The complete travel guide to the absolute best things to do on Koh Tao, Thailand. From scuba diving to sunset hiking, this incredible island in the Gulf of Thailand has something for everybody.
Koh Tao is one of my favorite places on earth, and an Island that I’m constantly drawn back to. I lived here for over two months as I completed my PADI Dive Master Certificate, and have been back several times since. However, this island is so much more than just a diving destination!
During my time on Koh Tao, I’ve explored the entire island, visiting the best places from its epic beaches to its secluded hiking trails and hidden viewpoints.
So here it is, my ultimate travel guide to Koh Tao, Thailand, enjoy!
- Quicklist: Here are the Top 3 Activities on Koh Tao
- 31 Best Things to Do on Koh Tao Island
- 1. Island Hop to Koh Nang Yuan
- 2. Go Scuba Diving
- 3. Go Beach-Hopping on Koh Tao
- 4. John Suwan Viewpoint
- 5. The Koh Nang Yuan Terrace Sunset Viewpoint
- 6. Snorkel with Black Tip Reef Sharks at Shark Bay
- 7. Koh Tao Snorkeling Trip
- 8. Love Koh Tao Viewpoint
- 9. Cliff Jumping at Tanote Bay
- 10. Go Freediving
- 11. Visit Koh Phangan
- 12. Visit the Only Animal Clinic on the Island
- 13. Hike to the Abandoned Resort
- 14. Grab Some Koh Tao Street Pad Thai at Sairee Beach
- 15. Mango Viewpoint
- 16. Join the Famous Koh Tao Pub Crawl
- 17. Relax on Freedom Beach
- 18. Rent SUPs on Sairee Beach
- 19. Watch the Fire Dancers on Sairee Beach
- 20. Snorkel at Hin Wong Bay
- 21. Try Muay Thai
- 22. Visit Koh Samui
- 23. Baby Rasta Bar
- 24. Sunset Viewpoint
- 25. Thai Massage at Sairee
- 26. Thai Longtail Boat Tour
- 27. High Bar
- 28. Take a Thai Cooking Class
- 29. Koh Tao Night Market
- 30. Wat Koh Tao Temple
- 31. Dive at Sail Rock – The Best Thing to do on Koh Tao for Scuba Divers
- Where to Stay on Koh Tao – Accommodation Guide
- How to Get to Koh Tao
- When is the Best Time To Visit Koh Tao
- More Koh Tao & Thailand Travel guides
Quicklist: Here are the Top 3 Activities on Koh Tao
- Koh Nang Yuan & 5-island Day Trip - an epic speedboat island hopping trip to Koh Nang Yuan (a must-visit), and nearby snorkeling & swimming spots.
- Open Water Scuba Course - Koh Tao is one of the cheapest & best places in the world to get your PADI license.
- Full-day snorkeling adventure - an epic snorkeling day trip visiting some of the best spots on the island, including Shark Bay, Aowe Leuk, and Mango Bay.
31 Best 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
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.
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 will search your bags). There is also a 100 baht environmental protection fee per person to gain entry.
2. Go Scuba Diving
Koh Tao is also known as turtle island and is famous for being the Scuba Diving mecca of South East 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 is usually a few decent dive sites that are calm, no matter the weather.
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!
3. Go Beach-Hopping on Koh Tao
It wouldn't be a tropical Thai island without some epic beaches.
There are many great sandy beaches and secluded, rocky coves with crystal clear water and coral reef for swimming or snorkeling. So, whether you're into water sports or lounging on white sand, Koh Tao has you covered.
I recommend renting a scooter from one of the shops in Sairee Beach for 150 Thai Baht and exploring the beautiful bays, shallow waters, and popular beaches on the tiny island including:
- Freedom Beach
- Sai Daeng Beach
- Tanote Bay
- Shark Bay
- Hin Wong Bay
- Sai Nuan Beach
- Chalok Baan Kao bay
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. 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.
Wondering How to Get to Koh Tao?
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.
5. The Koh Nang Yuan Terrace Sunset Viewpoint
Island life means epic sunsets. You'd be
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!
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 South East 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.
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.
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
This is a fully decked out boat, complete with an upstairs deck and even a water slide.
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.
Wondering Where to Stay on Koh Tao?
I've written a comprehensive hotel & accommodation guide covering all the best places to stay on the island for all budgets. Don't miss it!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 of time and looking to volunteer, head in and ask for Yo or Jae and see if they have anything for you to do.
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.
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 7/11 on the Northern side of Sairee Beach.
For 50 Baht, you can pick up a decently sized Pad Thai with peanuts. Not bad.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
A SUP on Sairee will cost anywhere from 100 to 200 baht per hour. If you're diving on Koh Tao, ask your dive shop to see if they will give you a discount on board hire.
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
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!
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!
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.
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.
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 to catch the last sunrays. You'll find it pinned on Google as "Sunset Point View", and there is no entrance fee here.
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 parlours along Sairee Beach.
Prices are very reasonable, ranging from 150-250 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 150 Thai Baht.
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.
28. Take a Thai Cooking Class
Want to learn how to cook delicious Pad Thai or Penang curry.
The famous Thai cooking class with Parawan is a home-style cooking lesson where travelers get the opportunity to learn how to cook delicious, and authentic Thai food.
With close to 100 5-star reviews on Viator, this is definitely one of the most popular activities on Koh Tao!
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!
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.
Where to Stay on Koh Tao - Accommodation Guide
There are several options for travelers wondering where to stay on Koh Tao island. Generally speaking, most people like to stay near Sairee Beach to be close to all the highlights and things to do. However, you can also stay near Mae Head, or a bit further up the mountain from Sairee as well.
To save you time searching the web, I've listed some of the best options for where to stay on Koh Tao below.
- Best Luxury Pick: Jamahkiri Resort & Spa - a really great bang-for-buck luxury resort. Guests will find this one on the beachfront of Shark Bay in a quiet and secluded location away from the hustle and bustle.
- Best self-catering villa: Phandara Pool Villas - a luxury option for those who want their own kitchen & pool.
- Best Backpacker Hostel: Summer Guesthouse - located within walking distance of the dive shops on Sairee beach and of course, the nightly pub crawls– this is the top budget option with a great vibe.
Long-Term Accommodation on the Island
If you're staying on the island for a while, then I'd highly recommend getting a monthly lease.
There are dozens of apartments available for under $300 per month. They typically have a balcony view, their own kitchen, and aircon.
If you're going to take this route, look up the Koh Tao Rooms for Rent Facebook group.
How to Get to Koh Tao
There are several options available for travelers wanting to get to Koh Tao. The fastest way is to get a flight to neighboring Koh Samui and then take a quick ferry to Koh Tao.
However, unless you score a cheap flight ticket to Koh Samui, this option is most likely going to be the most expensive.
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 in Thailand. Luckily, there are also several buses that run from Phuket and Bangkok and connect to Koh Tao via a bus.
Book: Bus & Ferry Kombo from Bangkok
Book: Ferry from Surat Thani
Stitching together a bus and ferry combo 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, simply book a bus to Surat Thani, then get the ferry from there.
These combined tickets 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.
When is the Best Time To Visit Koh Tao
Koh Tao enjoys hot tropical weather patterns and travel will depend on the monsoon season. 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.
This is also the best time to visit Koh Tao if you're looking to spot a whale shark!
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.
More Koh Tao & Thailand Travel guides
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.