Kai Bae Beach Guide
2019 – 20 Update
✔ Locally owned beach bungalow resorts plus three of the islands best 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.
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 air-conditioned 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.
But note that the land between Kai Bae Beach Resort and mam Kai Bae is being redeveloped, there’s a lot of construction work going on so expect some noise and dust from trucks throughout 2019.
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 appears closed, although I don’t think that it actually is. The pool is always devoid of life, old bungalows collapsing and just a couple of staff loitering around. Some of the old bungalows have been renovated and sold off to foreign buyers on long leases, these can be rented on Airbnb. So it will be interesting to see how that pans out now the owners have put the resort up for sale.
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. Adjacent to Chang Park is the small White Knot Resort which bills itself as a resort for people getting married. Interesting design and a few mid-range bungalows 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. Part of the resort is a child free zone, so if want to avoid families with young kids it’s a good choice.
50 metres south lies The Chill, a similarly priced resort but equally good reviews, but 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 for a similar standard of resort on Kai Bae beach, you’ll have to look at Sea View Resort. It has an infinitely better beach but the trade off is that it’s a 15 – 20 minute walk to get to the main restaurant and bar area.
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 very popular with families. 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 mini funicular railway- and coincidentally also the only resort where the National Park has claimed that a suspension bridge and mini funicular railway has been illegally built on their land.
Close by, at the end of the beach, 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. Their beach bungalows are built directly in front of one of Sea View’s hotel blocks. Which is interesting.
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 had extremely low expectations. 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.
This area by the roadside at the north end of Kai Bae beach is markedly different than that nearer the south end of the village. This end is a commercial death zone. There are good places to eat but with so many shuttered shops units it’s devoid of life at night compared to the bright, busy southern roadside strip.
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. Plus they have an excellent restaurant with good coffee, plus tapas, cocktails etc. 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. The restaurant of the same name adjacent to the bottle shop is one of my favourites on the island. It’s not a place for fine dining but they do the simple things well. Some great tapas and European dishes plus a good beer selection.
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 ‘White Corner ( formerly Chez David ) ‘ Good selection of quality Belgian and European food plus a large selection of imported beers. Try the all you can eat mussels. Choose from various sauces. Delicious.
A stone’s throw away the Funky Monkey is a eclectic little coffee-shop / bar / restaurant which does the only Pina Colada Ice Cream rolls on the island.
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 229 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 eatery – Cabana, which does Thai and Western dishes with a hipster touch. The place to go if you’re hankering for an instagram-worth artisan burger or 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.
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. A large two floor sports bar – ‘Morgan Pub’ occupies the roadside spot. If you want some pub grub and to watch live football / F1 / Rugby etc then head here.
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 street food 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 ‘‘El Barrio‘ directly opposite Filou. It’s run by a French / Mexican team, it gets rave reviews from people who know their ‘real’ Mexican food. Cracking cocktails too, the best you’ll find on the island. It should be on your shortlist of restaurants to try on Koh Chang if you fancy a change from Thai food.
Likewise Mordi e Fuggi have a couple of low key restaurants in the village serving up home made Italian dishes. It’s not fine dining, more the equivalent of Italian streetfood. Just simple pizza and past dishes done very well. One of my favourite italain restaurants.
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.
Adjacent to the 7-eleven near the turn for KB Hut Resort, you’ll see the elephant camp. Probably best avoided. Instead, you can walk inland form here and visit a waterfall that, although signposted, doesn’t exist on any maps or in your Lonely Planet. It’s quite an easy walk, only 30-40 minutes from the 7-eleven. The last 15 minutes being on a path in the jungle. 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, has now changed. It used to involve lowering yourself down a steep cliff. Now there’s a footpath from the top of the waterfall to the pool below. Much easier.
Opposite the second, southernmost, 7-eleven is the access road for KB Hut, if you need to rent a speedboat or buy tickets for the speedboats to Koh Mak or Koh Kood, you can do that 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 Instagram-friendly 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.
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.
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 Sea Breeze bungalows – with bungalows on both sides of the road. You’ll find good value AC rooms here. 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.
As you head up the hill out of Kai Bae there’s a great view point on the right hand side of the road. It’s very easy to pot as it has a large parking area. From this vantage point you get an awesome view down to the island of Koh Man Nai, 400 metres offshore and further to a couple of other small islands. Well worth stopping and admiring the views and great for sunset watching.
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.
Hotels on Kai Bae beach
These resorts and bungalows are in Kai Bae and are all bookable on booking.com. The price shown is a typical high season nightly rate. It may well vary and expect it to be higher at holiday weekends and during peak season.
Cliff Beach Resort – Great location and awesome views from the clifftop pool, but older rooms & bungalows – 2,200 Baht
M&M Guesthouse – Cheap AC rooms by the roadside in the centre of the village – 850 Baht
Gajapuri Resort – One of the best resorts on the island. Spacious teakwood bungalows, large pool, popular with couples – 4,750 Baht
The Stage – Good option if you don’t want to be beachfront. Modern AC rooms with pool – 1,300 Baht
AWA Resort – Large, new, stylish 3* beach resort – 3,300 Baht
Mango Resort – AC rooms around a large garden area in the centre of the village – 1,800 Baht
Coral Resort – Mid-range bungalows by the sea ( no beach) great views from the pool – 1,250 Baht
Garden Resort – Recommended mid-range resort, longstanding small resort 2 mins walk to the beach – 2,300 Baht
Paradise Bungalows – Well equipped budget bungalows and rooms just off the beach – 800 Baht
Mam Kai Bae Beach Resort – Hotel rooms and bungalows at the south end of the beach – 1,750 Baht
KB Resort – Good locally owned resort with AC bungalows and new hotel block – 1,900 Baht
Kai Bae Beach Resort – New hotels rooms and refurbished beach bungalows plus pool and beachfront coffeeshop – 2,200 Baht
Sea View Resort – Large resort popular with families at far southern end of the beach. 15 mins walk along beach to the village – 3,300 Baht
Siam Bay Resort – Older bungalows and value for money pool villas at the south the do the beach – 1,400 Baht