Exploring Koh Tao, Thailand

We fell in love with Koh Tao almost immediately. With its small-town feel and laid-back atmosphere, it reminded me a lot of the Gili islands (Indonesia) that I fell in love with years ago.

Here are the details behind our five nights in Koh Tao. It should be noted that we stayed at Sairee beach, so the information below is about that area. I’d highly recommend staying in this area if you want a social atmosphere and/or if you’re going to scuba dive. It also has a fantastic beach!

South end of Sairee beach
South end of Sairee beach

Getting There

There are multiple ways to get to Koh Tao, depending on your budget and how much time you have. I’ll write a summary, since there’s plenty of detailed information online.

How We Got From Bangkok to Koh Tao

We bought a package deal from Nok Air that made our lives easier and ensured a smoother travel experience. For $80 each, we flew from Bangkok to Surat Thani, took a minibus to the pier, and hopped on a boat that went through Koh Samui and Koh Phangan before finally arriving at Koh Tao. The whole day took about 12 hours, but it went pretty seamlessly, as Nok organized each part. Note: the boat ride was pretty rough once the sun set, so take seasickness tablets if you’re worried.

Other Options

If you’re not on a tight budget, or really tight on time, the easiest and most convenient way to get to Koh Tao is to fly to Koh Samui. From there, you can take the ferry to Koh Tao.

From the Pier to Sairee Beach

When you get off the boat at Mae Haad Pier, you’ll be swarmed by taxi drivers offering to take you to Sairee beach for 300 baht, or about $8.50. Coming from Bangkok, we knew this was an incredibly expensive rate for the short distance, so we declined. The walk from the pier to our hotel (SB Apartments – at Scuba Junction) was incredibly easy and took about 15 minutes, with our backpacks on. Moral of the story: you can easily walk from the pier to Sairee beach, if you’re up for it! Don’t feel pressured to take a taxi.

Food/Drink

We were really impressed by the amount of restaurant options on this small island. One exception: we never had a great breakfast. I did hear good things about Zest, but we didn’t find it until the last day! It’s on the same street as Portobello.

Here’s where we ate, including what we liked and disliked.

In Touch Resort

We had breakfast here one morning. We weren’t huge fans of the food, but we did enjoy the atmosphere.

in touch breakfast koh tao
Small portions, but delicious banana pancakes

Portobello

If you’ve overdosed on Pad Thai and need a break, or if you want an atmosphere that’ll transport you to the Mediterannean, head over to Portobello. They have great wine and delicious food.

Fizz

If you’re looking for a place with a chill, trendy atmosphere and great food, look no further than Fizz. We heard their panang curry was the best on the island, and after a taste, we believed!

Fizz Koh Tao
Panang Curry & Pad Thai, our staples, at Fizz

Su Chili

If you’re not so much after the atmosphere, but want some great Thai food at a sit-down place for reasonable prices, go to Su Chili. We came here multiple times, tried different things, and it never disappointed. Highlights: seafood pad thai, red curry peanut noodles

The red curry peanut noodles at Su Chili
The red curry peanut noodles at Su Chili

Sairee Cottage

The smells wafting from this place brought us in; the happy hour prices kept us coming back. While we never tried their delicious-looking pizzas (the price was a little too steep or us), we did enjoy their super cheap beers during happy hour – the cheapest we could find at a restaurant.

Fishbowl

This place was a blast. We played beer pong (and *GASP* lost to Germans), listened to the live DJ, and people-watched while drinking some decently-priced libations.

Accommodations

Since we decided to get our Open Water certification with Scuba Junction, we decided to stay with them. Simply put, it was cheap, and it was easy. We stayed at SB Apartments, which are a few minutes walk inland from the Scuba Junction shop. The room was very basic (no hot water, wifi, or air conditioning), but it was clean and spacious. Plus, we got a discount for the nights we scuba-dived, so the price was right!

Our humble abode at SB Apartments
Our humble abode at SB Apartments

I’m writing about our scuba diving experience with Scuba Junction in a separate, future post.

Have any questions about Koh Tao? Ask below!

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