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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!

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59 comments… add one

  • Roy Cavanagh
    February 25 2013

    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

    • Alex
      February 25 2013

      You’re welcome Roy! Always glad to share my insider favorites :)

  • 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)

    • Alex
      February 25 2013

      I miss these restaurants SO MUCH when I’m not on Koh Tao… I can relate to the craving.

  • Dad
    February 25 2013

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

    Love

    Dad

    • Alex
      February 25 2013

      Yes, I remember bringing you guys to The Whitening and Porto Bello and I think some of the little Thai places too…

  • Sam
    February 25 2013

    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

    • Alex
      February 25 2013

      Ah, I know some people rave over Pud but I’m sorry…. I’m too impatient! :) And ugh, Zest… I love it too much.

  • Nicole Hartmann
    February 26 2013

    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

    • Alex
      February 27 2013

      I think I know what you are talking about… 99 Duck? Or something like that? Shame we weren’t here at the same time!

  • Lindsey
    February 26 2013

    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

    • Alex
      February 27 2013

      I’ve heard great things about Gallery as well, but actually did not get to try it either! Ah well, as you said… next time :)

  • Daniel McBane
    February 26 2013

    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

    • Alex
      February 27 2013

      Thanks for the heads up Daniel — just sorted that out!

  • Shaun
    February 26 2013

    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
      February 27 2013

      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!

  • Daniel
    February 26 2013

    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..

    • Alex
      February 27 2013

      I’ve been to Darawan once, for Christmas dinner! It definitely has a lovely view.

      • Daniel
        February 28 2013

        “It definitely has a lovely view.”

        sounds like you didn´t like the food?

        • Alex
          March 1 2013

          To be honest it was just so long ago that I really don’t remember!

  • Liza
    February 26 2013

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

    • Alex
      February 27 2013

      Ugh, bread will be the death of me! I love it so much. Lucky for my waistline its not easy to find good bread in Thailand…

  • Gregory
    February 28 2013

    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
      March 1 2013

      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!

  • Eugene
    March 1 2013

    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

    • Alex
      March 1 2013

      Eugene, I’ve heard GREAT stuff about Fishy’s Burger! But I just haven’t been there yet :) Next time!

  • Erica
    March 1 2013

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

  • Federico
    March 1 2013

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

    • Alex
      March 2 2013

      What they lack in atmosphere they make up for in taste!

  • wes
    March 1 2013

    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
      March 2 2013

      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 :)

  • Emily in Chile
    March 2 2013

    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

    • Alex
      March 5 2013

      I’m still in the same country, and I wish Koh Tao were a little closer :)

  • Ayngelina
    March 3 2013

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

    • Alex
      March 5 2013

      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.

  • Jana
    March 4 2013

    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
      March 5 2013

      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 :)

  • Abby
    March 6 2013

    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)

    • Alex
      March 8 2013

      I apologize — pre-bed hunger is the worst feeling ever!

  • Olivia
    March 6 2013

    Aghhhhh this made me so hungry!! Great post

  • Mark
    March 13 2013

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

    • Alex
      March 14 2013

      No matter how much time I’ve spent there in the past, I’m always jealous of those that are headed there now :) Enjoy your trip!

  • Jes
    March 31 2013

    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!

    • Alex
      April 1 2013

      Hey Jes, so glad to hear it! Thanks for commenting, made me smile to know someone is enjoying this list! Enjoy paradise :)

  • Lucy
    August 20 2013

    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

    • Alex
      August 21 2013

      That would be Fizz! I should have added them to this list. I love that place!

      • Dan
        March 29 2014

        Fizz is amazing, as are the delicious prawn curries served up there! No better place to eat while the sun sets in front of you!

  • David Bird
    January 1 2014

    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.

    • Alex
      January 2 2014

      I know how that feels :) Chiang Mai is cheaper indeed but I would never be happy living there. I need an ocean. Good luck with the move!

  • nil
    January 2 2014

    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

    • Alex
      January 2 2014

      You’re welcome, Nil! Sorry to hear Hippo wasn’t up to par. I was devastated when they stopped their steak special.

  • Django
    April 4 2014

    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.

    • Alex
      April 4 2014

      I’m not sure if I remember those, will have to check them out when I return. Thanks for the tips!

  • Jason
    June 24 2014

    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!!

    • Alex
      June 25 2014

      Yup, Spa Aurori is a winner! I’m pretty much a regular there when I’m on island :)

  • Mark
    August 6 2014

    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
      August 8 2014

      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!

  • Beat
    September 4 2014

    Thanks to your tip we walked to the Yellow Rice. My girlfriend got cold feet when she saw the shabby “Restaurant” but nonetheless later devoured half of my portion. Really delicious!

    • Alex
      September 4 2014

      So happy to hear that, Beat! Sometimes the “restaurants” that look the shabbiest in Thailand are the best!

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