What is the best beach on Ko Tao?
First published 18th September, 2009
What makes the perfect beach? Are you looking for stretches where no other speedo has swum or are sunset bars and thumping music more your thing? While Ko Tao is best known for its diving industry, it's also home to more than its fair share of glorious stretches of sand. So here is a round up on some of Ko Tao's best beaches -- note though, this isn't an exhaustive list -- we don't want to take away all the fun!
Sairee Beach is the longest and busiest beach on Ko Tao and the main centre for accommodation and nightlife. The beach is long and sandy but even at busy times there is plenty of room for everyone. When the water is high enough to get over the reef then there is some good snorkelling too but boat traffic is quite busy, so make sure you keep a keen ear out for boat engines. The beach is lined with bars and restaurants offering a retreat from the midday sun. The sun sinks below the horizon here too and it's a great place to watch night fall before the all-too-regular beach parties get going.
Chalok Ban Kao is the most developed beach after Sairee. It lies on the southern-most stretches of the island but it's not great for snorkelling or swimming as the bay remains quite shallow. The bay itself can be a bit muddy too which means that the water is rarely clear. Chalok is a great alternative to busier Sairee in terms of facilities and while the beach is not the best Freedom Beach is very close by. This secluded little bay lies just around the headland and is well worth a visit. It's small and pretty with only one bungalow operation meaning the beach doesn't get overrun.
Jansom Bay, just south of Mae Haad, is a great hidden gem; it's small, quiet and secluded with some great snorkelling. Bamboo rafts float just a few metres out where you can laze dangling arms and legs in the crystal clear water and watch the fish swimming beneath. The beach belongs to the resort that is built around it so you will be charged admission but it makes for a lovely day out. It's an easy walk from Mae Haad and will take less than 15 minutes by longtail from Sairee.
Hiring a kayak from Mae Haad you can easily reach Haad Sai Nual, Laem Je Ta Klang and Ao Kul Jeua. This lovely string of beaches fringe the south west corner of Ko Tao and will make you feel as if you've been transported to a very different island. A few bungalow operations allow you to soak up the peace and tranquillity for an extended period. The snorkelling is good and the boat traffic minimal.
Ao Thian Ok and neighboring Haad Sai Daeng are in many opinions two of the prettiest beaches on the island and both offer the opportunity to snorkel with their resident population of reef sharks. Neither are well developed, so you are likely to share the beach with little more than your thoughts.
Ao Thian Ok is the larger of the two beaches and is almost always idyllically quiet, it's easier to get to than Haad Sai Daeng but because it's just that little bit further away from Ko Tao's main areas, many people never bother. This beach is lined with scrubby trees that are actually quite rare and give the beach a different vista to Ko Tao's mostly palm fringed beaches. The sand here is not fine though and you could almost call it shingle. Charges don't apply to use this beach but they have in the past and could be re-instated.
While the road to Haad Sai Daeng is not the worst the island has to offer it's certainly steep; imagine hurtling down a rollercoaster dip and you are somewhere near. It's a very pleasant quiet spot which even many foreign residents don't know exists. The only thing marring the environment here is the large building that belongs to Coral View but if you are laying looking out to sea you won't mind.
Ao Leuk is still a firm favourite. It's a picture book bay with a wide sandy beach and great snorkelling on both sides of the bay. Waves lap over the boulder lined shore and you must take care when stepping over them to enter the water but there is no reef barrier to getting into the water. This makes it perfect for swimming whatever the height of the water. The road down to the beach is terrible, either get off your bike at the top of the hill and walk or grab a taxi which will take you all the way down. One family run the bungalow and restaurant operations here and while there is no cost for using the beach yet, signs prohibit bringing in food and drinks from the outside.
Ao Tanote has great snorkelling too and a huge boulder disrupts the horizon making for an interesting vista. It's the most developed eastern beach but hardly overrun. You have the choice of two dive centres and a few restaurants belonging to the half dozen of bungalow operation but it seems to lack in atmosphere. The beach is wide and long and sharks are seen here too.
Further afield still you'll find others including isolated east coast spots like Laem Thian and the rugged Ao Hin Wong -- among others. Just because the beach isn't mentioned in your guidebook doesn't mean it's not worth checking out, and on Ko Tao taking a bit of a poke around can reveal some truly wonderful -- and deserted -- spots to jump in for a frolic.
Be sure to give our Ko Tao section a bit of a gander -- if that's not enough, there's always our Travelfish Guide to Ko Tao. We flog the guide for a massive $4.95, but given it is the most up-to-date guidebook available (published in June 2009), and costs less than a massage, we reckon that it's not a bad deal.
Lastly, regardless of if you want to book a bungalow shack or a private villa, our reservation partner Sawasdee has some cracking deals on Ko Tao -- here are the picks of the best of the bunch (from cheapest to priciest):
Laem Thian Resort from 300 baht
Coral View Resort from 400 baht
Lotus Resort from 600 baht
Mango Bay from 1,000 baht
New Heaven Bungalow from 1,300 baht
Sensi Paradise Beach Resort from 1,800 baht
Charm Churee Villa from 2,150 baht
Thipwimarn Resort from 2,640 baht
Their full list of resorts on Ko Tao is here.
Related readingKo Yao: the islands you're looking for
Which island in Trang?
Ko Tao for non-divers guide
Ko Phi Phi on a budget
What is the best island in Thailand?
Should I book for the full moon party?
What's a good beach on Ko Pha Ngan?
Become a dive instructor on Ko Tao
Dive Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan & Ko Tao
Read 1 comment(s)
Add your comment
Feature story quicklinks
- Giving back in Southeast Asia (16)
- All stories
- Angkor Hospital For Children
- COPE: Helping people move on
- Epic Arts
- Free the Bears Laos
- Helping Phuket's children in need
- Helping Siem Reap's rubbish dump families
- Helping Singapore's transient workers
- Helping the Karen of Burma
- Humanitarian Services for Children of Vietnam
- Lifestart Foundation, Hoi An
- MyME Yangon
- Soi Dog Foundation
- Swim Vietnam
- Thai Freedom House, Chiang Mai
- The Samui Prison Project
- The SET Foundation
- Burma (9)
- Cambodia (23)
- All stories
- A Cambodian Eco-lodge
- A honeymoon in Cambodia
- Angkorian traffic woes
- Battambang weekend
- Elephant riding in Cambodia: Should you?
- Great places to stay in Siem Reap
- Is Preah Vihear safe to visit?
- Kampot or Kep?
- Koh Rong: Trouble in paradise?
- Kompong Cham escape
- Northeast Cambodia in photos
- Oh Poipet!
- PEPY:Sustainable Cambodian tourism
- Phnom Tamao Wildlife Refuge
- Sihanoukville beaches lure expats
- Spas, shopping & seers in Siem Reap
- The best islands in Cambodia
- The best places to stay on Cambodia's islands
- The Death Highway
- Trekking in Virachey National Park
- Trekking the Cardamoms in Cambodia
- Which Cambodian island is right for you?
- Why you should go to Cambodia
- Indonesia (14)
- All stories
- A funeral in Toraja, Sulawesi
- Climbing Rinjani
- How to hire a boat in Indonesia: Without drowning
- Learn to surf in Bali
- Medewi: A great Bali getaway
- Mountain biking in Bali: A ride in the woods
- Pasola, Sumba
- The Gili islands: Which is the right one for you?
- Ubud bird watching: From waterhens to witchcraft
- Ubud shopping guide
- Village trekking in Tana Toraja
- Weekend in Nusa Penida
- Yogya's student scene
- Laos (18)
- All stories
- A breeze through Luang Prabang
- Best budget rooms in Luang Prabang 2013
- Elephant trekking in Laos
- Exploring Laos' Bolaven Plateau
- Huay Xai to Pak Tha by slowboat
- Is Lao Airlines safe to fly?
- Laos' vanishing elephants
- Luang Prabang escape
- Luang Prabang for kids
- Muang Ngoi Escape
- Photos of Luang Prabang, Laos
- Pi Mai Lao in Luang Prabang: In 1999
- Southern Laos by scooter
- Temples in Luang Prabang
- The Gibbon Experience
- The Phonsavan adventure
- Vientiane's Chinatown
- What to buy in Luang Prabang, Laos
- Malaysia (10)
- Singapore (9)
- Thailand (80)
- All stories
- 10 Bangkok galleries worth a look-see
- 10 Thai treks aside from Chiang Mai
- 24 Hours in Bangkok: Sukhumvit to Siam Square
- 31 Thai islands
- 5 Southern Thai towns to lose time in
- A Thai homestay in Ayutthaya
- A weekend in Phra Phradaeng
- A weekend on Ko Samet, Thailand
- An extra day in Krabi
- Andaman Sea island hopper
- Are Thailand’s cheap guesthouses disappearing?
- Ayutthaya temple tour
- Bangkok craft villages
- Bangkok for art lovers
- Bangkok's Charoen Krung Road
- Bangkok's Thonburi: exploring the west side
- Brilliant Bangkok
- Chiang Dao getaway
- Chiang Mai's temples
- Corruption in Thailand
- Eating on the edge
- Elephant's World Kanchanaburi
- Exploring Lamphun
- Exploring the Lungs of Bangkok
- Far southern Thailand: Go or not?
- Five days in Khao Lak, Thailand
- Floating markets around Bangkok
- Great Thai food blogs
- Highlights of Chanthaburi province
- How to do Khao Yai National Park
- Khao San Road safety and scams
- Ko Mun Nork: a nearby paradise
- Ko Pha Ngan 7-day detox:Colonic fast
- Ko Pha Ngan's best beaches in 2013
- Ko Phi Phi on a budget
- Ko Tao for non-divers guide
- Ko Yao Noi or Ko Yao Yai?
- Ko Yao: the islands you're looking for
- Learning Muay Thai in Bangkok
- Motorcycling the Chiang Rai loop
- Narathiwat: residence of good people
- Navigating Bangkok: The BTS Skytrain
- Phuket by night
- Phuket for Kids
- Phuket heritage walk: Car parts to saris
- Phuket's secret beaches
- Planning around Thailand's civil unrest
- Roll your own Kanchanaburi
- Should I book for the full moon party?
- Should I cancel my Thai holiday? No.
- Should I cancel my trip to Thailand? No.
- Soi Thong Lo, Bangkok
- Sorting out Suvarnabhumi Airport
- Staying at a Thai monastery
- Thai islands for nature lovers
- Thai islands to lose yourself on
- Thai visa FAQ
- Thailand tsunami wrap
- Thailand's Full Moon Party
- Thailand's Mae Khlong market
- Thailand: Where to from here?
- The best beach on Ko Samui
- The best places to stay on Ko Kut, Thailand
- The bridge over the River Kwai festival
- The road to Sangkhlaburi
- The road to Sangkhom
- Travelling through north-east Thailand
- Trekking in Thailand
- Trisara -- decadent luxury at its best
- Two days in Kamphaeng Phet
- What are the alternatives to Bangkok?
- What is the best beach on Ko Tao?
- What is the best island in Thailand?
- What's a good beach on Ko Pha Ngan?
- What's a good beach on Ko Samui?
- Where to stay at Railay Bay, Thailand
- Where to stay in Sukhothai?
- Where to stay on Ko Samet, Thailand
- Which beach on Ko Samui?
- Which island in Trang?
- Vietnam (33)
- All stories
- A short break in Nha Trang
- A Weekend in Can Tho
- Being fed Fido: Eating dog in Vietnam
- Buying a touring motorbike in Vietnam
- Con Dao escape
- Do nothing and see the best of Hanoi
- Doing the DMZ from Hue
- Exploring Kon Tum
- Exploring Vietnam's Mekong Delta
- Great Hanoi cafes to chill out in
- Ha Long Bay conclusions
- Ha Long Bay for backpackers
- Ha Long Bay for budget-busters
- Ha Long Bay for flashpackers
- Ha Long Bay or Sapa?
- Hanoi escape
- Hanoi or Saigon?
- Hoi An -- Walking over the dragon
- How to do the Dien Bien Phu loop
- How to enjoy your time in Vietnam
- How to pick a good Ha Long Bay cruise
- Is the Hoi An culture tour worth it?
- Motorbike Vietnam's Central Highlands
- One day in Hanoi
- Responsible shopping and eating in Hoi An
- Saigon's top 10 cafés
- Sapa or Bac Ha?
- Saving Vietnam's bears
- Street food safety
- The DMZ: Traveller tactical briefing
- Travel tips for Tet in Vietnam 2013
- Two Wheels & Ricefields: A review
- Which is the best street food tour in Hanoi?
- Accommodation guides (21)
- All stories
- 2005 Top guesthouses in Bangkok
- 2005 Top guesthouses in Chiang Mai
- 2006 Top guesthouses in Hanoi
- 2006 Top guesthouses in Phnom Penh
- 2006 Top guesthouses on Ko Phi Phi
- 2006 Top Luang Prabang guesthouses
- 2008 Top Bangkok airport guesthouses
- 2008 Top Luang Prabang guesthouses
- 2008 Top spots on Phu Quoc Island
- 2009 Top guesthouses in Bangkok
- 2009 Top Phnom Penh guesthouses
- 2011 Best places to stay in Kuala Lumpur
- 2011 Best places to stay on Ko Phi Phi
- Best places to stay in Hanoi 2012
- Cheap Phuket guesthouses & hotels
- Five special hotels in Cambodia
- Ko Lipe's best budget guesthouses 2012
- The best hostels in Bangkok 2014
- The best places to stay on Ko Chang, Thailand
- The changing face of Khao San Road
- Where to stay on Koh Rong Samloem
- Travel with kids (7)
- Opinion & advice (16)
- All stories
- 10 reasons to do an adventure tour
- 10 reasons to travel independently
- A year's worth of travel for 2013
- Beach hideaways in Asia
- Christmas and New Years in Southeast Asia
- Do I need reservations for my holiday?
- Evil man of Krabi
- Fifteen tips for a great holiday in Asia
- Getting a cheap airfare to Asia
- Hotels should never charge extra for WiFi
- Long distance buses in Southeast Asia
- Mass tourism in Southeast Asia
- Nine Asian upcountry hideaways
- Planning a Gap Year? Some advice.
- Ten Southeast Asian trips for 2008
- Ten thoughts on ten years with Travelfish
- How do I? (11)
- All stories
- Bangkok to Ko Samui, Pha Ngan & Tao
- Bangkok to Siem Reap
- Catching a train in Thailand
- Catching a train in Vietnam
- Cheap flights with Discovery Airpass
- Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang
- Crossing the Cambodia Laos border
- Ko Chang to Phu Quoc Island
- Siem Reap to Ko Chang
- Stops between Bangkok & Chiang Mai
- Visa run from Thailand to Burma
- Cycling Asia (13)
- All stories
- 24 hours in Bangkok
- An Angkor cycling guide
- An introduction
- Battambang, bamboo trains & guides
- Confessions of a "cheating cyclist"
- Cycles of all sorts
- Ha Long Bay independently
- Ko Samet Vs Pattaya
- Muay Thai night
- Phonsavan and Luang Prabang
- The hills of Vietnam
- The road less travelled
- Tubing in Vang Vieng
- Health and safety (6)
- Money and finance (4)
- Diving guides (6)
- Photo essay (3)
- Guest blog (2)
- General (15)
- All stories
- 10 Christmas days in Asia we're yet to have
- 10 dumb things I've done while travelling
- 34 ways to travel greener
- Asian animal experiences
- Call me Mr Massage Magic
- Chefs Without Borders
- Flying is fun!
- Mr Golden
- On being a travel writer
- Teaching ESL in Asia
- The 211 country honeymoon
- The Boxing Day Tsunami: 5 years on.
- To Teach or Not to Teach
- Travel writing scholarship 2012
- Tuk to the Road Charity ride
- Book reviews (5)
- Interviews (8)
- Explore Bangkok by BTS (18)
- All stories
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ari
- Bangkok by skytrain: Asok
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chid Lom
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chong Nonsi
- Bangkok by skytrain: Mo Chit
- Bangkok by skytrain: National Stadium
- Bangkok by skytrain: On Nut
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phaya Thai
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phloen Chit
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phrom Phong
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchadamri
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchathewi
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sala Daeng (S2)
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sanam Pao
- Bangkok by skytrain: Saphan Taksin
- Bangkok by skytrain: Siam
- Bangkok by skytrain: Surasak
- Bangkok by skytrain: Thong Lor
Sign up for Travelfish Burp!
Our weekly wrap on Southeast Asian travel.
Click here to see a recent newsletter.