This small island to the north of Samui / Phangan is widely known as one of Thailand’s best offerings for diving and snorkeling. This once undiscovered backpacker destination has blossomed into the world’s #2 PADI diving certification locale. The small town of Mae Haad is a bustling town and home to the pier to which visitors arrive. Despite the large number of people who come here for the diving, the island still retains much of the charm that typically comes with a less developed destination.
There are more than 20 daily flights from Bangkok to Koh Samui. There are also flights from Chiang Mai, Phuket, Krabi, and internationally from Hong Kong and Singapore. Once on Koh Samui, there are several ferries throughout the day, which take approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes to reach Koh Tao via Koh Phangan.
One thing that makes all of the islands in the gulf, including Koh Tao, attractive is the weather. Many summer travelers (April-November) to Thailand are disappointed to learn it is not the best time to visit popular islands on the west coast, such as Phuket, Krabi, and Koh Phi Phi, due to monsoon season. Despite its proximity to these places, this is not true with Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, and Koh Tao. Unaffected by the summer monsoons, they enjoy good weather year-round with the exception of October and November.
A large amount of accommodations are present on Koh Tao, given its size, but there are only a select few resorts that meet our standards.
Obviously diving and snorkeling are the reason for going to Koh Tao. In some of the bays, whale shark sightings are commonplace. At just two miles wide and five miles long, its small size makes for an easy exploration by moped. The center for nightlife on the island is the village of Sairee.
Ao Thian Ok - One of the best beaches in the Gulf of Thailand, it is known as “Shark Bay,” due to the presence of gentle reef sharks in the crystal clear waters. The perfect sand and still water make this a special place.
East Coast Beaches – Also sporting some of the best beaches and still water in the Gulf of Thailand, the east shore of the island is relatively undeveloped. It is also quite difficult to access, and you will want to hire a long-tailed boat to deliver you to this area. Once there however, visitors enjoy some amazing scenery and very still, clear water. This is probably the single best place for snorkeling in all of Thailand, with the possible exceptions of the Similan and Surin Islands, and Koh Hong and Koh Phi Phi in the bay of Phang Nga on the Andaman Sea side.
Jansom Bay - This is an idyllic location for those who love scenery and still water. It has excellent snorkeling and a near perfect beach bordered by large boulders giving it a very unique feel.
Haad Sairee - This is the main beach on the island and offers plenty of restaurants, stores, and nightlife nearby. While maybe not one of the most amazing beaches on Koh Tao, it certainly is very nice and offers more infrastructure in the area.