Koh Tao is one of the most beautiful islands in the Gulf of Thailand and a fantastic spot to get your beginner’s diving license. This tiny paradise is full of incredible things to do and see. Besides snorkeling and scuba diving, you can enjoy incredible viewpoints, sandy white beaches, and great party scenes – not to mention incredibly friendly locals!
Whether you plan to stay a few days or a few weeks, you’ll want to know all the best things to do on Koh Tao to make the most of your vacation. Start scrolling to plan your ultimate getaway!
Get Your Diving Certification
Many tourists visit Koh Tao for their diving certification, specifically because of its excellent environment. Koh Tao has calm, warm, and clear blue waters all year round, offering the perfect conditions for beginners. The island is home to over 25 dive sites, and divers often get to swim with whale sharks, barracuda, turtles, and other incredible sea creatures.
If you’re interested in getting your open-water dive certification on Koh Tao, make sure to plan enough days on the island. An open-water dive course usually takes three or four days to complete. Alternatively, if you’re not sure you’ll like diving, you can book a Try Scuba Dive package, which doesn’t give you any certification but is an excellent introduction to the sport. You should also know that you cannot fly within 24 hours of your last dive (in order to avoid the risk of decompression sickness), so plan your diving days according to your travel itinerary.
You may wonder what the best dive school on Koh Tao is, but that’s an impossible question to answer, seeing as there are over 60 dive shops and resorts on the island. Like any outdoor activity, diving does have a risk factor, so it’s important to learn with a high-standard dive shop so that you’ll gain all the skills you need to dive safely. Check out our guide to scuba diving on Koh Tao to learn how to find the right dive school for you.
Go on a Snorkel Excursion
Another excellent way to see the beautiful waters and wildlife of Koh Tao is with this full-day adventure snorkeling trip. You’ll go out on a vintage wooden boat for a day of cruising, snorkeling, paddleboarding, and kayaking.
The boat will venture out to Koh Nang Yuan, a stunning island just a few hundred meters off the coast of Koh Tao. You’ll get an hour to snorkel and explore before hopping back on board for a buffet lunch. After lunch, the boat makes its way to the picturesque Mango Bay, one of the best snorkeling and diving areas on Koh Tao.
The trip includes five snorkeling stops around the island, with the option to hang out on the beaches nearby as well. After a day in the water, you can enjoy a complimentary barbecue dinner.
Watch the Sunset From a Viewpoint Bar
While Koh Tao is a relatively small island, it has several incredible viewpoint bars that offer the perfect spot to unwind after a day.
The sunset from a viewpoint bar is an absolute must-see on Koh Tao. One of the most popular is Secret Bar, which overlooks 180 degrees of the island’s southern tip. It has several tables and beanbag chairs where you can relax with a cocktail, listen to music, and soak up the golden hour. Secret Bar is about a 15-minute scooter drive from Sairee Beach, but the road gets quite steep. If you aren’t fully confident in your scooter skills, don’t make the drive with a back passenger.
Another excellent observation deck and bar is Exotic Hive. This viewpoint bar is in the center of the island, offering incredible views of Sairee Beach, the bay, and the sunset. The bar even has live music around sunset sometimes, letting you enjoy a serenade with your cold beer.
In case you don’t have a motor scooter or don’t want to pay for a taxi to these viewpoints, you can also watch the sunset from the island’s only rooftop bar, Barracuda Restaurant and Bar on Sairee Beach.
Join a Jungle or Beach Party
There’s always a party to find on Koh Tao, and you’ll see several signs across the island advertising the parties happening that week.
Two of the most popular weekly parties are the Secret Party at Karma Bar and the Jungle Party by Koh Tao Escobar. Both parties sell tickets in advance online and at the entrance. You can expect to see fire shows, live DJs, and plenty of dancing and balloons! Free shuttles are often available as well.
Hang Out on Sairee Beach
Sairee Beach is the main hub of the island, offering plenty of beach bars, shops, and activities. You can play a game of volleyball at the beach, snap a picture on one of the swings, go for a dip in the water, or rent a paddleboard or kayak. Paddleboarding or kayaking is especially nice at sunset! For a truly relaxing sunset experience, get a massage at one of the covered decks overlooking the beach.
At night, Sairee comes alive with bustling bars and clubs. If you want to catch a rugby or football match, head over to Choppers Sports Bar, where you’ll find plenty of live sports games and a pool table. It also hosts a pub crawl. One of the more popular bars for a night out is Fishbowl Beach Bar. This lovely hotspot is known for its plethora of beer pong tables and a bumping dance floor right on the beach!
Catch a Show at Queen’s Cabaret
One thing you’ll hear tourists rave about on the island is the show at Queen’s Cabaret on Sairee Beach. This is easily one of the best tourist attractions on Koh Tao!
If you haven’t heard of the cabaret show, you might know it by another name – “the ladyboy show.” The transgender dancers at Queen’s Cabaret put on the show of a lifetime at 10 p.m. every night, dancing along to familiar hits and bending into positions you may have thought impossible! This is a great way to spend an evening and also affordable, as a ticket costs only 150 baht (about $5) and includes one drink.
The show is very popular, especially on weekends when the local pub crawl stops in, so make sure to get there before the doors open at 9 p.m.!
Take a Day Trip to Koh Nang Yuan
Koh Nag Yuan is a lush, beautiful island and easily one of the best Koh Tao attractions. The island comprises three islets connected by a sandbar, offering turquoise waters, fantastic snorkeling, and jaw-dropping views of Koh Tao.
You’ll need to take a 20-minute water taxi ride from Koh Tao to Koh Nang Yuan, and you can book tickets from any local tour agency. One of the most popular things to do is to climb the 200 or so steps to the Koh Nang Yuan Viewpoint, which offers incredible panoramic views (but can get quite crowded during the day!). The hike takes about 10-20 minutes.
Climb to the John Suwan Viewpoint
The stunning John Suwan Viewpoint offers incredible views of Shark Bay, Freedom Beach, and Koh Phangan. The viewpoint is on the south end of the island and costs 50 baht to enter. The entrance fee includes access to the white sands and crystal-blue waters of Freedom Beach, along with parking.
It takes roughly 15-20 minutes to walk from the entrance to the top of the viewpoint. The path is filled with gravel, so we recommend wearing sturdy shoes instead of flip-flops. Make sure your phone is charged, as you’ll want to get lots of pictures from the top!
Join a Jam Session at Baby Rasta
Baby Rasta, one of the island’s best-hidden gems, makes for a unique and fun thing to do on Koh Tao. Just a short walk from Mae Haad Pier, this treehouse-style bar boasts live music, a pool table, and a large stage with guitars, bongos, and drums.
On certain nights of the week, the stage becomes an open jam platform, inviting visitors to join in on the music. Jump up to the mic and sing a song, or grab a bongo and bang along to the music! Even if you aren’t musically inclined, Baby Rasta is an amazing hangout spot, offering plenty of hidden nooks, beanbag chairs, and hammocks throughout its two floors.
Play Super Mario Bros. at Non-Coffee Cafe
Non-Coffee Cafe is another fantastic hidden gem on Koh Tao, about a 10-minute ride from Mae Haad Pier. This open bar offers cheap drinks, great food, and tons of activities. You can go for a dip in the on-site pool, play a round of pool, or choose a board game and settle into one of the private cavelike sitting areas. The bar also features a large projector screen, letting you watch a movie or play Super Mario Bros. on the gaming console.
Visit Wat Koh Tao
Wat Koh Charoen Santi Dhamma (better known as Wat Koh Tao) is a beautiful Buddhist temple and a must-see for anybody sightseeing in Koh Tao. The newly built temple is small but boasts incredible golden details and friendly locals who are happy to chat. Located a short walk away from Mae Haad Pier, the temple is a great spot to observe Buddhist culture and learn more about how religion is practiced on the island.
Go Cliff Jumping at Tanote Bay
If you’re wondering what to do on Koh Tao for the adventure-seekers in your group, look no further than Tanote Bay. It boasts one of the best beaches on the island and is far less crowded than the likes of Sairee. It’s also home to the island’s only cliff-jumping spot.
To go cliff jumping once you reach Tanote Bay, you’ll have to swim about 20 meters in shallow waters to the rock formation where the jumping area is, and then you’ll have to climb to the top using a secure rope. The jump is only about 5 meters, but it’s still one of the most thrilling activities on Koh Tao!
Cool Down With an Ice Bath at Blacktip Cafe
If you’ve ever wanted to try an ice bath, Blacktip Cafe is the place to go. This communal workspace and restaurant is tucked away between Aow Luek and Mae Haad Pier. You can stop in for a bite to eat or pay to use the air-conditioned coworking space. But the best part of this cafe is the ice bath.
Unlike other ice baths you may see in town, Blacktip’s is in the jungle, away from the cafe and crowds. This way, if you only last 10 seconds in the bath, no one will judge you! There’s also an open shaded area where you can bring a yoga mat and meditate after your bath.
Hike to West Coast Viewpoint or Tanote Peak
If you want to get out into the jungle and snap some seriously amazing pictures, consider taking the short hike to West Coast Viewpoint or Tanote Peak.
Start your journey by making your way to Koh Tao Two View Bar & Restaurant. You’ll have to pay an entry fee (100 baht) here, but the ticket includes a free drink at the bar. You can hike to either of the two vista points from this restaurant. Both are fantastic spots to watch the sunset and take around 20 minutes to reach. Make sure to bring good walking shoes, sunscreen, and mosquito repellent!
Spend a Day at a Beach
There are several fantastic beaches on Koh Tao, but the best one depends on what you want to do. If you want a lively beach with plenty of bars and people, spend a day hanging out on Sairee Beach. If you’re looking for a good snorkeling spot, hang around Freedom Beach, Aow Leuk, or Hin Wong Bay. (Most beaches on the island charge a fee, which helps keep them clean.)
There you have them – the best places to visit on Koh Tao! Just remember to carry sunscreen and bug spray at all times, as those pesky bugs get quite bad around sunset. We hope you enjoy your time on this little slice of paradise!