The small island of Koh Tao is located 45 kilometres north of Koh Phangan in the gulf of Thailand. Koh Tao (Turtle Island) is a well known for its numerous dive centres, as well as stunning white sandy beaches and warm clear waters.
We stayed around the area of Chalok Baan Kao for six weeks, here are our hints and tips to make your stay in Koh Tao as amazing as possible.
Snorkelling Locations (We do not dive):
- Mae Haad – A small wreck is located on the far left of the beach. Visibility tends to be much clearer early in the morning.
- Tanote – One of the better spots in Koh Tao for colourful coral. Swim around the large granite boulder for the best views. You can (with the help of a rope) climb to the top of the boulder and jump off to the right, where the water is deepest.
- Thian Og (Shark Bay) – A stunning beach, we kayaked here twice from Chalok. Snorkel out into the centre of the bay and you may be lucky enough to spot some black tipped reef sharks.
- Laem Thian – A good hour and half walk from Sairee, this is a great place to get away from it all. Keep to the right of the beach and follow the boulders to see plenty of fish.
- Freedom Beach – Not a great deal to see and is very shallow, but stick to the left of the beach and you will see some marine life around the boulder formations.
Koh Nang Yuan – Regardless of whether you dive, snorkel or love to soak up the sun, Koh Nang Yuan is NOT to be missed during your time in Koh Tao. (In fact many visitors come from Koh Phangan and Samui to visit this trio of islands.) We hired a long tailed boat from both Mae Haad and Chalok (it did cost more from the latter), giving us a little more control over our day than the tour groups.
100THB per person to enter the island.
800-1000THB private long tailed boat (return).
Note: all non-residents must leave the island by 5pm.
Eating Out in Chalok:
- Yin Yang – our favourite, serving Thai favourites such as Red and Green Curry, Tom Yam, No name and Laab Moo. For the quality of service and food, you will not find a better price in Chalok. Cost 80-100THB for Thai main dishes with Chicken. Book or be prepared to wait after 7.30pm.
- Tukta – always busy in the evenings with both Thai and non-Thai residents as well as plenty of tourists. Traditional Thai dishes as well as some western dishes range from 40-120 THB. The service can be slow but who’s in a rush?
- Noodle Bar – just two doors up from the Toscana Resort (where we were staying). A children’s clothes shop cum eatery this noodle bar offers superb pad see ew and rice noodle soup. Although the menu was limited, everything we tried was superb and cheap at 40-80 THB, the staff were friendly and efficient too.
- Bizarro – offering a blend of Argentinian and Spanish cuisine (and a few Thai dishes), we dined here on a few occasions. We were totally sold on their Ceviche (fish marinated in citrus juice) and Prawns and Squid in Chimichurri (an Argentinian marinade) just make sure they are serving the aforementioned before you order the rest of the (rather standard) menu such as albondigas (meatballs), tortilla (Spanish omelette) and costillas de cerdo (pork ribs). This is a pricey meal out versus Thai alternatives: Ceviche 160 THB, half portion of Costillas de Cerdo 140 THB, Fresh Tuna Salad 180 THB. Salsa night on Fridays gets everyone up and dancing.
- Vicky’s Restaurant – just opposite from the P’n’N guest house is Vicky’s restaurant. Serving cheap and tasty food, our favourite was her Green Curry. The only issue was the portion size, it was very small. Cost around 50-150THB per dish. Vicky also offers cooking courses from a dish or two, to a full day in the kitchen.
- Yellow Rice and Chicken – as the name suggests this small eatery serves just Yellow Rice and Chicken. Located between Toscana/The Castle and the large supermarket en route to Chalok keep an eye out for the sign at the bottom of the hill. Two portions to takeaway cost 130THB.
Babaloo Bar – a funky night time hangout bar: with fish swimming around the beers in the ice box, fire spinning and bean bags this is a great place to chill out after dinner with a beer in hand and your feet in the sand. My personal favourite on Koh Tao.
- Mopeds – are the best way to get around, given the taxi’s charge hugely inflated prices. Just be aware, the roads are steep and gravely – a dangerous mix. Be aware of Scams – take photos of your moped before you sign or hand over any money. We paid 4000THB for one months hire. Usually between 150-200THB per day.
- Quads – more expensive than mopeds, these are a lot of fun, but make sure to wear a helmet .
- Taxis – if you are planning to drink, take a taxi, especially between Sairee and Chalok.
- Kayak – a great way to see the island from another perspective is by Kayak. A great route is from Chalok (hire from Ihasia Diving at 200 THB for a two person Kayak) via Freedom Beach to Thian Og / Shark Bay. It is possible to hire from Tanote Bay and kayak round to Laem Thian, an alternative to the 1.5 hour walk.
- Long Tailed Boat – The best place to hire one out for the day is in Mae Haad (the main harbour in Koh Tao). Negotiate a price and where you want to be taken, this is a a good option for those wanting to visit Mango Bay and Koh Nang Yuan. From 800-1500 THB.
Keep an eye out for “Koh Tao a Complete Guide”. This is by far the most helpful FREE guide we have picked up anywhere in South East Asia. The maps are very accurate and even show you dirt roads and paths.
Prices quoted were correct at time of publishing and are indicative of our stay from July to September 2013.