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Koh Tao Hotels
Super-convenient, ultra-friendly and amazing value. This sparkling-white family-run block of rooms (not really ‘villas’) is within a 2-minute stroll of the ferry and cargo terminals, but not too close to be that affected by noise. The rooms are surprisingly modern and elegant, with plenty of windows offering so much light and sun. Rooms face each other across the breezy gardens, but balconies are large enough to also offer side-on sea views, while those on the corners have ocean frontage that western-owned resorts would charge the earth for. A pool is not expected, but a wonderful stretch of white sands, sloping palms and calm waters is 5m away, although shared by a few fishing boats. Adjacent to some cafés, shops and boat company offices, other facilities at Sairee are 30 minutes’ walk along a delightful beachside path.
Serene, trendy, beachside but isolated. Rooms are in attractive 3- and 4-level blocks, although only those on the upper 2 floors will get any sea views. The exception is the block directly facing the ocean, but these would suffer from the noisy beachside café. All rooms feature an attractive décor, with wooden furnishings and seascape prints. And unlike other resorts, it has no steep hillside setting, so walking between the street-level lobby and beach won’t stretch any hamstrings. The sparkling pool is raised but surprisingly closer to the lobby than the beach, which is oh-so photogenic: a curved bay of bleached sands, slanting palms, blue-green waters and granite boulders. The resort is along Thian Og (aka Shark Bay), in the far south of the island, and only accessible by chartered vehicle and hotel shuttle bus. There are gorgeous beachside cafés at this and other nearby resorts, but nothing else within walking distance.
2-star affordability and 5-star setting. One of the best budget-priced options in the quieter part of Sairee, this hodgepodge of 1- and 2-storey bungalows and rooms is squeezed along a rocky outcrop between the path and beach. Most rooms are functional and comfortable, but unremarkable, while a couple do boast perfect ocean frontage. But it’s all about the overall setting, which offers welcome breezes and extensive views from everywhere. Surprisingly, there is a pool with edges that seem to blur into the ocean. Steps down from the adorable clifftop café lead to a patch of sandy beach dominated by granite boulders, and perfect for snorkelling. With plenty of facilities along the delightful beachside path, it’s just south of the headland that separates the main tourist area of Sairee and Mae Haad Bay. It’s about 15 minutes on foot from the ferry terminal; quicker by vehicle along a nearby access road.
Peaceful and staggering views, but remote, steep and no beach. Villas are dotted along a sheer rocky headland, with steep steps linking rooms with the pool, beach and lobby. The overall design, with stone walls and thatched roofs is attractive, and the setting offers plenty of breeze, views and granite boulders, which are so immovable that they intrude (albeit interestingly) into the design of some rooms. All are spacious with colourful Thai art and wide balconies and windows. There is no direct beach, but the artificial sections alongside the shallow turquoise waters are just as inviting, and there is sand in the area of lounge chairs. Along Thian Og (aka Shark Bay), in the far southern part of the island, it is isolated. A couple of beachside cafés are within walking distance in this and other nearby resorts, but anything else requires a chartered vehicle or hotel shuttle bus.
Vast grounds, superb beach, secluded but not isolated. The unimpressive name belies a stylish collection of spacious villas, studios and bungalows sprinkled among massive grounds facing a lovely beach. All are separated by up to 30m, and accessible along meandering paths and wooden bridges from the lighthouse-shaped lobby. Most feature a curious circular design with a wrap-around veranda, while some are hidden behind gates for added seclusion and privacy. Villas feature polished floorboards, plenty of windows (though not full-length) and likeably funky furnishings. The extensive gardens dotted with coconut-heavy palms are thoroughly enjoyed by the birds, and the pools are inviting. The photogenic beach is along the northern edge of Sairee bay, with awesome views in all directions and granite boulders in shallow blue-green waters, although the sand is a little gravelly. Distant from crowds and jet-skis, it’s only 400m from downtown, but to reach the ferry terminal charter a vehicle.
Remote forest setting, self-catering and unconventional design. La Cigale (‘The Cicada’) offers a handful of villas that blend in superbly with the trees, creeks and hills – even the immovable granite boulders are incorporated into the layout of the rooms. Each villa is different, but features a huge outdoor entertainment area with a fully-equipped kitchen, dining table, sofas and hammocks. The inside is colourful and agreeably funky, with a window-side sofa, bamboo furniture and plenty of Thai arts/crafts. The bathroom is semi-outdoors, with an open-air shower and plenty of granite. The downside is the overall lack of windows, and the garage-style sliding door that seals the room claustrophobically. Being so rustic, ants and mosquitoes are also problematic. And it is isolated: about 500m down a steepish lane to the main road, and another 100m to a beach and a further 700m to the edge of Sairee village. However, breakfast and coffee are available at the reception hut.
Tranquillity and luxury on remote hillside. This amazing collection of 2-, 3- and 5-bedroom villas is spread among precipitous grounds, offering expansive vistas of Sairee bay and beyond, although partially blocked by trees. Ground-level villas are built around gigantic, immovable granite boulders, which do add a special character, while those on the upper levels enjoy better views and finer breezes. Individually named after a local flower, each villa is spacious and tastefully decorated, with a private pool and fully-equipped kitchen. All mod-cons are provided, but some are a little dark because they’re built into the hillside. With no café onsite, meals must be cooked or delivered. Access is along an extremely steep road, really only accessible by the resort’s 4WD. (Some taxis are too scared to try.) Transfers to/from the ferry terminal and downtown Sairee are provided by what is essentially a personal driver.
Classy, convenient, fabulous pool and shady beach. Hidden among budget-priced homestays, the rooms are in handsome 3-level blocks. Some can be dark inside but all are spacious. Those on the 2nd and 3rd floors feature a balcony with a tiny sofa alcove that looks too precarious to sit on. A few offer perfect beach frontage, while larger villas are also available. The beach is adequate, with plenty of shade from pines, not palms, and cordoned off from jet-skis. The pool is double-layered and sparkling blue, and boasts one of the finest swim-up bars imaginable. Also, cooking classes and an onsite dive centre are provided. Accessible along the delightful beachside path lined with shops and cafés, or via a nearby vehicle road, it’s just south of the rocky headland separating the tourist area of Sairee and Mae Haad Bay, home to the ferry terminal (only 200m away).
Mid-range, idyllic beach, quiet but no pool. This resort offers a wide selection of affordable bungalows that are separate but clustered tightly together. Some are cheap but cheerful, barely renovated since the 1970s, with an A-frame design and rattan walls. Most are newer and more modern however, with a tiled floor, 2 full-length windows and spacious balcony/veranda. A few overlook the sea for perfect views, while most face other bungalows 10m to 15m across the path, although pockets of private gardens do help create some seclusion. Perhaps surprisingly, there is no pool, but just metres away are tranquil turquoise waters dotted with granite boulders (that make the bay even more scenic). The sand is a little gravelly, however. It’s at the quieter northern fringe of Sairee, only 400m from downtown, but access to the ferry terminal is by chartered vehicle.
Stunning hillside location and not so isolated. This handful of 1- to 4-bedroom villas and apartments is set in a coconut plantation, complete with trained monkeys collecting the abundant fruits. Some have a private pool, and all boast uninterrupted views of Sairee bay and the hills beyond, albeit at a distance of 300m. With polished concrete walls and uncomfortable wood-stump chairs, perhaps they are a little too chic. But the obvious emphasis is on relishing the extraordinary views from the L-shaped sofas in the open-plan lounge inside or from the balcony. The private pool is sizeable, and seems to float over the balcony edge. The kitchen is fully-equipped, and a lack of cable TV is easily offset by a hard drive with dozens of movies. Unlike other villa resorts nearby, it is accessible on foot: only 300m from the main road and another 300m to the edge of Sairee village.