SARAH, TELL US MORE ABOUT KOH TAO
Koh Tao, or “Turtle Island”, has developed into a hotspot for both backpackers and holiday tourists alike. Just off the Western coast of the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Tao welcomes around 3 million tourists annually and is very well known as a popular spot to learn how to scuba dive. There’s something for everyone and every budget on Koh Tao, here’s a few favourites of mine…
1. WHERE TO STAY? 💤
I’d advise picking the location of your accommodation based your type of trip. For those looking for the essential bars, restaurants and activities then staying near either Mae Head Pier, or Sairee Beach is the ideal spot. Try Koh Tao Beach Club or Bans Dive Resort for beachside views and the hubbub of diving and nightlife activity. If you’re on a budget, check out Blackwood Hostel around the corner from the pier. Blackwood offers both dorms and private bungalows and is the perfect way to meet down to earth, fellow travellers in a chilled environment.
However, if you’re looking to escape all that and sit by the pool or beach all day relaxing, AND you’ve got a good budget then try some of the more up-market resorts at Tanote Beach and Mango Bay. Although they’re further away from the rest of the action, the island is so small you could walk (although I’ll warn you, it is hilly), easily rent scooters or many resorts will offer their own taxis too.
2. WHAT TO DO/ SEE? 🗺
It kind of goes without saying to be honest, you’ve got to give diving a go, it’s an essential Koh Tao experience! To make this even easier (or harder), there are literally hundreds of dive shops. I dived with Master Divers and had the most amazing instructor, Katie, however I’d recommend wandering down and chatting to the staff in a few shops to see which one you prefer. Some are run by international teams and offer courses in your native language too, not just English.
Outside of diving, I fully recommend exploring the island, by foot (the sweatier option), by scooter or if diving really isn’t for you, explore via snorkel. You can search high, for view points and gorgeous views across the island, and you can search low for hidden beaches and coves.
3. WHERE TO EAT? 🍽
There’s a huge variety of restaurants near Sairee Beach; all the essentials, from burgers to Italian, you can get just about any food you fancy. However, you’re in Thailand, so be sure to check out Maruay Thai Food, on the road towards Freedom beach, in the Southern part of the island. Cheap, fast and delicious, it’s one of the more authentic Thai food spots on Koh Tao.
If you’re looking for vegetarian options, Coconut Monkey serves healthy and tasty food, with plenty of breakfast choices. Get a coffee on the beach out the front as you watch new arrivals come onto the island via the pier. La Carotte Qui Rit, just around the corner offers veggie Asian cuisine, serving really great pad Thai and spring rolls as another Thai spot to try.
If you’re over Thai food, then amongst the options down at Sairee beach, Cantina De Koh Tao is highly rated for Mexican food, and their portions will not see you leave hungry! Baia Burger Concept is another popular spot, the perfect place to re-energise after a dive!
4. WHERE TO DRINK? ☕
For me there’s two essential spots for drinking on Koh Tao. Firstly, sitting on Sairee Beach to watch the sunset with a beer in your hand. This is a must do, as some of the sunsets I experienced whilst I was in Koh Tao were the brightest and most vibrant I’ve ever seen. There’s bars up and down this 1.7km length of white beach, and later on in the evening you can catch fire dancers, and a good old party.
My second favourite spot is at The High Bar. As the name suggests, it’s very high up with views across the island. As it is also Western facing, you can view the sunset here too. I recommend biking up to this bar as it’s a steep old climb on foot, and I am speaking from experience!
5. WHERE TO TAKE THAT INSTAGRAM WORTHY PHOTO? 📸
With all the viewpoints and gorgeous sunsets on Koh Tao it’s hard to pick the best spot for Instagram. The twin islands at Nang Yuan is pretty popular, however my favourite is John-Suwan. To reach this viewpoint it’s a bit of a walk and a climb up the side of some rocks, however there are some ropes available and it only takes around 15 – 20mins. I’ve seen people do it in all kinds of footwear, so it’s your choice really – personally I wore trainers.
At the top of the open rock face, you are at the most Southern point of Koh Tao and you can practically view the whole island in front of you. The short hike is well worth the panoramic mountain and bay views in front of you; lush greens and blues cover the island and it’s coasts.
If travel planning still isn't in your headspace right now but you're in need of some escapism, be sure to check out Sarah's latest book reviews too.