At just over 20sq km in size, tiny Koh Tao is proof that good things come in small packages. Speaking of packages, it specialises in dive packages and is one of the most popular places on the planet for aspiring divers to learn their trade by embarking on a PADI course.
The island is located in Thailand’s southern Gulf sea and is reached by boat from Chumphon on the eastern peninsula or by boat hopping from nearby Phangan, Samui or Surat Thani.
Whilst it’s fair to say that most who come here are drawn by the lure of learning to dive in a mini-paradise, there are plenty of other ways to spend your time here that make it a great all-round island to visit. Here are a few highlights of what you can get up to…
Learn to dive
Wannabe scuba divers love it here and you can’t really blame them. As a beginner you’re ideally looking to immerse yourself in calm and shallow bays while you learn the ropes and Koh ‘Turtle Island’ Tao has an abundance of these with transparent, tepid water that helps ease you in gently. There are tons of instructors to choose from and it’s one of the cheapest places you can get your PADI certification. Win win!
Grab a snorkel
Not ready to take the full on plunge yet? No worries, get yourself a snorkel and some fins and explore Koh Tao’s coastal coral in a more sedate manner. There is good snorkeling in and around many of the island’s bays and if you’re feeling adventurous then why not charter your own longtail boat and explore one of the nearby reefs. This relaxing and interesting pastime has been known to while away many an hour here.
Hit the beach [Top 13 Beaches]
There are lots of gorgeous bays here to kick back on so why not indulge in a bit of escapism.. beach bum style! There’s a real Treasure Island feel to the beaches on Koh Tao, many of which are fringed by towering palm trees and hemmed in by calm, crystal clear waters. What better way to unwind after your dive lesson than swinging gently in your hammock to the sound of the lapping waves. [read more]
Wet suits or not, if you’re looking to party then you’ll be pleased with what Koh Tao has to offer. The nightlife is throbbing and goes on long into the night, especially along Sairee Beach where there are a variety of bars and clubs to choose from during an evening (and early morning) out. The buckets of Phangan have made their way out here too, so those who’ve arrived from there will be able to pick up where they left off!
Koh Nang Yuan
If you’ve seen pictures of idyllic Thai beaches you will probably recognise this place! Just off the northwest coast of Koh Tao lies these amazingly beautiful little islands, ripe for your camera and snorkel. The sand bar is its signature feature and is great for laying on and soaking up the rays. You can get here easily on a longtail from Sairee Beach or Mae Haad but you’ll need to pay an additional fee to spend some time here.
Getting around is not a problem. One of the real bonuses with Koh Tao’s miniature size is that there is far less traffic about compared to some other Thai islands. Motorbikes have weaned their way into the fabric of life here over the years though, and are a popular means of getting around, along with the trademark songathaews that scour the dusty roads picking up punters. The lack of proper roads adds something very special to this place and with only 5km of track between you, Sairee Beach and the southern bays of the island it’s really not difficult to traverse.
Most of Koh Tao’s beaches can be walked or taxi’d to but you’d definitely be better off jumping on a longtail to Mango Bay on the island’s northern tip. This place is a nice little hideaway and has a resort built back into the rocks above the beach with a view to die for. You could find far worse places to spend a few days!