You’ve booked your ferry tickets to Koh Tao, and you’re incredibly excited to about your upcoming adventures. But other than getting smashed at Leo Bar and Fish Bowl, what else does Koh Tao have to offer you? Not to worry. Chris & I have put together the list of Koh Tao’s Top 10 Adventures in Paradise for you. Read on to prioritize your list of must-do adventures on Koh Tao.
#1 Get your PADI Open Water SCUBA Diver Certification
#2 Jump from a boulder into crystal blue waters at Tanote or Mao Bay
#3 Snorkel with black tipped reef sharks & lounge the day away in Aow Leuk
#4 Hike to the John Sewan Point then get jiggy at Freedom Beach
#5 Kayak to a secluded snorkel spot
#6 Paddle board Sairee Reef during sunset
#7 Hike the jungle to a secluded bay
#8 Snorkel hunt for the giant sea turtle in Shark Bay
#9 Hike, scramble, & climb to Fraggle Rock
#10 Sleep in seaside bungalow and let the gentle shore break lull you to sleep
Whale sharks, false killer whales, manta, eagle, and devil rays migrate through Koh Tao waters throughout the year. We get so excited to see them, but every day, schools of chevron barracuda, fusilier, rabbit fish, and bat fish mesmerize us with spiraling flashes of silver and yellow. Giant barracuda, colby, emperor fish, and queen fish, spotted trout, and more grace Koh Tao dive sites. Giant grouper hide between crags and crevices, while stunning angel fish in royal blue and orange swim gently along the pinnacles. Butterfly fish, long-fin bannerfish, and harlequin sweet lips entrance us. Hiding inside the cracks and holes of the coral, white-eyed moray eels peer out at us. And pink anemone fish stick close to their undulating host, hiding within its soft tendrils. Where is this gorgeous place? It’s Chumpon Pinnacle, one of Koh Tao’s Top 5 Deep Dive Sites.
How do you get to Chumpon Pinnacle? Start with our PADI Open Water SCUBA Diver course. Within 3-4 days, we’ll certify you to 18 meters, which will take you to gorgeous sites like Twins, Japanese Gardens, Mango Bay and Pottery. You’ll have a chance to meet sea turtles, angel fish, bat fish, and butterfly fish, too. Then, the magic happens when you continue straight into your Advanced Open Water course. In another two days of diving, we’ll certify you to dive as deep as 30 meters. Then, the world of Koh Tao’s deep sites open, with Chumpon Pinnacle only a boat ride away.
The magical experience of learning to SCUBA dive in the gentle tropical waters of Koh Tao ranks #1 on our list of Top 10 Adventures. It will change the way you see and experience the world forever. We invite you to come get lost with us on this adventure of a lifetime.
Ready to boulder jump? Rent a scooter, and make your way to Tanote Bay. Protected by the rugged coastline on the east side of Koh Tao, Tanote’s beach provides a welcome respite for families and serenity-seeking travelers. Its soft sand, crystal blue water, and abundance of coral ranks it firmly among our list of Koh Tao’s 5 Best Snorkeling Beaches. Best yet, look just a little off shore, and you’ll see the awesome boulder jump. The large boulders off of Tanote Bay add interest to the view and a lot of fun to your day.
We recommend that you snorkel the base of the boulders first. Then, swim straight off the beach to the low boulders, and scramble up to first boulder. Looking at the large boulder, you’ll find an anchored line that will assist you in climbing to the top. Once at the top, walk straight out to the farthest point facing straight away from the beach. You may already see people jumping. A giant jump outwards from the farthest point will land you in the crystal waters of Tanote Bay. Swim back around, and get ready for another scramble to the top. Have a few rounds of this, then head back to the beach to relax or to the nearest restaurant for a refreshing beer.
(While you’re in Tanote Bay, say hello to our friend Rob at Montalay Dive Resort. Check out the facilities, and request us to teach your course. We’d be happy to teach you right at Tanote Bay.)
Why do we rank boulder jumping at Tanote #2? The beauty of Tanote Bay combined with its thriving coral reef and easy access to a refreshing beer rank it an easy #2 on our list of Top 10 Adventures.
Want to add snorkeling with sharks to your bragging rights? It’s easy enough to do on Koh Tao. One of our friends claims to have seen over sixteen black tipped reef sharks on his snorkel around the southern tip of the island. We wouldn’t recommend you take on a trip like that (unless you’re truly fit and confident in deep water), but snorkeling with sharks becomes very easy in a few places, including Aow Leuk, Tanote Bay, and Shark Bay.
Aow Leuk Beach will stun and delight you with white sand and gorgeous blue waters that extend into the horizon. It’s a stunning place to spend the day swimming or talking with friends in the water. But if you’re looking for sharks, put on your mask and snorkel, grab your fins, and head to the coral reefs on either side of the bay. Snorkel away from the beach enjoying the sergeant major fish, wrasse, and parrot fish below, relax, and wait. Juvenile black tip reef sharks inhabit these nursery areas and can be seen throughout the year. They are a bit shy, so watch for them to swim in and out of view. Don’t forget your dive camera to prove your adventures to friends!
Chris and I have snorkeled Aow Leuk along the right reef and out to the next bay. Hin Ngom Bay, a rugged snorkel spot about a 20 minute, slow swim from Aow Leuk Beach. This gorgeous bay offers additional opportunity to spot sharks. We only suggest this to strong, confident swimmers, but it does open up the possibility of seeing larger black-tipped reef sharks. We spotted an adult on our own adventure. Unfortunately, we also scored some pretty serious sun burns!
For the incredible opportunity to snorkel with sharks along a beautiful coral reef, we rank snorkeling Aow Leuk as #3 on our list of Top 10 Adventures in Paradise. Aow Leuk also ranks on our list of Koh Tao’s 5 Best Snorkeling Beaches.
Love overlooks? Then you’re definitely in luck. Koh Tao’s backbone of boulders and rock, offers up plenty of overlooks hidden all over the island.
One of our favorites is John Sewan Point. This rugged outcrop at the southern tip looks out onto the neck of our Turtle Island. Below, to the left, you’ll see Chalok Baan Kao Bay. To the right, you’ll look over Shark Bay and Shark Island. Ahead, the land forms the flippers of the turtle. (It’s the shape of this island you can see so well from John Sewan Point that gave it the name “Turtle Island.”)
The stunning panoramic view delights travel photographers and selfie artists who arrive at sunrise or sunset for the most magical lighting. Otherwise, come at any time of the day (except in bad weather). Find a spot to sit and enjoy the view. Just try not to chat it up too much about your dive class, as other people may appreciate the space for quiet meditation.
You’ll find this viewpoint at the southern end of the Chalok Baan Kao road. First, your map and head towards Freedom Beach. Then, pass through a 50TBT toll, and park in the last lot. Next, hike through a 2nd (last) toll, where you’ll begin hiking what I call a “goat trail” to the overlook. The dirt and washed out trail can be tricky. Just grab hold of the ropes, and use your hands as needed to get you up to the top. Finally, you’ll need to squeeze between and around a couple of boulders to climb up and onto the amazing overlook.
Ready to relax in paradise? Once you’ve enriched your spirit at the overlook, if it’s early in the day, hike on down to the beautiful and secluded waters of Freedom Beach. We understand it’s quiet enough at this beach to relax and be yourselves. (That said, don’t be those people getting caught having salt water sex in broad daylight.)
The beauty of this white-sand beach and crystal blue waters will mesmerize and delight visitors who just want to get away from it all. For its stunning beauty and tranquil seclusion, we rank hiking to John Sewan Point then lounging the day away at Freedom Beach as #4 on our list of Top 10 Adventures in Paradise Koh Tao.
Where ever you decide to paddle, in addition to your snorkel kit, be certain to take a reserve of fresh water, food, sun protection (hat, bandana, rash guard,) and a truly waterproof dry bag to protect your things.
Ready to launch into the seas to find a secluded swim and snorkel spot? We recommend heading out from the southern end of Mae Haad reef. First, locate a kayak to rent, and paddle around past the southern tip of Mae Haad. Then, continue south past three rocks you’ll see jutting out of the water (3 Rocks dive site). Then, continue paddling south. On your journey, you’ll come upon a couple of gorgeous beaches nestled between boulders and coconut palm trees.
If you’re feeling lazy on your journey, stop and enjoy yourself around the first little beach you’ll see, Jansom Bay. It’s a very chill little place. But if you have the energy, continue southwards until you see a longer beach lined with huts and palm trees. This is Sai Nuan, a gorgeous beach to relax the day away. You’ll also find beer and lunch within a few steps of shore.
Convinced? Drag your boat up at Sai Nuan Beach, and spend the day lounging in hammocks, swinging, or snorkeling around the rocks just off shore. Just be careful not to relax too much, or you won’t want to make the return trip in the kayak. (An alternative is to rent the kayak for two days, and walk in to rent a bungalow for the night at Sai Nuan beach or Banana Rock (a short walk south on a dirt trail).
Chalok Ban Kao offers a sweet kayak trip, too. First, rent your kayak from Buddha View Dive Resort (400 TBT per day). Then, point the bow of your kayak straight at Buddha Point, and off you go. Pull your boat up just shy of Buddha Rock onto Freedom Beach, where you can spend an entire day pretending to be the Robinson family, lost on a deserted island. You’ll find lovely snorkeling right around Buddha Point, and you may spot sea turtles here as well.
For a longer trip, if the water lays down flat, travel south past Buddha Point towards Shark Island. Tie your kayak up to one of the white mooring balls on the Koh Tao side of the smaller island, and snorkel into the shallows where the water is calmest. You’ll discover beautiful snorkeling with soft blue corals and an abundance of interesting marine life. Expect to spend at least four hours on a round trip kayak paddle from Chalok Ban Kao to Shark Island and back.
For the opportunity to steal away to hidden snorkel spots in paradise, we rank kayaking to a secluded snorkel spot as #5 on our list of Top 10 Adventures.
Magical Koh Tao turns on its charm at sunset, when the sun gently drops below the horizon, lighting the sky in a show of orange, pinks, and magentas. You can watch a beautiful sunset from the comfort of your western-facing bungalow or rocky outcrop, or you can rent a paddle board from SUP Tao, and spend sunset on the peaceful flat waters of Sairee beach. We recommend you give SUP a go!
Ready? With a friend, paddle out onto flat waters, and enjoy heavenly sunset in paradise. Afterwards, catch a cocktail and a chill vibe at Maya Bar. The night is only just beginning!
For the opportunity to create the sunset memory of a lifetime, we rank paddle boarding at sunset as #6 on our list of Top 10 Adventures in Paradise Koh Tao.
Koh Tao offers the adventure-hearted the opportunity to hike and explore for hours. You’ll discover wild and remote places in paradise. We love this island for that reason, but we offer words of caution. We have no full-time emergency medical on this island. Our emergency services are volunteers. Be certain to hike in with water reserves, food, a cell phone with emergency phone number programmed inside (+66 87-979-0191). Be sure to have plenty of battery juice to capture the trip in photos or to make that emergency phone call. Remember, you will not find any resources available to you on hikes with the exception of other travelers. Last, we strongly advise against these hikes during the heaviest monsoon months of November and December.
Seek a jungle adventure into the wilds? Head off from Sairee on the dirt path to Laem Thian Bay. We recommend the straight (ish), dirt path that ends at Laem Thian, a 1.25 hour hike each way. This secluded bay once welcomed travelers to a luxurious beach resort.
The island has since reclaimed this gorgeous bay for her own. Sadly, the remains of the resort exist as a bit of an eyesore. On the other hand, they provide an alternative overnight spot and a bit of shelter for travelers. Whatever your philosophy, Laem Thian remains a gorgeous beach with boulders to climb and scramble.
Fancy rock jumping into the sea? Head to the southern side of the resort, and look for wooden planks leading to jump spots (be sure to snorkel first to ensure your safety). Looking for the beach? Just off the main trail, the tiny, white-sand beach launches swimmers onto a lovely coral reef. It’s the perfect little snorkel spot that ranks it among our list of Koh Tao’s 5 Best Snorkeling Beaches.
How to get to Laem Thian? Begin your adventure with our post, Hike to Laem Thian.
Another alternative hike from the same access point in Sairee will lead you to Mao Bay. Mao Bay does not have a beach, but it has boulder outcroppings that offer the adventure-hearted plenty of places to jump from boulders into the sea or to snorkel around the rocky bay.
Chris and I have not yet visited Mao Bay, although, we got lost trying. We’ve heard from others that it’s a ton of fun. Just remember you’re jumping at your own risk.
For the ability to truly head off onto your own into the jungle and end up at a gorgeous, tropical bay, we rank hiking to a secluded bay as #7 on our list of Top 10 Adventures in Paradise Koh Tao.
Stories abound regarding a giant sea turtle, covered in green algae, that lives in Shark Bay. This magical creature blesses snorkelers who wander out into the crystal blue waters. So grab your snorkel gear and waterproof action camera, and head on in. Give yourself a couple of hours to enjoy the snorkeling and to look for this special turtle. While there, you may also spot black-tipped reef sharks and other interesting marine life.
Chris and I have snorkeled Shark Bay quite a bit. We’ve spotted juvenile, black tipped reef sharks and even a giant barracuda. But we haven’t yet seen the turtle. If you’re lucky enough to spot her, please send us a photo!
For the chance at spotting this magical creature, we rank snorkel hunting for the giant sea turtle in Shark Bay as #8 on our list of Top 10 Adventures in Paradise Koh Tao.
If you love a good island hike and overlook, grab a map, and head towards Fraggle Rock. According to Alex in Wanderland who blogged about this hike, you’ll need about 1.5 hours each way, good shoes, and some energy.
On your way to Fraggle Rock, you’ll discover dense tropical forest, dirt and rock hiking trails, and a stunning overlook at the end. Just be certain to take reserves of water, lunch, sun and insect protection as needed. It’s not an easy hike to Fraggle Rock, so go out and conquer with muscle and a positive attitude. Then, you can add this amazing Koh Tao hike to your bragging list.
Just like hiking to remote bays, hiking to Fraggle Rock will lead you into the remote areas of Koh Tao. Be certain to hike in with water reserves, food, a cell phone with emergency phone number programmed inside (+66 87-979-0191), and plenty of battery juice to capture the trip in photos or to make that emergency phone call. Remember, you will not find any resources available to you on jungle hikes, so plan accordingly.
For the opportunity to hike to this stunning overlook, transcending all challenges presented by this intermediate trail, we rank hiking to Fraggle Rock as #9 on our list of Top 10 Adventures in Paradise Koh Tao.
Visitors to Koh Tao know her well for many of the above adventures, especially SCUBA diving. But they don’t often realize that this emerald paradise offers gorgeous beach side bungalows or Thai houses with stunning views overlooking crystal blue waters. Visitors come, they SCUBA dive and party, and then they leave. In such a short time, they often miss the beauty in our Paradise Koh Tao. Don’t make the mistake of overlooking the opportunity for a truly zen experience in a seaside bungalow.
You will discover very basic, Thai accommodations. Typically, these are fan rooms with mosquito nets around the beds, and a bathroom. Look for a fabulous view within steps of the beach, absolute quiet, and a fresh breeze. Oh, and don’t forget to require a hammock or two for that afternoon nap.
Hint: you don’t schedule ahead. Instead, reserve a night in a hostel, and use that as your base camp to go find your seaside hunt. Explore Sai Nuan Beach, Banana Rock, or Chalok Ban Kao at the Pirate Bar or at Freedom Beach. On foot, walk straight in and ask to see available bungalows.
For the calm shore break that will lull you to sleep in paradise, we rank staying in a seaside bungalow as #10 on our list of Top 10 Adventures in Paradise Koh Tao.
Ready for your bucketlist holiday to Koh Tao? Read our tips to Extend Your Adventure Budget.