There are three certainties in life: death, taxes, and me declaring I have a new favourite Thai island every year.
It happens so often that I’m rolling my eyes as I write this blog post. First there was Koh Chang. Then Koh Yao Noi. Next, there was Koh Mak, which was swiftly followed by Koh Kood.
Earlier this year, I travelled to the Trang island group for the first time and immediately began reordering my list of favourite Thai islands. First, Koh Ngai was my new favourite. Then Koh Kradan. Then Koh Muk. Then Koh Libong?
I’m so ridiculous.
And yet, I feel as though the Trang islands are some of the best in Thailand. I absolutely loved the two weeks I spent hopping between them.
There were fewer tourists than on many of the other islands I’ve visited in Thailand, and I loved that the Trang islands were small and manageable to explore. They have some great beaches — some of the best in the country — and impressive snorkelling, too. Surprisingly, every island offered up something different to its visitors.
Before I arrived in Trang, I had no idea its islands would be so wonderful.
When I came to plan this trip, I struggled to find much useful information online. There were a handful of travel bloggers who had visited on press trips, and while their posts were useful for inspiration, they’d been shown around the islands on tours and had little practical information to offer. Helpful details — like a ferry schedule or suggestions on which order to visit the islands — were impossible to find. Many resources were outdated.
And so, I guessed at a hell of a lot of stuff, crossed my fingers, and hoped for the best. The good thing about travel in Thailand, after all, is that there’ll always be someone who’s willing to help you get where you need to go.
Fortunately, everything worked out — as it always does — and I was surprised by how easy it was to travel the islands. While I was there, I vowed to write an enormous resource post about how to visit the Trang islands. I want to make it easy for you guys to visit, because this area of Thailand is so worth checking out.
Let’s get stuck in.
Where are the Trang Islands?
The Trang islands are in Thailand’s Trang province, located just below the island of Koh Lanta and above Koh Lipe. Their position makes them a great addition to an extensive island-hopping trip through the country.
You’ve got Koh Ngai in the north, then Koh Muk/Mook, Koh Kradan, Koh Libong, and then Koh Sukorn in the south. Over in the west, right on the edge of the map, is Koh Rok Nok and Rok Nai — two islands that are popular for snorkelling day trips.
How to Get to the Trang Islands
It’s pretty easy. Trang city has an airport and flights land there throughout the day.
I took an Air Asia flight down from Bangkok to Trang in the morning. From there, I took a minivan to Pak Meng Pier, a 40-minute drive away. After an hour’s wait, where we grabbed a quick lunch beside the water, a ferry picked us up and dropped us off outside our accommodation in Koh Ngai. Boats to Koh Mook, Koh Kradan, and Koh Libong leave from Pak Meng, and to Koh Sukorn from Baan Ta-Seh pier in the south.
Prepare to get ripped off as a foreigner! A local on our minivan paid 100฿ ($3) for her ride from the airport to Koh Ngai, whereas my partner and I were charged 1000฿ ($33) each. If the thought of being overcharged leaves you feeling stabby, leave the airport and arrange your own transport. I’d probably take a songthaew to Trang City, then jump on a bus/songthaew to the pier, then hop on a ferry — you’d probably save around 500฿ by doing it this way, so it’s up to you to decide if the extra hassle is worth it.
You can also book your trip in advance through 12Go Asia for around 1000฿ per person. You’ll be in a private car and longtail boat as opposed to rocking it on public transport, so there are definite benefits to doing it this way. I’m a big fan of 12Go.
If you’re already on the islands, you can jump on a north- or south-heading ferry that travels up and down the coastline. From Koh Lanta, you’ll travel down to Koh Ngai, and if you’re heading north, you’ll probably jump from popular Koh Lipe to Koh Libong.
My biggest fear when it came to travelling the Trang islands was the ferry schedule. I’d booked all of my accommodation in advance, so I had this huge fear that I’d turn up in Trang, get to the pier, and discover that all of the ferries had left for the day. Fortunately, there was a ferry at both 10:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., leaving from Pak Meng pier to Koh Ngai, Muk, Kradan, and Libong.
When’s the Best Time of Year to Visit?
We checked out the Trang islands in February and it was the perfect time of year to go. We had cloud-free skies for our entire trip, it was around 28°C/82°F throughout the day, and we didn’t encounter any rain.
The Trang islands are pretty dead during the rainy season — May to October — and at this time, a lot of the ferries don’t run/accommodation closes down due to the bad weather and lack of tourists. The dry season is therefore when you’ll want to go — between November and April.
One time to avoid visiting is over Chinese New Year, near the end of January. Thailand is a popular destination for Chinese tourists and the Trang islands get rammed over this time.
How to Get Around
If you’re visiting in high season, it’s always easy to get from one island to the next. Accommodation staff will know when the ferries run and be able to book them for you — it makes moving from place to place very easy.
I booked the ferry from Koh Ngai to Koh Mook with my hotel on Koh Ngai; from Koh Mook to Koh Libong with a travel agent I struck up a friendship with on Koh Muk, and from Koh Libong to the mainland with a random fisherman who offered better prices than my hotel on the island. We also arranged a day trip to Koh Kradan from Koh Muk with the same travel agent on Koh Mook
If you want to have everything arranged in advance, take a look at 12Go Asia, which offers up transportation for cheap. Not only will you likely save money on the rates that your guesthouses will be offering, but you’ll also be able to book ahead of time.
We travelled primarily by ferry, but you can easily hire a longtail to take you from island to island, as we did from Koh Muk. You’ll pay for the boat rather than the amount of people, so if you’re travelling with a group, this method of transport can be cheaper than jumping on the ferry. For us, travelling from Koh Muk to Koh Libong was just a few hundred baht more expensive than the ferry and it meant we could leave whenever we wanted without needing to wait for the afternoon ferry to pass by.
You can see a full ferry schedule from Koh Ngai (Hai) to the other Trang islands and beyond in this photo I took.
Which Trang Islands to Visit?
Koh Ngai: Koh Ngai is known as the high-end island, and is popular with honeymooners because of it. While it’s far from expensive, if you’re used to mainland prices, you’ll find the costs a little jarring. I found I was paying double what I’d expect to elsewhere in the country — 200฿ for a red curry; 200฿ for a piña colada, for example. While the island doesn’t offer amazing value for money, I still felt it was worth a visit. The beach is glorious, the water is warm and clear, and the views from the pool at the Cliff Beach Resort (pictured above) were far better than I expected. Koh Ngai is small and you can see it all in a day, but I’d recommend allocating 2-3 nights here.
Koh Muk: If you forced me to choose just one of the Trang islands as my favourite, I’d most likely settle on Koh Muk. It was such a fun island full of lovely locals and some fantastic restaurants. It was one of those islands where you turn up and can imagine staying for months — I spent five days on Koh Muk and happily could have extended my stay further.
There are two main beaches on the island — Sivalai Beach and Charlie Beach — and both offered up something different. Sivalai was quieter and we had it mostly to ourselves there were shallow seas, pristine, white sands, and lots of palm trees. Charlie Beach is more popular with backpackers — it’s beautiful and crowded, with Mong Bar (lol) offering up excellent mango shakes on the beach. The island is home to some great restaurants, too — I recommend Miss Island Baker for a freshly-baked bread-based breakfast and Sugar’s for lunch and dinner (I ate at Sugar’s every single day — sometimes twice a day!).
Koh Muk is a lot bigger than Koh Ngai, although again, you could see the vast majority of it in a day. I’d still recommend spending at least three nights here, if not longer. I stayed at Mook Ing Lay, as it was the best reviewed spot on the island, and loved it.
Koh Kradan: Does Koh Kradan have the best beach in Thailand? I certainly think so! It’s a close call between Koh Kood and Koh Kradan, but I think the latter just edges it. Koh Kradan is a skinny little island with an impeccable beach. The water is shallow as hell on the main beach, but there’s great snorkelling around the other side of the island. There’s plenty of accommodation options in Koh Kradan, but nowhere affordable receives great reviews. Because of this, I visited on a day trip and felt like I still saw all it had to offer.
The main advantage to staying overnight on Koh Kradan is getting to see it once all of the day trippers have left. If I return to the Trang islands, I’d probably opt for a night or two on Kradan to see what it’s like.
Koh Libong: Koh Libong was so laidback and relaxing! I particularly loved hiring a scooter and spending the day riding to deserted beaches. The great thing about Libong is its lack of accommodation — four of the five guesthouses are on the same beach, so as soon as you head off somewhere else, you’re basically on your own with every stretch of sand all to yourself. With the exception of scootering around, there isn’t a huge amount to do on Koh Libong, so two or three days is about the right amount of time to spend there. I stayed at Libong Beach Resort, which was the best option on the island in terms of price and quality of rooms.
Koh Sukorn: If you’re looking for somewhere even more chilled-out than Koh Libong, opt for Koh Sukorn. This island is the least-visited in Trang, and is way off-the-beaten-track compared to the other options. There isn’t a huge amount to do here and the beaches aren’t amazing, but if you’ve always wanted to practice the art of relaxation, this is an excellent place to do so.
How Long to Spend on the Trang Islands
I’d suggest a minimum of ten days to get a feel for the islands. If you only had a week to spend in Trang, I’d recommend choosing just two islands –probably Koh Muk and Koh Kradan. If you have two weeks, you’d could see them all. I could have happily spent three weeks on the islands, travelling slowly around every island.
We spent 10 days in Trang. Here’s how we split up our time:
Koh Ngai: three nights
Koh Muk: four nights, with a day trip to Koh Kradan
Koh Libong: three nights
How Much Does it Cost to Visit the Trang Islands?
I was surprised by the cost of most things on the Trang islands — they were a little pricier than other spots I’ve been to in Thailand. In general, the islands in Thailand are more expensive than the mainland, but the Trang islands were on a whole other level. They were some of the most expensive islands I’ve been to in the country, and I’ve checked out over a dozen islands in Thailand.
When it came to accommodation, we spent $92 a night on Koh Ngai, $60 a night on Koh Muk, and $50 a night on Koh Libong. I split these costs with my boyfriend. I’d say that in general, I feel like I’d expect to pay around 60% of the price of these hotels on other islands in the country.
Transportation costs kicked off with us getting ripped off at Trang Airport, and stayed somewhat high throughout our time on the islands. I paid 1000฿/$33 to get from Trang Airport to Koh Ngai, 350฿ from Koh Ngai to Koh Mook, and 750฿ from Koh Mook to Koh Libong. For our day trip from Koh Mook to Koh Kradan and the Emerald Cave, I paid 750฿ for a full day on the longtail. From Koh Libong to the mainland, I paid 350฿.
Food was as cheap here as it is in most tourist destinations in Thailand; maybe a little more expensive. There are still plenty of $2 or $3 meals to be had across the islands. My meal costs averaged around 350฿ a day on Koh Ngai, 300฿ on Koh Mook, and 300฿ on Koh Libong. drinks were around 100฿/$3 for a small beer and 200฿ for a cocktail. Prices were higher than the mainland but still cheaper than a lot of places around the world.
In total, I averaged 62 U.S. dollars a night, splitting my accommodation costs with somebody else. I felt like I was travelling on a mid-range budget for this amount, which is, y’know, pretty pricey for Thailand.
As I keep saying.
Things to Do on the Trang Islands
- Visit Koh Muk’s Emerald Cave: This was my highlight from my entire trip to the Trang islands, and the one thing I’d label as a must-do. It was such a magical experience! You start off by leaping off your longtail boat at the entrance to the Emerald Cave. After paddling through the dark tunnel for around 20 metres, using a waterproof torch for light if you’re scared, you’ll suddenly turn a corner. In front of you will be the most incredible beach, surrounded by limestone cliffs and invisible from anywhere else on the island. If you time your visit right — we asked our driver to take us there during the most quiet time of the day; around 3 p.m. — you’ll have the entire place to yourself.
- See the best beach ever on Koh Kradan: Yep, I’m calling it. I think Koh Kradan has the best beach in Thailand. I mean, I’m sure I’ll be announcing I’ve found a new Best Beach in Thailand next year, but for now, I believe Koh Kradan is perfection. If you don’t spend the night here, you have to at least visit on a day trip. Just spending a few hours splashing in its knee-high warm water makes it worth the visit. What a beautiful island!
- Eat ridiculously good food at Sugar’s on Koh Muk: I adored this restaurant and as I mentioned above, sometimes visited for both lunch and dinner. Sugar’s has such a great offering of curries, and even a delicious tuna sandwich if you’re craving some Western food. Haha — sorry! But the tuna sandwiches were so good! It’s right on Sunset Beach, with great smoothies (I loved the passionfruit most) and the loveliest staff. I felt so at home at Sugar’s, and was so sad to leave it behind when it came time to move on.
- Spend the day overlooking Koh Ngai at the infinity pool: I splurged on a stay at Koh Ngai Cliff Beach Resort because I wanted to spend my afternoons hanging out in their cliffside pool. If you want to stay somewhere cheaper on the island, though, you can still use the pool if you grab lunch from the hotel’s cafe. The pool offers up one of the best views on the island, so I’d recommend spending a day there.
- Spend all your money heading out for a snorkelling day trip at Koh Rok Nok and Koh Rok Nai: We couldn’t justify the expense to spend a day at these two tiny islands, but I’ve been kicking myself for skipping out on them ever since. They look so beautiful! Like, seriously beautiful. If you can justify spending around 2000฿ per person, plus a 400฿ entrance fee to the park, I’d imagine it’d end up being the highlight of your trip.
- Hire a scooter to see Koh Libong: Speaking of highlights, another one of mine was jumping on a scooter and spending the day exploring Koh Libong. Our hotel handed us a hand-drawn map before we left, showing us all of the best spots on the island, and we dutifully spent our day riding to every single one of them. Some of the best parts were having Tung Yaka beach all to ourselves, weaving in-between the mangroves and rubber trees, spotting monitor lizards roaming close to the road, and keeping an eye out for dugongs at every viewpoint.
- Go dugong-spotting on Koh Libong: Yes, Koh Libong is most famous for its population of dugongs! These shy, rare animals can be found swimming in the waters surrounding Koh Libong, so if you’ve always wanted to see one, you can hire a longtail for the day and set out in search of them. I get seasick, so skipped out on it, but there are still plenty of dugong viewpoints on the island that you can head to to hunt for a glimpse of grey.
- Hike to Paradise Beach and the viewpoint on Koh Ngai: If you feeling like getting a bit of exercise in on your vacation, or have run out of things to do on tiny Koh Ngai, there’s a kickass viewpoint you can check out on the island. It’s easy to find — just head south along the main beach until you see a sign for Paradise Beach, pointing into the jungle. Once you’ve reached the beach, you can walk a little further up to a viewpoint on the southwestern point of the island.
- Try the mango shakes on Charlie Beach on Koh Mook: It wasn’t my favourite beach on Koh Mook — primarily because it was cloudy when we visited, and I never think beaches look nice under grey skies — but I loved spending time at Mong Bar instead. It’s home to some of the best mango shakes I’ve ever had and some wonderful bar staff who are only too happy to throw some vodka into the mix.
- And get away from the crowds on Sivalai Beach on Koh Mook: I really enjoyed spending time on this beach, pictured below. To my surprise, we basically had it to ourselves for the entire five days we spent on the island. It’s home to white sands, shallow, calm water, and a handful of tourists at the most. I really liked it and was happy to be staying at a guesthouse just 20 metres from the sand.
- Go snorkelling on Koh Kradan: I was so impressed with the snorkelling off Sunset Beach on Koh Kradan. Be wary of sea urchins, though. I’ve been scarred after a boyfriend stepped on an urchin a few years ago, so every time I see one, I nervously back away. There were so many here! But as long as you keep yourself buoyant, you won’t get stabbed. Wow, I’m really selling this, aren’t I? Still, aside from the urchins, there was some healthy coral to get up close to, and plenty of different fish to play with. I’ve never experienced particularly great snorkelling in Thailand, so this was easily the best I’ve encountered.
- Visit the fishing village on Koh Libong: While we were scootering around Koh Libong, we stopped off at Ban Ba Tu Pu Te — a small Muslim fishing village. It was so lovely and peaceful! It’s right beside a huge tower that’ll help you try your hand at spotting dugongs. While it’s unlikely you’ll spot the ‘gongs, it makes for just as great a view when you turn back and snap some photos of the houses on stilts.
- Do absolutely nothing on Koh Sukorn: We didn’t have enough time to squeeze in a visit to Koh Sukorn, but if we’d had a couple more days, we would have definitely spent them having a look around. So there isn’t a huge amount of things to do on the island, but that just means there’s no excuses for not lying in a hammock with a book in hand.
Where to Go After Trang
It’s so easy to continue island-hopping way along the coastline after visiting the Trang islands.
If you want to head north, Koh Lanta is just 45 minutes north of Koh Ngai by ferry.
For anyone who wants to head south, you can head to quiet Koh Lao Liang, pretty Koh Bulon Le, or overcrowded Koh Lipe.
I Love the Trang Islands
The Trang islands are my favourite in Thailand, and I’m already planning to return to them in a couple of months.
After many months spent travelling in this country, and so many islands visited, I’m ready to declare them some of the best you can visit. They’re easy to get to, simple to travel around, have plenty of great accommodation options, and some seriously beautiful beaches. If you’re looking for somewhere a little less visited in Thailand that’s even better than the big hitters, it’s time to get yourself to Trang.
How beautiful! I could really see why it’s so difficult to pick a favorite.
Do you think it is a bad idea to visit Thailand during the rain season, let’s say May – June? Or is it still doable just nor preferable? And what about the surrounding countries?
I visited Koh Muk last year and fell completely in love! I can’t believe more people don’t go there (although I’m not complaining). I found it easier to get to than many Thai islands (we took the sleeper train down from Bangkok and then a minivan/longtail combo from Trang), just as beautiful (if not more so), friendly, reasonably priced, easy to get around… I also loved that it had a bit more of a local vibe and we had to walk through a fishing village to get to our accommodation (although I think that’s also the thing that puts some people off?).
I’d love to go stay on Koh Kradan one day, we just visited on a snorkelling trip and the beaches blew me away, but I was very happy to stay on Koh Muk, I think it has a better variety of accommodation and places to eat. And oh yes, we also visited Sugar’s daily!
I stumbled upon your post as I was searching info on Thailand, really nice blog, well done!!! I have been to Thailand three times now but never those islands, I am planning on taking my boyfriend to Thailand for his first time in March and wasn’t sure which island to take him to. I loved Koh Surin, Tonsai beach but hated Koh Lipe (well the second time i went, first time in 2005 was amazing!!!), Koh Phiphi, Phuket… so yeah crowds are not my thing… Would you recommend those islands or Koh Kood which I can see you loved too?
And since you have been to Palawan in the Philippines, how does it compare to Thai islands? Palawan looks abzolutely stunning but so over crowded. Bear in mind that you went there in 2012 it seems and in 8 years it probably has changed a lot.
Thank you and happy blogging! :-)
Catch the public bus outside Trang Airport to Trang and stay a night in Trang (go to Cinta Walking Street, likely you eill be the only tourst, with 50 or so food stalls to choose from, alond with plenty of cheap beer, the live bands start up around 10pm 5 or 6 band in different bars) the bus costs 20 baht
That sounds awesome! Thanks for sharing :-)
Hi, just as update I island hopped from Phi Phi – Muk – Lanta – Libong – Sukorn – Lipe last Nov/Dec. The public ferry (can’t recall the company name) had ceased operating until further notice.
As there are no foreign tourists none of these islands offered shared boat trips (except maybe Lipe on a weekend).
I love the Trang islands – you gave them such a worthy write-up. They’re seriously some of my favorite islands in the world. My favourite is Koh Kradan for its beautiful beach (:
Yes, I wish I could have spent more time in Koh Kradan! That beach was out of this world — I wish I could have seen it without all the tourists around, too.