Enjoy a virtual tour of Koh Toa, famous primarily as a diving mecca where most take the plunge and get their PADI certification. After all, it is one of the cheapest places in the world to learn to dive!
I was only here for a few days which sadly meant I didn’t have time to do a PADI course which is still on my bucket list, one day I’ll get round to it. The island is well known for scuba diving and snorkeling, as well as hiking, rock climbing, and bouldering. Koh Tao is less developed than Koh Samui and Koh Pha-ngan, If you are not interested in the party scene, there are plenty of quieter spots away from the crowds.
Sairee Beach is the most popular and busiest beach on the island, and spans almost 2 kilometres (1.3 miles) down the western coast. During the day there is a range of great restaurants and bars that allow you to sit on the beach while enjoying your meal. We even stumbled across an old Singer Sewing machine which has a connection to my home town as Sir Isaac Newton (founder of said sewing machine) retired to Paignton, building the Oldway Mansion. At night Sairee beach is an ideal spot to watch the sunset, have a drink, and relax. It also has the sought after palm trees you can try and balance on for that perfect insta pic!
We stayed right next to Sairee Beach at the Seashell Resort which is ideally located to everything within an easy walking distance. We were put in a bungalow about a 5 minute walk from reception, but this meant it was nice and quiet at night away from the busy beach area. It was a very comfortable stay.
Surrounded by the almost deafening noise of the Cicadas bugs.
One of the weirdest things you will undeniably hear or can even ignore is just as the sun starts to set you’ll suddenly be surrounded by the almost deafening noise of the Cicadas bugs. I’ve honestly never heard anything like it and it can last for a good hour before they calm down and finally shut up.
While your here you have to at the very least go out on one of the snorkeling tours. You will have two options when looking for a trip around the island. The big commercial boats or the small long tail boats. We went with Oxygen2 Snorkeling Tour, one of the larger boats. This does mean more people will be along for the trip so you get to meet new people. If you would prefer a quieter trip just you and your friends or family then take a long tail, the bonus of doing this you can ask them to stop anywhere as they can land directly on any of the beaches.
Koh Nang Yuan, a picture perfect paradise
Just a fifteen-minute boat trip from Koh Tao, at the northern tip of the island lies Koh Nang Yuan, a picture perfect paradise which is actually three small islands connected by a white sandy beach running through the middle. We spent an afternoon here snorkeling and sunbathing. There is a walk up to the viewpoint, but we had had a heavy night drinking before and no one fancied the walk, which was a shame in hindsight. It is about a 20 minute hike up a lot of steps and along the way you will have to climb over a few big rocks.
Getting onto the island will cost you 100 baht for the day, and remember that no plastic bottles are allowed, as they are only using recyclable glass bottles. So all beverages and food will have to be bought on Nang Yuan. For the low budget traveler, this island is quite expensive and many say it’s a tourist trap, but if you are willing to pay all the fees you will have a wonderful experience. It’s 100 baht to rent two beach chairs for the day, 50 baht to use the showers, 50 baht for goggles and snorkel and the restaurant is also quite pricey, being the only restaurant on the island it can afford to be.
There are many view points at various points on Koh Tao, but most do have an admission fee which is usually 50 baht per person. I didn’t get a chance to explore the southern part of the island but talking to some people they say it isn’t easy ground to negotiate especially via moped, it’s best to go via taxi instead. But it is well worth it with the Banana Rock Bar, High Bar, Freedom beach and the John-Suwan Viewpoint all places that were being highly recommended, so you should try to get to them and let me know in the comments what you think.
As for the night life, there are plenty of bars around, the Leo Beach Bar is one that I remember well. With the tide out they set up seating on the beach and have neon and fire displays some of which you can join in with. You have to spend some time in Baby Rasta, this is a reggae bar and it’s basically a giant tree house with bits seemingly being added with lots of nooks and crannies to sit and chillout with a beer. We actually came here twice. There is only one night club that is open late into the wee small hours, the downside is that it’s not walkable and you’ll need a taxi to get there.
Koh Tao, also known as ‘Turtle Island’ which is the literal translation plus its shape is also that of a turtle. Koh Tao is an island that’s part of the Chumphon Archipelago on the western coast of Thailand.
- The main settlement is Ban Mae Haad.
- Scuba diving is extremely popular in Koh Tao due to clear visibility, inexpensive pricing and the range of sealife to be seen.
- Koh Tao has a little over 25 dive sites to explore.
- The island is an important breeding ground for hawksbill and green turtles.
- There is a dominant Thai family on the island that owns several dive schools, resorts, and bars.
- There is also no department to clean the roads or other public areas, so don’t dump your waste on the open landscape. Water is scarce and electricity expensive, so don’t waste them.
Koh Tao was essentially uninhabited until the late 1940s, and it did not see its first resort built until the early 1980s.
- Koh Tao was once a detention place for political prisoners.
There are the variety of the accommodation options on Koh Tao from budget guesthouses to the 5-star luxury resorts. We stayed Seashell Resort which was right next to Sairee Beach and within an easy walking distance to most places.
A huge selection of Thai food is available, including lots of seafood. There wasn’t one stand out restaurant, they each had there charms. I didn’t have a bad meal while here. If I was to pick out one, the tacos from the Taco Shack were pretty dam tasty.
- Chalok Baan Kao Bay
- Sairee Beach
- Cliff Jumping
- Koh Nang Yuan
- Mango View Point
- PADI Certification
- Rock Climbing
- Scuba Diving
- Snorkeling Tour
- Tanote Peak
- A.C. Two Restaurant
- Baby Rasta (Reggae bar like a tree house)
- Banana Rock Bar
- Bro & Sis Bar
- The Factory Cafe (nightclub)
- Dream Bar
- Fishbowl (Live Music)
- Indie Cafe
- Lotus Bar
- Leo Bar by The Rock
- Sairee Cottage
- Sky Bar
- Taco Shack 2 (Great fish tacos here)
There is no car rental in Koh Tao. Your only options are walk, motorbike rental, taxi or boat taxi hire.
- Bike, hire a mountain bike instead of a motorbike.
- Pick-up truck services go from Ban Mae Had pier to the resorts and famous tourist attractions. The price depends on the distance and negotiable.
- Scooter, Renting a scooter is a great way to get around Koh Tao quickly and make the mo ensure that both the driver and any passenger is wearing a helmet. Finally if you are not sure about riding, don’t do it.st of a short trip. However, the condition of the roads are very variable and there are sandy patches and uneven sections of road surface which can challenge even the experienced rider. Ensure that both the driver and any passenger is wearing a helmet. See some of my tips for beginners here.
- Taxi, sometimes the ped life wont get you to the destinations where the tracks are a little to rugged even for the most experienced of riders.
Koh Tao can be reached by numerous ferry and high-speed catamaran services the later run twice a day or even the slowest night boat almost 5 hours. We arrived from Koh Samui, on the Catamaran leaving from Big Buddha Pier, taking roughly 90 minutes. Lomprayah have a pickup service from your hotel to the pier for 100 baht. The ticket itself is 600 baht wherever you book it.
- Ferry, Most like me will take the catamaran ferry from Koh Samui Big Buddha Pier to Mae Haad Pier.
- Rent a moped, check out my beginners guide here.
- Watch out for the fuel stations, they like to let the meter start at more than zero. The red fuel station on the road that goes up to the turtle is known for this.
- Haggle in the markets, especially if buying in bulk.
- If you eat the street food like the locals, you’ll be hard-pressed to spend more than 200 THB a day on food (maybe not even that).
- If you’re on a budget, Ham & Cheese Toasties from 7-11 are a great, cheap & quick meal.
- Beers and drinks are heavily discounted when purchased at 7-Eleven. Purchase a few beers before you go out to the bars and cut your night’s budget by a lot.
- DON’T forget the mosquito repellent and the Sunscreen.
- If you travel during May through October, you will be missing the peak season, and save quite a bit, even though you might catch some rain.
The dry season is from November-April and corresponds with the tourist high season. May-October is the rainy season with south-westerly breezes bringing rain in between the sunshine. Statistically, the highest chance of rain is during June and September (80% chance) with the lowest chance from November-March (5% chance).
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