Looking for a small-scale tropical paradise? You might just have found it. Diminutive enough to barely even register as a spec amongst the Gulf Of Thailand, Koh Tao is famed for its diving, and at some times of year is so focused on the underwater world around it that it can be hard to find accommodation without signing up to a diving course. It’s difficult to argue, though, that the underwater scenery’s not worth it.
When you’re not marvelling at the expansive selection of coral form in amongst it you’ll probably be looking down from above. Snorkelling is the other major draw of the island, and includes some hair-raising trips with white-tipped reef sharks. More sedate experiences can be had off some of the more remote beaches, or within a stones throw of the fantastic hut accommodation found around the side of the major beach.
Abseiling and climbing are getting and increasing foothold in amongst the rocks of Koh Tao, too, while there’s a slowly growing business focusing on the more luxurious side of travel, despite the mainstays still being strictly in the backpacker mould. All the staples are here: Israeli restaurants, beach-side cocktail bars and great stretches of sand littered with fishing boats and overhung by palm trees. Grabbing an ATV and heading to the other side of the island to explore the less popular beaches is always a great pastime, as is soaking up the vibe in one of the hilltop restaurants for a quick dose of luxury.
Koh Tao is often included as part of an island hopping trip taking in Koh Samui and the party capital Koh Pha Ngan, and is doubtless one of the most beautiful spots in Thailand, as well as a great spot for taking a break from the relentless party culture elsewhere. This particular island has its buckets and all-night bars, too, but it’s the quiet beaches, water-sport focus and gentle pace of life that keeps Koh Tao addicts – and even that selection of working tourists who never leave – hooked.