Koh Tao is a tiny island located in the south of Thailand that has made a name for itself not only as a gorgeous and affordable travel destination but also as one of the best places to get scuba diving certified in the world. It’s also got some amazing food. So basically, it’s the dream for anyone who wants to dive head first into the ocean and some delicious eats (and they’re not all Thai cuisine as you may think!)
I’ve visited Koh Tao twice. The first time, I only stayed for three days. This time around I went with my boyfriend and we decided to stay for a week. To be candid, we went on this trip because we wanted to get diving certified. One thing we didn’t know is that we would also become certified in food coma CPR. That’s because we basically ate the island.
Since we were there for so long we ate at quite a few places, but the ones on this list were our favorites (in no particular order).
The Factory Cafe
With a focus on wholesome, healthy food, this new cafe was one of my favorite spots on Koh Tao. They serve up popular brunch classics we’ve all come to love like avo on toast and smoothie bowls. I highly recommend the shakshuka, a baked egg dish served with a delicious bell pepper and tomato sauce, house made garlic yogurt and fresh bread made locally on the island. They have plans to open up an adjoining hostel sometime this year, so if you’re looking to wake up and smell the bread, this is the place.
This restaurant has physically been on Koh Tao for 15 years but with a recent change in management (and a brand new menu) it’s more popular than ever. Now run by an Italian husband and wife duo, the restaurant serves a variety of pasta and pizza dishes, making it the perfect spot to carb up after a long day of lounging about. If you’ve got a sweet tooth you should definitely try their chocolate mousse. It’s creamy, rich and has the perfect amount of cocoa.
995 Duck (City Duck)
One of the more affordable options on this list (the dishes pictured above were each less than $3), is 995 Duck. Everyone I spoke to recommended this restaurant and after eating here it was easy to see why. The duck is juicy and cooked perfectly while their rice and noodle dishes are flavorful and piping hot. I actually came back for seconds during my very short trip to Koh Tao... that’s how good it was. Just a note, it’s super popular so expect a bit of a wait if you come around dinnertime.
If you’re craving anything from back home this place is sure to have it. They’ve got everything from eggs benedict to lox bagels to quinoa burgers, making it a great option for either breakfast or lunch. We ate here before one of our final scuba diving lessons and it was the perfect thing before that little adventure (we got hit by the tail-end of Typhoon Tembin and it made for a very unpleasant diving experience, but I digress). They’ve even jumped on the trendy chia pudding train. Their rendition is loaded with fresh fruit -- filling, but not heavy.
Shalimar Indian Cuisine
My boyfriend and I adore Indian food so when we spotted Shalimar we walked right in, totally unplanned and it wound up being the best food we had on Koh Tao. They’ve got a full bar, so we ordered a few cocktails and a variety of dishes including butter chicken (pictured above), gobi aloo (a spiced cauliflower dish) and a fish dish that was so good I forgot to take note of what it was called.
This hostel/coffee shop was unbelievably busy both times we stopped by. The space is not only incredibly aesthetic but so is their food, so if you like taking pretty pictures for the #gram this is definitely the spot for you. My boyfriend had the fried fish (served with rice and a mango salad) and I had a salad with a smoothie. Sometimes it’s nice to take a little health break during vacation.
This wound up being the final place my boyfriend and I ate at before we left Koh Tao and we were pretty surprised at how tasty it was. Located smackdab next to the one and only pier, this restaurant serves the classic Thai dishes we all know and love like pad Thai and tom yum soup as well as other dishes like garlic fried shrimp that are less commercialized but just as tasty. We wound up ordering Yum Nua (Thai grilled beef salad with fresh herbs, lime and chili) and some Thai style fried chicken, which surprisingly is made with no batter, but tastes much better. While a bit expensive in comparison to Thai food you can find in Bangkok, it hit the spot and helped make our 2 hour ferry ride back to “land” much more manageable.