I am asked for advice often on the island of Koh Tao, so I have decided to create a little travel series for you all, starting with one of my favorite places in the world.
Here is my low down on the little island of Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand.
The beach – When you pull in off the ferry from Koh Samui or Surat Thani look to the left and you will see a long stretch of white sand with long tail fishing boats. This 7km stretch of sand is Sairee Beach, the main beach in Koh Tao. It is where you want to stay to be within walking distance from all the nightlife and places to eat. Find a shady spot under a palm to waste the hours away, or chill out in one of the beach bars. The beauty of Koh Tao is there are so many hidden beaches and rocky bays on the other side. (I’ll get to these later.)
Getting there and away – I find after ten years or so travel to this region, the cheapest way to get there is to go from your home town to Kuala Lumpur (KL). From KL you can take an AirAsia flight to Surat Thani, or a Firefly flight to Samui then a boat. No matter which way you go, you will take the Lomprayah high speed ferry. Tickets can be bought at the pier or online via the Lomprayah website. From Surat Thani, you need to allow around one and half hours from the airport to the pier if you are going direct, but this is all organised through your ferry ticket. If you have the time, a stay in a guesthouse in Surat Thani overnight and a visit to the night market is worth it. The food is amazing!
Accommodation – There is everything here from total luxury to a room on the beach. I have stayed in it all. If you want to escape from the bustle of the beach, and have somewhere quiet to sleep at night (away from the noise of the bars), I have stayed at Monkey Flower Villa at north sairee. The pool is amazing. On the other side of the island, is Kantaraya Villa. It is a little out of the way, but if you want privacy, then this is it. There is also a great swimming spot down the road from Kantaraya at Moondance Magic View Bungalows. To be in the action on Sairee, my pick would be Ban’s or The Goodtime beach hotel (with the best sunset view right from your room). From here you can walk to all the nightlife.
Food and bars – so much food, so little time! If you’re on a budget, you can grab a delicious 50 baht Pad Thai near Mae Haad Pier, or you can splurge on dinner and cocktails at Fizz Beach Lounge at North Sairee. (Get there and nab a table before sunset!) Barracuda is the best seafood in town, and for traditional thai Krua near the 711 can’t be beaten. Moov bar at the top of a hill near Mae Haad is a great place for some drinks in a funky garden. They also have events. I’ve tried a lot of Mango Sticky Rice and the one’s on the street are amazing.
More beaches and activities – most people come here to dive, but there is so much more you can do! For diving, climbing, freediving, check out Goodtime Adventures. They also do hikes across the island. My tip is to get your own long tail boat and head to the other side of the island, Mango Bay, Ao Leuk and Hin Wong bay are beautiful snorkeling spots. If you can’t ride a bike get a long tail boat to take you and pick you up. At the southern tip near Shark Bay, you can also spot a reef shark, but I have been to Ao Leuk when they have all been about! Nang Yuan Island is a must, but go there first thing in the morning before the tour boats arrive and you will have the place to yourself. I always do yoga at Shambhala at north sairee and love it. Great teachers. Leafy studio.
Budget – Sadly the days of a twenty dollar bungalow are behind us in Thailand but it can still be done on the cheap if you look. On average I would say excluding activities you could live for around $70 a day with budget accommodation. For me, I go there to live it up for a fraction of the price in Sydney. Drinking will add on to your budget, as will activities such as diving. Still these are a fraction of the price in Australia, and are the best way to see more remote parts of the island, which is where the magic happens.
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Check out the rest of our Travel Beach Series.
Images by James Mills