Bad press and great diving is how I would have defined the little I knew about Koh Tao before we took the opportunity to experience it ourselves. I thought it was more than likely a little too adventurous for small children and presumed beaches were rocky and full of coral, optimal for snorkelling and diving but not enticing for sun worshippers like myself. I am happy to say I was proven very wrong and Koh Tao ended up being one of our favourite islands as a family. The kids loved snorkelling in the shallow shores and running along powder white sand. We were captivated by the stunning sunsets and stylish beach bars, and the rustic meets local resorts were just the right mix of luxury and beauty. Food was mouthwatering, with seafood being a huge highlight at every restaurant we sampled, and we couldn't get enough of the Thai dishes. The locals were inviting and prices were abundantly cheaper than Koh Samui or Phuket. Koh Tao has a reputation as a backpacker diving destination but for us it was a place our family could live out our idyllic tropical island dreams. Here are a few of our favourite things on Koh Tao. Now book your trip before everyone else finds out.
- True to it's namesake this picturesque bay is known for sightings of black tip reef sharks and is one of Koh Tao's most popular diving spots. Guesthouses and villas are etched delicately into the surrounding cliffs offering optimal views of the crystal blue waters, and palm trees soothingly sway from one edge of the beach to the other. Grab a kayak to explore with the kids or put on your fins and snorkels to search for those reef sharks and turtles. Don't worry, this species of shark are not known to bite.
- This secluded paradise offers sunsets, healthy coral, and a postcard worthy scene. Take a nap in a lazy hammock or grab a bean bag and order an ice cold beer. Parents of toddlers will be grateful for the abundance of shady patches where little ones can construct their sandy creations, and the water is warm and shallow enough for beginner swimmers. Active kids will enjoy climbing on the boulders or snorkelling around the coral which is only steps from shore, but wear water socks as we saw a few urchins during our adventures. You pass through a resort and pay a 200 baht (per adult, kids are free) for entrance, but it's worth every penny for the stunning scenery.
- Koh Tao's most lively beach, Sairee Beach is lined with beach bungalows, cute eateries, cheap massages, and sunset bars. Here you can book boats for diving expeditions or island hopping, rent a kayak or stand up paddle boards, or just sip a cocktail during the beautiful sunsets. There are accommodation options for all budgets and the beach is long enough for leisurely walks and exploring. The sand is pristine and white and waters are shallow but we recommend walking to the end of the beach, near Koh Tao Cabana, for the most picturesque stretch.
Koh Nang Yuan
- Hop on a longtail boat and enjoy the breezy ride to Koh Nang Yuan, only a few miles off the coast of Koh Tao. This cluster of three teardrop islands boasts one of the most stunning scenes in Thailand. Delicately connected by a single white sand bar you'll find plenty of photo opportunities and an abundance of colourful fish to keep you company as you snorkel. The water is ridiculously turquoise and clear and the rustic island has you feeling like you are deserted in paradise. Visitors pay a fee of 100 baht to enter and it's strictly no plastic on the islands. There's a small restaurant serving humble fair to feed hungry mouths and if you're feeling fit enough to hike checkout the viewpoint for a panoramic view. An ideal family day trip from Koh Tao.
Sairee Hotpot & BBQ
- If you've lived in Asia or traveled here often you have probably sampled hotpot, one of the the regions most popular family dining meals. Sairee Hotpot & BBQ is easygoing, no fuss and very affordable. Choose from the buffet of fresh meat, seafood, healthy veggies, and egg noodles and either cook in a comforting pot of chicken soup or grill on a classic Korean style bbq. Our kids loved helping prepare their meal and as it's just boiled or grilled it's easy to please even the pickiest eaters. At under 300 baht a head for all you can eat, you can't really go wrong.
Taatoh Seaview Resort Restaurant
- Located atop Shark Bay be spoilt with epic views and mouthwatering Thai fare at this family owned establishment. The varied menu serves many familiar Thai classics and also plenty of local seafood to keep foodies satisfied. We couldn't get enough of the whole fried fish, creamy curries, and fragrant pad Thai. Kids will devour the fresh fruit shakes and pineapple fried rice and they even have easy western options for children who would rather eat fish and chips or pasta after a long day of swimming.
- Whitening feels likes a a slice of Ibiza located on Koh Tao's vibrant Sairee Beach. The sea facing terrace and tables right in the powder white sand are an ideal spot for sundowners and we enjoyed the stylish decor and chilled music that played while we enjoyed our drinks and food. Their happy hour is delightfully affordable and the friendly staff even provided sand toys for our children. We couldn't resist sharing the indulgent seafood platters and the kids were happy with cheesy pastas and crisp sweet potato fries. A perfect choice if you're looking for a more upscale eatery on one of your nights on Koh Tao.
Where to Stay
Koh Tao Cabana
- Koh Tao Cabana is the definition of barefoot luxury. Nestled at the end of Sairee Beach, you’ll be only a few minutes from all the action while feeling completely secluded in paradise. We loved the jungle like paths leading to beautifully designed villas, and the rustic meets stylish vibe. Our 260° Villa featured two spacious ensuite bedrooms, spectacular views, a generous private pool, and comfortable living and dining areas to suit our family of four. Koh Tao Cabana also boasts an impressive waterfall pool, inviting snorkelling deck which dips straight into crystal clear waters, a luxury private beach, as well as water sports and a tranquil spa.
Taatoh Seaview Resort
- Perched above picturesque Shark Bay is Taatoh Seaview Resort, a welcoming and comfortable home away from home in Koh Tao. The resort is humble and family owned and home to some of the most unbelievable views on the island. You will be spoilt with personal service, rustic and relaxing bungalows, and mouthwatering authentic Thai fare. Our Family Goodview Villa came complete with two large bedrooms, a spacious bathroom, and a private seaview terrace. Although the bungalows are simple Thai style they feature comforting modern amenities like sumptuous beds, air conditioning in each room, and fridges and kettles for all your family's needs. You will find yourself only steps from Shark Bay’s secluded beach where you can easily snorkel in the clear and refreshing waters.
Whether you are in search of adventure or just a relaxing getaway you'll be pleased you chose Koh Tao. The unparalleled beauty, unpretentious vibes, and variety of bays and beaches will keep you and your family living in a postcard for days.