Speaking as our video crew’s field producer, I can confirm that when the Tan Your Mind team visited Ko Tao, a small cashew-shaped island off Thailand’s east coast, it was extremely difficult to pull them away. In fact, a part of me believes that if I wasn’t there, they might have willfully neglected their flights home and stayed on that island forever, like so many expats we met there.
This is, in part, because Ko Tao is a mesmerizingly picturesque island. It isn’t often you find turquoise waters that don’t need Instagram filters to shine. Add in patches of beach sand that cover your toes like a warm duvet; friendly locals who offer a casual, knowing smile when you express disbelief that such a paradise really exists; and lush year-round greenery covering the entire island, and you’ve got a heaven for hikers, travellers, tourists, divers and explorers alike.
And while our itinerary couldn’t accommodate more than one island, Ko Tao is actually the smallest—and least visited, I believe—of three major islands off Thailand’s east coast. A bit south lies Ko Pha-Ngan, a larger plot of land with more coconuts, beaches and treks than you could pack into a weeklong visit. Its monthly full-moon party draws attention from all over, but its large size means it’s big enough that you can escape the crowds for some chill time on the northern coast if you prefer.
And then there’s the largest of the three, Ko Samui, the southernmost of this island trilogy and the only one with an airport. If you’re island-hopping, you’ll be starting and ending at Samui, an expansive wonderland of beaches, palm trees, coconuts, golden temples and mountainous luxury resorts. Chow down on mangosteen and rambutan, coconut sticky rice and lime-dripped panang curry, freshly prepared from local sources, before heading into the crystal-clear waters for snorkelling or diving.
Young travellers looking to see everything the island has to offer should look no further than Contiki’s Thai Island Hopper East, an epic 8-night trip that takes you across each of the islands, highlighting their distinct beauty and unique personalities. And while you’re there, you may as well use Outpost’s coupon code and save $150 off that trip—or any other in Thailand. Enjoy!