Located in the Gulf of Thailand, is Koh Tao, an island named after the turtles that were sighted residing on the shores, Koh Tao is famously known as a diver’s paradise but there is more to the island than just diving. In this Koh Tao guide, we are going to show you the highlights for visitors. Albeit the smallest of the three main islands (Koh Tao, Koh Samui, and Koh Phangan) in the Gulf of Thailand, it has plenty to offer with unique tourist attractions, adventurous activities, and local delicacies.
Koh Tao’s first “inhabitants” were prisoners at a Mae Haad Bay facility, where a prison was in the 1940s. Mae Haad later transformed into a fisher settlement, and today, it is one of Thailand’s most popular tourist attractions.
Best places and activities on Koh Tao
Sun’s out, bun’s out! Koh Tao has numerous little beaches surrounded by pristine waters to beach-bum around. Every beach has its own character, some are at very accessible locations, while others are hidden and remote.
Thailand is rich with artifacts and architecture and the same can be said about Koh Tao, Some of Koh Tao’s unique attractions include:
- King Rama V Monument: A rock and statue of The Great Beloved King of Thailand, with his initials carved into a stone. King Rama V is known for his efforts in modernizing Thailand and keeping the country free from colonization in the 19th century. This monument is located along Sairee beach and is a place of worship for local residents.
- Wat Koh Tao: the main Buddhist temple on Koh Tao island. It is located between Mae Haad Bay and Sairee Beach.
Koh Tao is a diver’s paradise for a number of reasons: it has crystal clear waters, shallow reefs, low currents, and the perfect climate to dive all year round. It is also very beginner-friendly, with affordable diving courses available.
If you are not a fan of diving, snorkeling is also a popular activity in the Koh Tao bay area. Find out more about diving in Koh Tao in our special diving guide.
Rock climbing is Koh Tao’s latest developing sport. There are over 200 bouldering problems and 80 sport climbing routes (and probably more, if you enjoy trad climbing) scattered around Koh Tao, with a new addition of an indoor bouldering gym. You will definitely need more than just a couple of days to explore all of them!
Check out our guide here on the best rock climbing locations in Koh Tao.
Looking for a panoramic view of the island? Hiking around Koh Tao is the best way to discover the multiple gorgeous viewpoints as well as some secluded locations on this mountainous island.
Food and Restaurants
You will not go hungry in this cozy place as there are plenty of restaurants located around the island.
If you enjoy visiting Thailand’s night markets, there is a small one that is located by 7-Eleven on the Main Street area between Mae Haad and Sairee Beach.
For those interested in bringing back some local recipes, there are cooking classes offered near Sairee beach. Learn to cook up a storm in less than 3 hours and soon you will be able to impress your friends with your Thai dishes!
Koh Tao guide FAQ
How do I get To Koh Tao?
The only direct way to Koh Tao is via a ferry. There are multiple ways to get to Koh Tao from various locations:
From the islands:
Koh Phangan > Koh Tao (1 hour)
Koh Samui > Koh Tao (1 hr 30 mins)
From the mainland:
Chumphon > Koh Tao (1 hr 30 mins)
Surat Thani > Koh Tao (4 hr 15 mins)
Bus + Ferry:
Bangkok > Chumphon > Koh Tao (ca. 12 hrs)
Flight + Ferry:
Bangkok > Koh Samui > Koh Tao (ca. 16 hrs)
How can I get around in Koh Tao?
You can get around either by foot or by hiring a scooter, motorcycle, bicycle, or taxi. Koh Tao is 21 km2 in area, so you can explore almost every corner of the island within a day if you have a vehicle. The island mainly has concrete roads and dirt tracks which can be narrow in certain areas, so be careful when you ride a scooter.
When Is The Best Time To Visit Koh Tao?
While Koh Tao’s weather is generally warm and sunny all year round, the best time for a visit to Koh Tao is between January and April. Before December, the Gulf will have its rainy season whereas after May the temperatures rise.
Is Koh Tao A Party Island?
Koh Tao is certainly a good place to party! Almost all the nightclubs and bars are located near Sairee beach, Koh Tao’s longest and most commercial beach.
You can witness fire-dancing performances, go to cabaret shows, and listen to and dance to live music with international DJs. Some bars will host quiz nights and karaoke sessions to make the atmosphere merrier.
Grab a beer here and enjoy the scenic sunset views in the background!
Is Koh Tao Cheaper Than Koh Samui?
Yes, Koh Tao can be much cheaper than Koh Samui. Koh Tao is a good location for travelers on a budget as many of the accommodations cater to backpackers and have more modest facilities compared to Koh Samui. But keep in mind, everything that has to be imported from the mainland can be more expensive.
Is Koh Tao safe?
Yes, Koh Tao is safe to visit. It´s a small island where everybody knows everybody. Although there are some reported tourist scams, drug usage, and petty thefts, these incidents are not exclusive to Koh Tao. However, if you are interested in police stories and want some more insights into local life, you may want to read up on the history of Koh Tao’s crimes, which are statistically insignificant, but still make for good conversation.
How Many Days Should You Plan To Stay On Koh Tao?
Most tourists who do island-hopping will spend an average of two days on Koh Tao to explore what the island has to offer. Some even do just a day trip to Koh Tao by taking a speedboat from Koh Samui or Koh Phangan.
However, if you want to do a diving course, explore all the outdoor highlights, or just relax in seclusion, you could always stay on. So keep your options open and take your time to explore!
Good things come in small packages and this small island certainly packs a punch.
Definitely check out Koh Tao when you are in Thailand and you will be amazed by its hidden gems!
Are there more fun things in Koh Tao that we should know? Comment below about your experience!