The island of Koh Tao is located in the Gulf of Thailand (east coast) and is the small ─ measured only 21 km2 ─ of the three sisters Koh Tao, Koh Phangan and Koh Samui. Along with Koh Phangan, it is one of the most popular among backpacker tourism in the country. With so much tourism it is not surprising that the island has almost everything: supermarkets, ATMs, restaurants and bars of all kinds.
Koh Tao stands out for being the ideal place to go diving, thanks to the prices and the quality of the courses offered. Another great advantage of this island is that it hardly rains in July and August, which means that during these months it is high season (also in December and January). I was in a month of August and it did not rain for a day.
The beaches and main coves of Koh Tao
There are many beaches in Koh Tao that are worth a visit. They are, as it is usually in these cases, the most difficult to access. But I also include here the busiest and tourist.
The three most famous:
1) Mae Haad Beach: The main beach to which the boats arrive. Here there is everything in terms of services but it is not a good place to stay.
2) Sairee Beach: The largest beach (only 2km north of Mae Haad). It is a long beach full of guest houses, resorts and restaurants. Quite noisy, hot water and not too pretty, although many come there to watch the sunset.
3) Chalok Baan Kao: The third most important beach, located to the south of the island. It also has many hostels and services of all kinds but is much quieter than Sairee. Many Spaniards stay in this part of the island. Of course, the shallow depth of its waters means that to bathe with depth you have to walk a lot with the water at the ankles, and the fine sand under its waters causes a sensation similar to walking on mud in some sections. A recommended accommodation for more affluent pockets is the Koh Tao Resort (€ 36 per room).
Disappointed? Quiet … the best places to bathe are the coves in the surroundings. Some can be visited with the motorcycle or taxi, although for others it is better to wear a pair of good sports.
Freedom beach: A few meters from Chalok, you will find this calm and easily accessible cove. It can be reached by motorcycle or walking without problems.
Thian Og Bay (Shark Bay): My favorite beach. It is not far from Chalok. It is a beautiful white sand beach in a beautiful bay famous for good snorkeling. Here you will find 3 resorts, including 2 of the best on the island: The Haad Tien Beach resort and The Beach Club by Haadtien.
Ao Leuk: This beautiful beach will delight those looking for calm waters and beautiful surroundings. It is also an ideal place to snorkel on your own. It can be accessed by motorcycle, although the route is complicated, with dirt roads and steep slopes, and requires more expertise on the part of the driver.
Tanote Bay: With an imperial rock coming out of its waters (which you can climb through a rope and from which you can throw yourself to the sea from 4 or 5 meters high), this beach is also an ideal place to get some nice views and do a little Snorkling. Access by motorcycle is easy, although you will find some difficult costs.
Sai Daeng Beach The beach, quite beautiful, is the ideal place to get closer to see the underwater life of the Shark Bay, a small islet a few meters from deistancia that should not scare you by name, although it is true that of many other animals, you can see little sharks much more scary than you.
Mao Bay, Mango Bay and Hin Wong Pinnacle: The difficult access to these beaches (it is recommended to walk and leave the motorcycle parked) is the key to your visit. Little people and clean waters to practice snorkeling.
Banana Rock: Again without a motorcycle (yes, you can!), we highly recommend a visit to this beach on the east side of the island. A route from the Chalok through paths and through some other resort will allow you to go knowing small coves (mostly rocky) to reach this quiet beach where your visit should not end. If you enter through a resort that is on the far right of the beach (looking towards the sea) you will arrive at another small beach where there are swings between palm trees, fine sand, clean waters and even a piece of grass where you can leave your towel.
Nang yuang Island: One of the great attractions of Koh Tao are the three islands that form Nang yuang. The photo that these islands offer is one that is always in the catalogs of trips to Thailand along with the image of Maya Beach (Koh Phi Phi). And it is that these three islands form the typical landscape of tropical paradise, with white sand and transparent waters. Being so pretty, they are also very popular and are usually full of people. You have to pay 100 THB to enter them and you arrive by boat. On the beaches there are long-tail boats (boats) that take you for 400 THB.
Koh Tao, The Island of Diving
This island is famous for being the epicenter of diving in Thailand. Its waters, full of animal life, are the tourist attraction par excellence of this small backpacker and submariner enclave. Throughout the island schools that offer traditional diving and apnea courses (a modality in which the diver dive without equipment, lungs) at very affordable prices have surfaced. One can ‘baptize’ with a single dive (around 50 euros) or become a dive master, passing through several intermediate courses adapted to all needs and pockets. There are schools that offer accommodation and diets to those who hire courses with them, and it is convenient to look at the reputation of the one that interests you the most.
There are several schools on the island and almost all are good. From here we recommend Pura Vida, where you can dive in Spanish, Catalan or even Basque. They have 2 offices on the island
A Day Doing Snorkeling in Koh Tao
If you do not have many days on the island, a good way to get to know many of its beaches is by doing one of the many snorkeling tours that many agencies offer. The prices, which range between 700 and 800 baht, include the material (goggles and tube, fins and vest) and food. The boats full of tourists will stop at different points of the island and allow time to dive through the waters of Koh Tao.
How to move around the island?
The island has a paved road that goes from north to south and a lot of dirt roads that reach the various beaches. There is the option to move in taxis (large pick-up) or motorcycle taxis, although they do not come out very much. Most travelers rent a bicycle or a motorbike (150-250 THB) to explore the island, although driving on narrow dirt roads and steep slopes is not easy. We recommend, in this case, take motorcycles of at least 125 cc. The agencies usually ask that you leave the passport.
How to go to Koh Tao?
By plane there are at least 3 airlines that fly to Chumphon and from there they offer you the boat to Koh Tao in the same package: Airasia, Nok Air, Happy Air and Solar Air. You can also fly to the island of Koh Samui (the only one in the area with airport) from Bangkok or Chiang Mai with Bangkok Airways and from there go by boat for an hour and a half to Koh Tao. This would be the fastest and most expensive option. You can easily find cheap flights to Thailand from anywhere.
To go nn bus and boat (the most economical option) you must first reach one of the two towns from which boats leave for Koh Tao: Chumphon ─ the nearest to Bangkok ─ and Suratthani ─ most suitable for Phuket or Krabi ─. From almost every city there are buses that arrive in these two towns. In Bangkok (Khao San Road), Phuket or Krabi there are many agencies that already sell you the bus ticket plus boat. As for example Lomprayah or Songserm. Watch out if you travel with Song Serm since there have been robberies on your night buses from Bangkok to Chumphon lately.
Another option is going from Bangkok by train to Chumphon and then taking the boat. You would leave Bangkok in the evening in a train bed and arrive in the morning to Chumphon where you could take the hour and a half boat to Koh Tao. You can book train tickets through ThailandTrainTicket