KOH TAO ITINERARY

Koh Tao Itinerary – Your Perfect Guide in 2024

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Koh Tao can sometimes be overlooked when looking at places to go in Thailand, so this Koh Tao itinerary will show you exactly why Koh Tao should be on your list of places to visit.

Koh Tao is located in the Gulf of Thailand and welcomes travellers with its unparalleled charm and a tapestry of azure waters. Renowned as a diver’s paradise, this island seamlessly combines vibrant marine life with serene landscapes, promising an unforgettable escape. 

Yet, Koh Tao is more than an underwater haven.

Its rugged terrain offers breathtaking viewpoints, such as the John-Suwan viewpoint, where the sun dips below the horizon, casting a warm glow over the island. Beyond the natural allure, the island boasts a laid-back atmosphere, perfect for those seeking respite from the normal world. Think of a Southern Pai!

Koh Tao has so So much to offer and this Koh Tao itinerary will show you the perfect way to navigate and see everything this island in Thailand has to offer.

How Many Days Should You Spend In Koh Tao

In my opinion, you have two options when deciding how many days you’ll spend in Koh Tao

  • Three days if you DO NOT want to get PADI Open Water Certified.
  • Seven days if you DO want to get PADI Open Water Certified.

This Koh Tao Itinerary will be focused on three days in Koh Tao. In the Other Activities section, I’ll add a long section surrounding the PADI Open Water Certification and how I would fit it into a seven-day Koh Tao itinerary. This will allow you to complete your scuba diving course and still see all of the other sites Koh Tao has to offer.

Koh Tao is famous for the scuba diving opportunities it offers travellers from all over the world at affordable prices. I think if you are a confident swimmer it would be silly not to complete your PADI certification as, if we’re honest, how often does this opportunity present itself?

With an abundance of dive resorts and dive schools on the island finding the school perfectly tailored to you is simplified!

How To Get To Koh Tao

There is only one way to get To Koh Tao, by ferry. 

From popular locations such as Koh Phangan or Koh Samui, you can catch a direct ferry to Koh Tao in a few hours. If you are coming from other places such as Bangkok, Phuket, Krabi etc. you will have to get a bus and ferry combined ticket and may end up on a sleeper ferry arriving in the early hours of the morning.

For an in-depth review of how to get to Koh Tao from various popular destinations in Thailand check out my article How To Get To Koh Tao [2023] – A Complete Guide, this guide will tell you where you need to go, the times of arrival and departure, the price per person and so on.

The Ferry schedules you’ll find in the linked article are subject to change during poor weather conditions and full moon parties.

When you only have a short time in Koh Tao I would definitely recommend you get to the island as early in the morning as possible this will allow you a few full days to make sure you miss out on very little.

How To Get Around Koh Tao

Taxi apps such as Grab or Bolt, do not work on Koh Tao so finding modes of transport can be tricky if you don’t know where to look.

When I was at Koh Tao it was clear to me there are three ways you can get around the island.

Rent A Bike

Renting a motorbike is a popular and most convenient way to get around Koh Tao.

The island is relatively small, and a motorbike provides the flexibility to explore various beaches, viewpoints, and attractions at your own pace. However, it’s crucial to prioritise safety, wear helmets, and be mindful of the sometimes steep and uneven terrain.

A bike will set you back between 150-250 Baht per day (About £5 per day), the longer you stay the better deal you can negotiate with the various bike shops on the island. Alternatively, you can book through your accommodation, if they offer the service, for a similar price.

Songthaews/Taxi Services

At popular places such as Sairee Beach or the Mae Haad pier it is possible to get the services of local taxis or drivers of Songthaews. If you can ride a bike, get one it is significantly cheaper

Taxi drivers know that if you cannot drive a bike you will have to rely on them for transport, as a result, they inflate the prices exponentially

But if you’re not comfortable riding a motorbike or prefer a more relaxed experience. Taxis can be hired for short trips or full-day excursions, providing a convenient option for those who prefer to sit back and enjoy the scenery without worrying about navigation.

Walking

If you don’t mind a good old-fashioned hike Koh Tao isn’t the biggest island so you could opt to walk some of it. I walked from the Mae Haad Pier to the John-Suwan viewpoint so it can be done! But let me tell ya you’ll get a sweat on lol.

Walking allows you to immerse yourself in the local atmosphere, discover hidden gems, and enjoy the laid-back island lifestyle. Keep in mind that some areas may have steep inclines, so comfortable footwear is recommended.

I discovered a night time mini golf course during my walk back from John-Suwan and went back that evening, without my mini-hike I never would have found this activity.

Koh Tao Itinerary – Your Perfect Guide

So now you know how to get around Koh Tao, it’s time to learn the best activities you can add to your Koh Tao itinerary.

As I’ve mentioned already Koh Tao is a divers paradise. For the purpose of this Koh Tao itinerary, I am going to leave scuba diving out of the three days. I am working on the presumption that if you are not completing your PADI you probably do not want to do scuba diving at all.

However

If the reason you are not completing your PADI is time restraints, then I would recommend the one-off fun dive, which is a dive to a maximum depth of 12 metres instead of the snorkelling tour. So you can just swap these over.

More details about scuba diving can be found later in the article.

With this in mind, you are now ready to discover your perfect Koh Tao itinerary

Koh Tao Itinerary Day 1 – Snorkelling Day Tour

Arrive in Koh Tao nice and early in the morning and you’ll be able to make the most of your first day in Koh Tao with a snorkelling day trip.

Upon arrival, you’ll have to acquire the services of one of the Songthaews to take you to your accommodation. If you’re staying in any of the places away from the Mae Haad pier this is essential.

A walk from Mae Haad Pier to Sairee Beach would take around 15 minutes with 7 of those being straight up hill. Take the taxi.

Drop your bags off at your accommodation and grab breakfast at one of the restaurants in Koh Tao close to your accommodation.

By booking via Royal Mariblue, transport to and from your accommodation is sorted for you. They will contact you with pick-up times.

Alternatively, their office is close to the Mae Haad Pier if you wish to see them for yourself. 

By booking with these you will spend the day exploring the coast of Koh Tao via a vintage wooden boat while being, usually, in small groups allowing personalisation. This tour includes lunch, sunset views, and a BBQ dinner. Explore with the snorkelling, kayaking, and paddleboarding gear provided by your hosts.

So following pick-up and safety speeches what can you expect?

Nang Yuan Island 

Following a short boat trip, you’ll arrive at the nearby Koh Nang Yuan Island.

Koh Nang Yuan is one of a group of 3 tiny islets off Ko Tao’s northwest coast.

During your trip to the famous Koh Nang Yuan, you’ll get access to paddleboards, kayaking, and snorkelling gear to enjoy your time on the water. Nang Yuan is known for its shallow waters teeming with marine life perfect for snorkelling enthusiasts. 

Alternatively, relax on the beach and top up that tan before heading out to some other snorkelling spots later on in the schedule.

Japanese Garden

Next is the Japanese Gardens located on the east side of Koh Nang Yuan with only a sandbar that joins the two peaks of Koh Nang Yuan that separates it from Twins Pinnacle on the west side.

The Japanese Gardens are one of the most popular snorkelling and scuba diving spots in Koh Tao.

Why?

Japanese Gardens has pretty much everything a snorkel enthusiast dreams of:

  • Shallow depths, so you can feel at ease in the ocean.
  • Little Current, so you don’t have to fight the water.
  • Huge coral formations, that host an abundance of marine life for you to admire and so on.

This makes it a must visit on your Koh Tao itinerary.

When you’re finished at the Japanese Gardens hop back on board and start to make your way towards Mango Bay. During the ride, the crew will whip up a freshly prepared, Thai-infused, lunch for you to savour. 

Mango Bay

The next stop, situated on the north of Koh Tao Island is Mango Bay.

This stop is mainly to relax at one of the beautiful beaches on Koh Tao. Surrounded by lush green hills and boulders at the pristine Ao Muong Beach, a picturesque resort with more snorkelling opportunities should you wish to enter the water. 

Not one of Koh Tao’s premium snorkel spots but nonetheless possible to catch different marine life in their natural habitat.

Ao Hin Wong

Ao Hin Wong is a great spot for relaxing and sunbathing as it is a private beach.

With more snorkelling spots or kayak opportunities, if you’re lucky, you can see schools of sardines being chased by hungry trevally fish. 

This is on the east side of Koh Tao and is only really visited by boat tours so, on the right day, you might get the whole bay to yourself! 

Aow Leuk beach

Next on the list is Aow Leuk Beach another premium snorkel sport for those who want to enter the water.

A coral reef on both sides of the bay means you don’t have to go very far at all to see an abundance of marine life. The large sandy sea floor makes it ideal for swimming and lounging in the water.

Baby black-tip reef sharks have been spotted in this bay, don’t worry they are harmless. A truly unforgettable spot for snorkellers and scuba divers alike.

Shark Bay

A little bit further out at Shark Bay, if you’re lucky, you can find the adult reef sharks. 

You’re not guaranteed to see these sharks but if no sharks appear it is pretty hard to not see at least a few turtles as they hang around this part of the island routinely. 

Again, if entering the water is not for you, you have a relaxing beach for you to enjoy before heading to Banana Rock for the sunset.

Banana Rock

Your final stop is Banana Rock by Sai Nuan Beach.

Watch on as the sun sets gracefully, casting golden light on the calm sea and cliffs. The sky transforms into a canvas of vibrant oranges, pinks, and purples, creating a serene and beautiful atmosphere. It’s a breathtaking scene, leaving a lasting impression of Koh Tao and the snorkel day trip.

As you head back to your accommodation you have two options:

  1. Rest at your accommodation
  2. Check to see if the Koh Tao Pub Crawl is on and join in

Either work but I will be recommending a night out tomorrow, you have been warned!

Koh Tao Itinerary Day 2 – Explore The Island

For day 2 of your Koh Tao itinerary, get yourself up early and get ready to explore Koh Tao.

In an ideal world, you will have a scooter for this trip as you’ll be bouncing around the whole island of Koh Tao. Taking a private taxi from site to site will cost significantly more and covering all this ground on foot is not possible. If you cannot drive a bike yourself, try and make friends at your accommodation, if they can drive a bike invite them along and hop on the back.

Starting in the morning hop on your scooter and head to…

Mango Viewpoint

If you’re early enough you’ll catch the sunrise. A perfect start to day 2 of your Koh Tao itinerary.

Just a 15-minute ride north of Sairee Beach you’ll catch the Mango Viewpoint.

This viewpoint offers you a spectacular vista of the whole of Sairee Beach, as well as Mae Haad Bay to the South. There is a small bar at the peak so if you’re feeling peckish you can have some food here as you take in the beauty of Koh Tao. 

It’s the perfect spot to get some of your Insta pics so don’t forget to pose!

When you’re ready, hop back onto the bike and head down the mountain moving towards your next destination…

Chalok Baan Kao Bay

Next on your Koh Tao itinerary, make the long drive down south of Koh Tao to Chalok Baan Kao Bay.

Chalok Bay is the third largest beach on Koh Tao.

Chalok Bay is known for being on the quieter side so it’s perfect to relax on. With Beach Bars and restaurants scattered around the outside, you can enjoy a refreshing drink or 5 as you cast your eyes over the horizon.

It would seem criminal to take a trip to Koh Tao and not experience as many beaches as possible, it may be quiet but it’s worth having on your Koh Tao itinerary.

John-Suwan Viewpoint

Arguably the most famous viewpoint on Koh Tao and a must-see for your Koh Tao itinerary.

Make the short drive towards John-Suwan Viewpoint and leave your bike in the car park that splits the viewpoint and Freedom Beach.

This viewpoint will set you back 50 Baht (£1).

To reach the viewpoint will take you around 15 minutes, and involves climbing some pretty steep rocks so if you’re there during the hot season make sure you have water, you are gonna work up a major sweat!

This was one of my favourite viewpoints from my whole Southeast Asia trip so make sure you take it all in. You’ll see a perfect panoramic view of Chalok Baan Kao and Shark Bay. If you’re really lucky during a clear day you’ll also be able to see Koh Samui and Koh Phangan

Freedom Beach

After you are finished with the panoramic views of the John-Suwan Viewpoint walk down to Freedom Beach Koh Tao.

Freedom Beach is a perfect place to relax and wash off the sweat from your steep hike to John-Suwan. Take a breath, grab a bite to eat and drink and enjoy your coastal surroundings.

In the water is a shallow coral reef for you to lay your eyes upon, swim a little further and you can see Buddha Rock while schools of fish swim around you.

As the day progresses it’s time to find a location for the approaching sunset and I know just the place.

Two View Viewpoint Bar

Offering an immense view of the west coast of Koh Tao and Koh Nang Yuan, the Two View Viewpoint Bar is the perfect way to end the day and grab a bite to eat as the sunsets on the west coast.

The bar is owned by a friendly couple who make great food to match up the views.

As long as you purchase a drink or food there are no fees attached to this viewpoint, if you come purely for the pictures they may charge you a few Baht.

As the night approaches it’s time to slip into your best clothes as we’re going on a night out babyyyy!

Nightlife 

You can’t have a Koh Tao itinerary and not experience the best Koh Tao evening activity, the bar crawl!

Even if the days don’t match up for you to take part in the bar crawl all along Sairee Beach are beach clubs and club-type venues for you to enjoy the nightlife.

The Koh Tao bar crawl is one of the best and most famous bar crawls in Thailand and something you must consider if you want the right of passage as a traveller!

So for 580 Baht what do you get?

  • Free Bucket
  • Free Shirt
  • Free Shots
  • Discount Drinks/ Happy Hour at all the bars on the crawl
  • Discounts on diving, snorkel trips, food & activities around the island
  • Prizes throughout the night
  • Games to get to know everyone
  • Professional photographer to capture all the memories
  • QUEENS CABARET SHOW
  • DJs all through the night
  • Fire Show and so on.

This certainly isn’t an event you want to miss out on, so book it when you arrive in Koh Tao!

Koh Tao Itinerary Day 3 – Relaxation At Sairee Beach

I have a feeling you’re gonna have a titanic hangover right now, that’s why I’ve booked you in to spend a day at Sairee Beach to relax and flush the toxins out of your body.

For an in-depth review of Sairee Beach check out my article here!

Being one of the most popular beaches in Koh Tao, Sairee Beach is a hotspot for people who want to relax, interact with fellow travellers, or take part in the various water activities available.

With its pristine white sands and crystal-clear turquoise waters, it is clear to see why Sairee Beach is so popular. Renowned for its exceptional snorkelling and diving opportunities, the beach unveils a kaleidoscope of marine life amidst vibrant coral reefs.

Beyond aquatic adventures, Sairee Beach offers a lively atmosphere, with beachfront bars and restaurants providing a dynamic social scene. 

Some of the many restaurants and local food options to eat in Koh Tao include:

  • Whitening Restaurant
  • Barracuda Rooftop Restaurant
  • The Factory Café
  • 995 Duck

As the day comes to a close, the sunset you can see from Sairee Beach is truly spectacular. The sky transforms into shades of orange and pink, the perfect way to end the day.

You have the option to go out and experience Koh Tao’s nightlife one more time or rest up for your journeys ahead. This one depends on your travel away from Koh Tao. If you have a real early morning ferry it might be wise to rest up!

Other Activities

Like I said earlier, Koh Tao is known for scuba diving  and to complete your PADI open water certification takes between 3 and 4 days and therefore if you were to include this in your Koh Tao itinerary I would recommend this:

  • 1 to 4 days – PADI Open Water Certification
  • 4 to 7 days – The Koh Tao three-day itinerary as seen above.

Scuba Diving (PADI Open Water Certification)

One of the best things to do in Koh Tao is Scuba Diving. Being one of the most affordable places in the world where you can achieve your Open Water Certification it is certainly a no-brainer for you to consider when you stay in Koh Tao. 

Scuba diving at Koh Tao is ideal for beginners due to its calm, clear waters accompanied by trained professionals I can’t think of many places I’d rather learn scuba diving than this island.

This course will cost you approximately 11,000 Baht (£250) ($315).

So what is the process of this course and what does it allow you to do after completion?

To enrol on the course you must be:

  • Minimum 10 years of age.
  • Medically Fit to dive.
  • Be able to float for 10 minutes.
  • Be able to swim, freestyle for 200 metres / or with a mask, snorkel and fins for 300 metres.

Now the necessities are out the way what can you expect?

  • Knowledge Development:
    • Begin with the theoretical aspect of diving education.
    • PADI offers various learning options, including online courses, e-books, or traditional classroom sessions.
    • Topics cover dive theory, equipment, safety, and environmental awareness.
  • Confined Water Training:
    • Develop basic scuba skills in a controlled environment, usually a swimming pool.
    • Usually in groups of no more than 4.
    • Learn essential techniques such as buoyancy control, equipment assembly, and underwater communication.
  • Open Water Dives:
    • Apply learned skills in open water settings, typically a shallow part of the sea before progressing.
    • Consists of a minimum of four dives, each building on the skills acquired in confined water.
    • Explore real-world diving conditions, such as currents and varying visibility.
  • Knowledge Review:
    • Review and discuss the theoretical knowledge gained during the course.
    • Ensure a comprehensive understanding of diving principles and safety procedures.
  • Final Exam:
    • Complete a final exam to assess theoretical knowledge.
    • The exam typically covers topics like dive planning, decompression theory, and emergency procedures.
  • Certification:
    • Upon successful completion of all requirements, receive the PADI Open Water Diver certification.
    • This certification allows you to dive up to 18 meters (60 feet) with a buddy independently.
  • Optional Advanced Training:
    • After obtaining the Open Water Diver certification, divers can pursue advanced training, such as the PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course.
  • Dive Log:
    • Maintain a dive log to record each dive, including location, depth, time, and any noteworthy observations or experiences.

There are many MANY dive resorts and dive schools on Koh Tao so picking the best one tailored to you can be a challenge. Check out my article on the Best Dive Resorts in Koh Tao for a more comprehensive view.

Some of the best resorts and schools include:

Once your Open Water Certification is completed you are free to complete this Koh Tao itinerary as we have already presented it to you.

Love Koh Tao Sign

This one is relatively easy to add to the Koh Tao itinerary, before going to the Two View Viewpoint Bar, leave Freedom Beach early and go to the Love Koh Tao viewpoint.

The famous Love Koh Tao viewpoint again offers panoramic views of Koh Tao and is certainly something you can add to your Koh Tao itinerary. 

Where To Stay On Koh Tao

I always recommend staying as close to Sairee Beach as possible as this is the main hub for all things Koh Tao. Koh Tao is a relatively small island so no matter where you stay the island is fully accessible via scooter but it is agreed by many travellers before me that the best place to stay is Sairee Beach.

To check out your dive resort options click here!

Budget-Friendly Options

Revolution Koh Tao – Certainly a hostel I would recommend to anyone happy to socialise and get involved with any of the numerous activities they include:

  • Boat parties.
  • Pool parties.
  • Hikes and more!

In prime location by Sairee Beach, this hostel will also rent you snorkel equipment and beach towels at your convenience as well as get you discounts from diving companies should you wish to give it a go.

From as little as £11 for a night at this highly-rated hostel, it truly is a bargain for travellers.

Save House Poshtel – A hostel for travellers who aren’t feeling too social but also want to save a bit of money. Save House Poshtel offers accommodation with good service friendly staff, and clean rooms, and is near Koh Tao’s Sairee Beach.

Again from as little as £11 a night, this is one of the cheapest places to stay near Sairee Beach while also maintaining high-quality facilities.

Mid-Price Range

Wyh Hotel – Just a five-minute walk from the beachfront of Sairee Beach, Wyh Hotel offers travellers accommodation in the perfect location while maintaining the highest quality displayed by their reviews on Booking.com.

With the staff receiving a 9+ rating, it is fair to say all your needs will be met when you stay at Wyh Hotel.

Thalassa – Stands as an exemplary choice for discerning travellers seeking a harmonious blend of comfort and convenience. Nestled in proximity to the captivating Sairee Beach, its allure is magnified by state-of-the-art facilities. The resort boasts a range of amenities, including luxurious accommodations, and dining options that tantalise the palate.

I have heard the shower pressure is quite good here and I do consider this an important factor lol.

Ban’s Diving Resort – Ban’s Diving Resort in Koh Tao is a premier choice for diving enthusiasts.

Established in 1993, it has earned a stellar reputation for its top-tier dive training programs, featuring certified and experienced instructors.

The resort boasts state-of-the-art facilities, convenient on-site accommodation, and access to diverse dive sites around Koh Tao. With a commitment to excellence, Ban’s provides a comfortable and communal atmosphere, fostering connections among diving enthusiasts.

Overall, its comprehensive offerings, including quality training, prime facilities, and a sense of community, make Ban’s Diving Resort an excellent option for an enriching diving experience in Koh Tao.

Luxury

The Place Luxury Boutique Villas – The Place Luxury Boutique Villas, where luxury isn’t just a word, but a way of life. Tucked away in a secluded haven, these villas redefine what it means to live it up.

Each villa is like a private oasis, giving you all the space you need to relax and unwind in style. And let’s talk about service – it’s not just good; it’s personalised to make you feel like a VIP.

But it’s not just about the villas; it’s a whole experience. The architecture seamlessly blends with nature, creating this serene escape.

The Place Luxury Boutique Villas isn’t just a stay; it’s a statement – a statement of indulgence, privacy, and pure sophistication. If you’re into that kind of thing, this place is your perfect match.

Situated close to Sairee Beach if you want to live in style The Place Luxury Boutique Villas is the place for you.

Monkey Flower Villas – Monkey Flower Villas offers an unparalleled retreat for travellers seeking tranquillity and luxury.

Nestled amidst lush greenery, the villas provide a serene escape from the hustle and bustle. Immerse yourself in the harmonious blend of modern comfort and traditional aesthetics.

The villa is meticulously designed, boasting spacious interiors and private terraces with breathtaking views. 

At the northern end of Sairee Beach, this villa also includes 24-hour a day complimentary pick-up and drop-off for locations on Koh Tao during your stay. 

This is PERFECT for those wanting the luxury life or if you can get a group of 8 together this property works out at approximately £212 each for 4 nights. A BARGAIN!

Final Thoughts

There you have it your perfect Koh Tao itinerary for three or seven days!

Now it is time to leave Koh Tao you will depart from the port you arrived in.

Koh Tao is a beautiful island that you MUST visit during your time in Thailand. Koh Phangan and Koh Samui can’t offer you the best way to learn scuba diving and for such a short ferry journey it is totally worth it.

Koh Tao is a small island but it will leave a big impact on your travelling journey!

Book that trip and visit Koh Tao as soon as you can!