Thank You Koh Tao -

Thank You Koh Tao

koh tao


There’s no denying


koh tao - 02


that Koh Tao


nangyuan island


is incredibly touristic.


sairee beach koh tao


Backpackers flock from across the globe

to call the underwater world their home.


koh tao


Every palm shaded turquoise bay

boasts resorts restaurants reggae.


koh tao


Italian and French, green juice and English tea

American BBQ lines the beach in Sairee.


koh tao


Happy hour mai tais and sex on the beach


koh tao


fire dancers display their skills

for drunk tourists seeking thrills.


koh tao


But sometimes even a wanderlust nomad

needs to take a vacation


koh tao


from her life that looks like an endless one.


koh tao


So after questioning my future

and considering flying home from Koh Phangan


koh tao


on little Koh Tao

ironically a former prison


koh tao


I let myself feel free to run.


koh tao


Realizing that in the coming days

my time in Thailand would end


koh tao


I made the most of every moment

I let myself have fun.


koh tao


I escaped the world on land

for the one down under the sea


koh tao


where worries flee my mind

it’s just the fish and me.


koh tao


I hiked along unmarked trails

through the jungle in the cliffs


koh tao


climbed over massive rocks

looked out at the ocean in the distance.


koh tao


I dined on Western food

I allowed myself to splurge.


koh tao


I broke my budget but decided

treating myself is what I deserved.


koh tao


I spent most of my time

with friends old and new


koh tao


on excursions to beaches and bars

I felt safe and loved with this crew.


koh tao


On Koh Tao letting myself

be young and wild and free


koh tao


I remembered my adventurous spirit

and that I was exactly where I should be.


koh tao


I felt a stronger will than ever

to continue traveling the world


koh tao


so I’d like to thank you Koh Tao

for giving me exactly what I need.



How to Get to Koh Tao


Koh Tao is an island with no airport so the only way in is via boat. High speed boats depart Koh Phangan, Koh Samui, Surat Thani, and Chumphon twice daily and take a few hours. Lomprayah High Speed Catamaran and Seatran are the fastest and have air conditioning. International flights service Koh Samui and Surat Thani, which is the fastest way to arrive. Buses and minibuses depart Surat Thani for the Andaman side as well as buses and trains up to Bangkok. You can purchase basically any combination of travel you need for Bangkok, Siem Reap, even Langkawi, at a tour office on Koh Tao when you leave.



How to Get Around Koh Tao


The most inexpensive and efficient form of travel on most Thai islands is renting a scooter… unless you crash. Unlike Koh Phangan and Koh Samui, many of Koh Tao’s beaches are only accessible by a steep sandy road. People crash often, so I recommend asking about the road conditions before you drive anywhere. The main paved road that runs from Sairee beach down south to Chalok Bay is a breeze and you can easily travel it by moped. Unfortunately taxis and taxi boats can be quite expensive, so a moped at only 200 baht per day may be your best bet. With some energy and adventure you can hike or kayak to many places on the island, read more about this below.



Where to Sleep on Koh Tao


If you plan to take a dive course while on Koh Tao your dive outfit will likely provide your accommodation. Dive resorts do offer bungalows and rooms for those not diving, and options usually range from very simple and rustic to luxury all at the same resort. There are many options all over the island, but these are the ones I can firmly recommend.


Buddha View Dive Resort

Chalok Bay

400 – 3000 baht for rooms

Buddha View is the perfect place to relax on quiet Chalok Bay. It’s right on the beach with a cute café and beach bar and the rooms are clean, bright, and well decorated. I stayed here during my time on the island in a room for 900 baht per night, which I shared with a friend. It had two beds, a balcony with a sea view, and a huge bathroom with a hot water shower. Every morning I had a delicious, strong juice at the restaurant downstairs for only 60 baht! My favorite combinations were carrot, pineapple, ginger and beet, apple, celery. The only downside is that you have to pay for wifi, which I found a bit absurd, for 100 baht for the day. However many restaurants and cafes nearby have free wifi so I took advantage of being able to “unplug” while in my hotel room.


Big Blue Dive Resort

Sairee Beach

350 for a dorm bed – 3000 for luxury air con bungalow

If you want to be closer to the action Big Blue is a great option. Their dive courses are well reviewed and the rooms sit slightly back on the beach in a grassy field away from the bars on the beach. Independent travelers can stay in the dorm, a rarity in dive resorts on Koh Tao. The restaurant and bar has a lively atmosphere and beach BBQs nightly.



Where to Eat on Koh Tao


I Love Salad

Chalok Bay

100 – 200 baht

The name says it all. I think I ate here at least once per day all five days I spent on Koh Tao. With a huge menu, healthy options, and delicious execution I can easily say it was my favorite dining option on Koh Tao. They serve a Western breakfast all day with dishes like banana oatmeal pancakes with homemade compote, vegetable omelets with whole grain toast, and my favorite “The Smash” which has two pieces of dark grain bread topped with sliced avocado, feta cheese, and poached eggs served with a side of fried tomato and sautéed mushrooms. They also have design your own salads with many healthy options including raw spinach, pumpkin seeds, and broccoli. For dinner I loved the homemade chickpea burger topped with mango salsa, but they also have meat dishes like lasagna and chicken avocado pasta. For a healthy yet decadent treat try the raw vegan berry cheesecake.


Yin Yang

Chalok Bay

80 – 120 baht

Get here early, the place is always packed. The big portions, lots of flavor, and a lively atmosphere make this the perfect dinner spot down in Chalok Bay. The signature dish is the massaman curry, which they cook all day long with lots of spices. I hear the chicken is so tender it falls it apart but being meat free I opted for veggies. My favorite dish here was the curry noodles with lots of vegetables, rice noodles, flavorful curry sauce, and a boiled egg. Probably my favorite Thai restaurant in all of Thailand, don’t miss it!


Sairee Cottage BBQ

Sairee Beach

60 – 200 baht

You must spend at least one evening eating beach BBQ, it’s an island after all, and Sairee Cottage BBQ has the best and least expensive options. For 200 baht you can have a big piece of grilled fish with salad and potatoes. If you’re on a budget the Thai dishes are among the cheapest on the islands, with Phad Thai for 60 baht. The setting is phenomenal and they often have live fire shows right in front on the beach.


Living Juices

Sairee Village

60 – 200 baht

I try to find at least one truly healthy place wherever I travel to ensure I have proper nutrition. Living Juices was exactly that for me on Koh Tao. I believe everything on their menu is both raw and vegan and they sell a vast array of superfoods you can take home including bee pollen, goji berries, chia seeds, and spirulina. The bulk of the menu consists of super healthy juices made from spinach, broccoli, carrots, and more or satisfying smoothies with banana and cacao. Any juice or smoothie can be made “super” with probiotics, bee pollen, etc. They also have some delicious snacks you can take to go. I went with the raw spirulina granola bar which was heaven on a day hike.


Through the Looking Glass

Sairee Village

30 – 150 baht

This darling bakery serves quality treats like shortbread, homemade granola, sandwiches, mince pies, and even English tea. Come by in the morning for some fruit, yogurt, and granola and take a sandwich on homemade bread or a fresh salad to go for your day of adventure. Then of course stop in again in the afternoon for some tea and their famous millionaire shortbread.


New Heaven Café

Sairee Beach

30 – 150 baht

A little oasis in busy, bar filled Sairee Beach with healthy, inexpensive, organic options. They have a wide selection of sandwiches, salads, juices, and smoothies. I sipped on a filling avocado, peanut butter, banana smoothie while I did some work in their open-air café with communal seating. It almost felt like being back in a coffee shop in Seattle!


Check out more dining recommendations from these bloggers:

Ashely Abroad: What to Eat on Koh Tao

Alex in Wonderland: Where to Eat on Koh Tao



Where to Drink on Koh Tao


Freedom Bar

Freedom Beach

60 – 150 baht

Just a fifteen minute walk from Chalok bay around the rocky cliffs is Freedom Bar on a gorgeous little bay with great snorkeling. This makes for a great sunset spot with a laid back, family vibe and happy hour drink specials.


Babaloo Bar

Chalok Bay

60 – 150 baht

Babaloo Bar sits on its own little private beach on the north side of Chalok Bay. The place has a unique pirate shipwreck feel, chilled out reggae music, and lots of hammocks to lay in over the ocean.


Lotus Beach Bar

Sairee Beach

60 – 150 baht

We spent a pretty epic night at Lotus Beach Bar. It all started innocently enough with 80 baht cocktails and a gorgeous view of the sunset. The live music began and a talented man sang covers with a gravelly voice. One of my travel companions said that if he were a woman he’d marry him. The night grew increasingly rowdy when the DJ came on, re mixing reggae favorites with electro beats, and the fire dancers came out. Eventually drunk tourists were jumping a rope lit on fire and when the flaming limbo stick came out I joined them. Fire dancers spun wildly in the ocean and the whole scene was unforgettable. My misstep was attempting to jump through the infamous ring of fire. If you spend only one night out on Koh Tao, make sure it’s here.



Sairee Beach

60 – 150 baht

Laze on big bean bag chairs in this ultra swank beachfront bar that seems more fitting in Bali than on little Koh Tao. I did not get the chance to eat here, but I’ve heard the Thai and Western food is delicious and cheap and you really can’t beat the location.



What to Do on Koh Tao



Koh Tao is the most popular place to learn to dive on the entire planet. Prices are rock bottom; about $300 for a 3 day PADI certified open water dive course including accommodation. The entire island has a strong dive culture and most backpackers come here to get certified. If you’re interested in diving on Koh Tao, I recommend first reading this definitive guide.



Those without the budget or the courage to dive on Koh Tao can still swim with coral, fish, and sharks by snorkeling off of one of the island’s many beautiful beaches. Most dive shops and hotels rent snorkels for just 50 baht per day. Some popular snorkeling spots include Mango Bay, Hin Wong Bay, Tanote Bay, Shark Bay and Nangyuan Island. Read more about the beaches in this guide to Koh Tao. Bear in mind getting to some of these beaches can be difficult with a scooter and expensive with a taxi. If you’re traveling with a group consider splurging on a longtail boat for a day and having them take you to all of the best spots. This post gives a great overview of a longtail boat trip.



If you’re willing to be adventurous, the island has plenty of hiking opportunities. A short fifteen-minute hike up from Freedom Beach offers stunning views of Shark Bay to the right and Chalok Bay to the left. My favorite hike I took began in Chalok Bay along the beach past Babaloo, and up the hill into a neighborhood. From there the trail took me into the woods, where I was the only person. It gets hot and sweaty but the views are gorgeous and I feel so energized when exercising in nature. My first stop was at Banana Rock, a cute little swimming and snorkeling spot with a couple of bars, some bungalows, and very few people. From there it’s possible to hike all the way to the main harbor in town.  A popular hike on the island goes to the island’s highest viewpoint over Mango Bay. It’s steep with no reprieve. Read this detailed account of getting up there.


Day Trip to Nangyan Island

Many people highly recommended I spend the day on this small island off the North West coast of Koh Tao. While it’s unbelievably touristic and fairly crowded, it’s also unbelievably gorgeous. Most people come in with a taxi boat or longtail boat, but I highly recommend going the cheaper, more adventurous route and getting there from Sairee beach by kayak. The trip should take no more than an hour depending on the wind and costs 200 – 600 baht depending on how long you want the kayak and whether you rent a double or a single. On the island the water is crystal clear for snorkeling and the viewpoint is incredible.
For lots more information on Koh Tao, check out out the Wiki Travel Guide.



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  1. I was so bummed to miss Koh Tao when I was island hopping in Southeast Asia last December. My time was so tight I had to choose btw Koh Phi Phi and Koh Tao. I’ll definitely hit Koh Tao next time! Gorgeous pictures :)

    • Camille Willemain Says: March 25, 2014 at 7:32 pm

      Thank you so much :) Looks like we did the opposite of one another as I missed out on Koh Phi Phi. Yes yes you MUST go to Koh Tao next time. So many amazing places to see in Thailand, in Southeast Asia, in this world!!

  2. Great pics!! Loved those yummy looking dishes 😀

  3. Janet V. Says: March 26, 2014 at 6:29 am


  4. Gorgeous photos, but does it all start to look the same after awhile when just beach-hopping? I know each little beach can have its own flavor, but have you found beach-hopping to be worthwhile in terms of stretching yourself to find out what you are after in life? I’ve often wondered this in my own travels when “on another beach”. The blogs seem to take on the same theme….an internal conflict with touristy settings and then another resolution on who you are or who you want to become…but each resolution sounds so similar? I know travel in SE Asia is gorgeous and cheap, but does it really helping you find yourself, given you are never really being too stretched out of your comfort zone in a laidback beach setting? After all, you came from living in PV, another laid back beach vibe. Vietnam seemed to stretch you a bit but ever since then, it all seems so the same and just curious your stance on it all down deep. I just wonder how many beaches it takes to learn about one’s self. I also wonder for my own knowledge when trying to determine how much time to devote to different areas and people of the world. What are your goals once back in PV? Good luck in trying to make your way in this world.

    • Camille Willemain Says: March 26, 2014 at 10:12 am

      Thanks for posing this thoughtful question Ruth. You make a good point, perhaps it sounds like I go through periods where I’m exhausted and fed up then I go to Gili Air, Koh Lanta, and Koh Tao and find myself again. I can see how it could be monotonous. However the posts that actually probe deeper aren’t typically the “destination” posts, rather my posts that focus more on my life experiences. I’m definitely taking note of this and will do my best to offer deeper insight on what I’m experiencing on this journey. As far as does traveling in SE Asia help you find yourself, my response is this: wherever you go there you are. It’s not about finding the places that change you, it’s about going somewhere, anywhere, and being willing to change. Taking this trip has helped me grow TREMENDOUSLY all of which I plan to share in an upcoming post. I agree that places like Thailand and Bali can be so “easy” but there is nothing easy about living out of a backpack on a low budget while trying to build your career and make friends and possibly even fall in love. Most difficult for me in Asia has been balancing enjoying my time here, keeping up on the blog, and earning enough income through my freelance work to sleep another night in a hostel and eat another plate of phad thai. I also have struggled with how developed and touristic it is here, the blatant disregard for the environment, and the exploitation of animals and villagers. Puerto Viejo may be a tourist beach town, but walk into the jungle for five minutes and you’re alone with nature. I’m honestly not sure when I’m going back to Puerto Viejo but I can certainly tell you it might be a beach but it is absolutely nothing like here.

  5. Sold – Koh Tao is on the list

  6. Your photos are amazing, I can almost feel the fresh water breeze from here :)

    I decided not to go to Koh Tao, I’ve heard it was too commercial and if you had no plans to dive, then you’d be bored, so I stayed much longer in Koh Lanta. Maybe next time I’ll give Koh Tao a chance.

    • Camille Willemain Says: March 28, 2014 at 9:54 pm

      Ahh I loved Koh Lanta. It is def commercial, but honestly still a great place. I didn’t dive and still had a fabulous time, but I think if I hadn’t been there with friends it may have been difficult to meet people… unless you’re getting wasted on Sairee or diving every day :)

  7. Hi! Try to visit islands in the Philippines as well. Truly amazing!!!

    • Camille Willemain Says: March 28, 2014 at 9:53 pm

      Yes I am DYING to go there. I think it would be right up my alley… maybe I’d never leave 😉

  8. Love the pics, especially the view down to Chalok Baan Kao and Shark Bay! Thanks for sharing these great memories with us.

  9. Absolutely love this post!
    I went to Koh Tao in December but unfortunately was ill for all of my time there. Your photos (and Nang Yuan) solidify the fact that i need to return! x

    • Camille Willemain Says: April 20, 2014 at 10:40 am

      Oh no! Yes you must go back. I didn’t have time to do my open water there, so I will definitely need to return for some diving! I got in lots and lots of snorkeling though :)

  10. […] Koh Tao […]

  11. Justin Edmunds Says: October 13, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    Ive been to Koh Toa twice and would definitely recommend it to any one travelling around Thailand. I stayed in Chalok Bay both times and its by far my favourite island in Thailand. As it is one of the best places to be able to relax in amazing scenery, yet you can still go to a raging party that night. :)

    Im leaving in a couple of days to hit up Vietnam and Cambodia for a month and your blog has definitely helped me a lot! As its by far one of the most detailed and informative blogs out there! :)

  12. I leave for Koh Tao on Oct 1 and this blog post just got me SO excited. Thank you for your amazing pictures and writing!

    • Camille Willemain Says: September 21, 2015 at 4:31 pm

      Awesome!!! I love that place :) Please enjoy it for me, and don’t jump through the burning ring of fire unless you know what you’re doing… I still have scars lol.

  13. Rick Tielemans Says: April 22, 2017 at 6:25 am

    We’re trying to find where the beach BBQ is in Koh Tao and your blog was the second search result!

    Now I need to go check out Lotus tonight since that sounds amazing.

    Keep up the great work :)

    – Khun Kae’s smoothie buddies <3

    • Camille Willemain Says: April 24, 2017 at 4:49 pm

      Ah wonderful I am so happy to hear that! Ahhh wait you are the brothers who I met at Khun Kae’s for smoothies???