Of course scuba diving will always be the main tourist drag simply because it is one of the cheapest places in the world to make your first steps in breathing underwater. But there are more things to do in Koh Tao besides scuba diving! Since I have spent so much time in this little paradise I should reveal the list of the coolest Koh Tao things to do according to ‘locals’.
I have been diving a ton because I did my Divemaster training here, but since I was constantly suffering ear problems I had plenty of time to explore the island above the surface as well and these are my favourite things to do on Koh Tao.
Things to do in Koh Tao
1. Visit Koh Nang Yuan
It sounds funny but one of the coolest things to do in Koh Tao is not on the island itself. Just a couple 100 meters from the shore there are 3 little islands connected by a strip of sand. This unique scenery is considered to be one of the most stunning archipelagos around the world and is often published in books and postcards. Of course the perfect white sand beach is adorable and snorkelling is beautiful, but it is the viewpoint that makes this place among the best things to do on Koh Tao. It is an easy hike up, mainly stairs, to the hilltop to get that one picture everyone comes to the island for.
It is easy to get to the island. Take a taxi boat from Sairee Beach every time of the day. Don’t pay more than 250THB per person for a return trip. Note that the island closes at 5pm and that there is an entrance fee of 100THB., but believe me it is all worth it!
2. Hike the coast from Mae Haad to Chalok
What to do in Koh Tao if you want to get off the beaten path? This is a must-do! Visiting Koh Nang Yuan is great because it is a unique place, but this hike definitely one of my favourite Koh Tao things to do for sure! It seems hard to get away from the crowds on this tiny touristy island, but this activity will show you that it is possible. The hike along the coast is a footpath only so you wont see any traffic. It is accessible for every level of fitness. You will get to swim in remote bays, pass through stunning resorts, enjoy amazing views, see a wicked sky bar, and walk through a palm tree forest and skinny dip on a deserted beach!
From the pier in Mae Haad head South and leave the sea on your right side. Walk through the Sensi Paradise Resort and up to Charm Churee Resort. Then head down to the beach and reach Jansom Bay. Officially they will charge 200THB per person for using the bay, but if you just take a dip in to the sea, no one will ask you anything. A really cool Koh Tao thing to do is to float on one of the rafts that are hooked to the bottom of the ocean about a 100 meters away from the beach! My secret tip for people that ask me what to do in Koh Tao. Jansom Bay is only a 15-minute walk from the Mae Haad pier and this picturesque place cannot be missed. After hanging around here for a bit continue your way towards Sai Nuan Beach. Most people arrive her by taxi boat and at midday it can get a bit more crowded but when the tourists are gone around sunset this deserted bay is all yours and a great spot to take amazing pictures.
Just around the corner there is Sai Nuan 2, a less stunning version of its bigger brother, but famous for its Banana Rock restaurant. Looking for a place to smoke the day away? Here you can buy what you are looking for at around 200THB per cigarette! Isn’t this one of the best things to do in Koh Tao anyway? ;)
Continue your way uphill and walk inland for a little. Once you reach the top of the hill you have two options: on your right you head down to Tao Thong Bay and on your left you can see signs saying Skybar. Follow the signs uphill for 5 minutes and you will find a shack with a fantastic view. It is a wicked experience and according to the drawings I found up here I guess it can be a lot of fun to hang out in this place for a bit. When I paid a visit the place was deserted and if I wanted to I could have poured my own drinks. What to do on Koh Tao if you are not a scuba diver? Now you know! This is such a great island adventure, believe me!
Here you see the rafts floating in the ocean, paradise spot to chill and one of the most chill things to do in Koh Tao.
Take the stairs down to Tao Thong and you will get to a super small peninsula with beaches on both sides. This completely remote spot on the island can only be reached on foot and therefore is super peaceful. Walk a little further on a concrete walkway along the shoreline with the sea on your right and you will find a tiny beach simply called Tao Thong 2. There are a couple ocean front bungalows here and for sure you will stumble upon some older hippies that hang around here for a couple months a year. There is also a great restaurant, not charging too much at all considering the remote location. The food is lovely and the fruit shakes are my favourites in Koh Tao. Order a shake and lay down in a hammock, the ‘islandlife’ feeling wont get any better than here! If you ask me what is the best area to stay in Koh Tao I would love to send you here, but I would choose to come here for only 2 nights or so as it is very remote and there is nothing around, leave your luggage somewhere in Sairee Beach and come here with as less as possible and ask for a room. Walk-in prices will never exceed more than $15 for a bungalow on the beach!
If you are keen on continuing all the way down South to Chalok Bay viewpoint then follow the path through the forest. There is a line that will lead you back to civilization and you will get to the Pinnacle Resort. From here it is a 15-minute walk uphill to Chalok Bay viewpoint and end your hike with amazing views over Koh Phangan. If you ask me what to do in Koh Tao besides scuba diving this is the first thing I would recommend you to do. This coastal walk is such an incredible way to see the island and no one knows about it. Such an amazing activity and even residents often looked at me like... where is that! Trust me you will love it. Let me know when you did this! I would love to hear your reaction.
3. Visit John Suwan Viewpoint and Freedom Beach Koh Tao
All the way down south there is a little peninsula that offers one of the most stunning sceneries on the island. The area is only about 200m wide and 500m long but houses 3 amazingly picturesque beaches and one of the best Koh Tao viewpoints: John-Suwan viewpoint cannot be missed! It is not as popular as the Mango Bay Viewpoint, but this one is really worth the 50THB entrance fee.
Freedom Beach Koh Tao is a popular spot to sunbath and can be really crowded at times. The soft white sand beach and the crystal clear water draws a lot of tourists. It is a very small bay with only a wooden overwater restaurant at the end of the beach. This overpriced place is not worth spending your money, believe me don’t go here. They also throw their waste in the water, I have seen it with my own eyes! Freedom beach is the place where you start your way hiking up to the John-Suwan Viewpoint. A great place for a day trip and for the early risers: the sunrise here is a great Koh Tao thing to do in the morning.
Around the corner there is the less touristy Taa Toh Beach. To get here follow the concrete footpath on the shoreline. The crystal clear water below makes it an amazing walkway. In my opinion way better than Freedom Beach! Follow the path on the picture.
The third tiny strip of sand is called Taa Cha Bay. It is located on the other side of the peninsula and to get there you have to take the steps down through OK II Bungalows. Because it is located in Shark Bay you have to follow these signs down towards the sea. It is the perfect place to strap on your fins and mask and search for baby sharks; snorkelling here is considered one of the best on the island. What to do on Koh Tao besides diving is an easy question to answer now. Go snorkeling at Shark Bay.
If you are staying in Sairee Beach or Mae Haad you probably want to rent a motorbike to get to these places. Be careful renting a motorbike in Koh Tao, keep on reading for more about renting a motorbike on Koh Tao.
IMPORTANT! Not sure yet where to stay in Koh Tao? Let me help you find the perfect Koh Tao accommodation for you, keep on reading.
4. Watch the sunrise at Love @ Koh Tao
I am not a morning person at all but watching the sunrise at the spot above makes up for getting up around 5.45am. Hop on your motorbike just before 6am and head towards Tanote Bay. Just before you go downhill towards this beautiful bay there is a concrete road on your left heading uphill to the best sunrise viewpoint. The views to the East from up here are breath taking. On a clear day you will spot the silhouette of Koh Phangan in the distance.
Having a one-night stand? Surprise her in the early morning with one of the best things to do in Koh Tao and take her up to this romantic spot, for sure he or she will love it! And isn't it romantic? ;)
5. Sunset at Mango Bay Viewpoint
Everyone loves sunsets and Koh Tao is the perfect place to enjoy this daily returning phenomenon. Because Sairee Beach is facing West it is the ideal spot to watch the sunset. It is hard to deny the happy hours and the summer vibe tunes from all the beach bars. The beanbags at Fizz or Wind Beach are my favorite spots on Siaree Beach to watch the sunset but for the sporty types I would recommend to strap on your Nikes and head uphill.
A little more adventurous is to watch the sunset up in the mountain. Hike your way to Mango Bay Viewpoint and be dazzled by the fantastic views over Siaree Beach. It is an excellent spot to watch the sunset as well. Hiking up will take about 40-60 minutes from Sairee Beach; the way back can be down in half that time! Mango Bay is the most popular Koh Tao viewpoint. Wanna know all of them? Let me inspire you with the best hikes in Koh Tao.
6. Renting a motorbike
First of all be careful! Koh Tao is not easy to cruise around and many people end up at the first aid. Roads are terrible and scams are around but damn what can you discover cool places on a motorbike in Koh Tao. This is the best way to see all the hidden bays and cool places to see in Koh Tao, but be careful where you rent a scooter. Click on the link to find those places where you can trust the locals or rent a motorbike with insurance on Koh Tao.
7. Party on the beach
There are 3 major party places in Koh Tao and they are all on Sairee Beach. Head either to BANs Diving to listen to cheesy party music and Live music on some nights and mingle with hundreds of travelers playing beerpong in FishBowl Beach Bar, Lotus Bar for even cheesier music, but dancing right on the beach underneath the famous overhanging palmtree, for a more chill and upscale vibe go to next door Fizz and plunge in a beanbag. Click on the next link to find out more about the Koh Tao things to do at night with info about the famous pub crawl and where to find the best parties.
8. Scuba diving and snorkeling in Koh Tao
Last but not least I have to mention the number 1 reason why travelers visit Koh Tao: scuba diving! In every Thailand travel guide you will learn that scuba diving in Koh Tao is one of the best things to do in Thailand and that has a reason. Koh Tao is the cheapest place in the world to get scuba certified. I got my PADI Open Water in the Caribean when I was living in Aruba in 2006, but I lived in Koh Tao for a while doing my Divemaster training a couple years ago. That is also the reason why I know the island like the back of my hand. The scuba diving community is what makes Koh Tao such a laid-back island to visit. Dive schools create an environment in where people unite and make friends for life. Rocktopus Dive is one of the most fun dive schools on the island and with its central location on Sairee Beach one of the most popular places to sign up and get your dive certificate. This is where you will meet tons of other travelers. Check out Roctopus Dive here, you will thank me later for the recommendation!
Other things to do in Koh Tao
As you can see there are some fantastic things to do in Koh Tao besides diving. The coastal walk for sure is my favourite among the many things to do in Koh Tao. But what about giving Trapeze a try and learn how to fly through the air, mini golf, stand up paddle boarding at sunset or some serious rock climbing?
What to in Koh Tao when it rains?
There are not that many indoor activities in Koh Tao really, but may be you always wanted to take some Muay Thai classes, now this is your chance! There is also a crossfit gym and the best fitness on the island is called Gym & Fitness. Of course just like in the rest of Thailand you can find cheap massages everywhere around the island and getting pampered is a perfect activity in Koh Tao when it rains. A regular massage will cost you about 200-300 THB for an hour. Third thing you could do when its pouring is to try a cooking class. There are a couple cooking classes I know of in the Sairee area and if you are with more than 4 people you decide when you want to start!
Tourists deaths in Koh Tao
I dont want to run away from the facts. Yes Koh Tao has a bad name in the media! Did they scare you away from Koh Tao? I was celebrating my birthday only a couple hundred meters away from where the bodies of the notorious Koh Tao murders where found the next morning. Horrible! It's unbelievable and I still cant comprehend, but let me tell you my opinion about all the fuzz. Click on the link to read my story about it!
Where to stay in Koh Tao
Koh Tao has numerous options where to stay and new places are popping up constantly. It has never been an island with a lot of high end accommodation options and you wont find any big hotel chains here. New are the amazing villas in the hills that can be rented. Check out AirBnb for great deals! Did not sign up yet for AirBnb? Click on the link and get a €20 credit voucher! That is easily 1 night for free in Thailand with two persons, let your partner sign up too and you have already two nights free on your holiday. Plus you help me gaining Airbnb credit, one way for me How I Afford To Travel and it does not cost you any extra. Thanks for your support!
Important is to book your accommodation on the right side of the island, read all about in my article Where To Stay in Koh Tao and let me help you pick the right bay. Oh yeah and there is only one provider who has a 4G connection on Koh Tao, curious which one? Read it in the best tourist sim card in Thailand.
Or order your sim card for Thailand online through SIMEASY and get it delivered to your home before your trip. Click here to purchase your sim card for Thailand in advance through simeasy.com.
Examples of great places to stay in Koh Tao are:
How to get to Thailand?
The middle Eastern Airlines always have great deals flying to Bangkok. Check out their monthly mega sale here!
Once you get to the crazy Thai capital and you have seen the best tourist spots in Bangkok and did a Co van Kessel cycling tour then make your way to the islands down South. There are many travel options but according to me this a boat/bus combi is the best way from Bangkok to Koh Tao, click on the link for schedules and prices.
Island hopping in Thailand
In the 17 times I have been to Thailand I went down South to explore the islands more than 10 times, simply because I know it is always a good idea. No matter if it rains or diving is shit because of bad visibility I always have a good time. The island vibe on the Thai islands is unrivaled! It is all about flipflops swim shorts and an old t-shirt. It does not if you go to the islands on the East coast or the ones on the West coast: life down here is so uncomplicated and the cool thing is that all your fellow travelers feel the same. Meeting up with people is so easy and therefore I think Koh Tao is one of the best places to travel alone in Asia.
If you decide to go island hopping then this tool can come in handy. Check here for the exact prices for bus and boat tickets. Book online to make sure you have a guaranteed seat on a bus before they book out. Receive the ticket on your email, which saves you a lot of hassle.
Where to go after Koh Tao
The easiest would of course be to stick to the islands in the Gulf of Thailand, but you could also try to see the beautiful karst islands at the Andaman coast. Island hopping from Phuket is well worth it and the scenery is completely different, the vibe stays the same. There are not many island hopping tours in Thailand that will disappoint. Just make sure to not go to the extremely touristy beaches at primetime and you will be fine. Click on the link for suggested itineraries around the islands from 1 week to a complete month. If you are looking for complete Thailand itineraries than I created a post with 4 different routes that make you explore all of thailand.
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