This post was last updated on February 19th, 2020 at 08:13 am
In the beginning, there was Koh Samui, then Koh Phangan, but nowadays Koh Tao is on the same level. With around 21 square kilometers, Koh Tao is a true “mini island”. Its big brother Koh Samui is a short distance away. With its beautiful white beaches and blue sea, Koh Tao is a true Paradise in Thailand. The island has around 1,400 inhabitants who all live off tourism and, in particular, scuba diving. This is the biggest reason to go to Koh Tao. You will find beautiful scuba diving destinations.
Relax on Beautiful Koh Tao
Today, thousands of visitors come to this island to enjoy this beautiful piece of Mother Nature. The water here is rich in various corals and there are many marine animals. The island is also called “turtle island” and can only be reached by ferry. There are only a few resorts with a number of houses on the beach. A true “get-away” paradise.
If you rent a scooter you can discover the entire island!
Although it is a small island you will find everything you need here. It is a versatile island where every tourist can enjoy themselves! Although scuba diving is the biggest attraction here (and it is really beautiful!), you can also go hiking in the island’s jungles.
Of course, do not expect it to take days to traverse the jungle, but it is definitely worth it for a change in scenery! If you are fed up with scuba diving and hiking, you can once again enjoy yourself with the great nightlife on Koh Tao.
The 5 Most Beautiful Beaches in Koh Tao
Koh Tao is known as one of the best places in Thailand for scuba diving. That does not mean that you have to spend all your time underwater with your oxygen tank. Above the water, there is also plenty to see, including a number of beautiful beaches. The advantage is that the island is so small that you can visit all the beaches quite easily. These are the 5 most beautiful beaches on Koh Tao.
1. Chalok Baan Kao Bay
This is not the most beautiful beach on the island, but one that is worth visiting. It is the southernmost beach of Koh Tao that is surrounded by rocky hills. It is a peaceful oasis of fine white sand and a crystal clear sea.
There is also a good choice of beach bars and restaurants.
2. Haad Tien
Haad Tien is also known as “Rocky Bay”. It is one of the furthest beaches in Mae Haad, but one of the most beautiful. It has the clearest water and it’s the cleanest of all beaches.
You will only find a small number of accommodations (resorts) here so it is fairly quiet. It is sometimes called “Shark Bay” due to the number of black-tip reef sharks that you can sometimes see here.
TIP – Because of the clear water you can snorkel well here.
3. Mae Haad Beach
Mae Haad is the most important city on the island, where you will also find the pier. The beach here is logically one of the most visited beaches. Because of this, you will find plenty of ho(s)tels, shops, bars, and other things to do.
Not the most beautiful beach on the island and it’s probably one of the first beaches you will see. For the real paradise experience, you should visit the other beaches.
4. Tanote Bay
This is the largest beach on the east coast of the island. It is also the busiest part of the island. So if you want to get in touch with the locals, this is the place to be.
5. Sairee Beach
Sairee Beach is Koh Tao’s best-known beach, where you will find most of the nightlife, including beach bars and restaurants. This is the longest beach on the island and also the most beautiful beach, making it one of the busiest places on the island.
You will also find a lot of budget accommodations here. It is the most popular beach for younger people and backpackers.
Sairee Beach is a great place to spend the day; there is a lot to do. From beach volleyball to football and snorkeling. There is also a coral reef just 30 meters from the coast. With lots of sand and shallow water, Sairee Beach is ideal for families with children.
TIP – Renting snorkeling gear costs around US$6 per day.
5 Fun Things to Do in Koh Tao
Besides sunbathing on the beach and scuba diving there is still plenty to do to get through the day. There is not as much to do as on Koh Phi Phi or Koh Phangan, but you can easily enjoy yourself here for a few days without having to scuba dive or visit a different beach every day.
1. Explore Beaches With a Kayak
One of the nicest ways to spend your day is in a kayak. You can easily visit the most beautiful beaches and the isolated snorkeling sites in a kayak. You will find many tour operators at Sairee Beach where you can rent a kayak for half a day or a whole day.
You will need approximately eight hours to kayak around the entire island.
You can also rent a half-day kayak to kayak to Koh Nang Yuan and explore the island. It is one of the best things to do on Koh Tao.
TIP – Renting a kayak will cost you around US$10 a day.
2. Rock Climbing
If you are looking for a little more adventure on Koh Tao, we recommend climbing the rocks. This small island has many large boulders that can be climbed perfectly.
One of the popular companies to offer rock Climbing in Koh Tao is Goodtime Adventures. They offer courses to everyone, from beginners to experienced climbers. They have more than 70 climbing routes in 3 areas, along with a number of fun spots.
3. Day Trip to Koh Nangyuan
Koh Nangyuan is not really part of Koh Tao, but a small neighboring island. The island itself actually consists of three smaller islands connected by a natural sandbar.
A day trip to this island is the most popular activity on Koh Tao and if you are active on social media you will undoubtedly recognize the pictures.
Koh Nangyuan is famous for the turquoise water, the beautiful white sandy beaches, and the snorkeling at the colorful coral. When you are on the island, you can climb to the viewpoint for a perfect picture.
TIP – A snorkeling trip costs around 700 Baht (US$22.40). You can also rent a long-tail boat for around 300 Baht (US$9.60).
4. Experience a Sunset
Sairee Beach is the best place to watch the sun go down. Grab a beer, plop down on the beach and watch the sun turn the sky into an orange-pink color. A great place to watch the sun go down is at the Lotus Bar. This is the familiar place with the vertical palm tree where everyone seems to be taking a photo. This is a must-do on Koh Tao!
5. Climb to One of the Viewpoints
Koh Tao has a beautiful interior with a number of hills that serve well as a viewpoint. The best known are;
John Suwan Viewpoint
In the south of Koh Tao, you will find the John Suwan Viewpoint. With good weather, you will have a view to the north, with a view of Chalok Baan Khao Bay, Haad Tien Beach and the hilly interior of the island. It is named after the two friends who discovered the view while looking for a place to build a house.
TIP – Access to the viewpoint is 50 Baht (US$1.60).
Mango Viewpoint is located in the hills to the north of the island. From here you have a view of Mae Haad and Sairee Beach. The view is very impressive. You can reach the point by a long, challenging walk from the 7-Eleven in Sairee or with a scooter on a steep and risk-free road.
TIP – Access to the viewpoint is 100 Baht (US$3.20).
Probably the most challenging point to reach, located on the highest peak of Koh Tao. The Two Views is part of a walking route from Sairee Beach and, therefore, fairly popular. From Two Views you will have a beautiful view of Sairee Beach in the west and Tanote Bay in the east.
On a clear day, you can even see Koh Phangan, Ang Thong Marine National Park, and Koh Samui!
Scuba Diving in Koh Tao
On Koh Tao you can scuba dive very well; it is what this island is known for. It is perfect for beginners because of the crystal clear and shallow water. In addition, the conditions here are so optimal that you can scuba dive all year long on Koh Tao.
The best scuba diving spots are around 20 kilometers from the island. You will encounter everything under water; from tropical fish to colorful coral and from stingrays to barracudas. On the island, you will find more than 40 scuba diving schools where you can complete all PADI courses or simply book some separate scuba diving lessons.
TIP – The best-known spots for scuba diving are Chumphon Pinnacle, Green Rock, Japanese Garden, Mango Bay, Sail Rock, White Rock, and HTMS Sattakut.
Prices for Scuba Diving
Due to the enormous competition, the prices for a scuba diving lesson or course on Koh Tao are very low. Of course, price does not mean everything and also depend on the instructor you request, but count on the following prices:
- PADI (Open Water Diver) ➜ 9,800 Baht, around US$314.
- SSi (Open Water Diver) ➜ 9,000 Baht, around US$288.
- Advanced Open Water ➜ 8,500 Baht, around US$272.
- Divemaster ➜ 25,000 Baht, around US$801.
TIP – View the Big Blue Scuba diving site for more information about scuba diving.
Snorkeling and Free Diving in Koh Tao
If you are not into scuba diving, you can, of course, also go snorkeling. You can book different snorkeling trips to places in the Koh Tao area. You will have to pay around 100 to 200 Baht (US$3.20 to $6.40). Booking a tour is usually not necessary. With your rented snorkel set you can just walk into the water, swim a bit, and put your head under water, easy!
TIP – A good snorkeling tour will cost between 500 and 800 Baht (US$16 to $25.60). Popular places for snorkeling are Aaem Thian, Shark Island, Ao Hin Wong, and Ligt House Point.
Freediving is on the rise on Koh Tao. Please note that free diving is quite risky. So try taking a lesson or go with someone experienced before you try something yourself. You can look for a lesson at Apnea Total. An introductory lesson of one day will cost you around 3,000 Baht (US$96).
In some places, you can rent underwater cameras if you don’t have one yourself.
Where to Stay in Koh Tao
The best place to spend the night on Koh Tao is on and around Sairee Beach. Here you will find not only many budget accommodations, but also most restaurants, scuba diving schools, and bars. The bad roads make it difficult to compare it to different guesthouses.
Especially in the high season, you have to make an effort to find a vacant room.
If you want to come here during the high season it is better to book in advance. The prices are, on average, somewhat higher than in other parts of Thailand. Due to the relatively large amount of options, you can still find accommodations that fit within your budget, certainly in the low season. Count on around US$12 to $22 per night.
TIP – If you want to book online or just want to take a look at the different accommodations and prices on Koh Tao, we recommend using Booking.com. It is very easy to book here and you can cancel at any time up to 24 hours before your arrival.
How to Get to Koh Tao
The boat is the only way to get to Koh Tao. Most boats sail the route between the mainland (Chumphon) and Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, and Koh Samui.
From Koh Phangan to Koh Tao
Boats from / to Koh Phangan go 3 times a day at 6:00 a.m., 9:30 a.m., and 3:00 p.m. It costs between 500 and 600 Baht (US$16 to $19.20). You will usually be picked up from your accommodation.
From Koh Samui to Koh Tao
Boats from / to Koh Samui go twice a day. It will cost you around 600 Baht (US$19.20) and they will leave at 9:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. The boat usually sails (if not always) via Koh Phangan. So make sure you step out on the right island!
If you’re interested in booking your tickets to these islands online we recommend using 12GoAsia. Here, you can easily find all routes and prices to any place you want to go to in Thailand. Check here to find the routes and prices from Bangkok to Koh Tao.
Best Time to Visit Koh Tao
The south of Thailand has a subtropical climate. Koh Tao is located off the coast and has a tropical monsoon climate. On average, the temperature is between 22°C to 30°C (72°F to 86°F). The best time to visit Koh Tao is from January to September.
November to December is the rainy season, with a lot of wind and rain. Fortunately, the sun never makes you wait very long. The weather conditions and visibility underwater are not always optimal for diving during this period. From January the temperature rises and there is plenty of sun.
The hottest month is May with temperatures of 35°C (95°F) and higher. There is always a sea breeze, which makes the humidity bearable, and it cools down a bit at night. To cool off, take a wonderful dip in the sea during the hottest months.
From July the temperature drops, especially in the evenings it is cooler and the wind increases as the rainy season approaches.
Average Weather by Month in Koh Tao
For scuba diving, the best time to visit Koh Tao is between June and September. In these months it is warm, sunny, and the sea is calm. Are you coming around October or November? Then you have the opportunity to spot the largest fish in the world; the whale shark.