Koh Tao is the smallest of the three popular Gulf of Thailand islands, but don’t let its small size fool you! It’s packed with beautiful beaches, killer sunsets, awesome marine life and amazing cafes. All of these reasons make it our favorite island in Thailand – bold statement, we know. Since it’s our favorite island, how could we not give you our list of 7 things not to miss on Koh Tao?
It would be shameful for us not to share that, right?!
1) Snorkel in Shark Bay
Located in one of the southern bays of the island, Shark Bay is home to white sandy beaches and the blacktip reef sharks. A great spot to view the bay from above is from OK2 Bungalow. It overlooks Shark Bay and they rent snorkel equipment. Have a bite to eat and a drink, take in the view and then head into the water with your trusty snorkley and mask in hand! If you’re lucky (like we were) you’ll see a beautiful blacktip reef shark and maybe a sea turtle!
2) Relax on Freedom Beach
Located in the other southern bay, opposite of Shark Bay, you’ll find Freedom Beach. A quiet, serene place where you can waste away your day in the sun. A small white, sandy beach, a café and a few trees are the only things that line the beach. The café is called Freedom Bar and it’s a great place to lounge and drink an ice cold Chang beer.
3) Get Your Scuba Diving On
If there was ever a Thai island to put Scuba Diving on the map, it’s Koh Tao! Known as one of the cheapest and best places in the world to get your Open Water Certification, Koh Tao is a paradise for any skill level of divers. If you google “Dive Shops” on Koh Tao, be prepared to be overwhelmed. There are about 70 shops for you to choose from. Crazy, right?!
If you’re looking to dive, we can’t recommend Scuba Shack enough. This is the Dive Shop we got our Open Water Certification and we loved every minute of it.
Seriously, go diving in Koh Tao. You will 100% not regret it. The marine life is insane and if you’re there during the right season, you’ll have a good chance to swim with Whale Sharks!
4) Hike for That Viewpoint
Located in between Freedom Beach and Shark Bay, you’ll find the famous Koh Tao viewpoint, John – Suwan Viewpoint. The hike up is not too strenuous (Lauren did it in flip flops and her swimsuit cover up). However, the “trail” definitely isn’t paved and it’s about a 20-30-minute hike up. You’ve been warned. Once the trail ends, a panoramic view of vast blue oceans, beautiful bays and lush mountains unfolds for you. So yeah, get to hiking. It’s worth it!
5) Sunset at Sairee Beach
Located on the upper west side of the island, Sairee Beach is a sunset paradise and the best place to watch sunset on Koh Tao. Sairee Beach is also the longest beach on Koh Tao. Perfect for an end of the day stroll.
If a stroll isn’t you thing, no worries, there are plenty of restaurants for you to sit at. Grab some dinner or drinks at one of these beach front spots and watch the sun disappear. To be fair, prices are a bit higher than other cafes you’ll find on the island, but it’s worth paying a little extra for that beautiful sunset.
Two of our favorite bars where Lotus Beach Bar and Fizz Beach Lounge. Be sure to check them out.
6) Let It All Hang Out at The Koh Tao Pub Crawl
If you’ve been on Koh Tao for a few days or even if you’ve been backpacking around Southeast Asia, we bet you’ve seen a “Koh Tao Pub Crawl” tank! The infamous Koh Tao pub crawl is hyped up to be the best pub crawl…ever!
- When:The pub crawl happens every Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday night with check in starting at 6pm.
- Tickets: You can’t purchase tickets ahead of time. What you’ll need to do is head to Choppers Bar, located close to Sairee beach, and that’s where you can get your tickets bought.
- Cost: The cost of the pub crawl is 480 baht (June 2017) and that gets you that bitchin’ Koh Tao Pub Crawl tank, drink specials, and into a handful of bars throughout the evening and these bars host fire shows, lady boy shows, live music, etc. Basically, it’s an all-night shit show extravaganza.
We personally did not pay the 480 baht ($15 USD). Instead, we just tagged along for a portion of the night.
The group is impossible to miss. There are hordes of people in the same shirts walking through town to the next bar. We joined them for the first three bars then headed home. Ha, the first three bars were enough for us and put us to bed 🙂
7) Make Your Stomach Happy
The best Koh Tao restaurants are below. Yes, this is our opinion, but trust us on this. These places are not to miss!
- Sue Chili
- Located in the hub of Koh Tao, close to Sairee Beach, you’ll find Sue Chili. No lie, we ate here once a day. This open-air restaurant serves up some amazing Thai food like Massaman and Panang curries. The flavors are dynamite, the service is full of smiles and the food is something you can’t help but just devour.
- 999 Roasted Duck
- Located a short walk from Sue Chili, you’ll find 999 Roasted Duck. This street side, mom and pop shop is packed and for good reason, their duck is f’ing fantastic. Like your taste buds will cry fantastic. The food is worth the wait in whatever length of queue you are in. For $1-$2, you’ll have a healthy scoping of roasted duck and rice/noodles. Plus, they top the duck with this amazing sauce. Our mouth is watering just thinking about it.
- Located a few street stalls up from 999 Roasted Duck you’ll find Mama’s. A glorified street food stall who is run by Mama, and oh is Mama a treat. She’s a lady who hardly speaks English but means business! Serving up a wide range of traditional and delicious Thai fare, Mama makes her food to order and with love.
- Das Sandwiches
- We thought these were the best sandwiches we’ve ever had! However, we need to be honest and make a confession. We had been traveling in Southeast Asia for 6 months at this point and hadn’t had a good sammie in what felt like ages. In comes Das Sandwiches and totally sweeps us off our feet with their chicken schnitzel sandwiches. If you’re craving a good, hot sandwich, look no further than Das. DAS GOOD! You can find Das Sandwiches by the ferry terminal.
- Seafood by Pawn
- A street food place located on a parking lot will serve up the best and freshest fish on the island. The owners have been in business for over 30 years and only serve fish caught that day. From Marlin to Trevally to Mackerel to Squid, Pawn takes care of his patrons by only giving you the best of the best. Warning: fish come whole, eye balls and all 🙂
Where To Stay on Koh Tao, Thailand
For almost a week, we shacked up at Clear View Resort.
Short and sweet, it was amazing. We had our own little private bungalow that overlooked the ocean. There is no beach and the way down to the water is really rocky, but no worries, they have an amazing pool on site. Plus, it’s walking distance to amazing places to eat and beaches. It was perfect.
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– Lauren & Jesse Stuart (The Stüs)