Thailand has a very special place in our hearts. And Koh Tao is our favorite island there. So needless to say we love, Koh Tao. The name means “Turtle Island” and true to it’s moniker there are still some giant turtles living around the coves of the island. “Discovered” in the early 1980’s this oasis is worth a visit and soon. Read on to find out why Koh Tao is our Favorite Island in Thailand.
We arrived on Koh Tao by Lomprayah ferry from Koh Samui. The journey is quite painless even though I am prone to getting sea sick. The vessel was quite large and glided through the water seamlessly. We were picked up by our hotel. Most hotels on the island provide free transport to and from the ferry. There is no airport.
The Aminjirah hotel is quite funky and set on the side of a cliff overlooking the stunning northwest coast line and Nang Yuan Island. The rooms are quite basic, but have all the necessities. I recommend upgrading to an ocean view room. The view from the balcony and the room is beautiful and worth the few dollars.
The infinity pool is a lot of fun with its colorful floating beanbags that 20 somethings sunbathe on (as did I shamelessly). Very fun young vibe in this hotel. I would highly recommend getting the short boat ride to Nang Yuan Island for snorkeling and sunbathing.
Our next hotel on the island was the Jamahkiri resort situated at the other end of the island on Shark Bay. This resort built by Belgians about 15 years ago is truly stunning. We booked it by searching for the best portal by going on www.cashbackmonitor.com which ended up being www.topcashback.com (5% back) and entered hotels.com through it (10th night is free). We paid for the hotel using our Citi Prestige Mastercard (which gives you the 4th night free).
Using all of these tools this 5 star resort with an ocean view room, free wifi and free breakfast broke down to $61/night. The private beach offers snorkeling with reef sharks and huge turtles as well as many beautiful and colorful fish. The pool overlooking the ocean, the fitness room and other amenities were fabulous. Jamahkiri’s reef made it our favorite place on the island. It also contributed to Koh Tao being our favorite island in Thailand.
You are a bit isolated in Shark Bay – the free hotel shuttle to the ferry dock allows a quick resupply of staples. And if you want to avoid the hotel restaurant prices, the Eagle View is a lovely family run restaurant a mere 3 minute walk (all up hill) from the hotel. The prices are reasonable and the view is spectacular – if you are willing to wait a while for your meal.
Venturing out, there are some fantastic vegan and vegetarian options on the island:
Swimming with Giant Turtles
Jahmakiri has a private beach leading out to some stunning reefs. As we swam looking at the beautiful colorful fish around us, Rob noticed a giant turtle. He was hanging with us. I think I held my breath for a record few minutes worried that any motion would scare him off. But no, George (as we later found out his name) just wanted to hang out with us. He stayed with us for over an hour. It was such a privilege to be in his company. And we were alone. There were no other swimmers in the water making our experience absolutely magical.
The next day we tried to recreate the moment and were lucky to swim with one of George’s compadres. This was a smaller turtle that did not want to stick around as long as George. Yet we were grateful for every second of the experience.
Koh Tao is a small island with cozy places to stay and eat. There are no chain hotels or eateries. We loved that. The water is crystal clear and clean. The giant turtles are still there. I don’t know for how long… It was a privilege to be there and I hope you get a chance to swim with giant turtles on Koh Tao as well.
To read about our favorite beach in Phuket please go here.