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
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