Our favorite Thai island, Koh Tao
Koh Tao, literally translated means “turtle island,” is an isle off the coast of Thailand. Koh Tao is known for its spectacular beaches and known to be one of the top diving spots in Asia. We made our way through three very different islands in Thailand and we for sure without a doubt thought that Koh Tao was the best, for us that is. Whether you are looking to relax, hike, beach hop, go diving/snorkeling, party all night, eat some amazing food or cruise through the island on a motor bike- Koh Tao has it all.
Snorkel Koh Tao
Koh Tao is known for its deep blue water, schools of fish, all different types of coral and many different snorkel tours. If you are trying to stay on the surface and explore the entire island, we can suggest a tour company that takes you all the way around the island. Stopping at five different points and even including a lunch buffet for everyone aboard. Oxygen Snorkel Tours was really an amazing experience as we would not be able to see Koh Tao the way we did if not for this tour. Also on this trip the boat stops at Koh Nang Yuan which is the infamous island that you see in many pictures from Koh Tao (pictured above). If you are lucky you can see lots of different marine life on this tour such as, sharks, turtles, manta rays, sting rays and TONS of tropical fish. We would have to say, the only down fall of this tour company is that the boat that takes you out is pretty big (3 stories) therefore many people can fit on it. More the merrier for us, we made a bunch of new friends while on the tour. You can either pay for your tour at the head office or if you would rather use a credit card you can book directly online. The tour does come with a pick up and drop off from your hotel/hostel.
Scuba Dive off Ko Tao
Koh Tao is the main destination to scuba dive in the Gulf of Thailand primarily because of its shallow coral reefs filled with marine life. The entire island is ringed with rock pinnacles, coral reefs and diverse sea life. With that being said, there are so many different companies on the island that can take you out to scuba dive. Before I go scuba diving I like to do a deep dive on the internet to find the most reputable company. Roctopus Ko Tao Diving Center was the company I ended up choosing because of the great reviews and price.
Best beaches in Koh Tao
- Tanote Beach– one of the easternmost bays on the island offers plenty of space to lounge around, some of the best snorkeling on the island and many restaurants near by to enjoy a cocktail or even rent a snorkel mask from. This bay is known for its giant rock shooting out the water in a distance that is also used for cliff jumping if you are an adrenaline junkie. To get to this bay you must hire a taxi or use a motorbike, as the roads leading to this bay are VERY STEEP.
- Koh Nang Yuan- the beaches on the island of Koh Nang Yuan were some of the clearest, bluest and cleanest water we saw while visiting Koh Tao. Although you must take a boat to this beach, the rewards are so worth it in the end!
- Sairee Beach- This is the main beach in Koh Tao and often get looked over when searching for the best beach. There are many different cafes and restaurants on this because that includes live music or a bean bag in the sand. This beach is perfect for sunset views on the island.
- Freedom Beach- This beach is located at the southern tip on the island and is one of the more secluded beaches on the isle due to only being reached after a small hike. It is known for its large groups of fish passing through just meters out from the shoreline.
Best views on Koh Tao
Koh Tao is a rugged, hilly island still very much covered by jungle. With this being said, there are many different view points either to hike to or to drive up to.
- Koh Nang Yuan is one of the most popular view points on the island. It is actually from a very small island right off of Koh Tao that you must take a boat to. The view is the two small islands connected by the sand bar. We recommend to get to this view point early in the morning as tour boats come in throughout the day- the queue for a picture at the top can take up to an hour.
- Love Koh Tao viewpoint is on the way to Tanote Beach up a very steep road. To enter this viewpoint you must either buy something from the restaurant or pay 20 baht per person to enter. The view point includes different signs of “LOVE KOH TAO” and also hammocks over top of a steep drop looking out onto the west coast of the island.
- John-Suwan viewpoint is located at the southern tip of the island over looking the hilly north of the island with two bays on each side. To enter this viewpoint you must pay 50 baht per person however that includes a drink and access to kayaks down at the beach.
Best Food on Koh Tao
Koh Tao is definitely for the “foodies” out there. Whether it be the local cuisine, Western, Indian, Mexican, Italian or vegan, it has it all. We loved eating all around Koh Tao as we found it the most reasonably priced between all of the islands we went to.
SOME OF OUR FAVORITE PLACES TO EAT
- Bam Bam (if you are on a budget)
- Da’s Sandwiches
- Coconut Monkey (vegan/GF options)
- Pranees Kitchen
- Thai pancakes stands (peanut butter banana is the BOMB)
Nightlife on Koh Tao
Most people think of Koh Phangan as the island for the party animals. However if that is your thing, Koh Tao has a nightlife you can party all night long! We don’t party all that often as we are on a strict budget when traveling however the bars on Koh Tao are so nice and situated right on the beach with entertainment. At the Lotus Bar every night from about 7-11 there is a fire show put on by about 5-7 local guys. These guys work so hard and put on such an amazing show for the audience. WARNING: if you sit up close they will interact with you using their fire sticks!!!
Where to stay in Koh Tao
In Koh Tao there are no high rise hotel chains available for purchase however there is a wide selection of accommodations to fit everyone’s travel budget. Whether you are looking for a family-friendly spot, backpackers hostel or something luxurious on the beach, this tiny island has it all. Mae Haad and Sairee Beach are the two most popular locations on the island that most people stay at. These areas are very close to the pier, shopping and popular restaurants. Besides all of the hotels and hostel available there are many people who rent their homes/apartments out on AirBnB.We found a super affordable apartment on AirBnB from a super friendly guy names Robert in Mae Haad (6 minute walk from the pier). We really enjoyed our stay in the home stay as it had a homey feeling and it was near the popular attractions. Robert met with us our first day in Koh Tao to show us a map of Koh Tao and mark all of the must DO/SEE on the island. We thought this was above and beyond (has never happened before on AirBnB) and we couldn’t thank him enough.
How to get to/from Koh Tao
Since Koh Tao does not have an airport on the island the only way to reach it would be a ferry. The ferries picking up and dropping off have many different routes, time tables and prices. Most routes start at Chumphon (main land) -Koh Tao-Koh Phangan-Ko Samui-Don Sak (main land) or visa versa. Booking for a ferry is super easy and convenient if you book through 12 go asia. No need to print your confirmation papers out, you just simply show your phone to the staff and they get you your tickets. Another way you could book is directly at the office as well, using cash.