Why should you visit Koh Tao?
The first thing you’ll probably have heard about Koh Tao is that it’s one of the cheapest places to earn your PADI qualification, but the island has so much more to offer than this.
Koh Tao completes the trio of islands located in the Gulf of Thailand and similar to Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, Koh Tao has crystal clear oceans dotted with patches of vibrant turquoise. It provides the perfect backdrown to those picturesque sunsets we’ve all been dreaming of!
What makes Koh Tao different from the other Thai Islands?
Unlike its close neighbours, Koh Tao has a distinct small and cozy island vibe making for a more laid back and slow-paced experience. It’s essentially the ideal spot to kick back and relax!
Having said that, don’t be fooled by the chilled atmosphere, there’s no shortage of things to do on Koh Tao. You can spend your days diving, snorkelling, hiking, hiring a SUP board or if you’re lucky a chance to swim alongside turtles (Koh Tao does translates to Turtle Island after all).
Where to stay in Koh Tao
There are lots of choices when it comes to where to stay in Koh Tao, but most people opt for accommodation close to Sairee Beach.
This bustling area is where most travellers hang out and you’ll find everything you need – including restaurants, bars, shops and plenty of options for accommodations.
The area around Mae Haad pier is the second most popular place to stay; it’s pretty lively in the day and the best part is that it is right next to the drop-off point for the ferries from Chumphon and Surat Thani. If you’re a night owl, then the bad news is that you might find it a little quiet in the evenings. What’s more, is that there are no beaches in the vicinity.
If you don’t need the nightlife and you’re happy with cosy bars and a tranquil beach vibe, then you might opt to stay around Chalok Bay. This beautiful bay in the south is perfect for relaxation where you might find a few hammocks down by the sandy beach perfect for reading a book or watching the sun go down.
How to get around on Koh Tao island
Due to the size of the island, it’s super easy to get around for the day if you fancy hiring a scooter – you can cross the island in about fifteen minutes.
Hiring a motorbike for the day is very easy and will likely cost anywhere between 150 to 350 baht. Like all places in Thailand, make sure you are a skilled driver and that you are aware of the local laws before venturing out and exploring the island.
If hiring a scooter isn’t for you, most places can be reached by foot and for longer distances you can hire a taxi. Just be aware that they can be extremely overpriced, so get ready to practice your haggling skills.
Another way to travel between beaches or to different points across the island is by longtail boat which can be found on almost all the beaches. Alongside the gorgeous ocean views you get with this experience, they are also very affordable – prices tend to be around 150 bath for a one-way trip.
Koh Tao’s best beaches
The island of Koh Tao offers plenty of beaches to explore. The main two, Sairee Beach and Chalok Baan Bay being are dotted with bars and restaurants perfect to spend an afternoon chilling in.
If you take a little boat trip, you will find the picturesque Island strip, Nangyuan Island Beach. It looks perfect on the picture, but be prepared for large crowds (more on this later).
Are you looking for more tranquil beaches where you can truly enjoy nature and the ocean? If it’s a yes, then continue reading for some of Koh Tao’s hidden gems.
Top-pick #1: Sai Daeng (south coast)
With white powdered sand contrasted against the vibrant turquoise sea, relaxing on this quiet beach is a great way to spend a few hours of your day.
It also offers spectacular sea life for those looking to go snorkelling, with sights of reef sharks, turtles and Christmas tree worms. This breathtaking beach can be accessed through one of the two resorts free of charge.
Top-pick #2: Sai Naun (west coast)
Having been described as reminiscent of the early tourism days of Koh Tao in the 80’s and 90’s, this unspoilt gem is the perfect hideaway spot.
Find yourself one of the empty hammocks that line the beach and just observe it’s natural splendor. The tranquility also invites a variety of fish including orange spine unicornfish, batfish and yellowtail barracuda.
Top-pick #3: Haad Tien – Shark Bay (south coast)
Don’t be discouraged by the name, this coconut tree lined private bay is an awesome snorkelling spot on the island.
About 250m from the beach where it drops down deeper to 3-4 metres you should be able to spot some black-tip reef sharks.
This location also doubles as a shark nursery, giving you the opportunity to see some young sharks too.
Best of all: Tanote Bay (east coast)
We couldn’t leave Tanote Bay out of this list, but we talk about it later on in the article so you’ll have to keep reading!
How To Get To Koh Tao?
|Leaving from||Duration||Prices from||See details|
|Bangkok||3.5hrs-14hrs||1,040 THB-3,430 THB ($34.50-$113)||Bangkok to Koh Tao|
|Koh Phangan||1.5hrs||365 THB ($12)||Koh Phangan to Koh Tao|
|Koh Samui||2hrs||520 THB ($17)||Koh Samui to Koh Tao|
My favourite places to stay in Koh Tao
If you’re looking for a fun and social atmosphere, La Latina is the perfect hostel for meeting new friends and having fun! The hostel offers an on-site restaurant, bar and garden area for socializing or relaxing. Located just 200m from Mae Haad Beach, it’s the perfect location for all you want to do and see on Koh Tao.
- Social and fun atmosphere
- On-site restaurant and bar
- Garden and terrace areas
- Great location
Single bunk starts at $10 per night
Enjoy the natural surroundings with these private bungalows and rooms located on a coconut plantation, walking distance from Mae Haad Beach. The perfect escape to soak up the peace and quiet this resort has to offer. Walking distance to restaurants, bars, and amenities. Wifi is provided throughout the resort and the staff is known to be very friendly.
- Private bungalow
- Natural surroundings
- Near Mae Haad Beach
- Privacy, peace, and quiet
Private bungalow starts at $13 per night
This lovely hotel is located just 500m from Sairee Beach and offers an on-site swimming pool. The stunning mountain views, lush greenery surrounding the hotel and tranquility will make for a perfect escape from the busy streets of Koh Tao. An affordable breakfast can be added to your stay for just $3 per day. Staff are very helpful and will assist in booking tours, onward travel plans and renting motorcycles or bicycles.
- Swimming pool
- Close to the beach
- Stunning mountain views
- Friendly and helpful staff
Private room starts at $25 per night
Located in the Chalok Baan Kao area this hostel is surrounded by nature, lush scenery and tranquility. The Hostel has a large outdoor swimming pool, an on-site restaurant and bar and a great rooftop terrace for guests to soak in all the sights. There is also a common area for socializing with a TV, books and a shared computer. The Hostel is clean, the staff is friendly and the location is convenient.
- Swimming pool
- Surrounded by nature
- On-site restaurant and bar
- Extremely clean
Private room starts at $36 per night
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