Koh Tao is my least favorite island in Thailand. Yep, I said it, and if you’re curious why, then check out my earlier post 5 Reasons Why Koh Tao is my Least Favorite Island 2016.
But life is neither all black or all white, all good or all bad, and even though Koh Tao is on the bottom of my tropical destinations list, Krissy and I were still able to find a bunch of awesome things to do on the island.
So as the title promises, here are my picks for the top 11 things to do on Koh Tao.
- Scuba, Snorkel, and hang out with the fishes
Koh Tao is Thailand’s main island for diving, and once you splash beneath the surf it’s easy to see why. The snorkeling and diving here is top notch.
On every street there are three or four different diving schools, all with varied focuses such as free diving, try-it-out-diving, diving with whale sharks, diving for native French speakers, and the list goes on. ,
The prices for diving excursions are cheap here as well, with the average cost of a full certification (which includes 2-3 dives) at just over 8,000 baht or about 250 USD, and the schools are always offering different promotions.
Whether you go snorkeling off a long tail boat, take a diving class, or just see what you can off the beach, the marine life around Koh Tao is some of the best the Gulf of Thailand has to offer.
Sailboat Rock and Mango Bay are two popular sites on the island that have stunning underwater views, but I found the best snorkeling to be at the very end of Sairee Beach, just in front of the Koh Tao Cabana Resort.
Despite it’s location directly in front of the resort, the beach there is available for public use, and the coral there is teeming with hordes of different varieties of brightly colored fish.
Check out this awesome video to get a taste of the amazing scuba sights off the island. Oh, and speaking of the Cabana Resort..
2. Stay at the Koh Tao Cabana
This resort is the bee’s knees. For those looking for the cheapest, bare minimum, hostel type accommodation, this this not the place.
However, we paid 12,000 baht ($334 USD) for 4 nights here, and it boy did it deliver.
The Cabana lies a lush, quiet plot of land that feels sort of like a rainforest, and is made of private cottage that look like something out of one of those millionaire extreme homes shows.
The cottage we stayed in was huge, quaint, and quite frankly…sexy. The bathroom is set-up to feel like you are showering outside in the forest, and the bed is in the middle of the room, with a headboard that has built-in pillows that look like rocks.
The Cabana lies on a quiet strip of beach with some of the best snorkeling I found around the island, but if you get tired of the salt water, fret not, there is also a huge pool that is decorated with a sort of tacky fake rock display.
Although expensive, the restaurant on the resort is superb
As if I haven’t given you reason enough already, guests also get a complimentary 15 minute massage from the impressive on site spa.
If you got the dough, a stay at the Cabana is worth every penny.
For cheaper accommodations I recommend Talasssa. Although not on the beach, Talasssa has tasteful rooms that miracously stay quiet at night, despite being next to a row of bars in Sairee. We paid around 800-1,000 baht, or $25-30 dollars a night.
3. Eat the Tapas Platter at Kustos
Attached to Talasssa is one of Koh Tao’s culinary gems, Kustos. Although there entire menu looks like something out of Le Cordon Bleu’s enrollment brochure, their tapas platter is divine–
A gorgeous spread of salad, tangy olives, and Italian meats and cheeses so delectable they could make could make Mario and Luigi forget all about rescuing Princess Peach. Kustos was even included in tripadvisor’s best food in Koh Tao.
Do yourself a favor and eat here.
4. Visit Mae Haad Bay
Although the roads down to Mae Haad Bay at treacherous to say the least, the beautiful beach at the bottom is a worthwhile payoff. The beach is surrounded by huge smooth boulders and rocks, which add to the aesthetic appeal.
Just off the beach is a massive boulder in the middle of the water that you can climb up to the top of and jump off. Have a splash, a snorkel, or get in touch with your inner golem and rock hop up and down surrounding rocks.
If you do decide to visit Mae Haad Bay, I recommend going in a taxi, a 4×4, or do as we did, and ditch your motorbike halfway and take the Addidas Express the rest of the way down. The roads there are a nightmare.
5. Scope the Viewpoint at Love Koh Tao
Just above Mae Haad Bay is a small cement road that seems so steep it might bend back on itslef. But lead-foot the gas up the steep path to get to Love Koh Tao viewpoint at the top, a gorgeous stop off that looks out over the astounding green hills of the island, and into the crystal blue of Mae Haad Bay.
The view is stunning, and the sounds of the birds are like something out of a relaxation tape. It costs 20 baht to hang out at the viewpoint, or you can buy something from the snack shack at the top. I recommend just forking out the dough and getting a delicious watermelon smoothie to sip, while you enjoy the world class view.
6. Drink an Import Ale at the Earth House
On an island where pretty much everything looks run down, you really appreciate the places that look nice, and Earth House is one of those places. The whole building has a very natural feel to it, and gives you the sense of being in an old medieval village.
The Earth House is just up the road from Mae Haad Bay, and is the perfect stop for a tasty brew on the way back into town. The bar features a vast selection of cider, beer, and ale from all around the world.
The owner is as sweet as a summer shandy, and if you have trouble trying to narrow down what to drink, just tell her what you like, and she’s quick with a beverage recommendation.
The Earth House has bungalows available for rent at a cheap price, and they even have a two story tree-house, the perfect spot to get out of the sun, and relax in.
7. Eat a Taco at the Taco Shack Hostel
If you were to cut my heart open and look inside you would see a shredded beef taco. That’s right, Mexican food has a special place in my heart.
The hardest thing about living in Thailand is the lack of good Mexican grub, but Koh Tao has a taco joint that does not disappoint. Speaking of good food…
8. Get the Pub Grub at Reef Bar
Reef Bar is the spot to stop for pub grub. There are TVs on every wall, broadcasting all the major sports events, and when we went there to watch a rugby match, the place was packed to the gills.
This is the spot to catch your sports matches, but whatever you do, don’t forget to smash on a batch of their bacon crusted macaroni and cheese. Oh my god, I’m salivating while I’m writing this.
9. Play Pool at Dream Bar
Ok, so Dream Bar looks a little sketchy at first glance, as there are bar girls lined up and cat calling from the porch…But step inside, and it is one of the nicest looking bars in Sairee beach.
Everything is well taken care of, and it’s the only bar on the island that has a nice pool table. They have plenty of bar games like Connect 4, Jackpot, Dominos, and more, and they crank good old fashion rock and roll. This was my favorite bar on the island.
10. Get your Jazz fix with the band at Fishbowl Beach Bar
It’s a shame this place is so crowded (especially when the tide comes in) because the band here will make you want to get up and boogie… despite the fact that there is no room to. Jazzy, fun, and with interesting and unexpected covers, the band here is a joy to listen to.
Typical drink prices at the Fishbowl, the joint is usually packed, and there also have beer pong tables available. This is one of the cooler nighttime spots on the island.
11. Singe your Eyebrows, and do the Flaming Limbo
Yep, walk down Sairee beach at nighttime and you’re destined to run into (or under) a flaming limbo bar. Have a go, and see how low you can bend, just make sure not to catch your beard or mohawk on fire!
The flaming limbo is a riot, especially when everyone is cheering each other on, and free shots are given for the people who can bend the lowest.
Watch the local Thai people beat everyone on the beach, and realize that you would never want to play any of them in twister.
So that’s it… Koh Tao is still my least favorite island in Thailand, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time there.
If you’re only goal at the Thai islands is diving, Koh Tao is probably the spot for you.
But, if you’re just looking for a tropical island vacation, I highly recommend checking out one of the other islands.
My recommendation is Koh Chang. Check out my post Pancakes on Elephant Island to read why I love Koh Chang so much.
As always, comment below if you have anything to add, you disagree with me, or you just think I look good in the pictures ! I’d love to hear from you.