How many days should you spend in Koh Tao? Well, that depends on many things, primarily whether you are a scuba diver or not. The island is beautiful, with many top-class beaches, so if you do not like the water pursuits there is still plenty to see and do. Koh Tao is the smallest of the three islands, so, if you are not diving, then three days should give you enough time to catch the highlights.
Koh Tao is part of a set of three islands, along with Koh Phangan and Koh Samui, in the Gulf of Thailand which is famous for its scuba diving and snorkeling. The island is called Koh Tao, but that translates to Turtle Island. If divers are lucky, they will see turtles on some of the more than 20 diving spots around the coast.
How to get to Koh Tao?
Getting to this beautiful Thai island for a stay leaves travelers with many options, you can catch a train/ferry from Bangkok to Surat Thani, you can take a plane to Surat Thani and book onwards accommodation on the island, or you can make it easy on yourself and book a bus/ferry combination ticket from Khao San Road, the backpacker road in Bangkok. Getting to Koh Tao has been made ridiculously easy in recent years. Popular overland destinations are available from Phuket, Krabi, and Koh Lanta. Minivans and buses will leave each day with Koh Tao as a destination.
Where to stay in Koh Tao for First-Timers?
For accommodation there is plenty of choices – you can choose the lap of luxury in the south of the island, quiet and secluded, or you can plump for a resort on Koh Tao’s highest mountain, overlooking the beaches below.
Sairee Beach is the most popular for accommodation and offers backpacker huts on the beach, alongside modern low-rise resorts with all mod cons. There are plenty of Koh Tao hotels and resorts to choose from, from the very basic to the serious luxury. There are also a number of beaches to stay on, from the main beach of Sairee Beach to the more quiet Sai Nuan and Freedom Beach.
The main eating and drinking happen on Sairee, with beach bars next to the lapping waters and palm trees, but other beaches offer the same chilled atmosphere and experience.
Blue Tao Beach Hotel is 3-star hotel, located within 1.9 km of Jansom Bay Beach and 1.3 km of Mae Haad Pier, Blue Tao Beach Hotel offers accommodation with a terrace and as well as free private parking for guests who drive. Guests at the accommodation will be able to enjoy activities in and around Koh Tao, like snorkelling.
Budchui Village2 is situated in a quiet area, the property is 4 km from Freedom Beach and 2 km from Mae Haad Pier., 500 m from Sairee Beach on Ko Tao. Good location, not far walk from the town/beach. Nice pool and rooms. Laundry service good and cheap.
Naroua Villas is a luxury hotel in Koh Tao, offers villas with a private pool and a wide range of services for their guests. The property is 1.4 km from Mae Haad Pier and 2.2 km from Sunken Ship. Samui Airport is located 65 km away.
You can check more the best areas to stay in Koh Tao in the post where to stay in Koh Tao
What are the best things to do in Koh Tao?
So, where does one start? Well, there’s really only one place and that is Koh Nang Yuan, or Nang Yuan Viewpoint. The viewpoint gives you the awesome view, famous in the backpacker community in Southeast Asia, looking over the twin tiny islands joined by the sandbar of Koh Nang Yuan. This probably gives you the introduction to what Koh Tao does in plenty – amazing beaches.
Mae Haad Beach is just down from Sairee Beach and is probably going to be your first port of call at the main pier. This is where all the boats dock at the slightly crumbling jetty. It is also the commercial center of town, featuring all the banks and shops lacking in the beach accommodation centers.
Next up is probably a visit to the secluded Shark Bay. This is where you will see black-tipped sharks very close to shore. It’s on the southern coast of Koh Tao and is probably best arrived at by a longtail boat from the sea.
Hin Wong Bay, in the south-eastern corner of the island, is another magical beach worth a few hours to visit. The bay is surrounded by boulders and its waters are famously that clear, crystal blue color which adorn backpacker Instagram accounts.
If you want a more laidback vibe, Chalok Baan Kao Bay is the place you might want to check out. It is famous for its whale music vibes and evenings playing guitar on the beach. The resorts are cheaper, more friendly, and definitely more laidback. However, there is still a party to be had if that’s what you want.
At the northernmost reaches of the island is Mango Bay, hemmed in by a coral reef on either side, the bay is one of the most famous snorkeling destinations not only on Koh Tao, but in the whole of Thailand.
Food and accommodation are plentiful in and around the beaches on the island. You can watch epic sunsets from beachfront restaurants and bars on Sairee Beach or sit in the hills surrounding Tanote Beach and sip sundowners. Of course, the Full Moon Party has spilled over from Koh Phangan and you will find many bars and clubs offering parties in and around the full moon.
There is an array of food available, from the more traditional Thai food offered in Thai restaurants, to Mexican and Indian. Koh Tao offers the full gamut of world cuisines.
If you go to Koh Tao for diving, you will find dive shops and dive centers on each beach, however, Sairee Beach is probably the epicenter with some 20 guide shops itself. As to dive sites? Take your pick. You will find marine life teeming wheresoever you choose. Day trip tours will take you to multiple sites, and, if you are lucky, you will see turtles (of Turtle Island fame) or even whale sharks.
Scuba diving certification is a major reason why many come to Koh Tao. PADI courses are taught via all diving schools on the island, from beginner to instructor certification. Prices are competitive because, well, the industry is competitive on the island. You will find some of the cheapest diving certification courses in the world.
If you are not into scuba diving, snorkeling tours are also very popular. Snorkeling is second to none. Reefs are close to shore and the marine life is amazing. Day trips are sold by all diving shops on the island, but if you don’t want to make a day of it, you can just rent your own snorkeling gear and swim out from any beach.
If you get bored by scuba diving, snorkeling, or visiting the island’s pristine beaches, there are a range of other activities which are often overlooked, however, they are no less worthy than what the island has become known for. Yoga is becoming a popular pastime, probably as an overspill from nearby Koh Phangan where it is a fundamental draw. All beaches with accommodation on Koh Tao offer early morning and sundown yoga sessions. There are yoga instructors on hand to offer the latest yoga classes.
Another hidden gem is climbing. Koh Tao has always been known within Southeast Asia for its bouldering, however, there is now a team of dedicated climbers (meeting on Fridays for day sessions) who are bolting new sports climbing routes all over the island. You can climb on the beach or high up in the mountains, and there is a huge variety of routes available, from easy beginner to the toughest advanced routes.
Of course, bouldering, in the boulder fields around Sairee, has always been world-renowned. Expert climbers from all over the world head to Koh Tao to try out the unbelievable boulder routes. Topo maps are available in town, along with the hiring of crash mats, in the activity shops along Sairee Beach.
There’s hiking and scrambling available, with a few mountains dotted around the island. The most worthwhile hike is john swan’s viewpoint on the southern tip of the island. The strenuous climb is rewarded with stunning views across to Koh Phangan and across the southern half of the island.
Day trips and day tours are offered for visiting many of the outlying islands, reefs and secluded beaches. Private boats, longtails and speedboats are all available to take you out and visit places you may wish to visit off the beaten track.
The main tourist season is in December and January when there are cooler temperatures and the dry season is in full swing. The rainy season reaches it height in August, September, October, and November. The lowest season to visit is during the off-season of October and November. Prices of accommodation will be lower at this time, but they can double during the peak months of December and January.
- Where to Stay in Koh Samui
- Where to Stay in Koh Phangan
- Where to Stay in Phuket
- Where to Stay in Bangkok
So, How many days in Koh Tao is enough?
Koh Tao is famous for scuba diving, but it is so much more than just that. There are stunning beaches, great activities and wonderful eating and drinking. Many come for a few days, but stay for weeks, months, or even years. The beaches are spectacular, and if you are looking for a small island with plenty to do, Koh Tao could be the best choice. Give it three days at a minimum, but the sky is the limit for the maximum.