Koh Tao is one of Thailand’s main tourist hotspots, together with Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phi Phi Island, just to name a few. The name translates as Turtle Island, and being Koh Tao a diving hotspot, it’s easy to understand the reason. Koh Tao is located on the Chumphon Archipelago, and is a small island, only about 21km squared.
If you’re planning a trip to Southeast Asia, make sure Koh Tao is on your Thailand itinerary.
This small island is known for scuba diving and is actually one of the cheapest places in the world you can get yourself a scuba diving license. You can’t pass up the opportunity to dive with turtles, although there are many other activities to take part in.
To help you plan your perfect trip, we’ve collected some useful information about travelling, activities, and the best places to stay in Koh Tao.
HOW TO GET TO KOH TAO
Koh Tao is one of the more difficult islands to reach in Thailand, but luckily there are a few different ways to get there. I usually book my tickets in advance on Bookaway, a transportation portal, as it saves me time (I don’t have to go to the office in advance to buy the tickets).
You can use the search bar down here to check out your transport options:
➤ The easiest way to get to Koh Tao is catch a plane to Koh Samui and then take the ferry directly to Koh Tao. This is the most expensive method, but also the quickest and easiest. Most ferries run from Koh Samui in the morning, but there are additional ones later in the afternoon.
BOOK HERE the ferry from Koh Samui to Koh Tao.
➤ Alternatively, you can fly to Chumphon, and then take a bus to the ferry port, and a ferry to Koh Tao. You can get to Chumphon quite easily from Bangkok, and this is the option I chose. Nok Air, one of my favorite low-cost companies in Asia, offer combination tickets for the journey, making this extremely easy. It’s cheaper than flying to Koh Samui, but will take longer. BOOK HERE transportation from Chumphon to Koh Tao.
➤ You can also choose the option flight to Surat Thani+bus+ferry. This is a small island to the south of Koh Tao, and once you arrive there you’ll have to take a bus to the ferry port, and then the ferry to Koh Tao. It takes longer than from Chumphon, but check out this option if flights to Chumphon are expensive for your dates.
BOOK HERE the combined ticket bus+ferry from Surat Thani to Koh Tao.
➤ Some companies offer a direct coach and ferry service from Bangkok. The coach takes around 8 hours and drops you at Chumphon ferry port. From there you catch the ferry over to Koh Tao. Again, this is one of the longer options, but is also cheaper than flying. BOOK IT HERE
➤ The final option is to take a sleeper train from Bangkok to Chumphon. Operating at night, sleeper trains offer one of the safest methods of travel in the area. It also means you don’t have to lose a day of your holiday to traveling, and saves you spending money on a hotel. BOOK IT HERE
READ ALSO: The Ultimate Thailand Packing List
THINGS TO DO IN KOH TAO
Koh Tao has a very relaxed vibe , but this doesn’t mean there aren’t many things to do in Koh Tao. The island features quite a diverse landscape, with forests, beaches, and large hills. Here are some of the best activities to take part in while on the island.
Rent a Bike and Explore the Island
Koh Tao is tiny and you can explore the whole island using a bicycle, scooter, quad bike or motorbike. You can rent either at local shops on the island from about 150 Thai baht a day, less than $5 at the time of writing. However, be careful who rent your set of wheels from. Some shops con tourists into paying more than they should for the bikes.
If you’ve never ridden a motorbike you better hire a bicycle or quad bike. You don’t want to end at the hospital! In any case, it’s always a good idea to be covered by a travel insurance when you travel. Also, ensure you wear a helmet while riding.
This mode of transport will save you money as you won’t have to pay for a cab every time you want to move around.
Soak Up the Sun at Sairee Beach
When on your vacay you certainly want to spend some days just chilling at the beach. In Koh Tao, Sairee beach offers the perfect spot to do just that.
The beach stretches for 1.8km along the west side of the island, and is the perfect spot for some relaxation. There’s a coral reef just 30m offshore, and is ideal for snorkeling. Alternatively, you can spend the day topping up your tan, or taking part in a game of volleyball or football.
The water is crystal clear, and is great for swimming. Make sure you stick around for the beautiful sunset, and explore the beach to find the perfect Instagram shot… maybe with that picture-perfect palm tree?
At night Sairee beach is still the place to be as the top bars and restaurants on the island are found there.
Relax With Some Yoga
Just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean you can’t do your yoga poses. Koh Tao has several yoga studios which you can visit to do some yoga.
Some classes as just perfect as they are conducted in places with beautiful ocean views. I recommend classes at Shambhala Yoga which are around 300 baht per class or Ocean Sound.
Take a Day Trip to Koh Nang Yuan
Ko Nang Yuan is a small island ( actually three islands connected by a narrow aisle of white sand) off the coast of Koh Tao, and is the perfect place for a day trip. It’s another great spot for diving and snorkeling, and can be reached either by boat or catamaran.
You can rent a longtail boat just for yourself/your group for about 200-300 baht each way ($6-9) but if you are just one or two it makes sense to join a tour. You can book one online in advance or book it at one of the many tour agencies in Koh Tao.
When you are in Koh Nang Yuan, don’t be lazy and walk up to the viewpoint – the views are incredible! Make sure you bring closed shoes and mosquito repellent, the mosquitoes ate us alive!
There are so many different places to visit on the island, and one of the most rewarding ways to get there is to hike. Even if you’re not usually a big walker, take a chance and go on a hike. These hiking trails will take you up hills which will give you stunning views of the island.
One of the best spots is Tanot Bay. Although it’s challenging to reach, it’s rewarding for the views. Once you get there, take a swim and check out the coral reef along the shore.
Other viewpoints I recommend are the John Suwan Viewpoint and Fraggle Rock. The best time to hike is early morning or late afternoon. The midday heat may be too intense for you to enjoy this activity.
Take a Trip to Ang Thong National Park
I went from Koh Samui, but it doesn’t make much difference where you depart from, so just make sure to add it to either your Koh Tao or Koh Samui itinerary.
Enjoy the Sunset at Mango Bay Viewpoint
Mango Bay Viewpoint is one of my favorite places in Koh Tao. From here, you can witness an incredible sunset, and a majestic view over Sairee Beach.
You can either hike here (it takes about 1 hour and a half, less to get back) or ride your scooter. Be advised though, it’s a bumpy, windy road, so pay attention!
There is now a 100 baht fee per person (approximately $3) and you can buy a coconut and chill while watching the bay.
Get a Massage
Thailand has some of the best massage parlors in the world and this can be found anywhere you go in the land of smiles. After all the hiking, partying, swimming show your body some love with a Thai massage in Koh Tao.
If it’s raining (unfortunately it happens!) you might not want to spend the day at the beach. Enjoy one of the local spas instead. There are many family run spas, but also some bigger, more luxurious ones. Each spa offers a great range of treatments, and it can be worth booking in advance (and haggle a little unless it’s a luxury spa) to get the best deal. Hey, a traditional Thai massage goes for as little as $7..- are you still thinking about it??
Learn How to Dive
I told you at the beginning of this article that Koh Tao offers cheap scuba diving lesson. Diving and diving certification courses are the main source of income on Koh Tao, and what Koh Tao is most famous for. So while on the island, why not learn a new skill? For about $300 you can get your scuba diving license.
There are different levels of diving you can participate in, from open water scuba diving to free diving.
What makes Koh Tao particularly cool for diving and snorkeling is the chance to spot and swim with turtles, but you can also explore the coral reef and the open water.
There are plenty of diving shops you can choose from to take your diving lessons. If you’re into photography you can also hire an instructor to teach you underwater photography. Life under the water in Koh Tao is just as fun as above.
Enjoy the nightlife in Koh Tao
There’s plenty to do in Koh Tao at night. A local boxing ring hosts three Muay Thai fights a month if that’s your thing, and there are plenty of bars and clubs to enjoy.
I recommend visiting the Fishbowl Beach Bar at Sairee Beach. It offers one of the best nightlife experiences in Koh Tao. It has amazing happy hour deals such as buy one bucket get one free. It also gives you stunning oceans views, plays good music and has beer pong tables.
Attend a Cooking class
Several places on the island offer courses on how to cook the perfect Thai food. The lessons will help you to get acquainted with local ingredients and dishes, and will hopefully open your eyes to the wonders of Thai cooking if you still haven’t decided that Thai food is delicious (how?!).
Check out Thai Cooking with Joy. Idjangs Kitchen & Thai cookery courses also have great reviews.
Watch a Fire Show
Remember what your parents always told you when grown up “don’t play with fire or you will get burnt?” Well, the locals in Koh Tao seem to have not gotten that warning or simply ignored it.
Every night at the beach different bars entertain their guest with performances involving fire. Be sure to enjoy one of these performances but don’t get too excited and try what you see at home! where??
Visit Koh Tao Leisure Park
Both tourists and locals visit this park to play a round of mini-golf. The Koh Tao leisure park has an 18-hole course which you can play as many times as you want. The park also has pool tables, foosball tables, a cinema, and a lively sports bar.
A visit to the park with your family, friends or backpackers you meet on the island will definitely be fun. The park has floodlights and opens late so if you’re looking for an evening activity this park has got you covered.
WHERE TO STAY IN KOH TAO
Book your accommodation by using the map below ⬇
Travelers from certain nationalities will need to apply for a visa on arrival online for Thailand to be able to travel to Koh Tao. You can apply for this visa 30 days to your trip to 24 hours before traveling to the country.