Koh Tao is an island in the Gulf of Thailand near Surat Thani. Since I came to Thailand, I haven’t done much travelling but a friend from home was on vacation there so it gave me an excuse to get out of Ao Nang and see a little more of Thailand. Koh Tao also has climbing so it was an easy decision to go for a few days. Anong and I packed our bags and headed out.
Getting to Koh Tao (from Ao Nang)
Just got off the bus. Waiting for the ferry on the pier at Surat Thani.
Koh Tao is kind of hard to get to. There are a few options. The first and probably quickest is to catch a flight from Krabi Airport and fly to Koh Samui. Bangkok Airways does one flight a day for about 3100 baht. Once to Koh Samui take a taxi to one of the piers then a ferry to Koh Tao. Total price would be around 4000 baht per person including taxi to / from airports and total travel time around 4 to 5 hours depending on how schedules line up.
The next option is to take a take a Songthaew from Ao Nang to the Krabi bus station and get a bus to Surat Thani. Find your way to the pier then buy a ferry ticket to Koh Tao. I’m not sure how much this would cost but I’m guessing around 700 baht and it will likely take all day and might require an overnight stay in Surat Thani depending on how the ferry schedules line up which would eliminate any savings.
The third option and what I think is the best value is to book a tour package through one of the resorts in the area. I ended up at Slumber Party Hostel because they are close to where I live and they provided me with a package through Lomprayah High Speed Ferries that included pickup in Ao Nang for 1100 baht per person. Total travel time was about 8 hours. It also looks like tickets can be booked on their website.
Coming back, I was able to book tickets online through Seatran Discovery that included drop off at my room in Ao Nang for around 900 Baht because they were discounting tickets for some reason. Standard price is 1100 Baht.
Where To Stay
Sairee beach has the highest concentration of resorts, restaurants, and things to do. I’ve also heard it can be very loud at night with many bars playing loud music all night. I ended up staying about 1 kilometer past the end of the beach at Koh Tao Hillside Resort. It was nice and quiet but I probably wouldn’t stay here again since my room was rather run down and not very nice for the price paid. But the pool was nice and the restaurant had pretty good food. If I go back, I might try staying on the other side of the island where it’s even quieter and more secluded.
Depending on what you want to do / where you want to go you’ll need your own transportation. Taxi’s on the island are ridiculously expensive. I heard one couple was quoted 400 baht (just over 11 dollars) to go from Sairee beach to the pier which is about 5 minutes away by car and only 2 or 3 kilometers away. But a quick search online shows motorbike rental shops are notorious for scamming tourists and charging outrageous fees for small scratches on the bike that were already there at the time of rental. But be careful. If you’ve never ridden a scooter or motorcycle before, Koh Tao is a bad place to learn. It’s hard to believe but the people on Koh Tao drive even worse than the people in Krabi. On top of that, the roads are filled with potholes, covered in sand or dirt, and some of the roads are extremely steep. I had heard good things about Oli’s Motorbike Rentals and that they were an honest shop. So I took my chances and rented a 125cc Honda Click from them. I also left my passport with them even though it made me throw up in my mouth a little bit. The bike was had just enough power to get Anong and I with our climbing gear to the top of Mek’s Mountain where we went climbing. No incidents while driving and Oli’s is indeed an honest shop. If you find yourself on Koh Tao and need a motorbike, use Oli’s.
What To Do
The main activity on the island is diving. From what I hear the diving is very good and PADI diving certifications aren’t very expensive. But I wasn’t stoked on the diving. Instead, Anong and I found some other things to occupy our time.
The island is littered with massive granite boulders and some cliffs so we hired a guide through Good Time Adventures to show us around. It’s not necessary to hire a guide but since we were only there for a few days I didn’t want to waste time finding the best climbs. We went climbing the first day with Good Time Adventures then two days later went back to Mek’s Mountain on our own.
Try Something New
Good Time Adventures also gives flying trapeze lessons. I’d never tried it before but it looked like fun. It was lots of fun but one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done.
Eat and Drink A Lot
Lap Gai from some unnamed Thai restaurant on the side of the road.
Som Tam Thai from the same restaurant.
There are lots of good restaurants on the Island. A few I recommend are:
- tHAITA iTALIAN RESTAURANT. Simple Italian food prepared with fresh ingredients. The best dinner I had on the island and it was reasonably priced.
- The Gallery. Fancy Thai food. I only had a drink and an appetizer here but based on what I saw I’m sure everything else is also delicious.
- Le Petit Palace. European / American food. I had a hamburger here that was very average. But I liked the place anyways because they have a good but pricey selection of beer. I had a Deschutes IPA for the first time in 9 months and it was delicious!
- Thai-Riffic. The Thai food here is sort of westernized but it’s still pretty good. But the real reason to come here is for the dessert and baked goods. They are delicious. Finding this place was extremely difficult. It’s not on the map where Google says it is and asking local Thai people where it is doesn’t work because they only hear “Thai restaurant” and say oh, there are 3 on this street and point you in the completely wrong direction. But we persevered and eventually found it.
Pad Grapow Moo
We went to Grounded Yoga two times while we were on the island. I though the teachers were good and drop in classes are fairly priced at 250 baht.
Pre class warm up with high plank.
Yoga students after class.
Get A Massage
There are many massage shops all along Sairee beach. Standard price for a one hour Thai massage is 300 baht. A bit more expensive than Ao Nang but not too bad. We went to one place and got ok massages. The next night we tried the spa at our resort and got a much better massage but it was 100 baht more. I’d say it was worth it for the better experience.
Watch The Sunset
This is the resort next to the one we stayed at. It looks very fancy and much nicer. I checked online and it was about the same price ! 😦
Windy and cloudy but still very nice sunset dinner at Aminjirah
Driving around the island is also fun. There are several large hills / small mountains and driving up to them provides beautiful views. There are also some temples and shrines on the island that we visited.
Thai Buddhist temple.
My best impersonation of Alex Honnold
Well, that’s about it. 5 days on the island and I was ready to come back to Ao Nang. But it’s been raining every day since I got back. I might need to go on another vacation to a less rainy part of Thailand.