One of the three must-see Thailand islands near the west coast of the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Tao is the smallest, but don't let that put you off… Size isn't everything! Rich with its stunning scenery and vibrant nightlife, this small town is full of things to do and see if you fancy some fun and relaxation. Koh Tao, which means Turtle Island, is home to various species of turtles and many other marine animals. Moreover, it is its diving spots and clear waters that made it famous in the 1980s. And even if it is not as crowded today as its neighbors, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, Koh Tao has, despite everything, developed a certain tourism industry and therefore offers various hotels and restaurants for all budgets.
When to go to Koh Tao
Koh Tao is a perfect place to explore all year round, thanks to its warm climate, although some months are more convenient for certain activities. However, be aware that this island is also subject to the rainy season and that its landscape will change a lot before and after the latter since it has a significant impact on the water level. This will, of course, affect your experience if you are planning to go scuba diving and if you would like to go lazing on the beach.
Koh Tao's tropical climate means it's hot and humid all year round, and the island doesn't really have a "dry" season. So expect some showers during your stay, but outside of the rainy season, they usually are quite short and localized, and the weather recovers quickly. The rainy season begins as early as October and lasts until November, and even mid-December in some cases. So, if you are heading to Koh Tao around this time of year, expect a lot of rain with a few sunny moments. The showers will also raise the water level, so if you want to go to Koh Tao to snorkel, do not hesitate to go there between December and March since it is during this period that there is the most water.
February is often the driest month on Koh Tao, and between April and March, the water level drops slowly, and the beaches are more spacious and the waves calmer. Therefore, this period will be perfect if you would especially like to bask in the sun and enjoy the beach or if you want to swim since the sea will be shallower and calmer.
The best attractions and activities in Koh Tao
Unlike some of the other famous Thai islands and major cities on the mainland, Koh Tao isn't exactly packed with attractions to keep you busy. That doesn't mean there isn't anything to do there, though: as Koh Tao's best quality is its scenery and snorkeling spots, this island will be perfect if you need to relax! Its beaches are also absolutely breathtaking, and you will always find one more beautiful than the previous one!
Beaches and bay
Mae Haad Beach
If you don't want to stray too far from the main town, Mae Haad Beach will be perfect for you. It is magnificent with its white sand, palm trees, and charming bay and is also uncrowded by tourists. The real advantage of the latter is that you can get there by walking from the main town and the ferry dock and that it is close to the various bars, restaurants, and hostels on the island.
It is Koh Tao's main beach. Large white sand beach, this place is the most frequented. It must be said that it is beautiful. We used to go early in the morning before it got too crowded. A pure happiness to enjoy the tranquility of the place, walk with your feet in the water, hear the sound of the waves, and marvel at the soft lights at the start of the day. How good it is to be early in the morning!
Shark bay beach
A quiet place to relax called shark bay because of the many blacktip sharks that frequent the area. Visitors are welcome and can access the bay by boat or kayak. Alternative access routes also exist on the east coast of Chalok Baan Kao Bay at a few resorts that adjoin the west shore of Thian Og (but not the beach). Another attraction of the bay is that it is home to a shark nursery where you can see young sharks at certain times of the year. There are bigger sharks, and to see them, you will have to swim up to about 250 meters from the shore, where the seabed reaches a depth of 3-4 meters. You are more likely to find them near the eastern shore, near Sai Daeng Beach.
Sai Daeng Beach
It is also the closest bay to Shark Island, which can be reached in ten minutes by kayak in calm weather. The underwater world is worth exploring and will offer you a great chance to spot blacktip sharks or sea turtles that live around Thian Og Bay, Taa Som Bay, and Sai Daeng Beach.
On the eastern and western ends of the bay are good snorkeling spots, with different types of corals mingling with the rocks. You can swim east around the Cape from Gong Sai Daeng to Hin Ngam Bay (which means “beautiful rocks” in Thai). As its name suggests, the bay's seabed is covered with beautiful rocks with rounded shapes, and with the many corals, this makes it a perfect spot for snorkeling. Be careful, however, of the currents around the cape.
It is located in a beautiful little bay south of Koh Tao, with white sands and crystal clear waters for snorkeling and sunbathing. In the only restaurant on the beach, you will find good food and cool music; otherwise, there is nothing in the little bay except seclusion and a little break in the Thai hustle and bustle. If you are bored after a short time on such a small beach, you can find your happiness at lofty heights by climbing to a big vantage point behind the beach.
Scuba diving and snorkeling are two of the most popular activities on Koh Tao. Since you won't need special equipment or even a guide, snorkeling is arguably the most accessible right now where you can swim. Even children will be able to try! In addition, with Koh Tao's coastline home to many marine life and coral reefs, you won't have to venture too far from the beach to see what's going on below the water's surface. You can also swim with black tip sharks at Haad Tien (or Rocky Bay and Shark Bay), or you can rent a kayak and venture to the surrounding quieter bays where you can dive to swim with the turtles and fish.
Sunset at Mango Bay Viewpoint
Everyone loves sunsets, and Koh Tao is the place to be. Sairee Beach faces west, making it the perfect place to watch the sunset, and Fizz or Wind Beach are the favorite places on Sairee Beach to watch the sunset.
For the adventurous, it is advisable to watch the sunset from the mountain. Walk to the Mango Bay lookout and be dazzled by the fantastic view of Sairee Beach. It is also a great place to watch the sunset. The ascent will take 40 to 60 minutes from Sairee Beach; the return can be done in half the time! Mango Bay is Koh Tao's most popular viewpoint.
Hiking Trails in Koh Tao
There is more to Koh Tao than its beaches: the island also has a variety of beautiful hiking trails. Most of these will take you to a point of view and are therefore perfect for doing some sport and admiring the scenery. You can, for example, start your hike in Sairee if you would like to walk a little longer or start elsewhere, at Two Views, for example. This viewpoint is one of the most difficult to reach, but it will allow you to admire the magnificent landscapes of Sairee Beach and Tanote Bay. The Mango viewpoint is another hike you can take to see Sairee Beach and Mae Haad, or you can always fall back on the John-Suwan viewpoint. This one is more accessible, and it overlooks Chalok Baan Khao Bay and Haad Tien.