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A Foodie’s Guide to Koh Tao Restaurants.

travel guide koh tao
travel guide koh tao

If you read this blog, you know one of my go-to places in Thailand is the island of Koh Tao in the Gulf. The reasons are simple: good food and good diving. While it is a somewhat small island, there is no shortage of great Koh Tao restaurants. It ain’t Bali but there are plenty of healthy choices alongside some fancier eateries as well as authentic local Thai food. 

If you are staying on the island for a longer time I recommend you sign up for the Koh Tao Foodies group on Facebook. Most restaurants in Koh Tao will announce their specials there and you can also buy a lot of cheap, local produce.  

Quick tips for your Koh Tao Trip

My favorite hotels in Koh Tao

Savage Hostel – Modern hostel with dorms and single rooms right in the middle of Sairee Beach.

Big Tree Boutique Hotel – The only true boutique hotel in Koh Tao and simply the nicest. They also have a great cafe on the premises. 

Baan Talay – A jungle resort a bit off the grid but fabulous if you want to disconnect from the world. 

Cool activities in Koh Tao

Practical things

The best Cafes & restaurants in Koh Tao

Koh Tao isn’t a big island but getting around without a scooter can be a bit tricky. I recommend you stick to one area and eat your way around the island step by step. 

Alternatively, many eateries in Koh Tao do offer delivery service for free (don’t forget to tip!), perfect if you are not in the vicinity of the place you want to try. 

Read more about Koh Tao:

The Ultimate Koh Tao Travel Guide

How to get from Bangkok to Koh Tao

Scuba Diving in Koh Tao

Best Pizza in Koh Tao

French Market

French Market in Mae Head is a bit of an expat institution on Koh Tao. Expats who miss and can afford expensive French wine that is. But seriously, this place is awesome if you want to treat yourself and feast on cheese, charcuterie, and yes, wine. 

They also have some great sandwiches, raclette, and fondue as well as the best pizza in Koh Tao. Check their specials on Facebook to get a great lunch bargain.

In addition, they also sell some very nice pastries including the most incredible matcha cookies. If you come later in the afternoon, it is buy one get one free.  

La Pizzeria

If you are more in the mood for a more traditional pizza head to La Pizzeria, Koh Tao. They moved into a swanky new location a couple of years ago on the busiest corner of Sairee. Unfortunately, it shows in their increased prices. Personally and money aside, I preferred their old backyard setting but it is what it is.

The pasta is still pretty good as is the wine by the glass and if you don’t feel like heading to French Market, I consider this the best pizza in Koh Tao. 

Half eaten pizza on a white plate and glass of red wine

Portobello

Just down the road from La Pizzeria is Portobello. The island version of your classic Italian at home, only here with shirtless English boys who deem it okay to bring their own drinks to a restaurant. 

I digress… Portobello has lovely service and makes a really good pizza. In addition, they have decently priced house wine always a plus in my books. 

Make sure to get there early or dare I say, make a reservation as they are always busy these days. 

ChuChu

ChuChu fits right into the middle of pizzas and Thai food in Koh Tao as they most famous for their Thai pizzas. Curry and pizza is a combination that sounds weird at best but OMG – the pizzas are amazing!

You can choose between Penang, Green curry, Massaman & Pad Thai flavor (don’t worry the pizza does not have noodles!) and pick veggies or chicken on your pizza which yes, also comes with cheese. 

In addition, the service is incredibly friendly and they have the cheapest G&Ts in Koh Tao. Come early or expect some wait as they have gotten so popular over time. 

Thai & Asian Cuisine

Blue Chair

Blue Chair moved to the main road almost opposite 7-Eleven. It has always been the go-to place for inexpensive good Thai food but it seems the secret is out. 

Their absolute highlight is the Massaman curry and chances are if you come after 7 pm, they will have run out already. Don’t worry the Penang is another solid option. That said, I had to return for the Massaman and this time I came for lunch. While it is not as creamy as other versions I have had the broth is incredibly flavorful. It comes with huge chunks of potatoes and melt-in-your-mouth onions. The piece de resistance is the juiciest chicken that is so tender and flaky you can eat it with a spoon. Worth the hype, even more so for 80 baht! 

Asia Mood

Asia Mood offers excellent Japanese and Korean food. While they don’t offer sushi at the moment (I guess due to a lack of customers on this side of the island), their agadashi tofu and various noodle and rice bowls are still worth a trip. 

They have the loveliest service on the island, old Singer sewing machines turned into tables and often a stray cat or two. Overall, still one of my favorite places to eat in Koh Tao!

995 Roasted Duck

If you want to eat a bit away from the hustle of Sairee, I recommend a trip to 995 Roasted Duck, a big eatery just up the road from the now-closed Sairee Beach 7 Eleven (yes, that is a real landmark). Get a big portion of – what else? – roasted, but succulent duck over rice or noodles. Cheap, easy, and so very yummy. 

While they have other dishes too, the duck is definitely the highlight, and even people who usually don’t like duck swear on this dish!

Gemini

For some odd reason, I was thinking of dumplings the other day and my thoughts wouldn’t stop so I had to google: best dumplings Koh Tao. Up came Gemini and I was out of the door. After my first meal, I complained to my Tao friend why she hadn’t told me about them earlier because apparently they are well known and I couldn’t believe I almost missed it.

They make all their wontons, dumplings, and noodles themselves and are still somehow incredibly inexpensive. A plate will cost you 120-140 THB and you may have to order 2 just because they are so damn yummy. Try the spicy & numbing wontons and the dan dan noodles and thank me later! And best of all – they have a place in Sairee and in Mae Head.

Cattago!

Cattago! is somewhat new on the Sairee strip and clad in orange so you can’t really miss it, except at least during the day it is not very vibey, to say the least. But I love their concept: local Koh Tao fish is on the menu served in a variety of ways. You can make your own bowl/salad or choose one of their many yummy options.

My favorite: Pad Krapao fish! I added a fried egg on top and it was really good plus I simply love the concept and think this is the future of how we should consume meat and fish: local only. 

Btw – they seem to be sponsored or working with Aperol (which may explain the color concept) so if you are keen for an Aperol Spritz, this is your place. 

Lazy Coconut

I will include Lazy Coconut as an okay option if you want to eat good Thai food in Koh Tao. They are a new-ish restaurant right next to the big 7-Eleven with a cute setup. 

They have Thai favorites and classics as well as some burgers and sandwiches. While the food was good, I think they are still finding their feet when it comes to service. Fries served long before my sandwich, food served long before my drink – you get the gist. Still, prices are decent and they give you a discount voucher for breakfast after your meal. I think they are worth a shot if you are in the area and crave a decent Thai meal. 

Idjangs Kitchen

The one famous Khao Soi restaurant in Koh Tao, P.Oy’s, has closed as she retired last year but luckily there is Idjangs Kitchen. I found them on the Facebook foodie group announcing what I considered a Khao Soi special. Luckily it wasn’t a once-off! 

They are mainly known as a Thai cooking school but now also offer various Khao Soi versions: beef, pork, seafood, tofu, chicken, and apparently bamboo once in a while. Khao Soi is usually a northern Thai noodle dish with half-crispy, half-soft noodles in a fragrant sauce/curry and it is not easy to find it on Koh Tao menus usually.

While you shouldn’t expect a full restaurant set-up or a very lively atmosphere yet the Khao Soi is definitely worth a trip. 

Cafes in Koh Tao & Healthy Options

Big Tree Cafe

I didn’t quite believe anyone who raved about the Big Tree Cafe, calling it the best cafe in Koh Tao. But after staying at their boutique hotel and having a few meals there myself, I am convinced – this place is worth all the hype! 

The interior is jungle meets fleamarket and the meal options are both healthy and satisfying at the same time. They also offer a great selection of juices and smoothies, and their cakes are the best I have had on the island. 

That said, the prices are quite steep. While the quality is very good I’d expected them to come with a beach view at those rates. Fortunately, you get a 10% discount if you stay there. 

Summer Cafe

My friend recommended Summer Cafe and I was so glad I followed her advice. If you are staying on Sairee Beach it is a bit out of the way, but walkable. It is part of a hostel with the same name and has the same owners as Gemini. I knew I was in for a treat. 

It is a bright and colorful little cafe, airy and perfect to work for a couple of hours. On the menu are some indulgent and some healthy breakfast, brunch, and lunch options at really good prices. I tried the eggs Benedict with pulled pork and they were amazing, and also cooked perfectly to my liking. 

They also have some homemade kombucha and my friend swears they make the best cappuccino in Koh Tao. 

Vegetabowl

If you are looking for vegan food in Koh Tao or healthy salad options head to Vegetabowl. Whenever I feel like eating clean and fresh this is the place I go to. They have some great salad bowls, yummy deep-fried tofu, and innovative dishes like sushi burritos or seitan tacos.

Nui’s Bakery

Nui’s is my favorite cafe on Koh Tao for yummy sandwiches and my British friend swears by their weekly English muffins. They are not cheap but I dare say their bread is worth it. Luckily they have just moved into a new location across the street and now have an airconditioned indoor area as well as a small patio. 

They also have some amazing, homemade probiotic drinks similar to Kombucha. My favorite sandwich: a toasted Jalapeno Popper Panini with crispy bacon.

Factory Cafe

I always felt a bit indifferent about Factory Cafe even though many declare this the best cafe in Koh Tao. This changed on my recent visit. 

They are the best place for a good clean breakfast and bowls. Sourdough, scrambled egg, butter, and a side of avo. Simple and perfectly made. They also make a really good matcha latte and a yummy novelty – bulletproof matcha. 

Come very early to avoid the crowds and don’t leave without trying some of their peanut butter energy balls! 

Zest

Zest seems to be an institution when it comes to Koh Tao cafes and for some good reasons. The lady who runs it is lovely and she has a few beautiful cats who will come and cuddle at some point. If you show your cat-appreciation she will be extra nice to you! They are also open from 6 am onwards, perfect if you need to get a coffee or a sandwich before diving as most other cafes only open at 9 am. 

And last but not least: her prices are incredible. While Zest isn’t very fancy or stylish the sandwiches are great and inexpensive compared to other cafes in Koh Tao. 

Chicken Sandwich and coffee on the table at Zest

New Heaven

New Heaven is one of those cafes in Koh Tao that flies a bit under the radar which makes it a perfect choice if you want some peace and quiet while you work. It is never too busy so you won’t feel bad hogging a table for a few hours. By the way – they are in Sairee next to Big Blue Diving and not at New Heaven dive center in Chalok!

The food, to be honest, is okay only, and I wouldn’t order the cake again. However, they do make a great and inexpensive lunch special every day. Check the Koh Tao Foodie group on Facebook to pre-order for the next day. Then you can either get it to go or dine in. 

Also, order a lychee soda – they are delicious!

Restaurants on Sairee Beach

Whitening

The most romantic restaurant in Koh Tao is right on Sairee beach. Whitening is well known as the spot for a nice meal on the beach or a date night. The gleaming white, beachy interior has Ibiza vibes minus the DJs. 

The menu is quite international and on the pricey side, but definitely worth it if you want to splurge. Otherwise, come for happy hour, lay back on one of their oversized white daybeds, and enjoy the sunset. 

Cafe Culture

Last year, I found myself eating at Cafe Culture quite frequently thus I thought they deserve an honorary mention for their Caesar’s Salad with crispy chicken. It is probably not the healthiest salad but super yummy and makes for a perfect hangover dish. 

My friend also swears by their toasted paninis and as far as Sairee Beach, Koh Tao locations go they are spot on – you eat with your feet in the sand if you want to. Otherwise, they have just extended their indoor dining area to make enough space for a hangover party crowd on Saturdays.




Sandbar

Sandbar is new on the Koh Tao beach restaurant scene and has brought new life to a former dingy club. The location is as good as it gets: beach setting by the rocks where you can eat with your feet in the sand or on the cute terrace. It feels maritime without being cheesy.

On the menu an international array of grill platters, salads, burgers, and some more interesting starters/tapas like roasted cauliflower with miso. And as it goes with such a location there is a huge array of cocktails and wines available for sunset. 

Chances are if you are paying with US$ or Euro you won’t mind the prices, I personally thought the portion size was lacking for what you pay. But judging by reviews I seem to be in the minority who is complaining and the setting is stunning. So if you are looking for a fun and fancy night out in Koh Tao, give Sandbar a go!

Blue Water

Blue Water used my local watering hole a couple of years ago, but unfortunately, the owner passed away and since it got a new owner it is not the same anymore.

I do still love their beach set up and the staff is incredible. The menu has also changed and sadly, a few of my old favorites are gone. But both, the international and Thai dishes are pretty good and worth the premium you pay for the excellent beach setting.

They also have a very extended Happy Hour each day when cocktails are only 120 THB. They have covered the upstairs area which is now an airconditioned co-working space of sorts.

Koh Tao Restaurants for a date Night

Barracuda

Barracuda is a favorite if you are looking for a romantic spot for a date night or somewhere to take your parents. The restaurant at the end of Sairee Beach has stunning rooftop views and a menu that will appease all palates. Seafood platters, tapas, and a decent selection of vegan dishes are on offer. In addition, they make great cocktails and frequently have special tapas & happy hour nights when you can get a good deal.

Barracuda just opened a second location, Barracuda at Darawan Roof Terrace. I have not been yet but the setting looks beautiful so I recommend you check it out if you are looking for that extra romantic Koh Tao restaurant. 

travel guide koh tao

Gallery

Fancy a fancy night out? Gallery is your place to be! They have recently moved up the hill next to Monsoon gym so you might need to organize transfer or put on your walking shoes. But once you are there, culinary delights await as Gallery offers Thai cuisine with a twist. You should definitely go for their signature curry served in a whole coconut and a few pineapple basil martinis!

If you want to experience the full extent of the best restaurant in Koh Tao book for one of their Chef’s Table nights when they offer an innovative multi-course menu. 

travel guide koh tao

The Garden

The Garden is the latest addition to the fine dining restaurants in Koh Tao. To be honest, I think they will need to adjust their prices a bit because unlike the others they cannot offer a great view with your meal – you sit right by the main road in Mae Head. 

If that doesn’t deter you, you will be in for a treat however: the menu is international and while burgers, etc. are a staple you can also find little plates of yumminess like crab tortellini and trevally carpaccio. 

The best bars in Koh Tao 

Sunset on Sairee Beach

While I am usually not one for bar-hopping anymore I did enjoy a few nights out upon my most recent visit – I guess two years of no bars will do that to you. 

Koh Tao nightlife was once renowned and while not as famous as the full moon parties on neighboring Koh Phangan there was always a beach party, a fire show, or a pub crawl on offer. 

The island is still quiet now compared to its heydays but there are some good options again if you are looking for some company and a few drinks. Most bars also offer live music and have found creative options to extend the current 11 pm curfew. 

The Local – It’s not the new kid on the block on Walking Street anymore but still a favorite hangout for many dive professionals on the island. The setting is simple but has a cool beer garden vibe with a little stage, enough place for dancing, and even a small BBQ area for hotdogs and burger nights. Also, everyday happy hour with 50 baht mojitos!

Fishbowl – Fishbowl is part of Ban’s Diving and another favorite amongst divers. It is nothing special but still beloved especially if you are part of the 20-something crowd. Come between 6 pm and 10 pm for great happy hour prices and a bucket of something if that is your thing. 

Leo Bar – Leo Bar right next to Fishbowl is usually the last stop on the somewhat limited bar circuit in Koh Tao at the moment. You need to be a little tipsy to enjoy it because while it has direct beach access, Leo resembles a somewhat dingy smokey club – in all the good and bad ways possible.

Maya – Sunsets, hippie vibes – welcome to Maya! For a proper sundowner setting head to Maya Beach Bar. They are right on Sairee beach and if you want Boho Tulum vibes, this is the closest you will get in Koh Tao. 

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2 comments

  1. Hey,
    Thank you so much for your blog. I’ve tried a few places and wow. Best recommendations really … I wish I’d have more time to try more restaurants 😂
    I just would like to suggest you one more place I found today.
    Thipwimarn Farm
    They have gorgeous cakes, but I think they are bought somewhere on the island, but they are delish! And the coffee is very good, the beans are from chiang mai.
    I just adore their concept, is very local, the farm is a mixture between farm and green house, the view is amazing and they even have these things that look like a trampoline but are for chilling. And the lady is super friendly and always open for a little chat.

    1. Oh amazing, thanks for the recommendation – I will definitely check this out next time I am on the island. And I love the coffee from Chiang Mai so that is a big plus!