Ultimate Guide to Koh Tao

The smallest of the three main islands in Thailand’s Chumpon Archipelago also comprising Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, Koh Tao covers 21 square kilometres and is also known as ‘Turtle Island’.

Not only does the shape of the island resemble a sea turtle but because it is also home to, amongst other abundant marine life dwelling in the magical coral reefs, three species of turtle that can be seen in the clear, warm waters around the island.

In fact the diving possibilities are so good in Koh Tao that they attract thousands of visitors each year, and Koh Tao has developed a thriving diving industry.

The stunning natural beauty of the island, along with fabulous diving, amazing weather, and the laid back island lifestyle make Koh Tao an unforgettable dream destination — and one particularly popular with backpackers.

Let’s find out more…

Post Contents

Koh Tao Weather

Benefitting from a sub-tropical climate all year round, Koh Tao experiences average high temperatures of 29°C. Three different seasons govern the weather changes on the island.

The dry season between December and February sees the least rainfall, the air is less humid, and temperatures range between 22°C and 29°C, making this the coolest time of year to visit Koh Tao.

However, thanks to the dry season being very warm and sunny, and this coupled with the fact that there is very little rain, this is the most popular time of year for tourists visiting the island — so if you prefer to avoid the crowds you may wish to consider visiting Koh Tao during a different season.

The hot season between March and August can get very hot indeed, with temperatures taking a hike at its peak from April to May with averages between 32°C and 40°C, and sea temperatures of around 30°C.

koh tao thailand

By David Wilmot (CC BY 2.0 licence)

This season can also be quite humid and sticky, with a little more rainfall than the dry season — particularly from May to July — but is still generally dry.

If you can handle the scorching temperatures this is also a good time to visit Koh Tao, but if you prefer to be a little cooler stick to the other seasons.

A tropical climate equals a combination of hot weather and rain, and the rainy season from September to November is when the monsoons really hit Koh Tao.

Temperatures still stay baking, with averages of 27°C, but this is accompanied by less sunshine, more grey sky, and sudden torrential downpours.

Happily, the rainstorms are generally brief and sea temperatures remain high at 29°C, however many tourists will avoid visiting the island during this period.

On the plus side, this means that things are much quieter, and prices are lower, so if it is peace and quiet that appeals to you this can be a convenient season to visit Koh Tao.

For divers, one of the best times of year to come to Koh Tao is when the tide is at its highest between October to March, when the waters are deeper and better suited to swimming, snorkeling, and diving.

Sun seekers will prefer the lower tides and wider beaches from April to September.

How to Get to Koh Tao

Koh Tao is a little remote for such a tourist hotspot, and getting there is a little less straightforward than travelling to some of the other, larger islands.

Here are the easiest, most hassle-free ways of getting there…

Bangkok to Koh Tao

Flying to Koh Tao from Bangkok is a quick way to make the route, but there are no direct flights.

Instead, you will need to fly into either Koh Samui island airport, or Chumphon, Surat Thani or Nakhon Si Thammarat airports on the mainland. Flights depart regularly throughout the day from Bangkok, and the journey takes just over an hour.

On arrival at the mainland airports, it’s necessary to make your way to the nearest ferry port, where it is possible to get a boat that will transport you directly to Koh Tao with services departing a few times daily.

On the mainland, Chumphon is closest to Koh Tao, so the journey by boat takes around 3 hours, with a longer journey time of about 6 hours from Surat Thani. Ferry tickets cost roughly 500 – 800 THB.

Alternatively, you can fly into Koh Samui International Airport and take a boat to Koh Tao from there.

Cheaper and more popular with backpackers than the plane, is to buy a combined bus and ferry ticket.

koh tao diving

Buses depart from Khao San Road in Bangkok and arrive directly at Chumphon Pier, from where you connect with the ferry. The journey time by bus is longer than by plane (about 7 hours), but travelling on a combined ticket is very convenient and all your transfers are taken care of.

Tickets cost in the region of 1,000 THB.

It’s also possible to travel from Bangkok to Koh Tao by train, with most people preferring to make the journey at night on a sleeper train.

Trains depart from Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong Station, and arrive at Chumphon train station on the mainland around 8 hours later, with prices ranging from 650 to 1,500 THB depending on the class of travel you choose.

From Chumphon train station, you will need to take the bus to the ferry terminal, from where you can take a boat to Koh Tao. A combined bus and boat transfer ticket costs between 500 and 750 THB.

Koh Samui to Koh Tao

There are a number of ferry services operating out of Koh Samui’s three ferry ports that make the journey to Koh Tao, with most boats departing in the morning.

The journey between the two islands takes around 2 to 3 hours, with ticket prices between 450 and 650 THB, depending on the ferry company you travel with.

Here’s a look at the catamaran travelling in the other direction, from Koh Tao back to Koh Samui:

Koh Phangan to Koh Tao

Boat departures from Thong Sala ferry terminal on Koh Phangan are available in both the morning and the afternoon.

The journey takes from 1.5 to 2 hours and costs between 350 and 550 THB.

Things to do in Koh Tao

Stunning Koh Tao is rich in possibilities for sightseeing and adventure.

Here are our top ten picks of where to go and what to do…

Koh Tao Diving

Possibly the most popular pastime on the island, Koh Tao has over 50 different diving schools offering courses based on PADI or SSI training systems.

Most Koh Tao diving courses cost between 7,500 and 9,000 THB and take place over three days.

The courses include learning basic skills, how to understand and use diving equipment, practising those skills, and then making open water dives followed by a final examination to achieve your diving qualification which permits you to dive anywhere in the world to a depth of 18 metres.

The are a plethora of amazing dive sites around Koh Tao, and it’s a tough decision to decide which to choose.

Shark island might sound terrifying, but this dive site to the west of Koh Tao is full of colourful coral, sea slugs, eels, and stingrays.

The Twins site just off of the coast of a tiny nearby island is teeming with vivid fish and sea anemones, and is ideal for novice divers.

More advanced divers will love the sunken wreck of the Sattakut, which although recently sunk is already attracting stingrays, puffer fish and other marine life.

Sea turtles can be spotted at White Rock off Koo Tao’s west coast, along with banded sea snakes, Whale Sharks, rays, and angelfish.

Koh Nang Yuan

things to do in koh tao

Just a short 10 minute boat ride from Koh Tao, the stunningly pretty little island of Koh Nang Yuan makes for an excellent day trip.

The island is made up of three tiny jungle swathed land masses connected by a sandbar that can be crossed on foot, and it’s picture perfect.

There is some great diving and excellent snorkeling to be had just off the shore, and on land the coast is dotted with glittering white sand beaches and hiking trails to the wonderful viewpoint at the top of the island’s tallest peak.

With only one resort and beach bar on this tranquil, romantic island, Koh Nang Yuan is an ideal idyllic paradise.

John Suwan Viewpoint

The most famous viewpoint on Koh Tao is the stunning John Suwan Viewpoint at the southern tip of the island.

A short 15 minute hike from Chalok Baan Kao Beach takes you up on top of a mountain ridge, from where there are spectacular panoramic views all the way across the forested hills to the other side of Koh Tao and to the sinuous curving beaches of Chalok Baan Kao Bay and Thian Og Bay below, as well as amazing views out across the azure ocean waters towards Koh Phangan and Koh Samui in the distance.

Freedom Beach

This popular, scenic little bay on Koh Tao’s south coast is blessed with powdery soft white sand fringed with overhanging trees, and is reached via a short trail and a steep set of steps.

This is a favourite place to chill out, and the super cool beach bar has a friendly bohemian vibe.

Aside from soaking up the sun rays, Freedom Beach is a wonderful spot for swimming and snorkeling, with vibrant coral reefs just off shore, and it’s only a short hike from here to John Suwan Viewpoint.

Sairee Beach

Another awesome place for snorkeling, Sairee Beach is the longest on Koh Tao, with a swathe of white sand stretching out for nearly 2 kilometres.

koh tao beaches

By Whatsinaname (public domain)

A lively beach which attracts a lot of tourists, Sairee Beach is a place to play beach volleyball, get your blood pumping with some exhilarating water sports, or just chill out on the beach or party at one of the laid back beach bars listening to cool tunes being entertained by fire shows.

A place to see and be seen, this is a great location for younger people and families who are looking for fun, and it’s also where a large number of diving schools can be found. Sairee Beach is situated on Koh Tao’s west coast,with its own little village behind the beach with some cute shops and great places to eat.

Chalok Baan Kao

This beach to the south of Koh Tao is one of the largest on the island, and also one of the most chilled out.

There’s not a huge amount to do here apart from relax on the 800 metre long strip of gently sloping sandy beach, but families love the safe, shallow waters for swimming and snorkeling, and it’s a good base for sea kayaking.

diving in koh tao

By Edgardo W. Olivera (CC BY 2.0 licence)

There are also a number of dive schools here.

Cosy bars with a ‘rasta’ vibe are dotted along the shore, and the entertaining pirate themed ‘Pirate Bar’ with live music, cocktails and regular party nights.

On the road to get to the beach, the bustling little town of Chalok Baan Kao has funky boutiques and great restaurants.

Haad Tien

Get zen with the yoga lovers that flock to glorious and remote Haad Tien beach. This small and pristine white sand bay beach is accessible by boat from nearby Haad Rin beach or by a slightly hair raising road journey.

The exclusive ‘Sanctuary’ resort dominates one end of the beach, and it is this that attracts yoga and wellness fiends who come here to detox and meditate.

Haad Tien is a place where you can really feel castaway.

Mango Viewpoint

Hike or motorbike up the forest trail to Mango Viewpoint for gorgeous far reaching vistas out over Koh Tao’s west and north east coasts and the big blue sea beyond.

bangkok to koh tao

By ScorpioZZ (CC BY 3.0 licence)

On foot, the climb takes about an hour from Sairee Village with some steep sections, and at the top you’ll be charged a fee of 100 THB, but it’s well worth paying just to watch the amazing sunset.

Two Views Viewpoint

Also accessible from Sairee Village is the Two Views Viewpoint — named for the two different views that are visible from the top.

A mixture of road and jungle track, the short hike offers rewarding panoramic views of Sairee, the picturesque bays of Ao Tanote and Hin Wong on the east coast, and all the way out across the ocean to the islands of Koh Phangan and Koh Samui, and on a clear day you can even see the stunning Ang Thong Marine Park in the distance.

Koh Tao Hotels

The Plantation Koh Tao

diving in koh tao

A family run, 4 star luxury boutique hotel on the west side of Koh Tao near Sairee Village, The Plantation Koh Tao offers modern, stylish accommodations surrounded by verdant green hills, swaying coconut groves, and serene beaches.

The nearest beach is only 300 metres distant, making it a short stroll from the spacious pool villas and airy studio apartments at the hotel.

Accommodations are finished in a contemporary and elegant design, with a high speed WiFi connection, flat screen TVs, ensuite bathrooms, and balcony with striking sea views.

Villas come with fully equipped kitchens and double refrigerators. A dip in the saltwater infinity pool is a refreshing way to cool down.

There is no bar or restaurant at the hotel, but there are plenty of places to eat and drink in nearby Sairee.

  • Outdoor swimming pool
  • Private pools
  • Close to beach

koh tao thailand

Jamahkiri Resort

koh tao hotels

Comfortable and sumptuous, the 5 star Jamahkiri Resort on the shores of Thian Og Bay on the south side of Koh Tao has the perfect combination for peace, serenity and nature lovers.

Guests are invited to stay in well appointed deluxe rooms or individually designed and elegant pavilions with ocean views.

All rooms have balconies looking out over the sea, flat screen TV and sound systems, and some have jacuzzi baths.

The resort spa is set in pretty gardens with water features, and offers a range of massage and skin care treatments, as well as a steam room.

The Jamahkiri restaurant has endless views of the surrounding islands, and serves superb international and classic Thai cuisine.

The Pool Bar is a great place for a cocktail and the hotel’s wine cellar boasts a selection of wines from around the world.

Resort guests have exclusive use of a private beach, and benefit from a 10% discount at the Jamahkiri Diving Club which teaches a wide range of PADI courses.

  • Swimming pool
  • Private beach
  • Luxury spa
  • Restaurant
  • Bar
  • Diving club

koh tao thailand

Sai Daeng Resort

hotels in koh tao

On the south east coast of Koh Tao in a peaceful location in lovely landscaped gardens overlooking stunning Sai Daeng beach, the 4 star Sai Daeng Resort has a contemporary, minimalist design, and the stylish rooms and pavillions benefit from flat screen TV, air conditioning, en suite shower, and complimentary WiFi.

Many rooms feature large sliding glass doors opening out onto a terrace with wonderful beach and sea views.

The outdoor infinity swimming pool has a jacuzzi and a waterslide, and the resort’s open air restaurant dishes up an array of tasty traditional Thai and international treats.

The beachside bar and cafe is a fantastically idyllic spot to relax and watch the waves gently lapping the shore.

The resort offers a range of nearby activities such as snorkelling and canoeing.

  • Private man made beach
  • Peaceful beachfront setting
  • Swimming pool
  • Restaurant
  • Beach bar

koh tao thailand

Cape Shark Villas

koh tao thailand

Each of the unique contemporary Thai style villas at the 4 star Cape Shark Villas boasts breathtaking views over scenic Shark Bay, a private infinity pool and private terrace, plus dining and living areas with flat-screen TV plus free WiFi and DVD player, and kitchen facilities.

Situated only 3.7 kilometres from Sairee Beach on Koh Tao’s enchanting west coast, the villas benefit from a private beach and blissful outdoor pool.

There’s no restaurant at the resort, but villas are well equipped for self catering and there are a wealth of bars and eateries nearby.

  • Outdoor pool
  • Private pools
  • Terraces
  • Villa accommodation

koh tao thailand

Have you been to Koh Tao yet?



About Author

Staff Writer for What's On Sukhumvit

Comments are closed.