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Michelle Park | 11.28.2018

The islands of Thailand can be tricky to navigate because they can often be very touristy and home to quite the party scene. But they are still a must-visit when traveling to Thailand...So where should you book your ferry if you want world-class diving in crystal blue waters, a lush jungle to explore, and you don't necessarily need a Vegas-esque experience? Koh Tao is your island jackpot.

As a lover of the outdoors looking for climbing, diving, healthy food, and a relief from the city, I felt like I landed onto a tropical dream when I reached Koh Tao. The island is small and still pretty quiet with lots of kind locals who truly love their island and want to take care of it in the midst of rising tourism. Koh Tao is also famous for some of Asia's best diving, where you can explore incredible underwater landscapes of coral, fish, and marine wildlife. And thankfully, the island isn't lined with luxurious clubs. Instead you'll meet a lot of traveling backpackers from all over the world who've come to dive, chill out, and enjoy the local bars overlooking Koh Tao's beautiful sunsets.

How to get there

We flew from Chiang Mai to Koh Samui with one stop-over in Bangkok. Then we ordered a shuttle from the airport to Bangrak Pier and rode a ferry for about an hour and a half from Koh Samui to Koh Tao. You can book ferry tickets here.


There are plenty of cheap island resorts on Koh Tao, but a great place to check out is Montalay Bay Resort. The resort sits on the east side of the island and is a 10-minute drive from the ferry pier. Highlights: very friendly staff, a shuttle ride to and from the ferry port, a really delicious restaurant on-site (we ate there three times!), a very large and clean room surrounded in lush greenery (you pay extra for air conditioning), and a pool overlooking the beach. And most importantly: walkable access to a quiet, stunning, white-sand beach.


Rent a scooter so you can zip around the island! There are plenty of scooter shops around the island for about 150 to 200 baht per day ($4 to $6). The downtown streets are very ridable, but remember to get a helmet and consider insurance as the roads on the higher island paths (to get to viewpoints) are pretty steep and often deteriorating due to natural causes.

Hiking and epic vistas

  • Sunset viewpoint: You can scooter or hike up to this viewpoint and order a fresh coconut for your entrance fee. There are hammocks hanging on the cliff-side for you to swing in while sipping on your coconut and enjoying the view. 
  • John-Suwan Viewpoint: One of Koh Tao's most iconic photo spots. A bit of a hike up to the top that is worth every step because the view is absolutely epic. Try hiking up at golden hour so you can enjoy a breathtaking sunset from the top. 
  • Fraggle Rock: A local favorite where you can see the entire island right next to a climbing area. This isn't easily marked on Google Maps, so it may be best to ask around to get there. Once you have directions, it's just one adventurous scooter ride up some switchbacks to get to a beautiful vista.


There is what seems like a limitless number of dive groups on Koh Tao island, but Ocean Sound Diving + Yoga has a fantastic group of dive masters that will give you an incredible diving experience. They offer discovery dives, fun dives, dive certifications, and yoga classes that will not disappoint. We loved our time with them, and they are our top recommendation for an unforgettable day of underwater exploration with an awesome staff who will treat you right.


Although diving is the number one activity on Koh Tao, there is climbing too! I was told that there was only bouldering available on this island, but there is actually a decent amount of sport climbing available now thanks to a group named GoodTime Adventures. I highly recommend visiting their office to get information on all the best vistas and directions to hikes on the island as well. They know the island like the back of their hand, and you can rent all your climbing gear or book a guide for a half day or a full day. They've bolted the climbing routes themselves and have done a spectacular job of gathering beta. But be warned, though: The rain can be unpredictable, and the mosquitoes are ruthless. 

Food and drink

  • Coconut Monkey: Recommend for healthy, delicious food. They have a variation of American, English, and Thai-style dishes with an amazing menu of smoothie creations, great espresso drinks, and huge portions for a great price. Great location and atmosphere with tables, cushions, and chairs right on the beach.
  • The Factory Cafe: Tasty turmeric drinks, vegan banana bread, solid coffee, and an adorable atmosphere that is perfect for island hipsters.
  • Su Chili: Solid, cheap traditional Thai dishes that the locals love.
  • Munchies Restaurant Koh Tao: Excellent restaurant for your sushi cravings. Everything we ordered was spectacular. It's a small spot, so the food takes a little while to come out, but the owner is very kind and hospitable. You can also bring your own bottle of rum without an extra corkage fee.
  • FIZZ Beach Lounge: Delicious cocktails and the perfect island vibes. FIZZ has a great happy hour and a fun, romantic area to kick back on sandbags while sitting right on the beach.
  • Maya Beach Club: Another awesome local bar for cocktails, beers, and happy hour with another stunning beachfront location where you can enjoy a sunset swim.


Nice Writings, Michelle.. I'm going to go there on 2021 and planned to do island hopping. As I only have 2 weeks in Thailand and don't want to travel in rusha, I choose best island to be explored. Already bought ferry tickets on to Koh Samui and Koh Lanta, considering to visit Koh Tao too. How long the perfect duration to explore the whole island? Thanks.
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