Thailand – Koh Tao

The coast of Koh Tao, or ‘Turtle Island’, is lined with little sandy coves, pretty lantern-lit restaurants – and dive shops. Most travellers are here to dive. The island is one of the world’s top places to learn, and the competition among dive shops has also made it one of the cheapest. If you’re new to the sport, sign up to get your PADI or SSI Open Water certification. This usually takes four days, and includes four ocean dives. If you’re already certified, you can take advanced courses in diving at night diving, wreck diving, shark diving or Nitrox diving, or just jump on any of the tens of boats heading out every day. Phoenix Divers has been around since 2002 and is one of the top shops on Koh Tao. Instructors teach in a variety of languages and children’s courses are also available.

Even if you’re not a diver, there’s still plenty to keep you happy (it’s the kind of place pharangs come for a couple of days and never leave); Koh Tao has an irresistable charm – not to mention an excellent nightlife, including the odd full-moon party, that is a bit more grown-up than at neighbouring Koh Pha Ngan.

Most hotels are built around pools where wetsuited rookie divers work on their buoyancy by day; but for something smarter, Casas del Sol are five contemporary self-catering villas on a hillside, with pools overlooking the sea, which sleep up to four people.