Koh Tao is an idyllic small island of only 21km2 on the east coast of Thailand. The other islands around are Koh Phangan, Koh Samui and Koh Nang Yuan, which the closest to Koh Tao. There are many paid and free activities to do on Koh Tao and it is a suitable travel destination for couples, backpackers and families. Koh Tao is most famous for it’s scuba diving and is one of the, if not THE, cheapest location in the world to get PADI certified. After spending more than a week on the island, we share all our tips in this blog post with the best things to do in Koh Tao.
Is Koh Tao safe?
You might ask yourself this question before planning your trip to Koh Tao because you’ve read the news about the Koh Tao murders.. Yes, there have been tourist murders on the island in the past years. But makes that Koh Tao an unsafe island to travel to? No. It mostly always comes down to your own behaviour. Here are my 3 tips for safe travels in Thailand.
- Respect the local people and their culture
Never get into a fight with a Thai person. These Thai guys might seem like little boys, but they could be Muay Thai fighters, so be careful! Besides that, islands are like small communities and they all know each other. It will always be you against the island. So don’t get into trouble with the wrong people.
- Stay away from drugs!
The rise of tourist deaths in Thailand brought more police to the islands and stories of being caught with marijuana are getting more common. Be aware that it is illegal to use drugs in Thailand! Apparently they give you a 50,000 THB ($1,400) fine and take your passport while waiting your trial. Just don’t get in trouble and also with this you should use your common sense!
- Be a responsible traveler
I have already said it a few times, but use your common sense while traveling! Simple things your parents would tell you like, ‘don’t walk alone on the beach at night, especially as a women!’ There is a big chance nothing will ever happen, but a drunk tourist is an easy victim. Also research where to stay on Koh Tao, especially if you want to party and drink a lot. You can then better stay in the busy tourist area so you don’t have to go far to get home.
How to get to Koh Tao
The only way to get to Koh Tao is with the ferry because the island doesn’t have an airport, just like Koh Phangan. The nearest airport to Koh Tao is at Koh Samui island which is a 3 hour ferry ride away from Koh Tao. From Koh Samui you can easily fly domestic to other cities in Thailand. If you are in Bangkok there are two options to go to Koh Tao. You can fly to Koh Samui or Surat Thani and take a ferry from there. But if you want to save money, you can also take the ferry from Bangkok all the way to Koh Tao! This will take longer, but you might save some money. Although, the prices for domestic flights in Thailand are not that expensive. So make the decision for yourself if you want to travel in a convenient and fast way, or take the longer journey and save some Bahts 🙂
Rent a motorbike and explore the island
The best way to explore Koh Tao is to rent a motorbike. There is no public transport but you can always arrange a taxi if you need one, (when drunk), or if you can’t drive a motorbike. But to be honest, if you go to Asia and you can’t drive a motorbike, you better learn it and get comfortable with it before you go traveling 🙂 You are so free and flexible if you have your own transport! The roads on the island are pretty decent, sometimes you have to go a bit off road. But you can always choose to park you scooter and walk to last bit. For example to one of the Koh Tao viewpoints where it. Might get a bit steep on your way up. For around 150 Baht per day you can rent a scooter. Make sure to take pictures of scratches that are already on the motorbike together with the renter. So you won’t get fooled and scammed once you bring the scooter back.
Relax on the best Koh Tao beaches
The Koh Tao beaches are without a doubt one of the most beautiful paradise beaches that Thailand has to offer. There is a beach for everyone. Families with young children will love the more quiet beaches with shallow water like Tanote Bay and Aow Leuk Bay. Snorkelers will love all the beaches we mention in the blog about the best snorkeling spots on Koh Tao, and for swimmers is actually every beach perfect because nowhere will be a strong current. Couples who seek for privacy and a relaxing beach will love the more remote and ‘hidden gem’ Sai Nuan beach. And if you want to catch a good sunset and be in the middle of where everything is happening on the island, then head to Sairee beach. The biggest beach of 2 kilometres on the island!
Attend yoga class
Get in touch with your mind body and spirit and practice yoga to stretch your body! It is one of the most popular things to do in Asia, and especially on the islands is always such a relaxing vibe which encourages to join a yoga class. There are several yoga classes on the island which you can attend, or even a yoga retreat if you’re looking to learn more about yoga and spirituality.
Koh Tao snorkeling
Koh Tao is one of the best places to go snorkeling in Thailand, and maybe even in whole Asia! It has around 20 kilometres of beautiful coastline that gently slopes underwater towards stunning marine life and ecosystems. The crystal clear and calm water make it year round the perfect circumstances to go snorkeling. Many of the beautiful beaches on the island have a shallow coral reef just off the shoreline which makes it easy to explore the beautiful underwater world by yourself. Although, you can also book a snorkel tour at one of the many tour operators!
Take a day trip to Koh Nang Yuan island
Koh Nang Yuan is located on the north west coast of Koh Tao and consists of three small islands.The white sand, picturesque rocks and beautiful viewpoint makes it the perfect setting for an idyllic day-trip. Due to its close location to Koh Tao, a visit to Koh Nang Yuan if one of the must things to do in Koh Tao! There are several things to do on Koh Nang Yuan, like snorkeling, climbing the viewpoint, relaxing on one of the beaches or even scuba diving!
Try rock climbing
If you love rock climbing, there are plenty of options because of the granite rocks scattered around Koh Tao. Perfect for practising your technical climbing skills. Also, most sites around the island are very quiet, so you might not even see anyone else. Some of the popular rock climbing sites on the island are Mek’s mountain, Secret garden in Sairee and front/back garden in Chalok Baan Kao. You can book some courses and hire a guide from one of the rock climbing shops on Koh Tao.
Learn how to cook Thai
If you love cooking, taking a Thai cooking class is one of the things you have to do while being in Thailand! Discover the secrets of making a mouth-watering Thai curry or some of the many other delicious Thai dishes. If you didn’t know already, Thai food is so amazing and learning how to cook a real Thai dish is a skill you can take home with you forever!
Go scuba diving and get PADI certificated
Scuba diving is one of the main reasons why tourists come to Koh Tao. It is one of the world’s best dive locations and also one of the cheapest places in the world to get PADI certified! You can get your open water certification here for as little as $200, which is crazy cheap! There are many great dive spots around the island. So don’t worry if you’re not (yet) a pro, there are courses and fun dives for all levels!
Go to one of the viewpoints for a drink and sunset
Koh Tao has some amazing viewpoints which can’t be missed during your stay on the island. One of the most popular viewpoints is John Suwan viewpoint, but there are many more beautiful viewpoints to check out. Most of them have an entrance fee, but some have the rule that when you buy a drink there won’t be entrance anymore.
Watch the sunset
Watching the sunset is always a magical ending of the day. One of the best spots on the island to watch the sunset is from Sairee beach. Many people gather to the beach to relax in the bean bags with a beer and enjoy the beautiful colours in the sky. But you can also choose to watch the sunset from one of the bars higher up in the mountains, or at one of the viewpoints like ‘Sunset viewpoint’.
Get a relaxing Thai massage
One of the best massage therapists in the world are the Thai people. So something I would really recommend to do while you are on Koh Tao, or any other Thai island, is taking a massage in one of the many Spa’s. Usually the prices range from 200 – 400 Baht for a one hour massage. But the more luxury Spa you go to, the more expensive it will be.
Try out a Thai boxing class
If you’re into boxing, or want to step up your game in boxing, you can learn the 700-year-old ancient art of Thai boxing and go on a boxing class, or maybe even a boxing retreat! Learn how to use the body’s eight limbs at one of the Thai boxing classes available on Koh Tao. The classes are available for both men and women and suitable for all levels of competence.
Rent a kayak and explore the beautiful bays
Renting a kayak and paddling around the stunning bays of Koh Tao is one of the best things to do on the island. You can even combine it with snorkeling in one of the many beautiful bays. You can rent kayaks at some of Koh Tao’s best beaches such as; Sai Nuan beach, Shark Bay, Sairee beach and Freedom beach. Make sure to put your valuable stuff in a waterproof bag, or just leave them in your room. If you have a GoPro you have to take it witch you because the marine life in the bays on the island are beautiful!
Koh Tao weather
The climate on Koh Tao is hot and humid for most of the year. The rainiest months are October, November and December, so avoid these months. The best moment to come to the Koh Tao is from January to April but the island is also enjoyable during the months of March until August. At this time of the year Samui, Phangan and Koh Tao have the best weather of all Thai islands.
Where to stay on Koh Tao
The Place Luxury Boutique Villas
The Place Luxury Boutique Villas offers amazing one-bedroom villas in Koh Tao with an incredible view on the ocean located on the west coast of the island. We stayed at The Place for 2 nights and had the best time! You have complete privacy with your own dining area at the spacious terrace. A fully-equipped kitchen with a wide-range of cooking equipment. The air-conditioned bedroom offers a direct access to the outdoor infinity pool with an amazing view on the mountain and sea wit sunset view. The bathroom is beautiful with details of plants and the living room includes a flat screen TV and a DVD player for entertainment. Breakfast is not included but you can order at local restaurants and get it delivered to your door! This villa has so much privacy, we haven’t experienced before!
Prices start around €245 per night.
Simple Life Cliff View Resort
Simple Life Cliff View Resort is located at the southern tip of Koh Tao’s Sairee Beach and offers luxury studios, 1 and 2 bedroom suites. The rooms with view on the swimming pool start around €65 per night wile the more luxury rooms with breathtaking view of Sairee Beach and the ocean start around €198 per night. This 3 star resort offers a private beach area, free Wifi and room service The cascading swimming pool runs through the centre of the resort and their restaurant serves fantastic Thai and international cuisine. A continental breakfast is daily available at the resort.
Prices start around €65 for the pool view rooms up to €198 per night for the sea view rooms.
Here you will enjoy a peaceful hillside location located in the south of the island. The cozy, comfortably furnished rooms offer a living space of 32 – 40 square meters and are equipped with all the necessities for a relaxing stay. The amenities available in the rooms include air conditioning, refrigerator, TV, safe, hot shower, tea and coffee making facilities, free WiFi Internet and a private balcony or terrace from where you can enjoy views of the pool and mountains. Some of the rooms also have a kitchenette with a microwave. The outdoor pool with sun loungers makes it perfect for a lazy afternoon. We stayed for a few days at the Ozo and it was a great budget deal!
Prices start around €33.
Of course there are also even cheaper accommodations on the island, like hostels and guesthouses where you can stay for around €10 per night. Have a look at booking.com to find your perfect spot!
More Koh Tao travel inspiration
Read more about Koh Tao, Thailand, in these blog posts:
For all best tips about Koh Phangan, head over to these blog posts:
Is your plan to travel to Koh Samui? Then read this blog for all the best things to do in Koh Samui