Koh Tao’s main draw is scuba diving. It’s probably Thailand’s best overall venue for doing a dive course, and offers a large variety of good dive spots nearby. However, there are also nice beaches and good resorts on this small island, even if it lacks a packed brochure of attractions. Mostly enjoyed by young, budget travellers, Koh Tao activities and attractions still offer plenty for the older set looking to escape the world.
Above the waters are an assortment of excellent seafood, Thai and international restaurants, along with more than enough bars. More secluded resorts offer tranquillity, while many young people enjoy the busy beaches like Sai Ree. During the day, most people are out scuba diving, so the island remains pretty quiet.
Koh Nang Yuan
You could practically swim to the nearby Koh Nang Yuan, which is known for its three connecting coral beaches. The pretty island boasts a beautiful resort perfect for a lunch break, or you could pack your own picnic and spend some time lying out on the sand. Long-tail boats will take you over for a small fee. More on Koh Ngan Yuan.
This is the most bustling touristy beach of Koh Tao, and is where you will find the highest concentration of restaurants, bars and shops. The beach here is still clean, and this is an ideal place to be if you like the company of others and lots of choice for dining and entertainment.
It’s the longest stretch of sand on Koh Tao and has the lion’s share of resorts and atmosphere. It’s also relatively close to the pier and main centre on the island. For more exclusive escapes perhaps choose one of the other small bays. More on Haad Sairee.
Scuba diving in Koh Tao
The number one attraction on Koh Tao is actually off the tiny island’s shores. There is an array of dive sites surrounding Koh Tao, and the many dive shops offer rock bottom prices on dive packages and tuition. The ease of diving here makes it ideal for beginners. Try sites like Chumphon Pinnacle which known for past sightings of whale sharks, Japanese gardens with its many varieties of coral, Green Rock, The Twins (Twin Peaks) and White Rock among others. More on Koh Tao diving.
Koh Tao viewpoints
There are lots of great viewpoints around Koh Tao where you can capture amazing photos or just watch the sunset. Two View is the second-tallest peak of Koh Tao at 313m with access via Sairee Beach and Tanote Bay. There’s also Chalok Baan Kao which provides amazing viewpoints in every direction. To the east is a panorama of Thian Og Bay, to the north is Chalok and to the south is a glimpse of both bays together. Chalok Baan Kao viewpoint at the back of Koh Tao Cottage, on Chalok Ban Kao Bay, offers a wooden walkway and breezy sala where you can sometimes see Koh Pha Ngan or Samui. More on Koh Tao sightseeing attractions.
Activities in Koh Tao
Scuba diving and course: this is the number one activity on Koh Tao, and you’ll find all range of PADI dive courses. Many people come here and take a beginner course and stay until they become instructors.
The affordability of training and fun dives makes it worthwhile for practicing and improving your skills. Add to that the cheap accommodation and good food, and visitors end up staying for months at a time. There is also a hyperbaric recompression chamber situated on Koh Samui (Bophut) provided by the SSS network if the worst should occur.
Snorkelling: even if you are not able to scuba dive, you can still embrace the underwater world with some great snorkelling spots around Koh Tao. Mango Bay is one of the best, and the shallow bay provides for an excellent diversity of fish and pretty corals. It goes to just 10m deep, so just snorkelling on the surface allows you to see all the marine life, and sometimes even turtles. More on Koh Tao snorkelling.
Long-tail boat rides: there are plenty of long-tail boats on standby in Mae Haad that can transport you to some of the deserted beaches around Koh Tao, or over to Koh Nang Yuan.
Hiking: although hiking routes are steep and rigorous, and can sometimes be too much during the hotter months, they do provide an excellent workout with fantastic views of the sea below. One good hike starts at June Juea Beach. The path here goes up a very steep hill and enters thick jungle all the way to Cape Jeda Gang, where there is a restaurant and some huts. From there, you can continue on to Sai Nuan bay, and then carry on to Jansom bay. Then it’s just 10 minutes to Mae Haad.
Biking: it’s easy to hire a mountain bike and ride around the island. There are plenty of good trails and some quite treacherous ones as well. The dense foliage in the centre of the island and steep hills provide challenges for experienced bikers while the paved walking trails along the more popular areas are ideal for a more relaxing ride.
Massage: there are numerous massage shops offering quality Thai massage that will sooth sore muscles after a day’s diving. Open-air pavilions are the best way to enjoy the sea breeze but air-con massage shops are ideal during the more scorching months.
More on Koh Tao activities.
Recommended Koh Tao dive shops
One of Asia’s leading distributors and suppliers of diving and aqua gear, serving many of the dive shops on Koh Tao and across Thailand. Headquartered in Karon, Phuket, this company carries many of the leading popular brands of dive equipment selling both retail and wholesale. Open: 09:00-18:00 (Mon to Sat); 9/33 Moo 2, MaeHaad, tel: (077) 456 782.