So, you are getting ready to plan your Gulf of Thailand diving and beach vacation, but which island is going to be the best for you.
There can be a number of factors that affect this decision including the following:
- Is the sole purpose of the vacation for diving
- Are you traveling alone or with family or non-diving friends?
- Is your priority more about price, or service
- How much time do you plan to spend on the Gulf islands?
There are 3 islands in the Koh Samui archipelago. These are Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, and Koh Tao. Even though these 3 islands are fairly close together, they differ quite a bit in infrastructure, ease of getting to, and atmosphere.
For the diver, you need to look at your needs for the vacation and choose which island is going to be the best for your base.
Sole purpose of the vacation is diving
If the sole purpose of your trip is diving, then Koh Tao is probably going to be your best choice. There are close to 50 dive shops on Koh Tao which creates a competitive atmosphere and results in some of the least expensive diving and diving courses in the world. Another benefit to Koh Tao is that there are multiple dive sites within a very short boat ride.
Are you traveling alone or with family or non-diving friends?
If you are traveling with your family or non-diving friends, then Koh Tao may not be the best choice for you. Other than diving, there is not as much to do on the island and the non-diving part of your group may get bored here and that of course can put a little damper on your vacation if you want to dive a lot and have to leave your friends or family alone everyday with not much to do
Koh Samui on the other hand is the much better island for this situation. Koh Samui has by far the best infrastructure of the gulf islands with a vast selection of 3-5-star hotels for the budget minded and the luxury minded guests. In addition, there is great shopping all over the island including the Central Festival mall, 2 tri-plex movie theaters, tons of restaurants, and great beaches. Most of the day trips for diving from Koh Samui are by speedboat with travel times to the sites between 1-1.5 hours so you are not away from your family for too long each day diving. Keep in mind that here at Discovery your non-diving friends are welcome to join you on the boat to just hang out, snorkel, or even try our Discover Scuba Diving program.
Is your priority price or service?
If price is your main priority, then Koh Tao is probably the spot for your diving vacation. Koh Tao has some of the cheapest diving in the world and the cheapest courses due to the vast number of customers they have and the competition. Diving from Koh Tao you will usually have larger groups for courses and fun-diving and will be on the big dive boats which can get pretty crowded.
The diving from Koh Samui will usually be higher priced than Koh Tao but that is mainly due to the extra costs of speedboats and smaller groups. Here at Discovery, we never have more than 4 people in a fun-diving group or a course and it is usually a lot less than that. Our fun-dive groups are split up by experience level so that you would be diving with people at your same level, so you don’t feel pressured being in a group above your level or bored with a group of less experienced divers. Our pickups are by air-conditioned cars and the boats are never over-crowded. At Discovery we only use our own 4 speedboats and do not share overcrowded speedboats with other companies. We have found in our 23 years being in business on Koh Samui that our customers do appreciate the high level of service and don’t mind paying a little bit more for it
How much time do you plan to spend on the islands?
This is another factor that you will need to consider. Koh Samui is the only island that you can fly direct to from Bangkok and other cities. If you are short on time for your vacation, please keep in mind that if you stay in Koh Tao or Koh Phangan you will need to get yourself and your luggage to one of the ferries to reach the other islands and another day to get back to Samui to fly back out. If you are doing this, make sure that you schedule your flights into Samui early enough to not miss the last ferry at 12:30 and that you will need to leave the outer islands early enough to catch a flight back to your next destination. This can take considerable time off your vacation time if you are not spending a longer period on the islands.
We hope this information helps you with your decision on where to stay when you are coming our way for diving. Feel free to contact us at email@example.com if you have any questions regarding your trip or diving in the area. Discovery Divers is fully operational during the covid situation for domestic travelers and will be when the international travel opens back up in Thailand.