Thai Islands | Ko Samui, Koh Phangan & Koh Tao 🏝️

After many busy days of tours, sightseeing, and soaking in the sights of busy cities Bangkok and Chiang Mai, we headed to the islands for the more relaxing part of our vacation. I was ready to unplug on the beach with my book and a beer, and we had a great time getting a taste of the different islands in the Gulf of Thailand.

We took Bangkok Airways from Chiang Mai to Ko Samui, then jumped on a ferry straight away to Koh Phangan. This flight was more expensive than if we were to connect through Bangkok, but being short on time made it worth it to shell out the extra money for a direct flight from Chiang Mai to the islands.

Koh Phangan Accommodation

After disembarking from the ferry, we were greeted by taxi scooter drives who crammed our luggage on their bikes, gave us helmets, and zipped us to our accommodation, the TropiCoco Beach Resort. This resort was nice, a bit too family-oriented for my tastes, but it was right on the beach, had a beautiful pool and lounge area, and an on-site restaurant and bar. It was a great place for relaxing and unplugging after being on-the-go in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

Haad Yao Beach

Our resort in Koh Phangan was right on Haad Yao beach, a beautiful stretch of sand with various hotels and resorts dotting the shoreline. The waters were calm, and it was a very family-friendly area which I was surprised by. The sunset over the beach was stunning, even with the hazy skies, and it was super relaxing to sit in the beach chairs, read, and soak up the sun for a few hours.

Bottle Beach Hike & Boat Trip

This hike is not for the faint of heart! I felt very misled, thinking that it would be about an hour walk through some jungle and some exposed parts, but it took closer to 3 hours and it was hot, treacherous terrain. We went up and down elevation, scrambling up rocks and using trees and roots to support ourselves for many parts of the climb. The hiking trail is marked by plastic bottles, some attached to trees by ropes, others upside down on branches. I didn’t really like this as it just looks like litter along the trail, but I guess that is how “Bottle Beach” has its namesake. Definitely bring a lot of water, sunscreen, and eat before you embark on this trek. It’s not a quick hike and it was really quiet when we went — barely any other hikers were out on the trail.

Thankfully, once we arrived to the beach, we were greeted by two restaurants. After hours of hiking in the hot sun and through the jungle, food and fluids were desperately needed. We chugged liters of water and then ordered some Chang and food (I had a delicious Pad Thai) to refuel. Without these restaurants I am not sure if we would have made it!

After eating and drinking, we changed into our swimsuits to wash away the sweat, dirt, and bugs from the hike in the water. It was a refreshing swim, and the beach truly was beautiful and quiet. I would not recommend the hike if you have small children or are not in good shape, but if that is the case, no worries! You can still access the beach by boat, or if you do the hike and don’t want to walk back (we certainly didn’t) you can take the long boat back to a resort that has access roads.

Bubba’s Roastery

Right across the road from TropiCoco resort, Bubba’s Roastery is a delicious coffee shop and cafe, serving great western breakfast options. We stopped here before our Bottle Beach hike, and I am so glad we did since the hike was unbelievably treacherous and took way longer than expected. I indulged in a full English breakfast, and it was everything I could have hoped for. The coffee was also amazing.

Pura Vida Cafe

Just down the street from Tropicoco Beach Resort was Pura Vida Cafe, a hippie spot for breakfast. Here we had some delicious avocado toast with smoked salmon and tomatoes, as well as some great iced coffee.

Coco Locco  

Admittedly, we were not very adventurous in searching for food upon arriving in the islands. Both nights we were at Tropicoco, we ate dinner at the hotel in the beachfront restaurant, Coco Locco. After so much Thai food in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, we took a little break and indulged in pizza and pasta, which were still delicious.

Overall, our time in Koh Phangan was mostly relaxing. We weren’t here during a full moon, so we didn’t experience the “Full Moon Party” that attracts many backpackers and tourists looking to get wild on the beach. It was much more relaxing, but we still got in a solid workout with our Bottle Beach hike day.

Ko Tao

After a two-hour ferry from Koh Phangan, we arrived in Ko Tao and checked into our resort that would be our home for the next three days. We stayed at Simple Life Cliff View Hotel, which sits right on the edge of Sairee Beach. It had beautiful pools, a comfortable bed, a large bathroom, and breakfast included. They also had a laundry service which was perfect for refreshing our suitcases after many days of sweating into our clothes.

Getting Around Koh Tao

Renting a scooter is a must when in Koh Tao. Without it, you’re so much more limited on what you can see. The one issue we ran into was that a large majority of the available bikes were larger motorcycles and more powerful bikes that were intimidating and beyond the range of our driving skills. Thankfully, we did eventually find a shop that had a few Honda Scoopy scooters available, and we rented them for a few days to cruise around the island. Always wear your helmet, drive carefully and be aware of other drivers on the road at all times.

Walk Sairee Beach

This beautiful stretch of beach in Koh Tao is a lively place, with tons of restaurants and bars lining the shoreline. It’s a backpacker and traveler haven, with tons of people out and about at all times. There are spots with beach volleyball, fire dancers, live music, and more. The waters were super warm and calm too, and right by where our hotel was, you could walk in and snorkel over a coral reef within seconds.

Freedom Private Beach  

Located at the south tip of Koh Tao, this private beach is accessible by paying a small park fee, where you can enjoy a beautiful beach with lounge chairs as well as drinks at the waterfront restaurant. It’s in the same area as the John Suwan viewpoint, which is at the top of many must-do lists for Koh Tao.

Pura Vida Diving

If you’re a certified diver, or want to become one, scuba diving in Koh Tao is a must. There are many incredible dive companies and it’s a popular destination for people looking to earn certifications or spend significant time under the sea. There are incredible reefs, sunken ships, and other dive sites just waiting to be explored, and dive packages are very affordable. Pura Vida Diving was the company I went with for my half day of diving, and I was very pleased with the experience. They had good equipment, friendly instructors, and took us to some awesome dive sites. It’s run by a lot of divemasters from Spain, so if Spanish is your first language, this would be the dive company I would recommend in Koh Tao.

Restaurants & Bars in Koh Tao

995 Roasted Duck

This restaurant was recommended as a “do-not-miss” spot, and I am so glad we didn’t skip it, in fact, we ate here twice! The roasted duck served in a spicy broth over noodles was to die for; this place is easily one of the best restaurants on Koh Tao. It’s a no-frills establishment on a busy road, serving delicious roasted duck entrees. Do not skip this restaurant!


This beachfront restaurant right by our hotel on Sairee Beach was a gem! It had great food and drinks and lovely waterfront views. I was surprised to see that Flowers had a low rating on Google after we had sat down, but I think it must have changed management or just got unlucky with picky travelers because everything we ate here was amazing, and they also had great cocktails and nice servers. Get the whole fried snapper — you won’t regret it.

Blue Heaven

We spent almost a whole day scootering around Koh Tao, exploring different backroads and cliffside stops for beautiful views. The sun was hot and beating down on us, so at one point we decided to stop for a cool drink to refresh. Blue Heaven sits on top of a cliff overlooking a beautiful bay. I had a Thai iced tea and we just relaxed in the shade while soaking up the views. The food here looked great too, and it’s also a hotel.

Charcoal Bay

This beachfront restaurant and bar had an amazing happy hour with delicious cocktails and beautiful appetizers. We went here twice to watch the sunset and relax. Charcoal Bay is on Sairee Beach, so we could walk there from our hotel on the sand which was lovely. It had a more upscale feel than some of the other bars, serving mostly western cuisine. We only had happy hour drinks here, but I can safely confirm they were all great.

Ko Samui 

Getting back to Ko Samui from Koh Tao was a bit rough. We were late to book a ferry ticket (book yours in advance!) so we got stuck on the long ferry with Songserm instead of the express option, so it took about 4 hours. The sea was rough and many people had horrible nausea during most of the journey. The staff passed out motion sickness bags which was helpful, but just be prepared for an intense trip if you get sick easily. Bring Dramamine and book the fast ferry ahead of time so it doesn’t sell out!

Once in Ko Samui, we took a taxi to our final stay in the islands, Coral Cliff Beach Resort. It was a nice resort, fine for one night, but it was not close to anything, so I wouldn’t recommend staying here for an extended period of time unless you have a scooter to get around. The food at the on-site restaurant was good, the drinks were good, and it was very quiet, making it a relaxing final night in the islands before heading back to Bangkok.

And that was our vacation in the islands! If I were to do it again, I think I would skip Koh Phangan and just do Ko Samui and Ko Tao, since Ko Samui is the “access point” and it’s a larger island with more to do, while Ko Tao is the tiny, charming island with amazing scuba diving and a hippie feel. It was still amazing and I enjoyed every moment of relaxing, soaking up the sun, scuba diving, and scootering around.

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1 Comment

  • George 3 months ago Reply

    One upon thousands of articles written abtou these islands nothing new, boring nonsense. Waste

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