Located in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Tao, also known as Turtle Island, is a popular destination for backpackers who want a more relaxing travel experience as well as for those who are looking to achieve their PADI diving license. Koh Tao is a smaller and less developed island than the other two islands nearby and it is famous for its beautiful landscapes, colourful coral formations and amazing sunsets.
How to get to Koh Tao
From Surat Thani, you can buy a bus and ferry ticket, which should take you directly to Don Sak pier. From there, you can get a Ferry or Catamaran to take you to Maehaad pier in Koh Tao. The overall trip takes around 3 hours because the boat will stop at Koh Samui and Koh Phangan before its final stop at Koh Tao. You can get a bus and ferry ticket for around THB800 (£20) from Surat Thani Town.
However, if you’re already on Koh Samui, you can get the same ferry for around THB500 (£12.50). Boats go from one of 3 piers (Maename, Bangrak, Nathon) so make sure you get the right one. When we left Koh Samui (in low season), the ferry to Koh Tao was sold out until the last minute when they gave us the last few tickets so make sure you book in advance to avoid disappointment. The trip from Koh Samui to Koh Tao is around 2 hours. You can do the same from Koh Phangan for around THB400 (£10) leaving from Thong Sala pier.
Things to do in Koh Tao
If you get up early and head to Shark Bay to go snorkelling, it is likely you’ll see Black Tip Reef sharks roaming about the colourful coral formations. You may even see turtles occasionally. Shark Bay is a great place to relax but getting down to the beach can be quite challenging as you’ll need to climb down some steep stairs and cross the rocks on the side of the beach. To access the beach easily, you either need to be part of the beach front hotels or pay a fee to use the beach.
Sairee beach is the most popular and busy beach in Koh Tao. However, it is still not extremely busy and it feels very laid back and peaceful when you’re there. There are plenty of bars, restaurants and shops leading up from the main road to the beachfront. Towards the left of Sairee beach, there is a pier so that part tends to be a bit busier. The beach is perfect for swimming and water sports. You’ll find plenty of locals renting out kayaks, paddleboards, etc. Sairee beach is known for the busy nightlife but compared to beaches in Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, it is a lot more laid back. It is also the perfect spot for sunset watching!
This amazing viewpoint can be reached by motorbike, car or on foot. However, despite all the tourists attempting it on motorbike, I highly suggest you walk up or get an experienced driver to take you up. We paid a local taxi to take us up and it was a very bumpy ride and I’m pretty sure, it damaged the bottom of his truck by the end of it! The road is incredibly steep and uneven and by foot, it takes around 2 hours round trip. At the top, there is a small, family run café where you can enjoy the view of Sairee beach.
Koh Nang Yuan
A short longtail boat away from Sairee beach is Koh Nang Yuan, which is a small, beautiful island. To avoid crowds, it’s better to get a boat early in the morning. We got the boat to the island for opening time, which is 9:30am. It cost us between THB300 – THB400 (£7 – £10) each way and hiring a longtail boat on the beach is a lot cheaper than going with a tour company. There is also an entrance fee of THB100 (£2.50) as it is privately owned. You are not allowed to bring any towels or plastic bottles either so if you want to bring water, make sure you bring a glass bottle. If you head left when you get off the boat, there is a wonderful viewpoint just a short climb away. Koh Nang Yuan is the perfect spot for diving and snorkelling. The water is crystal clear and there are plenty of colourful fish and coral formations for you to enjoy.
Freedom beach is a small stretch of white sand and bright blue sea. It is a great spot for swimming and snorkelling despite it being very shallow. There is only one restaurant at the beach, which provides food and good music along with a few hammocks and a beach volley ball court.
John Suwan Viewpoint
After a small hike up to the top through big rocks and palm trees, the view from this viewpoint is stunning. You get a panoramic view of Koh Tao. It is the perfect photo opportunity allowing you to capture the beautiful scenery and the shallow coral reef in the clear water. In order to reach this viewpoint, head towards Freedom Beach.
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~ Megan and Rowan ~