Have you been to a place you only planned to visit for a couple of days, but somehow stayed longer, waaaay longer, than planned? That was Koh Tao to me. This magical island on the Gulf of Thailand captured my heart and soul in ways I can barely describe. Today I relive my experiences fondly, sharing with you my top 15 sites, eats, and other unique Koh Tao attractions.
UV night dive with Big Blue
Corals re-transmit light in differing wavelengths or colors, which causes them to glow beautifully under black light. A florescence UV night dive is one of the most unique Koh Tao attractions and I highly recommend one! It’s super trippy and fun 😉 I booked through Big Blue Diving and despite the big boat, I was still part of a small group and had an outstanding experience. Try it!
Snorkeling and hiking at Koh Nangyuang
Rent a cheap traditional tailboat to spend an afternoon at Koh Nangyuang, a stone’s throw from Big Blue Dive Resort. There, you have the option to snorkel the world-renowned Japanese Gardens or hike to one of Koh Tao’s most spectacular viewpoints.
Seafood with a side of cabaret at Sairee Beach
While staying on Sairee Beach, make sure you check out the nightlife and Koh Tao’s best foodie spot. Barracuda Restaurant and Bar is renowned for its unique, delectable seafood creations and unbelievable value. After a pleasant dinner, head next-door to Queen’s Cabaret for a fun drag queen show.
Breakfast or brunch at Cappuccino
Speaking of food, there are several contenders when it comes to proper western breakfast or brunch in Koh Tao. Out of them, Cappuccino in Mae Haad stood out to me due to its superior homemade croissants and competitive prices. I dropped by several times before a full day of diving.
Diving Chumphon Pinnacle and Sail Rock
The reason Turtle Island first made an appearance on the backpacking trail? Cheap, yet outstanding scuba diving courses and day trips. Make sure you don’t miss one of Koh Tao’s top dive sites Chumphon Pinnacle and a day trip to Sail Rock.
Ride dirt bike to Mango viewpoint
This one is not for the faint of heart: Mango viewpoint is only reached after going up several precarious dirt roads and inclines. You must rent a proper dirtbike, 250 cc minimum, to make it! Once on top though, you can have drinks from the bar or even food from the restaurant on-site to complement THAT view.
Snickers shake and burger at Safety Stop Pub
Did you know you can burn up to 600 calories per hour while scuba diving?! Multiply that by 2 or 3 times a day–yah, plenty of room for naughty food! I stumbled upon this local gem by the Mae Haad pier and it offers comfort food at its finest. I mean seriously, their Snickers chocolate shake is said to have 6 FULL bars in it! I tried it and confirm: it is liquid peanut butter caramel chocolate. AHHHH.
Swim with sharks and turtles at Shark Bay
If you are not a diver or simply wish to take a break from the regulator, a great Koh Tao day trip option is to rent a scooter and go beach hopping. Particularly, snorkeling Shark Bay close to sunset (between 4 and 6 PM) increases your chances of seeing feeding reef sharks and turtles.
Rappelling and rock climbing around the island
Other great day trips and relatively-unknown Koh Tao attractions include rappelling and rock climbing around the island. I thoroughly enjoyed a half-day trip with Goodtime Adventures! Their guides are great instructors and heaps of fun. The chosen spots double as stunning viewpoints as well.
Discover how delicious vegan cuisine can be at La Carotte Qui Rit
Vegan cuisine is not only vegetarian, but also does not use any animal products whatsoever. This means popular ingredients such as cheese and honey are out. Loving the latter, it was hard for me to imagine vegan dishes could be that good–until I was invited for lunch at La Carotte Qui Rit. Their creative menu, particularly the Thai dishes, are outstanding. The use of spices is so brilliant, I forgot I was having a vegan lunch.
Become a student or spectator at Flying Trapeze Adventures
If you’re looking for something special, drop by Flying Trapeze Adventures on Sairee’s Main Road, opposite to Prik Thai. Training or watching students fly about with Gemma and her graceful team is, hands-down, the most unique thing to do in Koh Tao. Too bad they were not doing a full-blown show during my stay! I encourage you to check their schedule upon arrival to the island and see if you’re luckier than I was.
Poi fire show on the beach
A popular attraction throughout Southeast Asia beaches are fire dance shows–and Koh Tao isn’t an exception. You can enjoy them nightly at several cafés, bars, and restaurants on the beach. Make sure you pick a seat further away, as the fearless dancers like to get a little too close for comfort!
Homemade gnocchi at Koh Tao Regal Resort
Orgasmic is the only fitting adjective for the quattro formaggi gnocchi at Koh Tao Regal Resort’s beachfront restaurant. Its new Chef worked at some of the best restaurants in Bangkok–and you can taste it. The hand-rolled dumplings, along with the strong four-cheese blend, melted in my mouth in a way that moved me to tears. Of joy. Better yet? It is nearly half the price than similar dishes at other Italian restaurants on the island.
Trash Hero and Jack, the artist
Jack is a peculiar artist who turns garbage into art. You would have to ask around for his specific location, as I couldn’t find any info besides a promotional video on Koh Tao TV! First people to ask would be the Koh Tao chapter of Trash Hero: an organization whose goal is to create sustainable communities by removing and/or transforming waste. Spend a day volunteering on a beach or coral reef cleanup if you can!
Sunday Roast at The Hacienda
English food has a pretty bad reputation worldwide, doesn’t it? The Sunday Roast at The Hacienda completely flipped my perspective, though! Their impossibly-juicy beef & gravy, cheesy cauliflower, and flaky-yet-chewy Yorkshire pudding in particular left me speechless. Needless to say, Koh Tao was the last place I expected to find the best English dishes I’ve ever had!
I received complimentary dives and accommodation at Big Blue Dive Resort; a half-day rappelling trip with Goodtime Adventures; and dinners at Barracuda Restaurant. I was not paid for positive reviews, however, so all views expressed on this post are my honest opinion. I LOVED these experiences! I can’t wait to go back and relive them.
It’s a Canon S95 with housing. It’s a handy litlte pocket camera with full manual features for those times when you can’t carry around a DSLR. I haven’t bought a strobe for it yet so I either adjust my white balance as the water depth reduces natural sun light (turning everything green) or post edit with Lightroom.
thank you so much for the tips Jim!