The northernmost island of the Chumphon Archipelago, Thailand’s Koh Tao is home to arrestingly beautiful scenery, and most visitors immediately pledge to return as soon as they’ve left!
Rolling hills covered in lush vegetation form a magnificent backdrop to the island’s golden beaches, and yet more natural wonders can be found in the warm waters surrounding Koh Tao, with colorful coral reefs lining the coast.
As such, it is a trendy diving destination. Wherever you go, you’ll come across people from all around the world who are looking to gain their scuba diving qualifications or just profit from all of the fantastic dive sites on offer.
Despite its laidback vibe, Koh Tao (which adorably means Turtle Island!) has tons for visitors to see and do. Koh Tao is one of the best places to visit in Thailand.
To help you out, we’ve come up with a list of some of the best Koh Tao must-see sights, as well as the different areas and beaches you have to check out.
From spectacular sunsets and gorgeous hikes to the island’s underwater marvels and hidden treasures; here are some of our favorite things to do in Koh Tao!
How is Koh Tao set up?
Before diving in though (no pun intended), let’s first take a look at how the island is set up, so you know what parts to head to and which beaches you shouldn’t miss out on – after all, Koh Tao’s beautiful beaches are among the many things that visitors most want to check out!
For many people arriving in Koh Tao, their first point of entry is Mae Haad on the west coast. The Koh Tao ferry docks here and while it certainly isn’t the most delightful place on the island, there are loads of bars, restaurants and accommodation options if you want to acclimatize before heading onwards.
The island’s main city is one of the most affordable places to stay and is ideal for backpackers. You can easily rent a motorbike in Koh Tao and use it as a base from which to explore the rest of the island.
As the island isn’t that big or hard to get around, you can stay put in one part and simply rent a motorbike or quad bike when you want to go and check out one of the further away things to do in Koh Tao.
Despite its humble size, the island is quite diverse, so each area and beach has its own distinctive vibe and identity. While backpackers may prefer one spot, scuba divers and people looking for some peace and quiet may want to head to another. Although each area is different, they are all conveniently located around a bay with a lovely beach at their heart!
Best Things To Do in Koh Tao
1. Stay at the gorgeous Sai Daeng Resort
This is where we stayed and loved it, we’ll definitely stay at Sai Daeng Resort when we return. It’s a 4-star hotel and prices vary based on room and season, rates as low as $60 can be found. Click here to check prices.
Overlooking the beach of the same name, the luxury Sae Daeng Resort is found on the southeastern peninsula of Koh Tao and is a delight to stay at! In addition to the lovely beach lying right next to it, the resort has a great terrace and pool.
As it’s on a peninsula, you have two awe-inspiring views on either side! The peaceful and secluded spot makes for an idyllic vacation. If you’re celebrating a memorable occasion, you’ll definitely want to take a look at what the honeymoon villa offers, as it has a private pool looking out over the scenic Gulf of Thailand. We stayed in the honeymoon villa, it’s worth the extra money!
Sai Daeng Resort is only a short ride away from town and with Chalok viewpoint and Thian Og beach nearby, staying at Sai Daeng Resort was one of our favorite things to do in Koh Tao!
Sai Daeng Resort offers free shuttles into town several times a day. If there isn’t a shuttle running they can help arrange a taxi for you. You should note there aren’t any places in walking distance from the hotel, this was the only downfall we found.
2. Go Scuba Diving and get your PADI Qualification!
When it comes to scuba diving, Koh Tao is one of the most popular places in the world to learn how to dive. It is home to loads of incredible dive sites, inundated with dive schools, and it’s a beautiful tropical island! Koh Tao is also one of the cheapest places to learn to dive.
The underwater sights are breathtaking, with the island’s colorful reefs boasting a rich array of marine life. Visitors to Koh Tao have to try their hand at scuba diving. It doesn’t take that long to earn your PADI certificate if you haven’t already got one, and it really is worth doing if you have the time!
Certainly one of the most memorable things to do in Koh Tao, the dive sites of Chumpon, Shark Island and the Wreck at Sattakut will set your heart racing with all of the fantastic underwater scenery on show.
If you are unsure about diving we recommend taking a discovery dive, that way you can try it out and see if it’s for you. Discovery dives average about $85, click here to book online.
3. Watch the breathtaking sunsets from Fizz Beach Lounge
Located on Sairee Beach, FIZZ Beach Lounge is where you should head if you want to take in the stunning sunsets that bless Koh Tao every evening. It’s a laidback place that serves up some great food and cocktails.
Lounging on beanbags on the terrace while watching the nightfall is a magical experience, and they often have great music playing. Make sure to get there early to get a front beanbag, we were there about an hour before sunset to get some of the best seats in the house.
4. Visit Koh Nang Yuan
Lying just to the northwest of Koh Tao itself, the island of Koh Nang Yuan will take your breath away with its beauty. It is one of the most popular tourist sites in the area. It’s a quick 10-15 boat ride from the west side of Koh Tao.
Joined by a thin strip of sand which is bordered by inviting turquoise water, three islands are clustered tightly together. The nearby viewpoint offers some amazing photo opportunities of the islands, while there is also some fantastic snorkeling to be had.
One of the best things to do in Koh Tao, there aren’t many other places in the world like Koh Nang Yuan.
The easiest way to Koh Nang Yuan is to take a private longtail. Just head to the beach and barter with a local boat driver. You should be able to get a rate of about 200 baht round trip. We always suggest having exact change, it just makes things easier. There are several Koh Nang Yuan trips you can book online BUT it’s easier and cheaper to just take a private longtail.
5. Hike up to Mango Bay Viewpoint
One of the most popular viewpoints on Koh Tao, Mango Bay viewpoint looks out imperiously over Sairee Beach. Mango Bay Viewpoint is a marvelous place to watch the sun go down if you don’t mind a bit of a hike to get there.
Make note that it can take around an hour to get up to the top of the hill, it is definitely worth it, and going down only takes around half of the time – yippee!
6. Explore Koh Tao by motorbike!
As you may have gathered by now, there are a plethora of things to do in Koh Tao. A great way to see as much of the island as possible is to rent a motorbike and whizz around to your heart’s content.
While a scooter does mean that you can make your way to all of the secluded bays and beaches you like, Koh Tao’s roads aren’t the best, so make sure to take care when driving around the island.
Several companies offer pick-up & drop-off service. They’ll come to your Koh Tao resort and get you and bring you to their shop.
Average Daily Koh Tao Motorbike Prices:
- Motorbike 250 baht ($8 USD)
- Electric Bike 250 baht ($8 USD)
- Mountain Bike 150 baht ($5 USD)
When renting a bike you’ll be required to leave some sort of a deposit. Most places either require your original passport (we wouldn’t suggest leaving this), original driver’s license, or 2,000 baht.
7. Enjoy a massage on the beach
Thai massages are famous around the world, so when in Koh Tao, why not enjoy one on the beach?! Around the island, you’ll find loads of parlors and hotels offering massages.
At Sairee Beach, you can enjoy one while listening to the waves lap peacefully at the shore. A very relaxing experience, having a Thai massage is a must before you leave Koh Tao.
8. Hike amidst all the incredible scenery
While many people come to Koh Tao to learn how to scuba dive, the scenery above water is just as spectacular as that below it. The island has loads of amazing hikes for you to do if you’ve had enough of lounging on the beautiful beaches.
One of the most arduous but rewarding treks is up to the highest point of the island, Two View, where you have an unparalleled 360-degree panorama of Koh Tao before you.
Another great spot to head to is the John Suwan viewpoint, which is located right in the south of the island. The views out over the Gulf of Thailand are just divine.
If you’re really up for an adventure and want to see the best of Koh Tao, you can always hike from Mae Haad to Chalok. Along the way, you’ll come across tiny secluded inlets, shady forests, and loads of beautiful views out over the turquoise waters surrounding Koh Tao.
9. Walk along Sairee Beach
The liveliest beach on the island, Sairee Beach, has loads going for it. There’s no better way to discover all that’s going on than to wander along and check out its multitude of bars, restaurants, and clubs as you go.
With people flying through the air on the beach’s trapeze, others wading into the water to learn how to dive, and yet more guests heading to the bars to settle down and wait for the spectacular sunsets, exploring all that Sairee Beach has to offer is definitely one of our favorite things to do in Koh Tao – and it’s a pretty scenic place too!
10. Rent a boat for the day and explore the nearby islands!
One of the most memorable things we did when visiting Koh Tao was to rent a boat and head off to explore some of the nearby islands. Zipping across the water was an exhilarating experience, and both Koh Phangan and Koh Samui are well worth checking out.
The motorboats can pretty much take you wherever you like, so you can stop off at secluded beaches or cruise along the lovely coastal scenery of the islands. At the end of our day out, we both agreed that it was one of the best things to do in Koh Tao. Definitely worth doing if you have the chance!
Best Beaches in Koh Tao
While each area and accompanying beach certainly offers up something different and unique for visitors to enjoy, there are a number of other beaches and bays scattered about Koh Tao which are worth checking out.
1. Sairee Beach
Located a short distance to the north of Mae Haad is the delightful Sairee Beach, which really will make you feel like you’re in paradise. Visiting it was undoubtedly one of our favorite things to do in Koh Tao.
Due to its scenic beauty, it is the most popular place to stay on the island. It is also home to the most lively nightlife in Koh Tao if you’re looking for fun and festive beach parties. In addition, it also offers some delicious restaurants, and you can find some great viewpoints and hikes nearby, as well as some lovely diving spots.
2. Chalok Baan Kao Bay
In contrast to Sairee Beach, Chalok Baan Kao Bay is a very laidback place. It is ideal for people looking to chill out, catch some rays, and bask in the glorious scenery. Less busy than many of the other areas on the island, Chalok still has lots of restaurants and accommodation catering to all budgets.
In the evening, it is a very relaxing and quiet place. Its location right in the south means that it is near to many of the best things to do in Koh Tao; stunning viewpoints and fabulous beaches can be found nearby.
While Koh Tao, in general, is fantastic for scuba diving, Chalok, in particular, is great; there are many dive schools based there as well as some lovely dive sites nearby.
3. Tanote Bay
On the east coast of the island is another of Koh Tao’s most beautiful spots – the wonderful Tanote Bay. With its breathtaking scenery, the bay looks incredible. Its welcoming, golden sands are bordered by spectacular turquoise waters and forest-covered hills that stretch away towards the interior of the island.
While it is renowned for its beach, Tanote Bay also lies next to some great hiking trails and diving sites. There are also a number of awesome views to be had.
4. Thain Og
The best family-friendly beach in Koh Tao is Thian Og located on in the south. This is the perfect beach for those traveling with children.
Now that you’ve got an idea about where some of the best beaches and places to stay are, let’s take a look at our favorite restaurants in Koh Tao!
5. Mango Bay
If you are looking for a little privacy, the most secluded beach in Koh Tao is Mango Bay, located in the north.
Best Restaurants In Koh Tao
There are tons of great restaurants in Koh Tao, so narrowing down where to eat can be difficult.
Hands down our favorite place to eat was Whitening, which is located right on Sairree Beach. We ate here multiple times and loved everything we had. Our second favorite restaurant in Koh Tao was Shalimar which serves up authentic Indian food.
Here are some of the other best restaurants in Koh Tao worth checking out.
- Whitening – Sairre beachfront
- Open Daily 11 am – 12 pm
- Shalimar (Indian Food) – Sairee
- Open Daily 2 pm – 11 pm
- Fizz Beach Lounge – Sairee
- Open Daily 3 pm – 1 am
- Cantina De Koh Tao (Mexican Food) – Sairre
- Open Daily 10 am – 10 pm
- Barracuda Roof Top Restaurant & Bar
- Open Daily 4 pm – 11 pm
- Breeze – Mae Head beachfront
- Open Daily 7:30 am – 10 pm
- Bigtree Cafe – Chalok
- Open Daily 8:15 am – 4 pm
Best Dive Shops in Koh Tao
If you are going to Koh Tao for diving you’ll be overwhelmed with dive shops to choose from. If you have a specific dive site you want to dive shop around and see which dive company is going out there during your time in Koh Tao.
We always suggest inspecting the equipment and dive boat before choosing a dive company. Here are few reliable and best dive shops in Koh Tao:
- Master Divers
Best Dive Sites in Koh Tao
There really isn’t a bad dive site in Koh Tao, to be honest, but most divers come with a few specific ones they’d like to dive. Here are some bucket list dive sites in Koh Tao:
- Sail Rock special dive w 3 dives
- Shark Island
- HTMS sattahut (wreck dive)
- Twins & White Rock