Is Koh Tao Worth Visiting? 7 Reasons Why You Must Visit

koh tao island
Photo by Max Böttinger on Unsplash
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Laidback Koh Tao is one of Thailand’s most beautiful and most individual islands. It boasts stunning white sand beaches, a lush expanse of jungle, pumping nightlife, fusion-filled restaurants, and a world-renowned scuba scene. Small in size but not in character, Koh Tao is definitely worth visiting.

With its crystal clear waters and abundance of marine life, Koh Tao has long been known as one of the world’s top dive spots. But it’s not all about the scuba. Koh Tao is also known for its chilled-out vibe, beach side bars, and hammock filled beaches. Once you’ve experienced the easy-going lifestyle, you’ll understand why so many people visit Koh Tao and never leave.

Only 21km² this little island is small enough to explore in a day and awesome enough to stay for a year. If the name, meaning ‘Turtle Island’ doesn’t convince you, here’s our list of seven more reasons why Koh Tao is absolutely worth visiting.

Diving

Koh Tao is worth visiting for the diving and the chance to see turtles. 
Hawksbill turtle underwater.
Photo by Tom Fisk On Pexels

Chances are if you’ve heard of Koh Tao it’s because someone was talking about Scuba Diving. One of the most popular places in the world to gain a dive qualification, Koh Tao takes its diving seriously. The turquoise sea, balmy water temperature, marine life, and selection of dive sites make Koh Tao worth a visit for an underwater holiday.

The Island’s knowledgeable and well-qualified instructors can always find you a dive site to suit the conditions. Whether you’re wanting an intro dive, to get your first qualification, or train to be an instructor, Koh Tao will have the right spot for you.

Most importantly, wherever you dive, there’ll be plenty to see. The technicolor coral reefs that surround the island are home to vast arrays of marine life. The turtles that gave the island its name are sadly not as abundant as they once were but Greenbacks and Hawksbills are still a common sight around Koh Tao. Along with stingrays, eagle rays, boxfish, reef sharks, and clownfish. And it’s always worth a visit for the chance to see a Whale Shark!

Activities

Koh Tao is worth visiting for the snorkelling, free diving and underwater world. woman dives underwater with a snorkel and flippers.
Photo by Mari Martin on Unsplash.

If you don’t fancy diving, don’t worry, much of the incredible sea life can be seen without an oxygen tank. Snorkeling is a great way to view this underwater wonderland and you can do it by yourself from any of the beaches. Alternatively, you can book a spot on a snorkel boat for a half or full-day trip. Freediving is also growing in popularity for those who have the lungs for it. 

Kayaks and stand-up paddleboards can be rented from many of the beaches, allowing you to explore some of the more hidden spots. Or rent them in the evening from Sairee beach for a sunset experience you won’t soon forget. 

If you’d rather stay on land, take a different tack and head into the jungle to explore. There are hiking and cycling trails across the island and several take you to viewpoints with stunning panoramic views over the island. And if you don’t want to walk in the summer heat, rent a moped to explore the island on two wheels.

Nightlife

Koh Tao is worth visiting for the nightlife. fire dancer inside a kerosene circle.
Photo by Rich Dahlgren on Unsplash.

With the full moon madness of Koh Phangan right next door, it’s easy to forget that Koh Tao knows how to party too. But it sure does and you’ll find plenty of cocktail buckets and fire dancers on this island. And you’ll learn a new meaning for the term ‘dive bar’ too. In Koh Tao the dive centers often have bars attached, and they are masters of transitioning from the chilled after-dive beer to all-out evening parties. 

Once upon a time that’s all there was on Koh Tao, but not anymore. The little dive island has gone up in the world. You can still drink beer in a beachside hammock, play beer pong and listen to live bands at backpacker bars. But you can also drink your cocktails on a rooftop terrace, laze the day away with cabana service at a beach club, or tune into a House DJ until the early hours. 

And hey, if that’s not enough variety for you, well you’re in the perfect spot to hop a water taxi over to Koh Pha-Ngan to get wild at the full moon.

Food

Koh Tao, is worth visiting for the amazing food. 
Woman in a straw hat sits surrounded by cooking food and fresh ingredients.
Photo by Lisheng Chang on unsplash.

Food is always one of the top reasons to visit Thailand, and on Koh Tao it’s no different. As with the rest of the country, you’ll eat some of the best food of your life from mobile carts and roadside stalls offering the cheapest most authentic Thai food there is. Do not leave without trying the incredible mango sticky rice. 

It’s worth visiting Koh Tao just for that, but there’s also a surprising range of other options. International Scuba fans have been visiting this island for decades. Often deciding to stay and set up shop. Because of this Koh Tao has developed an extremely cosmopolitan food scene. Spanish, Mexican, Western, Sushi, and BBQ joints all rub shoulders with contemporary, fusion restaurants that offer surprising unique menus.

Beaches

Koh Tao is worth visiting for the stunning beaches. 
White sand beach cove with clear blue water and a single boat.
Photo by Matt Bottinger on Unsplash.

For a little island, Koh Tao has a huge number of beaches. They range from developed party strips with watersports, sunloungers, and pumping sound systems to tiny secret coves where it’ll be just you and the fishes. 

Most people head to Sairee beach, the longest and liveliest beach on Koh Tao, this is where most of the action, accommodation, and nightlife happens. And is also where you’ll get amazing views of the sunset. But If you want something a little more remote try Freedom beach on the south coast, fringed by thick trees with no buildings in sight. For snorkeling, you can’t really go wrong, but the deliciously named Mango bay for one of the top spots. Or rocky Hin Wong Bay over on the quieter east coast. 

With fine white sand everywhere you look and calm turquoise water surrounding the island Koh Tao is a beach lover’s paradise. Whether you want to chill in a hammock, dance in the sand, swim with the fishes, or read your book under a palm tree parasol, you’ll find a beach worth visiting on Koh Tao.

Climate

Koh Tao is worth visiting for the climate. 
stunning blue water and white sand beach with two traditional Thai boats.
Photo by Deepain Jindal on Unsplash.

Like the rest of Thailand, Koh Tao has a tropical climate, but it actually enjoys more sunshine and less rain than the rest of the country. With a short monsoon season only lasting October to December and over 300 days of sunshine a year, Koh Tao is worth a visit for any sun-worshipper. 

March through to September is perfect for sun-seekers, with temperatures regularly reaching the 30⁰’s. Whilst January and February are sunny but relatively cool with temperatures in the mid-20⁰’s on average.

If you’re not bothered about the sun and are looking for a bargain, then it’s worth visiting in the wet months. Many accommodations, bars, restaurants, and dive shops remain open all year round and their prices drop to match the lower demand. If you’re heading to Koh Tao to dive, the range of beaches and dive spots on offer means you will still be able to find a spot with good conditions.

Budget

Koh Tao is worth visiting on any budget.
Woman in a bikini swings on a rope and wooden swing from a tree above a beach.
Photo by Yoori Koo on Unsplash.

Koh Tao is amongst the most popular places in the world to gain a Scuba dive certificate, and a big reason for this is price. The sheer number of dive schools on the island ensures that prices stay competitive. You’ll often find that they’ll also throw in discounted or even free accommodation with the price of a course. 

Affordable street food and beer shacks are abundant meaning that your living costs can stay low if you want them to. But if that’s not what you’re looking for, never fear. A trip to Koh Tao doesn’t have to mean dive hostels and street food. These days Koh Tao boasts some accommodation that wouldn’t be out of place on its resort mad neighbor, Koh Samui. If you’re looking for a family-friendly complex or a private bungalow with an infinity pool, you’ll find something to suit on Koh Tao. 

Beautiful beaches, glorious food, scuba qualifications, turtle sightings, and a great night out afterward. For all that at a price to suit any budget, Koh Tao is definitely worth a visit. 

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Anita is from Wales and has been a travel addict since her first trip to Australia ten years ago. Since then she's lived and worked in Oz, New Zealand and Canada, worked many ski seasons and travelled widely through South East Asia, Morocco, India and Europe. She's a nomad, freelance writer, foodie, compulsive reader, tea addict and animal lover.