What to Expect:
At about 1 mile long, Sairee Beach is the longest stretch of beach on the island of Ko Tao and it's also the most popular. The beach, which faces west, is a gently curved bay with soft white sand. Looking out from the beach, you won't see anything man made (unless a boat happens to be passing by) and it's beautiful, especially around sunset. Although Ko Tao can hardly be considered overrun (and definitely not as populated as similar beaches on Ko Samui), it does have dozens of mostly small resorts and beach bungalow operations. Even so, the beach still has a rugged, underdeveloped quality to it that makes it feel more like a deserted island than a big, commercial vacation destination. And because most of the boat traffic is from long tail boats and not speed boats, it's relatively quiet, too. Behind the beach is the island's typical rugged topography: some lush, green hills in the jungle interior and lots of coconut trees.
There are no true five star resorts on Sairee Beach, although there are a couple of very nice four star resorts on the northern part of the island. You will pay for luxury on Ko Tao, though, and the nicest hotels will run you more than $100 per night. Most of the accommodations you'll find on the beach are in the three star range, which means you'll get air conditioning and some amenities, such as televisions, on-site restaurants and bars and even swimming pools, but the properties will be small and somewhat rough around the edges. For all that, you'll pay in the range of $30 to $60 per night. It's still possible to find a place to stay on Sairee Beach for under $20, but for that little you will probably end up a short walk from the beach in a very basic room in small hotel.
The Restaurant Scene:
The restaurant scene on Ko Tao in general isn't particularly high end and most of the places to eat are small Thai cafes that serve basic Thai dishes and grilled seafood. The nicest restaurants are indoor/outdoor and have live music; there is no fine dining on Sairee Beach. There are also quite a few Western restaurants on the island so it is possible to find pancakes, pizza and tapas while you're there.
Sairee Beach is also home to many of the island's bars and nightclubs, though they tend to be more concentrated in the central and southern part of the beach. Wherever you stay, it won't be a long walk, but pick your accommodations carefully. Some people aren't bothered by loud club music at 1 a.m., while others find it a huge obstacle to a relaxing beach holiday! That's not to say that Sairee Beach is a big party beach like some on Ko Phangan, but it does have a backpacker vibe to it and there are plenty of bars and casual shack discos.
In general, the crowd at Sairee Beach tends to be a mix of divers, backpackers and travelers who want a less "produced" vacation than they'd find on more developed and well known islands such as Phuket or Samui but like the convenience of staying on a beach with plenty of places to eat, drink and socialize within walking distance. You're more likely to find people in their 20s and 30s than in their 40s or older, though if you happen to be outside that demographic, don't be deterred.