This geographical masterpiece is also known as the Turtle Island because of its shape from above, and is just 70km north of Koh Samui. The Island is famous for the spectacularly clear, crystal waters that surround it, making it easier to marvel at the wonders that lie beneath the water’s surface. Koh Tao has the best snorkelling and diving sites anywhere in the Gulf of Thailand, and once you’re witnessing it, it will be immediately obvious why. With vividly colourful coral reefs all along the coast of the island, housing a vast array of some of the most beautifully exotic fish anywhere in the world. Don’t for a second think that the island only has one trick, however, as the beaches and nightlife await to oppose such nonsense. The beaches, from secluded bays to long expanses of soft, white sand lined with bars and restaurants will leave you breathless. The nightlife is also nothing to be scoffed at, with many an entertaining evening to be had bar hopping or at one of the many spacious night clubs. Koh Tao has something for everyone, but while days and nights pass on your holiday there, its undeniable beauty is what remains.
Explore the Island
As with all the islands in the Gulf of Thailand, renting a scooter really is the best way to do some exploring. Koh Tao has so many amazing beaches, snorkelling spots, and viewpoints (many of which are secluded) to see and experience. Be prepared to travel on dirt roads and trails, as the island’s hilly landscape means many of the wonderful locations will take you off-road. As such, a scooter with off-road tires would suit you best. Be sure to drive carefully, and of course, no drinking and driving. Renting scooters can be a confusing affair sometimes, so be sure to give our Travel Tips section regarding renting motorbikes in Thailand a read before doing so.
Go to the Viewpoints
Such a beautiful island, of course, has some mind-blowing viewpoints, but even among these, Hello Islands has our favourites: John-Suwan Viewpoint, Mango Viewpoint, and West Coast Viewpoint. Take a camera and your best set of appreciating eyes along to save all those holiday memories.
Around the Island
Koh Tao is, first and foremost, an island of unbelievably beautiful beaches, crystal waters, and the marine life that inhabits those waters, all in all, a perfect holiday destination. What better way to see the true spectacles this island holds than hire a private longtail boat to take you around the island and stop at all the bays. Snorkel, swim, and lounge on the idyllic beaches.
Koh Tao is among the best diving destinations anywhere in Thailand, with numerous dive sites, with every level of diving expertise being catered for. The marine life is breathtaking and is available to view almost anywhere off the coast of the island. If you don’t have a diving license that’s not an issue either, as most dive schools on the island offer fun diving courses that will allow you to dive up to 12m after just one training session the morning of your dive.
Kayak between the bays
While you’re on holiday in Koh Tao, you may as well take a kayak out onto the still, crystal waters and hop between the gorgeous bays. Take some snorkelling gear with you too so you can stop whenever you want to check out the marine life beneath you. The south of Koh Tao is the best for kayaking as there are many interesting places to see and the bays are close together.
Hike Koh Tao
Traversing this small island by foot is a unique experience that allows you to explore the ins and outs at your own pace. There are plenty of viewpoints, and a collection of beautiful things to see along the way. It allows for you to detach to an even greater extent and simply appreciate the amazing Koh Tao.
Visit the Nightlife
Experience what Koh Tao has to offer after hours by visiting Sairee at night. This small cosmopolitan hub is filled with restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, offering entertainment from watching fire shows on the beach bars to an all-night club atmosphere. This is a social point for many of the islands holidaymakers and offers an opportunity to connect and explore new friendships.
The three official seasons in Thailand – hot, dry, and wet, are segments of a constant summer holiday. The hot season run from March through to June, with April and May reaching the highest temperatures throughout the year. The monsoon (wet) season is accompanied by heavy rains and occasional rough seas and can vary from year to year. It can start as early as May on the Andaman sea (Phuket, Phi Phi, and Koh Lipe) although it starts officially in June and continues into November. This starts much later on the Gulf Coast (Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, and Koh Tao) in October or November, and typically runs into January. Most days it will rain for between one and two hours a day (sometimes only ten minutes) and dry up almost immediately, although in the heat it is often a welcome visitor that seldom overstays. It can, however, be torrential when the rains do appear. December through February is categorised as the dry months, although to tourists it will most likely still feel hotter than “home”. Travel tip: Whenever you decide to grace this summer paradise, be sure to pack light, breathable clothing and plenty of high SPF sunscreen, as you will underestimate the sun at your own expense. At least there is sunlight in abundance for everyone to enjoy.
Tanote Bay is one of many gorgeous beaches on the island with excellent opportunities to do some snorkelling and diving. The beach itself is a small outcrop facing another, smaller beach, while the white, soft sand makes kicking back and enjoying the view of Koh Phangan on a clear day another great way to spend your stay here while making the most of your Thailand holiday. The exotic fish on offer around the reefs and rock formations range from rabbit fish to angel fish, so you’re sure to find something eye-catching beneath its waters. If you’d like a thrill, you can also do some cliff jumping from a large rock in the centre of the bay.
Aow Leuk is a snorkelling haven on Koh Tao’s eastern coastline and a perfect place to spend an afternoon away from the busier areas on the island. The beach is a 200-metre stretch, with either end of the bay offering exquisite underwater views. The water is crystal clear, the sand is fine and white, and the atmosphere is a perfect holiday feel and incredibly relaxing. There is a single resort with basic accommodation and a restaurant on the beach, so you can certainly set up camp or grab a meal.
Known locally as Thian Og, Shark Bay is a lovely, secluded bay that is perfect for a relaxing day out or to visit as part of an excursion. The bay is only accessible by boat or kayak and is called Shark Bay due to the Blacktip Reef Sharks that populate the shallow waters near the shore. A 250-metre journey from the shore is where the majority of the sharks will be found, and it is a magnificent spectacle. Keep your eyes peeled for the equally astonishing and massive green turtles that inhabit the same waters.
Situated on Thailand’s northernmost coastline, also known as Ao Mamuang, Mango Bay is another area that’s absolutely stunning both above and below the water. This large bay with a small beach with either side having jungled hillsides and rocky cliffs and reefs running along the sides of the bay. The snorkelling and diving are naturally spectacular, while the beach itself is a brush with holiday paradise. The bay is accessible by boat or kayak, as well as a long walk on the concrete road and through the forest.
It was here, at Laem Thian, that the ten year absence of turtles from the island was ended, and the animal from which the island’s name is derived finally returned. The area is, as almost all bays in Koh Tao, perfect for snorkelling and diving, while here you will see some uncommon fish such as Unicornfish and Surgeonfish, along with others. Schools of butterflyfish and a few batfish are often seen here too. There is also some exhilarating rock jumping sites on the northern side of the bay, with three, nine, and twelve metre jumps available for the holiday makers seeking some adrenaline.
This idyllic white-sand beach is perfect for laid back time spent under the beautiful Thailand sun, but there is a fair amount shape under the Pemphis Acidula trees too, so fret not. Snorkelling is very popular here, with a shallow reef not far offshore, and crystal waters when the weather permits it. The beach itself is privately owned by Freedom Beach Resort, but the public is welcome as long as the rules are obeyed. The fantastic John Suwan viewpoint is also nearby, so Hello Islands recommends making it a two-in-one while on holiday in Koh Tao and visiting this beach.
Koh Tao offers a rich variety of restaurants and bars, with quality at a great price found with great ease.