Traveling Kids in Koh Tao

Koh Tao (also Ko Tao, เกาะเต่า in Thai «Turtle Island») is an island of the Chumphon Archipelago, close to the occidental shore of the Gulf of Thailand. It’s about 21 km² and it belongs to the Surat Thani Province.

Out of the famous trio, part of the Thai Banana Pancake Trail (Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, and Koh Samui), this is the smallest gem and traveling there with kids can be heaven.

Originally a prison, the island now has a tourist-centered economy, mostly depending on scuba diving schools and PADI certification facilities. If you want to experience some bubble training, this is a must-go place in Thailand.

It is possible to schedule activities for the very expert and for first time divers, even children get their share (older than nine).


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FAQs about Koh Tao, Thailand

How to get to Koh Tao, Thailand?

It’s possible to arrive by plane; there is no airport on the island but it is connected to the airports of Koh Samui, Surat Thani and Chumphon by a network of buses and high-speed catamarans. Or you can do as we did: take the night train from Bangkok and have fun!

Where to stay in Koh Tao?

Accommodation fits almost all budgets, from cheap hostels to standard bungalows with sea view, as well as luxury resorts. It is up to you.
I must say, though, this was the island were getting a good deal was tougher. We got a wonderful agreement online with a seafront medium-range resort. The rooms were immense, the wi-fi quality was outstanding. All the facilities are fantastic, the breakfast quite good as well.
Before booking, I knew the beach access was a bit of a rocky one, but I thought it was still worth it, there was a beautiful wide beach only 200 meters away. I was right, our kids were delighted!

sea and palm trees Koh Tao island, Thailand
The view from our room.

About Koh Tao

Tao means Turtle. For me, it means Paradise. In full honesty, I clearly remember spending time trying to make up my mind on how to divide the time between these three islands… I searched, asked, had virtual conversations with travelers and expats. Everyone had an opinion and nobody offered us a convincing argument to book a longer stay in Koh Tao.

There were long-time Thailand lovers who urged us to only visit Samui, they argued it concentrates the best of every island. This argument just did not feel right (if that’s true, it must also concentrate the worst, mustn’t it?).

For some reason, my idea about Samui was that it had become a destination too beaten by mass tourism (the time would prove me right).

Other Thai-lovers, instead, played on team Phangan: Fullmooners, Halfmooners, No-mooners agreed: Koh Phangan offered both extreme fun and relaxation. A pity that both options were literally offered on opposite geographical extremes of the island.

Traveling Kids in Koh Tao. Amazing Koh Tao, Thailand.
Traveling Kids.

Our Koh Tao experience with kids

I went with my instincts. A smaller island had a higher appeal on us, and higher risk as well if it was boring. I planned our itinerary the opposite way most travelers do. Instead of starting from Samui with a train arriving at Surat Thani, we would travel to Chumphon, and there catch a ferry to Koh Tao.

This place was everything, except boring!

More days in Koh Tao meant great comfort options to work both on my blog and my translations (no other island visited after Koh Tao offered us so many stable free wi-fi points, not even the massive Koh Samui!).

Koh Tao meant perfect weather, sea excursions, snorkeling with kids and sailing around the island.

Koh Tao was entire days spent on beaches made of wonderfully white, soft sand, connecting with nature, listening to exotic birds singing, watching the soothing movements of waves from eight in the morning till nine in the evening, and even later.

Children would leave the sea… way after the sun had gone down. It was arriving on the beach and never leaving, just being there for good. Getting ready to take the one (hundred) picture of the perfect sunset the Turtle has to offer.

Things to do in Koh Tao with kids

The nightlife was simple, just made of little bars and restaurants on the beach, with exceptional Thai fragrances and tastes. Sweet and sour, spicy wonders you can only dream of if you’ve never tried them before. And a Singha beer… always.

This stay also allowed us to meet people from Spain (mostly divers) and from England (the guy who sold us the snorkeling equipment), people happy to help you in exchange of a smile, who have lived on the island for long years.

By listening to their stories we could learn much the local culture from a different perspective as well.

Staying there was also the possibility to hire a private longtail boat for a very small fee and sail around.

You can normally arrange this with agencies, but in that case, you have to adapt yourself to their schedule and, even if you found colorful fish to play with (you will!), when it’s time to go… you must go.

Instead, if you go to the pier early in the morning, you will be approached by many boat sailors. Get your own deal.

We wanted something child-friendly. We didn’t care much about stopping on every single touristic spot. I wanted some safe open water experience for my kids and a quick visit to Nangyuan.

Finally, we wanted some sandy, empty, calm beach (we spontaneously decided to stop on a desert area at the beginning of Sairee beach just but saying There, there, can you take us there? Mr. Sailorman did!)

The sea ride was a heavy dance as it was a bit windy, we had our life jackets on as well as lots of wet fun! It was really a relaxing experience.

I know, I still have to write my Koh Phangan and my Koh Samui so that you can get to a conclusion; however, if I had to decide again, the Turtle would come first. It was the place that better answered our expectations. It was the place that most resembled my idea of Paradise.

Next up, we move to Koh Phangan, there you can get total madness (Haad Rin) or total relax (Bottle Beach)… what do you think we are up to?

A piece of advice. When booking a room (anywhere!) use Google maps combined with the satellite view, this way you will know where you’re heading to!

If you want some more detailed information about where we stayed, get in touch!

What’s your idea of Paradise? Relax or Adventure?
Let me know in the comments below!

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Gabi Ancarola | The Tiny Book

About the Author

Hola! I’m Gabi. Welcome to The Tiny Book – Crete Travel Blog! I moved to Crete to explore the island all year round. I love taking pictures and driving on the mountain roads of Crete. I’m a beach freak and on this island I’ve found heaven on earth!

12 thoughts on “Traveling Kids in Koh Tao”

  1. Hi there,

    I really enjoyed reading your blog and so glad you enjoyed your stay on Koh Tao. I totally agree, the train journey is actually really pleasant and I usually manage to do it on my own with a 10 year old and a toddler. You can, however, opt to fly from Bangkok to Surrathani or Chumphon at a pretty reasonable price (not much more than the train tbh) with NOK air. Flying from Bangkok to Samui can be incredibly expensive, around 5000 baht per person one way, so this can really stretch the budget!! I’m currently putting together a blog about Koh Tao with family activities, childcare, babysitting, koh tao kids camp, child-friendly restaurants, what to bring with babies and children, where to buy baby supplies, where to stay with kids, Kids Christmas party etc. I’ve been living on Koh Tao for around 14 years and have raised 2 boys here. Koh Tao has changed so much over the years but has become a great family holiday destination..

    Reply
    • Whenever we can savor the real country and travel by means different prom planes we certainly do it. Thanks for your comment. If you want to share links in public, please contact us in private.

      Reply
  2. Hi there! Thanks for sharing your hotel name and experience 🙂 We’re landing in Surat Thani in February 2018 (yeah, long way off) with a then-10 month old baby. Do you think the boat ride is ok for such a small one? And with such a young one, would you still recommend Tao over Samui? I’ve lived 3 years in Chiang Mai but don’t know anything about the islands as it felt too touristy for me ?

    Reply
    • Hi Gaelle,

      Sorry for the delay in my reply. I wonder what ride are you talking about? Do you mean the boat ride between the islands (in which case I do not feel they are too much for a baby) or the train? The train might be long, but if your kid already sleeps regular hours or has no problem sleeping at night, I do not think it might be hard On the contrary, inside the cabin you get all the comforts and privacy you need for a quiet ride. I love Koh Tao much more than Samui, I find it more peaceful and great for kids. I don’t think K.Tao has problems as far as essentials for kids is concerned. I think it won’t be hard to get diapers, food or other things children can’t do without. Samui is much bigger, and it might be easier for you to cope with daily needs… I would not trade Tao for Samui in a million years… but that’s just my personal opinion. I recommend you talk with as many travel moms as you can, it will give you a better idea of what to expect. That’s what I would do, but in any case, my instinct would guide me to chose one place or the other.

      Reply
  3. Hi Gabi,
    Loved your post thank you!
    Indeed I went to Koh Tao over 10 years ago but then it was a very roots and diving only destination. I would like to return with my children aged 8 and 11, any times especially on where you stayed are most welcome!

    Reply
    • Dear Aga,

      Thanks for your feedback. I am happy you found this useful. The hotel we stayed in is called Clearview, here’s the link to its page on Booking.com. Please do let me know what else you might need in order to help you have a great holiday on the island. Feel free to send me a direct mesg to gabi[at]thetinybook.com and I’ll be happy to help you.

      Reply
  4. hi we are planning on going to ko tao with our 3 and 5 year old soon – please let me know which beach and hotel you stayed at – sairee beach? thanks so much

    Reply
  5. It looks stunning and I would love more info on the hotel you used. Agree on Samui, I haven’t been for over 10 years but it wasn’t for me back then and I guess its even more commercial now.

    Reply
    • Sure! I’ll be happy to e-mail you in private to give you more info. About Samui: yes, it was the only place where immediately after arrival Thai magic seemed gone for good. Taxis were expensive, or wouldn’t help you, legendary Thai smiles were plain legend… and so on. The weather didn’t help us that much either to be honest, but there was some luck for Samui too! We found a guy (I’ll be soon posting about this) who was the nicest, sweetest person of all. He gave us fantastic tours of the island, took us to traditional (non touristic) restaurants, and even made friends with our kids. He made us discover the real “Thainess” in Samui and, if you ever change your mind and decide to visit, do remind me to give you his phone number, he will take you everywhere with his 4×4 for half the price and with an authentic smile. His name? Dream… And I said it all.

      Gabi

      Reply

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