Koh Tao – meaning ‘Turtle Island’ – is one of the hottest islands in Thailand. This small island is well known for its amazing dive sites but is also a fantastic beach destination. The many white sandy beaches are perfect for a relaxing holiday. Take a look at our top 5 of most beautiful beaches on Koh Tao to find out which beaches are worth a visit!
There are plenty of beaches on Koh Tao; from famous Sairee Beach to secluded coves that are only accessible by boat or after a challenging hike.
Koh Tao has something for everyone.
Beaches with luxurious villas, beaches with beautiful snorkeling spots, beaches with beach bars and eateries and… beaches with absolutely nothing!
If you are planning on staying on Koh Tao for a few days, make sure to visit these white treasures.
1. Shark Bay
Shark Bay is the perfect hub if you love snorkeling, sunbathing, beaches and relaxing. This is probably the whitest sandy beach of Koh Tao, making it a beloved destination for luxury travelers. There are many large resorts and villas on the beach that can be rented, such as the luxury villas of Cape Shark Villas with an amazing view on the crystal-clear bay.
Shark Bay is also the best snorkeling spot of Koh Tao. The bay is full with fish and … sharks! It is called Shark Bay for a reason. This might sound dangerous, but rest assured, the majority of sharks are blacktip reef sharks which are rather small and harmless.
If you fancy taking a break from swimming and snorkeling, Rocky Resort prepares delicious lunches. Its located at the utmost right side of the bay so that you can enjoy a gorgeous view of the whole bay.
Besides fish and sharks, turtles are often seen at Shark Bay as well, making the bay worth the visit! Snorkeling equipment can be rented for as low as 50 baht a day.
How to get there
Shark Bay is situated at the southern part of the island and is not directly accessible by a public road as you would need to walk through a resort. The best option is to ride your motorbike south from the pier, following the main road and keep following the signs with Shark Bay until you arrive at Rocky Resort. Here you can park your motorbike and go to the beach for free.
Other resorts ask an entrance fee of 100 baht. Besides taking your motorbike, you can hop on a taxi boat from Sairee Beach which costs 1,000 baht for a single journey.
2. Koh Nang Yuan
Officially Koh Nang Yuan is not part of Koh Tao, as it is a tiny island just off the coast. But when you find yourself on Koh Tao, you need to visit the stunning beach of this island.
Koh Nang Yuan consists of three small islands which are connected through a marvelous white sandy beach. The shallow coves surrounding the island are ideal snorkeling spots. You don’t need to worry about preparing your own equipment as these can be rented upon arrival. If you find yourself hungry or thirsty, the restaurant on the island will satisfy your needs.
If you are in for an adventure, you could climb to the island’s viewpoint and be astonished by the gorgeous view. The hike takes around fifteen minutes and is not very challenging. We recommend spraying yourself with anti-mosquito spray, as the hike passes through sections of jungle where hungry mosquitos are impatiently waiting for their next meal.
The viewpoint is very popular with tourists so be prepared to stand in line for a few minutes before climbing to the top. The top is the perfect spot for a picture.
There is a 100-baht entrance fee to enter the island, and you need to deposit all your plastic bottles of water and cans because the island has implemented a “no plastic policy”.
How to get there
Rent a taxi boat from Sairee Beach for 500 baht and schedule the time you want to be picked up with the captain. Another option is to join one of the many snorkeling tours offered on Koh Tao. These tours stop for one to two hours on Koh Nang Yuan and cost 500 baht. Besides a visit to the island, these tours also take you to a few other beaches of Koh Tao.
3. Sairee Beach
If you prefer a sociable and pleasant atmosphere and enjoy having a drink on the beach, Sairee is the place to be. This is the most visited beach in Koh Tao, with plenty of nice eateries, lounge areas, and resorts.
Ban’s Diving Resort, for example, situated right in the middle of Sairee Beach has rooms in all sizes and shapes. Or Blue Water, the perfect place for a delicious breakfast or a fresh smoothie right on the beach.
Despite its popularity, Sairee is pretty quiet during the day. This is because of the diving culture as many island visitors are out diving in the morning and return later in the day to relax on the beach.
How to get there
Sairee Beach is the main beach of the island, so you can’t miss it. The beach is situated one kilometer to the north of the Mae Haad Pier where all the ferries arrive.
4. Freedom Beach
Freedom Beach, located at the most southern tip of Koh Tao, is one of the more tranquil beaches on the island. The beach is hidden from the public, so no many people flock to this beach. However, it might quickly seem a bit crowded as the beach isn’t very spacious.
The beach is decorated in a hippie style and breathes a more relaxed atmosphere than the other beaches. There are no accommodations to spend the night, and there is only one restaurant where you can enjoy a beverage or Thai meal.
How to get there
Freedom Beach is easily accessible by motorbike, besides it being a bit unknown to the public. You can reach Freedom Beach by traveling south from the pier along the main road. At the end of the road, you will be met by a large sign with “Welcome to Freedom Beach”.
Don’t be misled by the sign as you still need to walk a few minutes to the actual beach from the designated motorbike parking area, as immediately on your right-hand you will first find TaaToh Beach.
Follow the signs and hike up the hill at the left side of the parking area to get to Freedom Beach.
5. Chalok Bay
Chalok is the little sister of Sairee Beach. It’s not as crowded, but the selection of restaurants is larger than on most other beaches of Koh Tao. Chalok Bay is perfect to enjoy a nice meal and beverage and a plunge in the ocean.
The beach is also home to a few diving schools such as Assava Dive Resort, located right on the beach, which is also a beautiful resort to spend the night. If you want to satisfy your urge for a delicious cocktail, the staff at Big Bubble Bar will happily prepare a fresh cocktail for you.
The beach is located near the main road of the island and is easily accessible. This makes it the perfect choice if you want to enjoy a day at the beach without having to go through a whole adventure.
How to get there
Chalok Bay is located near the main road, in the south of the island. Chalok Bay can be reached within five minutes by following the main road from the pier to the south.
Map of mentioned beaches
Transportation on Koh Tao
Koh Tao is a small island of only 21 km2, but the hills on the island make it impossible to travel on foot. Taxis are quite expensive as a short ride will quickly cost you a few hundred baht and are not available throughout the island. Therefore, we recommend renting a motorbike.
Motorbikes are available for 150 to 350 baht a day (depending on the type of motorbike). It’s worth to mention that Koh Tao is a hilly island and some roads are not easily passable. Some stretches of road are very steep or only consist of sand and gravel. Accidents frequently occur, so we recommend driving safely and always to wear a helmet.
Most motorbike rental stores on Koh Tao require you to deposit your passport as a guarantee. Do not agree with this!
We are familiar with the following rental stores, and these allow you to rent a motorbike without having to deposit your passport:
- Oli’s Motorbike Rental – Near the Mae Haad Pier. This is the most famous and highly regarded motorbike rental store on the island.
- Koh Tao Scooters – A decent second choice situated near the Mae Haad Pier.
- Buddha View Travel – located near Chalok Bay.
If you are not an experienced rider or riding a motorbike is too much of a challenge, hopping on a taxi boat is the best alternative.
Unfortunately, taxi boats are not cheap; traveling a short distance to another beach can set you back by 1,000 baht. You can share the boat with other travelers to keep the price down. Taxi boats are readily available at the more popular beaches such as Sairee Beach, Chalok Bay, and Shark Bay. These beaches have many taxi boat booths. Schedule your preferred time of return with the captain if you prefer to visit one of the quieter beaches.
How to get to Koh Tao
Hopping on a domestic flight from Chiang Mai or Bangkok to the coastal town Chumphon is your best option if you are traveling to Koh Tao. Upon arrival in Chumphon, you can book a combination ticket (bus + boat) to Koh Tao. Here you can find the cheapest flights from Bangkok.
If you already find yourself in the south of Thailand, the best way to get to Koh Tao is to travel via Surat Thani. Throughout the day busses ride to the pier from the city center, the bus station, the train station and the airport. Once at the pier, you step on board a boat which travels via Koh Samui and Koh Phangan to Koh Tao. You can find all the necessary information about this trip here.
Hotel Recommendations for Koh Tao
There are plenty of nice hostels, guesthouses, and resort on the island. These are a few of our personal recommendations:
If you are traveling alone and are looking for a party hostel in the center of Koh Tao, we recommend Green Shelter Hostel. This hostel has a super relaxed atmosphere. If you don’t like partying, but want to meet and mingle with other travelers, Dearly Koh Tao Hostel will be right up your alley. This hostel is considered to be one of the best hostels in Thailand. It’s new, spotless, has a nice pool and beautiful rooms.
For travels on a budget, who would rather not stay at a hostel, the choice of proper accommodation is somewhat limited. We have found a hotel which we can recommend with confidence. The Good Dream Hotel is located in the center, just a few minutes away from Sairee Beach. The rooms are new and properly maintained.
If your budget is a bit higher, Simple Life Resort is perfect. You can guarantee a pleasant stay to its comfortable rooms, nice pool, and delicious breakfast.
If you want to stay in style, Sensi Paradise Resort stands tall at the top of our list. It’s located directly on the beach where you can enjoy snorkeling. It offers various luxurious (family) cottages in the garden, on the beach or with an ocean view. The pool is fantastic and its restaurants serve mouth-watering breakfast and dinner.