Koh Tao is one of our favorite islands in Thailand. Though it’s famous for diving, we loved it for so many other reasons. The majority of our time was spent snorkeling and swimming in the crystal clear waters, but we also managed to find beautiful viewpoints around the small island. Koh Tao is mainly for those of you who are looking for a place to relax, great swimming, and want to get away from the more touristy areas of Thailand. Here are some of our favorite things to do in Koh Tao.
1. Go Beach Hopping & Snorkeling
Though Koh Tao is only 21km around, the islands boasts with perfect white beaches. In our opinion, it has the most stunning ones in Thailand. The waters are crystal clear and perfect for snorkeling and swimming. And although Koh Tao means ‘turtle island,’ we didn’t see any sea turtles like we did once in Cancun. However, you might be luckier than us and spot one. Here are a few beaches we visited:
This beach has the longest stretch of soft powdery sand in Koh Tao and one of the clearest waters. The beach is known for its beautiful sunset, nightlife, and restaurants.
Freedom Beach is popular because of its waters. We didn’t get to see it during the day, but at night we walked along the edge and noticed how crystal clear it was. Near the beach there are some great viewpoints to explore.
Sai Daeng Beach
Sai Daeng is more of a private beach but open to the public. It sits in front of Sai Daeng Beach Resort and has a small area of sand. The water is beautiful, you have a view of shark point, and you have rocks nearby where you can snorkel. If you swim out far enough, you might get lucky and spot a shark since it’s one of the closest beaches to shark point.
If you drive around by scooter, you can find random beaches. We found this one but never found out the name. It’s by Mol’s Beach Bar.
2. Visit Koh Tao Viewpoints & Hike
We spent a lot of our time checking out the beautiful view points that gave us breathtaking views! There are quite a few you can visit and a few charge a small fee to enter. Some of them require a steep hike and others you can arrive by scooter. Here are some you can find around the island.
John-Suwan Viewpoint is at the southern tip of Koh Tao. It has a view of both Chalok Baan Khao Bay and Haad Tien beaches and the hilly interior of the island. We thought the entrance fee was 50 baht, but when we arrived we were charged 100. We decided to skip it and view another one. However, wish we had seen it since it’s known as one of the best on the island.
On the northwest coast of the islands, sit three tiny and stunning islets. It is the most photographed place on the island because the sand links all three together. The price is 200 baht and you climb the viewpoint and enter the island. A boat taxi ride there can cost you 300 baht. Therefore, we recommend going by group or private tour instead and the tour will stop there. Definitely worth the visit and the hoards of crowds.
Sai Deaeng Viewpoint
If you follow signs to Sai Deang Beach, you will arrive to a final sign that points to the beach one way and to the view point the other way. The viewpoint has a view of the southern tip of the island and the southern east side. The view is quite stunning and free!
Mango Viewpoint is located in the hills in the north of the island and has a spectacular view of Mae Haad and Sairee Beach. The best way to get there is by motorbike, but the streets are rather steep and you must be careful. An alternative, is to walk a challenging hill past the 7-11 in Sairee Beach. The price is 100 baht. We drove a bit past this viewpoint where there was a lady charging 50 baht to another viewpoint. We chose this one instead and still got a great view. Just check the signs while driving to find it.
Relax with a Massage
When in Thailand, massages are a must! We got one on each island because we won’t have this luxury when we go back home to the U.S. Though you can find them cheaper on other islands in Thailand, in Koh Tao they start at 300THB, about 9 USD. My favorite is the foot massage that includes a few minutes on your neck and shoulders. Juan’s favorite is the Thai and Thai Oil Massage.
3. Take a Private Island Tour or Group Island Tour
The most popular activity to do in Koh Tao is take an island tour which is priced 550- 600 TBH. The tour takes you on several spots on a boat with many other people. However, if you are able to find a local who does private tours, you can get the same tour on a private boat.
We shared our boat with two friends and got the tour for 620 baht each. The best part was that we started earlier than tour groups and got places all to ourselves at the beginning of the tour. We also got to snorkel much longer and decided when to leave each spot. It didn’t come with free lunch, but we packed some sandwiches and headed out. Very worth it and the best choice we made. The official tour includes the following mentioned below but you can do the same ones on your private tour:
If you’d like to hire our driver, his brother works at JP Resort as a waiter. He is the one who books tours for his brother.
This bay has many colorful fish and beautiful coral. You can sometimes run into sharks, but unfortunately we didn’t spot any.
Hin Wong Bay
A beautiful cove in Koh Tao with beautiful and colorful coral to explore.
Another bay filled with colorful fish the closer you got to rocks. The beach was soft sand and clear water.
Crystal clear water and colorful fish fill this area.
Nang Yuan Island: Three islands connected by beautiful sand. One island has a spectacular viewpoint mentioned earlier for 100 THB and another has the Japanese Gardens for another 100THB.
4. Go Diving & Get PADI certified
The vibrant coral reefs, crystal clear waters, and colorful sea creatures, including turtles, is what attracts many divers to visit Koh Tao. It is also known as one of the cheapest places in the world to get PADI certified. You will see many tourists come here specifically to dive. If you are not ready to brave diving, snorkeling is the way to go! But if you are, this is a great place to try considering there are hundreds of diving schools to choose from. However, make sure you visit during a good time because our friends didn’t get the clearest waters during their January dive.
5. Party on the Island of Koh Tao
Koh Tao may not have the same wild nightlife as Koh Phangan, Koh Phi Phi, or Phuket, but on this island, Sairee Beach is known for its bar area and fun nightlife. The party on the beach includes fire shows and house music at the clubs. The other beaches around Koh Tao don’t have much of a nightlife, but some will have music at the restaurant bars.
Freedom beach will also host parties and concerts to attend every so often. Though we didn’t party at Sairee Beach, we did arrive too early to Freedom Beach for a concert and went back home before the party started. We can only party from time to time now! Ha, we’re old!
6. Play Mini Golf
For only 180 Baht, you can enjoy as many rounds of mini golf as you’d like at Koh Tao Leisure Park. The rounds are quite fun and challenging, but you’re guaranteed a fun night out. The park also has a sports bar with live sports, pool tables, foosball, pinball machine, footpool (pool with your feet!), dart boards, and petanque courts. Lastly, it has a small cinema that screens different movies to enjoy. We had a great time with our friends here!
7. Visit the Street Night Market
Just across the Koh Tao Leisure Park, there is a night market. Though mainly local people go, it’s a great place to check out and try some street food. The market also has other items such as clothes, jewelry, purses, and more that you’ll find at really low prices. We bought a small camera bag for 100THB (3 USD). When we visited, the market also had a few games like those you see at the fair. One night, they had a Thai concert and we decided to join. We didn’t understand what they were singing, and we were about the only tourists around, but it was nice to see the local people having fun.
8. Watch the Koh Tao Sunsets
Koh Tao boasts with beautiful sunsets just like many islands around Thailand. Most people head to Sairee beach, where the sun puts on a show in the sky. We didn’t get to watch it from there, but we did enjoy it from another side of the island at a small beach whose name I don’t remember.
How to Get Around
By far, the best way to get around Koh Tao is by scooter. Rentals start at 200 THB to 300. This is not the place to learn how to drive a scooter because the island consists of steep and risky hills. But if you have had a bit of practice, this is a great option. Most places require you to leave a passport or a very high deposit. Do be careful because you’ll notice many people walking around with bandages from scooter falls.
The other way to get around is walking depending on where you stay. The island is relatively small, but steep in some areas. But if something is within 35 minutes and you don’t mind walking, this is a great option.
Another way is by taxi. We didn’t see Tuk Tuks here. Instead they were pick up trucks and sometimes wanted to charge 300 THB for a short ride. There are also the taxi buses you hop on to for a lower price.
Where to Eat
Because Koh Tao has gained more popularity, there is a growing nightlife and more restaurants than before. We really enjoyed the food at:
JP Resort at the southern end of the island.
Su Chili-Thai, Seafood, and Northern food. Our dishes were quite delicious.
Mania Guesthouse-Had a great breakfast!
Where to Stay
There is a varied selection of hotels that range from hostels, to guesthouses, beach bungalows, and a few luxury hotels. Prices are a little higher on this island than on the others, so booking early helps save.
We stayed at Mania Guesthouse which is a 3 minute walk from the pier, a beach, and had many options of restaurants and other entertainment near us. We thought this area was quite convenient.
Our friends stayed at JP Resort which has a more secluded beach. The area is a bit quieter, but still walking distance to many places.
You can check availability below on booking!
Have you been to this beautiful tropical islands? What are some things to do in Koh Tao that you recommend? Or would you like to visit this island paradise? Share with us in the comments! If this was helpful to you or you enjoyed it, don’t forget to share it with others.