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You may have picked up by now that I love any excuse to celebrate, don a costume or pop a bottle of (probably fake, if we’re talking Thailand) champagne — festivals and holidays are my jam! Lucky for me, Koh Tao knows how to party — it’s one of the things I love about this island I return to every year. Because of the island’s unique blend of Thai and international residents, events both local and global are observed with notable fanfare.

I know that when I’m going to be traveling for certain beloved events like Halloween or Thanksgiving, I research to find cities or towns where I know I’ll be able to find some way to celebrate. If you’re heading to Thailand soon and wondering if your favorite annual highlight is payed any attention on this tiny speck of an island, consider this a resource to find out if Koh Tao is the place for you. Likewise, if you’re happy at home but curious about a little peek into expat life on a tiny Thai island, consider this a peek into the Koh Tao calendar.

Holidays and Events on Koh Tao

Holidays and Events on Koh Tao

Note that many Buddhist holidays and Thai festivals are based on the lunar calendar and the full moon, and thus the exact date may change from year to year. Also keep in mind Thailand has many, many public holidays when official offices and alcohol sales are closed — be sure to check into them if you’re planning an immigration run or a big bar crawl.

January

January 26 • Australia Day

Australia Day is celebrated in full swing on Koh Tao with beach BBQs, day parties and lots of live music. Grab some sunscreen and an Aussie flag and head to Maya Beach Club, Fishbowl Beach Bar, and proud Aussie bar Choppers for parties starting early in the day, or for something more low key head to the nearest dive school throwing an event likely spearheaded by divemasters from Down Under.

February

Varies • Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is celebrated lightly on Koh Tao. You may hear a few fireworks going off or see offerings out, and keep your eyes peeled for special events hosted by island resorts or dive shops. However, if you’re really looking for a big bash, head to nearby Koh Samui, where a festival is held in Mae Nam.

February 14 • Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is a blast for everyone on Koh Tao. Couples should check out the special set menu dinners at Barracuda, View Point, Blue Water, Shalimar, and other island restaurants — personally I find The Whitening to be the most romantic restaurant on the island, even if they don’t do anything specific for the holiday. Those not interested in fancy meals will have no problem finding alternative ways to celebrate as several bars on the island will host fun theme parties that night.

But it’s not all about romance. February 14th is known as Friendship Day in Finland, and with a large Finnish population on Koh Tao — they even have their — you might end up ditching your significant other for a girls’ night like I did this year (after making a banana cinnamon pancake breakfast for my man and rocking heart-shaped sunnies on the beach, of course). Happy Ystävänpäivä!

March

March 17 • St. Patrick’s Day

Almost every bar on the island does a green-soaked celebration of St. Patrick. Personally, I head to for their enormous party, though you’ll have several fun filled options! Banyan often goes on a bit of a bender for big holidays, so if you’re still feeling festive the next day, head back to the barstool for round two.

Holidays and Events on Koh Tao

Holidays and Events on Koh Tao

April

April 13 • Songkran

is Thailand’s wet and wild New Year. What once began as quiet cleaning rituals has devolved into a country-wide water fight celebrated with gusto… and I love it. While in other parts of Thailand Songkran stretches April 13-15 — revelers travel from far and wide to celebrate in Chiang Mai and Bangkok — on Koh Tao it’s a one day event on the 13th. Buy a water gun, don a colorful Hawaiian shirt (I’m still not sure how that became the de facto uniform for the day, but just roll with it — even immigration officers were wearing them when I fly through Bangkok Airport on April 15th last year) and get ready to get wet.

The island-wide fun starts bright and early and the parties rage until late. But there’s an unofficial cease-fire after the sun goes down, so be sure to empty your water gun beforehand. Word to the wise: don’t schedule any sort of travel for this three-day stretch, as having a suitcase will not protect you from getting soaked. I’ve been lucky to spend two Songkrans on Koh Tao — stay tuned for an upcoming post on how to Songkran responsibly.

April 22 • Earth Day

The details may change, but the sentiment remains the same: Koh Tao comes together for Earth Day. The included an island0wide land cleanup in the morning, an island-wide underwater cleanup in the afternoon, and an evening of fairground-style games, food & drinks at Hacienda to cap it off. Keep an eye out for posters and ask your dive shop how they’re planning to participate.

April 27 • King’s Day

A big beach party swathed in orange. Like the Thais, the Dutch take their King’s birthday seriously, and those on Koh Tao throw a great, if small, party. Keep your eyes peeled for posters advertising parties, and wear anything carrot colored.

June

Varies • Swedish Midsummer

With plenty of Scandinavians calling Koh Tao home, Midsummer is another big fun day party on Sairee Beach, with Maya Bar the epicenter. Pack a flower crown!

June 18 and 19 • Koh Tao Festival

is the largest event of the year on Koh Tao — and I’m sad to say I’ve never personally attended it! With a focus on local conservation, music and food, the two day festival attracts thousands of people and raises millions of baht for local social and environmental causes. Prepare for sea turtle releases, trash sculpture competitions, a Mr and Mrs Save Koh Tao pageant, a volleyball tournament and lots of other silly island fun.

August

August 12 • Queen’s Birthday

The Queen’s birthday is also celebrated as Mother’s Day in Thailand. Aside from the occasional dive shop promotion don’t expect much fanfare, but if you happen to be traveling with your mom (or you’re a mom!), it’s as good an occasion as any to celebrate.

October

Varies • Oktoberfest

If you’re craving imported beers otherwise difficult to find on the island, keep an eye out for ‘s annual Oktoberfest, the only celebration of the sort on Koh Tao. Lederhosen-clad staff transform the bar into a beer and cider garden with a BBQ, custom t-shirts and live music.

Koh Tao Oktoberfest

Koh Tao Oktoberfest

October 31 • Halloween

Koh Tao expats have an inexplicable fascination with fancy dress — or costumes, for my fellow Americans — which makes Halloween a pretty big deal. Thais and Burmese don’t tend to dress up, but they do look fairly entertained by the whole thing. I’ve heard quite a few people say Koh Tao has one of the best Halloween celebrations in Southeast Asia, and I believe it! After all, the island has a penchant for dressing up: see Exhibit A and Exhibit B, among many many others.

Almost every bar on the island will have a party of some sort and you should hit up several, but if you’re looking for something different, shows the Rocky Horror Picture Show and does an event for kids and families.

If you didn’t plan ahead and pack any, look for supplies at the Lomprayah Shop in Mae Haad and the Bans 24 Minimart in Sairee, both of which carry face paint, costumes and accessories — the former year-round. There’s also a Facebook group to . Miss carving pumpkins? Try a pineapple instead.

November

Varies • Loy Kratong

Loy Kratong is a beautiful Thai holiday celebrated across the country. No, Koh Tao’s simple version can’t compare to the massive events in Chiang Mai or Sukhothai, but it’s a beautiful festival nonetheless. A daytime parade starts in Mae Haad and works up the island, while evening brings the main event: music and a show onstage next to the Seatran Pier, food vendors lining the lot and both floating sky lanterns and floating water lanterns being set off on the adjacent beach. Don’t miss it!

Loy Kratong Koh Tao

Loy Kratong Koh Tao

Loy Kratong Koh Tao

Loy Kratong Koh Tao

Varies • American Thanksgiving

On the fourth Thursday of each November, Banyan Bar hosts an elaborate Thanksgiving meal. Tickets are around 500B and sell out early, so book in advance if you hope to attend. Unfortunately for football fans, you’ll have to stream the highlights at home as games aren’t shown anywhere on the island. It’s a lovely holiday to celebrate on an island with so much to be thankful for.

And sorry, Canadians — your own Thanksgiving goes more or less unnoticed on Koh Tao. Eat with the Americans, or grab a pumpkin quiche at Through the Looking Glass bakery on your own big day.

December

December 5 • King’s Birthday

Like the Queen’s Birthday, The King’s Birthday is a public holiday and also celebrated as Father’s Day in Thailand. You may notice extra decorations on the streets of Koh Tao around this time, but there is no formal event or festival. If you want to really experience the full fanfare of this holiday, head to Bangkok, where things .

December 25 • Christmas

Koh Tao does Christmas beautifully. Santa hats and reindeer antlers abound while travels, expats and locals alike get into the holiday spirit. I’ve been lucky to spend Christmas 2012 and Christmas 2015 (which I just wrote a super belated recap to!) on Koh Tao.

Christmas gear is sold at several spots around the island — the shops that sell Halloween swag should be your first stop. Western-managed businesses will be mostly closed on Christmas Day, including dive shops, but there’s plenty of fun to be found just hanging out on the beach in a red hat. Yogis, look out for holiday music themed classes at Ocean Sound on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Spas also remain open.

Many restaurants offer special menus on the 24th, the 25th, or both — reserve ahead as they often book up days ahead. There are options at several budgets from cheap (try Reef Restaurant or Neptune) to mid-priced (try Banyan Bar or Hacienda) to high-end (try View Point or Royal Resort). Check their Facebook pages in the dates leading up for menus and booking information.

As with most Koh Tao events, both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day end in big, boozy nights out at the bars.

December 31 • Western New Year

I love New Year’s Eve on Koh Tao! Technically, it’s not that different from any other big night out on the island, save for the fireworks and lanterns being set off, the black dresses and happy new year crowns, and the big fire sculptures of the pending year. But that’s the beauty of it — no bouncers, no fancy ticketed parties, no traffic. I’ve been blessed to spend New Year’s Eve in many places around the world, and Koh Tao is the perfect blend of laid back and festive.

If you’re looking to treat yourself and chill, several upscale restaurants do special menus ranging from 1,500-3,000B per person, including Jamahkiri, Blue Water and Barracuda. Note if you’re staying in an upscale resort there may be a mandatory New Year’s dinner, so check before making reservations elsewhere. Yoga addicts may wish to check the schedule at Ocean Sound Yoga, which often offers an extended New Year’s Day class to kick off the new calendar right. Trance-heads may want to head into the jungle for , a festival that spans a few days. And if all this sounds a tad too civilized, you can slap some neon body paint on and head over to the massive New Year Full Moon Party raging next door on Koh Phangan.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

And that’s not all. Once you’re on the island you’ll realize there’s a frequent roster of fundraisers, conservation events and more throughout the year — not to mention the never-ending rotation of birthdays, snorkel tests, leaving parties, coming back parties and more if you ever decide to call Koh Tao home.

Yes, it’s a tough life juggling such a crazy social calendar… but someone has gotta go do! And I, selflessly and for science, continue to volunteer.

Are you surprised at how many holidays are celebrated on Koh Tao? What’s your favorite event abroad?

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30 Comments...
  • Kelly
    September 21 2016

    What a fun idea for a post. 🙂 Halloween looks extra fun!
    Kelly recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 22 2016

      Thanks Kelly! I’m already thinking about my Halloween costume for this year 🙂 One of my favorite holidays!

  • Gemma
    September 21 2016

    I am surprised! Love the sound of Earth Day and the mini Loy Kratong looks beautiful. Something for everyone.
    Gemma recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 22 2016

      I guess when you live on a tiny island you have to make your own fun 🙂

  • Eva Casey
    September 21 2016

    Wow, it looks like Koh Tao knows how to throw a party!! I will be spending Christmas in Thailand this year, but on another island called Koh Mak! I can’t wait to visit Thailand for the first time and see all of the stuff I’ve read about on your blog!! 😀
    Eva Casey recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 22 2016

      I love my Thailand Christmases… I’ll be there this year too!

  • Cate
    September 21 2016

    Wow, I never knew so many holidays were celebrated on such a tiny island! What is your favorite one?
    Cate recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 22 2016

      It would be impossible to pick just one 🙂

  • Jo-Anne
    September 21 2016

    Such a great post making me feel so happy about coming here.
    Jo-Anne recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 22 2016

      Awesome! When are you heading to Koh Tao?

  • Kristin @ Camels & Chocolate
    September 21 2016

    No lie, I was toying with the idea of visiting you next November…sooooo Loy Kratong in Chiang Mai and then we dive?
    Kristin @ Camels & Chocolate recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 22 2016

      Heck yes! Will send you a detailed itinerary in ten minutes… lol

  • Julia Nix
    September 22 2016

    Virgins, seasoned party goers, extraordinary, crazy. One place where everybody forgets their own name. People, go to Banyan Bar. 😉 Frankly, I heard & read lots about it. Is BB still the bartender or cooks there?

    • Meihoukai
      September 22 2016

      He is indeed still a bartender there!

  • Joe
    September 22 2016

    Thanks for the holiday heads up. We’ll be starting a new life in Bangkok in time for Loy Kratong in November!

    • Meihoukai
      September 24 2016

      Ah, lucky you Joe! It’s one of my favorite holidays. It can be a little tricky to find the exact dates, but keep your eyes peeled and you’ll find it!

  • Jazzy
    September 23 2016

    It’s crazy how many festivals are celebrated there. I had no idea, I thought it would be 90% Thai holidays, guess not.

    We will definitely catch one of these festivities since we are in Thailand now
    Jazzy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 24 2016

      Koh Tao has a very large Burmese population and a very large Western population, so you definitely feel the influence of other cultures big time. It’s a fun place to live. You guys should definitely check it out!

  • janice stringer
    September 23 2016

    I skyped with my daughter on the island the other day. She is still having a blast!
    When you think of the size of Koh Tao – it has so much going on. I know each time I visit its the community vibe which gets me and keeps me wanting to return. I love the location and the ease of the diving but think it is also the international community combined with locals and Burmese workers which creates its appeal.
    I have this desire to write my first novel as I sit on Koh Tao for a 3 month period. At the moment that is still a dream which I hope becomes reality.
    This post is indicative of all that is excellent about your writing Meihoukai, I really enjoyed it and who would not enjoy all the different things there are to do and eat in such a fabulous location!
    janice stringer recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 24 2016

      You’re so kind Janice! I think Koh Tao would be a great place to write a book. Well, not for me, too many distractions 😛 But for someone else, definitely!

  • Kristin
    September 24 2016

    I love the eclectic collection of holidays! I never would have thought that there were enough Scandinavians in Thailand for a Midsommarfest – but now I want to go experience it!

    • Meihoukai
      September 24 2016

      Oh yes — we have a whole “Scandi season” on Koh Tao! There are plenty of ’em 🙂

  • Amy
    September 25 2016

    Great post, Thailand has so many awesome festivals and holidays! I’m in Chiang Mai now for the next six months so I’m looking forward to celebrating the Yi Peng festival and of course, Songkran!
    Amy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 25 2016

      Awesome! Some of my Koh Tao friends swear that Chiang Mai’s Songkran is the most fun they’ve ever had! I’d be hard pressed to leave Koh Tao though, I love celebrating with friends.

  • Dominique
    September 26 2016

    Loy Kratong and Songkran look fantastic!
    Dominique recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 26 2016

      They really are. Two of my favorite days of the year!

  • What a great list, I love it!
    Leigh | Campfires & Concierges recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      October 15 2016

      Thanks Leigh, it was a fun post to write!

  • Helen
    October 9 2016

    Your photography is insane. You are by far my favourite travel blogging photographer!

    Please one day do a tutorial on ow you get your night/party shots especially to be so clear. Mine are always blurred, grainy or too bright from the flash! Yours are amazing!

    Plus you always look like you are having a great time, not posed or contrived. Love that!

    I also really want to come back to Koh Tao now.

    Helen

    x

    • Meihoukai
      October 15 2016

      Aw, thanks Helen! The flash is definitely an issue with night time photography — I delete a ton of pictures that are ruined by it. And of course plenty that are blurry and grainy too! Maybe that’s the secret, ha ha… the delete button!