White sandy beaches and a lush jungle interior are reason enough alone to come here, but it’s the tropical underwater world to be explored just off its shores, that make Ko Tao even more special. It’s renown as being one of the best and cheapest places in the world to gain the divers’ PADI/SSI qualifications. Retaining a more ramshackle backpacker feel than it’s two nearby siblings, combined with a great bar and party scene in and around the main beach at Sairee, you can see why Ko Tao is a top backpacker favourite!
While there’s plenty of partying going on, it’s more relaxed than wild Ko Phangan beach parties. Those wanting to seek out more secluded quiet beaches can do so; our beaches of Ko Tao highlight covers it all. There are no big cultural structures, but it’s not what most people look for on a small beach island!
As well as diving, the island has gorgeous white sand beaches, most of which are suitable for swimming and many are also excellent for snorkelling. For those wishing to get away from it all, you can be assured of a more peaceful stay at some of the less developed parts of the island, while still enjoying some of the finest tropical beaches to be found anywhere. Ko Tao's famous and breathtaking sunsets can be enjoyed across the island; its granite interior provides the perfect setting for enthusiasts and beginners to indulge in bouldering and rock climbing; and the challenging treks across the island, which lead to spectacular viewpoints and deserted beaches. You can practice or learn yoga in one of Ko Tao's several well-established yoga centres; beach-hop around the island on a long tail boat; take a boat trip to the glorious Ang Thong Marine Park; get a rush of adrenalin by cliff jumping or flying on a jungle trapeze. Or, as an alternative to scuba diving, try free diving in the gorgeous reefs and multitude of fish and other marine life. There are even a couple of outfits where you can learn about coral reefs and marine conservation. There really is something for everyone.
As long as your travelling time can allow!
Ko Tao means "Turtle Island", and it covers an area of only 21 square kilometres (8 square miles), with the coastline blessed with many sandy beaches dotted with palm trees and rocky outcrops. The volcanic interior is covered mainly by dense, tropical jungle. The island was completely unpopulated until 1933 when it was used as a political prison from 1933 until 1947 when the colony was abandoned. But in the same year, two brothers sailed over from Ko Phangan and settled on the island, later bringing their families with them to farm the fertile land around the western coast. These pioneer families still comprise the majority landowners on the island today – particularly around the popular tourist areas on the western shore. Backpackers and other overseas tourists started arriving in the 1980s, and it soon became a popular destination when better and faster boats served the port at Mae Haad. It wasn't long before Ko Tao became a world-renowned diving location. The last census in 2008 showed a Thai population of only 1,382, although the advent of tourism has attracted an estimated 3000 Burmese who live and work on the island to provide much-needed labour for the burgeoning tourism industry.