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The Haad Tien Beach Resort 4.0

Koh Tao, Surat Thani Province, Thailand

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Review Summary

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Pros

  • Located on Shark Bay, with a gorgeous, white-sand beach that's the best on Koh Tao
  • Excellent snorkeling right off the sand; snorkeling gear and kayak rentals available
  • Charming, rustic-luxe, bungalow-style villas decorated with lots of wood
  • Free, extensive buffet breakfast with both Western and Thai options
  • Luxury (but pricey) spa
  • Open-air, ocean-view restaurant, plus an Italian restaurant
  • Beach bar for cocktails and snacks
  • PADI Dive Center

Cons

  • Expensive food and drink, with no other options nearby
  • Other than the few free shuttles, expensive taxi costs to reach here and far from towns
  • Tours stopping in the bay and on the beach make it less exclusive than it could be

Bottom Line

The Haad Tien Beach Resort is not just the best upscale pick on Koh Tao, it's the only upscale pick on Koh Tao. It's also the only resort on the island's most beautiful beach, but the remote locale means there is no village within walking distance, and the resort takes  full advantage of this by charging relatively high prices for food and drink. The rustic-luxe, bungalow-style villas have plenty of romantic appeal, and the lush, sprawling property dotted with coconut palms has a chic, ocean-view swimming pool and a (pricey) spa. It's easily the top choice on Koh Tao for honeymooners, or anyone in search of a special beach escape. Jamahkiri has similar prices, but its rooms aren't as charming and its beach is small and manmade. 

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Scene

An upscale, rustic-luxe resort with private bungalows on a gorgeous white-sand beach

Clear, warm, and shallow water at the gorgeous beach, a property highlight

Upon arrival at Haad Tien, guests may feel like they've been dropped into the set for "Fantasy Island" or "The Beach." It's clear from the start that service here is in a different class from other properties on Koh Tao, and guests are seated at tables on the lawn or by the ocean for check-in, where they are treated to chilled towels and welcome drinks while luggage is delivered to rooms. The big, open-air, ocean-view restaurant is the hub of the property, separating the newer Beach Club portion (where rooms are in a more contemporary, hotel-style building) from the Villas portion, where guests stay in rustic-luxe bungalows on the beach or set into the hillside. The reception desk is in a tiny hut where guests can book excursions, ask for taxis to be called, or borrow DVDs from the library. The newer Beach Club has a more modern lobby and reception area.

Most guests tend to congregate around the beach bar and, of course, the gorgeous white-sand beach, which is the resort's biggest draw. The ocean-view infinity pool is also near the bar, but most guests head for the sand and the clear, warm, shallow water. Wicker-stye loungers are plenty comfortable, but there are no umbrellas, so guests will have to arrive early to snag a spot in the shade. Also, expect service to lag a bit at the beach bar; even though staff members are typically kind and accommodating, the size of the resort has increased with the addition of the Beach Club, and it's common for tables here to fill up completely (we saw a makeshift table added during our stay, and people waiting half an hour for their orders during peak lunch hours). This has also affected the beach itself; it's certainly not busy (Haad Tien is the only resort with access), and it's easy enough to find a quiet spot on the sand, but it's not quite as private as it once was. 

The beach bar is just about the only place guests will encounter crowds, though; the private villas allow for plenty of privacy, making this resort well-suited to couples and honeymooners. We saw some European families with little kids as well. Even though this resort is upscale, the vibe is the opposite of stuffy; bathing suits can be worn everywhere except for the main restaurants. The pace is slow and relaxed. The remote location, with no village within walking distance, means that most guests come here and stay put -- lounging, swimming, sunbathing, and imbibing fruity cocktails. 

Location

Hidden away on Koh Tao's most beautiful and remote beach

Map of The Haad Tien Beach Resort

Haad Tien has exclusive access to Koh Tao's most beautiful strip of beach. While the beach is technically public, the resort is private, so non-guests can only access the beach by boat. The resort sits in front of pristine Shark Bay, which has turquoise waters and some of the island's best snorkeling (though watch out for tiny stinging creatures in the water). It's possible to snorkel right off of the beach, though kayaks are available to rent for those who want to go out farther and see bigger fish. The name, Shark Bay, comes from the friendly reef sharks that can sometimes be seen here, but we didn't spot any during our stay.  

After arriving at the Koh Tao pier, guests are given cold waters by Haad Tien staffers and taken to the resort in a free shuttle. The pier can be a bit of a madhouse during peak season, so keep an eye peeled for the staffer with the Haad Tien sign. Don't expect a ride in an enclosed car -- guests are seated either on benches in the back of a pick-up truck (common for the island's taxis, as well), or in a bigger wooden enclosure. The drive is mostly paved, but the winding portion leading up to the resort is not, and it's quite a bumpy ride. Although the resort is actually not far from Chalok Baan Khao town, it seems miles away due to its location between mountain and sea, and walking there is not easy or recommended (especially at night). The resort runs free shuttles to and from Mae Haad several times a day; there's an additional small charge to go to Sairee Beach. Otherwise, guests will need to call taxis (typically 300 to 500 Thai baht to Mae Haad or Sairee Beach, depending on the driver and your negotiating skills) or rent scooters to get around. 

Rooms

Rustic-luxe bungalow-style villas, as well as more contemporary rooms in the Beach Club

Mosquito netting and rustic, wooden interiors in the standalone Hideaway villa

The villas here are housed in standalone wooden structures, and have charming, rustic wooden interiors and plush white king-size beds with mosquito netting. They start at 40 square meters (430 square feet), and all feature private balconies with outdoor furniture. The different categories relate primarily to property placement and view; the Hideaway Villas are a bit more private, but typically only have glimpses of the sea from the balconies, while the Castaway Beach Villas are right on the sand, with private cushioned loungers and an umbrella. The Pool Villas are a splurge, and have 82 square meters of space as well as personal plunge pools

Even though the location calls to mind a desert island fantasy, guests won't go without comforts here. The elegant bungalows all come with 36-inch LCD TVs and DVD players, electric kettles, free Wi-Fi, robes, slippers, and stocked minibars. Beach towels are provided, though more are available at reception. Bathrooms have walk-in showers (no soaking tubs). 

Features

A PADI Dive Center, large oceanfront pool, beach bar, and a relaxing spa

Thai and estern options offered at In Sea Beach Bar and Grill, the hotel's open-air eatery with high prices and excellent ambiance

While enjoying the fantastic beach and villas will take up most guests' time here, the resort does have plenty other facilities. There is an excellent PADI Dive Center offering courses and excursions, located next to an upscale spa with various massage treatments. (Though prices may raise an eyebrow for those accustomed to the dirt-cheap beach massage huts found elsewhere on the island). Those who want to rent snorkel gear and kayaks can do so at the beach bar

The swimming pool here, set under coconut palms, is spacious and surrounded with loungers; it is long and narrow, with an infinity edge and ocean views. The main restaurant, In Sea Beach Bar and Grill, has tasty Thai and western options, though prices are higher than what visitors will find in the towns. The ambiance is excellent, though -- the eatery is open-air, and there are some booths right near the ocean. Guests can order giant cocktails served in coconuts. In the morning, the free extensive breakfast buffet served here includes Thai options (stir fries, dumplings, soup) as well as western options (pastries, breads, eggs, potatoes, bacon, cheeses, and meats). There's also plenty of fresh fruit, as well as juices and coffee. 

The Beach Club is home to a pricey Italian restaurant serving pizzas and pastas. 

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Address

19/9 Moo 3 (Shark Bay), Surat Thani Province 84360, Thailand

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