Where to party and dine in stunning Koh Tao
A world-class diving destination, Koh Tao also doubles as a haven for party animals.
Crowned as one of the world’s best diving sites and one of 'the best islands in the world' by Tripadvisor's 2014 Travelers' Choice Awards, Koh Tao has also emerged as a party island, rivalling its neighbour Koh Phangan and even Bangkokians’ all-time favorite, Koh Samed. And why not? Despite the prevalence of 7-Elevens, the island still manages to offer just the right balance of nature and shenanigans. So, even if you’re not interested in getting your PADI certificate, there are still plenty of nocturnal happenings on land and great beaches to recover on the next day.
Situated on the West Coast, Sairee Beach boasts the longest stretch of sand, set against a scenic bay. Being the island’s epicentre of dining and nightlife and everything else in between, you don’t need to walk far to find your entertainment. Days can easily be spent just lazing about, doing yoga or island hopping for the more outdoorsy among us. We prefer chilling at the ultra cool New Heaven Café (Sairee Beach Rd., 077-456-554), which serves arguably the best espressos on the island, and has free Wi-Fi to boot. Eateries are plentiful and besides the ubiquitous seafood BBQs, Barracuda Restaurant & Bar (9/9 Moo 1, Sairee Beach, 080-146-3267. www.barracudakohtao.com) takes things up a notch or two with an inventive fusion menu. Can’t decide what to order? Opt for their seafood platter (B395/person), a smorgasbord of luscious items like baked mussels and steamed whole snapper stuffed with Thai herbs. Wash it down with a glass of white (B120) or a tasty passion fruit mojito (B160). Head there during 4pm-8pm for the happy hour where all appetizers are reduced to B99. Other notable dining options include the pizza-centric Portobello Bistro (Sairee Beach, 077-456-029. www.portobellokohtao.com).
Things don’t really get going until very late here so start off easy by knocking back a few beers and mingle with the backpackers at Chopper’s Bar & Grill (077-456-641. www.choppers-kohtao.com. Open daily 9am-late), a no-frills pub with nightly live music and occasional broadcast of major sporting events. Another way to start your evening is to visit to The Queens Cabaret (open daily 7pm-12am, free entry). Unlike its Bangkok counterparts, the drag shows here are fresh and up-to-date and they change from night to night.
Rather chill out? Head down to beachfront Fizz Beach Lounge (086-278-7319. Open from 11-2am. www.facebook.com/fizz.beachlounge) to catch the sunset while bobbing along to sexy down-tempo tunes on giant beanbags. The real party is right next door at Lotus Bar (087-069-6078. Open daily 5pm-late. www.tonylotusbar.com). Grab a bucket, find a spot on the beach where you can catch a fire-dancing show and chat up a beautiful stranger. Despite being the most popular joint on the island, Lotus Bar does die down after 3am. The insatiable make their way south to places like Fishbowl (www.facebook.com/fishbowlbeachbar) where merry-making continues until the crack of dawn. Note that occasionally there will be a big party at one of the inland clubs, most notably at The Castle (between Mae Haad and Chalok Baan Kao. www.thecastlekohtao.com), a massive three-level funhouse complete with an open-air dancefloor and viewing balcony.
BEST TIME TO GO
Generally from late Jan to Sep. Avoid going during Oct-Nov unless you like wind and rain.
HOW TO GET THERE
By bus: Cut the hassles and opt for Lomprayah (154 Rambuttri Rd., 02-629-2569-70. Open daily 10am-midnight. www.lomprayah.com) which combines both bus and speedboat services for a smoother journey. The air-con buses leave twice a day from Rambuttri: in the morning at 6am (arriving on the island at 2:45pm, B1,050), and in the evening at 9pm (arriving at 8:45am the following morning, B1,050). The whole trip takes about 11 hours (nine hours on the bus and two on the boat). Note: these prices do not apply to long holidays, so double check before booking. When getting off the ferry, tell the driver you’re heading to Sairee Beach. Make sure to wait around for more fellow passengers, though, so the cost (B200) can be split.
By plane: Solar Air (www.solarair.co.th) operates daily from Don Muang Airport to Chumporn (9:45-11am) and costs B2,900 for a one-way ticket. We recommend booking through Lomprayah (www.lomprayah.com) where you also get the speedboat service thrown in for the same price.
WHERE TO STAY
There’s no shortage of choices on Koh Tao. On a budget? Try Blue Wind Bakery and Resort (14/2 Moo 1, Baan Haad Sairee, 077-457-015. firstname.lastname@example.org), a series of no-frills bungalows with rates starting from B350-B1,400. Breakfast is not included but they do have a decent array of baked goods at their beachfront restaurant. The resort also houses Shambhala Yoga (084-440-6755) if you’re so inclined. More swanky options include Koh Tao Cabana Hotel (16 Moo 1, Baan Haad Sairee, 077-456-505. http://kohtaocabana.com), a gorgeous hillside resort fitted with pool villas and stunning views—perfect for lovebirds. Rates start from B2,400 for a cottage tree top to B12,000 for a cottage pool villa (the prices rise to B3,400 and B16,000 respectively during high season).
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