Island Life in Thailand: A Photo Essay from Koh Tao

by Christy on

The island of Koh Tao in Thailand

Koh Tao is just one tiny island amidst the hundreds that dot the Gulf of Thailand and Andaman Sea. But it has something special that sets it apart from the rest: with more than fifty dive centers, Koh Tao is one of the world’s premier destinations for learning how to scuba dive.

However, while many travelers initially come for the diving, they end up staying for the natural beauty and relaxed island life.

The island of Koh Tao in Thailand

Renting a kayak, or maybe some snorkeling gear, will only set you back a few dollars.

The island of Koh Tao in Thailand

While Koh Tao has plenty of sandy beaches (like the one above) perfect for swimming and sunbathing, its coastline is dominated by huge boulders artfully arranged into cool natural formations.

Snorkeling in Koh Tao, Thailand

Koh Tao is actually where I discovered my love of snorkeling! Those of you who are familiar with my (strong) dislike of being submerged in water will realize that this is a Very Big Deal indeed. We even saw a shark in the aptly-named Shark Bay!

The island of Koh Tao in Thailand

Just chillin’. On a boat. Like you do.

The island of Koh Tao in Thailand

Koh Tao’s most popular area, Sairee Beach, is dotted with tons of restaurants and bars. It isn’t nearly as wild as some islands in Thailand (*cough* Koh Phangan), but there are nightly fire shows, plenty of dazzling lights, and cheap buckets of Chang Beer.

The island of Koh Tao in Thailand

This isn’t just a pile of rocks – there’s a face in there. Do you see it? Okay, I’ll give you a hint.

The island of Koh Tao in Thailand

BOOM! There it is.

Koh Samui, Thailand

I’m cheating a little – this is actually Koh Samui rather than Koh Tao. It’s the nearest island with an airport, though, so most travelers pass through here before taking the ferry on to Koa Tao.

While some of the island is gorgeous, there’s obviously a bit of a trash problem on Koh Samui. Koh Tao was much cleaner, despite the fact that without on-island waste management facilities all trash has to be gathered up and shipped back to the mainland via ferry.

Koh Tao, Thailand

When you step off the ferry upon arriving in Koh Tao, you’re immediately bombarded by locals trying to entice you to their dive shop or offer their taxi services. It was a bit like running a mini version of the gauntlet, but with friendly faces and hand-written signs.

Koh Tao, Thailand

There’s this restaurant in the middle of the island that will pick you up and drop you off for free. Be forewarned, though — the ride takes you up a steep mountain in the back of a pick-up truck. But the view was great, the food was delicious (we ordered an ENTIRE fish! With the head attached and everything!), and we had the place all to ourselves.

Koh Tao, Thailand

Ah, Thai sunsets… I just can’t quit thee.


Full Disclosure: We were complimentary guests of Ban’s Diving Resort on Koh Tao. However, all thoughts and opinions are entirely our own.

{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

Stevetwitter: vangrizz April 20, 2012 at

I love that you rode to your romantic, mountain-top dinner in the back of a pick-up truck. Although I’d be more impressed with a picture of the fish.
Steve recently posted: The Insiders

Reply

Christy April 24, 2012 at

You should have seen this fish, Steve. It’s eyes were enormous! And so very sad.

Reply

A Montrealer Abroad April 20, 2012 at

Wow, absolutely beautiful :-) It seemed like a gorgeous day!

Reply

Christy April 24, 2012 at

Our whole time on Koh Tao was great weather – we even got a short rainstorm one afternoon, which is my favorite thing ever in tropical destinations.

Reply

Sabrinatwitter: countryskipper April 20, 2012 at

Beautiful! Thailand is really high on my want-to-visit list – mainly for the islands, the beaches, the scuba diving, and the food. Oh, ok, and some sightseeing as well. I know I’ll make it there one day :)
Sabrina recently posted: Texas Weekend Getaway: Galveston Beaches

Reply

Christy April 24, 2012 at

Ha, it sounds like our list for why we love Thailand – oh, just about everything! :P You can’t beat the food, sea life, and affordability, that’s for sure.

Reply

Amanda April 20, 2012 at

Ahhh, I want to go to Thailand! It looks like you guys had a great time.
Amanda recently posted: The Time I Almost Died in Iceland

Reply

Christy April 24, 2012 at

You should add it to your travel list, Amanda! It’s a long flight from Ohio, but cheap once you get there. ;)

Reply

Jeremy Branhamtwitter: budgettravelsac April 21, 2012 at

I have to admit – the island, beach, and views are pretty amazing. From the looks of it, it didn’t seem all that crowded which is a good thing. However, the trash is definitely an issue. Still not a bad place to get away, enjoy the beach and water, snorkel, and…see some sharks? (YIKES!)
Jeremy Branham recently posted: Win free tickets to the 136th Sacramento Valley Scottish Highlands Games and Gathering

Reply

Christy April 24, 2012 at

SHARKS! How cool is that? It was at least my size, but probably way larger (of course). I couldn’t see very well as I was busy hyperventilating into my mask.

Reply

Kieu ~ GQ trippin April 21, 2012 at

I’m sad we made it all the way to Samui but just didn’t have time to go to Koh Tao. Had to head up to Chiang Mai for Songkran. KT looks beautiful.
Kieu ~ GQ trippin recently posted: Hawker Food Trippin in Singapore

Reply

Christy April 24, 2012 at

Wellll, Songkran in Chiang Mai is pretty enticing….. ;)

Reply

robin April 23, 2012 at

Looks ridiculously beautiful.
robin recently posted: El Perro

Reply

Christy April 24, 2012 at

Preach it.

Reply

Jarmo @ Arctic Nomad April 23, 2012 at

I spent six weeks in Thailand last year, but didn’t see any islands or beaches! I was just taking a break in Chiang Mai, I was worried that all the islands would be way too touristy, but maybe not all of them are that bad. And I like the fifty dive shops! I could definitely stay there for quite a while! :)
Jarmo @ Arctic Nomad recently posted: London Marathon – it’s Total Mayhem out There!

Reply

Christy April 24, 2012 at

We spent almost four months in Chiang Mai and only 10 days on the islands… I guess it’s just hard to leave the north. :) Some of the islands are terribly over-crowded (like Phuket, ugh), but there are a ton on the other end of the spectrum as well. You just have to search them out and travel further to get to them.

Reply

Christy April 23, 2012 at

Gorgeous photos! We saw some of those rock formations on Koh Phangan as well. That’s so sad to see all the trash on Koh Samui. :(
Christy recently posted: Camping in Joshua Tree – No Rattlesnakes This Time!

Reply

Christy April 24, 2012 at

It was really a bummer. We’d heard that Koh Tao has trash problems as well, but thankfully the island looked quite clean to us. And we didn’t run into the sewage issues we read about!

Reply

InsideJourneystwitter: InsideJourneys April 23, 2012 at

Beautiful! I’m getting really psyched for my trip next year.

Reply

Christy April 24, 2012 at

That’s awesome! Have you planned your itinerary yet?

Reply

Annie - FootTracker April 24, 2012 at

Hey, life looks good out there ~ beach everyday O_O I would not mind rolling around the white sand everyday.
Annie – FootTracker recently posted: Cherry Blossom Grand Parade!

Reply

Christy April 24, 2012 at

As fun as it would be to play on the beach all day (every day), I think after just a few hours I’d turn into a lobster!

Reply

Sophie HeadingThere April 26, 2012 at

Lovely to stumble upon your blog! I am moving to Ko Samui in July and it’s great to see some recent pictures. The original plan was to live on Ko Tao, but apparently it’s more expensive there. Did you find that to be the case? How long have you guys been in Thailand? Thanks!

Reply

Christy April 26, 2012 at

We didn’t buy enough on Koh Samui to be able to compare the prices to Koh Tao, but Koh Tao was definitely more expensive than Chiang Mai… though I’m pretty sure that’s true for all of the islands. We were in Thailand for about 4 months – we loved it there! Is there a reason you’re looking at Koh Tao specifically? Other than it’s beauty, obviously. ;)

Reply

Sophie HeadingThere April 26, 2012 at

A couple of the HeadingThere crew already live out there, so I am going to join them! The plan is to write loads of fresh content for the site and start the next leg of my travels. The other guys had been to Ko Tao before and loved it, hence the original plan to live there. It’s great to find so many inspiring blog posts about the islands :)

Reply

Federico April 26, 2012 at

I’ve heard that Koh Tao is also one of the less visited islands in Thailand, it being much more mellow and a better place to relax. From what I see in your pics it seems to be true!

Reply

Christy May 2, 2012 at

It’s so much more mellow than some of the alternatives… but I guess that’s not hard, as some of the alternatives are INSANE. :)

Reply

Ayngelina April 27, 2012 at

Love the photo, seems like the kind of place where photos say much more than words.
Ayngelina recently posted: Ice cream for a cause

Reply

Christy May 2, 2012 at

Ha, true. :)

Reply

Stephanie - The Travel Chicatwitter: thetravelchica April 27, 2012 at

These photos make me long for a tropical vacation!
Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted: Foto of the Week from … Buenos Aires: The Ecological Reserve

Reply

Christy May 2, 2012 at

You should take one! Though Buenos Aires doesn’t sound too bad, either. ;)

Reply

dtravelsroundtwitter: dtravelsround April 27, 2012 at

so cool!!
dtravelsround recently posted: Daily Wanderlust: Ruhengeri, Rwanda

Reply

Christy May 2, 2012 at

Thanks, Diana!

Reply

Ayelet - All Colorestwitter: allcolores May 2, 2012 at

I love the color of the water and the sunset photo. It looks like a wonderful place to spend time in.
Ayelet – All Colores recently posted: Buenos Aires Photos: The Opera House that Became a Book Store

Reply

Christy May 2, 2012 at

Thanks, Ayelet – it really is a beautiful place. :)

Reply

Erica May 3, 2012 at

Looks dreamy! I can’t wait until we make it to SEA.
Erica recently posted: Texas vs. Argentina: THE BEEF OFF

Reply

Christy May 4, 2012 at

Once you do, I’d be curious to see how you think the prices compare to South America. :)

Reply

Vicky May 22, 2012 at

Looks gorgeous! I’m very excited for the Thai islands — especially now that I know that kayak rentals are so cheap there!
Vicky recently posted: Cool Programs For Making Travel Maps

Reply

Christy May 22, 2012 at

SO CHEAP. It’s almost unreal how cheap it is to rent a kayak!

Reply

Phil July 11, 2012 at

Ahhh reading this has brought back some great memories. First went to Thailand with my now wife in 2001 and that was the first time I experienced snorkeling and eating a fish (with head attached – delicious). Going back for a weekend visit to Phuket next week and maybe look into visiting Koh Tao in the future.

Reply

Christy July 12, 2012 at

How fun! We didn’t actually make it to Phuket, but I know it’s very popular.

Reply

41 Comments. Join the conversation!

Enable CommentLuv (add link to your most recent blog post after your comment)

Previous post:

Next post: