When you ask people what the best island in Thailand is, you are bound to get a variety of answers.
Some people like the party vibes of Koh Phangan.
Others like the luxury hotels and white sand beaches of Koh Phi Phi.
Really, Thailand has something to offer everyone, from the budget backpacker to the high-end traveler.
So what’s an adventurer to do?
If you looking for the perfect, laid-back getaway, then I suggest none other than Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand.
This beautiful destination is perfect for those who are looking for a break, a gorgeous beach, and lots of fun things to do.
After venturing to nearly all of the islands in Thailand, Koh Tao quickly became my favorite out of all of them. I ended up spending ten days there!
If I haven’t convinced you already, here are the best things to do on Koh Tao, Thailand
Koh Tao has an array of accommodations to offer, but it definitely caters to that laid-back vibe. You won’t find many luxury resorts here. However, there is a broad variety of bungalows, hostels, and private rooms to choose from. I did not book accommodation in advance, so I was able to check out several places in person before I chose where to stay. Here are my favorites.
Ck Hostel was the perfect hostel for me. Centrally located and about a two minute walk from the beach, CK Hostel had a great atmosphere and professional staff. There is a great restaurant downstairs with the nicest ladies you will ever meet. The hostel was extremely clean and the owner answered any questions I had about what to see and do on Koh Tao.
Mixed Dorm with AC: $10 USD per night
Ban’s Diving Resort
Ban’s Diving Resort has a total of three swimming pools and a wide variety of rooms. This resort is expanding to include even more features for guests and divers. I stayed in several private rooms that were all clean and comfortable. Ban’s Diving Resort is located right next to all the major bars, adventure centers, and the beach. This resort has reduced prices for those who are enrolled in their diving courses. Book in advance.
Private room with Fan: $30- $65 USD per night (wide variety)
Also check out, Sairee Cottage Resort.
Things to Do on Koh Tao
Koh Tao really has a bit of everything. For simplicity, I have included a list of the best of what Koh Tao has to offer.
• Hiking: Grab a map from any major resort upon arrival do see a layout of the island. There are several hiking trails of varying difficulty and views. This site has a fantastic guide to hikes on Koh Tao.
• Scuba Diving: Koh Tao is one of the best (and cheapest places) to learn to scuba dive and/or earn your PADI certification. Sairee Diving School is one of the best, offering a range of dives and levels of certification. Walk along any road in Koh Tao and you are bound to see several diving schools. A short dive costs about 700-1000 TBT, or about 9000 TBT for a three-day course.
• Rock Climbing: You can find several places that offer rock climbing course and day climbs. I took my very first all-day course at Goodtime Adventures. The course was about $45 USD and involved learning to belay, repel, and 6 climbs on the mountain. This a great option for those of you who are trying to conquer your fear of heights!
• Snorkeling: If you have been snorkeling before, I would suggest renting a mask and venturing out on your own. The best place to do this is in Tanote Bay on the East side of the island. You can easily get here by taxi or walking. I would advise against taking a motorbike here because it is very steep. You can rent a mask for about $2. There are so many fish and sea life to see even a few feet away from the shore. There are also options to take boat tours around the island, but these are much more expensive.
• Boat Rides: You can find private and group tours all over Koh Tao for various prices. Don’t be afraid to haggle a bit for a better price. It is cheaper to go with a group and find a guide that is independent from the larger resorts and adventure centers. It is necessary to take a boat to see Koh Nang Yuan, the small island to the north of Koh Tao with a beautiful beach and lookout point. Expect to pay 200 TBT per person, round trip.
• Swimming: the best places to swim include Tanote Bay and Sairee Beach. Both places are beautiful and reasonably safe. Always use your best judgement and wear a life jacket if you are not a confident swimmer.
• Adventure Course: many adventure centers include unique adventure courses on the island. Some include trapeze, obstacle course, and acrobatics. One such course can be found at Goodtime Adventures for about $45 for the entire day.
• Beaches: the best beach on Koh Tao is Sairee Beach, the main beach with the most attractions. The sand is pristine and the water is totally clear. Since Koh Tao is not as popular as Koh Phangan and Koh Phi Phi, there is much less garbage and fewer tourists. It really is a relaxing place.
• Shops: The main strip along Sairee Beach includes your usual souvenir and clothes shops for you to shop at. Koh Tao also has several small grocery stores, a 7/11, and multiple pharmacies.
• Bars: There are many bars to be found along Sairee Beach. A few times a week the bars host bar crawls for reduced prices. Music and dancing can be found nearly every night. The Rock bar also has fire dancers and club music every evening. You can also be sure to find delicious drinks to consume on the beach in comfy beach chairs.
• Motor Bikes: beware of the “Koh Tao Tattoo”! It is true that you can find places to ride motorbikes all over Thailand, and Koh Tao is no exception. However, Koh Tao has less developed streets and steeper, rockier roads. You can find places to rent motor bikes all over the island, but I would advise against it. You can get nearly everywhere by foot or via taxi. Injuries are not uncommon, and if you wreck a bike, you might be finding yourself with a hefty fee or having your passport being held for ransom. Ride at your own risk.
• Bike Riding: A great alternative to motorbikes is renting a good old fashioned bicycle. Much cheaper, safer, and easier to get around. You can rent a bike for the entire day and get almost anywhere on the island. You may need to put down a damage deposit beforehand. As usual, look out for scams.
• Kayaking: Kayaking is also a fun thing to do, and you can rent one for about 100 TBT per hour. There are many places to check out along Sairee Beach and Tanote Bay. It can be very relaxing.
Where to Eat
Koh Tao doesn’t boast many high-end restaurants or resorts, but good eats can be found all over the island. Whether it is a steaming plate of pad thai, or American fare, Koh Tao has it all. For breakfast, I loved checking out the various coffee shops such as Zest Café and New Heaven. For dinner, just walk along Sairee Beach and you will be faced with an array of choices. Part of the fun is exploring what Koh Tao has to offer!
Blue Water Café
I hope you have enjoyed this guide to the totally chill things to do on Koh Tao, Thailand. Feel free to leave your questions and thoughts in the comments below! Happy Travels!