Koh Tao( เกาะเต่า ) means Turtle Island, dedicated to the island shape, and yes you can find turtles there as well!😉
Located at Chumphon Archipelago on the Gulf of Thailand, near by famous neighbors Koh Samui and Koh Phangan.
Spotting a turtle is considered a luck charm by Thai people, we saw one and they must definitely be right, because we felt blessed by that encounter.
If you’re a fan of snorkeling or/and diving there’s no way you won’t love this place!
But first you have to get there:
By Train + Ferry Boat
At Hua Lamphong Train Station you can buy a combo train+ferry ticket (Bangkok-Chumphon by train, Chumphon-Koh Tao by ferry).
I certainly recommend buying the ferry in advance(at Hua Lamphong) to avoid overcharge(very likely to happen) and/or losing the ferry and time once in Chumphon.
Soon as you arrive at Chumphon (nearest coastal city to Koh Tao) there’s still a half hour bus ride until the pier, the bus will be waiting for you and it is a free service included at the ticket price, it will bring you directly to the pier.
Enjoy your bus ride, it’s a beautiful way down the pier.
Ferry ride takes about 1.5 hours.
There are 2nd class seats, 2nd class beds(air-con and fan fares) and 1st class cabin options available at the train, the trip will take around 8 hours.Best will be choosing an overnight train and enjoy your sleep until the destination, it also matches the morning boat assuring you won’t have to spend the night in Chumphon.
If you’re not short on time and don’t mind an adventure, train would be my recommendation.This is the way we’ve done it and we would definitely do it again!👍
Hua Lamphong – หัวลำโพง
(Officially “Bangkok Railway Station” – สถานีรถไฟกรุงเทพ)
Address: Hua Lamphong, Rama 4 Road, Mahaphruttharam, Bangrak, Bangkok
Address in Thai: ที่อยู่: หัวลำโพง ถ.พระราม 4 แขวง มหาพฤฒาราม เขต บางรัก กทม
MRT: Hua Lamphong station – Blue line, exit 2
BTS(skytrain): *Interchange with MRT needed- Asoke station – Sukhumvit line, interchange with MRT blue line
Website(Thailand Railway): http://www.railway.co.th/home *In this website you can check all timetables, fares and seating options with pictures of all trains in Thailand.
By Flight + Ferry Boat
There’s 3 airports nearby: Surat Thani, Koh Samui and Chumphon.
From the chosen one you will have to take a bus/taxi/tuk tuk until the pier and then a ferry to Koh Tao.
Note that flights directly to Koh Samui are usually extremely more expensive than other destinations in Thailand, the reason is a private(and beautiful!) owned airport with a route done by only one company(Bangkok Airways).
If there’s availability from your departure point, Chumphon is the best choice.
By Bus + Ferry Boat
Multiple buses to Chumphon depart from Southern Bus Terminal during the day.The trip will take around 8 hours.
BE AWARE that private buses from Khao San Road are NOT a good choice as multiple THEFT are occurring on those trips.
After arrival, you have to catch the next boat to Koh Tao.Ferry ride takes about 1.5 hours(there’s slower boats, if possible plan to arrive in time for the fast one).
I personally would rather use the train, as you will have a bed to sleep all the way and guaranty to board the fast boat on time.
Southern Bus Terminal (Sai Tai Mai) – สถานีขนส่งสายใต้ใหม่ตลิ่งชัน
Address: Borommaratchachonnani Road, Chim Phli, Taling Chan, Bangkok
Address in Thai: ที่อยู่: ถนน บรมราชชนนี แขวง ฉิมพลี เขต ตลิ่งชัน กรุงเทพมหานคร
Best way to get there is by taxi.
*For very short budgets, there’s a night-time ferry that leaves Chumphon 23:00 and arrives 5:00 for 300 baht(day time 1.5 hour trip will cost 550 baht).
Where to Stay/Where to Explore
There’s definitely more than one option when it comes to choosing a location, and it will depend on what you’re looking for:
The main beach in Koh Tao.
The two occasions i advise you to stay here is if you came specially to party or are on a strict budget.Don’t get me wrong, Saree is cute(with reasonable snorkeling!), but there’s other chin dropping locations that are just the whole package.
Saree is a place to visit after the sunset, walk around the shops, have something to eat and enjoy beach parties.
The main pier is located just besides Saree at Mae Had Beach.
*If you choose any of the options below, bear in mind that you will need some kind of transportation every time you wish to leave your hotel (see more about that in “Transportation” section below).
It may sound like a bummer to you, but on my point of view the fun of Koh Tao is exactly exploring the Island beautiful landscapes.
The distance between the bays is quite short(not enough to explore by walk), this is a small Island.
It will guarantee you paradisiacal looks and snorkeling right in front of your hotel.
If you rather stay right in the middle of the buzz, where most of the restaurants and parties are going on then “Saree” or “Mae Haad”(located besides Saree) are better options for you.
We were misled to believe we were booking a hotel at Jansom Bay. The beach front hotel we stayed was cute, we have no complains about it, but when we spend the day at actual Janson Bay we could confirm that it would have been the right choice for us.
The small bay offers stunning snorkeling, beautiful setting, quiet surroundings and is not far from city center.
There’s just one hotel there however, limiting a little for budget travelers.
If not staying at Jansom, visiting their private beach(200 baht per person until 17:00), even paying a fee is worth it.If on a budget you can arrive near 17:00 to enjoy the waters for free, still you have great visibility.😄
Beautiful snorkeling and for the fearless(and experienced swimmers in nice weather please!) the option to swim to the famous Shark Island(can be done by boat otherwise).
If you’re on a budget and is not an experienced motorcycle driver, it may not be the best option for you to pick a hotel here due the steep way down the beach(for experienced drivers it isn’t a problem).
Much wider than Jansom and Banana Rock, great for spending a day.
Unless something changed(the island is growing fast!), the path there by land is a truly hard one.Totaly worth it though(one more time, only for experienced drivers).
Another way to get here is by long tail boat(see more at “Transportation” section below).
There are only a bar and a restaurant there, placed in a way on this tiny bay, that makes you feel like you are in a secret place, everyone else there is silently sharing with you.
Again, great snorkeling, here we spotted a turtle and heard about many seeing sharks.
Large stretch of sand, quiet and peaceful vibe, over again enchanting snorkeling.
Yet another tough road, but much easier than Banana Rock one.
Koh Nang Yuan
Koh Nang Yuan is a small island just about 10 minutes far from Koh Tao, and is also a fantastic choice.
Although the access is only by boat i would recommend to stay 1-2 days there(depending on your taste) and then in Koh Tao. For that, you have to book in fair advance, we’ve tried around 3 weeks before our travel date and the hotel was already fully booked(there’s just one hotel at Koh Nang Yuan).
Another options is doing a day trip to Nang Yuan, for 400 baht(price for the boat, not per person) you can rent a private long tail boat for 2 ways.In this case there’s a 100 baht entrance fee per person.
This is a must see, make sure to save some time on your schedule!
*No plastic is allowed at the island, don’t even bother bringing bottles of water because you gonna have to leave it at the entrance.
Other Locations (Mango Beach, Sai Nuan, Chalok Ban, Ao Thian, etc)
There was some sites we didn’t have time to see, that were greatly recommended as well, if you get the chance to explore Mango Beach, Sai Nuan, Chalok Bay, Ao Thian (or any other lovely place) let us know how do you like it.✨
→Long Tail Boat- Great private and yet cheap option to explore on your rhythm.
You can ask at your reception desk for one, or find it yourself around Mae Haad pier for quite good prices(bargain in both cases).
→Motorcycle- Renting a motorcycle is easy(even if you don’t have a license) and pretty cheap compared to other Thai islands.
Is advisable to take pictures of your vehicle state to avoid damage charges not caused by you.If possible rent from the hotel you’re staying it will ensure more credibility.
→Taxi- If you don’t know/want to drive a motorcycle, you still can move around by grabbing a taxi(that are actually trucks you embark and seat at the trunk).This is an expensive alternative, specially if used frequently.
*We rented a motorcycle to better explore the island.It wouldn’t have been the same without it.
What to do
*Known as a diver’s paradise, Koh tao is one of the cheapest places in the world to take a Padi course (diving certification).🐳
*Snorkeling is another star at the paradisiacal island, including group snorkeling trips, snorkeling off the beach or even renting a boat to explore on your pace.🐠
*Beach parties are big at the main beach area, with acrobatic fire shows, relaxing Thai cushions placed at the sand, everything while facing the sea.🎉
*Chilling at the beach, enjoying the most delicious coconut water with THE view, what better to do?🌴
*Shopping for us have always been part of vocation experience, I adore to ramble around the local craft shops and buy some souvenirs, Koh Tao has plenty of little shops to please that desire.🎁
*Thai Massage is a must!Preferably overlooking the sea.🏖
*Delicious Thai food, as I mentioned before, is one of the things that make Thailand special.Is not only the beautiful nature, but the people, the food, the vibe.Thailand got it all!🌞
*Check the View Point and enjoy a drink while admiring the breath-taking scenery.
Please, do not step at the corals!It may seem obvious, but I noticed many people forgetting this detail when excited about the whole situation.Let’s upkeep the beauty that attract us to the place!💙
Would you like to explore Koh Tao? Share with us in the comments below!💙