20 amazing things to do in Koh Tao you can’t miss (2024)

Dreaming of turquoise waters and white sand? I’ve put together a complete list of things to do in Koh Tao Thailand that hits all the highlights! I’ve included all the information you need to plan your very own Koh Tao getaway!

Plan your trip to Koh Tao

👩🏻 Best guided tours in Koh Tao

🏡 Where to stay in Koh Tao

When you think of Thai islands, you might imagine young backpackers or crowded beaches. And that’s what you’ll get if you head to Phuket or Koh Phangan.

But if you’re looking for an island that’s more low-key and less packed with tourists, Koh Tao is a great choice. It’s on the east coast with clear waters and less development and tourists.

I’ve been to Koh Tao several times, and I love it. I’m talking about soft, white beaches, amazing sunsets, and a relaxed, easy-going atmosphere.

Here’s my guide to the best things to do in Koh Tao, Thailand.

things to do in Koh Tao

Read next: 27 bucket list things to do in Thailand

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About Koh Tao

Koh Tao is a small island in Thailand, really famous for scuba diving.

It’s about 21 square kilometers and is nicknamed “Turtle Island” because of its shape and history with sea turtles.

The clear waters here are perfect for diving, with over 50 dive sites where you can see sharks, fish, whale sharks, and coral reefs.

Besides diving, Koh Tao has great beaches, like Sairee Beach, and some beautiful viewpoints.

Koh Tao, Thailand

Things to do in Koh Tao

1. Go scuba diving

Most people visit Koh Tao with one common goal: leave with a PADI open water certification.

The island is famous for diving because of the clear waters and rich marine life. Add to that the relatively inexpensive classes.

It’s perfect for newbie divers but also for professionals who want to explore Koh Tao below the sea. You can find many great diving spots here.

Become a certified diver in 3 days – PADI Open Water Diver course on Koh Tao (⭐ 5/5)

Koh Tao - Scuba diving

2. Go snorkeling

Maybe you prefer snorkeling? Koh Tao is also great for that!

The sea is crystal clear, warm, and basically perfect for finding Nemo and spotting sharks, turtles, and corals.

I’ve taken a snorkeling trip around the island several times (one time it rained like crazy), and it has always been super fun!

Popular spots like Shark Bay and Mango Bay have lots of fish.

Book here: Full-day snorkeling adventure around Koh Tao (⭐ 5/5)

3. Relax at Sairee Beach

My absolute favorite place on Koh Tao is the beach, especially Sairee on the West Coast.

Sairee Beach is basically the heart of Koh Tao with beach bars and restaurants. It’s also the biggest beach on the island.

The water is clear and turquoise and there’s a restaurant nearby that serves the best fried rice with chicken and cashews I’ve ever had.

Sitting there on the beach, just looking over the water, watching the sunset later on, and daydreaming – that’s paradise for me.

Koh Tao, Thailand

4. Join a movie night

One of the things I love about Koh Pha Nang and Koh Tao is the movie nights. You can watch movies in many restaurants – you’ll see a sign out front that says which movies they’ll play and when.

You can also head to Grumpy’s Sports Bar, which has a cozy little cinema setup. It’s got comfy sofas for just 24 people, so it feels really intimate.

The sound and screen quality are pretty good. Plus, you can order food and drinks from the restaurant and they’ll bring it right to you in the beach cinema.

5. Hike to John Suwan Viewpoint

John Suwan Viewpoint is where you’ll get the best view in Koh Tao (if we don’t count Nang Yuan). The hike is not too tough, takes about 15-20 minutes to get up there.

The path is a bit rocky, though, so good shoes help.

Once you’re up, the view is stunning – you’ll see Chalok Baan Kao and Shark Bay. Totally worth the effort.

Koh Tao - Beach (4)

6. Join a yoga class

In Koh Tao, you’ve got several yoga studios with all sorts of classes.

Doing yoga with an ocean view? That’s an amazing way to start the day. And if you’re really into yoga, you can even train to be a teacher there.

For classes, Shambhala Yoga at Sairee Beach is cool, about 300 baht per session. Or try Ocean Sound – they mix yoga with scuba diving.

7. Fireshow on the beach

Maya Bar and Lotus Bar, along with other spots, have these fire-dancer shows every night that are really something to see.

They set up beach blankets and cushions to chill and watch the shows from 9 to 11 pm.

Koh Tao - Fire show

8. Visit Sai Nuan Beach

Sairee Beach is the most popular beach on Koh Tao. But if you’d like to find a more secluded beach, head to Sai Nuan Beach.

It’s a bit off the beaten path, so you’ll need to take a short boat ride, drive, or hike there. The beach has this laid-back vibe, perfect for just chilling and swimming.

Not a lot of facilities, so bring what you need (water, snacks, sunscreen, towel.

Koh Tao - Sai Nuan beach

9. Go kayaking

Don’t miss renting a kayak and going snorkeling in Koh Tao. You’ll easily find shops to rent gear for a few hours.

Head out from places like Jansom Bay or Freedom Beach, just to name a few. Paddling and snorkeling in these bays is amazing, and you’ll spot lots of marine life.

Book here – Snorkeling Trip Ko Tao & Nang Yuan with Meals (⭐ 5/5)

Koh Tao - Kayaking

10. Watch the sunset at Sairee Beach

I’ve watched some of the most amazing sunsets in my life on Sairee Beach.

Imagine sitting on the beach with a cool Singha beer, listening to Jack Johnson in the background, a few people chatting at the restaurant nearby, and just feeling the peace.

That’s how Koh Tao is. I never get tired of this scenery or the chilled vibe.

Koh Tao, Thailand
Koh Tao, Thailand

11. Take freediving lessons

Freediving is another fun underwater adventure to try in Koh Tao.

You can sign up with schools like Apnea Total or Blue Immersion. Beginner courses usually start from around 4,000 THB.

They’ll teach you the basics of diving deep using just your breath and a snorkel.

Read next: What to pack for Thailand

Koh Tao - Freediving

12. Rent a scooter

Renting a scooter is a must if you want to explore the island. Also, there are a lot of hills on Koh Tao, so walking is not that fun.

The last time I was there, Thomas and I rented a scooter and headed out to explore the island. It’s only 21 km long, so how lost can you get I asked myself rhetorically when we didn’t buy a map at the rental store.

Well.. a lot apparently when your scooter goes on strike in the middle of I-don’t-know-which jungle. The result?

We had to lift it for several kilometers until a passerby told us that it had self-locked as a safety precaution. Apart from that, Koh Tao is easy to explore and a scooter gets you from one side to the other in no time.

Miriam’s tips:

If you decide to rent a scooter, remember to:

  • Look for defects so you won’t get charged when you return it.
  • Ensure it has enough gasoline.
  • Never give the rental store your passport or driver’s license as a deposit – bring a copy instead!

Koh Tao, Thailand

13. Visit Nang Yuan Island

Another reason I love Koh Tao is that it’s so close to the national park of Nang Yuan, which is heaven on earth. Because it’s protected, the waters are even clearer and beaches are even whiter than on Koh Tao.

It’s so beautiful here, and there’s a hill you can climb to get a panoramic view of the island and Koh Tao.

If you’re in the area, take a trip there. That’s all I can say.

Book here: Koh Tao and Nang Yuan Snorkeling & Lunch (⭐ 4.7/5)

Koh Tao, Thailand

14. Try local street food

If you’re looking for a quick snack, you’ll find lots of options.

There are stalls everywhere, serving up tasty, cheap eats like pad thai, mango sticky rice, pancakes, and fresh fruit shakes – the banana shakes are amazeballs!

Koh Tao, Thailand

15. Get a Thai massage

Definitely, don’t miss out on a massage in Koh Tao!

It’s like the rest of Thailand – plenty of affordable massages all over the island. It’s a great way to relax, especially on a rainy day – or any day, really!

Expect to pay around 200-300 THB for an hour. Totally worth it!

16. Sunset SUP

Looking for the best place to go for a stand-up paddle board? That’s in Sairee Beach.

Getting a SUP for sunset is a fabulous Koh Tao activity when the sea is calm. Get some beers at the supermarket, rent a SUP for an hour or two, paddle out, and chill on the water while the sun is setting on the horizon!

17. Try night diving

You can also go night diving.

Loads of dive shops offer night dives where you can see the ocean in a whole new way, like bioluminescent plankton and nocturnal sea creatures.

Costs vary but expect to pay a bit more than a day dive.

Koh Tao - Night Diving

18. Explore the jungle

Hitting the jungle trails in Koh Tao is pretty awesome. There are paths taking you to hidden beaches and amazing viewpoints.

It doesn’t cost anything, but sturdy shoes and water are must-haves. Keep an eye out for wildlife, like lizards, snakes, and tropical birds.

Koh Tao, Thailand

19. Try Thai Boxing

Want to try something fun? Take a Muay Thai class!

There are two main spots for it: Island Muay Thai and Monsoon Gym & Fight Club. It’s a fun way to stay active, especially when the weather isn’t beach-friendly.

20. Go clubbing till dawn

If you just came from Haad Rin, expect Koh Tao to be much more quiet in comparison. You won’t see hordes of people here as it’s mostly divers staying on the island.

The most popular things to do on Koh Tao is to play pool at one of the bars, check out a cabaret show, or go clubbing. Or all of the above.

You can find some really cool dance clubs, like the AC Bar Beach Club (They throw awesome pool parties at night) and Maya Bar (the perfect spot to catch the sunset and then dance the night away).

Koh Tao, Thailand

FAQ – Things to do in Koh Tao

Is it worth going to Koh Tao?

Absolutely, Koh Tao is worth visiting. It’s a paradise for divers, and has beautiful beaches, great nightlife, and a relaxed vibe. Plus, it’s not as crowded as some other Thai islands.

Is Koh Tao safe?

I understand why you might ask about safety in Koh Tao, especially after the tragic murders and series of suspicious deaths in recent years.

It’s important to remember that these incidents were unusual and not reflective of everyday life on the island. Thousands of visitors have a safe trip to Koh Tao each month.

When that’s said – you should always be cautious at night, don’t walk alone, and always trust your instincts!

I can only say that I have always felt safe there, but if you don’t want to risk it, there are hundreds of other great islands in Thailand.

How many days should I spend in Koh Tao?

Spend at least 3 to 4 days in Koh Tao to enjoy diving, explore the beaches, and soak in the island vibe.

If you’re into diving or just want to relax more, a week would be ideal.

Is Ko Tao very touristy?

Koh Tao is touristy, especially for diving, but it’s less crowded than islands like Phuket or Koh Phi Phi.

Is Ko Tao a party island?

Koh Tao has a lively party scene, especially around Sairee Beach, but it’s not as intense as islands like Koh Phangan. It’s more laid-back and balanced.

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  1. The sunset and sunrise in Koh Tao can leave people speechless, seriously. It’s like a paradise with healthy food, wonderful weather and smiley locals. I never made it there, but we went to Koh Phangan so I know what you mean :-), similar experience.

  2. They really can and that’s why it’s my favorite time of the day! I’m going back there in a month’s time to get some of that athmosphere and food 🙂

  3. I agree with you this place really does look like paradise. I also love the way you say it is less developed/commercialised than more popular spots.

    It is amazing how a bad first experience can really influence our perception of a place. It sounds like it was right to go back and give this place another try, it truly looks wonderful.

    1. Thanks, The Guy! Koh Tao is definitely something special and a paradise in my mind. I believe in giving second chances and apparently it was a good choice in this case. If you haven’t been there, I would highly recommend you to. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

  4. So glad to read nice things about Koh Tao. I’m headed to Thailand in two weeks and am planning tp spend a couple of nights at Tao, but was a little unsure, as I’ve been to Koh Phangan before and really didn’t like it. It was all about the crowded parties and didn’t feel at all like Thailand. Koh Tao seemed more promising to me, and now after reading your article I’m really looking forward to my visit and all the diving and sunbathing I plan to do!

    1. I’m so glad to hear that. Koh Tao is such a relaxed and chilled island – by far my favorite one in Thailand. You should stay at Sairee beach when you get there, it’s so lovely and beautiful! Have a great trip!

  5. Nice post! This makes me even more convinced to see Koh Tao when we fly from Denmark to Phuket in January next year. I have been mostly hesitant as we would be travelling with a 6-month-old. Do you have any tips about where to stay (Is Sairee beach ok? Does it have a quiet end far enough from night parties, yet still be easily accessible?)? Is the ferry ride from Samui safe enough later part of January? How can we best get around with a baby in tow? Hope you can help, otherwise, if is fine. 🙂 cheers!

    1. Oh you’re from Denmark? I might see you in Thailand as I’m flying there myself in January 🙂

      Koh Tao is a small island and also very quiet so it’s perfect to visit with children. I wouldn’t worry about traveling with a baby, and it’s very safe to take the ferry! The most important advice I can give you is to book a room/bungalow in advance. We usually stay at Sairee or close by, and you should be able to find accommodation around. Just stay clear of hotels and hostels near the harbour, because the beach and water is dirty. Have a great trip! 🙂

  6. Great article, you made me nostalgic. Koh Tao is magical, unfortunately the weather wasn’t great when I was there. Definitely an excuse to go back… 😉

  7. Thanks for the recommendation. I liked the post. I am now considering to go Koh Tao which I was earlier not. I would be there next month and hope to find good weather.

  8. Would you choose koh Tao over koh lanta? My husband and I just want to hang out by a nice beach and explore a bit, no crazy parties or scuba diving. Thanks!

    1. Well, in that case I would choose Koh Lanta. There aren’t crazy parties on Koh Tao, but there is a lot of diving and it’s not as big as Lanta.

  9. I also Fell in Love with Koh Tao! I was there 3 weeks ago, unfortunatelly only One Night but i will come back again. Greetings from Germany

  10. Hi Miriam,

    I really enjoyed reading your blog! I like to prepare before my travels and it gave me a lot of helpful tips. I was hoping you could help me deciding between the West and the East coast as i struggle to make a decision.

    I am travelling to Thailand at Christmas for 2 weeks with my friend. We are planning to spend 2 days in Bangkok, and then we travel (via overnight train!) to Chiang Mai for 5 days That leave us with 5-6 days for exploring the islands. We want to experience both the party side and the quiet paradise of Thailand. I love the idea of Ko Tao but I am not sure if Ko Samui and Koh Phangan are good substitute for Ko Phi Phi. What are your thoughts about those 2 islands?


    1. Hi Monika,

      I would recommend Koh Pha nang and Samui over Phi Phi any day. Personally, I think Phi Phi is ruined by tourism and there are many better places to go. On the East side, you can explore the party side and the quiet on all three islands. Koh Tao is quite relaxed and the beach is better whereas Samui is a little more touristy.

      Both sides are great, but if you decide to go West, I suggest visiting Koh Lanta or Koh Lipe. They are better alternatives to Phuket, Krabi and Phi Phi.

  11. Hi,

    Cn you stay on the nang yuan island? and can you recommend places? Same for ko tao? Or do you think tis best to just arrive and look around. We were thinking of going in low season (may/june of 2017)..


    1. Hi Tess,
      I don’t believe you can. Nang Yuan is a natural park so I’m pretty sure you need to stay at Koh Tao, which is just a stone’s throw away 🙂

      If you’re visiting in low season, you can just find a place when you arrive. I personally always stay near or on Sairee beach, which is the best. I don’t have any hotel or hostel recommendations, but it shouldn’t be hard to find. Just don’t book anything near the harbour, the water is disgusting.

  12. Your blog has saved my life! I’ve made a last minute decision to travel to Thailand and now I’m trying to get the most info as possible. I’m planning to stay just under 3 weeks in the south of Thailand and I’m completely torn between the west and east coast islands. I’m definitely not about tourism but I’m travelling alone (also a girl) so I do want to meet other backpackers. I’m mostly nervous about losing a whole day just for traveling between them. Is it easy/worth it to travel between the two coasts? Any opinion would be helpful at this point! (:

    1. Hi Kaylee, if you have have 3 weeks then yes, it’s worth traveling between the two coasts. It will take you a whole day, but it will be worth it in the end since they’re so different. The East is more laid-back and for backpackers, whereas the West is more touristy. Koh Lanta is a nice alternative (also very relaxed) and there are many small nearby islands with AMAZING beaches, perfect for island hopping. You should stay clear of Phuket and Phi Phi though.

    1. Yeah, sorry about that. I need to write down where I stay from now on! 🙂

      You should try and find a place at Sairee beach and stay clear of the harbour. I normally check hotels.com or hostels.com, but if you want a blogger’s opinion, head over to Alex in Wanderland. She basically lives on Koh Tao and has lots of tips.

  13. Unforgettable place! I was there 7 years ago, that time I’ve got OWD certificate. Amazing underwater world! Try night dive, then you will see stunning sunset being on a boat before the dive. There will be nothing between you and sun on a horizon. Clear beauty. I miss it. And this year I’ll show it to my son.

  14. Miriam, your blog simply made me decide where to head next for my holiday! Do you reckon if late July would be a good time to spend a week in Koh Tao. I have already been to Samui and Phangnan islands and loved every bit of things that both islands offer. I wouldn’t really mind taking couple of lessons to dive this time around. Would you have any recommendations for that too? As in a trusted diving instructor/place? Best Wishes from Down Under!- Saurabh

    1. Oh, that’s great. I”m glad to hear that, and you won’t regret visiting Koh Tao. I don’t dive myself, but you could check out http://www.alexinwanderland.com – she’s a diver and blogger, and she lives on Koh Tao. As for the time of your visit, well July is not the best time so prepare for unstable weather. It shouldn’t keep you from going through!

  15. Hi Miriam, we are thinking of staying in the Wind Beach Resort this coming January but we have heard there is a lot of construction work going on in and around Wind Beach at present. Do you have any idea whats going on there and most of all will it all be finished by the end of this year?
    regards Malcolm

    1. Hi Malcolm,
      Thanks for your comment. I’m not aware of the current situation around Wind Beach, unfortunately. But you could always send them an email and ask. That’s what I would do 🙂

      Have a great trip to Koh Tao.

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