Koh Tao is a scuba diving island in Thailand. This small tropical island is located near Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. Where you will find everything you need to explore the underwater world. The combination of the clear blue water, the variety of flora, the price of the diving equipment. And the very affordable scuba diving course has turned this place into a great island to experience types of diving such as scuba diving or snorkeling.
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So, is Koh Tao worth visiting, how to visit Koh Tao, what to do in Koh Tao and how to plan a budget trip to Koh Tao for the first-time perfectly? Let’s check out our Koh Tao travel blog (Koh Tao blog) with the fullest Koh Tao travel guide (guide to Koh Tao, Koh Tao guide) from how to get to Koh Tao, best places to visit, best time to come, what to eat and suggested Koh Tao itinerary 5 days 4 nights as well as top things to do in Koh Tao to help you maximize your trip as follows!
Koh Tao is an island located off the west coast of the Gulf of Thailand, in Thai, Koh Tao means Turtle Island, because there are many sea turtles here. With blue water, can see to the bottom, Koh Tao’s specialty is “scuba diving”. There are many beautiful beaches around the island, and the most popular beach is Sairee Beach, not far from the ferry pier. There are also many other beaches.
Koh Tao Island is not only famous for its beautiful scenery, but also a place where visitors can participate in eco-friendly conservation activities such as bringing baby turtles back to the ecosystem or conserving and developing coral reefs. Not only that, Koh Tao is also a very popular destination for young people before and after participating in the famous Full Moon Party in nearby Koh Phangan.
Overview of Koh Tao (#koh tao travel blog)
The Turtle Island of Koh Tao is 45 kilometers north of Koh Phangan, is one of the top diving destinations in Thailand even of the world. The island is famous for its rich variety of marine life and large colorful coral reefs, especially the majestic main islands, and the atmosphere on Koh Tao is perfect for relaxation. Furthermore, in addition to the landscape and island life, there are important breeding grounds for hawksbill and green turtles, now an eco-friendly diving practice center, which includes the return of thousands of fish. hundred species of sea turtles. Koh Tao Island is making efforts to protect the environment and rare flora and fauna resources.
Coming to Koh Tao, you will admire thousands of diverse marine species along with large coral reefs with many colors. More specifically, it is the main islands in the Koh Tao area that are extremely spectacular. And suitable for you to have an excursion here.
Not as famous as islands like Koh Phangan and Koh Samui, but its cousin, Koh Tao island captivates visitors with its jade blue sea and extremely interesting experiences. What’s more, in addition to the beautiful landscape and abundant marine life. You also have the opportunity to witness firsthand the reproduction of hawksbill turtles and green turtles. This is an extremely interesting experience if you come to the diving practice center here.
Koh Tao is highly appreciated by tourists for the beauty of a place that seems to have no inhabitants. Most visitors spend their days in the water, by taking a boat trip around the island to visit the many beautiful beaches and Koh Tao bay, climbing to the top of the island, joining yoga classes, or simply take in a hammock and see the beauty of neighboring Koh Nang Yuan, a tourist attraction located to the right of Turtle Island.
In order to direct Koh Tao to develop tourism in a sustainable way, the local government and community, together with business owners on the island, have jointly established “Koh Tao Conservation Club” with the main purpose of conserving natural resources, protecting the environment and educating the community on how to manage tourism sustainably.
Tourists when traveling to Koh Tao island are also encouraged to bring their own water bottles, limit the use of plastic products, do not bring back shells or anything that belongs to nature, throw away garbage and cigarette butts in the right places and save electricity and water, which are extremely valuable resources on the island.
Koh Tao, after more than ten years of improving service quality and environment, has made an amazing transformation. Koh Tao has gone from an unknown place of silence and serenity to the second most famous diving spot in the world. In addition to professional divers. You can also come here to relax, sunbathe. Or enjoy a barbecue party on the clear blue beach. Koh Tao Turtle Island is really special, isn’t it?
When to go? (#koh tao blog)
The time when this island is busiest and most touristy is around Christmas and New Year, so you should book all services in advance to avoid running out rooms or high airfare because this is a popular destination for professional divers! After these occasions you can also come here between from November to March or from July to August is when the weather is at its best.
The official monsoon season on Koh Tao starts from November, it will rain for days. So this is not the right time to travel to Koh Tao island but in return there are many cheaper hotels and budget dining.
Getting to Koh Tao (#koh tao travel guide)
From Bangkok (#koh tao travel blog)
There are two airports close to Koh Tao: Chumphon Airport and Koh Samui Airport. To getting to Koh Tao by air, visitors can take a flight from Don Mueang Airport (BMK) to Chumphon or Koh Samui and then go to from the airport to the ferry terminal/boat pier to getting to Koh Tao.
- Airlines operating flights from Don Mueang to Chumphon: Nok Air. From Suvarnabhumi Airport to Chumphon has 5 flights per week with Happy Air.
- Airlines operating flights to Koh Samui: Nok Air, AirAsia, Thai Airways.
Depending on the season or before you book, domestic flights from Bangkok to Chumphon start at 1200 baht/one way.
Then when you arrive at Chumphon airport you will have to find one taxi to take you to the ferry terminal.
Bangkok to Thung Makham Noi Pier: There are many buses to Koh Tao, visitors should choose Khao San bus station. I chose Lomprayah bus, there are 2 bus trips depart at 6am and 9pm and arrival at Thung Makham Noi Pier at 12:30pm/5:00pm. Bus tickets start at 400 baht and can go up to 1000 baht.
If you want to take a bus to Koh Tao, go to the bus stop in the south of the city. From there you can buy a ticket and go to Chumphon bus stop.
Thung Makham Noi Pier (Chumphon) to Koh Tao:
Take the ferry to the island about 2 hours: There are 2 ferries/a day
- 1:00pm/7:00am boat departs from Thung Makham Noi Pier to Koh Tao.
- 2:45pm/8:45am arrival to Koh Tao.
If you are coming from other islands to Koh Tao, you can refer to the ferry schedules. There are also many tours to explore the islands in 1 day, if you want you can choose. Especially, scuba diving activities, discovering a variety of sea creatures, are popular with many tourists.
By train (#koh tao blog)
Taking the train is easy, now you can reach Hua Lamphong train station directly from the airport as soon as you land. You can find the railway station on the bottom floor of Suvarnabhumi airport.
There are eight trains departing daily to Chumphon. The first train departs at 8:05 am, while the last train departs at 6:30 pm.
Another benefit of taking the train is that when you arrive at Chumphon, the counters of the Lompraya Catamaran to Koh Tao ferry terminal are located right next to the station. You can also take a bus from the train station to the ferry terminal. Depending on when your train arrives at Chumphon station, you should book tickets through Lomprayah’s website before you arrive at Chumphon.
Train fares, depending on class, will cost between 400 – 1200 baht. If you choose to go at night, you can choose a second-class bed, if not, a seat is also a good choice for the day because you can enjoy the view along the way.
From Koh Phangan (#koh tao travel guide)
If you take a boat from Koh Phangan, it will take you about 2 hours to reach Koh Tao. As for Koh Samui, it only took about half an hour. In addition, you can also go directly from the mainland to Koh Tao with the Chumphon – Koh Tao route with only about 1 hour 30 minutes.
Getting around Koh Tao (#koh tao travel blog)
The popular means of transportation in Koh Tao is probably a motorbike, visitors can easily rent a motorbike to travel to explore the turtle island. However, if you choose a motorbike to travel, you need to pay attention to traffic safety.
In addition to motorbikes, you can choose taxis, tuk-tuk, boats, bicycles, etc. to getting around on the island.
Where to go and what to do in Koh Tao?
In the past few years, in addition to divers, more and more tourists have come to Koh Tao to explore the island’s unspoiled beauty. Therefore, to meet the needs of tourists, every year a series of resorts and small villas spring up. Activities here are mainly sailing, climbing (with routes: amateur route, semi-professional route, professional route, and thrill route), paragliding, bungee jumping, water skiing, mini golf, or bowling at Mae Haad. There are also massage classes and yoga cooking courses for those who don’t like adventure games and rides.
Snorkeling and scuba diving
Most of the training centers and equipment shops specializing in scuba diving are concentrated on the main beach of Hat Sai Ri. There are most of the large hotels and guesthouses here, so it is very convenient for you to arrange everything. And rest assured to enjoy the plant and marine life world in the deep ocean. The islands around Koh Tao are the best for scuba diving for many reasons. As there are more boat tours that take you here than elsewhere, there is a scuba diving training certificate for you. The cost is much lower than other dive sites.
Diving deep below makes you feel scared, struggling and not feeling safe, why don’t you choose to swim on the water, face down to see the whole scene under the sea will be better. The best time for scuba diving or snorkeling is from 8 am to about 10:30 am, or from 2:30 pm to about 5 pm, the evening is quite an ideal time for you to feel the taste of the sea breeze bringing a little wetness and moisture. You will learn the knowledge of diving, breathing exercises, going into the water and then being allowed to dive freely. You can choose the combined tour to visit Koh Tao and Koh Nang Yuan, surely it’s very interesting.
- Love Koh Tao
- Koh Tao Viewpoint: Entrance fee 100Bath. In my opinion, there is no need to visit this place if you have visited Love Koh Tao and West Coast Viewpoint, because the view here is not as beautiful.
- West Coast viewpoint: Entrance fee 100Bath. I really like this place. Just walk 5 minutes from the motorbike parking place to the viewpoint.
- John Suwan viewpoint: Entrance fee 50Bath.
- Mango Viewpoint: One of the most popular activities in Koh Tao is conquering Mango Viewpoint. The route to conquer is quite complicated. But once you reach the peak, you will find that your efforts are not wasted because of the beautiful scenery that this place possesses. There is also a small bar for you to sip something. And if you find climbing too dangerous, you can also switch to conquering John-Suwan Viewpoint. A route that is less dangerous but still feels equally great. (Address: 4R6M+FV6, Ko Tao, Ko Pha-ngan District, Surat Thani 84280, Thailand)
The beaches in Koh Tao are quite impressive compared to other areas in Thailand. Among the beaches here, Sairee Beach is a relatively popular choice for tourists. This place is not only a place to stay, but a place to literally relax. In addition, Sai Nuan beach is also a reasonable choice for those who need quiet to be able to enjoy all the beautiful scenery on the island.
Koh Nang Yuan
Having come to Koh Tao, we recommend you not to miss Koh Nang Yuan. These are three small islands connected by a stretch of sand. This place is not only famous for its beautiful beaches. It is also an ideal scuba diving spot. The water is so blue that you can see schools of fish swimming before your eyes before diving underwater. Remember to visit this tourist attraction to save your memorable images. Boats to Koh Nang Yuan can be easily booked on Koh Tao. So if you have been to Koh Tao, we think you should visit Koh Nang Yuan to make your trip more complete.
Snorkeling at Tanote Bay
Tanote Bay will amaze visitors by the beauty of the ocean floor when experiencing snorkeling. Participating in scuba diving at Tanote Bay, you will see everything from white-eyed eels to gray sharks in the clear water. Soft and hard corals decorate the sandy bottom, with colorful fish swimming everywhere.
It only costs you about 50 Baht to rent snorkeling equipment at the bar right next to the beach.
SUP TAO Paddleboarding
Watching the sea of Koh Tao by surfing on the water (Stand Up Paddle Board – SUP) couldn’t be more interesting. Going down to Maya Beach club, this is the main place for you to do SUP sailing through the coral rich areas, you can look down to the seabed because the water here is so clear.
In addition to SUP you can arrange to participate in other water sports activities, such as snorkeling and cruises, windsurfing and watching the sunset on their speedboat. During certain times of the year, they also offer SUP Yoga led by experienced professionals, so bring your peace of mind in a whole new way.
Turtle Conservation Koh Tao
Koh Tao is also known as Turtle Island because the environment here is very suitable for turtles and tortoises to breed. The conservation of baby turtles is extremely important here. These hatchlings are part of a pioneering program supported by the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources.
The purpose of the conservation is to raise baby turtles in a safe and healthy environment until they are strong enough to return to the wild, usually within a year. Here you will be invited to see the workers feeding baby turtles daily at 4pm, during which you can learn more about this species that is very close to Thai culture, and other big projects that the program has operated on the island. This is a famous tourist spot in Koh Tao a must visit.
If you expect the nightlife here to be as bustling as Koh Phangan, we’re afraid you’ll be disappointed. But saying that does not mean that Koh Tao has no activities at night. In fact, there are still bars open until late at night so you can sip cocktails while watching the sunset on the beach. For example, at Sairee beach, which has the most bars in Koh Tao.
Where to stay?
Prices in Koh Tao will normally be a bit higher than in other areas of Thailand. Main activities on the island are usually centered around three main areas. They are: Sairee Beach, Mae Haad, and Chalok Ban Khao. You can find hostels or hotels in the pier area for convenient traveling. However, during the tourist season, you should book in advance if you don’t want to sleep on the beach or in a high-class hotel.
If you plan to take a diving course on the island, let me tell you that most of the centers here have their own resorts. And they will be discounted room rates or free if you join these courses. During peak times, most resorts here won’t want you to stay unless you’re diving at least two days a week. And if you don’t want to stay with the diving instructor and use the free accommodation provided. You can rely on that to request a discount for the course.
- Dusit Buncha Resort: Dusit Buncha Resort is a 4-star resort in Koh Tao, equipped with recreational facilities such as outdoor swimming pool, poolside bar, massage service, gym, sauna, spa… Hotel facilities, free wifi in all rooms, daily housekeeping, taxi service, ticket service, luggage storage. The resort location is 720m from Koh Nang Yuan Island, 1.4 km from Muay Thai Island, 1.5 km from Mango Bay, these are all popular attractions in Koh Tao.
- Sairee Cottage Resort (Agoda, Booking): This 4-star resort will make you feel at home with excellent quality and attentive service. Rooms are equipped with amenities such as flat screen television, free instant coffee, complimentary tea, mirror, sofa. In addition, Sairee Cottage Resort has recreational facilities that are available at the hotel, including scuba diving, pool outdoor, fishing, pool (kids).
- Savage Hotel Koh Tao (Agoda, Booking): Savage Koh Tao is a 2-star hotel in Koh Tao that is conveniently located near tourist hotspots in the town, 0.5km from the town. The property provides facilities such as free WiFi, security, 24-hour front desk, luggage storage, Wi-Fi in public areas. Recreational activities at the property include canoeing, trail walking, snorkeling, swimming pool outdoor, scuba diving.
- Neptune Hostel: Neptune Hostel is a budget, clean, good price hotel in Koh Tao. If your budget is limited then this is a great stopover for you. Rooms are equipped with flat-screen TV, clothes rack, towels, wireless internet (free). The hotel provides a lot of unique recreational facilities such as diving, massage.
Below we recommend more best budget, mid-range and upscale hotels with good ratings and reviews you can refer to.
- Sunrise Koh Tao (Agoda, Booking)
- Ban’s Diving Resort (Agoda, Booking)
- The Tarna Align Resort (Agoda, Booking)
- Haadtien Beach Resort (Agoda, Booking)
- Jamahkiri Resort & Spa (Agoda, Booking)
- View Point Resort (Agoda, Booking)
- Sensi Paradise Beach Resort (Agoda, Booking)
- Koh Tao Simple Life Resort (Agoda, Booking)
What and where to eat?
In Koh Tao, there are many restaurants with delicious food, cafes with special drinks, and beautiful views that make it impossible not to stop by once. Here are some restaurants and cafes in Koh Tao for you refer to:
- Barracuda Roof Top Restaurant & Bar: The restaurant serves vegetarian dishes, seafood, typical Thai dishes. Some of the famous dishes at the restaurant are lamb, Peking ribs. Address: Above The Coffee House, 14/29 Moo 1, Koh Tao, Surat Thani 84360, Thailand/Hours: 4–11 PM.
- Chaba Tapas Restaurant: The restaurant serves Spanish dishes, Thai dishes combined with Italian and Western cuisine. Address: 9/133 Sairee street, Koh Tao, Thailand. Opening hours: 12:30pm – 10pm daily.
- Vegetabowl Restaurant: The restaurant serves vegan dishes, some of the delicious dishes here are Soba noodles, pan-fried quesadilla, vegetarian biscuits. Address: 9/281 Moo 1,Sairee, Near Ban’s Diving Ban Ka Tao, Thailand/Opening hours: 11:30am – 8pm daily.
- Restaurant Cantina de Koh Tao: Serves Mexican dishes. Address: 9/62 Moo 1 Sairee Beach, Koh Tao, Thailand/Opening hours: 10am – 10pm daily.
- Asia Mood, Sushi bar & Restaurant: Serves Korean and Japanese dishes such as Japanese ramen noodles, Korean soups, sushi, soju, Japanese matcha drinks… Address: 43 Ko Tao, Ko Pha-ngan District, Surat Thani 84360, Thailand/Hours: 10 AM–10 PM.
- P.Oy’s Place Restaurant: It serves the best typical Thai dishes on Koh Tao. Must-try dishes are chicken wings, fried spring rolls and Massamam curry. Address: 5/68, Moo 3, | Chalok Bann Kao, Koh Tao, Thailand/Opening hours: 10AM – 9PM daily.
- Coconut Monkey: A cafe, serving breakfast with fast food such as french fries, bacon with special sauce. Don’t miss out on the juices, dark birth and very tasty kombucha here. Address: 25/92 Moo 2 Mae Haad Beach, Koh Tao, Thailand/Opening hours: 8AM – 5PM.
- Big Bite Cafe: Is a famous cafe in Koh Tao. The shop serves drinks from coffee, coconut latte, fruit juices, and special vegetables. Address: Ko Tao, Surat Thani, Thailand/Opening hours: 8AM – 6:30PM daily.
- Cappuccino Bakery & Coffee House: French-style cafe in Koh Tao, serving light snacks and drinks. They specialize in breads ranging from round breads to brownies and cookies. Address: 6/9 Mae Haad, Koh Tao, Thailand/Opening hours: 7AM – 6PM daily.
- The Factory Cafe: A cafe with handmade drinks with homemade coconut yogurt, fruit smoothies, tea and some homemade cakes. Address: 9/284 Sairee Beach, Ko Tao, Ko Pha-ngan District, Surat Thani, Thailand/Opening hours: Monday: 8AM – 6PM; Tuesday – Sunday: 8AM – 9PM.
Suggested Koh Tao itinerary 5 days
Day 1: Depart from Bangkok and start the journey to getting here
The first day of travel and departure, eat in Bangkok and take the bus to Koh Tao.
Day 2: Start exploring
From Bangkok – Koh Tao by bus, it takes about 8-9 hours of traveling by bus and ferry. You check-in the room at the hotel if the room has been booked in advance, enjoy the hot, fragrant pad Thai with bold Thai culture, or the fragrant seafood noodle rice at a great price of about 400 baht. The food in Koh Tao is guaranteed to be great, you will never regret the money you spent.
If you go in a group of 3 people, you should choose Koh Tao Coral Grand Resort because the price for 1 room is only from $77/night, equivalent to $25 for one person. There are full facilities, spa, swimming pool, too cheap and convenient, isn’t it? In the evening you can eat and drink at the resort and spend the night at Lotus bar – the famous bar on the beach at Sairee beach.
Day 3: Half way
What a pity to come to Koh Tao without diving, if you have more time to relax, you should stay here for about 2-3 days to explore this beautiful island. This island is famous for its activities with the sea so it will not be difficult at all when you want to joining a diving course, or a stimulating and exciting scuba diving trip, the most exciting, the most special, just available in Koh Tao. If scuba diving is not possible, you can choose to snorkel.
Day 4: Koh Nang Yuan
You can take a taxi to Koh Nang Yuan, the pace of life here is quite late due to the long nightlife activities. The most ideal departure time for you is around 8:30am, at this time the sun has just risen, not too harsh, you will not need to face and imagine skin problems, however, apply a little more sunscreen is still good choice. You travel by taxi for about 300 baht for 1 person, 2 ways to and from Sairee Beach – Koh Nang Yuan. Use your ability to negotiate with the driver to help you return directly from Lomprayah ferry pier, instead of returning to Sairee Beach to avoid having to take more taxis and spend more money.
About 20 minutes to Koh Nang Yuan pier, you can admire the white sand beaches next to each other. The entrance fee to go to the island is 100 baht for 1 person and is only open to welcome visitors until 5pm every day. After 5pm non-staying guests will not be allowed to stay.
Day 5: End of the journey, go back to daily life
Actually, a 5-day trip like this is too short for us. You also know that when you come to an ideal place, no one will want to leave in a short time, right?
From Koh Tao to Bangkok, you will still choose bus and ferry, choose the trip at 10:15am and arrive in Bangkok at 3:30pm. Return to the bustling urban life, enjoy famous Bangkok dishes. Prepare luggage to return to Vietnam.
Notes before you go
- Koh Tao island is sunny and windy, so you need to prepare sunscreen to prevent ultraviolet rays.
- In addition, hats and umbrellas are two essential items for your trip.
- If you have a lot of time, avoid going in the rainy season. Because of the rainy season on the islands, most of the services are closed and it is also very dangerous for you.
- If you still want to go in the rainy season, bring equipment as well as quick-drying clothes.
- Do not arbitrarily surf alone if you are not professional. You can contact local residents or the government to book services.
- Services such as climbing, hiking through the forest should be booked through tour operators to have guides support.
- Please exchange money in advance in Vietnam or Bangkok. Currency exchange in Koh Tao is a bit limited and the exchange rate is sometimes much more expensive.
- Because Koh Tao island has many rare sea creatures and rich ecosystems. Therefore, when you stay at Koh Tao, do not damage or destroy the environment here.
- When diving, do not break or damage the coral reefs on the seabed.
- If you come across starfish, do not bring them ashore as they will die.
- There are many clinics in Sairee Beach and Mae Haad Koh Tao, the nearest hospitals are on Koh Samui and mainland Chumphon.
- Electricity and generators on the island are expensive, so remember to turn off lights, fans and air conditioners when you leave the room.
- Don’t throw paper or other objects into the toilet: pipes can easily get clogged and be difficult to deal with.
- Be especially careful when driving on Koh Tao.
- Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages or beers before diving.
- Apply mosquito repellent, especially at dawn and dusk.
- Koh Tao is a fragile ecosystem with more than 100,000 visitors a year: so please don’t throw trash, even cigarette butts and plastic water bottles can cause heavy damage over time.
- Water is scarce here, so don’t waste it.
- Do not throw anything into the sea.
- While diving, look only and do not touch turtles, corals, and any other marine life.
Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to Koh Tao you can refer to
- Koh Tao and Koh Nangyuan Full Day Tour with Snorkeling Experience by Speed Boat
- Daily Snorkeling Trip at Koh Nangyuan & Koh Tao Start from Koh Samui or Koh Phangan
- Koh Tao Diving Day Trip from Koh Samui
- Ferry Ticket between Koh Samui and Koh Tao by Lomprayah
- Ferry Ticket between Koh Tao and Koh Pha Ngan by Lomprayah
- Koh Tao & Koh Nang Yuan One Day Tour with Snorkeling Experience
- Koh Phangan One Way Ferry Ticket to Koh Tao
- From Samui: Koh Tao and Koh Nangyuan Day Tour with Snorkeling Experience by Catamaran
- Ferry & Bus Ticket between Bangkok and Koh Tao by Lomprayah
- Lomprayah Ferry Ticket between Hua Hin and Koh Tao
- Koh Tao Snorkeling Experience by Oxygen
- 5 Islands Day Trip around Koh Tao and Koh Nangyuan by Sangthong
- Koh Tao and Koh Nang Yuan Day Tour in Koh Samui by Travstore
- Koh Tao and Koh Nang Yuan Day Tour by Speedboat from Koh Samui
- Ferry & Bus Combo Ticket between Surat Thani and Koh Tao by Lomprayah
- Koh Tao Koh Nangyuan and Koh Pha-Ngan from Samui
Read more Thailand guide here.