We first visited Koh Tao, Thailand in 2007. We found a backpacker paradise lined with bungalows on the beach. Back then, luxury resorts were minimal, the roads were uncrowded, and everything was so much cheaper.
However, we keep going back every year because it is a tropical ocean paradise with gorgeous jungle landscapes, friendly people, delicious food, exciting water activities and lots of fun things to do in Koh Tao.
Here are our Top 10 things to do in Koh Tao, guaranteed to turn your holiday into a trip of a lifetime:
A diving trip is the No. 1 thing to do on Koh Tao. This is one of the best places in the world to dive in warm water and see tropical fish, colourful corals, black tip reef sharks, and a chance to see the elusive whale shark. It’s also cheaper than most places in the world to get your diving certificate.
Boat trip around the island
We have done this trip 5 times. It’s actually our favourite of the top things to do in Koh Tao. We absolutely love this trip! You get to spend the whole day cruising around the island on a boat. Swimming in the warm water surrounded by the scenic panorama is so refreshing. The highlight is snorkelling amongst the plethora of tropical fish, sharks, colourful corals, turtles, stingrays and other sea life.
If you go on one of the bigger party boats, you will have the opportunity to meet travellers from around the world to party on with! Otherwise, you can rent a smaller boat quite cheaply for 2-6 people and have your own private escorted boat trip. The trips also stop at one of the highlights of Koh Tao, the stunning Koh Nang Yuan island. The 3 small islands connected by sand provide some of the best snorkelling in Koh Tao. Also, the short hike to the top of the hill has the best views on the island and is one of the most Instagram worthy spots in Thailand.
Sunset drinks on Sairee Beach
We’ve been to many amazing places all over the world. But there is no other place we have seen that has better sunsets! Thailand being so close to the equator means there is a very short twilight. In return, we see some of the most delicious, vibrant sunsets that we have ever, ever seen. There is a fantastic atmosphere on the Esplanade, and you can sit in a deck chair on the sand with your favourite drink in your hand. We highly recommend the Sunset Bar for the phenomenal view of the bay and Maya Bar for chilled music with afternoon DJs.
Party at one of the lively bars on Sairee Beach
After sunset drinks, you could move on to dinner at one of the beachfront restaurants. Then you could kick on to one of the seaside bars. There are fire shows and drinks aplenty so let the dancing begin… And, make sure you check out Fizz Beachlounge for dinner and drinks. It is one of our favourites, and they have the best cocktails on the island. And, they only cost a few dollars. With its chilled vibes, it is also a great place for sunset.
For the best bars and clubs (venues often change) just listen out for the boom-boom and go get loose with hundreds of travellers and local Thais all out for a good time. There is also the Koh Tao pub crawl if you want to get straight into the party atmosphere.
Relax in a beachfront bungalow with a balcony hammock overlooking the sea
There is nothing we love more. We can forgo the mod-cons of aircon and hot water (which you don’t really need when it’s this hot) and tv and pool. But we can not forgo waking up every morning to the view of the calm blue sea and then proceeding to while away the hours in our hammock on our beachfront balcony. There are not many places in the world you can do this, especially at the budget options available.
As of the last few years, there are now a few kickboxing stadiums in Koh Tao with world class trainers. If you love martial arts, why would you not want to be a tourist of this sport and learn it? You could even just go for a lesson or 2 of empowering self-defence skills to take a souvenir home with you that lasts a lifetime. There is a stadium on Koh Tao with world class fights. If you have never been to a Live fight, it’s an exciting night out full of adrenaline and excitement.
Massage, Day Spas, yoga/meditation
Do we need to say anymore? At the usual price of $10 for an hour, you can afford to go every day. On the menu, there are Thai massage, aromatherapy massage and foot massage, to name a few. There are also manicures and pedicures for only a few dollars. There are yoga and meditation centres too. One of the longest running is Shambhala Yoga Centre. Because it has an excellent reputation and lovely atmosphere by the sea, we would recommend this one.
Eat Thai food
Freshly cooked veggies and seafood with aromatic spices, there is nothing as delicious as these wholesome and tasty meals. We recommend Su Chilli, The Blue Chair and Tukta Thai Food for some of the tastiest Thai food. Koh Tao has plenty of great places with authentic non-westernised Thai food. Just make sure you let them know how much spice- none, a little bit, or spicy! And, make sure you order one of our favourite Thai dishes- Panang Curry. We could eat this spicy but sweet curry every day.
Swim, lounge, or snorkel in the warm waters
All you want to do is lounge, frolic, and get that healthy dose of vitamin D in you, along with the cleansing properties of seawater. This is what a beach holiday is all about. Sit on the beach, in the sun, in the shade, at a beachside cafe or on your bungalow balcony and do Nothing, except for a seaside swim when you feel like it.
The best place for lounging, with many beachside bars and restaurants, is Sairee Beach. The best place for swimming is Aow Leuk. It also has some of the best snorkelling on the island where you can see plenty of colourful fish and blacktip reef sharks during the right season (and there are also cute little baby sharks that are 40cm long).
Hikes and overland trips around the island
This is one of our favourite things to do. We love nothing more than cruising around on a scooter and visiting quiet bays around the island. All around the hilly island, there are hikes to some stunning viewpoints. Make sure you don’t miss the John Suwan Viewpoint. The view of the island from this point is incredible.
Note- The roads on Koh Tao are very steep and rough, and there are often accidents on Thai roads. If you are not an experienced motorbike rider, grab a taxi. Compared to Western countries they are cheap.
O.K. Here’s No. 11. We are adding in this one as a bonus.
Songkran is Thai New Year. We have been in Thailand for the Western New Year on December 31st and Thai New Year on April 13th. Even though the non-stop hours of fireworks on Dec 31st is a spectacular affair, we love Thai New Year for the sole reason that us travellers and the locals are all partying together. It’s a public holiday in Thailand, and everyone has a huge party. If you can go to Thailand during Songkran, spend it in Koh Tao. It’s not as crowded as the cities, and the weather at this time of the year is fantastic.
If you haven’t packed your bags already, now is the time to go to Koh Tao, Thailand. That way, you too, can come back to your beloved tropical paradise and call it Home.
If you would like to discover more of Thailand’s beautiful islands, read 8 reasons to go to Thailand’s Koh Phangan Island now!