Koh tao is a stunning island in Thailand, filled with underwater and overwater wonders for sun seekers. During my stay on this pristine palm-fringed island last week, I uncovered some amazing things to do in Koh Tao which can be a perfect addition to your itinerary.
Table of Content
- Fun and Adventurous Things to do on The Turtle Island
- Dive to Uncover the Exotic Marine Life
- Climb a Boulder with No Harness
- Stay in a Villa Amidst Nature
- Chill at Sairee Beach
- Ride Around the Island on a Bike
- Unwind at the Freedom bar
- Hike for Spectacular 360 Degree Island Views
- Click Pictures at Taa Toh Yai beach
- Get a Relaxing Massage by the Beach
- Hike to Freedom Beach
- What to do in Koh Tao at Night
- Koh Tao Map
Fun and Adventurous Things to do on The Turtle Island
Koh Tao was forever on my bucket list and finally this month I made it to the turtle island. My cousin joined me from Bangalore and we had the perfect sister bonding time on this exotic island getaway.
From shopping to massages, beach parties to adventure activities with TravellerMates – Koh Tao makes for an epic island destination. Here’s my list of best things to do on Koh Tao.
Dive to Uncover the Exotic Marine Life
Considered as one of the top spots in the world for diving, Koh tao is indeed a scuba lovers paradise. Diving has to be one of the best Koh Tao activities and the number one tourist attraction here.
When I asked Bryan, my scuba instructor from La bombona diving about the rising popularity of Koh Tao as a diving destination, he asked me where in the world could I get a diving certificate for less than 8000 THB?
So for a cost effective diving certificate or getting your ‘feet wet’ with fun dives, Koh Tao is surely one of the most sought after destinations for travelers.
I experienced it first hand when I went diving with La Bombona and I could see several other noob/ experienced divers on our boat (and other boats), garnering proof to the islands popularity. With over 50 diving schools and over 25+ dive sites , there is no dearth of scuba pros here. It is also a great island to find fellow diving enthusiasts.
My half day diving session with two dives was simply the best. My first diving experience was a tad disastrous so when I visited Coron in Philippines for ship wreck diving, I instantly got cold feet. This time, in Koh Tao, I promised myself I wont lose my nerve and get over my initial apprehensions. I discussed this openly with my instructor Bryan and he made me feel at ease by understanding my fears and appreciating my courage and will to give it another shot.
Bryan treated me like a total beginner, which I appreciated as my first lesson, 3 years ago, was quite hazy in my head. We went through theory briefing and later practiced a lot on the beach. When I was confident, we headed off in deeper waters into our first dive site – Mango Bay.
For a while, I had trouble equalizing but I quickly got over it and started enjoying the marine life.
After a fun filled 60 mins at Mango Bay, we headed to dive site number two – Japanese Gardens, which also happens to be one of the top dive sites of Koh Tao.
Nervous and excited (surely more confident), I dove for the second time that day. Needless to say, this was much ‘smoother’ with no hiccups/ equalizing issues during the dive.
My top two marine sights of this day were spotting the exotic Moray Eel and a school of Yellowtail barracuda.
Apart from that, trigger fish, angel fish and several others were common sights, while we swam carefully to avoid stepping over sea urchins and corals.
Diving should surely be your top most activity to try in the turtle island. You simply cannot be in Koh Tao and not dive – it’s that simple!
Where to book your diving session or certification
La Bombona Diving cafe in Koh Tao would be my choice just because I met the owner and other instructors and everyone seemed friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. Even with my initial apprehensions, Bryan put me at ease instantly and made me look forward to my diving experience. Click here to book your diving adventure with La Bombona.
Climb a Boulder with No Harness
This was never on my Koh tao things to do list, to be honest. I mean, I have heard of rock climbing in Krabi but didn’t even know there was a Koh Tao Climbing Project in existence.
As an almost complete beginner to climbing, I decided to start with bouldering but it turned out to be more challenging than the former. I mean, no harness or ropes – come on, what was I thinking?
Dan from the Climbing Project was our instructor that day and took us out in a field full of boulders. I took one look at the first one and went “No way”. There were no foot/ hand holds in sight and all we provided with were shoes and chalk (To wipe sweat off our hands).
At first, all I could think of was “What if I try.. and fall“…but then, isn’t it the same mantra in life – Do you stop trying just because you are scared to fail?
HELL NO! I knew I had to do this.
As Dan did a quick demo and explained how its all about overpowering your mind and just climbing – believing in yourself and finding your grip, balancing and strength. I listened attentively and then decided to reluctantly give it a go.
As expected, I failed, miserably.
As soon as I attempted my first climb, I fell. Dan tried to save me from a bad fall and ended up falling too… well, at least I had a soft landing.
Jokes apart, this made me more determined than ever to conquer that boulder. You can see I am not a big fan of giving up or failure.
So, I made up my mind and told Dan as well – I am gonna do this!! Determined, I simply decided to trust myself and climb. Dan prompted instructions as I am sure he didn’t want to be my cushion again. After a few long minutes I was on top of that rock – I did it!
Adrenaline pumping, I was ready for the next boulder.
After three, I was tired and all drained of energy. All I could think of was grabbing a cold beer and chilling at the beach.
Bouldering was a LOT of fun and Dan was extremely supportive, friendly and encouraging throughout (well, he did burst out laughing when I clung to the third boulder to avoid a fall but hey in all fairness – who does that?? lol).
I would totally recommend a rock climbing or bouldering session with the boys at the Climbing project for a adventure filled day out.
Where to Book your Bouldering Lesson
Book via TravellerMates for best deals. This site is simply brilliant. The more friends that tag along on your adventures, the better deals you get. Even if we travel solo, we end up making friends, right? So get your travel buds along and receive upto 40% off on your bouldering session in Koh Tao (and other activities around the islands).
Stay in a Villa Amidst Nature
Ever stayed in a jungle villa? Well, at La Cigale they call it the garden villa but trust me it’s like living in a forest – in complete luxury and comfort. How amazing is that?
As soon as we entered our villa at La Cigale, we were swooned. My cousin and I were both jumping with joy like kids at Disney land. This huge two floor villa was going to be our home for next five days – Whatttt? We had to pinch ourselves – we were in heaven.
Don’t believe me? Check out this video walk through –
Instinctively, we decided we won’t even step out of our fancy villa (Of course we ended up going out but even then we used to dream about the comfortable bed waiting for us and rushed back home sooner than we imagined).
The villa was as close to a house I had on this Thailand trip. With two lounge sofas, dining table, open air kitchen, washroom, huge bedroom, a hammock and several sit-outs, this place was 10 on 10.
I love being close to nature so listening to sounds of crickets, birds and geckos, having a squirrel steal my coconut or playing with the lovely house dog Cici, all added to my top experience.
If you happen to visit Koh Tao – You must experience living in the lovely La Cigale. If you happen to make it there, don’t forget to meet Andre – the wonderful owner of this quaint adobe. He can single handedly ensure you have a wonderful time in Koh Tao!
Chill at Sairee Beach
Wondering what to do in Koh Tao? Well, don’t stress if you don’t have a plan, you are on a lazy beach holiday after all. Just head to Sairee beach for perfect sunsets, grab a Singha/Chang beer, get a 300 THB massage on the beach or simply walk along and take pictures with slanting palm trees.
There are several food/ souvenir/ clothing shops all around Sairee, if shopping is your thing, or you can even opt to play pool at one of the bars. If you are a water baby, just grab your snorkel gear (or rent it for 150 THB) and jump into the clean blue waters for a under water session.
Ride Around the Island on a Bike
Yay for biking. Don’t we all love biking around South east asia? Koh Tao is no different with it lovely long 8 km stretch. However, be careful as soon as you enter the lanes as they can get really steep and rocky. If you have been riding a bike for a few weeks, you would be fine but not recommended for complete beginners.
Unwind at the Freedom bar
This turned out to be my favorite beach shack. Head towards freedom beach and take the right towards taa toh yai. You will find comfy bean bags, swings and low lying cushions in a calm atmosphere with reggae beats pumping the in the backdrop. If this is not your kind of beach shack, head to Sairee for more upbeat vibes!
Hike for Spectacular 360 Degree Island Views
With so many Koh Tao things to do to cross off during your trip to the island, hiking probably doesn’t even come to mind.
My cousin and I booked our super discounted deal for two via TravellerMates but due to a sudden thunderstorm, we had to skip our hike. This was extremely unfortunate as Koh Tao has some amazing view points you can hike to like Mango bay or even go upto the abandoned hotel in Laem Thian bay and fragile rock.
We were looking forward to our experience but even though we could not hike that day, we will surely come back and make it happen. If you are on the turtle island though, make sure you add hiking to your to-do list.
Click Pictures at Taa Toh Yai beach
After our missed hiking session, while we waited to hole up during the thunderstorm, we decided to drive till the end of the island. Basically from one end to the other.
That’s when we came across the lovely Taa toh yai beach while driving in the opposite direction of Sairee.
This beach was STUNNING.
We simply fell in love with the lovely beach..and the waters at first sight. Not only did we click a million pictures, but also gawked at the welcoming calm waves. They were so soothing and relaxing. If its even possible, I thought this was the quietest beach ever – pin drop silence and a handful of beach bums sun bathing or dipping in the shallow, wave-less, waters. Spectacular.
Also perfect for your IG shots with boulders, swings and less people. However in my hiking gear (Sport shoes and cap), I looked like an unlikely beach bum.
Get a Relaxing Massage by the Beach
Koh Tao is flocked by massage parlors, well like most other tourist spots in Thailand. The best part is all massage parlors here have fixed rates averaging 300 THB for a 60 min foot/body massage.
Another plus point of getting a massage in Koh Tao is the lovely parlors by the beach. If you drive /walk upto Fishbowl, you can find some amazing beach side massage options. Listening to the calming effect of waves while you get your Thai massage is the best feeling ever.
Remember most massage centers close by 2200 hrs so they won’t accept any guests after 2100 hrs.
Hike to Freedom Beach
Freedom beach is a small hike down from the parking lot when you drive all the way to the other end (away from Sairee). It is perfect for snorkeling so bring your gear and way quieter than the bustling Sairee.
That’s not all! There are many other awesome things to do on Koh Tao.
If you have time you can even opt to visit nearby island of Koh Nang Yuan. We initially planned on doing so but we under estimated how much there was to do and see in Koh Tao. Our tiny five day trip was simply not enough and I had to skip many things on my list (Like Muay Thai classes).
What to do in Koh Tao at Night
Before I visited the island, I presumed it was a quiet , pristine destination flocked by divers and island lovers from across the globe. A few bars and beach shacks lined the long white sand beaches.
I was quite wrong.
It is also a mecca for night owls.
Koh Tao nightlife cannot be compared to that of the neighboring party island of Koh Phangan (helllooo full moon party) or Koh Samui, but it is very much existent.
With Koh tao bars lining Sairee beach and plenty of young backpackers and party goers frolicking around at night, the parties don’t end till 2 am, which gives you ample time to enjoy your evening.
Play Beer Pong at Fishbowl
Fishbowl would seem to be the perfect place for a fanciful dinner.. until the clock strikes 11!
After 2300 hrs, the whole game changes and the classy tables and chairs are thrown out , to be replaced with beer pong tables.
Honestly, I haven’t even noticed when or how the staff do this but the change is so smooth and swift. Soon the bar is flocked with beer pong lovers playing on around ten different tables. With 2 bars and a small dance floor plus a DJ pumping out latest dance beats, its a good start to your night.
Dance the night away at BND
BND beach club is one of the better spots to party in Koh Tao. With great music and special nights, lovely neon decor and good crowd, this club takes the cake. Its usually not over crowded but if you happen to be there on a “Spanish” night, you will be pleasantly surprised.
Join the Crazy Pub Crawl from Choppers
If you are in the mood for a pub crawl (I still recall my crazy experience in Boracay), then head to Choppers bar and grill at Sairee to get the party started.
Lounge at Fizz
Sunset cocktails at Fizz absolutely needs to be on your Koh tao bucketlist. This lounge bar plays chill music, has a warm cozy and chic decor and attracts a decent crowd. If you are looking for a quiet, elegant, evening, head to Fizz.
Watch Fire Show at Lotus Bar
This has to be one of the most popular things to do in Koh tao at night. The place is frequented by all sorts of travelers from families to backpackers, all enjoying the best fire show in Koh Tao. The staff is super friendly and if you go early, you can get the nice cushions/ bean bags on the beach. If you are late, you simply have to settle for beach tables or heck – the beach! Grab a beer and enjoy the show or click pictures with the famous tilted (almost horizontal) palm tree here.
Other places worth checking out for Koh Tao Nightlife lovers are Leo (for free neon body paint), Victor (Pool table, beach shack), High Bar, Natural high & few roadside bars like Coco and the occasional beach festivals.
Koh Tao Map
How to Get to Koh Tao
The easiest way to reach Koh Tao is to take a flight. This might not be the most cost effective option though. For 850-1400 THB you can get a ferry+bus combo to/from Bangkok. The rates vary based on time taken to reach destination as well as the tour company. We took Lomprayah high speed catamarn on both sides, click here for their timetable.
Note that if you travel on the full moon night to Koh Samui, Koh Tao or Koh Phangan (as its the same route and everyone flocks in that direction for the full moon party), then you pay a 200 THB surge. This surge applies during Thai festivals as well. Read my detailed guide on how to reach Koh Tao.
Getting to Koh Tao is easy but remember keep at least 2 days before your international flight out of Thailand. We were traveling just before the popular Thai festival of Songkran so not only did we end up paying 200 THB extra on the ferry but also our preferred ferry+mini van combo was all sold out. Plus, we got stuck in the big unexpected thunderstorm which was a near death situation for all onboard the ferry…but that was our last ferry out that day to make it on time for our flight back to India the next day. Phew – that was quite a “mis” adventure!
Have you been to Koh Tao? What did you enjoy the most of the island? Tell me in comments below and I will add it to my things to do in Koh Tao wish list for my next visit to the turtle island. I already want to go back and try Island escape in Samui and Muay thai bootcamp with TravellerMates – the island life beckons… yet again! 🙂