The first thing you’ll probably have heard about Koh Tao is that it’s one of the cheapest places to earn your PADI qualification, but the island has so much more to offer than this.
Koh Tao completes the trio of islands located in the Gulf of Thailand, and similar to Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, Koh Tao has crystal clear oceans dotted with patches of vibrant turquoise. It provides the perfect background to those picturesque sunsets we’ve all been dreaming of!
What makes Koh Tao different from the other Thai Islands?
Unlike its close neighbours, Koh Tao has a distinct small and cosy island vibe making for a more laid back and slow-paced experience. It’s essentially the ideal spot to kick back and relax!
Having said that, don’t be fooled by the chilled atmosphere, there’s no shortage of things to do on Koh Tao. You can spend your days diving, snorkelling, hiking, hiring a SUP board or if you’re lucky a chance to swim alongside turtles (Koh Tao does translates to Turtle Island after all).
Koh Tao is such a small island that where you chose to stay won’t ruin your trip if you chose the wrong one for you. You can cross the island in 15 minutes by motorbike, meaning you can hop between the different areas with ease.
There are lots of accommodation options in all areas, from cheap budget accommodation to luxury hotels perfect for relaxing.
Location #1: Sairee Beach – a backpacker’s haven
Sairee Beach is where you’ll find the backpackers. This bustling area will provide you with everything you need, including restaurants, bars, shops and plenty of options for accommodations.
The beach boasts a fun and hip vibe with a coral reef just off shore ready to explore, but what really draws backpackers to this area is the nightlife.
Once the sun has set, the party begins. There’s plenty of bars offering cheap alcohol, packed with other backpackers looking to meet new people too!
Location #2: Mae Haad Pier – your arrival point on Koh Tao
The area around Mae Haad Pier is where you’ll take your first steps onto the island and also the second most popular place to stay.
It’s pretty lively in the day with a number of restaurants serving delicious food and plenty of shops selling souvenirs. If you’re a night owl, then the bad news is that you might find it a little quiet in the evenings. What’s more, is that there are no beaches in the vicinity.
Location #3: Chalok Bay – the place to chill and relax
If you don’t need the nightlife and you’re happy with cosy bars and a tranquil beach vibe, then you might opt to stay around Chalok Bay.
This beautiful bay in the south is perfect for relaxation, especially in one of the many hammocks that dot the beach. For some Sairee Beach can be too busy, so if you’re looking for an escape head to Chalok Bay.
The area attracts mainly families, but you’ll still be able to find a few backpackers resting their heads for a few days.
How to get around Koh Tao
Due to the size of the island, it’s super easy to get from place to place. A lot of the areas can be reached by foot, but if you don’t fancy walking there are some other options available:
If you fancy hiring a scooter, you can cross the island in about fifteen minutes. Hiring a motorbike for the day is very easy and will likely cost anywhere between 150 to 350 baht. Like all places in Thailand, make sure you are a skilled driver and that you are aware of the local laws before venturing out and exploring the island.
If hiring a scooter isn’t for you, most places can be reached by foot and for longer distances, you can hire a taxi. Just be aware that they can be extremely overpriced, so get ready to practice your haggling skills.
Another way to travel between beaches or to different points across the island is by longtail boat which can be found on almost all the beaches.
Alongside the gorgeous ocean views you get with this experience, they are also very affordable – prices tend to be around 150 bath for a one-way trip.
If you’re looking for a fun and social atmosphere, La Latina is the perfect hostel for meeting new friends and having fun! The hostel offers an on-site restaurant, bar and garden area for socializing or relaxing. Located just 200m from Mae Haad Beach, it’s the perfect location for all you want to do and see on Koh Tao.
Enjoy the natural surroundings with these private bungalows and rooms located on a coconut plantation, walking distance from Mae Haad Beach. The perfect escape to soak up the peace and quiet this resort has to offer. Walking distance to restaurants, bars, and amenities. Wifi is provided throughout the resort and the staff is known to be very friendly.
This lovely hotel is located just 500m from Sairee Beach and offers an on-site swimming pool. The stunning mountain views, lush greenery surrounding the hotel and tranquility will make for a perfect escape from the busy streets of Koh Tao. An affordable breakfast can be added to your stay for just $3 per day. Staff are very helpful and will assist in booking tours, onward travel plans and renting motorcycles or bicycles.
Located in the Chalok Baan Kao area this hostel is surrounded by nature, lush scenery and tranquility. The Hostel has a large outdoor swimming pool, an on-site restaurant and bar and a great rooftop terrace for guests to soak in all the sights. There is also a common area for socializing with a TV, books and a shared computer. The Hostel is clean, the staff is friendly and the location is convenient.