Koh Tao is a paradise island neighboring Koh Phangan and Koh Samui in the Gulf of Thailand and accessible from Surat Thani or Chumphon. If you are planning your trip there, check our ultimate guide to Koh Tao Island that will help you prepare for a perfect vacation on this spectacular tropical island.
This small island of 21 km² is full of surprises. Koh Tao, also known as the Turtle Island, is a must visit place in Southern Thailand if you are a fan of dream beaches and magnificent seabed. This Koh Tao travel guide presents detailed information about island’s transportation, best things to see and do, places to stay, best viewpoints and much more.
Things to Do in Koh Tao
Don't be fooled by its small size or its distance from the mainland, Koh Tao offers an array of fun activities to its visitors coming from all over the world. In recent years, the island has become very popular for divers but also non-divers. You can discover wide choice of fun things to do in Koh Tao.
Diving around Koh Tao
There is no doubt that diving is the main attraction of the island. Koh Tao is one of the most important diving areas in Thailand. The island is an ideal place to extend your stay and enjoy taking a diving course as it is the cheapest place in the world to get your diving certificate. There are about 25 dive sites around Koh Tao. The average diving depth is 14 to 18 meters.
Koh Tao has coral reefs that surround the entire island, and its waters are not very deep. This makes it a great place for snorkeling. You can also take an excursion to explore various snorkeling spots around the island.
Enjoying Koh Tao beaches
Koh Tao beaches are magnificent with white sand and turquoise water. Each beach offers a different atmosphere.
Mae Haad and Sairee Beach located on the western side of Koh Tao are the most popular beaches on the island. They are also a perfect place to watch sunsets during your stay in Koh Tao. This is also the place where partying takes place during the peak tourist season.
If you like quieter beaches, Chalok Bay Beach is a good example of an alternative beach. It is an ideal place for diving and snorkeling. Shark Bay is a small beach with clear waters that is said to be a shark observation point. It is accessed by a wooden staircase that crosses the bungalow resort. In addition, there are many more distant beaches but be sure to also visit Sai Nuan Beach, Sai Daeng Beach and Tanote Bay that are on the eastern side of the island.
The complete guide to the top beaches on the island can be found here: Koh Tao Beaches
Hiking up for the best view
Koh Tao is not just about its beaches as the island also has various magnificent viewpoints for admiring the scenery. John Suwan Viewpoint, which is also known as John Suwan Rock, is one of the most beautiful viewpoints on the island. It also offers a fantastic view of Chalok Baan Kao Bay on the left and Shark Bay (Thian Og Bay) on the right. We have summarized the top favorite viewpoints here: Koh Tao Best Viewpoints.
Visiting Koh Nang Yuan
Probably you've heard of Koh Nang Yuan that can be perfect for a half day or full day getaway. This island is located not far from the northwest coast of Koh Tao making it easily accessible by boat. The island is well known because it is the world's only triple island, connected via two small sandbanks.
In addition to the pristine beauty and clear water, Koh Nang Yuan is famous for wonderful viewpoint and offers an ideal setting for snorkeling. During the day, the island can get crowded due to the many visitors from Koh Samui and Koh Phangan.
Koh Nang Yuan is privately owned. Foreign day visitors pay 200 THB fee to enter the island. It is possible to stay in bungalows of Nangyuan Island Dive Resort
Other Koh Tao Activities
Koh Tao has many beaches and plenty of other attractions. You can discover more of activities on Koh Tao Island with detailed information here: Best things to do in Koh Tao. It will be handy when planning your holiday on the Turtle Island.
Koh Tao Nightlife
Koh Tao nightlife mainly takes place on Sairee Beach, where you can find many beach bars. Some cool bars with good views and live music are also found on the southern beaches. The bars here are less crowded than on Koh Phangan Island located nearby, but the atmosphere is nice and parties can last until morning. Sairee Beach is also the place where people often come to enjoy the sunset, and watch fire dance shows on the beach.
Where to Stay in Koh Tao
Whether you are traveling for relaxing, exploring or experiencing, there are many types of accommodation in Koh Tao for you to choose from during your trip to discover this ideal holiday island in Thailand. Koh Tao has places to stay in all price ranges, from simple hostels, budget hotels and mid-range resorts to luxury resorts and villas on the hill overlooking the sea. Many diving schools also have their own accommodations. If you will be getting a diving certificate there, you can usually overnight at diving school accommodation for an affordable price.
To help you find the perfect accommodation on this island, we have prepared a guide on the best areas to stay in Koh Tao. Here you will find our hotel recommendations for individual beaches and bay areas.
Some of the best rated accommodations on Koh Tao Island:
Sea View Resorts
If you want to stay at the accommodation with the best view, check the carefully selected list of the best sea view resorts in Koh Tao.
In the high season, many accommodations on Koh Tao are fully booked. Therefore, you should book well in advance for getting the place you want.
How to get to Koh Tao
Koh Tao is located about 73 kilometers from the coast of the mainland and belongs to the Chumphon archipelago in the Gulf of Thailand. Koh Tao does not have its own airport, so you will have to take a boat to reach this island. Arriving in Koh Tao can be a tiring journey depending on the transportation, but it will be worth it. There are various types of boats offered on this route, depending on the starting point of your trip to Koh Tao.
Getting to Koh Tao from Bangkok
By Plane + Ferry
The route from Bangkok to Koh Tao is very popular. Taking a flight to Koh Samui Airport (USM) is the most convenient way to travel to Koh Tao. Many flights depart from Bangkok to Koh Samui every day but they can be a bit pricey. A much cheaper alternative is to fly to Chumphon Airport (CJM) or Surat Thani Airport (URT). Many airlines offer economical flights and also combined tickets with ferry crossings to Koh Tao.
Really good deals for flights to the airports nearby Koh Tao can be found on Trip.com and Kiwi.com. We would recommend checking both flight search systems and compare prices as for different flights any of them can offer better price.
By Bus + Ferry
If you would like to save some money, traveling by bus from Bangkok to Koh Tao might be the best option. There are buses departing from Khao San Road area in Bangkok. From there you usually drive overnight to the port in Chumphon and then switch to a ferry that takes you to Koh Tao Island. The buses are comfortable and well equipped.
You can book combination tickets for bus and ferry online here: Bus & Ferry Ticket to Koh Tao.
You can also take a bus to Chumphon from Sai Tai Mai Bus Station in Bangkok and then organize transfer to the port and ferry tickets independently.
By Train + Ferry
Another affordable option is to take the train from Bangkok to Koh Tao. The train journey starts at Hua Lamphong Railway Station in Bangkok and ends at Chumphon Railway Station. Ferry companies provide a free transfer between the train station and the pier, from where you can take the ferry to Koh Tao Island. The journey by train is quiet long and delays are common so we are not recommending this option if you have a tight schedule.
Train tickets for a trip from Hua Lamphong Railway Station in Bangkok to Koh Tao can be found here: Train Ticket from Bangkok to Koh Tao.
More detailed information about traveling between Bangkok to Koh Tao can be found here: How to get from Bangkok to Koh Tao
Getting to Koh Tao from Koh Phangan or Koh Samui
If you will be staying on Koh Phangan or Koh Samui beforehand, you can easily transfer from one island to the other by ferry. There are three boat companies sailing between these two neighboring islands and Koh Tao: Lomprayah Catamaran, Seatran Discovery and Songserm Express.
The discounted ferry tickets can be booked here:
Find more detailed information on how to travel from Koh Samui/Koh Phangan to Koh Tao (and vice versa).
Getting to Koh Tao from Chumphon
Chumphon is the closest part of the mainland to Koh Tao, which is why the travel time by ferry from there is the fastest. Ferry companies Lomprayah Catamaran and Songserm Express offer connections between Chumphon and Koh Tao. There is also a night ferry. The travel time from Chumphon to Koh Tao with these boats is approximately 6 hours.
How to get around Koh Tao
Taxi is useful for covering short distances on Koh Tao. They are often the best and safest option. Most of the time taxis are shared taxis (songtaew) but there are also normal private taxis that should be negotiated in advance. A trip from Baan Mae Haad to Sairee or Chalok Baan Kao, for example, costs between 100-150 THB for 2 people during the day. Trips to remote places can cost more. If you will be staying at the resort, they normally offer shuttle services to Mae Haad or other well-known beaches.
On Koh Tao, it is also very popular to rent a motorbike to get to know the entire island. Exploring the island by motorbike can also be a good way to see different places, such as beaches, viewpoints or diving spots. The motorbike rental price starts from about 150-200 THB per day.
Attention! Koh Tao is hilly and mountainous with sometimes steep and rough roads so you need to always drive very carefully and never get on the wheel after drinking.
By Longtail Boat
The longtail boat or taxi boat are a common mean of transportation on Koh Tao. This is a very pleasant and fast way to travel around Koh Tao. You can hire the boat to explore the island. The price depends on the route, the number of people and the place you want to stop. A one-way trip for two by a long-tail boat from Mae Haad to Tanote Bay should cost about 700 THB.
If you are planning to visit Koh Tao for short, taking a tour to visit the main sights around Koh Tao is a worthwhile option to consider. There are plenty of daily excursions around the island and one of the most popular tours is Koh Tao and Koh Nangyuan Full Day Tour with Snorkeling Experience.
Food & Drinks in Koh Tao
Besides the beautiful scenery, Koh Tao also has many delicious dishes that are waiting for you to discover in this tropical paradise. A visit to the small night market between Mae Haad and Sairee is highly recommended. Koh Tao has many restaurants with international cuisine in the larger towns as well as bars and nightclubs. There are even bakeries with fresh bread and cakes, and pizza delivery service. Of course, the restaurants in the direct beach location are a little more expensive than those on the streets behind the beach.
Shopping in Koh Tao
Koh Tao is not a shopping destination but you will find enough souvenir and jewelry shops, boutiques and supermarkets in the larger tourist areas such as Sairee, Mae Haad and occasionally in Chalok Baan Kao Bay. You can buy clothes, island souvenirs, beach and snorkeling equipment, postcards there.
Koh Tao Festivals
If you are on Koh Tao during April, you can celebrate Songkran Festival (Thai New Year). The neighboring island of Koh Phangan has the famous Full Moon Party which you can join every month.
Best Time to Visit Koh Tao
Koh Tao has a tropical climate and is hot and sunny all year round with occasional heavy rainfall during the monsoon season. The island roughly follows Thailand's peak tourist season with peak months here being between December and April.
Next Destination after Koh Tao?
Most people travelling to Koh Tao continue their journey by visiting the neighboring islands of Koh Phangan and Koh Samui. There are several daily ferries between the islands. The three islands are all very different from each other and together they are a fantastic island-hopping destination in Thailand.