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Where to Eat on Koh Tao

For a tiny island, Koh Tao is not hurting for outstanding restaurant options — why do you think I had to write this post? And while the Thai food here is some of the best I’ve had in the country, Koh Tao is also home to expats from around the world — meaning a cuisine scene almost as diverse as any major city I’ve ever visited (One major hole: Mexican food. Any Guadalajara gourmets want to come live in paradise and open a restaurant?) From 50 baht street food lunches to 300 baht luxury dinners, you will never go hungry on Koh Tao. In no particular order, here are some of my favorite places to eat myself silly on my favorite island.

The Whitening

In my opinion, The Whitening is Koh Tao’s most beautiful and romantic restaurant — when my family visited, I brought them here for Christmas Eve! Nestled on the beach in Mae Haad and lit by candles and tiny white fairy lights, you’d be hard pressed to find a better setting to eat. Some chefs might have a hard time living up to the location, but the meals are delicious (if a bit pricey). They have a large menu specializing in Thai dishes and grilled seafood and meats.

Favorite dish: Beef tenderloin steak with mashed potatoes and salad (300 baht)

The Whitening Koh Tao

The Whitening Koh Tao

The Whitening Koh Tao

Yellow Rice and Chicken

On the road to Chalok Baan Kao, just before the T-junction that leads to Autokan, a small no-name food stand serves up one of my favorite lunches on Koh Tao. For less than $2USD, this delicious meal of yellow rice and crispy chicken will have you considering making a return trip for dinner.

Favorite dish: The only one on offer — yellow rice and chicken! (50 baht)

Yellow Rice and Chicken Koh Tao

Porto Bello

Koh Tao has a surprising number of Italian restaurants — but none of them can compete with Porto Bello. This popular dinner restaurant in central Sairee is constantly packed, and for good reason! Stone baked pizzas, homemade pastas and imported wines will have you wondering if you’re in Thailand or Tuscany.

Favorite dish: Pesto dough ball appetizer (90 baht) followed by a margarita pizza (170 baht)

Porto Bello Koh Tao

Porto Bello Koh Tao

Taste of Home

This German-style restaurant is an expat favorite. Owner Uschi will do her best to accommodate special requests, but it’s hard to imagine you won’t find something you love on the small and tasty menu. The chocolate mousse with homemade Bailey’s is a local legend — make sure to order it as soon as you sit down, lest it sell out!

Favorite dish: Penne carbonara (170 baht) followed by homemade chocolate mousse (80 baht)

Taste of Home Koh Tao

Taste of Home Koh Tao

Sairee Cottage BBQ

I rarely eat on the beach (with the few exceptions noted here!) as it tends to be pricier and lower quality. One exception is Sairee Cottage’s nightly BBQ. A great value, a great meal, and a great location — and even I am not immune to the charm of sitting on pillows and listening to the waves crash while I eat my dinner!

Favorite Dish: BBQ special with 2 skewers, baked potato, and salad (120 baht)

Sairee Cottage Koh Tao

Banyan

My favorite local hangout and bar also serves some of the best meals on Koh Tao. The 300 Baht Sunday roast is island-famous, while the other six days of the week also see a constant stream of fans of the kitchen’s breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. They also just launched a new deli menu featuring imported meats, cheeses and antipasti. The setting, a thatch-roof bar tucked under a sacred banyan tree in the corner of Sairee isn’t bad either.

Favorite Dish: Homemade lasagna, big enough for two to split! (220 baht)

Banyan Koh Tao

Lung Pae

Sitting high up in the mountains over Koh Tao, Lum Pae provides not just an other-worldly setting but also free pickup to get there — just call 08 62871039 from anywhere on the island! Once you’ve arrived, take advantage of the most famous steak on Koh Tao, the “E4″ — the staff even wear t-shirts with the menu number emblazoned across them.

Favorite Dish: The infamous E4 steak with mashed potatoes and salad (280 baht)

Lum Pae Koh Tao

Lum Pae Koh Tao

Lum Pae Koh Tao

Hippo

Hippo broke my heart when they discontinued their 199 baht steak-and-a-glass-of-wine special last year. But this trendy and stylish Sairee restaurant will always have my heart thanks to a tasty dessert menu including apple crumble, warm brownie sundaes, and the best shakes on the island.

Favorite dish: Oreo milkshake (90 baht)

Hippo Koh Tao

Zest

Zest, right in the heart of Sairee, is without question the best breakfast spot on Koh Tao. I might never leave if they hadn’t covered over all their electrical outlets — though perhaps that was their point. According to my vegetable-loving friends, this place also serves up the best salads on Koh Tao.

Favorite Dish: Mini breakfast set including scrambled eggs, toast, and bacon (90 baht)

Zest Koh Tao

Cheap Thai Places

“...And what about the cheap Thai places!?,” I hear you crying. Not to worry, I’ve saved the best for last. Scattered throughout Sairee, some of my favorite tucked-away Thai places include Su Chili, Krua Thai, Tik’s and J’Nees (known locally as Mamas). These are my daily staples on the island for delicious food at a fantastic price.

Favorite dishes: Chicken cashew nut from Su Chili (90 baht), fried broccoli and rice from Krua Thai (80 baht), and above all, chicken massaman from J’Nees (80 baht).

Tik's Koh Tao

Did I miss any of your favorites? Tell me in the comments below!

Note: Need help finding these places? Koh Tao doesn’t really have addresses, but it’s a small island. Ask a local or check out this map for better directions!

57 Responses to “Where to Eat on Koh Tao”

  1. Roy Cavanagh says:

    This has got my mouth watering! Been too long since I was on Ko Tao so will be checking out some of these on my next visit. Thanks for writing such an in-depth article, Alex.
    Roy Cavanagh recently posted..No Alcohol: Buddhist Holiday

  2. Oh wow these all look SO amazing! Ahhhh I LOVE Thai food and would give anything for a Thai iced tea right now.
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures recently posted..Buenos Aires, Argentina: Recoleta Cemetery (Part 1)

  3. Dad says:

    Mouthwatering post….and nice to revisit some of the places you showed when we visited. Thanks.

    Love

    Dad

  4. Sam says:

    Oh yellow rice and chicken don’t make me cry! I miss it ever so much. Definitely missed was Pud just across the road from Tik. Although its best to all order the same thing when dining in a group as meals are generally cooked one at a time. 995 Duck is also yummy. I miss this so much! How lovely are the ladies at Zest? I remember she made me a free breakfast on my birthay, so sweet! xxx
    Sam recently posted..Bursts of Sweetness – Fresh Fruit in Bangkok

  5. Nicole Hartmann says:

    There was this fantastic roast duck and noodle place at the end of the sairee beach main rd (not the one closest to the beach) and to the right. I forget what it was called but it was madly delicious! Best food I had on Koh Tao

  6. Lindsey says:

    I definitely loved eating on the beach :) Even just getting kebab sticks and sitting on the sand was heavenly. The new restaurant Gallery is supposed to be amazing, and proper Thai food, though I didn’t get to visit it whilst I was there. Next time!
    Lindsey recently posted..Singapore’s Changi Airport – An Overnight Layover Guide

  7. The whole Porto Bello paragraph is linked to your yellow chicken and rice photo–which, admittedly, does look delicious.
    Daniel McBane recently posted..Fake Cop “Helps” With ATM in Jaipur

  8. Shaun says:

    The decor is pretty upscale in some of these places, looks really nice!

    I’m a sucker for cheap, tasty, not a lot of seating, kinda of places!
    Shaun recently posted..Travel Can Be Dangerous

    • Alex says:

      Yeah, some of these places are quite posh but I think still have a lovely island vibe to them :) I like to mix it up and go cheap some meals, then treat myself from time to time as well!

  9. Daniel says:

    I can highly recommend “Darawan Restaurant” which is part of Ban’s Diving resort.

    And never underestimate the Awesome Pancaces. Not just Pancaces, they are awesome! Pancaces.. Especially at 3AM..

  10. Liza says:

    Those places look so beautiful, and the food looks so delicious! The bread rolls look even better (big bread fan)!
    Liza recently posted..Accomplishments

  11. [...] Think of Koh Tao, and well, you may not know what to think. While the Thai island’s awesome scuba scene sets it apart, it’s proving to be a paradise for travelers led by their taste buds, too. @WanderlandAlex [...]

  12. [...] Think of Koh Tao, and well, you may not know what to think. While the Thai island’s awesome scuba scene sets it apart, it’s proving to be a paradise for travelers led by their taste buds, too. @WanderlandAlex [...]

  13. Gregory says:

    Great post! I’ll be sure to try out some of those spots during my stay there next month! Could you help me with something? If you know them, would you recommend Ban’s Diving Resort or Simple Life Resort to stay at? Or some place else?

    • Alex says:

      I would recommend Simple Life over Bans because I think they have a preferable dive school. But to be honest, I’d chose Sairee Hut above both — lovely resort and dive school and I believe a comparable price!

  14. Eugene says:

    For cheap burgers what about Fishy’s Burger Island? Looks like I missed a bunch of great places though. Oh well, I’ll just have to go back.
    Eugene recently posted..5 Things I Did That (Almost) Resulted in a Cheap Trip to Paris

  15. Erica says:

    Oh man those are some awesome looking places!
    Erica recently posted..Photo Friday: Summer in Chicago

  16. Federico says:

    Delicious places! I love the “Yellow rice and chicken” one…lol
    Federico recently posted..Exploring Xcaret Eco Park in Riviera Maya, Mexico

  17. wes says:

    Pretty please may I ask your esteemed readers to consider buying a plastic clip-top container. I LOVE getting out my hot food on the boat on a safety stop, but HATE the foam boxes, plastic forks, in a plastic bag.

    The restaurants are at first a bit confused by it (i.e. trying to put the foam inside the plastic box) but once they know, they know. One place even gives me a 5B discount.

    Too much foam and plastic on that island.

    Loved your top 10 list – high time I tried the yellow rice :D

    W

    • Alex says:

      Wes, that is such a great suggestion and I’m going to include it (and credit you!) in my next Earth Day post — going to talk about ways we can travel eco-friendly (like with my cursed SteriPen). I am not currently traveling with tupperware but I do have my own spork so that I can at least refuse plastic spoons and forks :)

  18. You can’t really go wrong with a restaurant on the beach, but some of these sound especially delish. If only Koh Tao were a little closer!
    Emily in Chile recently posted..Lunching in luxury at Ruca Malen

  19. Ayngelina says:

    Love food posts! Looks like you ate at some great places.
    Ayngelina recently posted..Food Friday: A Vegan Burger Joint

    • Alex says:

      I thought of you while I was writing this :) You are the queen of food posts! And I mean that as the ultimate compliment, of course.

  20. Jana says:

    I´ve visited Koh Tao twice now, the last time was May 2012 and those pics make me feel sooo sad, because I don´t know when I will return next time :-/
    Have you been to that food place in the mountains, I think it was right above Tanote Bay or that bay with Shark Island? I can´t even remember the name, but there´s this crazy nuts Thai lady who owns the place, her name is “Mama” and she invites you to smoke weed with her before you even get to eat :D The food was awesome and the view on the bay and jungle just breath taking….
    If it still exists – you HAVE to try it!! :)

    • Alex says:

      Jana, I think I know the place you are talking about! It’s on the road to Tanote Bay and the view is fantastic. Lovely, lovely place… though I’ve never eaten there :)

  21. Abby says:

    YUM!!!!! Going to sleep soon and for some reason pretty hungry. This isn’t helping!
    Abby recently posted..How to take the perfect picture (even without Steve Carell)

  22. Olivia says:

    Aghhhhh this made me so hungry!! Great post

  23. Mark says:

    Thanks for this info, we are headed to Koh Tao in June, and this list will be super helpful!

  24. [...] the other hand, I drank and partied quite a bit this month and also indulged quite at my favorite Koh Tao restaurants. [...]

  25. Jes says:

    My boyfriend and I are in Koh Tao for the first time as we speak and are checking off all the restaurants you have mentioned – have not been dissapointed yet! Went to Whitening first night and boyfriend loved it so much he wants to go back every night haha. Great post!

  26. Lucy says:

    Do you happen to know the name of a restaurant / bar on the beach, next door to Big Blue diving school (a few doors down from Lotus) that’s all lime green bean bags?? I’m sure it has a four letter name…used to go there all the time but can’t remember what it’s called and it’s really bugging me. :D

  27. David Bird says:

    Oh my god you’ve just killed any semblance of sleep I was going to get tonight.

    Instead of waiting til July (sensible) me and the mrs are now talking about pushing our first experimental mini-retirement forward to end of February (not As financially sensible). Because of this I decided that, rather than koh tao which I heard was expensive, we should probably do the sensible thing and stay in chaing mai as life can be super cheap there.

    Now you’ve just destroyed that idea. I think koh tao is where I need to be money be damned. Reading this and your koh tao fitness post the place just seems like David paradise. It ticks almost every box for me a place could tick. I’m almost concerned that life will be so good there I won’t do much else in thailand.

    Ive decided it’s koh tao for me all the way. im so excited i can’t sleep now Alex. Thanks.

  28. nil says:

    I’m on kt now. Thx for the tips. Loved portobello. Banyan has great food and is a cool place to drink with the local expats. I wasn’t satisfied with my steak at hippo, and my gfs pork was also undercooked. I’d take a miss on that one. Tiks great. Zest good too. thanks for the post

  29. Django says:

    Let’s not forget ying yangs in chalok and bam bams in Mai had, also tukta up the road from yellow rice. All definitely worth a visit.

  30. Jason says:

    Was super impressed by Lung Pae and the birthday boy seemed to savor the experience even more than I did–thanks for the rec!

    And Aurori Spa–woah!! I’ve never bothered to check reviews or garner recommendations before getting a massage in Thailand and generally go with the first place I find with a listed price that I am willing to pay, but I am determined to change that approach because I’m pretty sure I got 400% more out of that massage than I generally do, which makes a 40% mark-up for a massage that I can count on being professional in a setting as pleasant, serene, and happy-ending free as that one feel like a total bargain. Thanks so much!!

  31. Mark says:

    We just had lunch at 995Duck…both had Phad Thai, one chicken and one shrimp, two cokes…150 baht, total…made perfectly. Don’t know why anyone would go to another place and pay double. Guess you have to pay for the music LOL Headed back now for a couple of their lovely noodle bowls.

    • Alex says:

      I love me some cheap Thai food! However, I definitely love fine dining as well and I can totally see why people sometimes pay more for atmosphere :) To each their own!

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