Koh Tao, which literally means Turtle Island, lives up to its name. The island is the premier scuba diving destination of choice across Thailand, with perfect white sandy beaches surrounded by the clear waters of the Gulf of Thailand. The island is home to plenty of vibrant coral reefs housing a wide range of sea creatures of different sizes, including turtles.
In this article, you are going to find all the information you need to create a wonderful holiday experience on the island. Our guide included information about the best activities and things to do on the island.
There really is no one answer to the question: “When should I go to Koh Tao?” The best time to visit Koh Tao is generally considered to be between January and April, when the weather is just right and the skies are lit by the sun. Having said that, the answer would really depend on what you plan to do in Koh Tao, Thailand.
If you plan on signing up for diving expeditions or diving tours, July to September are the best times to visit as there is great visibility. However, if you’re interested in watching whale sharks cut through the waters.
Koh Tao only really suffers from frequent rainfalls between October to November. The rain allows the local plant life to bloom and thrive. When the rain stops, the island is bathed in crisp green colour.
In addition to frequent rainfalls, the monsoon period also brings with it reduced visibility for divers. Higher tides also mean there is less access to the island’s beaches.
The warm season is usually the busiest time of the year to visit Koh Tao and the rest of Thailand. The island has a cool breeze during the warm season, with water temperatures averaging between 27 degrees to 29 degrees, making it perfect for swimming, diving, snorkelling, and other water sports.
During the transitional period, the weather in Koh Tao is extremely hot. The temperature rises over time, with the peak temperature reaching 40 degrees. The water temperature during the transitional period can also rise to around 30 degrees, but the ocean will remain calm. This keeps visibility good for diving, snorkeling, and whale shark watching.
The days between December and February are the busiest, with crowds flocking to the island’s best beaches and tourist sites. As such, the prices for accommodations and tickets are at their highest.
If you plan to visit Koh Tao during the peak season, be sure to book your trip months ahead to avoid finding yourself without a room to sleep in.
The rainy season may bring with it plenty of storms, but it’s the best time to visit Koh Tao if you have a budget to stick to. The wet season has the fewest crowds, which means accommodation and ticket prices are at their lowest. Having said that, you may see yourself canceling a few planned trips to tourist sites due to heavy rains.
Thailand is synonymous with stunning views, white sandy beaches, crystalline waters, and vibrant coral reefs. While there are many islands in Thailand, Koh Tao is a place you can easily find yourself coming back to over and over again. Between its beautiful beaches and amazing diving locations, there are plenty of reasons to love the island.
There are plenty of ways to get to Koh Tao. The transportation route you need to take would depend on where you’re coming from. Here are a few options to consider.
If you plan on flying to Koh Tao, the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok offers flights to Koh Tao five times a week. Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport also offers daily flights to Koh Tao’s Chumphon province. The flight to Chumphon can take 1 hour and 10 minutes, costing anywhere between $35 to $100.
Once you get to Chumphon, you can hire a taxi to take you to the train station or hop on a bus that will take you to the pier where you can board a ferry to Koh Tao.
Another option to go to Koh Tao is by boarding a sleeper train. Generally, train tickets cost the cheapest among other transportation options, but they can also be the slowest. A trip from Bangkok to Chumphon can take 14 hours.
The sleeper trains heading to Chumphon leave from the Hua Lamphong train station in Bangkok. Train tickets can cost about $34 to $56, depending on the class and dates.
Once you reach Chumphon, you’ll need to board a ferry to go to Koh Tao. We recommend booking a combo ticket as the boat operator usually offers a free transfer from the train station to the pier.
Another option to reach Koh Tao is by flying into Surat Thani and taking a ferry from there. Surat Thani receives direct flights from other Thai cities, making it easier for you to plan the whole trip.
Once you alight at the Surat Thani airport, you can purchase a bus ticket and head towards Don Sak pier where you can board a Catamaran heading to Koh Tao’s Ao Mae Haad pier.
This route may set you back $19 to $26.
There are two boats that travel from Koh Samui to Koh Tao: Lomprayah Catamaran and Seatran Discovery. The boats leave from Koh Samui’s Maenam and Bangrak Seatran Pier and travel nearly three hours to Mae Haad Pier in Koh Tao.
One thing to remember is you have to book your boat tickets in advance. With Seatran, you are required to book at least one day in advance. With Lomprayah, you have to book tickets two days in advance.
Boat tickets can cost between $17 to $21, depending on the season.
As with Koh Samui, there are two companies offering boat trips to Koh Tao: Lomprayah and Seatran Discovery. A boat trip to Koh Tao from Koh Phangan takes about an hour and a half, depending on the boat and schedule. Tickets will cost $14 to $17.
It is recommended to book your boat tickets at least a day in advance to secure a slot. The last boat to Koh Tao leaves at 5:30 P.M. local time.
Koh Tao is a small island, making it possible for you to walk about and explore most of what it offers in days. The roads on the island are mostly concrete, but there are some areas that are still dirt or sand. People and animals also share the road, which means you’ll need more care when you’re getting around the island.
Distances between towns, beaches, and bays are not far from each other, which means it’s easy to walk from one place to another. Additionally, some of the most remote places in Koh Tao can only be accessed on foot, including the Lighthouse, Laem Thia, and mountain viewpoints.
While walking around Koh Tao is a great choice, there are no footpaths. As such, it’s advised that you always walk on the right side of the road. If you plan to walk at night, be sure to wear something bright and bring a flashlight.
Taxis in Koh Tao do not look anything like taxis in other countries. On the island, cabs are pickup trucks with the word “Taxi” and an identification number written on them. Taxis in Koh Tao charge per head, which means you’ll often need to wait for the taxi to fill up before it moves.
If you are on your own or a couple, you may need to pay double the fare to get anywhere without waiting for the truck to fill up.
Taxis can be found in three locations: at the pier, the junction, and near a 7-Eleven store at Chalok Baan Kao.
Longtail boats, also called taxi boats, are often found along the beaches, at the pier, or near some of the larger resorts on the island. All longtail boats offer trips around Koh Tao.
Motorbike rentals cost about 150 THB per day for manual and between 150 THB and 250 THB for automatic. Most motorbike rental stores require you to leave your passport or a deposit for security purposes.
One thing to note before you hop on a motorbike is to take photos of any existing damages and bring them to the owner’s attention. All stores follow one rule, being that if a bike sustains any damage in any way, the part just is replaced new. Making sure all parties concerned are aware of any damages will prevent you from having to pay for damages that you did not cause.
Over the past years, using a bicycle to get around Koh Tao has seen a massive boost in popularity. Much of it is due to the island’s ever-developing roads, which make it easier and safer for bicycles to travel along.
Despite the boost in popularity, only a few shops and resorts offer bicycle rentals. If you’re planning to rent your own bike, choose a mountain bike with efficient gears and reliable brakes.
Koh Tao has accommodation options of all types and price ranges. Some neighborhoods offer simple hostels and budget accommodations. Other neighborhoods feature luxury resorts and private villas on the hill.
Our guide will help you to get familiar with each neighborhood on the island.
Jump to location
Mae Haad Beach is the island’s gateway. As it is where the main pier is located, Mae Haad Beach is the first place you see when you get to Koh Tao. This fun and funky beach offer a flurry of activity, mainly because it is home to the largest supermarkets, tourist agencies, motorcycle rental companies, and fruit and vegetable markets selling the freshest and most exotic Thai fruits and food at an affordable price.
Mae Haad has its fair share of bars and restaurants serving Western and Thai flavors. There are also quaint coffee shops lining the sandy beach.
Mae Haad Beach lacks the party vibe and or tranquillity found in some of the other beaches. The waters at Mae Haad Beach are also shallow and without currents.
Sairee Beach is a long and curved beach, with powdery white sands extending for over 3.2 kilometers. By morning, Sairee Beach offers visitors vibrant coral reefs and fishes perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving trips. Once the sun sets, the beach is famous for its wonderful fire shows accompanied by a wide range of restaurants and bars offerings great promotions at happy hour. Two of the most popular bars include the Fishbowl Beach Bar and the AC Bar Beach Club.
There are plenty of accommodations, beach bars, and dining shops at Sairee Beach, including luxury and budget-friendly options.
Sairee Beach is packed with people, most of whom are either backpackers or of the younger population. If you’re looking for a quiet place to relax, it might be better for you to go somewhere else.
The Chalok Baan Kao Bay is the most popular beach in Koh Tao’s south. It’s a family-friendly destination offering unparalleled views of Koh Tao and the neighboring islands of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, and the Ang Thong Marine National Park. Apart from having great viewpoints, Chalok Baan Kao Bay is also close to small hidden beaches like Sai Nuan Beach and Freedom Beach.
Chalok Bay doesn’t have big waves, but the beach is great for people wanting to have a chilled-out swimming experience. The currents are also milder in Chalok Bay, making it an ideal beach to go to if you don’t have enough experience with the water.
Several accommodation options ranging from backpacker hostels to luxury resorts are located along Chalok Bay. Many resorts are also associated with PADI dive centers and schools.
Chalok Bay does not have as many reefs or wildlife as other areas. If you’re into water sports and ocean exploration, it may be better to check out another beach to go to.
Ao Thian Og Bay, also known as Shark Bay, has one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. The 200-meter-long beach also offers white sands and shallow waters perfect for a family vacation with children.
While Ao Thian Og Bay may seem a little laid back compared to other Koh Tao beaches, visitors can jump in the water and swim with the Black-tip reef sharks that frequent the bay. The sharks measure over six feet long but are not aggressive.
The corals in Ao Thian Og are not as beautiful as in other places. Accommodation options in Koh Tao beaches are not budget-friendly.
Located on the island’s east coast, Tanote Bay offers guests a laid-back and relaxing atmosphere that makes it a calm oasis in paradise. Where Sairee Beach comes alive during the night, Tanote Bay is a gem in the early hours and is especially known for its incredible sunset views and wide coral reefs lying underneath the ocean’s rippling waves.
Sea kayaking and trekking are some of the most popular activities in Tanote Bay. Three amazing viewpoints and plenty of wildlife are also located minutes away from the bay.
The only real challenge you’re likely to encounter in Tanote Bay is the lack of accommodation. While there are hotels and resorts in the area, your options are quite limited.
Koh Tao is an incredibly small island, which means you won’t need long to explore the island. That being said, there are tons of activities you can try, so much so that spending two to three days on the island may not be enough.
Here are some of the best ones.
Much like the rest of Thailand, Koh Tao is home to some of the most beautiful sights in the world—powdery, white sand, crystalline blue waters, bright and colorful coral reefs, a variety of wildlife, and the most perfect of views.
There are plenty of beaches situated along the shores of Koh Tao, but some are more stunning than most. Here are our top five.
Beaches are great, but sometimes we find ourselves wanting something more than lounging under the sun and swimming in warm waters. If so, Koh Tao offers a wide range of activities for you to try out.
Are you looking to get postcard-perfect photos? Koh Tao has a number of areas that offer guests views of the sunrise, sunsets, and the lush nature surrounding the island. While you may need to trek to most of the viewpoints, the sights are very much worth the effort. Here are five Koh Tao island viewpoints you should visit.
The nearest islands that you can visit are Koh Phangan and Koh Samui, which are located 60 and 70 km south of the island, respectively.
We recommend spending two days on the island. That being said, it is possible to explore Koh Tao on a day trip.
There are companies that offer bus and boat tickets, which saves you time and money. In addition to saving up on transportation, you can also cut back on costs if you don’t visit Koh Tao during peak tourist season.