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You’ll dig the hippie-chic vibe of these Koh Tao bungalows and resorts

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As part of a six-week Asia trip, we were heading to Koh Samui, Thailand. And we wanted to visit Koh Tao too.

We love snorkeling and diving.

Koh Tao (also spelled Ko Tao) is a small tropical island (only accessible by boat) that’s a two-hour passenger ferry ride from Koh Samui. With plenty of coral reefs, Koh Tao is known for its excellent snorkeling and scuba diving. It’s one of the best places to visit in Thailand.

But where to stay in Koh Tao?

After considerable research, we booked one of the delightful Koh Tao bungalows at Sensi Paradise Beach Resort.

While on the island, we also checked out other Koh Tao resorts with bungalows or villas, as well as some of the best hotels in Koh Tao (with hotel rooms and suites).

There are some darling boho-chic resorts and bungalows in Koh Tao!
There are some darling boho-chic resorts and bungalows in Koh Tao!

Best Koh Tao bungalows, hotels and resorts

As professional travel writers who often review resorts for magazines, newspapers and this blog, we frequently stay at 5-star hotels as media guests. (In Bangkok, for example, we’ve bedded down at the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit, the Mandarin Oriental and the Shangri-La Bangkok.)

But this side-trip to Koh Tao was “private” holiday time. And we weren’t going to write about it.

Famous last words…

It seems you can’t get rid of the travel writer personas in us, because here we are – writing about the best places to stay in Koh Tao anyway!

There are no true luxury hotels on Koh Tao – like the Tongsai Bay on Koh Samui (where we also stayed on this trip). But the places below are all very pleasant and lovely in a boho-chic kind of way.

Sensi Paradise Beach Resort has lovely bungalows in Koh Tao – plus a great beach.
Sensi Paradise Beach Resort has some of the best bungalows in Koh Tao – plus a great beach!

1) Sensi Paradise Beach Resort

Sensi Paradise Beach Resort has beach bungalows in Koh Tao, as well as bungalows scattered up on a hillside.
Sensi Paradise has beach bungalows in Koh Tao, as well as bungalows scattered up on a hillside

Facing Mae Haad Beach, the 3-star Sensi Paradise Beach Resort offers traditional Thai-style bungalows, houses and villas for families and couples. It also boasts a great location – it’s just a a short walk (10 minutes) to the restaurants and shops in Mae Haad town.

Sensi Paradise, Koh Tao, review:

A Sensi Paradise Beach Resort bungalow in Koh Tao, Thailand
A Sensi Paradise Beach Resort bungalow

Our wooden bungalow on concrete pillars was quite rustic and simple, with white tile floors (higher category bungalows have polished wood or better quality stone floors).

The open shower in the bathroom had a concrete floor with a fairly basic shower head.

But it was spotlessly clean. And our bungalow had everything we needed for a very comfortable stay – good air conditioning, a king-size bed with white duvet, quiet location.

There were also some pleasant surprises – like new gold silk curtains we tied back with a tassel and a welcome vase of fresh carnations.

Sensi Paradise Beach Resort has some lovely Koh Tao bungalows.
Our bungalow in Koh Tao

We had requested a quiet Deluxe bungalow with a sea view.

So even though we’d booked through Booking.com (and shouldn’t have expected a sea view), it was very nice that Sensi Paradise gave us a bungalow with an almost full-on view of longtail boats plying the bay in front.

You get lovely sea views from some of the Koh Tao bungalows at Sensi Paradise Beach Resort.
The sea view from our Koh Tao bungalow

There were more things to like too.

Free pick-up from the ferry dock (who knew there’d be a gent with a Sensi signboard waiting for guests!); welcome hibiscus drink; slippers and waffle robes; shampoo, soap and body lotion (no conditioner though); free WiFi (though it only worked properly in public areas); and friendly staff.

We even discovered beach mats and a beach bag in our bungalow waiting for our use!

A daily hot buffet breakfast with scrambled eggs, bacon and other items (great vanilla yogurt!) was also included in the rates.

Seaview restaurant at Sensi Paradise Beach Resort, Koh Tao
Seaview restaurant at Sensi Paradise Beach Resort

Perhaps some “luxury” hotels could learn a thing or two from Sensi Paradise, Koh Tao?

Other travelers are impressed with Sensi Paradise too. The resort received a TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice Award in 2021. (See reviews.)

Bottom line: Sensi Paradise offers some of the best beach bungalows in Koh Tao for a casual carefree experience.

Walk to Sai Nuan Beach:

One thing you should do if you stay at Sensi Paradise is to walk from the resort south along the coast to Sai Nuan Beach.

The paved path with bamboo railings snakes through the trees, hugging the hillside, and runs past neighboring Koh Tao resorts, before the path finally reaches Sai Nuan Beach.

Sai Nuan Beach is one of the best beaches in Koh Tao, Thailand.
Sai Nuan Beach

It’s a brisk 20-minute walk each way, up and down stairs, with great sea views. A bit of a work-out!

But that makes a cooling swim afterward back at Sensi Paradise’s pool all that more delicious. (Did we tell you the resort has two swimming pools that look like they could belong to a Four Seasons?)

And Sai Nuan Beach itself is a pleasant laid-back place to spend a few hours.

Booking through Booking.com

If you book Sensi Paradise through Booking.com, your cost is likely to be some 10% to 20% cheaper than if you book directly through the resort. (It was less for us.)

But expect the rooms to be the lower category ones – Superior (without balcony) or Deluxe (balcony with garden, pool or limited sea view).

Somehow we lucked out, however, by getting a sea view with our Deluxe bungalow booked through Booking.com. (Perhaps the advance email request worked its magic!)

If you have your heart set on an ocean-front or full seaview bungalow, you may want to book directly through the resort.

Sensi Paradise, Koh Tao: Check rates and availability

2) Koh Tao Cabana

Inside a bungalow at Koh Tao Cabana
Inside a bungalow at Koh Tao Cabana

Another sweet resort, also a little rustic in feel, is Koh Tao Cabana.

It has 15 cottages at the quiet end of Sairee Beach, which is the biggest and most popular beach in Koh Tao. That makes it easy to walk to all the restaurants and bars in Sairee.

Some cottages are like treetop villas, quirky and with semi-outdoor bathrooms. You can also get a villa with a private pool. All have polished wood floors, air conditioning, great sea views and lots of character.

Koh Tao Cabana: Check rates and availability

3) Haad Tien Beach Resort

The Haad Tien Beach Resort fronts the most beautiful beach in Koh Tao.
The Haad Tien Beach Resort fronts the most beautiful beach in Koh Tao

Located on a secluded and stunning white-sand beach, the Haad Tien Beach Resort offers some of the best Koh Tao beach bungalows. Along with Jamahkiri, (see #4), the Haad Tien is also one of the nicest upscale resorts in Koh Tao.

Of the seven room types, the “Castaway Beach Villas” have decks with steps down onto the powder-soft sand, just a few feet away from the sea. A covered daybed on the deck is perfect for lounging while drinking in the views.

The "Castaway Beach Villas" at Haad Tien Beach Resort are the best Koh Tao beach bungalows.
Book a “Castaway Beach Villa” and you’re just steps away from swimming in the sea

Other villas are set further back on the property’s manicured lawns.

The term “villa” might be a bit misleading if this conjures up images of a European-style villa. They’re really rustic-chic wooden cottages and superior beach huts, with thatched roofs and king-size beds draped with mosquito netting – quite romantic and in keeping with the low-key flavor of the island.

Staying here is ideal if you love snorkeling and diving. The Haad Tien is located at Thian Og Bay (Shark Bay) – chances are you’ll see baby sharks and sea turtles in the beautiful bay every time you slip your mask on and go snorkeling.

Want to learn how to dive? The resort’s onsite Reef Dive Center is a 5-star PADI dive school that offers dive instruction and daily small-group dive tours to more than 25 different sites.

Learning to dive at the Reef Dive Center

The downside to staying at the Haad Tien is that because you’re in a remote locale, with no village and outside restaurants within walking distance, you’re mainly confined to eating at the resort. And prices here for meals and drinks are relatively high for Thailand.

Haad Tien Beach Resort, Koh Tao: Check rates and availability

Cool factoid:

Koh Tao’s plethora of dive schools are said to certify more scuba divers than anywhere else in the world.

4) Jamahkiri Resort & Spa

Jamahkiri Resort is one of the best places to stay in Koh Tao.
Jamahkiri Resort has great views of Shark Bay

Like the Haad Tien Beach Resort (#3 above), the Jamahkiri Resort & Spa is located on Shark Bay. But unlike the Haad Tien, it doesn’t front the beach.

Still, it’s one of the best resorts in Koh Tao.

Built into the cliffs hugging Shark Bay, the contemporary-looking resort has sophisticated rooms and suites with lovely wood or stone floors, colorful Thai art and balconies with staggering sea views.

Jamahkiri Resort & Spa is one of the best places to stay in Koh Tao.
Jamahkiri Resort & Spa is one of the best places to stay in Koh Tao

As well, Jamahkiri offers new modernist 1- and 2-bedroom sea villas.

There’s a beautiful pool too, and a free shuttle boat takes you to Haad Tien Beach.

The pool at Jamahkiri Resort
The pool at Jamahkiri Resort

The Jamahkiri also has a good dive club.

Scuba diving in Koh Tao, Thailand
Wow! Go scuba diving and this is what you might see!

Just be prepared to climb lots of steep steps to get around the resort (130 steps, in fact, from some rooms to the pool) – good for exercise, though!

And because it’s also secluded (like the Haad Tien Beach Resort), drinking and dining at the Jamahkiri is expensive.

Jamahkiri Resort, Koh Tao: Check rates and availability

5) The Place Luxury Boutique Villas

The Place Luxury Boutique Villas is one of the best places to stay in Koh Tao, Thailand
The Place Luxury Boutique Villas has villas with private pools and stunning views

When deciding where to stay in Koh Tao, look no further than this resort if you want a private honeymoon-worthy villa.

There are nine villas at The Place Luxury Boutique Villas. Each comes with a kitchenette (complete with a Nespresso coffee machine), private infinity pool and huge sun deck with bean bags to lie on while taking in the ocean views.

The Place Luxury Villas is great for having your own self-contained accommodation in Koh Tao.
The Place Luxury Villas is great for having your own self-contained accommodation in Koh Tao

Set in the jungly hillside, the villas (which get rave reviews) are about a 10-minute walk to Sairee Beach.

Mountain bikes are free to use.

The Place Villas, Koh Tao: Check rates and availability

6) Fisherman’s Villas

Fisherman's Villas are some of the best villas in Koh Tao.
Stay at the Fisherman’s Villas, and you may never want to leave your private pool!

Perched high on a clifftop point on the southeast coast of Koh Tao (near Shark Bay), the Fisherman’s Villas consist of six modern villa-style homes, tucked away among other private villas in the area.

These are some of the most upscale villas in Koh Tao – with lots of outdoor living areas and spectacular views. They each come with air-conditioned bedrooms, fully equipped kitchens, a private outdoor pool and outdoor lounge area.

The cozy Squid House is perfect for a couple, with a queen-size bed in the separate bedroom and a tiny kitchen area. Best of all, stairs lead down from the balcony to the sea, when you can snorkel and swim.

Other larger villas accommodate four to six persons. (Some can be split so a couple rents just one level of a two-storey villa.)

The kitchen of the Trevally House at Fisherman's Villas, Koh Tao
The kitchen of the Trevally House at Fisherman’s Villas

Daily maid service is included, along with free pickup service from the Mae Haad Pier (and the ferries from Koh Samui and Koh Phangan).

The Fisherman’s Villas are best suited to independent travelers who want to be self-sufficient. The area is a little remote and the road to reach the villas is steep, so you need to feel comfortable on a moped. Some restaurants deliver meals for a small delivery fee if you don’t want to cook or venture out.

Fisherman’s Villas, Koh Tao: Check rates and availability

7) Tarna Align Resort

Tarna Align is another great resort in Koh Tao, if you don’t mind not being on the beach

Set atop a verdant hill, Tarna Align Resort offers contemporary-style rooms and villas. They come with lots of modern amenities, like free WiFi, Nespresso coffee machines, air-conditioning and a mini-fridge.

You’ll also find the Tarna Dive School (which offers lessons in a three-tier swimming pool), another pool, a fabulous rooftop bar for watching the sunsets and a great Japanese restaurant.

Rooms and villa have great sea views!

This Koh Tao resort isn’t on the beach. But no matter. It still gets great reviews – and has also won a TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice Award for 2021.

A regular free shuttle to the pier and Sairee Beach is offered so you don’t feel stuck. (The walk up from the beach is 15 minutes.)

Tarna Align Resort, Koh Tao: Check rates and availability

Experience more of Thailand!

Read our posts on:

Phang Nga Bay | See stalactites and stalagmites. And squeeze through narrow tunnels to enter wondrous sea caves. Sea canoeing in Phang Nga Bay is a day trip of a lifetime!

Koh Samui | Private pool villas? A gorgeous private beach? Say hello to the luxurious Tongsai Bay, set on a beautiful bay in Koh Samui.

Chiang Rai | When in Chiang Rai, don’t miss the Hall of Opium. It offers a fascinating look at the power of poppies.


Pin to Pinterest!

Here’s a good pin for your Thailand or Asia board :-)

Best Koh Tao bungalows and Koh Tao hotels

Photo credits: 5, 6 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | Other hotel photos courtesy of the respective Koh Tao hotels


About the authors:

Janice and George Mucalov

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George are the publishers of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, luxury hotel reviews, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, cruise reviews and information, insanely useful travel tips and more!

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Therese Strand

Wednesday 6th of April 2016

What a lovely blog!! And thank you for very useful tips :) We usually book directly with the hotel. We're heading to Thailand for my 40th later this year and we are currently researching hotels. We, just like you, are used to slightly more "high end" accommodation but as we're staying away for 3 weeks we need to think more about our budget at times. I trust your judgement and will save this as a possible place to stay.

Janice and George

Wednesday 6th of April 2016

What a nice 40th birthday present! Like you say, on a 3-week trip, staying at all "high end" places can put a strain on the wallet, so mixing it up a little might be a good idea :-). Enjoy Thailand when you go! (And thanks for the kind words about our travel blog.)

Irene S. Levine

Tuesday 7th of April 2015

I haven't used those sites because we also do most of our travel on assignment. Great that the place you chose worked out well. It's hard to get "knocked down" in stars:-)

Tracey

Friday 3rd of April 2015

Three star hotel in a five star location - yes, used lots of different hotel booking sites. I've found the best deals are in South East Asia. Your site is looking great by the way.... Have you revamped it?

Janice and George

Friday 3rd of April 2015

Yes, we revamped our site a while ago. Glad you like it :-). Hopefully our next booking will turn out as good as this one did, but we'll bear in mind that Europe may not produce as good deals as Asia.