‘So what do we do now?’ I say, gazing down at a jumble of rocks and the sea…
Hiking on Koh Tao with a toddler had taken an unexpected turn for the more difficult… The route from Sairee Beach to Chalok Bay takes you along the coastline from the west to the south of Koh Tao. We had read that it was a fairly easy hike that passes by to seven beaches. We had also read that the trail is well constructed with a concrete path, a few steps and some stretches of dirt path. Hmm…
Hiking on Koh Tao with a Toddler: Sairee Beach to Jansom Bay
We started at Sairee Beach and followed the path into Mae Head, keeping the sea on your right hand side. Through the other side of Mae Head, past the Songserm Pier, is the turn off to Charm Churee Villa and Sensi Paradise Beach Resort. The first beach, Jansom Bay, is a private beach owned by Charm Churee Villa. To find the beach, wind your way down through the resort, following the signs.
We had read that we had to pay 200 Baht to use the beach, but no one charged us, perhaps because it was low season. A chap just asked us not to use the shower as it was for guests only. We didn’t stay long anyway, as there was not much natural shade, so not ideal for a toddler.
Hiking on Koh Tao with a Toddler: Jansom Bay to Sai Nuan Beach 2
A well-built path, although with quite a lot of steps, takes you from the back of Jansom Bay beach to Sai Nuan Beach 1. It is a bit of a climb, but only 800m or so, taking you through the Bamboo Huts Resort. There is a great viewpoint overlooking the turquoise waters. Just make sure you spot the sign from Jansom Bay beach… Unlike us, who climbed all the way back up through the resort, only to climb all the way back down again to find the path…
We had read good things about Sai Nuan Beach 1, with apparently fine white sand, coconut trees, and turquoise water. However, we were a bit disappointed; it was clearly accessible by scooter or taxi boat, so wasn’t the deserted paradise we were expecting. Although it had good shade under the trees, the sea was very rocky, so great for snorkelling but not for paddling with a toddler.
Between Sai Nuan Beach 1 and Sai Nuan Beach 2 we stopped at Sai Thong Resort for lunch. The restaurant was low key, overlooking the sea. And the restaurant owner had a little girl that out toddler loved playing with for a while. In fact, if we hadn’t felt like we had only just begun the hike, we may have stopped overnight here. Sai Nuan Beach 2 was just a little further way along, with a couple of bars, restaurants and bungalows. Once again we struggled a little with finding our way up from the beach, through the buildings, to the road. But just keep heading up, basically. Or ask the folk in Siam Cookie Bungalows for directions, like we did. Anyway, eventually you will find yourself heading up a steep dirt road.
Hiking on Koh Tao with a Toddler: Sai Nuan Beach 2 to June Juea Beach
From this road, take the right turn signposted to Sky Bar and shortly you will see a sign to Tao Thong Villa 2. The road to Tao Thong Villa 1 was barred shut when we passed through. In any case, there is a concrete boardwalk from Tao Thong Villa 2 round to the bay at Tao Tong Villa 1, should you want to take a look. These tiny beaches were completely deserted, although it looked like at certain times of year there may be bungalows to rent and a bar/restaurant.
Now, this is where we went wrong. Or something. Everything we read suggested that you simply carry on following the path from Tao Thong Villa 2 round to Sunset Bungalows, even though it becomes a bit overgrown. I think we were possibly supposed to follow this red arrow literally up the rock to keep on the trail. Which would have been tricky carrying a backpack and a toddler.
We carried on past the rock on a faint trail and ended up in what looked like a ruined resort, with the remains of bungalows and a washed away concrete path. We were pretty tired at this point and the idea of turning back was unappealing. So we clambered over the rocks and hauled ourselves up onto the remaining concrete path. Which was a bit too adventurous for me carrying a toddler; good job Daddy is a bit more surefooted!
Anyway, just beyond here was a lovely deserted little beach at June Juea Bay. Unfortunately the co-located Sunset Bungalows looked equally deserted, as I would have liked to stay there (and recover from my rock-scrambling trauma!).
Hiking on Koh Tao with a Toddler: June Juea Beach to Chalok Bay
After a dip, we carried on through Sunset Bungalows and found a steep concrete road, which we followed up through a resort. Which delightfully had a mini market with some blissfully cold drinks. From here, it all became simple again, following the road to View Point Resort, where you find a small grass area with views overlooking Chalok Bay; the end is in sight!
To get to Chalok Bay from the viewpoint, hike across San Jao Beach, along the boardwalk, through a small restaurant and over the concrete walkway. We had now reached the third largest beach on the island. Which is actually a bit murky and unpleasant, especially after the beaches we had passed on the way. There is a fantastic restaurant, Yin Yang Thai, though, which was very welcome at the end of the walk. Again, many things we had read suggested that it was easy to walk there and back in one day. Admittedly, we stopped at many of the beaches and for lunch, but I wouldn’t have fancied walking all the way back again with our heavy loads. We stayed overnight in Chalok Bay so we could explore elsewhere the next day, but it would have been easy to get a taxi back to Sairee Beach too.
So would we do this hike again? With a toddler, no. Or at least, not by the route we ended up taking! Should we have gone up at the red arrow? We will never know… However, the stretch from Sairee Beach to the Sai Nuan beaches and back would have made for a good hiking with a toddler day trip.