Koh Tao is just a skip from the mainland via ferry from Chumphon. You can also reach this tiny divers’ paradise from the nearby islands of Koh Samui and Koh Phan Ngan – both extremely popular in their own right. If you’re in the area, it’s well worthwhile to see all three of these islands. If you’re a scuba diver, then Koh Tao is a must-visit; but even if you couldn’t be fussed with the remarkable underseascape, the beaches are equally lovely and relaxed.
In addition to being the main dive centre in Thailand, the island definitely has a bohemian twist, and attracts young backpackers and gap-year students, especially just after the full moon party on Koh Phan Ngan. That means there’s plenty of inexpensive accommodation and food available. It does have its upmarket or comfortable ëdive resorts which are popular with European visitors.
Attractions & Activities
Get a taste of what you’ll experience in Koh Tao with a virtual tour of Koh Tao’s most popular sights. We have all the top attractions and fun activities to browse before you go…more
Some pretty chilled and comfortable resorts are tucked away on Koh Tao, plus some budget backpacker digs. Getting here is easy with our thorough transportation guide to the island…more
Koh Tao guide – Southeast Asia’s premier scuba diving island
Even if you’re not a diver you’ll find this small island a lovely tropical escape. It has beaches that are never crowded and lovely white sand. The boulders that are strewn everywhere also give it a unique character and provide for great snorkelling, so you can sample the undersea life without having to take the PADI course.
All the same, diving is the number one draw of Koh Tao and you might find yourself feeling a bit lost if you’re not a diver. Hire some snorkelling gear and set out among the boulder strewn shoreline areas where you are guaranteed good visibility and some colorful sealife.
However, if you are simply after lying on uncrowded beaches, you might also find that the island is perfect as most people are out diving during the days. Koh Tao scuba diving is cheap, and PADI or other certified courses are great value.
It sure beats doing your training in an urban swimming pool when you can relax on a paradise-like beach after class, get plenty of sunshine and enjoy Thai hospitality. See our comprehensive Koh Tao tourist guide.
Dive courses on Koh Tao
If you’ve never taken a dive course then you can either do a single introduction dive tutorial taking a single day (but without certification), or take PADI Open Water I. The latter requires around five days for the course, and you’ll probably want to include some extra time afterwards for more dive outings. But this enables you to dive anywhere in the world.
However, it is not just novices which can brush up their diving skills on the island. Koh Tao diving operations also offer all sorts of levels, including instructor, dive master and more, and keep busy with experienced divers coming out for leisure and further instruction. Either way, it’s one of the cheapest and nicest places in the world to take dive courses. More on Koh Tao dive courses.
At night, there’s a great selection of restaurants to please the hearty appetites of divers after they’ve come in and had warm showers. The seafood here is top notch, freshly plucked from the sea and grilled at restaurants all around the island.
There are also good international choices from genuine Italian pizza to burgers and pub-style grub like bangers and mash or meat pies. Darkened dive bars beckon along with breezy beach bars – all ready to serve you well into the night. There are also dance parties and raves that appeal to the younger set.
The island is actually quite small, but the road network is basic and most visitors stick to their respective resort areas. Sai Ri Beach an Mae Bay is the longest and most popular seafront area, and is located just north of Baan Mae Haat – the arrival point and only village on the island.
Two pretty bays at the south, separated by a small peninsula, are also nice. Other isolated resorts are scattered around the island, while well-known Nang Yuan island – where some of the most popular dive spots are situated – is off the north shore.