While I was traveling in South America, Allie did a lot of her own solo traveling in Thailand. One of the first things that she did was get a scuba diving certification. Thailand is probably the cheapest place in the world to get your scuba credentials, and I knew it was something that I wanted to do too.
After quite a bit of research, I decided to get my certification on Koh Tao island. The decision had more to do with us not going off of our planned route than too much else, but it turned out to be a great call. Koh Tao is the scuba school capital of Thailand, and for this reason, it is CHEAP! My Open Water course cost less than $300 and included 3 nights in a pretty decent room on the beach and discounts on dives after my certification. I did my classes (and we did all of our dives) with Crystal Dive Resort, and it was a blast! I lucked out and only had one other person in my class, so we were able to knock out the normally 4-day certification in 3. They still let us stay 3 nights, which gave Allie and I a full day of diving after I got certified. We took advantage of it by upping our credentials from 18 meters to a 30 meter advanced certification.
The diving around Koh Tao was pretty great. The visibility was normally between 15 to 20 meters, certainly not the best in the world, but the dive sites were extremely diverse and beautiful! I did six dives total in Koh Tao. The first four were for my class (two of which Allie was able to participate in), the one deep dive so we could get our 30 meter certifications, and a final fun dive just exploring another dive site in Koh Tao.
Although diving is by far the biggest draw to the island, I loved Koh Tao for more than that. It has some nice beaches, most notably Sairee where there are lots of laid back bars set right on the beach. After my second day of diving class, I got back to our room to find a note from Allie saying that she met a friend down the beach and they were renting paddleboards. Exhausted, I hurried down the beach to meet them for dinner and drinks after just in time to catch an amazing sunset that they got to experience while still out on the water. Two nights later we met up with that same friend for more than a couple of drinks and wound up watching fire twirlers on the beach and staring up at some really nice stars.
After our last day of diving, Allie and I went back to Sairee and got another stand up paddleboard and paddled over the crystal-clear waters, going far offshore and all the way still perfectly seeing the reefs and fish below. We even attempted some SUP yoga, of which Allie, a regular yogi, was much more successful than myself!
Koh Tao also has some nice cafés and a good variety of food, although expect to pay higher prices for anything more than just standard Thai food. We frequented Pranee’s Kitchen, just steps away from our dive resort, for its delicious cheap Thai food and decently priced french fries, coffee and fresh juice shakes. On a rainy day, we headed over to the main street right behind the dock for some iced coffees, wifi and board games.
We had a blast in Koh Tao. Although the prices seemed a bit high, it was comparable if not less to most of the other places we visited in the southern portion of Thailand. Even if you are not interested in scuba diving, I would recommend making a stop there even if just for a day or two to enjoy the clear waters, soak up the sun, take in the good island vibes and make sure to grab a few drinks and watch the fire shows under the stars too! But really, there’s probably no better place in the world to get a scuba certification, so think about it! It is amazing!