’ll also often see their young elephants being taken for a walk on the beach and swimming in the seas with their mahouts.
As you head further south. On the right hand side of the road, Papa’s Deli is worth a stop for freshly baked bread and cakes. Plus some very good sandwiches if you fancy a picnic.
Or, if you need your Scandinavian coffee, snacks, snuss and the company of fellow , tall, blond haired , blue eyed, photogenic visitors then, as you may guess from the name, ‘Jonas Johannsons’ in is the place to go.
A couple of hundred metres further on, you’ll reach the edge of the village and the access road for KB Resort. Also in this area are more beachwear shops, the good value Paradise Bungalows and Sea Breeze bungalows – on oppisite sides of the road, both with good value AC rooms. Plus a handful of ‘hole in the wall’ shop unit shops & restaurants. Tucked away amongst the roadside shops is “Monkey Gym’ if you need to work up a sweat in 30C heat.
As the road slowly starts to climb, a few new shop units have been built – nothing really worth going out of your way for , although there is a small Fair Trade Coffee and Tea Shop, where paying over the odds for an exotic tea , flown halfway around the world, will contribute to making the world a greener more eco-friendly place.
Finally, anyone looking for longstay accommodation in the area should check out the two tracks that lead inland. One opposite Coral Resort and the other just past the southernmost 7-eleven. There roads both head into the valley and it is here that you’ll find some longstay bungalows and small houses for rent. Several expats have also built houses in the valley and it is a nice, quiet but convenient location in which to live.
If White Sand beach is too developed and Klong Prao village lacks the type of bars, restaurants and shops you’re looking for, then Kai Bae is probably the beach for you. See for yourself. This video takes you along the main road, through the village, from north to south.