Whilst Koh Tao, also known as Turtle Island, has many resorts and diving schools including a bustling town centre, it is still relatively undeveloped with much of the natural mountainous areas intact. It is truly paradise for snorkelers and divers, so visit as many beaches and bays as you can.
The island is mostly made of really high peaks which are sometimes impossible for non 4×4 vehicles to move along, so your best bet is to hire a 125 cc scooter ( 110 won’t cut it up the steep inclines especially with more than one person= 200 baht per day) or the ATV’s( 800 baht per day). We couldn’t seem to find any cars to rent for my parents to use, so unless you can afford a ATV or drive a scooter, getting around the island will start becoming expensive.
Here are a few beaches and bays which we loved…
1. Hin Wong Bay
This was one of the toughest beaches to get to as the incline was very steep and the path down quite narrow. Vans and scooters have to hoot going up or down to avoid accidents. I wouldn’t suggest trying to navigate your way up here if you’re a novice scooter rider. Best grab a taxi. Once you’re there, it is so worth it. We collapsed onto the beach at Mol’s Bar, a place which Jack Sparrow would happily have called home. Bits of old beachwear and nautical bits hang around the bar and decorated the beach. I hired a snorkel set for 50 baht in addition to a 1000 baht deposit. In order to use the beach, you have to pay 50 baht or buy a drink. Unlike the West side of the island, there was absolutely no wind. Young people relaxed on their towels, played cards and listened to chilled house. Snorkeling is wonderous as the water is clear even on a semi-cloudy day and big boulders hug the little, pebbled-covered beach.
2. Tanote Bay
Half-way down a terribly steep dirt road, we wondered if it would be worth continuing all the way to this bay. A friendly lady warned us to just go slowly and keep going as she felt it is the prettiest bay on the island. She was absolutely correct. May a tourist struggled up and down that hill, but we were rewarded at the end of the ‘rainbow’. As the sun shone down on this beach and a tiny enclave beside it we took a moment to really enjoy what lay before us. A long tail boat swayed gently not too far from large boulders, a child splashed in the water and guys bravely jumped from a massive boulder out at sea. Walking on this stony beach is not the most comfortable nor is walking into the ocean, but once you’re out with your snorkel, the underwater world is all you’ll have time for. If you’re an adrenalin junkie swim out to the big rock and jump into the ocean a few metres below. A total snorkeling gem.
3. Aow Leuk Bay
This is the third bay on the East side of the island. The journey there was much easier and my family were able to get there by taxi. This beach does not allow you to bring your own food and drinks onto it and it closes at 5pm. Diving boats anchored a little way off the shore, hinting at great underwater experiences for those on the beaches. The clea, turquoise water was still the perfect temperature after 3pm and snorkelers floated above the corals, rocks and fish. Many a time I found myself totally surrounded by schools of colourful fish, parrot fish nibbling on the coral and silver fish who didn’t seem shy at all. Best take mosquito repellent as come 5pm, the mosquitoes didn’t refrain from finding us on the beach.
4. Chalok Bay
You can get to this fairly long beach via a straight road in the centre of town. Restaurants and cafes line this beach so there is ample for you to eat and drink. Numbers of colourful, longtail boats moored on the beach awaiting passengers and we observed the young turtles being rescued as part of a rehabilitation programme on the island. This beach had a lot more of a breeze than the bays on the East side and is best for sunning and swimming instead of snorkeling.
5. Sairee Beach
Once you step on land, you’ll hear about Sairee beach. Not because it’s the most beautiful, but because it’s the longest. It travels 1.85 km up the West Coast with restaurants and bars all the way along. Families will enjoy this one as the sand is soft and the water is shallow. Snorkelers will find a spot 30 m off shore. If you’re keen to learn to dive, there are lots of dive centres to choose from and come the evening, walking off the beach and into the street markets.
6. Koh Nangyuan Island
Only 10-15 minutes by longtail boats and you’ll find yourself on a little piece of paradise. Pay 100 baht to enter the island and leave all your plastic bottles behind. Luckily we got there early and avoided the masses whilst walking up to the viewpoint. Make sure you’re well hydrated before doing the climb, the easy-going boardwalk soon turns to tons of steps through a mosquito-laden forest. The viewpoint from the peak is something to behold as you can see the stretch of beach connecting the other island, all the moored boats and crystal clear waters. This was by far my best snorkeling experience ever. Below the aqua-marine waters, an entire world of fish, anemone and coral awaits. If I had the time I would have spent hours underneath there. It’s extremely popular with divers and snorkelers andcfills up quickly. Note: it will cost you 100 baht for 2 beach chairs, 50 baht to use the shower afterwards and 50 baht to rent goggles and snorkel. Do not miss this island!
What was your favourite beach on the island?
Thanks for this insightful article. My favourite beach of those above was Tanote Bay, for the snorkeling as well as it being a nice bay to watch the sunrise from on Koh Tao!
Thanks for reading Dan! Tanote Bay is total gem.
Lucy Sheref says
I love Freedom Beach! It’s so chilled out and has stacks of shade too. Make a visit next time you’re on KT:)
Vaughan @ The Travel Manuel says
We definitely will, thank you!
Ilya Gurman says
Are the beaches really this crowded like in your pictures? I thought this Island was rather remote
Lauren Manuel McShane says
It’s been a long time since I’ve been to any Thai islands that had deserted beaches. Koh Tao is definitely no longer remote. It’s a very popular island and usually filled with young backpackers on quad bikes and parties on the beach. Still worth a visit as it’s so beautiful. Koh Lanta was one of the quieter islands we visited. We could still find a few beaches and bays with not a soul on them 😉