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31 Best Things to Do on Koh Tao Island (2024)

31 Best Things to Do on Koh Tao Island (2024)

From scuba diving to sunset hikes, here are the absolute best things to do on Koh Tao Island, Thailand.

While Koh Tao is well known for its scuba diving and immaculate underwater world, there are so many more reasons why this beautiful island in the Gulf of Thailand deserves a stop on your itinerary.

After several visits, and spending a few months completing my Diver Master course on Koh Tao, I’ve explored the entire island. I’ve visited beautiful secluded beaches like Tanote Bay to epic sunset viewpoints such as John Suwan. So here it is, my ultimate travel guide unveiling the best things to do on Koh Tao, Thailand!

Olly gaspar

By Olly Gaspar, full-time traveler & adventure photographer for 6 years with 700+ published travel guides. I visit every place I write about & share real tips from what I learn.

Here are the Top 3 Activities on Koh Tao

If you're in a rush, or only have a few days to visit Koh Tao, I recommend picking a 5 island day trip, visiting Koh Nang Yuan, and trying scuba diving! Here are my top 3 favorite tours you can book right now.

Koh nang yuan beach on koh tao

1. Koh Nang Yuan & 5-island Day Trip Top Pick

An epic speedboat island hopping trip to Koh Nang Yuan (a must-visit island near Koh Tao), and nearby snorkeling & swimming spots.

Scuba divers on koh tao

2. Open Water Scuba Course Best Price

Koh Tao is one of the cheapest & best places in the world to get your PADI license & this school has some of the best prices.

Snorkeling on koh tao, thailand

3. Full-day snorkeling adventure Budget

An epic snorkeling day trip visiting some of the best spots on the island, including Shark Bay, Aowe Leuk, and Mango Bay.

31 Awesome Things to Do on Koh Tao Island

You'll never be short of things to do on Koh Tao. Although the island is a mere 21 km², it definitely packs in a huge chunk of adventure!

1. Island Hop to Koh Nang Yuan

One of the most famous spots on Koh Tao isn't actually on the island itself. Koh Nang Yuan Island is a short 10-minute longtail ride from Sairee Beach and absolutely a must-visit.

Koh nang yuan island
Koh nang yuan

This double-headed island is connected via a thin, white stretch of sand surrounded by pristine coral reefs. A day trip here is usually filled with snorkeling, swimming in crystal clear water, lounging on the beach, and exploring its jungle viewpoints.

The best and easiest way to visit Koh Nang Yuan is to jump on a speedboat island hopping trip, which also visits some of the best snorkeling spots around Koh Tao.

Koh nang yuan beach on koh tao

Travel Tip for Koh Nang Yuan: The island has some pretty stringent environmental restrictions, with no plastic bottles or waste being allowed on the island (they searched our bags). There is also a newly increased 250 baht environmental protection fee per adult (120 baht for children) to gain entry. 

2. Go Scuba Diving On Koh Tao's Reefs

Koh Tao is also known as Turtle Island and is famous for being the Scuba Diving mecca of Southeast Asia.

This is one of the cheapest places on earth to complete your open-water scuba course.

The diving on Koh Tao is excellent, with clear water, healthy reefs, and very consistent conditions. Due to the island's geography, there are usually a few decent dive sites that are calm, no matter the weather. While the most famous dive site is Sail Rock, my favorite on Koh Tao is the Chumphon Pinnacle, where you can sometimes see whale sharks!

Scuba diving on koh tao reef at chumphon

Additionally, travelers will find many reputable dive centers all over the island where you can jump on a guided dive (if you're certified), or do your Open Water, Advanced, Rescue, Dive Master, or even Instructor course!

Scuba divers on koh tao
Fun dives or full scuba courses available

3. Go Beach-Hopping on Koh Tao

There are many great sandy beaches and secluded, rocky coves with crystal clear water and coral reefs for swimming or snorkeling on Koh Tao. So, whether you're into water sports or lounging on white sand, Koh Tao beaches, below are my favorite:

  • Freedom Beach
  • Sai Daeng Beach
  • Tanote Bay
  • Shark Bay
  • Hin Wong Bay
  • Sai Nuan Beach
  • Chalok Baan Kao bay

I recommend renting a scooter from one of the shops in Sairee Beach for 200-250 Thai Baht per day and exploring the beautiful bays, shallow waters, and popular beaches on the tiny island.

Girl at freedom beach, koh tao
Pristine beaches of Koh Tao

4. John Suwan Viewpoint

If you're looking to get away from the craziness of Sairee and the scuba hum, there are some decent hikes to be had just a short scooter ride away. For such a small island, Koh Tao has its fair share of viewpoints and short hikes. 

One of the best hikes is John Suwan View Point. Although this is a fairly short hike, you will be rewarded with some of the most spectacular views on the island from the south coast. Walking only 10 minutes up from the entrance to Freedom Beach, you will reach a rocky outcrop that stretches out at the southernmost point of Koh Tao.

The view spans over the adjacent bays, with a thin section of tropical jungle with palm trees in between.

The entrance fee for John Suwan Viewpoint is 100 Thai Baht.

View at the top of john suwan viewpoint on koh tao
John Suwan is one of the best viewpoints on this amazing tropical island!

5. The Koh Nang Yuan Terrace Sunset Viewpoint

Island life means epic sunsets. You'd be hard-pressed to witness a bad sunset on Koh Tao. However, a great spot to catch the sunset is a secret sunset place just in front of a popular tourist resort. 

Nang Yuan Terrace offers you views of the sun setting on the water, right beside Koh Nang Yuan. You can also witness Sairee Beach nightlife come alive from this terrace! Truly one of the best viewpoints on Koh Tao!

Sunset on koh tao island, thailand with view of koh nang yuan

6. Snorkel with Black Tip Reef Sharks at Shark Bay

If you've come to Koh Tao to check out the marine life, then you might have heard about the famous Black Tips at Shark Bay.

This is a small bay on the southeast side of the island. You can snorkel with these sharks every day from 6:00 to 9:00 am in the shallows of the bay. 

There are also plenty of turtles that hide in Shark Bay, seemingly to get away from the craziness of Sairee. I recommend visiting in the early morning for the highest chance of swimming with these amazing sea animals.

Swimming with reef sharks on koh tao island

7. Koh Tao Snorkeling Trip

If you don't want to go scuba diving but still want to experience the underwater world, then a great way to do so is to jump on board the popular Koh Tao snorkeling trip.

Girl snorkeling on koh tao, thailand

This is a full-day boat trip visiting some of the top snorkeling locations on Koh Tao, including:

  • Koh Nang Yuan
  • Hin Wong Bay
  • Aow Leuk Bay
  • Shark Bay
  • Mango

This is a fully decked-out boat, complete with an upstairs deck and even a water slide.

Koh tao island hopping boat

8. Love Koh Tao Viewpoint

Many of the viewpoints have small bars and restaurants that are set up at the top, including the famous "Love Koh Tao" viewpoint.

This is a great place to catch the sunset, and accessible via a steep road leading up from nearby Tanote Bay. At the top, there's a famous love heart selfie sign, which is where the name comes from.

Love koh tao viewpoint at sunset

9. Cliff Jumping at Tanote Bay

Koh Tao also has opportunities for cliff jumping. One of the best spots to do this is in Tanote Bay. Although it's not the tallest drop, Tanote Bay has a modest rocky outcrop situated in the center of the bay.

The jump is roughly 5m into crystal clear water filled with pristine reefs. 

We chose to come to Tanote Bay several times in between diving to relax on the big rock and enjoy the relative calmness of the area. 

Tanote bay cliff jumping, koh tao

10. Go Freediving

Freediving is absolutely taking the underwater world by storm. There are loads of freediving shops and schools popping up everywhere in Koh Tao.

One of the best and most well-renowned is Apnea Total. Similarly to the scuba diving scene, you can find very cheap prices for world-class freediving training. They offer programs from beginner all the way to competitive-level freediving.

Free diving on koh tao beside large jellyfish

Although I didn't sign up at any schools, I have spoken to a few people who were undertaking their master-level training and swore by the quality of freediving schools in Koh Tao. 

If you've already done some freediving and just want to head out with a buddy. I can recommend an awesome secluded freediving spot tucked-away training grounds on the Eastern Side of Koh Tao, just in front of Moondance Magic Resort. 

However, it takes a bit of local know-how to get down there.

Freediver next to large coral

11. Visit Koh Phangan

Koh Phangan (Ko Pha Ngan) is another popular island located close to Koh Tao and famous for its crazy Full Moon Party which happens on the night and on either side of the full moon.

However, other than the party, there are plenty of fun things to do on Koh Phangan, including some epic beaches and viewpoints.

It's quite easy to get to Koh Phangan– simply book your Lomprayah Ferry ticket online and show up at Mae Haad port. Although it is possible to visit on a day trip, I recommend spending at least a night here.

Fish and coral at koh phangan

12. Visit the Only Animal Clinic on the Island

Although this is undeniably one of the most un-touristy things that you could do on Koh Tao, if you're an animal lover, definitely visit the animal clinic in Cha Lok. Koh Tao Animal Clinic is a not-for-profit organization that operates completely on donations and volunteer support. 

This is the only clinic and veterinary facility on the island. For such a small clinic with little funds, they do a great job of desexing and caring for the thousands of animals on the island.  

Dog at animal clinic

If you have a few dollars left from lunch, why don't you go down and sponsor a stray? It doesn't cost a lot to help an injured or sick dog or cat, and a little change goes a long way. 

If you're staying for a longer period and looking to volunteer, head in and ask for Yo or Jae and see if they have anything for you to do.

Girl at koh tao animal clinic with a dog

13. Hike to the Abandoned Resort

If you're looking for a day of adventure to a secluded spot, the abandoned resort is one of the most underrated spots to visit on Koh Tao. The resort is tucked away on the far Eastern Corner of Koh Tao at Laem Thian Beach.

You will need to hike through the jungle for an hour to reach the resort. Once you get there, you can explore the empty rooms, reception area, and rooftops. The beach is also one of my favorite beaches on Koh Tao. This is a great spot to swim, snorkel, and cliff jump.

You might even be lucky enough to spot some famous Koh Tao turtles.

An abaonded resort on koh tao at laem thian

14. Grab Some Koh Tao Street Pad Thai at Sairee Beach

If you're looking for a cheap meal in between dives, look no further than the Pad Thai street vendors in Sairee. You can find the best ones just near the 7-Eleven on the Northern side of Sairee Beach. 

For 50 Baht, you can pick up a decently sized Pad Thai with peanuts. Not bad.

Eating street food in thailand

15. Mango Viewpoint

Mango Viewpoint is another epic lookout spot situated on the north end of Koh Tao. This one is just a short 15-minute drive from Sairee Beach, following a sealed but very steep road to the top of the hill.

At the top, you'll find a small bar, where you'll need to pay the 100 baht entrance fee.

However, the views are definitely worth it, especially if you make the trip for sunset where you can watch the sun set over Sairee Beach!

Sairee viewpoint koh tao island, thailand

16. Join the Famous Koh Tao Pub Crawl 

It's no secret that the nightlife in Koh Tao can get pretty wild and it all starts on the Koh Tao Pub Crawl. If you're anywhere near Sairee after 6:00 pm then it's impossible to miss the black singlet gang moving from pubs to cabaret shows across Sairee.

Bar crawl on koh tao island

The pub crawl is actually one of the top three biggest in the entire world. For its size, it's pretty well run and stops at some cool bars. If you're looking to join in, meet at Choppers Bar around 6:00 pm. 

Palm tree on sairee beach at sunset on koh tao

17. Relax on Freedom Beach

Freedom Beach is one of my favorite beaches on Koh Tao. While it takes just 10 minutes or so to ride here on a scooter, it definitely feels like you're on a different island.

The white sand and orange rocks make for a perfect palette when mixed with the clear, turquoise water. There are usually very few tourists at Freedom Beach, making it the perfect place to relax and unwind.

Freedom beach on koh tao island

18. Rent SUPs on Sairee Beach

In my opinion, the best way to see the sunset on Sairee Beach is from a stand-up paddleboard. It won't be difficult for you to find a place to rent a SUP on Sairee. Just walk around to any of the beachfront dive shops and they will most likely have them.

Renting a SUP on Sairee usually costs 250 baht for 1 hour, 600 baht for half a day, or 900 baht for a full day (8 hours).

Tip: If you're diving on Koh Tao, ask your dive shop to see if they will give you a discount on board hire. We did this and they let us rent the boards for free!

Stand up paddleboard at sunset of sairee beach
Sairee Beach is a great spot to rent a SUP!

19. Watch the Fire Dancers on Sairee Beach

There's no better way to end a long day of scuba diving and hiking than to relax on the beach with a Chang and watch the nightly fire dance performance. The local Thai performers head down to Sairee every night to perform for the crowds.

The best place to catch them is at Lotus Bar just after sunset. 

20. Snorkel at Hin Wong Bay

Visiting Hin Wong Bay is one of the top things to do for travelers looking to get off the beaten path on Koh Tao Island.

Ao Hin Wong is a rocky beach with a small bar and a narrow stretch of orange sand. The bay is a popular dive site, but is also great for snorkeling as you can explore the coral and schooling fish just meters off the shore!

Swimmers next to big rocks at hin wong bay beach from above

21. Try Muay Thai

Like most of the Thai Islands, Koh Tao has a Muay Thai gym, as well as regular Muay Thai fight nights. I've trained at both of the gyms on the island, but my favorite is Monsoon Gym, found on the main road running from Sairee to Mae Haad.

Muay Thai is the bloodline of Thai culture and a must-do experience when in Southeast Asia. Just be prepared for a hard workout!

Kids fighting muay thai in thailand

22. Visit Koh Samui

Koh Samui is one of the most popular islands in the Gulf of Thailand. As the second largest Thai Island, this vacation spot is lined with beach bars, beautiful beaches, and luxury resorts.

This is a huge island and it would take more than just a day to explore all of the popular activities. However, if you have the time, it's certainly worth visiting. The average ferry crossing time is just 2 hours and 45 minutes from Mae Haad.

Boat at koh tao beach

23. Baby Rasta Bar

Looking for one of the coolest bars on Koh Tao? If you're into live music and chill vibes, make sure to stop by Baby Rasta– a treehouse bar serving everything you'd expect to find at a Reggae Bar.

Baby rasta bar on koh tao island

24. Sunset Viewpoint

Known as "Little Viewpoint", "High Rock View Point", and "Koh Tao Sunset Viewpoint", this off-the-beaten-path viewpoint at the back of Sairee is a great place to catch the sunset. The large outcrop offers panoramic views of Sairee Beach from above.

This is a west-facing viewpoint with a huge boulder that is perfect for catching the last sunrays. You'll find it pinned on Google as "Sunset Point View", and there is no entrance fee here.

Sunset viewpoint on koh tao

25. Thai Massage at Sairee

After a long day of scuba diving, hiking, or exploring the fun things to do on the island, a great option is to opt for a Thai massage from one of the many parlors along Sairee Beach.

Prices are very reasonable, ranging from 200-250 Thai Baht per hour.

26. Thai Longtail Boat Tour

Looking for an easy and cheap way to explore the island? Head down to Sairee Beach in the morning and speak to one of the Longtail boat drivers.

Many will offer to take you over to Koh Nang Yuan for around 300 Thai Baht for the round trip. I recommend this option if you want to save some money and explore Koh Nang Yuan from Koh Tao independently.

Koh tao boat ride

27. High Bar

High Bar is a small reggae bar at the very top of Koh Tao in the Chalok Baan Kao district.

This bar is quite difficult to get to due to a very steep road leading right up the mountain. However, this is definitely one of the funnest places to hang out, and sports some pretty great views if you get here early for sunset.

High bar koh tao island

28. Take a Thai Cooking Class

Want to learn how to cook delicious Pad Thai or Penang curry? Koh Tao is a great place to do that!

The famous Thai cooking class with Joy is a home-style cooking lesson where travelers get the opportunity to learn how to cook delicious, and authentic Thai food.

With close to 300 5-star reviews on Google, this is definitely one of the most popular activities on Koh Tao!

Pad thai cooking class

29. Koh Tao Night Market

Just across from the Koh Tao leisure park (mini golf) is an awesome local night market. Here you'll get the chance to pick up some small crafts like jewelry and purses, as well as some delicious food and fresh produce for a great price!

30. Wat Koh Tao Temple

On the main road connecting Sairee to Mae Haad, there is a beautiful Buddhist temple perched on the coast side of the road.

Named Wat Koh Tao, this modern Thai temple is worth a quick visit since it's the only Buddhist temple on the island so it is worth visiting.

Travel Tip: You'll likely pass this temple on the hill if you are heading south to explore beaches like Tanote Bay or Freedom Beach.

Koh tao temple (wat koh tao)
Wat Koh Tao Temple is located on a hilltop beside the main coastal road.

31. Dive at Sail Rock - The Best Thing to do on Koh Tao for Scuba Divers

While there are plenty of great dive sites on Koh Tao like the Chumphon Pinnacle, Lighthouse, White Rock, Shark Island, and the HTMS Sattakut wreck, none even come close to Sail Rock!

This is considered the diving highlight in the Gulf of Thailand and is a frequent whale shark hot spot. However, it is quite deep and far from Koh Tao, meaning most dive schools don't visit every day, and you'll need your Advanced Open Water ticket.

So, if you want to dive at Sail Rock and its epic Chimney, I recommend contacting several dive shops in advance.

Coral and fish at sail rock scuba dive site
Coral at Sail Rock Dive site
Fish on tropical coral reefs of koh tao's dive sites, thailand

Where to Stay on Koh Tao

If you're wondering where to stay on Koh Tao Island and you want to be close to the main activities and beaches, pick a stay near Sairee Beach.

However, other great options include Mae Haad, or for a more secluded vibe, check out the southern beaches or even the east coast around Tanote Bay. Below are my top picks.

Jamahkiri resort & spa koh tao

1. Jamahkiri Resort & Spa Luxury

A great bang-for-buck luxury dive resort at the beachfront of Shark Bay in a quiet and secluded location away from the hustle and bustle.

Phandara luxury pool villas koh tao

2. Phandara Pool Villas Mid-Range

A luxury villa option for those who want their own kitchen & pool. Located on the hill up to Wooden Rock Viewpoint.

Summer guesthouse and hostel koh tao

3. Summer Guesthouse Budget

Located within walking distance of the dive shops and pub crawls on Sairee Beach, this is the top-budget hostel option with a great vibe.

Long-Term Accommodation on the Island

If you're staying on the island for a while and want to explore more of the fun things to do, then I'd highly recommend getting a monthly lease to save money.

There are dozens of apartments available for under $500 per month. They typically have a balcony view, their own kitchen, and aircon.

Travel tip: If you're going to take this route, look up the Koh Tao Rooms for Rent Facebook group.

Girl snorkeling in blue water on koh tao island

How to Get to Koh Tao

The fastest way is to get to Koh Tao is to book a flight to neighboring Koh Samui and then take a quick ferry to Koh Tao from there. However, unless you score a cheap flight ticket to Koh Samui, this option is most likely going to be the most expensive. Luckily, there are cheaper options available.

Boat at koh tao beach

Koh Tao Transport Options

The cheapest and best way to get to Koh Tao is to take the Lomprayah Ferry. You can book this online in advance using the links below.

Koh nang yuan island from above

The Cheapest Option to get to Koh Tao: Bus and Ferry

Usually, flights to and from Bangkok and Phuket are going to be the cheapest airports to fly into internationally. Luckily, several buses run from Phuket and Bangkok to Koh Tao, which is a great way to get here cheaply.

Book: Bus & Ferry Kombo from Bangkok
Book: Ferry from Surat Thani

Stitching together a bus and ferry combo to Koh Tao is completely possible by yourself. However, if you want to save time and pay the same money, then I'd recommend just buying a combined bus and ferry ticket from Bangkok.

For travelers coming from Phuket, I suggest booking a bus to Surat Thani, then getting the ferry to Koh Tao from there.

The combined tickets liked above are the faster-speed catamarans and air-conditioned coaches that will take you the whole way. You also won't get ripped off for an expensive transfer at the ferry terminal as this is also included.

Cha lok bay boats from above on koh tao
Fish on the coral reefs of koh tao

Koh Tao Packing List

Wondering what to pack during day trips and for your time exploring Koh Tao? Check the image below for the essential items.

Travel packing list for koh tao island

When is the Best Time To Visit Koh Tao?

If you're going to spend a lot of time in the water, then the best time to visit Koh Tao is from March to May, when the weather is hotter and the visibility is good.

However, Koh Tao enjoys hot tropical weather patterns and the best time to travel will depend on the monsoon season and what you'd like to do on the island. The Monsoon typically arrives in late October with heavy rains and can continue into December.

Option: May to October is also another great time to visit Koh Tao. This season sees the start of the stronger winds sweeping across the island. However, the weather is still hot, at around 32 degrees and you'll enjoy some light evening showers.

Anemone fish on koh tao

FAQ About Activities on Koh Tao

What are the top activities to do in Koh Tao?

The best and most iconic activities are Scuba diving, island hopping to Koh Nang Yuan, and exploring the beaches across the island such as Freedom Beach and Tanote Bay.

How can I get to Koh Tao?

The cheapest way is by a combination of bus and ferry from Bangkok or Phuket. Alternatively, you can fly to Koh Samui and take a ferry to Koh Tao.

When is the best time to visit?

The ideal time is from March to May for good weather and visibility underwater. However, May to October also offers hot weather with occasional showers.

Are there any entry fees for popular spots?

Yes, places like Koh Nang Yuan charge a 250  baht for adults and 120 baht per child as an environmental protection fee. Other sites may have entrance fees of around 100 baht as well, such as John Suwan Viewpoint.

Can beginners learn to scuba dive in Koh Tao?

Yes, Koh Tao is known as one of the cheapest and most popular places to learn scuba diving, with many reputable dive centers offering Open Water courses. Both Haylea and I did our course here and highly recommend Bans Dive Center.

Is there much to do on Koh Tao for non-divers?

Yes, there are plenty of activities like snorkeling, beach hopping, hiking, and enjoying the nightlife, making it a great destination for everyone, even if you're not a scuba diver.

Is Koh Tao safe for tourists?

Generally, yes. While the island once had a bad reputation, these days it is very safe. However, it's important to take standard safety precautions, especially when renting scooters or going on boat trips.

Is it worth going to Koh Tao?

Absolutely! If you enjoy rugged jungle nature, amazing coral reefs, and a mix of great nightlife and a laid-back and relaxed island vibe, Koh Tao is for you, even if you don't scuba dive!

How many days do you need for Koh Tao?

Although I've spent several months on the island, I still feel like there are so many more things to do here. Most people visit for 3-4 days to visit Koh Nang Yuan, relax on the beaches, and enjoy the nightlife. However, I recommend at least a week if you are considering a dive course.

More Thailand Travel Blogs

I hope that this comprehensive guide to the best things to do in Koh Tao has been useful in planning your adventures.

For more Thai travel inspiration, make sure to check out some of the links below.

Things to do on koh tao island pinterest poster
Thanks for Reading

I'm Olly Gaspar, adventure travel journalist & photographer. Traveling non-stop since 2018, I've published over 700 travel guides on We Seek Travel. These draw on my personal experience to share unique itineraries, accommodation tips, & fun adventure guides covering hikes, viewpoints, beaches, waterfalls, & tours. Read my Publishing Ethics Statement.

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