Koh Tao Island In Thailand: Travel Guide & Best Things To Do

by David & Intan

Thailand has some of the nicest islands in Southeast Asia, and one of the most underrated is the island of Koh Tao.

Koh Tao has lots of great things to see and do. It’s the perfect place for scuba diving, island hopping, white sand beaches, and enjoying scenic viewpoints without some of the huge crowds you see at other places in Thailand, like Phuket and the Phi Phi islands.

We spent almost an entire month exploring the island last year, and it seemed like almost every corner of the island had awesome white sand beaches and turquoise water. Best of all, Koh Tao is a budget friendly destination.

Here’s our complete guide for the top things to do on the island!

How To Get To Koh Tao Island

Koh Tao island is located in the Gulf of Thailand, near the southern islands of Koh Phangan and Koh Samui.

There’s no airport in Koh Tao, so the closest airport is the one in Koh Samui (USM), which you can fly to from Bangkok (BKK) or Phuket (HKT). From the islands of Koh Samui or Koh Phangan, it’s easy to take a ferry over to Koh Tao.

Another option is to fly from either of the Bangkok airports into Surat Thani (URT) and take the ferry to Koh Tao from there. You can shop for flights in Thailand on Skyscanner.

Best Things To Do In Koh Tao

1. Koh Nang Yuan Viewpoint

Koh Nang Yuan is a pair of small islands right by the west coast of Koh Tao. There are several cool things to do at Nang Yuan, but the twin island viewpoint is the main attraction.

This is easily the most famous view in Koh Tao, and it’s one of the most scenic too! You can reach it by taking a boat from the north end of Sairee Beach and then a quick hike to the top of the island.

Read More: Koh Nang Yuan Island

Koh Nang Yuan viewpoint

Koh Nang Yuan island       Koh Nang Yuan viewpoint

2. Mango Viewpoint

This is a popular viewpoint near the top of Koh Tao island, with great sunset views. It has an entrance fee of 100 Baht ($3).

You get top notch panoramic views of Sairee Beach in the distance, along with the whole south side of Koh Tao island. GPS here.

Mango viewpoint in Koh Tao

3. Summit Viewpoint

This is a secret viewpoint with a tree swing hanging from a big banyan tree. It has a 100 Baht entrance fee.

We were the only tourists there! At the top you get great views of the south end of Koh Tao. GPS here.

Summit viewpoint in Koh Tao

4. Wat Koh Tao Temple

This is the only Buddhist Wat in Koh Tao, and it was just built in 2018.

The Thai style architecture is great for photos, and you don’t need to wear anything special to walk around or take pictures from the outside.

Read More: Wat Koh Tao Temple

Flowers at Wat Koh Tao Temple in Thailand

5. Shark Island

Shark Island is a small, rocky island near the east coast of Koh Tao, and it’s great for kayaking and snorkeling trips.

If you want to kayak to Shark Island, the best place to start from is Sai Daeng Beach since the distance is less than a kilometer.

From the surface, the island looks like it’s just a big clump of rocks, but you can do snorkeling or diving here, and it’s also a great spot to go for a swim or get some drone shots.

Drone pic of Shark Island in Koh Tao

Shark Island

Kayaks and snorkel sets can be rented at Sai Daeng, and paddling out is pretty easy on a calm day (it only takes about 15 minutes).

There’s a buoy on the island for tying down your kayak while you’re busy snorkeling, and the best snorkel spots are supposed to be in the rocks around the northwest end of the island.

This island may not look like much, but it’s known as one of the top snorkeling spots in Koh Tao!

Shark Island in Koh Tao

Drone pic of Shark Island


6. John Suwan Viewpoint

This is one of the best viewpoints in south Koh Tao. At the top you can see almost the entire island, with huge twin bays on either side of your field of vision.

It’s one of our favorite spots! The climb to the top takes just 15-20 minutes and there’s a 50 Baht entrance fee, but you can avoid it if you go early.

Read More: John Suwan Viewpoint

John Suwan viewpoint in Koh Tao

John Suwan viewpoint in Koh Tao       John Suwan trail

7. Ang Thong National Marine Park

This is a group of 42 paradise islands in the Gulf of Thailand, and it’s easy to visit on a private day trip from Koh Tao or Koh Samui / Koh Phangan.

The ultra scenic panorama viewpoint at Mu Ko Ang Thong (below) should be reason enough to go. You get to see bunches of mini islands covered in jungle and scattered out on the blue horizon, a bit like Thailand’s version of Raja Ampat.

It’s famous for being one of the best views in the whole country!

Read More: Ang Thong Marine Park

Ang Thong National Marine Park

8. Scuba Diving

Koh Tao used to be the best place in the world (by far) to get scuba certified.

Prices have come up a bit since a fixed pricing racket started on the island, but Koh Tao can still be a very economical place to learn how to dive, and there are dive shops everywhere.

Even if you already have your Open Water certificate, you can get advanced diving certs here or even do an underwater photography class.

Scuba diving

Koh Tao is famous for scuba diving (© Klook)


9. Thai Massage

There are massage shops on every street corner in Koh Tao, and prices can be very affordable, at 300 Baht ($10 USD) for a 1 hour body massage.

It’s the perfect way to unwind after a day of hiking or diving.

Thai massage

There are lots of massage shops in Koh Tao (© Klook)


10. Thai Food

One of the great things about Thailand is the food, and Koh Tao has loads of restaurants and cuisines to choose from.

No matter where you stay in Koh Tao, you’ll be able to choose from favorite Thai dishes like Pad Thai, Tom Yum Goong, and Pad Krapow.

You can even take a cooking class if you want to learn how to make them yourself!

Thai food

Thai food is my favorite (© Klook)


West Koh Tao Beaches

11. Sairee Beach

Sairee Beach is the biggest and most popular beach on Koh Tao island. If you’re looking for white sand, lazy palm trees, and a great place to watch the sunset, this is the place to go!

It’s lined with good restaurants, hotels, dive shops, and more. It’s also popular for volleyball and swimming, although the snorkeling here is not as good as some other spots on the island.

One of the best picture spots is the unique bent palm tree on the beach. It’s great for photo ops, and Sairee is a good sunset beach, so you’ll want to stay here until dark.

Sairee Beach Koh Tao

Sairee Beach in Koh Tao

Sairee Beach is where the boat taxis hang out, and it’s where most trips to Nang Yuan island start from.

This beach is located on the west side of Koh Tao island. It’s just a short walk from Mae Haad Pier, the main pier on Koh Tao where all the ferry boats arrive.


12. Sai Nuan Beach

This beach is one of the more secluded places in the island, and it’s never crowded at all, so it’s a great spot for hanging out on the sand under some lazy palms.

Sai Nuan is actually split into two separate beaches. Both are nice and worth a visit! You can walk between them on a short trail through the palm trees, or you can swim or kayak between them in just a few minutes.

It’s a nice area for kayaking and snorkeling, and you could use it as a good base for paddling to other nearby spots like Jansom Bay, Tao Thong Bay, and June Juea Beach.

Sai Nuan is just a 15 minute drive from the main pier and tourist areas at Sairee Beach. The road is well paved but very steep, so it can be a little tricky on a scooter if you don’t get up to speed first.

BONUS: On the drive to Sai Nuan, there’s a small pull-off spot in the palm trees where you can get a great view of Koh Tao’s coastline!

Sai Nuan Beach

Sai Nuan Beach


13. Koh Nang Yuan Beach

Koh Nang Yuan is a pair of small islands right next to the west coast of Koh Tao.

There are several cool things to do at Nang Yuan. The famous viewpoint is the main attraction, but the sandbar connecting the islands also makes a nice place for tanning or swimming.

It’s definitely one of the best things to do in Koh Tao!

Read More: Koh Nang Yuan Beach

Koh Nang Yuan Beach in Koh Tao

South Koh Tao Beaches

14. Freedom Beach

Freedom Beach Koh Tao is one of the most popular and beautiful beaches on the south end of Koh Tao island.

It’s super easy to reach, and there are lots of great opportunities here for chilling, snorkeling, kayaking, and just taking some amazing photos of the tropical scenery.

There are two little beaches here and you can walk between them on a short trail through the trees, or you can kayak between them in just a few minutes.

This area is very popular for kayaking, and you could use it as a good base for paddling to other nearby bays and beaches like Chalok Baan Kao, Taa Toh Bay, and even Shark Bay.

Freedom Beach is a 15 minute drive from the main pier and tourist areas at Sairee Beach. There’s a small entrance fee for the beach, but you can usually avoid it and get in free if you go there in the morning.

Freedom Beach Koh Tao

Freedom Beach

Freedom Beach Drone

Giant boulders and turquoise water at Freedom Beach


15. Taa Toh Bay

Taa Toh Beach is one of the less known spots on the south end of the island, but it’s a great place to unwind and pull up a sunbed or sip a drink, and since it’s facing west it makes a great sunset beach too.

This spot is great for sunbathing, snorkeling, and kayaking, and there are even a couple of volleyball nets set up.

Taa Toh has a small boardwalk connecting it to Freedom Beach, so you can walk back and forth between the two easily.

Drone view of Taa Toh Beach & Bay in Koh Tao, Thailand

Drone view of Taa Toh Bay


16. Chalok Baan Kao Bay

Chalok Baan Kao is the second biggest beach in Koh Tao, but it’s less busy and more quiet than Sairee Beach because of its location in the south.

This is a great place for relaxing and taking a dip, kayaking, and more. The white sand is soft, and the water is shallow enough to make it a good beach for families with kids. There’s even a sandbar you can walk out on when the conditions are right.

Even though it’s a quiet beach, Chalok has its fair share of restaurants, bars, and dive shops nearby, along with a pharmacy and 7-Eleven. Since it’s facing west, it makes a great sunset beach too!

This beach is just a stone’s throw away from some other amazing spots like Shark Bay, Taa Toh Bay, and Freedom Beach.

Chalok Baan Kao Bay Beach in Koh Tao Thailand

Chalok Baan Kao Beach


17. Shark Bay

This bay has incredible turquoise water and it’s one of the most popular snorkeling spots on Koh Tao island. The name comes from the friendly black tip reef sharks that like to hang out nearby.

There are two beaches here. The first one is a long strip of white sand lined with palm trees. It’s managed by (and accessed through) Haad Tien Resort.

The second one is a little private beach hidden in the rocks near the bungalows. It’s very small, but the sand is nice and it’s mostly a secret beach.

Shark Bay Koh Tao in Thailand

Shark Bay in Koh Tao

Shark Bay is a great place for snorkeling, kayaking, drone flying, or just chilling by the beach. This was one of my favorite places for flying the drone and taking aerial pics of Koh Tao island.

The color of the turquoise water splashing on the rocks is absolutely incredible, and it only gets more amazing when you look at it from above!

You can watch the Koh Tao drone footage on my YouTube channel.

Shark Bay Koh Tao

Shark Bay

A lot of the coral at Shark Bay is dead, but it’s still a good spot for snorkeling with black tip sharks and sea turtles.

You’re almost guaranteed to see wildlife here, especially if you go further out.

The reef sharks are generally harmless and not interested in people as long as you don’t bother them.

Shark Bay

The water is so clear and blue


18. Sai Daeng Beach

Sai Daeng is a nice white sand beach with shady trees to sit under, and views of Shark Island in the distance.

It’s not the biggest beach on Koh Tao, but it was almost empty when we went so it felt a bit like a hidden beach! There’s a restaurant and a nice resort at the beach if you want to stick around longer.

Snorkeling here gives you a chance to see Christmas tree worms, friendly black tip sharks, and the occasional sea turtle. The best snorkeling is supposed to be on the west and east ends of the bay.

The road to the beach is a little steep at times, but it’s a good concrete road. Beach access is through the Sai Daeng Resort.

After you’re done exploring the main parts of the bay, rent a kayak and paddle out to Shark Island to continue the adventure!

Sai Daeng Beach in Koh Tao Thailand

Sai Daeng Beach


19. Ao Leuk Beach

Ao Leuk Beach is one of the busier beaches in Koh Tao, but it has perfect sand and turquoise water, and it’s not too remote. There is a restaurant and resort at the beach if you want to stick around longer.

The color of the water here is a unique shade of light blue, and it’s so bright it almost looks like Listerine or something. Sadly I’ve heard some recent reports about rubbish at the beach, so please try to keep it clean if you visit.

Snorkeling is decent around the boulders on either side of the bay, and gives you a chance to see some nice, colorful reef fish and baby sharks.

Ao Leuk Koh Tao Aow Leuk Beach Bay Thailand Drone

Ao Leuk Bay

Aow Leuk Beach is located on the southeast side of Koh Tao island, just a 10 minute drive from Sairee Beach.

The road to the beach is steep and rough at times, so you may want to park up the hill. Beach access is through the Aow Leuk Resort.

Ao Leuk Koh Tao Aow Leuk Beach Bay Thailand

Ao Leuk Beach


East Koh Tao Beaches

20. Ao Tanote Beach

Tanote is one of the nicest beaches on the east side of Koh Tao island. The views and snorkeling are some of the best, and the beach is never crowded!

When snorkeling around Ao Tanote, you can expect to see some good fish and corals, baby sharks, and maybe even manta rays. Snorkel gear and life jackets can be rented at the nearby restaurants.

If you need to get your adrenaline fix, there’s a big boulder in the middle of the bay that’s great for rock jumping. The height is about 10 meters (30 feet).

Tanote is just a 15 minute drive from the main pier and tourist areas at Sairee Beach. The road is well paved but very steep, so you may want to park up the hill.


Ao Tanote Beach

Ao Tanote Beach


21. Hin Wong Beach

Hin Wong Beach is hidden in an epic bay on the east side of Koh Tao island. Green palm trees and massive boulders line the coast, and so far the bay hasn’t suffered from crowds or over-tourism.

There’s a restaurant and some small hotels, but it doesn’t feel over-developed yet, and most people only seem to come here on boat tours.

The beach has a small strip of sand that’s good for hanging out, and there are kayak and snorkel rentals too if you want to do more exploring in the water.

Ao Hin Wong Beach Bay In Koh Tao Thailand

Hin Wong Beach

We had actually heard this was one of the best snorkeling spots in Koh Tao, so of course we had to go take a look! Sure enough, Hin Wong has some fantastic snorkeling.

While Intan played Candy Crush on the beach, I swam over to the south end of the bay and found schools of bright yellow fish, colorful parrot fish, and some great corals.

The best corals and fish seemed to be farther out in the bay, where most of the tour boats weren’t going.

Hin Wong is located on the north east side of Koh Tao island. The road to the beach is steep and rough at times, so you may want to park up the hill.

They charge a small fee at the last parking area, but if you park farther up the hill it’s free.

Snorkeling fish and coral at Hin Wong

The snorkeling at Ao Hin Wong is some of the best


Koh Tao Island Map

Here’s a Koh Tao island map you can use to plan your trip. You can click the icons to get more info and directions for each point of interest, but keep in mind some of the locations on this map may be approximate.

For more detailed information on how to get to each of the spots on this Koh Tao map, you can check out my individual travel guides for each location.


More Koh Tao Travel Tips

Thanks for looking! I hope you were helped by this list of the best things to do in Koh Tao, Thailand.

Don’t forget to check out my complete Thailand Travel Guide with free tips, info, photos, and more!

Where We Stayed

We stayed at a hotel called Aukotan Place in south Koh Tao. The price was $25 USD for a big double room with cold A/C, hot shower, and good WiFi.

This hotel includes free buffet breakfast even though it’s not mentioned on Booking.com. They also give a free daily transfer to and from the pier, and Sairee Beach, which was super handy, and they have scooter rentals for a good price.

The location of the hotel was perfect. It’s a 15 minute walk from Freedom Beach, Shark Bay, and John Suwan Viewpoint.

Prices may fluctuate from time to time, so just keep an eye out for a good deal.

Our hotel bedroom in Koh Tao


Our hotel dining area in Koh Tao

Pinterest Koh Tao Guide

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Sarwar Pedawi November 29, 2020 - 7:37 pm

This blog has made me desperately want to visit these beautiful beaches… ♥_♥
If my destiny lets me to afford visiting such beautiful beaches, I would go without wasting a minute!
Really nice blog post by the way!

David & Intan April 16, 2024 - 9:37 pm



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