The island is well known for scuba diving and snorkeling, as well as hiking, rock climbing, and bouldering. The most popular place for tourists is Sairee on the west coast, which has a white sandy beach of 1.7 km interrupted only by a few huge boulders and a scattering of medium budget resorts and restaurants.

Info Koh Tao


Ko Tao (also often Koh Tao, lit. "Turtle Island") is an island in Thailand and forms part of the Chumphon Archipelago on the western shore of the Gulf of Thailand. It covers an area of about 21 km². Administratively it forms a district (amphoe) (as of 2013) of Surat Thani Province. As of 2006 its official population was 1,382. The main settlement is Ban Mae Hat.

The economy of the island is almost exclusively centred on tourism, especially scuba diving.

Ko Tao was named by its first settlers after the island's turtle-like shape. Coincidentally, the island is an important breeding ground for hawksbill and green turtles. Development of tourism has negatively impacted the health of these grounds but a breeding programme organised in 2004 by the Royal Thai Navy and KT-DOC, a coalition of local scuba diving centres, has reintroduced hundreds of juvenile turtles to the island's ecosystem.

Ko Tao was once a detention place for political prisoners. Today it's a great place for divers or persons who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Ko Samui or the chaos of the Full Moon Party on Ko Pha Ngan. The island is geared more towards relatively affluent divers than backpackers on a budget. Thus, you won't find cheap food stalls here. There are hardly any ocean currents and there is a wide selection of dive sites and dive shops, dive schools, and resorts. Activities other than diving are on the increase and the food and nightlife options are some of the best in the Gulf of Thailand.

Ko Tao is a small island of approximately 21 km² and receives over 100,000 visitors per year. This is a heavy tourist load for a small island with rudimentary sanitation infrastructure. Everything that can't be burned has to be taken away to the mainland. There is no sanitation department to clean the roads or other public areas, so don't dump your waste thoughtlessly. Avoid the unnecessary plastic bags that are given out mindlessly for virtually every purchase. Water is scarce and electricity expensive, so don't waste them.

Peak seasons in Ko Tao are from Dec-Mar and Jul-Aug. It is a quite popular destination among Thais also, so it can be nearly fully booked on Thai holidays.

AREA : 21 km2 (8 sq mi)
COORDINATES : 10°5′24″N 99°50′17″E
SEX RATIO : Male: 


The island is well known for scuba diving and snorkeling, as well as hiking, rock climbing, and bouldering. The most popular place for tourists is Sairee on the west coast, which has a white sandy beach of 1.7 km interrupted only by a few huge boulders and a scattering of medium budget resorts and restaurants. Chalok Baan Khao, to the south of the island, is becoming increasingly popular as an alternative for those wishing to escape the crowds. A great many granite boulders, both in the forests and on the beaches of Ko Tao, attract a growing number of climbers.

Ko Tao is less developed than Ko Samui and Ko Pha Ngan, but has become increasingly popular especially with the mid-20s backpacker crowd in search of relatively inexpensive scuba diving certification. For the past two years the demographics of the island has seen an age increase, with many of the visitors who first visited the island over ten years ago are now returning with their families.

Diving conditions have improved dramatically in the past few years with the continuing education of locals by the dive community. The El Niño weather pattern of 1997 caused a warming of the waters which resulted in the loss of a great deal of the shallow corals near the island. Since then, the recovery has been swift and dramatic. Ko Tao now offers some of the best scuba diving in the Gulf of Thailand. And with help by island conservation group, Save Koh Tao, the island's environmental outlook is improving.

Tourism and development on the island has grown steadily for the last several decades, with public infrastructure often lagging far behind. Shortages of electricity and fresh water are common, and both solid and liquid waste management is inadequate. For these reasons, visitors to Koh Tao are strongly encouraged to conserve resources and choose environmentally responsible businesses and Resorts.

As one of the world's most popular diving destinations, today more attention is being focused on the negative effects of diving on coral reef health around Koh Tao. Divers visiting the island should be especially vigilant about following the proper code of conduct for diving/snorkeling in coral reef areas, most notably not contacting the reef or corals in any way. Natural factors combined with over-use of some areas has led to an increase in the abundance of corallivores such as Drupella snails and the Crown-of-thorns starfish around the island in recent years. In 2012, a Marine Zoning and Regulations Master Plan was developed for the island and subsequently become local law, however the positive effects of increased management have yet to be realized in regards to the health of reef areas.

Chumpon Pinnacle, a dive site to the west of the island has a reputation for divers in search of both whale sharks and bull sharks. However, because of warmer water temperatures over the last year a great number of bull sharks have migrated to cooler waters. The island is host to over 130 species of hard corals, and over 223 species of reef fishes belonging to 53 families.


Initially the island was uninhabited, with only the occasional fisherman from the neighbouring islands, looking for shelter in a storm or just resting before continuing on his journey.

It would appear from old maps and descriptions that this island was known by European cartographers and mariners as "Pulo Bardia", indicating that it was first settled by Malayo-Polynesian peoples. The old maps show a chain of three islands aligned north-south and lying off the east coast of the Malay Peninsula. The most northerly and smallest of these islands is marked P. Bardia, the name it had until the early 1900s. The best map example is by John Thornton from The English Pilot, the Third Book, dated 1701, but the specific map of the Gulf of Siam is dated around 1677. Also see maps of the East Indies by William Dampier c.1697. By modern standards of accuracy, the islands are poorly placed on early maps. Seventeenth century marine navigation and cartography used the "backstaff" which, in this area, was accurate to one degree of longitude, or around 60 nautical miles.

The Edinburgh Gazetteer, or Geographical Dictionary published in 1827 also mentions the island and provides a geographical position. In his 1852 book titled Narrative of a Residence in Siam. by Frederick Arthur Neale, the author describes the people and wildlife of Bardia. According to the account there were farms and even cows in a village on the bay lying on the west side of the island. The book includes a fanciful illustration of "Bardia" showing huts and palm trees.

Joseph Huddart in 1801 included these directions for navigating the islands, "To the N.W. by N are two islands of about the same height as Poolo Carnom [Ko Samui]; the first, called SANCORY [Ko Pha Ngan], is 7 leagues from Carnom; the other...,named BARDA, or Bardia [Ko Tao], is 7½ leagues from Sancory." (A league is approximately 3 nautical miles or 5.5 km.)

On June 18, 1899, King Chulalongkorn visited Ko Tao and left as evidence his monogram on a huge boulder at Jor Por Ror Bay next to Sairee Beach. This place is still worshipped today.

In 1933 the island started to be used as a political prison. In 1947 Khuang Abhaiwongse, prime minister at that time, pleaded and received a royal pardon for all prisoners on the island. Everybody was taken to the shore of Surat Thani and Ko Tao was abandoned again.

In the same year Khun Uaem and his brother Khun Oh reached Ko Tao from the neighbouring Ko Pha Ngan by trying out their traditional sail boat, for that time a quite long and dangerous journey. Even though the island was still under royal patronage, it did not stop these pioneers claiming themselves a good part of the land on today's Sairee Beach. Having brought their families over, they began to cultivate the excellent soil, forming the first generation of the present-day community. They lived a simple and tough life harvesting coconuts, fishing, and growing vegetables, which were also traded with Ko Pha Ngan. Despite the difficulties in reaching the island, the population grew steadily.

In the 1980s overseas travellers began to visit Ko Tao and quickly became a popular destination. As a consequence, bigger, faster and safer boats were used to allow easier access to Ko Tao. In the 1990s the island became known as a diving site.

Prices in Koh Tao



Milk1 liter$1.38
Tomatoes1 kg$1.18
Cheese0.5 kg$
Apples1 kg$2.50
Oranges1 kg$1.90
Beer (domestic)0.5 l$1.45
Bottle of Wine1 bottle$13.00
Coca-Cola2 liters$1.00
Bread1 piece$1.08
Water1.5 l$0.48



Dinner (Low-range)for 2$14.00
Dinner (Mid-range)for 2$
Dinner (High-range)for 2$
Mac Meal or similar1 meal$4.40
Water0.33 l$0.28
Cappuccino1 cup$1.75
Beer (Imported)0.33 l$2.85
Beer (domestic)0.5 l$1.60
Coca-Cola0.33 l$0.50
Coctail drink1 drink$3.80



Cinema2 tickets$
Gym1 month$
Men’s Haircut1 haircut$
Theatar2 tickets$
Mobile (prepaid)1 min.$0.05
Pack of Marlboro1 pack$2.80



Antibiotics1 pack$5.70
Tampons32 pieces$2.20
Deodorant50 ml.$3.30
Shampoo400 ml.$3.40
Toilet paper4 rolls$
Toothpaste1 tube$1.50



Jeans (Levis 501 or similar)1$60.00
Dress summer (Zara, H&M)1$
Sport shoes (Nike, Adidas)1$85.00
Leather shoes1$



Gasoline1 liter$0.81
Taxi1 km$0.25
Local Transport1 ticket$

Tourist (Backpacker)  

35 $ per day

Estimated cost per 1 day including:

  • meals in cheap restaurant
  • public transport
  • cheap hotel

Tourist (business/regular)  

75 $ per day

Estimated cost per 1 day including:

  • mid-range meals and drinks
  • transportation
  • hotel

Transportation - Get In

Transportation - Get In

By plane

The nearest airports are in Chumphon, Ko Samui and Surat Thani. Ko Tao is then reached by numerous ferry and high-speed catamaran services.

Ko Tao by Nok Air & Lomprayah Catamaran Fly’n’Ferry Service

Nok Air sells a Bangkok to Ko Tao, Combi Air-Sea ticket online. It operates a 2 daily flights with Q400 NextGen aircraft seating 86 passengers between Bangkok (Don Muang, DMK) and Chumphon Airport (CJM), Pathio District, Chumphon. Lomprayah has an counter at the Chumphon Airport offering direct connections to the pier for High Speed Catamaran transfer services to Koh Tao and onwards to Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, The sea sector of the trip can also be purchased as a single ticket at the airport.

Flight Options from Bangkok

  • Via Chumphon Airport (CJM) - Nok Air fly from Don Muang Airport (DMK) to Chumphon three times daily. Once you fly in, you connect via Lomprayah High Speed ferry to Ko Tao.
  • Via Surat Thani Airport (URT) - Thai AirAsia, Nok Air (DMK) and Thai Airways (BKK) fly from Bangkok to Surat Thani Airport .
  • Via Ko Samui Airport (USM) - Thai Airways and Bangkok Airways operate almost all flights from the private airport in Ko Samui and both charge artificially high rates. Bangkok Airways runs many more daily flights to and from Ko Samui than Thai Airways. International flights also operate directly to Ko Samui.

Transportation - Get In

By boat

From Chumphon

The closest port from Bangkok for the island ferry service is Chumphon. Numerous agents sell tickets for a variety of boats of varying size and speed travelling in from the north. The fastest takes about 90 min, the slowest almost 5 hr. The Lomprayah Company has a pickup service from your hotel to the pier which will cost 100 baht. The ticket itself is 600 baht wherever you book it.

These ferries only depart Chumphon at 07:00, 13:30, 23:00 and 24:00. The ferries at 07:00 and 13:30 are the normal passenger ferries offered by Lomprayah, Seatran, and Songserm

The late night ferries are normally vehicle or cargo ferries, making for a slower (5-6 hr trip, arriving at 05:00) and are less comfortable. If you are arriving via bus or train, be sure to arrive well before the ferry times, as the ferry terminal is around 1 hr travel time from the train station, and a missed connection either results in a late night trip on the vehicle/cargo ferry or an overnight stay and a 05:30 start to catch the bus to the ferry terminal for the first ferry the next day.

Sangserm offer VIP combined coach and boat tickets from Bangkok, claiming to take 6 hr by bus and 1.5 hr by boat. In fact, it takes closer to 9 hr by bus and 3 hr by boat, neither of which are particularly comfortable. Also, Songserm does not go when there are high waves and they do not inform their customers about it upon arrival. Furthermore, they deny refunds and are extremely rude about it. This agency should be avoided.

A good solution if coming from Bangkok is to book Sleeper Train #85; leaving Bangkok around 17:30 and arriving in Chumphon at 03:57 and then have a ticket booked for the 07:00 ferry. Most ferry operators can pick you up from the station where you can while away the 3 hr connection gap. You can also buy your ferry ticket at the station when you get off the train at 04:00. Lomprayah have a ticket office and a ticket on a waiting comfortable large bus is included in the price.

From Surat Thani

If you're coming from the south, you can take a ferry from Surat Thani on the mainland with a travel time of around 3 hr for the morning ferry, or from Ko Samui, 1.5 hr, or Ko Pha Ngan 1 hr. If you're taking a boat from Surat Thani, one possibility might be an overnight ferry. These depart around 23:00 and arrive in the morning, about 06:00 (subject to changes). It's advisable to arrive early to grab a mattress. As most of the boats are formerly cargo boats the passenger facilities are basic.

From the other islands

You can also day trip on diving charters from Ko Samui. Many have high-speed boats that can make the trip to Ko Tao in about 1 hr.

Lomprayah High Speed Catamaran or Seatran are the fastest and most comfortable way to get to Ko Tao. They run twice a day from Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan, Surat Thani, and Chumphon. They also have online booking, seful for checking availability at peak times and all their boats have air conditioning and movies for passengers.


Transportation - Get Around

There is one main road running north to south on the island with many smaller roads branching off from it. Some roads lead over the spine of small mountains that run along the middle of the island and are all dirt, can become impassable after rain, and can be challenging even to a skilled driver. If you are looking for an adventure, the dirt roads are a good place to find it. Also be aware that distances can be quite deceiving due to the quality and elevation changes of the trail. There are usually plenty of taxis available in both Sairee Village and Mae Haad, however they tend to be expensive given the actual distance you travel. The best way to travel is by renting a small scooter or motorcycle. This gives you the freedom to explore all of the treasures of the island without paying the large taxi costs.

You can rent bicycles and motorcycles at a few places on Sairee Beach, Mae Haad, and Chalok. Be careful if you rent a motorbike as the dirt roads can get dangerous. ATVs (all terrain vehicles) are dangerous (ask any medical clinic) and expensive (500+ baht/day) and should be avoided in favour of Honda Dreams (150-200 baht/day) or Clicks (200-250 baht/day).

It is normal practice for motorcycle rental places to ask for a passport as deposit. This is due to the fear of drunken tourists crashing their bike and not returning it. You should be wary of handing over your passport unless you are positive of the legitimacy of the operation.

An increasing number of rental shops are charging large amounts of money for non-existent scratches on bikes when returning them, notably the shop next to 7-Eleven in Sairee Village (Save Way Travel). Make sure you note and photograph all scratches and dents when you take delivery of a rental bike. Your best bet is to hire a bike at your accommodation.

Longtail boats offer rides to and from hard-to-get-to beaches on the island. They are a more comfortable way of getting to isolated beaches than attempting to ride over the mountains, however they are noisy. A round-island longtail can be as much as 2,000 baht, whereas some short trips will only be 100-200 baht.






A huge selection of Thai food is available, including lots of seafood. Barbecued fish is one of the local favourites. As a large portion of the population are expats, you will find plenty of other cuisines too. 2011 prices ranging from 60 baht for stuff-on-rice (still possible in 2015, especially if you have a look around the gas station on the main road, about a kilometre south-east from the piers) through to 250 baht for a nice hunk of fresh barbecued fish at a decent restaurant. 30 baht would get you a fresh banana pancake, and 60 baht a bowl of porridge with honey at a budget resort's restaurant. 200-300 baht would get you a bowl of freshly made Italian pasta, and 160-200 baht for pizza. Fresh fruit juices are available at many stalls for 30-40 baht.

  • 995 Roasted Duck (Turn away from the beach at the Sairee 7-Eleven crossroad as if heading towards Hin Wong Bay, walk 3 min). 09:00-22:00. Simple menu consisting of ten well executed dishes. Their spicy noodle soup with duck (or pork/fish balls) is a Thai local favourite. 60-80 baht.
  • Bang Bugers (On the main road from Sairee to Mae Haad, across the road from the Trapeze School),  +66 81 1366576. 06:00-21:00. Established by an Australian expatriate, Bang Burgers produces 6 varieties of homemade burgers and 6 varieties of homemade sauces. Open for breakfast with fresh ground espresso from north Thailand. Delivery option available. 30-150 baht.
  • Cafe del SolMae Haad Square (Mae Haad). Authentic French and Italian-style cuisine, home made pasta and pizza, smoked salmon and choice steaks, excellent wine collection and Erdinger weissbier.
  • Choppers Bar and Grill (Sairee village). Australian sports bar. Live music, live sports, pub grub, and a wide selection of beers.
  • Dolce Vita Italian Restaurant (Mea Haad Square). 16:00 until late. Run by 2 brothers from Apulia, this place offers traditional Italian cuisine in a cosy ambiance. Lavazza coffee, daily home made pasta and authentic pizza, meats from New Zealand, fresh seafood, home-made desserts, wine bar.
  • Farango Pizzeria (Mae Haad and Sairee Village). Italian-style pizza and pasta, always busy with dine in or take away. Expect to pay 140 baht for pasta or 200 baht for a pizza from the wood-fired oven. Delivery available.
  • Greasy Spoon (Mae Haad). Full Monty English breakfast bar. Eat in or delivery.
  • Safety Stop Pub (Mae Haad beach front at Seatran pier), +66 77 456209.07:00-late. Comfy English pub with tropical beer garden. Draught beers, "wild" buckets. English pub grub. Weekend BBQ's, Sunday roasts, daily specials, live sports.
  • Shalimar Indian Cuisine (Opposite Sairee Plaza), +66 77 456740. Authentic Indian chefs, ingredients, and tandoor. Wide variety of tasty dishes in a beautiful garden setting. Relax in the lounge for cocktails and sheesha. Take away and delivery available.
  • The Snack Shack (Sairee Beach next to Lotus Bar),  +66 85 4788753. 18:00-02:00. Late-night burgers, chicken pita kebabs, hot dogs, falafel, chips (french fries to the non-Brits) available with curry sauce, chili con carne or just good old salt and vinegar. One of only a few places on the island open after 22:00 to get food other than 7-Eleven. Delivery between 22:00-02:00. 70-140 baht.
  • A Taste of Home (E Sairee past Monsoon Gym). M-Sa, 18:00-22:00.Homemade dishes, large portions, and friendly, relaxed atmosphere made this Trip Advisor's top listed restaurant on Ko Tao.
  • Thipwimarn Restaurant (At the N end of the island). Wonderful sunset views and a "higher class" feel, but the prices are not much different from the rest of the island. Great for dates.
  • Tony & Aoi Bar/Restaurant (Mae Haad, up the road from Songserm Pier, before Ta Chai),  Tony (+66 80 7183191, Italian) Aoi (+66 80 1458245, Thai/English).Italian/Thai/English place. Imported Italian pasta starting from 100 baht along with the usual English and Thai fare. New, clean and well-priced, especially for the pasta.
  • Tortoise Burger & Beer (Mae Haad side of Sairee Plaza, 3 min walk from Sairee 7-Eleven crossroad). 18:00-04:00. With only five stools, senseless hours, and good music, this place feels like it's been ripped from an alley in Brooklyn. The menu has five options: beef burger, chicken burger, chicken BBQ burger, fish burger, and veggie burger. The veggie burger is homemade and delicious. 80-150 baht.
  • Tukta Thai Food (Chalok Ban Kao). Best pad Thai on the Rock!
  • Zanzibar (Next to Sairee Plaza). Coffee and bakery. Pita and baguettes with an extensive range of sandwich and breakfast options. One of the few affordable places on the island with good quality imported cheeses and meats. Great vegetarian options. Delivery available. Free Wi-Fi. 60-150 baht.
  • Zest Cafe (On the same side street as Fizz, across from the Lady Boy Cabaret.).06:30-18:00. Great for coffee, breakfast, and sandwiches. A favourite with the seasonal dive shop employees. Free Wi-Fi, TV always silently tuned to BBC. Friendly, helpful staff. A second location in Mae Haad. 60-200 baht.

Sights & Landmarks

Take a bike around the island. Shark Bay is a good place to go snorkelling for the day (don't worry too much about sharks, they are only small black-tip reef sharks). Ko Nang Yuan, Freedom Beach, Laem Thian, Mango Bay, Hin Wong Bay and Tanote Bay are good day excursions, accessible by road or boat. If you rent a scooter, be prepared to turn around or continue by foot since some roads (e.g., to Mango Bay) may be in such condition that you need a dirt bike or a car to travel them. While there are no private beaches in Thailand, some are relatively inaccessible by land, making a longtail boat a necessity.

However, to see the best places, go by foot or longtail as some places are inaccessible to motorists. There are a number of good viewpoints around the island such as John Suwan mountain viewpoint in the south of the island, Two View in the centre and Fraggle Rock in the north.

Things to do


Freedive training and education worldwide is generally done through AIDA, SSI and Apnea Academy freediving courses.

  • Alvaro Diving Koh Tao (Alvaro Diving Courses Koh Tao) (At a small quiet outer beach of Chalok Ban Kao south of Ko Tao),  +66 77456457, e-mail:. 9am to 6pm every day. Small family-run dive and freedive shop with new equipment, flexible boat schedules and friendly multilingual staff. Teach PADI & SSI diving and SSI freediving courses in small groups in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere.
  • Apnea Total (on Sairee Beach). Ko Tao's first and longest established freediving school. Apnea Total profits from experienced teachers and a private boat for a safe and successful learning experience.
  • Blue Immersion Freediving (close to Good Time Adventures). Freedive off Sairee Beach by longtail boat with accomplished instructor Akim. AIDA and SSI courses available. 

Scuba diving

Scuba diving is the biggest attraction on Ko Tao. Diving in Ko Tao is easy, fun, and you can see turtles, stingrays, barracudas, lots of small fish, and reef sharks. There is a small chance you'll see a whale shark.

At Chumphon Pinnacle you are likely to see juvenile bull sharks which have, until recently, been misidentified as grey reef sharks. Be careful as the bulls are curious and very aggressive, though for many years thousands of people have dived this site without a single shark-related incident.

Nearly any time of the year except Nov is good diving weather in Ko Tao and visibility can exceed 40 m. Average visibility is around 15-20 m. In Nov visibility is reduced to 5 m and the seas are choppy.

It is possible and perfectly comfortable to swim and dive without a wetsuit year-round. However, as with most diving, a wetsuit is recommended to help reduce the risk of cuts or injury. Avoid contact with coral reefs.

Various dive locations around Ko Tao are:

  • Chumphon Pinnacles
  • Southwest Pinnacles
  • Green Rock
  • White Rock
  • Red Rock
  • Japanese Gardens
  • Twin Pinnacles
  • HTMS Sattakut (wreck)
  • Hin Pee Wee
  • Mango Bay
  • Ao Leuk
  • Shark Island
  • Hin Wong
  • Lighthouse Bay
  • Laem Thien

Dive training

There are a huge number of dive operators on the island, many offering budget accommodation (sometimes described as "free accommodation", but this is not really true as you will usually get a discount if you stay elsewhere). The price for PADI open water certification including the new PADI training manual, professional instruction, rental equipment, boat dives, and certification is around 9,800 baht. For SSI open water certification including professional instruction, rental equipment, boat dives, and certification is around 9,000 baht. Insurance and basic accommodation may also be included. Shop around as not all shops teach the course in the same way. Look for experienced dive instructors rather than a low price.

A common method for teaching new divers is to train in a pool first to be taught about 20 basic skills before being taken out into the open water. Others will instead take you to a secluded beach so you will see fish and coral from the start and you might be able to squeeze in a short extra dive in this way, depending on your group and instructor. Some shops have a private pier, some shops depart with a longtail from the beach, and some use the public pier, where you will have to climb across some other boats. Ask, if this matters to you. Most important: find out the maximum number of dive students in a group. Make sure you get an instructor who speaks your language if you are not absolutely sure about your English. These are the little things that will make the difference between an OK course and a great one.

For those interested in becoming divemasters or instructors, here is a link to a videoguide about the island life Koh Tao: Thailand's Divestyle Island.

PADI dive centres and resorts

  • Alvaro Diving Koh Tao (Alvaro Diving Courses Koh Tao) (At a small quiet outer beach of Chalok Ban Kao south of Ko Tao),  +66 77456457, e-mail:. 9am to 6pm every day. Small family-run dive and freedive shop with new equipment, recently established, flexible boat schedules and friendly multilingual staff. Teach PADI & SSI diving and SSI freediving courses in small groups in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere.
  • Asia Divers Resort (In Sairee 5 min walk from the beach). 5 star Gold PADI Instructor Development Centre offers a full range of diving courses, including divemaster internships. Multiple languages. The resort's bar is always a nice place to chill out after diving.
  • Big Blue Diving Resort (On Sairee Beach). PADI dive resort with beach side bar and restaurant, lodging with 50+ rooms. Offers all courses from beginner to instructor, all technical diving. Also offers eco-internships. Winner of PADI's Project Aware Environmental Achievement Award. One of the longest established dive centres on Ko Tao.
  • Big Bubble Dive Resort (Main street). One of the long-established dive centres on Ko Tao. Relaxed, fun diving. Scuba diving lessons from beginner to PADI divemaster training with a well trained, professional staff. Also located in Chalok Baan Kao.
  • Buddha View IDC Dive Resort (Chalok Ban Kao Beach, south Ko Tao). PADI 5 star IDC gold palm resort with friendly staff, good facilities and a BBQ and beach bar to relax in the evenings. Dive instructor courses and professional training programmes with a divemaster.
  • Calypso Diving Koh Tao (Next to Family Resort in Tanote Bay),  +66 77 456745, e-mail: . Dive training (hands on, no video teaching) from beginner to pro following CMAS and PADI standards in small groups. Located in quiet and party-free bay with a house reef in front of the premises.
  • Coral Grand Divers Resort (In a much quieter area than the other dive shops, at the far end of the beach). Hotel is more up-market and better suited for families. Operates 2 dive boats plus a speed boat.
  • Crystal Dive Resort, e-mail: . PADI scuba diving resort, Koh Tao, Thailand. All PADI dive courses, scuba internships and pro level Divemaster and Instructor courses. FREE accommodation!
  • Davy Jones Locker (Sairee Beach). Divemaster internships and PADI Instructor Training, and MCA boat handling courses in their RIB. Accommodation and gear packages are available for all courses.
  • Dive Point. PADI 5 star dive shop run by an Austrian. Offering diving classes in German, French, Italian, and English. Small groups and individual care for students special needs.
  • Easy Divers. PADI 5 star dive shop with friendly experienced instructors. Professional and fun with great accommodation, and the only dive centre on Ko Tao with all inclusive packages. With a private pier and a maximum class size of 6 students to 1 instructor.
  • Go Pro DivingSairee Beach,  +66 872 650 859, e-mail:. Concentrates on PADI Go Pro courses on Ko Tao. PADI divemaster course, IDC course, IDC staff instructor course and master instructor training with full dive internship programs are available.
  • Impian Divers 5 Star Dive Center (Mae Haad Beach). Groups limited to 4 divers per pro dive leader. Courses in 5 languages. European-owned/managed with strong safety record/procedures, but still easy going. Differ from most dive centres because of the daily different locations for the dive trips, long dive times. and non-early morning departures. 12 years of experience diving around Ko Tao.
  • Island Dive Club (Centre of Sairee Beach). Does good deals on course and accommodation packages. The Thai staff can be annoying, so deal with the foreigners, they really make the effort. The dive shop is not that busy, meaning you might get an instructor for yourself or be taught in a small group.
  • Master Divers (Mae Haad). A small professional dive PADI 5 Star IDC. They guarantee small groups and offer private tuition and private guiding too. They have an experienced team and time their boat trips to go to dive sites when they are quietest too. They take their diving and environment seriously. They provide free water refills to minimise plastic bottle waste. They re-cycle and provide re-usable containers for take-away food to minimize polystyrene waste.
  • New Way Diving. One of the oldest and most reputable dive shops. This small school has the first dive boat out in the morning. The truck leaves for the harbour at 06:00 to avoid crowds. Small groups, friendly and professional instructors. Basic accommodation is available.
  • Ocean Sound Dive + Yoga+66 82 4126240. Personal service in small groups. PADI dive courses + 12 scheduled yoga classes per week.
  • PADI IDC Koh TaoMae Haad Beach,  +66 77 456107, e-mail:. PADI Instructor Courses, Koh Tao, Thailand. Full scuba diving internships, gap year programs and lifestyle change.
  • Planet Scuba Koh Tao9 Moo 2, Mae Haad,  +66 77 456110, e-mail:. Over 25 years of experience, 5 star Instructor Development Centre, full range of PADI scuba diving courses for complete beginner all the way through to instructor.
  • Sairee Cottage DivingMiddle Sairee Beach+66 77456374, e-mail:. 6am to 11pm. PADI scuba diving school on Koh Tao. Very friendly and beautiful diving resort located right in the middle of Sairee Beach. Sairee Cottage Diving offers PADI courses from beginner to Scuba Dive IDC Instructor courses including free accommodation.
  • Samui Diving Service (on the beach at Ko Tao Resort, Chalok Baan Kao), e-mail: . PADI 5 star diving and education in small groups of 4 students per instructor. All PADI courses and daily fun dives.
  • Seashell Dive Centre. Small locally-run shop with helpful multilingual staff, an OK boat and gear, but no free accommodation.
  • Simple Life Divers. Popular medium sized Western-owned and managed PADI 5 star dive centre on Ko Tao's Sairee Beach.
  • Sunshine Divers Resort (Chalok Baan Kao). PADI 5 star Gold Palm Resort. DMT’s, staff, instructors, students, resident dogs, and fun divers all contribute to the relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
  • Thailand Diver (Sairee Beach). German dive base which focuses on safety and the environment. Experienced and friendly scuba instructors.

SSI dive centres

  • Alvaro Diving Koh Tao (Alvaro Diving Courses Koh Tao) (At a small quiet outer beach of Chalok Ban Kao south of Ko Tao), +66 77456457, e-mail:. 9am to 6pm every day. Small family-run dive and freedive shop with new equipment, recently established, flexible boat schedules and friendly multilingual staff. Teach PADI & SSI diving and SSI freediving courses in small groups in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere.
  • ACE Marine Expeditions17/16 Moo 1 (Sairee Beach), e-mail:. All dives and training are offered in small groups with a maximum of 2 divers per 1 staff or private tuition. Specializing in diving for photographers and film makers or those wishing to have a private diving experience. Expeditions are offered on private luxury speedboat or custom-built dive boat and dive schedules change daily to avoid the crowds. Day trips to Ang Thong Marine Park are also available. HQ in Sairee Beach. Dive courses are offered from beginner to professional.
  • Carabao Diving Center & Resort (Chalok Baan Kao Bay, south Ko Tao). A good diving centre on a quiet beach with some nice places to eat and drink. The staff is gracious and helpful. Good accommodation available.
  • New Heaven Dive School. Over ten years of experience on Ko Tao. Has been involved with turtle conservation, reef restoration, the We love Ko Tao Festival, the Ko Tao Underwater Festival and other activities which help to create the eco-friendly environment crucial to Ko Tao's future.
  • Roctopus Dive (short walk away from Sairee Beach, next to the big yellow hotel). SSI, PADI, BSAC and reef conservation courses.
  • Scuba Junction. Run by Natalie, who runs a very tight ship. The equipment is beautifully maintained and they dive and teach strictly by the rulebook. Good accommodations nearby are available at the Prik Thai Bungalows and SBC Cabana. Scuba Junction is an SSI Diamond Instructor training facility.

Liveaboard sailing and diving

  • Scubasail. A 30 m sailing and diving yacht, the "Naga". Accommodation, diving courses, visiting dive locations and a beautiful experience on board assisted by a helpful crew.

Marine conservation

  • Koh Exist (same location as New Way Diving). A marine conservation school providing information on marine ecology, corals, fish and how to rescue corals by attaching them to artificial structures.

Other activities

Over the last couple of years more and more non-divers have discovered the beauty of this island with its secluded little bays and unspoiled mountain ridges. Due to this, and the increasing number of small upmarket resorts and villas nestled in the hillsides there are now a lot more activities available, including sailing, rock climbing (trad routes, sport routes, top rope routes, and bouldering), abseiling, cliff jumping, wake boarding, mini golf, or bowling in Mae Haad, massage and yoga courses, and cooking courses.

  • Bowling and mini golf (On the main road between Mae Haad and Chalok Baan Kao just after the turning for Aow Leuk). The bowling is "manual". There is a guy at the end of the alley that sets up your pins for you after each bowl and returns the ball down to you.
  • Dive Career Internships. Divemaster and dive instructor internships, underwater videographer training, and resort management courses with experienced PADI course instructors.
  • Gap year Diving Internships. Specialises in training highly qualified and employable diving professionals, ranging from divemaster to instructor, over 2-7 months.
  • Good Time Adventures, Diving, Beach Cafe and Bar,  +66 87 2753604.South Sairee Beach. Small group Scuba Diving courses with flexible schedules. The only shop on Ko Tao with a weekly trip to Sail Rock. A wide range of adventure activities including: rock climbing instruction up to lead climbing and a guiding service, abseiling/rappelling, cliff jumping, snorkelling, wake boarding, boat cruises. Beach Cafe and Bar serves a tasty variety of Western, Thai and Burmese dishes on the beach.
  • Hike to one of the secluded bays on the northern and eastern side of the island. On the 2 hr walk through the jungle to Mango Bay you will hardly meet any people. The snorkelling there is good.
  • Island Cruises (Sailing charters). Day and sunset cruises, private charters, Ang Thong National Marine Park safaris and fully customised crewed charters.
  • Koh Tao PROvideo. A videography company. Run by experienced underwater videographers and instructors who film and teach every day. Each course is tailor made.
  • Monsoon Gym and Muay Thai Camp. For those looking for a serious workout. Muay Thai courses are provided and you can step in the ring for a real bout when you're ready.
  • Mountain Biking There is a shop renting mountain bikes next to the bowling and mini golf course. Mountain bikes are in reasonable condition. 100 baht/day with a 1,000 baht deposit.
  • Oceans Below-underwater Video Training. 3 and 5 day courses in underwater videography and offers professional-level training for those looking to make a career of it. All training done with HD video cameras.
  • Ocean Hiker Sailing Courses. Seamanship courses and competent crew sailing courses Ko Tao-based and liveaboards on ocean-going yacht.
  • Ocean Sound Yoga,  +66 82 4126240. Vinyasa, Yin, Meditation, Hatha and Restorative yoga classes offered daily. High quality equipment provided. All levels welcome.
  • Thailand Gap Internships. 1-7 month internships in Pro HD video training, muay Thai, free diving, PADI instructor, divemaster and technical dive courses.


When you get a break from diving, there are a few bars on the island. The bars on the island rotate nights, so the best bet is to ask someone working at dive shop which bar will be crowded that night or check the posters. Many start off the evening at the bars located at the northern end of Sairee, and after they close at 01:00, go onto whichever club is open for the rest of the evening at the south end of Sairee.

  • The Castle. Weekly parties at this out-of-the-way club. Can prove to be a good night out with refreshing tunes and a mixed crowd.
  • Dirty Nelly's (Mae Haad). First and only Irish pub on Ko Tao with Irish management, live music, extensive food options, and live sport.
  • DJL Bar, Pool & Restaurant (Sairee Village, at Davey Jones Locker). Bar with swimming pool. Friday night pool parties, with free BBQ & shots.
  • Fizz Beach Lounge (On Sairee Beach). 16:00-01:00. Comfy beanbags, awesome sunsets, fantastic cocktail, authentic Thai or Western food and deep, funky house beats. 30-300 baht.
  • In Touch (Sairee Beach at the far south end). Late night club that is open only a couple of times a week. House music.
  • Khirana (Chalok Ban Kao). Swimming pool bar on the beach.
  • Lotus Bar (North Sairee, at the horizontal palm tree). Nightly fire show, sunset happy hour.
  • Maya Bar (South end, Sairee Beach). Very similar to AC Bar. When one is open the other is closed. Same music, same crowd, right next door.
  • MOOV (Up from Whitening on Songserm Pier Rd), e-mail: . 16:00-late. Club/restaurant in a garden overlooking the beach. Check for daytime events and monthly parties.
  • Pub Crawl+66 80 6905337. Enjoy drink promotions, prizes and join the crowd on a tour of the best bars in Ko Tao.
  • Vibe (North Sairee Beach). Atmospheric beach bar with happy, funky vibes, fire shows & cocktails.

Safety in Koh Tao

Stay Safe

The number one way to stay safe on Ko Tao is to not drink and drive. Motorbike accidents are very common, especially when driven under the influence, on the wrong side of the road, in the dark. All terrain vehicles (ATV) are becoming numerous on the island. They are considered a menace by many as they are expensive, slow, noisy and more people injure themselves on them under the mistaken belief that they are safer. They are not. Walk or hire a smaller motorbike instead. Be aware that vehicle hire shops are cheap but can become very expensive if you so much scratch the vehicle, try to hire an older bike than a brand new one.

Be careful when renting bikes. You must give them the passport as a deposit, and even though you may take photos and return the bike in perfect condition, they may find small "scratches" and demand an exorbitant amount. If you do get in such trouble, at least in Ko Tao the police should be on your side. There's a friendly police officer named Chet who speaks very good English who might encourage you to file a report, saying that this happens several times a day on Ko Tao. Even if you don't file a report, the police can help you negotiate a lesser amount. If you do file a report, contact your embassy and eventually the company will have to release your passport, because it doesn't belong to you but your country's government.

Additionally, when renting bikes, insist on a receipt when you have paid the rental fee, or for every subsequent payment per rental day. Do not trust the shops to write accurate information in their own books. If you do not want to provide your passport as a deposit, some shops will ask for 2,000-8,000 baht as a one-off deposit instead. Again, take many detailed photos of the bike. Be careful about renting from CJ Guesthouse & Supermarket (13/1 Moo 1, Sairee Beach), on the same street as New Way Divers. They will not issue receipts if you do not ask, and later demand that you have not paid the cumulative rental fee when you return the bike. Without a receipt, it will be frustrating and difficult to argue your case. Do not trust CJ Guesthouse and be very careful on this matter even with other shops. Most bike shops on the island rent bikes for 200-250 baht per day.

Should you be unfortunate enough to need minor medical attention there are numerous clinics on the island. These are only clinics and the closest hospitals are in Ko Samui and Chumphon. Any medical condition not treatable locally will require a minimum of two hours ferry travel to reach a hospital. If the weather is bad the physical rigours of such a trip can complicate medical treatment significantly.

The island of Ko Tao has no sewage processing and water contamination far exceeds Western standards at nearly all times. This includes both ocean waters and tap waters. Sewer water drains across the beach and even the roads in several areas, and are easily encountered by unwitting tourists. Beware of wet spots on the roads that persist during dry weather and avoid the mist that arises from vehicles passing over them.

Small scratches or mosquito bites can become seriously infected if swimming, and ear/eye infections are extremely common among divers, more than many equivalent resort locations. Susceptible individuals and especially parents of young children should be aware of these dangers and exercise great caution.

Tap water quality supplied by shallow well pumps should be held suspect even during showering. Low-lying areas in Sairee and especially in Ban Chalok are the most polluted. The eastern areas far from the population centres are the cleanest.

Be also aware of the safety of your hotel room. There are many reports of stolen money, especially at the resorts on Sairee Beach. Normally the thieves, sometimes even hotel staff, sneak into the room while you are out diving and take your cash from your wallet or from your bags.

As always, watch out for the sun. It seems to be particularly strong on the island due to the bright sand and surroundings, especially when slightly clouded.

Watch out for the petrol stations, they like to let the meter start at more than zero: the red petrol station on the road that goes up to the turtle is particularly known for this.

Watch out for dive instructors teaching you the nitrox-course without telling you that they charge for it when you check out: Ban´s is known for this.


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