A selection of low key spots
Ko Tao’s third longest beach offers several relaxing sea-view restaurants along with a solid clutch of local-style options on the inland road through Chalok Ban Kao village.
Set on stilts over the sea, Taraporn Restaurant beckons you to grab a seat on a floor cushion – and you might feel guilty not doing so as it’s necessary to walk through the eatery if going to or from the far western corner of Chalok Ban Kao and the west-coast trail up to Mae Haad. Thai curries are decent, smoothies are great and it’s hard to go wrong with a brick-oven pizza while lounging on a floor cushion on stilts over the bay. Next to the nearby Alvaro Diving office, the Pirate Bar also looked like a fun place to lounge with a beer or cocktail among the eclectic decor set out on the sand.
Just inland from the beach, Chalok Ban Kao village hosts the second, smaller location of Cappuccino, an excellent option for breakfast and lunch. The nearby I Love Salad was recommended to us as a vegetarian option with a large salad bar and meatless options, including a beetroot burger.
For local-style Thai food, continue inland and you’ll pass a khao mok gai spot serving Thai-Muslim roasted chicken on rice cooked with turmeric – the sign along the road says “Yellow Rice”. A couple of no-frills spots serve som tam and other Isaan salads around here as well. Further north, the friendly women at Raan Pa-Waeo cooked us up a tasty and spicy plate of gaeng ped muu, a red curry with pork and bamboo shoots. Expect to pay around 60 to 100 baht for a filling plate at any of these local-style joints.
Another option for Thai food, also on the road between Chalok Ban Kao and Mae Haad, is Tukta – you'll see it perched up on your right when heading towards Mae Haad. While the setting isn't much, and there is no ocean view (if going for dinner, you will need mosquito repellant in the evenings), the Thai food is solid and if you specify you want it spicy, the friendly owner will most certainly deliver the goods.
There isn’t a whole lot of nightlife on Chalok Ban Kao, but those looking for a drink with a view and a very, very mellow atmosphere could head up to High Bar, accessed by a road running steeply uphill across from Big Fish Resort.
I Love Salad: Open for breakfast and lunch; T: (087) 088 6319
Raan Pa-Waeo: Near the large gas station on the inland road between Chalok Ban Kao and Mae Haad (look for a noodle cart set up near an open-sided restaurant on a little hill); open 17:00-21:00
Taraporn Restaurant: East end of Chalok Ban Kao; open for lunch and dinner
David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.