DESTINATION GUIDE

Koh Tao: a complete guide

Sander & MariskaIn the southern Gulf of Thailand, you’ll find one of Thailand’s most relaxing and hippest islands. Of course, we are talking about Koh Tao; the best place in Thailand to go snorkeling and diving. Here you’ll encounter the most beautiful coral reefs with fish, sharks, and stingrays, straight after the surf.

Above water, Koh Tao is also a sight to behold, with its secluded bays, green hills, and exotic beaches. Fill your days drinking fruit shakes, chilling out in a hammock and lounging around in seat cushions while enjoying a drink and the sunset. Koh Tao has everything that makes Thailand… Thailand. It’s no wonder that Koh Tao is one of our favorite islands!
– Sander & Mariska

Sights in Koh Tao

Fair is fair: Koh Tao doesn’t have much in the way of cultural landmarks. But who cares? You visit Koh Tao to relax and enjoy the pleasant island life! Go on unforgettable snorkeling trips, climb to the top of viewpoints, get your PADI certificate and meet other travelers from all over the world. Here is a list of favorite things to do and see on Koh Tao!

1. Diving

Diving Koh Tao

Koh Tao is one of the worlds best (and cheapest) places to get your PADI certificate, so what are you waiting for?!

Koh Nang Yuan's incredible Viewpoint

These three small islands are all connected by a strip of pearly white sand. Hike your way to the viewpoint and take a dip among the many tropical fish.

3. Mango Viewpoint

Mango Viewpoint, Koh Tao

The trip up is only for true daredevils, since the dirt road is full of holes and gets really slippery when it rains. But the view is superb!

4. John Suwan Viewpoint

John Suwan Viewpoint

Koh Tao’s southern most point offers a spectacular view over Baan Chalok Bay and Shark Bay. The 30-minute climb is more than worth it!

Ang Thong National Marine Park

A stunningly beautiful group of uninhabited islands southwest of Koh Tao, where trips to go snorkeling and kayaking await you, as well as insanely beautiful viewpoints.

6. Snorkeling trip

Bring your snorkle gear and go on a adventure!

Jump on a long tail boat and go snorkeling at one of Koh Tao’s snorkeling hotspots: Mango Bay, Japanese Garden, Ao Leuk, Shark Bay and more.

7. Rent a motorbike

Exploring on the motorbike

Exploring Koh Tao by motorbike is one of the most adventurous things you can do, but please be aware: only rent a motorbike if you’re an experienced driver!

Island Muay Thai Koh Tao

Want to go for an intense workout on a tropical island? At Island Muay Thai you can follow the best Thai Boxing lessons in Koh Tao.

9. Sunset on Sairee Beach

Sunset at Sairee Beach, Koh Tao

Treat yourself to a magical sunset every evening, drink in hand, on the island’s most popular beach: Sairee Beach.

Koh Tao Pub Crawl

Koh Tao has lots of fun and hip (beach) bars. Register for the Pub Crawl at your hostel and meet backpackers from all over the world.

11. Paddle boarding

Stand-up Paddle Board

Rent a paddle board on Sairee Beach and end your day on the water with an amazing sunset. The Maya Beach Club is one of the places you can rent from.

12. Go hiking

Greenery on Koh Tao

Explore Koh Tao on foot and discover the hidden bays and little beaches while walking on small jungle paths among palm plantations.

Beaches in Koh Tao

Koh Tao’s coast is surrounded by huge rocks, lying on top of, over and next to each other, scattered all across the beaches and in the sea. Koh Tao doesn’t really have any large or wide beaches, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a beach destination. These are the most beautiful beaches and bays.

1. Mae Haad Bay

Mae Haad Bay in Koh Tao

This is the king’s former residence. The palace is very beautiful, with roofs decorated in gold, large elephant statues and a perfectly manicured lawn. These days the Grand Palace is only in use on holidays and during ceremonies.

2. Sairee Beach

Sairee Beach in Koh Tao

Koh Tao’s longest beach has managed to preserve the real backpackers’ vibe and Located centrally, within walking distance from the pier. The best place to stay!

3. Mango Bay (Ao Muang)

Mango Bay in Koh Tao

A large bay with a small strip of sand, complete with large coral reefs, which make this one the island’s best snorkeling hotspots.

4. Tanote Bay

Tanote Bay in Koh Tao

Among Koh Tao’s eastern hills you’ll find Tanote Bay. A beautiful strip of sand partitioned by large rock formations from which you can jump into the water.

5. Shark Bay (Thian Og Bay)

Thian Og Bay in Koh Tao

Shark Bay owes its name to the blacktip sharks that are still regularly spotted there. If you’re lucky you can spot sea turtles here.

6. Ao Leuk Bay

Ao Leuk Bay in Koh Tao

One the island’s nicest spots. A beautiful beach with rock formations, ideal for snorkelers.

7. Sai Daeng Beach

Sai Daeng Beach in Koh Tao

Sai Daeng Beach is a small strip of sand with crystal clear water. It looks out over Shark Island, which you can visit by kayak during periods of calm sea conditions.

8. Sai Nuan Beach

Sai Nuan Beach in Koh Tao

Sai Nuan Beach is less than ten minutes away from the pier and an oasis of restfulness. Despite the fact there are tourists, the atmosphere is really friendly.

9. Freedom Beach

Freedom Beach in Koh Tao

One of the best beaches of the island, located way down south, southeast of Baan Chalok Bay. The John Suwan Viewpoint is very easy to reach from here.

10. Baan Chalok Bay

Chalok Bay in Koh Tao

Ideal beach for families with children. The sea water shelves very gently, it’s quiet, but it still offers conveniences such as a 7-Eleven and restaurants.

11. Jansom Bay

Jansom Bay in Koh Tao

A small strip of sand with crystal clear water. You’ll be swimming among the tropical fish. Owned by Charm Churee Villa.

Hotels in Koh Tao

Who wouldn’t want to spend a night on the beach of a tropical island?! Good thing we went up and down Koh Tao’s coastline, looking for the nicest hotels and bungalows located near or on the beach. You might have to pay a little extra, but it’s definitely worth it. These are our 10 favorite hotels on Koh Tao!

1. Good Dream Hostel

 Excellent location  Low prices  Tidy rooms

$ – The best place for backpackers who like to party, but who don’t mind a good night’s sleep either. Just outside the center of town and located conveniently in between Sairee Beach, Mae Haad and Mango Bay, this hostel is clean, tidy and equipped with spacious rooms and good safes.

Simple Life Resort Koh Tao Hotel

2. Simple Life Resort

Friendly staff Good location Breakfast is included

$$ – Simple Life is simply awesome. The location in the town center, with its many restaurants, shops and nightlife hotspots, is ideal. Plus it’s only a few minutes away from Sairee Beach. The rooms are pretty, breakfast is big and included in the price, the staff is incredibly friendly and the swimming pool is a very nice bonus!

Sairee Cottage Resort Koh Tao

3. Sairee Cottage Resort

On the beach Good diving school Central location

$$ – Whether you’re looking for a spacious family bungalow or a more basic one (fans included), Sairee Cottage has got it. Its bungalows are spotless and the price quality ratio is excellent for this part of the island. It’s conveniently close to the beach and to the town center’s many nightlife options. The diving school, which belongs to the resort, is outstanding as well.

Bans Diving Resort Koh Tao

4. Ban’s Diving Resort

Near the beach Great diving school Luxury rooms

$$ – Always wanted to get your PADI certificate or to go on cool snorkeling trips? Ban’s Diving Resort is the place to be. Nicely and centrally located near Sairee beach, the rooms at the resort itself are modern and also include family rooms.

Paradise View Villa Koh Tao

5. Paradise View Villa

Amazing view Private villa school Large balcony

$$$ – Wake up in your own sea view villa, among the green mountains that surround it. Magical! If you feel like you need a break from hotel rooms, then this luxury villa is a fantastic alternative. It’s got a huge balcony, with hammocks and lounge chairs, a large kitchen and all the facilities you could wish for. As the location is quite remote, Dutch hostess Wendy will gladly pick you up at the ferry port.

You can book your stay at Paradise View Villa via Airbnb. Not yet a member of Airbnb? Then click here for $ 38 off your first booking!

Monkey Flower Villas Koh Tao

6. Monkey Flower Villas

Stunning villas Private swimming pool Spectacular view

$$$ – Monkey Flower Villas on Koh Tao is fantastic! You’ll be staying in your own, enormous villa with a private swimming pool, a waterfall and a roof terrace. The villas were built on a hill, making for some spectacular views.

The Earth House Hotel Koh Tao

7. The Earth House

Quiet location Lots of nature For solo travelers

$ – Traveling alone, but don’t like the idea of sharing a room in a party hostel? Try Earth House. Its modest single bamboo bungalows are ideal and comfortable as well, thanks to the private bathrooms, mosquito nets and fans. The location, in a beautiful garden and a 15-minute walk away from Ao Leuk Beach, is just beautiful. A great place to unwind in nature!

Sensi Paradise Resort Koh Tao

8. Sensi Paradise Resort

On the beach Luxury resort Gorgeous bungalows

$$$ – Luxurious Sensi Paradise Resort on Koh Tao has a view of Mae Haad Beach, where you can go snorkeling. Boat trips to other parts of Koh Tao and surrounding islands can be arranged at reception.

Woodlawn Hotels Koh Tao

9. Woodlawn Villas Resort

Beautiful villas Lovely atmosphere Excellent service

$$ – Woodlawn’s villas have gorgeous interiors, lovely soft beds and all the facilities you could wish for. Built on a slope, the location can feel a bit isolated; but the lovely swimming pool and tropical garden more than make up for that!

 

Sai Daeng Resort Koh Tao

10. Sai Daeng Resort

Private Beach Beautiful bungalows Excellent staff

$$ – This is paradise! Sai Daeng Resort’s location is second to none: remote, in a quiet bay with a private beach. Because of the huge number of colorful fishes, the beach is a great snorkeling spot. The rooms are wonderfully luxurious, the swimming pool is lovely and the staff is really friendly.

Restaurants in Koh Tao

On an island as popular as Koh Tao, you won’t have a problem finding a spot where you can have some delicious food! Besides the traditional Thai restaurants, we also added several restaurants where you can get the best Western dishes for next to nothing. Bon appetit!

1. Coconut Monkey

25/92 Moo 2 Mae Haad
Enjoy a breakfast on the beach with homemade yogurt, muesli, and fresh fruit. The fruit shakes are amazing.

2. FIZZ Beachlounge

Sairee Beach
Chill out on one of the green seat cushions while enjoying the sunset with a snack and a drink. This is Koh Tao: FIZZ Bar!

3. Seafood by Pawn (Laem Klong)

25/92 Moo 2 Mae Haad
Freshly caught fish off the grill and classic Thai dishes prepared by granny. Thai food doesn’t get much better than this!

4. Sairee Sairee Restaurant

30/10 Moo 1
Ideal for when you’ve had enough of rice for a while. Here you can eat great pastas, pizzas and fresh sandwiches. Oh, and the desserts are lovely as well.

5. SU Chili

Sairee Beach
Popular SU Chili is the place to have a Thai meal. We highly recommend the Pad Thai, Chicken Cashew Nut and the Massaman Curry. Try and arrive early, because it will be busy.

6. Taste of Home

East Sairee
Expect a friendly welcome by the hostess and some food that you probably haven’t tasted for quite some time. Taste of Home!

7. Thaita Italian Restaurant

Sairee Moo Baan 12/7
The best Italian dishes of the entire island, which is not very surprising, considering the owner is Italian. Does not serve pizza, by the way.

8. The Blue Chair

Sairee Village
Here, the best Thai meals are served with lightning speed. Everything’s fresh, tasty and on top of that, cheap.

9. Through The Looking Glass

Sairee Beach
Treat yourself to freshly baked cakes, muffins and brownies, still warm from the oven. Add to that a nice cup of coffee. Lovely!

Transport in Koh Tao

From Bangkok

Domestic flight + ferry

  • Travel time: 3-4 hours
  • Cost: ฿ 2,000-3,000 pp

From Bangkok (Don Muang Airport) a Nok Air flight will take you to Chumphon in one hour. Pick a morning flight and buy your ferry tickets at Chumphon’s airport, from where you’ll also be taken to the pier. The last high-speed ferry to Koh Tao leaves at around 1:00 PM. If you arrive in the late afternoon, you might want to consider taking the night ferry, which leaves around 10:00-11:00 PM and arrives at Koh Tao around 5:00-6:00 AM.

Sleeper train + ferry

  • Travel time: 13 hours
  • Cost: ฿ 1,400-1,750 pp

The sleeper train is one the most adventurous ways to travel from Bangkok to Koh Tao. You’ll depart from Hua Lamphong Train Station in Bangkok at 7:30 PM. You’ll arrive in Chumphon at around 5:00 AM, after which you’ll be brought to the pier from where you’ll take the 7:30 AM ferry to Koh Tao. That means you’ll be able to feel the sand in between your toes that same morning!

Overnight bus + ferry

  • Travel time: 10 hours
  • Cost: ฿ 1,200-1,500 pp

Another good option for traveling to Koh Tao is the overnight bus, as it will take you from Khao San Road directly to Koh Tao. The buses are surprisingly comfortable with good reclining chairs, air conditioning, toilets and free wifi. You’ll travel effortlessly from A to B and arrive in Koh Tao in the early morning.

From other destinations

Surat Thani

  • Travel time: 5 hours
  • Cost: ฿ 800 pp

At the bus station, the train station and the airport of Surat Thani, you can buy combined tickets (bus + boat). Travel time is ± 5 hours and the costs are ± ฿ 800 per person. The last bus from Surat Thani to the pier leaves at 2:30 PM.

Koh Phangan

  • Travel time: 1,5 hours
  • Cost: ฿ 400-500 pp

Koh Tao is also easy to reach from Koh Phangan. Between 8:30 AM and 5:45 PM, about one ferry an hour leaves from Thong Sala Pier. The trip will take ± 1.5 hours and will cost you between ฿ 400-500 per person.

Koh Samui

  • Travel time: 2 hours
  • Cost: ฿ 600 pp

Koh Tao is easy to get to from Koh Samui. Ferries leave for the island during the whole day. The last ferry leaves from Nathon Pier at 5:00 PM. It takes ± 2 hours to get there and ferry tickets are ± ฿ 600 per person.

Khao Sok National Park

  • Travel time: 5+ hours
  • Cost: ฿ 450-650 pp

Still want to visit Koh Tao after the jungle tour? No problem. Most tours finish around 11:00 AM. Make sure you take a (shared) taxi to Surat Thani at noon. The last bus leaves at 2:30 PM from Surat Thani to the pier.

Getting around in Koh Tao

Taxi

When you arrive, several taxi jeeps will be available to take you on their tailgates to your hotel. They operate on fixed prices which are effectively non-negotiable. The roads are steep and wobbly, so hold on tight! A ride will cost you about 200-500 Thai Baht.

Long tail boat

Instead of a taxi, you can just take a long tail boat taxi to your hotel. You’ll find one next to Mae Haad Pier. The hotel can also arrange a long tail boat for you. A boat ride will cost between 200-600 Thai Baht.

Motorbike

Only rent a motorbike if you have experience riding one and never hand over your passport. Give them a copy with a ± 2,000 Thai Baht deposit, no more. Take photos of any damaged parts before taking off. Rent for 24 hours is 200-300 Thai Baht.

Taxi

If you want to visit a landmark outside of Chiang Mai’s city limits (more than 50 kilometers away), you should take a taxi. You will have to haggle over the price. Ask at least three different taxi drivers for prices.

Rental Car

More and more tourists rent a car at Chiang Mai’s airport and hit the road themselves. Always rent a car with an international company such as Hertz, Avis or Sixt. Rent is 800 – 2,000 baht for 24 hrs.

Weather in Koh Tao

The best time to visit Koh Tao is from April – August.

November – February

Normally the cool season is the best season to travel to Thailand, but that’s not quite the case for Koh Tao. November, December, and January are dominated by heavy rains.

March – May

The hot season on Koh Tao means sun, sun and still more sun. Expect little to no rain during these months. It’s incredibly hot, but luckily the wind and the sea are there for some cooling down.

June – October

Surprisingly, the rainy season is the ideal time to visit Koh Tao. Every day there’s a chance of small and refreshing showers, while the rest of the day is sunny and dry. The sea is calm and clear.

Map of Koh Tao

Continue your journey to...

Koh Phangan
Koh Samui
Bangkok