Koh Tao means “turtle island” and is one of the most popular islands in Thailand to visit, and reasonably so. Koh Tao is filled with beautiful nature, stunning viewpoints and several white-sand beaches. On this exciting island you’ll find delicious food from every corner of the world for reasonable prices. Koh Tao offers an amazing marine life, which makes it a perfect place for snorkeling and diving. This island is also famous for its great night-life, if you’re into that. It’s safe to say that there’s something for everyone on Koh Tao. We’ve now put together this list with 11 amazing things to do on Koh Tao, enjoy!
1. Enjoy diving
Whether you have your diving certification already or you want to get it, Koh Tao is a great place for diving. Koh Tao has an amazing marine life with a huge variety of fish and coral species. Because of this, there’s a lot to discover while diving. If you’re lucky you might even see turtles and/or a whale shark.
We chose to get our open water certificate with Scuba Shack Koh Tao and we couldn’t have been happier with our choice. You can read our review here.
2. Go snorkeling
Due to the amazing and varying marine life, snorkeling here is incredible too. You don’t have to go diving to enjoy the aquatic life in Ko Tao, even though we believe it’s a great idea! You can buy the snorkeling gear for little money in one of the local shops. If you don’t want to buy it, it’s possible to rent what you need in some hostels/guesthouses or at some of the beaches.
Some popular snorkeling spots are Mango Bay, Shark Bay and Koh Nangyuan. It’s possible to go on an around-the-island snorkeling trip for half a day or for a full day. There are lots of shops offering this service everywhere along Sairee Beach.
3. Rent a Kayak
If you’re into water sports but prefer to stay (partly) dry, then renting a kayak may be something for you. At Sairee Beach there are several places where you can rent a kayak for either a couple of hours or for a whole day for 600-700 baht. We rented a kayak to go to Koh Nangyuan and we payed 300 baht for 3 hours.
4. Visit Koh Nangyuan
To visit Koh Nangyuan is probably the most popular thing to do as a tourist on Koh Tao. Koh Nagnyuan is a different island, not far from Koh Tao and consists of three small islands connected by sand stripes. If you go here, make sure you hike up to the viewpoint from where you can see all the islands connecting through these stripes of sand. If you Google Koh Tao or Koh Nagyuan, the majority of the pictures will be from this viewpoint. The hike is not too challenging, most people could do it.
You can get here either with a taxi boat or through renting a kayak and go by yourself. We went by kayak and it worked out fine in the end, after we had warmed up a bit. For inexperienced paddlers like us, it takes about 40 minutes to get there.
5. Hike to John-Suwan Viewpoint
There’s several viewpoints on this island due to its mountainous landscape. John-Suwan is however, one of the best and most popular viewpoints. Once you’ve seen it it’s easy to understand why. Up there you get a full panorama view of the whole island. From this angle it looks as if Koh Tao has two wings. The view is just gorgeous!
6. Explore the island by bike
Koh Tao is not big, but there’s much to explore (beaches, viewpoints etc). It’s possible to walk more or less where ever you want to go, but it takes a lot of time (depending on where you’re going obviously). We managed to get around without a bike, but things would’ve been easier if we had rented one. If you have a bike, you can go where ever you want in no time. But before you rent one, make sure your insurance covers potential accidents.
7. Watch the sunset at Sairee beach
Is there anything as magnificent and stunning as sunsets? Not really. Except for sunsets watched from a beach. Sairee Beach is a perfect place to enjoy the sunset due to the many restaurants with outdoor seatings. Many of the restaurants by the beach are a bit expensive, but there are some with reasonable prices. Make sure to be there in time, Sairee Beach is popular.
8. Eat Dinner at Portobello
Yes, we understand that many of you are on a budget – so are we. However, we’ve come to the conclusion that it’s really important to treat yourself from time to time. If not, you’ll end up in a situation where you don’t really enjoy your travels because of all the cravings for things you can get back home. I bet you can feel the longing for bread, pizza, pasta and an amazing, fresh salad. So did we, very much. Therefore, we decided to treat ourselves with some pizza and pasta, and we didn’t regret it for one second.
Portobello is an Italian restaurant with an Italian chief and the food is simply amazing. As soon as I took the first bite of that pasta I wanted to cry. It was freaking delicious! For one pizza, one pasta, a salad, one glass of wine and a sparkling water we payed less than 700 baht. Don’t miss out on this fantastic place because of your budget, treat yourself. You deserve it.
9. Support the locals and make your stomach happy at Mama Piyawan
At Mama Piyawan we had, with no doubt, the best thai-food on Koh Tao. It’s a small place located close to the main road at Sairee Beach. There’s a restaurant called Hippo Burger, start from here. If you have Hippo Burgers at your right, walk down on the main road until you have 7eleven on your left. Walk up the street that’s to your right (opposite to 7eleven). Keep walking until you see a juice/smoothie place and a barbecue. Mama Piyawan is right between the two. You can recognize it by the sign that says Mama Piyawan (obviously) and by the many ripped cardboards with “reviews” of the place in all kinds of languages hanging on the walls.
It’s a family-owned restaurant and it seems to be a part of their home. If you want to use the bathroom, you’ll be using their private one. There are toothbrushes, shampoos and clothes hanging in there. The family is super nice and welcoming. And the food is AMAZING, to say the least. The prices are very reasonable as well.
10. Enjoy the Night Life
Koh Tao may not be as much of a party island as Koh Phangan, but Koh Tao do offer a great night life. There are bars everywhere. Whether you prefer to enjoy a drink by the beach or you want to take part in a beer pong tournament or perhaps do a pub crawl, Koh Tao got your back. Due to the big demand from tourists, the alcohol prices are (like everything else in Koh Tao) a bit more expensive than on main land Thailand, but it’s not too bad.
11. Watch the fire show by Sairee beach
Every night around 7.30pm there’s some fire shows by Sairee Beach. There are lots of them along the beach, but the one in front of Lotus Beach Bar seems to be the most popular one. Be there on time, get a seat, order a drink or some food, wait for the show to start and enjoy.