Koh Tao is a peaceful, quiet island located in the Gulf of Thailand. And while its neighboring islands, Koh Phangan and Koh Samui are popular on the backpacker party scene, Koh Tao is more laidback and popular with an older crowd. If you’re looking for white sandy beaches, turquoise water, and beautiful views of the gulf, then you’ll definitely want to add Koh Tao to your Thailand bucket list!
Check out our list of the best 12 things to do on the island of Koh Tao if you get your fill of relaxing at your luxurious resort and start craving some adventure.
Don’t forget to check out our web story: Koh Tao, Thailand – The Top 12 Things To Do!
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Koh Tao Island Travel Basics
Getting to Koh Tao Island
The easiest way to get to Koh Tao Island is to catch a flight to the island of Koh Samui and then a ferry to Koh Tao. You can book your ferry in advance via Bookaway and we would recommend including the transfer to the dock so a minivan will be at the airport when you arrive.
You can also take a bus/ferry combo from Bangkok but it will take you anywhere from 9-16 hours depending on the company that you choose. Combo tickets can also be purchased on Bookaway.
Getting Around Koh Tao Island
The easiest way to get around Koh Tao Island is to rent a motorbike from your hotel or from one of the many rental shops in town. Keep in mind that Koh Tao is a very hilly island so many of the roads are quite steep so if you don’t have much experience driving a motorbike this might not be the best place to learn.
We rented a bike from Oli’s Motorbike Rentals, right near the pier, and had a great experience. His bikes and helmets were in great condition and he was honest and upfront. We did opt to add the extra scratch insurance for ~$3 per day, just in case.
Taxis are quite expensive and the prices are more or less set, so any negotiation attempts are futile. You’re best off taking advantage of the hotel shuttle if your resort offers one.
Where to Stay on Koh Tao Island
Where to Eat on Koh Tao Island
During your stay on Koh Tao Island, you absolutely must try the Panang curry pizza at Su Chilli! I know it’s a bit strange to recommend that you eat pizza while in Thailand but trust me, it’s the best. They also have some of the best massaman curry on the island and really reasonable happy hour drink specials.
995 Roasted Duck is another absolute must-try while vacationing in Koh Tao! As you can probably tell from their name, duck is the specialty here. And specifically, the duck noodle soup. Be sure to get here before 8 pm as it’s not uncommon for the duck to sell out!
The Top 12 Things to Do on Koh Tao Island
1. Check out the View from the John-Suwan Viewpoint
Located at the southernmost tip of Koh Tao, this is one of the most beautiful viewpoints on the island. You’ll have a short but strenuous hike to the top, but the John-Suwan Viewpoint is definitely one of the best things to do on Koh Tao! From the top, you’ll have views of the two neighboring bays, as well as a view back over the island.
You’ll park your motorbike in the parking lot that also provides access to Freedom Beach, take the fork to the left, and start the 20 or so minute walk to the top. You’ll need to pay an entrance fee of 50 THB per person to access the viewpoint. Be sure to start your hike early because the afternoon sun is absolutely unrelenting!
If a strenuous hike isn’t your style, you can still enjoy beautiful views from Sun Suwan 360 Bar. You’ll also need to pay an entrance fee of 50 THB but you can turn in your ticket at the bar for a free bottle of water.
If the steps leading up to the 360 Bar are too strenuous for you to bear, then simply spend a few hours lounging on Freedom Beach!
2. Take a Day Trip to Koh Nang Yuan
It’s nearly impossible to plan a trip to Koh Tao Island without stumbling on a few photos of the nearby island of Koh Nang Yuan. These three small islands are connected by two long sand bars and surrounded on all sides by turquoise water. You’ll certainly want to take a day trip to Koh Nang Yuan Island – it’s one of the top things to do in Koh Tao!
There is just one resort on Koh Nang Yuan Island – Nangyuan Island Dive Resort – which is by no means glamorous, but it allows you to enjoy the island in the early mornings and late evenings and avoid the crowds. They also operate the only restaurant on the island which is overpriced by Thailand standards but surprisingly tasty.
There are several things to do during your visit to Koh Nang Yuan Island so plan to spend at least a few hours here. There is a steep hike to the viewpoint on the highest of the three small islands that should just take about 15-20 minutes to climb. Snorkeling is also a popular activity on Koh Nang Yuan as the water is calm and crystal clear. Or you can just lounge on the white sand beach with a fruity cocktail all afternoon!
From Koh Tao Island, you can catch a long-tail boat for about 200 THB roundtrip. The boat ride only takes about 20 minutes and you’ll need to specify how long you’d like to stay on Koh Nang Yuan Island ahead of time so your boat driver can return to take you back to Koh Tao. You’ll need to pay a 100 THB entrance fee per person once you arrive and the island closes to day-trippers at 5 pm. Note that single-use plastic is not allowed on Koh Nang Yuan island.
3. Enjoy a Coffee at Love Koh Tao
Love Koh Tao is a cute little coffee shop that sits high on a hill in the middle of Koh Tao Island. Not only are the views from the coffee shop outstanding, but they also have cute signs and seating areas all over the property that is picture-perfect! Taking the classic “Love Koh Tao” photo is one of the things that you must do during your trip to Koh Tao Island!
4. Snorkel at Hin Wong Bay
If you want to explore the underwater wonders of Koh Tao but aren’t interested in scuba diving, then you’ll definitely want to go snorkeling at Hin Wong Bay! The water here is crystal clear, visibility is good, the coral is in excellent condition, and it’s a great place to spot marine life. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a shark or two swimming around in the bay!
You won’t be able to lounge on the beach here as most of the bay is surrounded by large rock formations. You can rent snorkel gear on the beach or bring your own from your resort. Head to the south side of the bay for the best underwater action!
Hin Wong Bay is accessible by boat or motorbike depending on your preference.
5. Get your PADI Certification
Probably the most popular thing to do on Koh Tao Island is to get PADI certified! The conditions are perfect here – the water is calm and crystal clear, the coral is in good condition, and there is an abundant amount of sea life. Plus, the certification process is relatively inexpensive compared with other popular diving destinations around the world.
There are over 25 beautiful dive sites to explore around Koh Tao Island. And there are countless dive instructors to choose from at various price points and program offerings. Check out the most popular dive instructors on the island:
6. Take a Boat Tour Around the Island
There are several boat tour operators around Koh Tao Island, with many of them concentrated around Mae Haad Pier. All of them have similar offerings at similar prices. A popular option is a group tour on a large boat with stops at Koh Nang Yuan, Mango Bay, Laem Thian Bay, Aow Leuk Bay, and Shark Island. The 850 THB/person charge includes snorkeling equipment, transfer to and from your hotel, lunch, water, and fresh fruit.
If you’d like a more personalized experience, you can take a private boat tour for around 4,000 THB for a long-tail boat. This option allows you to customize your departure time and the stops along your tour to suit your preference. There are also fishing tours available for 1,650 THB/person.
7. Visit Mango Bay and Viewpoint
Another one of the best things to do in Koh Tao is to visit Mango Bay, located on the northern end of the island. It is a very popular snorkeling spot. In fact, if you book an island boat tour, this will likely be one of your stops. And arriving by boat is preferred by most as the road is quite steep and not great for inexperienced motorbike drivers.
And to get the best view of Mango Bay from above, head to Mango Viewpoint Koh Tao! You’ll be rewarded with amazing panoramic views of the island. Again, the road is quite steep so you may end up parking your scooter and walking to the top. There is a small restaurant at the top in case thirst or hunger strikes!
Note that both the bay and the viewpoint charge an entrance fee of 100 THB/person to enter. This is a common complaint in both Google and Tripadvisor reviews so be sure you keep in perspective that it’s only about $3 USD!
8. Enjoy the Sand at Tanote Bay
Tanote Bay is yet another beautiful (and free!) bay for you to enjoy during your stay on Koh Tao Island. The white sand here is soft like cornmeal and the water is perfectly calm. There are a few small resorts where you can rent beach chairs, snorkel gear, or just buy a few cold beers. It’s not nearly as touristy as some of the other bays around the island so it’s the perfect place for an afternoon of rest and relaxation.
Be sure to read a bit about Tanote Bay’s sordid past while lounging on your beach chair!
9. Kayak at Sai Daeng Beach
Sai Daeng Beach is located on the southern end of Koh Tao Island, near the John-Suwan Viewpoint. It is home to one of our favorite resorts on the island – Sai Daeng Resort – but the beach is public so it can be enjoyed by all.
This protected bay is surrounded by lush greenery and towering hills and you can spot a small island just off the coast. The water is calm and full of coral so it’s ideal for snorkeling or swimming. Sai Daeng Resort offers lounge chairs, snorkel gear, and kayaks for rent at their little beachfront restaurant. Grab a kayak, slather on some sunscreen, and cruise around this peaceful little bay!
10. Watch a Fire Show
If you find yourself wandering along Sai Ree Beach around 9 pm, you’ll undoubtedly run into one of the many evening fire shows. Grab a bean bag chair at the closest bar, order a cocktail, and prepare to be amazed! Tipping is most certainly encouraged.
11. Go on a Pub Crawl
If you’re looking to party and meet some singles during your time on Koh Tao Island then you’ll definitely want to check out the Koh Tao Pub Crawl. This lively event takes place on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday each week during the high season. It’s a fun way to check out the most popular bars on the island while making some new friends along the way!
You’ll want to secure your spot on the pub crawl at Choppers anytime from 6 pm until 7:45 pm when the fun starts. The cost is 480 THB/person and includes a bucket, shots, a t-shirt, happy hour drink specials all night, and a cabaret show. It’s one of the top things for singles to do on Koh Tao Island and you’re guaranteed to have an absolute blast!
12. See a Ladyboy Cabaret Show
And finally, no trip to Koh Tao is complete without seeing the amazing ladies of Queen’s Cabaret perform! Not only are these “ladyboys” quite beautiful, but they are also incredibly talented. The costumes are elaborate, the dances are expertly coordinated, and the music is fun to sing along to.
There is a performance every evening beginning at 10:30 pm and the show lasts about an hour. The entrance is free but you’ll be required to buy a drink. Get there early for a front table – you won’t regret it! Be sure to bring some small baht to tip for photos at the end.
It is undoubtedly the most entertaining experience you’ll have on Koh Tao Island – don’t miss it!
We hope you have a great time checking out these amazing things to do on Koh Tao Island in Thailand!
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