Discover the Paradisiac Island Guide of Koh Tao
Koh Tao, meaning Turtle Island, is an unforgettable destination. Located in the Gulf Coast of Thailand, it’s the smallest island of the Chumphon Archipelago, next to Koh Phangan and Ko Samui. The island’s natural beauty both above and below the water, with its stunning coral reefs and abundant marine life, attracts visitors year round. Koh Tao has stunning views, perfect laidback lifestyle, beautiful beaches and some of the best diving facilities in the world. Read on this guide to find out all the best things to do on the island and why Koh Tao should be on your list while planning holidays in Thailand.
- The Beautiful Beaches
- Explore Koh Nang Yuan
- Reach Stunning Viewpoints
- Go Scuba Diving
- Hike around the Island
- Enjoy Sunrises & Sunsets
- Getting to Koh Tao
- Leaving from Koh Tao
- Where to Eat
- Where to Stay
Koh Tao Guide: Why you Should come!
The Beautiful Beaches
Koh Tao’s has maaaany paradisiac beaches. Most of them are ideal for relaxing on the white sand, swimming as well as great snorkeling. The coral reef is usually just a few meters from the shore and you can spot loads of marine life around it. This includes black tip sharks for an extra special thrill. They are often seen in the southern area, early in the morning when the tide is low. We saw 4 of them cruising just few meters of shore next to our hotel, Sensi Paradise. This guide list for you all the best beaches in Koh Tao! ?
Sairee Beach is the most popular and busy almost 2 km long and located right in the center of all attractions. You can spend a day working on your tan or swim just 30 m off shore and snorkel around beautiful coral reefs.
Mango Bay is one of the top snorkeling places in Koh Tao. Located on the north of the island, Mango Bay is a large bay with a small beach and a coral reef close to the shore. It’s also a perfect place for beginner divers: we completed our diving skill tests here.
The Lighthouse Bay is a beautiful bay with a small beach. It’s hard to reach via land, but a great hiking opportunity as you will have to climb down rocky hill.
Ao Hin Wong is a stunning bay surrounded by boulders. Located on the east side of Koh Tao, Hin Wong has various marine life and is considered as another great snorkeling spots on the island.
Ao Tanote is one of the best places to see the sunrise from. The wide beach is surrounded by trees and boulders. There are a few hotels and restaurants on the side.
↬ TIP : It’s at the end of a beautiful hiking trail starting at Sairee Beach and passing beautiful view points. See ‘Hiking‘ chapter of this post for more details.
Aow Leuk Bay is a stunning, white sand beach with views on Shark Island. There is a coral reef on both sides of the beach making it a great snorkeling spot.
Sai Daeng Beach is a paradisiac small beach right in front of Shark Island. It’s a great place for snorkeling so make sure to pack your gear.
Shark Island is beautiful tiny island and a great diving spot. You can get here by boat or, alternatively, by kayak from Sai Deng Beach, only 15 min away.
Shark Bay is a private bay known as ‘Shark Bay’ due to the black tip reef sharks that can be frequently seen here. There is an entrance fee.
Freedom Beach is a scenic place with crystal clear waters, a wonderful spot for swimming and snorkelling.
Chalok Baan Kao Bay is one of the largest beaches on Koh Tao and has views on Koh Phangan and Koh Samui.
Cape Ja Te Kang is a great hideaway if you want somewhere peaceful and out the way.
Sai Nuan Beach is a stunning hidden beach with coconut trees, white sand and shallow turquoise waters.
↬ TIP : Get here by hike trail from Mae Haan Pier. Read ‘Hiking’ chapter of this blog post for more info!
Explore Koh Nang Yuan
Koh Nang Yuan is considered as one of the most beautiful islands in the world. It is actually 3 small islands connected by a sand bar. The hilltop viewpoint is probably one of the most recognisable picture of Koh Tao. Koh Nang Yuan has some great snorkelling sites and it’s popular for scuba diving, especially at the Japanese Gardens. Visiting Koh Nang Yuan is probably the most popular activity while in Koh Tao. Without a doubt, it’s a fantastic half day trip. Be adventurous and let you steps guide you through this semi wild scenery not far from Koh Tao.
The easiest way to get there is by taxi boat from Sairee Beach (250 THB return). There is an entrance fee of 100 THB and the island closes at 5PM.
↬ TIP : If you’d like to experience the island before or after the crowds, then stay at the only resort on this tiny island, Nangyuan Island Dive Resort.
Reach Stunning Viewpoints
As for such a small island, Koh Tao has a surprising amount of stunning viewpoints to visit.
Nang Yuan Viewpoint is the most recognizable viewpoint of Koh Tao- even if it’s not located on Koh Tao ?Koh Nang Yuan island is just 15 min boat trip away from Sairee Beach and offers astonishing views from it’s hills.
↬ Note : The island closes at 5PM
John-Suwan Viewpoint is the most popular viewpoint on Koh Tao and should not be misses. This spot is located on the southern tip of the island. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the hills on the north. The view down on the nearby bays are also stunning.
Mango View Point is a great place to stop for a refreshing drink and stunning views on your way to Mango Bay. The viewpoint is easily accessible as most of the way you’ll drive by motorbike.
Sunset View Point is located right next to Mango View Point. As the name suggests, it’s a perfect place to watch glorious sunsets. Just be careful driving back as the path is not lighted.
West Coast View Point located in the centre of the island, it offers fabulous views of the west coast including a stunning view of Koh Nang Yuan and Sairee Beach.
Go Scuba diving
Koh Tao is one of the best scuba diving spots in the world. It’s also one of the cheapest to complete diving certifications. The dive centres on Koh Tao have an international reputation of some of the best dive training facilities in the world. The experienced dive instructors and their knowledge on Koh Tao’s dive sites provide the perfect environment for all levels of training.
Within 3-4 days you could become a certified Open Water Padi diver!
We wrote a full guide of what scuba diving in Koh Tao is like. So if you feel like you’d like to try diving.. This is the spot.
Evenings at Sairee Beach
The area of Sairee Beach is without a doubt the most lively and popular place on Koh Tao. The beach itself is great for relaxing and snorkeling during the day. At night, the vibe changes as the music gets louder. There are many parties and exciting events happening here every night. There are also some great restaurants located on the beach.
↬ TIP : There are 2 very picturesque swings right next to this rental shop.
Hike around the Island
Koh Tao has very beautiful hikes that are accessible for anyone. Hiking is easily the easiest way to get away from crowds and some quiet moments. Also, it’s the best way to access some of the most beautiful but remote beaches. We wrote in this guide 2 itineraries for you of hikes that we would have done if we stayed a bit longer (or didn’t focus on getting our PADI in Koh Tao).
Mae Haad – Sai Nuan – Chalok Hike
This hike starts at the pier in Mae Haad from where you head south keeping the sea on your right. Pass through Sensi Paradise Resort and make your way towards Charm Churee Resort. From here, Jansom Bay, the first stop, is just steps away. After a refreshing dip in crystal clear waters, continue your way towards Sai Nuan Beach. Pass the Banana Rock Restaurant and you will see the road leading uphill. After passing the Sky Bar, a remotely located hut with great views, take the stairs down leading to Tao Thong and Cape Ja Te Kang Beach.
Sairee – Tanote Hike and Viewpoints
The hike starts at Sairee Beach. From here, head inland and take small, the concrete road Soi Moonlight uphill. It will take you to Koh Tao Two View Restaurant. Turn right and continue to Koh Tao’s most stunning viewpoints West Coast and Tanote Peak. After emerging yourself in those fantastic views, head back to Two View, and turn left. Continue the way to Love Koh Tao where you can stop for lunch and picture with the famous “Love Koh Tao” sign. Continue the road downhill and then turn left when you reach the Tanote road. From here, walk to Tanote Bay, one of Koh Tao’s most beautiful beaches for refreshing swim in turquoise waters.
↬ TIP : Remember to take snorkel gear as Tanote Bay has some fantastic snorkeling spots!
Sunrise at Love Koh Tao
Watching the sun rise from a stunning view point is breathtaking. The cafe opens for sunrise, so it’s the most romantic breakfast spot on the island.
Sunset at Mango Bay Viewpoint
Sunsets in Koh Tao are magical. The best view is definitely from Mango Bay Viewpoint. However, this means that you will need to drive motorbike downhill in the dark.
If you’d rather prefer an easier way to see the sunset, then head to Sairee Beach. Choose a sun bed at one of the many beach bars and sip a cocktail watching the day come to an end.
Ride a scooter
As Koh Tao is a small island, the best way to explore it is by scooter. Like this you will be able to see all the hidden bays and cool places in Koh Tao. However, be aware of the bad road condition and take precautions while driving.
Also make sure to rent at a reputable rent shop as scooter rental scams are common in Thailand. Take video or pictures of any existent scratches of the scooter and always wear a helmet ✌?.
Getting to Koh Tao
Arriving in Koh Tao is rather easy, even if time consuming as the only way is by ferry.
There are 2 ferry companies: Lomprayah and Seatran. The preferred one is Lomprayah as their ferry is newer and faster.
From Koh Samui
The nearest airport is in Koh Samui. From the airport take a shuttle van (150 THB each) to the Pralarn Pier.
The fastest ferry company is Lomprayah. The closet port to the airport is Maenam Pralarn Pier. The ferry to Koh Tao (via Koh Phangan) leaves at 8.30AM and 12.30PM every day. The trip takes about 2H and costs 600 THB (17,5 EUR) per person.
Lomprayah departs also from Nathon Pier to Koh Tao twice a day at 11.15 and at 17.30.
↬ TIP : Get your tickets online with Lomprayah and don’t forget to print the confirmation email.
From Surat Thani
The other option is arriving to Surat Thani airport. From there take a van or taxi to Tapee Pier.
↬ TIP : When buying your ticket online on Lomprayah website, you can choose tickets with company bus transfer included, straight from the airport. It will save you time.
The ferry from Tapee Pier leaves to Koh Tao at 9AM and 3.30PM. The trip takes about 5H. A ticket for the ferry only costs 800 THB (23 EUR). Add 100 THB (3 EUR) if you’d like to get a ticket also for a bus from the airport.
Seatran leaves from Donsak Pier at 2 PM and arrives in Koh Tao at 6.30 PM. The ticket costs 850 THB (25 EUR). However, have in mind that the bus from Surat Thani Airport to Donsak Pier takes additional 1.5 H and 100 THB (3 EUR). You can purchase a combined ticket at on Seatran website.
Lomprayah also offers transfers from Bangkok. The bus departs from Kao San road at 6AM and arrives at Thung Makham Noi Pier in Chumphon at 12.30 PM. The ferry departs from there at 1PM arriving in Koh Tao at 2.45PM. The ticket costs 1100 THB (32,5 EUR).
↬ Note : You can purchase the tickets directly on the company’s website or compare prices and departure times at here: Ferry Samui.
All the ferries arrive at Mae Haad Pier in Koh Tao. From here, most hotels offer a complimentary pick up.
Leaving Koh Tao
Leaving Koh Tao is similar as arriving. All the ferries depart from Mae Haad Pier. You can purchase your tickets online or do it at one of many shops lined up on the streets of Koh Tao.
↬ Note : The online ticket sales stop a day before the departure. You cannot buy ticket online for departure on the same day.
We decided to change the plans last minute and at 11PM were looking for tickets to leave at 6 AM following morning. Luckily we found one shop opened and a friendly lady sold us 2 tickets without problems.
↬ TIP : If you continue your trip to Surat Thani, make sure to board the Lomprayah ferry at 6AM. The trip takes only 3.5H comparing to 5-6H of another departure times.
Getting around Koh Tao
The best way to get around Koh Tao is by renting a scooter. Make sure that you take video and pictures of any existent scratches on the bike before you leave the rental shop. It is known that shop owners in Thailand scam tourists making them pay a lot of money for a scratch or two. Always wear helmet and avoid driving after dusk, as the roads are not in great conditions.
If you are a fan of hiking, then you can get by foot to some of the main attractions. Check out ‘Hiking’ trails in the post above.
When to go
As in the other parts of Thailand, there are 3 main seasons in Koh Tao: a dry season (between December and February), a hot season (between March and July) and a rainy season (between August and November).
Travelling in the rainy season means great deals on flights and hotels, but a big chance that it will rain everyday (like it did when we were there).
Where to eat
Cafe Del Sol is a great place if you’d like to take a break from Thai cuisine. There are many international dishes on the menu like homemade pasta or pizza.
Coconut Monkey serves the best vegan and vegetarian breakfast and lunch dishes.
ActTwo is a good Thai restaurant in a beautiful, romantic setting. At night, the lights above the terrace right in front of the sea light up the setting. We thought their Pineapple Rice was good and very well priced.
Whitenning Restaurant is a great choice for a fancier dinner. The prices are higher, but the quality of food and ingredients were just perfect. The place is facing the sea and offers inside tables, sun beds and tables right on the beach. Delicious Asian / European fusion food.
Fishbowl Beach Bar is one of the most famous bars in Koh Tao. They serve good and cheap Thai dishes and great mango mojito.
Where to stay
Choosing a right area for your stay in Koh Tao is very important. If you decide to stay far from Sairee Beach, the chance is that you will have quiet and beautiful beach in front, but limited restaurant and activities around. Therefor consider this: if you like to go out in the night, eat at nice beach restaurants then stay in the Sairee Beach area. Otherwise opt for south or south east part of the island where most of the best beaches are.
↬ Find all the hotels on Koh Tao Island on booking.com