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
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!
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!
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.
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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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!