Koh Tao island is surely amongst one of the most visited in Thailand. However, during the best Thai season (from December to March/April) it gets often overlooked and many tourists prefer the Andaman Sea.
It is in August when Koh Tao goes back to being very popular and stands out as the most beautiful and interesting island in Thailand.
Why August? Because during this month, the Thai see is at its best, whilst the Andaman Sea is often hit by bad weather.
Koh Tao is the smallest island when compared to the close Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. The latest being very well known for the Full Moon Party, a beach party held once a month in which thousands of youngsters go wild under a spectacular full moon.
Koh Tao island: called also Turtle Island
Koh Tao Island is located in the Gulf of Thailand and it’s called also “Turtle Island” . Unlike Akumal in Mexico, where the turtles actually live and breed, This name comes from the fact that in the past the island was inhabited by lots of turtles that used to lay their white eggs on its beach.
What does Koh Tao look like?
Koh Tao Island is famous for being one of the best places where to practice scuba diving. Indeed, there are a lot of diving schools on the island which offer diving courses for all level. If you wish to get a PADI certification, well…you’re in the right spot, this is one of the best place to do this sport.
If, instead, diving is not your cup of tea, why not giving snorkeling a try? Koh Tao and its blue waters represent the perfect opportunity for you to admire colorful fishes. I was left speechless by a section od sea called Japanese Garden, just a few meters off the eastern coast of the island of Koh Nang Yuan, which I already mentioned in one of my previous posts.
The island of Koh Tao is fairly small and its most popular cost is the western one, near Mae Beach (the closest beach to the port) and Sairee Beach. The rest of the island is nfortunately difficult to reach, unless you decide to rent a motorbike, a quad or visit it by taxi boat.
In case you opt for hiring either a motorbike or a quad, bear in mind that:
- You’ll need an International Driver’s Permit or Licence.
- You’ll have to be extremely careful when driving around. As a matter of fact, the streets in Thailand are always very trafficked and bumpy, so the risk of an accident might be just around the corner.
Suggestion: if you are beach lovers and you intend to spend the entire day sunbathing, I’d definitely recommend staying either on Sairee Beach or Mae Haad.
How to get to Koh Tao island?
There are many different ways to get to the island of Koh Tao. It depends on where you’re departing from.
Koh Tao can be easily reached by bus and ferry with the company Lomprayah (click here for rates)
If you’re departing from Bangkok you can:
- Get the coach and then the ferry with the company Lomprayah.
- Get a plane, then bus and ferry with the company Nok Air or Air Asia.
- Fly from Bangkok to Koh Samui and then get a ferry from Samui to Koh Tao.
As for myself, I got a flight with Air Asia from Chiang Mai to Koh Samui. It was a very good option for me, not only economically but also logistically. If you want to know more about my trip from Chiang Mai to Kos Samui please read: “From Chiang Mai to Koh Samui by plane and ferry”.
Careful: not all the ferry companies depart from the same port. For example, the ferry from Koh Samui to Koh Tao with the company Lomprayah leaves from the Lomprayah Samui Maenam Pier, which is not exactly in the centre of Maenam.
Where to stay in Koh Tao?
If you just want a quiet and relaxing stay on the island of Koh Tao, then opt for the eastern coast with its fashionable resorts and clear waters.
If, instead, you’d rather stay in a popular area where to meet other backpackers and travellers, the best option it’s surely Sairee Beach. This area has plenty of different Thai restaurants as well as many others places where to drink and have fun.
After visiting the both the eastern coast and Sairee beach, I can definitely say that staying a few days in one area and then move to the other, was a perfect decision.
If you want a great view and relax
I spent the first two days in the Dusit Buncha Resort, in the north of Koh Tao, looking at Koh Nang Yuang, a small islet just a few hundred metres away. The resort was literally amazing, especially because of its outdoor swimming pool and restaurant with sea-view. Look at the photo if you don’t believe me!
If you want to stay on the most visited beach
In the last few days, my accommodation was the Inn Touch Resort, the only resort on Sairee beach. I can’t recommend it highly enough!
Other possibilities where to stay on Koh Tao?
Are you wondering whether it is better to book in advance or finding the accommodation whilst onsite? The answer is simply: it depends! It obviously depends on the period you’re travelling to Thailand. Generally, finding a resort, hotel or hostel when already in the country, is not an impossible challenge as you’ll be approached by many people offering you rooms in their hotels.
Being a very organised person, I normally book for everything well in advance, so as to reduce the risk of any kind of annoying setbacks once onsite.
Suggestion: if you want to experience something unforgettable, book one night at the Nang Yuan Dive Resort, the only resort on Koh Nang Yuan. You won’t regret it!
What to do in Koh Tao
Koh Tao is ta perfect island. You can find a lot of things to do. From spot to relax, whatever you want!
If you like hiking, you won’t certainly get bored on it. Koh Tao island has become so popular amongst tourists thanks to activities such as diving, snorkeling and the possibility of getting a scuba-diving certification at a very cheap price.
Fist thing to do in Koh Tao: a full day trip to Koh Nang Yuan
Koh Nang Yuan is a tiny island just 10-15 minute away from the west side of Koh Tao. Every day, the beach gets invaded by tourists who either buy a package day trip or charter a longtail boat from Sairee Beach. I believe Koh Nang Yuan to be the most gorgeous place around the whole Koh Tao.
The water, especially in the area of the Japanese Gardens, is simply incredible. It’s perfect for snorkeling as it gets shallow enough for this kind of activity. You can even hike up to the viewpoint (it takes about 15 to 20 minutes to get there) and enjoy the stunning view of the three islands connected by a sandbar.
How to get to Koh Nang Yuan?
If you want to know how to get to the paradisiac island of Koh Nang Yuan, please read my post From Koh Tao to Koh Nang Yuan by taxi boat.
Second thing to do in Koh Tao: relax on the beaches
If somebody was to ask me what is the most beautiful thing to see or do in Koh Tao, I honestly wouldn’t know what to say. The entire island is truly stunning. On Koh Tao, each beach has its own peculiarity. Some of them are large and sandy and, thus, more adequate for families. Others are rather tricky to reach or even private beaches where tourists need to pay to access them.
Most popular beaches of Koh Tao
- Sairee Beach: the largest and most popular beach on the island. A kilometer and a half long, situated on the west coast, this beach is crammed with restaurants, bars, hotels and resorts to suit everybody’s taste. The sand is white and the water is clear (although not as clear as Koh Nang Yuan’s). I strongly recommend this bay for a nice evening drinking, listening to live music and looking at the breath-taking sunset from one of the many bars along the beach. Even though Sairee Beach is surely amongst the most touristic island in Koh Tao, I didn’t find it chaotic at all. So, if you’re looking for a gorgeous and relaxing place, this is where you must go.
- Koh Nang Yuan: undoubtedly the most spectacular beach on Koh Tao. It is only a few meters from Sairee and it’s surely a must-see if you’re visiting the island of Koh Tao.
- Hin Wong Bay: it is located on the east coast of Koh Tao, about an hour from Sairee beach. A good way to reach it would be by hiring a boat or getting on a taxi boat. Indeed, the drive to get there can be quite bumpy, so a boat might be might be a more
- Tanote Bay: it is situated on the east coast of Koh Tao. Just like Hoin Wong Bay, it would be better to get to the beach by taxi boat. If it is a sunny day, you could even try hiking, why not?!
- Ao Leuk Beach
- Mango Bay
- Chalok Ban Kaok
Third thing to do in Koh Tao: snorkeling trips
As you may have already understood from my previous posts, one of my favourite Koh Tao activities was snorkeling.
Because of the many colorful fishes and seaweeds, Koh Tao is with no doubts one of the best places to have fun whilst marvelling at its sea bottom.
Walking along Sairee Beach, especially in the proximities of the many resorts. Here you’ll see hundreds of posters advertising snorkeling group trips. The agencies which organise the tours are many, but the price is more or less the same. If I remember correctly, I paid about 30/35 euros for my snorkeling trip, lunch onboard included.
How the snorkeling day unfolds
The tour started in the morning and I was picked up with my group in front of my hotel.
The first stop was Mae Haad where I was given a snorkeling mask. Then I got onboard once again for a short tour around the entire island (Koh Nang Yuan included).
The ferry tour started, if I remember correctly, at around 9/10 am. and finished at 5 pm. In total, you’ll visit 5 different bays and you’ll stop in each one of them to snorkel a little bit. And, as it’s difficult for me to describe it using words, please look at this photo to get an idea of what kind of marvel will be in front of your eyes…
If you can’t swim or you don’t feel at ease in deep waters, each ferry is provided with life jackets. I advise you to use the jacket even if you are good swimmers.
Wear one and jump in the water without hesitating. It will be a truly unforgettable experience! I suggest you to
If this won’t exceed your budget, you could even hire a taxi boat for the entire day. By doing so, you’ll be the one deciding how long to stop for at each beach.