Koh Tao is an Island in the eastern region of south Thailand. It is famous for its incredible underwater world which makes it popular with both divers and snorkel lovers.
The island also has a busy party scene making it a popular place for backpackers. But if partying isn’t your thing, avoid the crowds and go for a hike in the jungle or visit isolated beaches.
Koh Tao is reachable by boat only. You are able to travel from mainland and the surrounding islands.
On mainland the closest airport is Surat Thani, once at the airport you are easily able to buy a ticket that provides a bus and ferry to Koh Tao from the stands in arrivals.
We travelled from Koh Phangan via boat for 350 baht and it took approximately 2 hours on the ferry.
We arranged a taxi to our hostel for 50 baht per person from the port.
Summer house guesthouse and hostel
This hostel was set back slightly from the beach and main party area. This meant the walk down was a little longer (still only max 10 minutes) but that you had a goodnight sleep.
We stayed in private rooms which were really affordable when split between two and super comfortable. The beds were huge and the rooms spacious.
The staff here were also English and really helpful. They helped us arrange discounted taxis, offered tour advice and told us about the area.
We had booked a day ferry to leave the island on the 19th of December to head back to mainland. However, there was a hurricane heading to the region causing wide spread storms and rough seas.
This meant the day ferry’s were all cancelled between 18th-23rd of December.
The hotel staff got in contact with us straight away and helped us plan our next move. The only boat available to leave the island was an 8 hour night ferry to mainland. These boats were considerably larger (they fit cars on) and so were able to deal with the rough seas.
Travelling to main land
We were picked up in a tuk tuk taxi at 8:15 and driven to the port. Note it’s never a good idea to jump out a moving vehicle when you drop something, which is exactly what a drunk girl in our tuk tuk did. (Idiot)! Once at the port you are assigned a bed number and allowed to board.
The beds are small but adequate and it was actually more comfortable than some of the hostel beds I have stayed in.
The only thing that made it difficult to sleep was the constant rocking of the boat. It was hard to lay still due to the rough waters and I’m so glad I took a travel sickness tablet. The boat arrives on mainland at around 4:30am.
Exploring Koh Tao
Koh Tao is renowned for its world-class diving so we couldn’t visit the island without diving.
There are hundreds of dive company’s offering various deals on the island. But when selecting your chosen operator it’s important to make sure you consider the safety aspect as well as cost.
If not completed safely and within the guidelines diving can actually be a very dangerous water sport, so do make sure you do your research.
We decided to do our diving with Big Blue, they are highly rated on trip advisor, offer competitive prices and came recommended by a friend.
I completed my PADI open water in Malaysia in August so I was able to book onto some fun dives. Fun dives essentially mean diving with out tuition. You are always accompanied by a dive master to ensure safety but you are free to enjoy the experience a little more than a course and go to depths of 18 metres.
Simon (my brother) had never dived before and therefore he needed to complete the PADI discover course. This course is basically an insight into the open water course allowing divers to go to a maximum depth of 12 metres.
The cost of each fun dive was 900 baht (£20), whilst the discover course (1 day including 2 dives) was 2,000 baht (£46).
If you are considering diving I advise you to consider your medical history. Charlie Ann was unable to dive due to asthma, which was a real shame.
We both really enjoyed the experience, we saw amongst other more common reef fish the following:
Simon loved it so much he now wants to complete his open water course!
During the second dive I was having trouble with my ears, I was unable to equalise. This is sometimes caused by blocked sinus’s, the dive master was super helpful and stayed with me whilst I followed the guidelines.
Visiting Nang Yuan Island
It may sound a little strange but one of the coolest things to do in Koh Tao is not actually in Koh Tao at all. Nang Yuan is a small island just off the coast of Koh Tao, it is a registered national park, and it’s absolutely stunning.
We arranged a long-boat from the main beach to the island for 250 baht per person return. All sounds great, but what we didn’t realise was how crazy the longtail boat was going to be.
At first by the shore it was just little splashes of water hitting us, but within minutes we were soaked. The sea was rough (see hurricane reference above) and we were getting absolutely soaked. Water was crashing into the boat at all angles, we had to try to hug our bags to protect our phones.
When we eventually made it to the national park we looked like we had showered in our clothes and our eyes were stinging from the salt.
I don’t think it’s usually as bad as this, but just be prepared! Get your stuff in a dry bag and bring a towel!
There is an entrance fee of 100 baht, which you pay as soon as you arrive and there is a no plastic bottle policy.
Once in the park there are various view points to climb, be ready there are lots of steps, but it’s most definitely worth it.
Once at the top there is a little rock climbing involved and it was very windy but the views are stunning.
After all that climbing you are able to walk across the sand bank and relax on the beautiful beaches.
Since diving the day before I had been suffering with a pressure headache, and while taking a few snaps I sneezed.
At first, as gross as it sounds I thought that the warm liquid I could feel dripping down my face was snot. Turns out, it was blood.
When I headed towards Stephen and he saw the blood on my face, chest and hands his first words were ‘what has she done now?’. Do you think he is fed up of me?!
Muay Thai is Thailand’s traditional boxing and there are training gyms dotted across the country.
Simon paid 300 baht and did a 1 hour class with a personal trainer. It involved learning punching, kicking and blocking techniques as well as cardio work.
Along the beach lots of bars put on fire shows at night. Men dance with the fire, do limbo and get the crowd involved.
It’s a lot of fun, they even let Stephen have a go.
Lady boy cabaret show
Not an amazing show, and nowhere near as good as the show we saw in Chiang Mai but still a lot of fun.
It’s free to enter you just have to buy a drink (which are a little pricey). Worth a visit for a laugh with friends, best enjoyed after a few drinks.
If you fancy a night out, join the bar crawl which happens regularly on the island.
You get loads of drink deals and meet lots of new people.
View points and beaches
There are view points all around the island, some harder to reach than others.
Off the main areas the roads can be very steep, windy and bumpy, so make sure if you ride a moped you take it easy.
Some of the favourite view points are:
With Koh Tao being an island you are obviously surrounded by beaches. Some offering a chilled out vibe while others a party one.
Some of the favourite beaches are:
Eating in Koh Tao
This was a really nice little restaurant along the main road before Sarie beach.
They had a real variety of food, we visited for breakfast and dinner and enjoyed both times.
Service was good and the prices reasonable, the English breakfast was yummy too.
This restaurant has new owners from Italy, and they have definitely tried to bring a western standard to the restaurant.
The food all arrived at the same time (rare for Asia), drinks orders were taken first and we were even asked if everything was ok with our meal.
I had the carbonara and really enjoyed it.
I loved this restaurant the Thai food was amazing. The Penang and Masaman curry’s were so good.
They take a real pride in their food and the staff are really helpful pointing out most popular dishes.
Fizz beach club
This was a nice place to chill early evening, overlooking the beach on bean bags with a drink in hand.
A really lively bar with live singers overlooking the beach. Drinks were a little pricier but worth it for the atmosphere.
Koh Tao is a beautiful island, if you visit diving is a must!
Nang Yuan is a really stunning view and you should not be put off by the boat journey or park fee.
There are lots of places to enjoy dinner and drinks, but visiting a fire show was a lot of fun.