Koh Tao beautiful landscape, vibrant marine life and above all the laid back island vibe are what made us extend our stay on this tiny gulf island.
Little did we know how much this tropical island had to offer. Naturally, beaches along with diving and snorkeling are the highlights in Koh Tao. Other activities such as boat trips and trekking to breathtaking viewpoints can be considered.
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Koh Tao Things To Do
Go to the best beaches in Koh Tao
Compared to the size of the island the amount of beaches in Koh Tao is astonishing. With so many beaches to choose from, the choice just depends on preferences. Here we are listing our top 3 beaches.
Beach bars and restaurants line Sairee beach along with the beautiful sleepy palm trees. Although this is the busiest part of Koh Tao it is still quite laid back. In low tide sea level is very shallow and swimming is not the best. But still, some great sunsets looking over the lined up longtail boats are enjoyed from Sairee beach.
Thian Og (Shark bay)
Also known as shark bay, as the name suggests this is the best place to spot the timid reef shark or even the huge turtles.
Although we didn’t see any sharks or turtles, this was one of our best snorkeling experience in Koh Tao. Abundant and colourful underwater life is plentiful along the coral reef of Thian Og. The best time for snorkeling is early morning before all the dive schools flock over. The beach itself is quiet and mostly used by the resort guests.
Tip: Haad Tien Beach Resort charges 100 Baht fee for access to the beach. Further along is Rocky resort and access to the beach from this resort is free.
Sai Nuan Beach
This is one of the quieter beaches in Koh Tao. Shallow and rocky for some distance but with lots of underwater different coloured marine life including the sea cucumber. Bungalows nestled within the jungle and overlooking the beach are a draw to those seeking a few lazy days. A couple of reggae style beach bars are on the beach which also offer some beautiful sunsets.
Explore Koh Nang Yuan island
Strangely enough one of our best beaches isn’t really in Koh Tao. Just a 15 minute longtail boat ride are these 3 small islands which are joined by a sandbar. Here especially at Japanese Gardens underwater life is thriving and colourful, the waters are crystal clear and the scenery is wonderful.
We paid 400 Baht between 2 for a boat including return and a mask. We arranged this trip directly with a boat owner that same morning on Sairee beach. A 100 Baht per person fee is charged to enter the island and includes the use of the sunbeds and access to the beautiful viewpoint.
Take in the breathtaking scenery at Koh Tao viewpoints
John Suwan viewpoint
This must be one of the best viewpoints on Koh Tao, giving a view of Shark bay to the right and Chalok Baan Kao bay on the left. John Suwan viewpoint is easily reached with a 15 minute walk uphill from Freedom beach. A fee of 50 or 100 Baht must be paid. Why this fee varies we still don’t know, maybe depends on the mood of who is controlling this virtual gate.
About 90 minutes walk or 20 minutes by scooter from Sairee beach the view is overlooking both Sairee beach and Mae Haad bay. Getting to the point is challenging with steep high hills and wouldn’t be a good option for the inexperienced scooter driver. The view is accessible from the restaurant and costs 100 Baht, there is another view further down which is good too and costs just 20 Baht
One of Koh Tao’s lesser known viewpoints. This point is located south west of Sairee beach and offers some great views over Chalok Baan Bay and its village. Koh Phangan and Koh Samui can be seen in the background.
Highlight of our stay in Koh Tao
One of the best days we had was when we had no scooter. The day started off from giving back our bike to Koh Tao scooters (which we can highly recommend) and going for breakfast at Da’s Sandwiches.
After this we started heading back to Sairee beach. We first stopped for a swim in beautiful Mae Haad beach.
After this we continued on our way and just bar hopped for fruit shakes, beers and cocktails until we got to Sairee beach and went for another swim. A late afternoon lunch at one of the many restaurants lining the beach. By this time it was nearly sunset time, so we went for another dip while the sunset behind us.
Although this was a very simple activity, it ended up being one of our best days out. Perhaps the fact that this was one of our last days helped too.
>> Other Gulf islands are Koh Phangan and Koh Samui and reaching these two other islands from Koh Tao is easy. We island hopped from Koh Tao to Koh Phangan and Koh Samui by ferry. Check the ferry schedules for the 2 major ferry companies, Lomprayah and Songserm.
Koh Tao Nightlife
As you know by now Sairee beach is where everything is happening and this includes some of the island’s best bars, pubs, restaurants and a few clubs.
One great night activity is the pub crawl held 4 times a week. The pub crawl kicks off at Choppers Bar around 18:00. The crawl will take a tour around Sairee’s best attractions including a cabaret show and a fire show at Lotus Beach Bar.
Anticipated events such as the Koh Tao secret party are well worth considering if on the island around these dates. The secret party doesn’t really have fixed dates but for the latest updates you may check out their Facebook page. This is the best nightlife scene you get in Koh Tao and one of the coolest things is that the party is always held in some unique location.
Where to stay and best areas in Koh Tao
Accommodation can be found just about anywhere around the island. The west coast is the busiest and most developed part while the north and east of the island are much more laid back. The south part of Koh Tao is somewhere in between these two. Deciding on what part to choose your accommodation in comes all down to what you are looking for.
Koh Tao Northern and East side
Although during the day these parts get their fair share of visitors, toward the end of the day the area will get less and less busy which is perfect for those looking to get away from all the nightlife scene.
Many of the resorts in the quiet areas have their own restaurant and bar and not much else. These areas are the best place to have an early morning dip on a deserted beach and just snorkel around and admire the marine life.
Koh Tao West coast
The west coast is the lively and busy part of the island. Mae Haad pier is on this side of the island and is just a 30 minute walk from Sairee beach. This is the best choice for those looking to have everything in one place.
How to get to Koh Tao
Check our article here for how to get to Koh Tao from the mainland.
Getting around in Koh Tao
Our preferred choice of getting around on islands is definitely a scooter. It’s cheap, convenient and fun and allows you to explore at your own pace.
Do be careful if renting a scooter as roads in Koh Tao can be a bit dangerous. Potholes and grit along corners are what to keep your eyes out for.
Songtaews (pick-up trucks) are also easily found around the island. Prices get quite expensive if the ride is not shared with other passengers.
Longtail boats are a great option if considering beach hopping. You will find longtail boats on most of the beaches. If considering a whole day boat trip, Sairee beach is the best option to bargain a good price.
Where to eat whilst in Koh Tao
Da’s sandwiches is located near the pier in Mae Haad. This little sandwich bar proved to serve the best baguettes we had in Thailand. Chicken, bacon and egg along with salad and cheese are the main ingredients. These baguettes are also very filling especially the chicken, where we would say you get nearly a whole chicken breast stacked inside.
Tukta Thai Food
This Thai restaurant offering also a few western dishes is the go to place for a relaxed meal away from busier Sairee beach. The restaurant is run by locals and is said to be one of the best on the island. Apart from the obviously tasty Thai dishes, our favourite western dish was their pork in mushroom sauce.
Coffee Boat restaurant
Along the paved road passing by Sairee beach, Coffee boat is the best restaurant for a cheap Thai meal. Although we can’t really name the dishes had from here as we came a few times, what we can say is that food was always good and tasty.
Is Koh Tao Safe?
Our trip to Koh Tao was amazing and one of our highlights while traveling south of Thailand.
Having said that, one thing you should know is that over the past years the island has been in the light of the media over some murders and disappearances of travelers.
We found out about these crimes the night before departing to the island and obviously were a little wary of what we will find. But once on the island we always felt safe.
A golden rule which should always apply while travelling is to use common sense. Of course some may say Koh Tao isn’t safe but the truth is what place in the world is 100% safe?
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