Koh Tao, also known as “Turtle Island”, is my favorite place in Thailand. Not only because I took my first diving course there, but also because of the general atmosphere and scenery. The former prison is now a beautiful but still somewhat isolated island, where total escape is guaranteed. Here are my top things to do on Koh Tao!

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1. Explore the many beaches

Since we’re on an island, I’m guessing that what brought you here is probably your desire to relax on the beach with a cool coconut drink. So, without further ado, let me introduce you to Koh Tao’s best beaches:

Ao Tanote Beach

Located on the east coast of the island, Ao Tanote beach is a secluded little haven ideal for diving and snorkeling. What makes this place unique is the rock in the middle of the bay, from which people love to jump.

Ao Hin Wong

Another peaceful beach with crystal-clear water where you don’t even need any special equipment to see plenty of fish at your feet. You do, however, need to venture further out to discover the corals and marine life. Parking costs 20 baht (50 cents).

Freedom Beach

Freedom beach in Koh Tao

Private beach located right next to the John Suwan viewpoint, offering a superb panorama of the bay. Entrance fee is 100 baht (approx. $3) and includes the viewpoint and Taa Toh beach. Come early to have the place to yourself, as it is now well known to tourists.

Chalok Baan Kao Beach

Chalok Baan Kao beach in Koh Tao

Just a stone’s throw from Freedom Beach and Taa Toh, Chalok Baan Kao is a beach of absolute beauty and calm. With its long stretch of sand making it one of the island’s largest beaches, you’re sure to find a space to bask in the sun.

Sai Daeng Beach

For a breathtaking view of Shark Island and the possibility of seeing harmless sharks. A beautiful beach with some shade, ideal for snorkeling. Beware, however, of strong currents in some places.

Sairee Beach

Sairee beach in Koh Tao

Koh Tao’s most famous and largest beach. But it’s also a great place for sunsets, with nice restaurants and bars. Not the best beach for relaxing, but if you’re looking for a lively atmosphere, this is the place!

2. Get your diving certification

Fishes

As Koh Tao is one of the most famous diving spots in the world, it’s no secret that I decided to take my scuba diving exam there. Then came the time to choose a diving school, not an easy task when you consider how many there are on this small island.
Nevertheless, after careful consideration, I chose Roctopus Dive, which I highly recommend! My advice is to shop around until you “click” with one of the different schools. You can also read the various comments and reviews on the Internet.

I chose Roctopus Dive because the whole team is very friendly and has a family atmosphere. My instructor was also great. He taught me everything I needed to know in a calm, professional but fun way, always listening to any questions or concerns I might have. They were magical days that gave me the confidence to continue exploring the underwater world!

And if you’re already certified, you’re more than welcome to book some fun dives or explore the many dive sites around the island.

3. Soak up the scenery at John-Suwan Viewpoint

Koh Tao has many viewpoints, each as beautiful as the next and sometimes difficult to reach, but well worth the effort. However, if I had to choose just one, it would be the John-Suwan viewpoint, and as a picture is worth a thousand words, let me show it to you!

John-Suwan viewpoint in Koh Tao

Cost: 100 Baht (access to Freedom Beach and Taa Toh Beach as well)

The ONE that took my breath away, literally and figuratively. And if you’re wondering why, it’s simply because it’s the hardest to reach. Ropes, climbing, the 15-minute hike is pretty tiring, but then again, the panorama at the top is rewarding to say the least.

Start early or later in the afternoon as the heat is no joke and we wouldn’t want to catch a sunstroke, would we?!?! Oh, and don’t forget to bring appropriate footwear – forget flip-flops, at least for this hike!

John-Suwan Viewpoint in Koh Tao island
John-Suwan viewpoint and its palm trees in Koh Tao

4. Try something new

Snorkeling and diving are popular activities on this little island, but not the only ones. What’s more, you might want to stop lazing around on the beach and get some exercise! In fact, you’ve got plenty of choices, and I’m going to introduce you to some of them right now:

Paddleboarding

Paddleboarding is a great way to explore an island’s surroundings while observing the panorama from another vantage point, and it’s also an incredible experience at sunset. And the great thing is that if you suddenly get tired or too hot, you can just jump in the water. Getting back on the board can sometimes be fun too!

Anyway, you can rent your paddleboard south of Sairee beach at SUP TAO. The price is 250 baht ($7) for an hour, 600 baht (about $17) for half a day or 900 baht ($25) for a full day.

Muay Thai

Muay Thai
Photo by Lkszy Dgtl on Unsplash

Thailand’s national sport, Muay Thai is another option if you want to keep fit while trying something new. Two training centers are available on Koh Tao: Island Muay Thai and Monsoon Gym.

Why not take part and learn this traditional sport in a pleasant setting instead of just watching a match this time?

Climbing

With all the granite surrounding the island, it’s no wonder that Koh Tao is a climber’s paradise. There’s even a dedicated climbing Facebook group to help you find fellow climbers and all the information you need for your next adventure!

Yoga

I told you this little island had a lot to offer. I’ve been practicing yoga every day for a while now, and what could be more relaxing than doing it on an island with palm trees and the sea as a backdrop? It’s hard to beat that!

Whether you’re into Vinyasa, Yin Yoga or something else, you’re sure to find a style that suits you on Koh Tao.

5. Watch magnificent sunsets

I’d say you can’t go wrong on Koh Tao when it comes to sunsets. On a beach, at the top of a viewpoint, wherever you choose to look, you’ll have a beautiful view with sometimes vibrant colors too good to be true.

And yet, there I was, one of those evenings, the sun plunging into the ocean, the atmosphere calm and serene, accompanied by the sound of the waves crashing on the shore… contemplating my first red sunset and wondering how the sky could take on such a bloody hue. Unbelievable!

Is Koh Tao safe?

You may or may not have heard of it, but the island has become famous for more than just its beautiful scenery and diving world over the years. And that’s for its mysterious disappearances and murders.

So, is it safe to travel to Koh Tao? I’d say yes, I’ve never had any trouble the times I’ve been there and, in my opinion, the island is a little paradise and the ideal place to relax, as many other travelers will also tell you. It’s not as if there’s no crime in other parts of the country or the world.

My advice is to always follow certain rules to stay safe (applicable to all destinations):

  • Don’t leave your drink unattended and don’t accept drinks from strangers
  • Always be aware of your surroundings
  • Respect the people and culture of the country in which you’re traveling
  • Don’t explore the streets or walk around at night, or take someone with you
  • Don’t show your valuables

How to get there?

Sunrise with Thailand's flag before getting to Koh Tao

As Koh Tao is a tiny island off the coast of Thailand, the only way to get there is by boat. You can leave from Chumphon or Surat Thani, located on the mainland. You can also take a boat from one of the neighboring islands: Koh Samui or Koh Phangan.

The ferry fare with the Lomprayah company is 750 baht ($21) for a one-way trip, and takes about 1h30.

Where to stay?

The popular island of Koh Tao offers many places to choose from, depending on the conditions you’re focusing on:

  • Mae Haad Village: the first place you’ll see on arrival, the harbor and surrounding area is perfect during the day, as it’s home to numerous stores, markets, dive boutiques and convenience stores. Safe and easy to navigate, it’s nonetheless fairly empty and not very lively at night.
  • Sairee Beach: whether you’re on a budget or looking for something more luxurious, you’ll find what you’re looking for here. Close to the Mae Haad pier (15-20 minute walk), Sairee Beach offers fantastic sunsets, a lively nightlife and friendly restaurants, bars and boutiques.
  • Chalok Baan Khao Bay: hostels or resorts, the choice is yours, but here you can enjoy a more peaceful atmosphere without being too far from other parts of the island.
  • Other more isolated bays: if you want to stay in hotels or resorts, this is the best option. These bays are more remote and laid-back, but it’s best to rent a motorcycle as they’re quite a distance from the busier areas (which means there’s not much to do at night).

Best time to visit & weather

On the whole, the island is always sunny and enjoys warm weather all year round. However, the best months are generally December to February, as this is the island’s sunniest and busiest time of year.

If you’re planning to go diving, I recommend you visit Koh Tao between July and September for the best visibility.

The only period to avoid is from October to November, as the monsoon season hits Koh Tao. You don’t really want to spend your days cooped up in your room watching the rain fall, do you?

In a nutshell

Koh Tao may be small, but the plethora of activities and wonderful sites the island has to offer is second to none. Travelling to Koh Tao is synonymous with underwater exploration, but also with lounging on superb beaches. So what are you waiting for? Paradise awaits!

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2 Comments

  1. Wow this looks so cool! I’ve always wanted to visit Thailand and this looks like an incredible spot. As a climber, I love that there’s good rock climbing there as well as tons of other fun activities.

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