Koh Tao & Koh Samui, Thailand

Koh Tao means “Turtle Island” and was named for its turtle-esque shape when seen from above. You’ll quickly learn that the word koh means “island” in Thai because they have islands like sprinkles on a sundae—all over the place. That said, they each have their own charms, so have fun discovering what makes these two special.

How to Get There

There isn’t an airport on Koh Tao, so the easiest way to get there is to fly to Koh Samui and take a ferry over to the other island. The trip over takes about two hours. You may get a better view sitting outside on the deck, but it’s really loud, so keep that in mind when picking your seat.

  1. Scuba Diving

Baby, this is what you came for. Koh Tao is the place to be when it comes to scuba diving. It draws people from all over, and it’s not hard to see why: cheap courses, tons of amazing dive sights, and a beautiful island to boot.

There are a lot of dive shops to choose from since the island is such a popular spot, but I would definitely recommend Simple Life. They use PADI, the world’s leading scuba diving training organization, for their certification courses. The typical diving course takes three days to complete with time split between classroom work and practice dives.

However, Simple Life also has a great option even if you don’t want to go through the certification process. Their one day course is called PADI Discover Scuba Diving that lets you get to go on two dives without enduring the certification process, just a tutorial in the shallow water beforehand. This is what I ended up doing and thought it was great! I felt completely safe even with the shorter course and had a great experience getting to go on two dives! The only weird thing was the mandatory ear-popping, but it was more than worth it. Such an amazing experience.

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  1. Koh Nang Yuan

Right off the coast of Koh Tao lies this little island, which is actually three little islands connected by a strip of sand. It’s some of natures finest and considered by many to be one of the most stunning archipelagos in the world. My scuba training was done in the shallow water near the shore of its perfect white sand beach, and it really is a sight to see. And that sight is even better from up high, so be sure to hike up and see! Don’t worry, it’s mostly stairs.

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  1. 995 Roasted Duck Restaurant

This is a great little spot to grab some noodles. A local recommended it to us after our dive, so we had worked up quite an appetite and this place did not disappoint! It’s open-air and very casual. Like, there’s a serve-yourself drink fridge in the back and they charge you for the cans at the end of the meal. Just look for the bright yellow sign with ducks on it—you can’t miss it!

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  1. Flaming Hog BBQ

I’m from Texas, so I know barbecue. That means you can trust me when I say that this is some good meat. I wouldn’t have guessed that Thailand would know BBQ, but they know their spices and it shows. This place, like most on the island, is outdoors, beachy, and casual. And just…so good.

  1. Massages

In case the fact that a type of massage is named after their technique wasn’t enough of a hint: Thailand knows a thing or two about massages.

Thai massages are heavenly, and here they are extremely easy to come by. There are massage places all over with talented masseurs and low prices. You should really sneak them into your day in every place you visit in Thailand, but here they come with the added bonus of soothing ocean sounds in the background. And hey, you might really need one after a day of breaking in your newly-found flipper muscles.

  1. Sunset at Mango Bay Viewpoint

Everyone loves a good sunset, and since Sairee Beach faces west, it’s the ideal spot. There are fun happy hours at Fizz and Wind Beach or you can head uphill if you’re feeling sporty. Either way, you’re in for a gorgeous view.

I never take pictures of sunsets because I just don’t think they can be captured. But I watercolored a popsicle that kind of looks like the sky melting, so just picture this over the ocean:

popsicle
  1. Anantara Lawana Koh Samui Resort

On an island, where you stay really depends on the type of experience you are planning to have. If you are planning to hike, bike, and explore the island the whole time, your accommodations don’t matter as much. That was my experience on Koh Tao since my priority was diving. However, I wanted some time to just be at the beach, which is exactly why I chose to stay here on Koh Samui.

I had such a lovely time at this resort. They have a complimentary beach-side breakfast buffet every morning that is absolutely delicious, a great pool by the beach, and an amazing restaurant called Tree Tops Sky Dining & Bar where we had dinner one night. ’Twas fancy and definitely on the pricier side, but well worth it. Guests stay in beach houses with furnished patios, but what really won me over were the pool-side tacos.

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That said, we definitely left Koh Samui unexplored since this was the only part of our trip that we set aside for relaxing. I’m sure there’s more to see here, but the only advice I can give is to embrace your inner beach bum.

  1. Gieulietta e Romeo

I never thought that one of the best Italian restaurants I would ever go to would be in Thailand, but this place is the real thing. We stumbled upon Giuliette e Romeo while wandering around looking for dinner, and it was an unexpected delight!
The owner and his daughter are originally from Italy. They came by our table for a while and said they just loved the vibe of the island, so they decided to move, open this restaurant, and bring traditional, authentic Italian cuisine to Koh Samui. And I am so glad they did.
Enjoy living life on island time! And don’t forget to pop your ears when you dive.

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