Koh Tao is a small idyllic island situated in the Gulf of Thailand, surrounded by warm crystal clear tropical waters, an abundance of colourful marine life, beautiful white sandy beaches and lush jungle filled hills. The name Koh Tao translates to Turtle Island, a tropical paradise island with a 21km coastline and a myriad of beautiful bays.
The island provides plenty of sun, sand and sea for all the family to enjoy and is famous for scuba diving as well as a reputation for being the cheapest place in the world to gain your PADI diving certification.
However it’s not all just about scuba diving on Koh Tao. There are many activities and adventures to be had providing a great getaway for families with children to spend their summer, or winter holiday.
The island is part of the Samui Archipelago, located in Surat Thani province and is easily reached by high-speed ferry services running from either Koh Samui or Chumphon, a small town located on the mainland. Both of these locations have their own airports.
Where To Stay
Koh Tao has a wide choice of accommodation ranging from budget bungalows to 3 star resorts located at beach side or up in the hills that boast stunning views. If planning a family trip it’s highly recommended to book your accommodation in advance to avoid disappointment and if planning on staying at a hotel affiliated with a dive school you should be able to negotiate a discount.
The island has 3 main geographical areas or ‘villages’ as they are known that offer around 90% of the available accommodation.
Mae Haad – This is the port town where most of the shops are located, making it a perfect place to pick up holiday gifts such as souvenirs, handmade jewellery or clothes. Getting around Mae Haad is safe and easy by foot with beaches, convenience stores and a diverse choice of restaurants that are all within walking distance.
It is a short distance walk north to the next village of Sairee along a small brick paved road. There is also a walkway heading south. This takes you to some of Koh Tao’s most beautiful and secluded beaches including Jansom Bay and Sai Nuan.
Sairee Beach – Home to the islands most popular beach which stretches 1.85km along the West side of Koh Tao, Sairee is where you will find a higher percentage of the nightlife on the Island. The area near the north of the beach is home to a wide variety of accommodation, cafes, shops and bars to keep you busy and entertained. The beach here is ideal for families with small children with nice fine sand and shallow water for them to play in.
Chalok Baan Kao – Located on the South of the island is the small quiet village of Chalok that looks out to Koh Phangan. The area has a nice quiet chilled out vibe with many handcraft and coffee shops for you to look around and relax. The beach is found in a nice sheltered bay with warm shallow water for the children to play and have fun in.
Alternatively there are plenty of Villas that are situated a short journey away from the main areas that offer fantastic view of the island and are a little larger to accommodate a travelling family.
Koh Tao Beaches
Koh Tao is home to many beautiful beaches for you and the family to spend the day at.
Sai Nuan – This lovely hideaway area actually is made up of two separate beaches Sai Nuan 1 and 2, both offering fine white sand and shallow water. An added extra is the grassy area providing shade and rope swings for the children to play on.
Freedom Beach – The most secluded beach on Koh Tao and one of the most beautiful is situated at the southern tip of the island. The beach sits beyond Chalok at the very end of the main north-south road on Tao. It has plenty of natural shade via mangrove trees and a small restaurant for you to grab snacks and drinks from.
Aow Leuk – The bright sand stretches the length of the protected bay on the southeast of the island and is popular with tourists and locals alike. It is a lot more relaxed than Sairee Beach with plenty of space to spread out.
Sairee Beach – The main beach on Koh Tao and is the centre of most daily activities with sunbathers, stand-up paddle boarders enjoying beach games and more. The beach provides ample sunbathing space and the seabed is smooth and free of sharp rocks. There are plenty of beach restaurants and bars for you to chill out at.
Koh Nangyuan – This is a small island situated just off the North West coast of Koh Tao and is a wonderful half-day trip from the main island. You can also find taxi boats along the beaches to take you over there and drop you off from the island.
Koh Nangyuan island is also home to a magnificent viewpoint on top of one of the three ‘land masses’ that during low tide are joined by a stretch of beach allowing you to walk from one to another.
Scuba Diving with Children
Koh Tao is world famous for its scuba diving with the majority of people that travel to the island either taking a one-day Discover Scuba Diving course or the most popular entry level diving course in the world, the PADI Open Water course.
More people get their PADI diving certifications on Koh Tao than anywhere else in the world.
There are several options for children to join in the fun with PADI courses and programs available for children as young as 8 years old and it is also possible to become a fully-fledged certified Open water diver from as young as 10 years old.
Here are the diving courses and programs we offer for children.
Bubblemaker – The Bubblemaker program is a fun and exciting way to introduce your child to scuba diving. Children who are at least 8 years old can use scuba gear to breathe underwater and swim around in shallow water, usually in a swimming pool but they are also able to go out in the sea if the conditions are good – which they are for the majority of the year. The maximum depth for the PADI Bubblemaker program is 2 meters.
Seal Team – The PADI Seal Team program teaches responsibility and respect for the aquatic realm. The program is aimed at young aspiring scuba divers, looking for action-packed fun in a pool by completing exciting Aqua – Missions.
In total there are 10 Aqua missions and competing all of them earns your child the ‘Master Seal Team’ member, as well as giving you an opportunity for some much needed down time and relaxation whilst sunning yourself around the pool or on the beach!
Discover Scuba Diving – The PADI 1 day diving experience program is aimed at anyone from the age of 10 years old upwards. Your child will learn basic scuba diving safety guidelines and skills needed to dive under the direct supervision of a PADI Instructor, initially in a swimming pool.
Upon successful completion of the pool session it’s time to head out into the open water, visiting one of the many shallow bays around Koh Tao for an exciting underwater adventure with a maximum depth limit of 12metres. This is a great way to spend a fun filled family day out in paradise.
PADI Junior Open Water – The PADI Junior Open Water Diver Course is an entry-level diver certification that is recognised worldwide, is valid for a lifetime and can be completed by a child from the age of 10 years old.
As a Junior Open Water Diver aged 10-11 you will be able to dive down to a maximum depth of 12m anywhere in the world whilst being guided by a dive professional. At 12 years old you are permitted to dive a little deeper – 18 metres – and then on a child’s 15th birthday they can then apply to PADI for an adult certification card.
Away from the scuba diving and beaches Koh Tao still has plenty to offer families holidaying on this little piece of tropical paradise.
Koh Tao Leisure Park – Located just outside Mae Haad village on the main road, Koh Tao Leisure Park is a large area containing lots of games and activities that will be sure to keep your family entertained. Mini Golf, table tennis, fussball and football pool are just some of the fun games that you can play here, all set in a lush tropical garden.
The park also boasts a great restaurant that serves pizza, pub grub and a superb roast dinner every Sunday!
Trip Around The Island – A great way to get a different view of this amazing island is to take a longtail taxi boat around Koh Tao. These trips can be arranged with the local longtail taxi drivers on the beach. The trips involve stopping off at various bays to enjoy some snorkelling along with some great photo opportunities.
Viewpoints – Koh Tao is home to many stunning viewpoints that make some excellent photo opportunities for the family. Most are easily accessible, often requiring a walk up the hill to experience Koh Tao from altitude.
Day-Care and Babysitting
For parents looking to take a diving course or enjoy some down time without the kids the island does have options for childcare and babysitting. Koh Tao Playskool is a small family business operated by ex-pats, and is situated in Sairee village.
The staff are all experienced childcare providers. They offer day care at their school or call out services to your accommodation if you need out of hours babysitting.
If you are a family looking for a safe, fun and adventurous holiday, Koh Tao has a lot to offer and you can be sure that once you’ve been here, you will want to come back.
Author: Nina Horne (PADI MSDT #355693)