Beach bars and grazing
While much of Sairee Beach is lined with beach bars, cafes and restaurants, the bulk of the "scene" is towards the centre of the beach, where the beachside pathway takes a hard right just behind Silver Sand Resort. From here it runs back off the beach till it hits the main road forming a four way intersection which is the heart of Sairee Village.
It is in the village (that's a misnomer if there was ever one) that's you'll find the widest range of eateries. There are two parallel laneways to the main one running back from the beach, also stuffed with bars and restaurants, and, on the far side of the main road, on the north side of the road running away from the beach is Nay Pon Road walking street, which itself is made up of a couple of lanes of further food options.
For western style breakfast of baked goods and coffee, it is really difficult to go past Indie Cafe, which was pretty much our morning staple. Excellent coffee and fresh croissants come recommended and we liked the shared bench seating which was good for chatting to other travellers. Also decent is New Heaven just around the corner, while the once excellent Blue Wind should be avoided as they've really dropped the ball.
As far as lunching went, if you're after Thai, be prepared to lower your expectations somewhat. Blue Chair came highly recommended from travellers, and while we wouldn't be quite so over the top in our recommendation, it was a good and affordable meal. Also in the area, right on the main road, Su Chilli has the atmosphere (and the custom) of a busy bus station, but the northeastern salad we had here surprised. We're not joking when we say this place gets busy.
Another option is diagonally across the road, upstairs downstairs Tong Thai Food. Down the Sairee Village road, near Blue Chair, is 995 Roast Duck, which is about as close as you're going to get to a real duck noodle joint on Ko Tao. None of these were great, but if you're after a simple Thai meal, you could do far worse. They're also all open for dinner.
You came to Ko Tao for Japanese right? You did? Well that's good, as Oishi Kaiso Sushi will work for you. It is small though, so get in early or be prepared to wait. A block south of here is Portobello, which we didn't try this trip, but it is a long running favourite of one of our previous Ko Tao writers for their Mediterranean fare.
Despite the name, nearby Chaba Tapas does Thai along with western standards like burgers and pasta. French-Thai run, you can make your own salads here choosing from a selection of ingredients. Open for lunch and dinner.
If you're looking for something more upmarket, two options that stood out were Barracuda (two branches, one in the village, the other on Nay Pon) and, on the main road, Shalimar for your slightly fancier Indian needs.
Nay Pon Road is a bit of a curious set-up with a bunch of eateries – we saw everything from a tequila bar to pizza joints, but it still seemed to be finding its feet as many of the businesses were shuttered. It is worth a wander through to see what is in the offing though.
If you'd rather be dining on the beach, we liked Blue Water a lot – both for the craft beers, but also for the expansive menu. While the service was friendly but oh so slow, the excellent beachside location more than compensated. Another nearby option is Fizz Beach Lounge – good tunes and a great beachside platform to relax on. For something more back to basics, O-Chai Bar in front of the same named guesthouse, does a good basic beach bar vibe.
Also on the beach, well, overlooking it, Rim Lae is attached to Koh Tao Cabana at the far northern end of Sairee Beach and offers the best down the beach views. Prices are a little high, though not so unreasonable once you take into account the room rates here. We had some very good Thai food here, but it is also a good spot just to come for a cold drink in the late afternoon. Professional and friendly staff.
When the sun sets and you feel like a drink, Chopper Bar is pretty much the epicentre of where things get going. An all hours sports bar and pub, screening all manner of sports events – at all hours – it is also where the bar crawl tours kick off on Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights. It is a fun raucous spot, and easy to meet others. Down on the beach, the party centres around In Touch, Maya Beach Club and AC Two Bar three beach bars that run along the beach one after another – be warned that if you're staying in this area and actually plan to sleep, you'll need earplugs.
As is always the case, common sense rules prevail – don't leave your drink unattended, at least try to stay in control, and watch out for the buckets – they sneak up on you and you'll get very drunk very fast. Need it be said, when smashed, don't ride your scooter home.
995 Roast Duck Sairee Village Daily 09:00 - 21:00
AC Bar Two, In Touch and Maya Beach Club Sairee Beach T: (077) 456 195
Barracuda Sairee Village T: (080) 146 3267 www.barracudakohtao.com
Blue Chair Sairee Village T: (098) 448 4959 Daily 09:00-24:00
Blue Water Sairee Beach T: (098) 448 4959 bluewaterestaurant.wordpress.com/
Chaba Tapas Sairee Village T: (077) 456 422 Daily 12:00 - 22:00 www.facebook.com/Chaba-Tapas-Restaurant-Bar-509203372434890/
Chopper Bar Sairee Village T: (077) 456 641 choppers-kohtao.com/
Fizz Beach Lounge Sairee Beach T: (086) 278 7319 www.facebook.com/fizz.beachlounge
Indie Cafe Sairee Village T: (098) 048 7487 www.indiekohtao.com/
New Heavan Cafe Sairee Village T: (077) 456 554
O-Chai Bar Sairee Beach
Oishi Kaiso Sushi Sairee Village Daily 12:00 - 23:00
Portobello Sairee Village Daily 15:00 - 23:00 portobellokohtao.com/
Rim Lae Sairee Beach T: (077) 456 505 kohtaocabana.com/rimlae/index.php
Shalimar Sairee Village T: (089) 217 7220
Su Chilli Sairee Village
Tong Thai Food Sairee Village
Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer, freelancing and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.