Koh Tao island is amazing. That has to be said upfront. It’s my favourite island in Thailand. Almost every traveler considers this island to be one of the best ones in the whole country for various reasons. It has a wonderful underwater world, it has a really beautiful landscape, it’s chilled out and much more. A true dream for everyone, who wants to visit the south of Thailand.
Koh Tao island – A scuba diver’s paradise
Guys, don’t be suprised, if this post sounds similar like the love letter I wrote about Bali. I tell you straight from the start: Koh Tao island is my favourite island in whole Thailand – by far. And I am really not the only one, who thinks so. Koh Tao island is like the little brother of Koh Phangan, but it does not make it less beautiful.
I have stayed there for about a week, but I could have easily stayed longer. Some people want to spend a couple days on the island and end up to stay for several month, because this island is so cool. So, put it it on the top of your list from the best places to see in Thailand.
Koh Tao island – General information
Koh Tao island is quite a small island compared to others in Thailand. It has a size of about 21 km². You can get from one end to the other by scooter within 15 minutes. To see all the hot spots you need about half a day to a whole day. Koh Tao island is generally known for scuba diving, because it is the second cheapest place on earth to get your license. I tell you more about that here.
How to get there
Koh Tao island lies in the Gulf of Thailand. You can get there by bus and boat. You can not fly. Most people come from Bangkok by bus, which takes about 10 hours. After that, they take the boat, which needs about 1 hour to get to the island. In total it will cost you about 1.000 – 1.200 Baht/ 33 – 40 $.
Once you have arrived at Koh Tao island, you have many options on where to stay. You will arrive at the main harbour on the west side of the island. That’s also the area where you find most of the nightlife and hotels/ hostels. It is the pivotal point of Koh Tao island. Accommodation costs vary a lot, depending on what you want (more below) You also find all kinds of restaurants, supermarkets, etc. in that area.
Accommodation and food
I would recommend you to stay somewhere else. Koh Tao island has way better places to stay. If you look on Google Maps, you will find various different bays and beaches to stay at. I visited almost all of them and at every single one of them are nice hostels and homestays to stay at. I stayed in the south of the island, because most dive schools are located there. If you are German and you want to get a good school for a cheap price, then go to Big Bubble. The owner is a German lady, who might give you a discount for your PADI licence. I got mine for around 200 $ and my advanced for even less. The owner and her staff are very friendly and courteous. They offer cheap accommodation as well.
The more luxerious hotels are in the north of the island even though good ones can be found anywhere. Accommodation for backpackers costs around 7 – 12 $ per night for a shared fen/air conditioned room. But you can also get your own private room in a home stay for about 10 – 15 €, if you book for a longer term.
Food is cheap and very delicious on Koh Tao island. Of course you have to watch out when it comes to sea food (just like anywhere in Asia), but in general, all the restaurants are quite good and affordable. You will be able to live with around 5 – 10 $ per day.
Weather and history
The weather conditions in Koh Tao island are really good. Of course there is a rainy season from June to November, but other than that, it’s warm and sunny, because Thailand more or less belongs to the tropical area of our planet. And it’s not just the weather. Also the water colour and the water temperature are fantastic. You’ll love it! Different colours everywhere, an ocean like a bath top, up to 20 m visibility… so awesome!
Back in the days, Koh Tao island was a small fishers island. In 1933 Koh Tao Island was used as a prisoners island, because it had a relatively big distance to cover in order to reach the mainland. This kind of “island prison” management was stopped in 1947. Over the years tourism developed a lot and today Koh Tao island has more than 5.000 inhabitants and many, many visitors every year.
Koh Tao island – Highlights and what to do
Generally Koh Tao island has this really chilled out and relaxed vibe, which you can only really explain once you have seen it. But honestly guys, it is a brilliant island. It has this typical kind of style, where you only hang around, enjoy the days, go do some activities every now and then and just live a peaceful life. But still, there is some stuff you should have a look at…
Beaches and scuba diving
Koh Tao island is full of highlights. But first things first. The biggest highlight on Koh Tao island is probably the scuba diving. Koh Tao island has various wonderful dive sites and such a pretty underwater world. The water conditions are insane. You can even go diving without a wet suit, because it is that pleasent.
Besides that, Koh Tao island has many beautiful bays to hang out at. One is better than the other. I have been to almost all of them. Get yourself a scooter to drive around the island. The most known ones are “Mae Haad Beach”, “Sairee Beach”,”Aow Leuk Beach”, “Sai Daeng” and “Freedom Beach”. My favourite one is Freedom Beach, because it’s less turbulent and all the good dive shops are there 🙂
Shot tip: Don’t give the scooter rentals your original passport. If something happens with the scooter, then you don’t get your passport back until you payed a ridiculous price for the repairment. And sometimes the scooters are prepared to break down…
But anyway, another highlight for me is the lookout on the most southern tip of the island. It’s called “John Suwan viewpoint”. You have to park your scooter about a 20 minute walk away from the lookout. Once you have walked there, you will be rewarded with an amazing view onto two different coloured ocean bays. It’s an incredible view and my personal secret top spot on Koh Tao island!
You can also go on the Koh Tao island lookout (the highest point) to have a look at landscape from above.
Besides that, I recommend you to have a look at a small mini island called Nang Yuan in the north west of Koh Tao island. You can go there by boat or even by kajak. It’s not far away. And you will have a great view onto the surrounding area from the top of this island, which is divided into two small parts. Just perfect postcard material! You might have seen a picture of it before. It’s the most advertised spot on Koh Tao island.
Additionally you should also have a look at “Chalok viewpoint” which is not a proper viewpoint. It’s more of a lookout spot next to a radio on a smaller hill. Just stop at the side of the street and take a couple pics. It’s very nice!
Koh Tao island has quite a cool party scene. It is definitely not as big as on other islands like Koh Phangan or Koh Phi Phi, but it is still very nice. The good thing about it is, that it is not to packed. Still, you get the full package. Exactly the same what you can see on the other islands too. Dancers, fire shows on the beach, cool bars, small beach parties and so on. It is pretty good fun. Especially, if you want to meet people from other countries. These kind of festive activities are great for that, even though I know this is not for everyone. But check it out anyway 🙂
Koh Tao Island – What I have learned
Koh Tao Island was very important for me in the sense, that I taught me a travel lesson, that is quite important I think. It is not just a travel lesson. It’s more of a general life lesson I’d say. But I have to give you a little backround story on this first…
A dude (unfortunately I forgot his name 🙁 ), that I stayed in a hostel with (around 40 years old) told me his story while we had dinner at a small restaurant on Koh Tao Island. We spoke about how he left his home and started travelling the world in order to go on great adventures. He told me about his 20 day trekking through the Himalayas in Nepal, his journeys in Central America and so on. He said to me, that it was hard for him to go away from home and leave a lot of people behind. But he just did it anyway! Regardless of the consequences. He just had faith and the believe, that it’s gonna be the right decision. And it was for him, he said.
What I have realized
I realized that day, that
we all have a choice regarding everything
We all have a choice every single day, how we want to spend our lifes. Out time on earth. We decide, what we want to do with it. We decide, what kind of impact we want to have in the world. It’s our own choice, if we want to run around with a smiling face or a sad face. It’s our choice, if we want to work hard or, if we rather wanna chill out and waste our time with nonsense. It is all just a matter of decisions.
And each and every one of us can either take a similar path like the dude in the restaurant and make great memories or decide to basically do nothing worth while…
Want to know about Scuba diving in Koh Tao? Read here