The stunning island of Koh Tao is Thailand’s number one diving and snorkeling hotspot. You don’t go there just for the gorgeous beaches and its laid-back atmosphere; above all, you visit Koh Tao to explore its rich and colorful underwater world. Together with Sanne, a diving instructor at Ban’s Diving, we compiled this awesome top 10 of the best snorkeling and diving spots on Koh Tao – enjoy!
Now more than seven years ago, Mariska and I went on our first long trip, a thirty-day round trip through Thailand – the last three of which were spent on Koh Tao.
We LOVED it!
We went snorkeling for the first time. We’d never seen anything as beautiful in our entire lives; it was like swimming inside of an aquarium! We were in the water for hours until our backs and our backsides had become so red that staying there wasn’t physically possible anymore.
Ever since then, we loved the island and have traveled there regularly.
So whether you like to go snorkeling and diving or you’re inexperienced but curious, we really recommend paying Koh Tao a visit!
We’ll kick off this article with a top 5 of the best snorkeling spots on Koh Tao, followed by the top 5 most beautiful diving spots.
1. Shark Bay
Always wanted to swim amongst the sharks? Then visit Shark Bay, on the south of Koh Tao.
Go snorkeling amongst turtles and blacktip reef sharks (harmless!). The best chance of seeing them is in the early morning. But if you’re unlucky and don’t spot them, there will still be hundreds of other colorful fishes to marvel at.
There’s not a lot of coral reef around Shark Bay, but there is a beautiful beach with some lovely local restaurants that look out across the bay. Diving goggles and kayaks can be rented from anywhere.
2. Aow Leuk
Would you like to spend a day on a gorgeous beach whilst taking the occasional dip in the water? Then we recommend visiting Aow Leuk, in southeast Koh Tao!
At Aow Leuk you can dive in the water, goggles and all, straight from the beach. It’s crystal clear and the beautiful coral and colorful fishes are plainly visible. Also, you might come across a black reef tip shark!
The entrance fee for Aow Leuk is 100 baht per person, which will afford you a lounge chair, a drink, and access to a beautiful and clean beach. You can reach it by taxi, motorbike or long tail boat.
3. Sai Daeng Beach
Sai Daeng Beach lies between more popular Shark Bay and Aow Leuk and is one of Koh Tao’s most beautiful beaches. More good news: it’s always very quiet!
But its best feature is its underwater world and it doesn’t disappoint! The edges of the bay are especially beautiful, what with the coral, the multitude of fishes and, every now and again, a turtle swimming around.
If you swim left around the rocks, you’ll end up in Hin Ngam Bay, where you’ll be able to go snorkeling amongst the huge boulders.
Want to see more? Why not rent a kayak and paddle your way to Shark Island on the horizon? It will take less than fifteen minutes. This small and rocky island is a great snorkeling spot as well.
4. Sai Nuan Beach
Sai Nuan Beach is the perfect snorkeling spot for families with children. This beautiful beach has two small bays surrounded by rocks and lies in the southwest of Koh Tao.
We highly recommend it because you can go snorkeling straight from the beach. In between the large boulders you’ll spot a multitude of tropical fishes and, if you’re lucky, turtles.
You can easily reach Sai Nuan Beach by taking a long tail boat from Mae Haad Pier or you can choose the more adventurous route and go on a 30-minute jungle trek. Along the way, you’ll encounter viewpoints and other attractive bays.
5. Koh Nang Yuan
Koh Nang Yuan is a tropical island (actually, three islands) off the coast of Koh Tao. It’s incredibly popular amongst tourists, but definitely still worth a visit.
Immediately after you arrive and pay the 100 baht entrance fee and you should climb the viewpoint. Only then can you fully appreciate how breathtaking Koh Nang Yuan really is!
As the day wears on, Koh Nang Yuan becomes very busy. Still, we loved going snorkeling at the Japanese Garden. Though a diving spot first and foremost, it’s also suitable for snorkeling. To get there (as seen from the viewpoint: to the right and further back still), just walk in the water straight from the beach. The further you go, the more colorful the underwater world becomes!
Koh Tao’s best diving spots
Did you like our snorkeling tips? Well, how about some of Koh Tao’s diving spots? They’re even more spectacular!
It’s hardly surprising that tens of thousands of travelers flock to Koh Tao every year to learn how to dive. Also, it’s one of the cheapest places in the world to do a PADI Open Water Course (diving certificate).
These are Koh Tao’s 5 best diving spots!
1. Chumphon Pinnacle
Top of any diver’s bucket list has got to be swimming with a whale shark. And your best chance of encountering one is at Chumphon Pinnacle!
Besides whale sharks, you’ll also come across schools of barracuda fish of up to two meters in length. It’s a fantastic diving spot for those starting out, but also for more advanced divers. An absolute must!
Chumphon Pinnacle is an hour’s boat ride away from Koh Tao.
2. South West Pinnacle
South West Pinnacle is seen as a smaller version of Chumphon Pinnacle, but it’s still worth seeing. This diving spot is a twenty-minute boat ride away, south of Koh Tao.
The upper parts of the pinnacles (underwater rocks) are covered in a colorful tapestry of anemone and soft coral. Here as well, with a bit of luck, you’re likely to come across whale sharks and different species of stingray.
There are schools of fish down there that are so large they block the sunlight coming from above!
3. Sattakut Wreck
Underwater and right off the coast of Koh Tao is the HTMS Sattakut Wreck. This former naval vessel was used by the American navy in Japan during World War II. The wreck lies at a depth of 30 meters and is often visited during advanced diving courses.
You can swim around the wreck and look inside it through its windows, where you’ll see the many different fishes that have made it their home. The only thing you’re not allowed to do is to touch it.
If you’re lucky, you might able to spot some large Jenkins Rays underneath it.
4. White Rock
White Rock is a colorful and shallow diving spot off the coast of Koh Tao. There’s lots of coral and a motley assortment of all kinds of fish, stingrays, and turtles swimming around.
These days it’s also where night dives are organized, during which the underwater world comes to life even more fully. During the day, most stingrays still hide under rocks, but at night you can see them swimming around quite a bit.
Other cool things to see are barracudas hunting for small fish and plankton that lights up in the dark!
5. Twins Underwater Playground
The Twins Underwater Playground is a popular diving spot off a quiet bay on Koh Nang Yuan.
This diving spot is suitable for divers of all levels. The Twins consists of two large underwater rock formations with lots of coral and different fish species. Bluespotted stingrays, white-eyed moray eels, and triggerfishes are regularly spotted there. And if you’re lucky, you might see a turtle swim past as well!
Besides that, you can swim through the rock formations. And as a special treat for divers, there’s an underwater playground, where you can do whatever you want. You just have to see it with your own eyes!
Snorkeling and diving on Koh Tao
You can easily organize snorkeling trips on Koh Tao yourself. Just rent a private longtail boat with a driver and tell him where you want to go. You can do this at Mae Haad Pier or at your hotel’s reception desk.
Diving goggles are available pretty much everywhere but differ in quality. If you’re really serious about going snorkeling, consider purchasing a snorkeling set before leaving for Thailand.
Diving courses on Koh Tao are super cheap. A four-day course overnight stays included, only costs 9,800 baht per person. They speak your language! For more information on these diving courses, click here →