As one of the handful of gems sprinkled in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Tao is a tropical island located 70 kilometres from the mainland. Named "Turtle Island" after the shape resemblance when seen from a distance, the once-political prison has been attracting visitors since the 1980s with its natural beauty. Koh Tao offers travellers an alternative tranquil barefoot paradise to its more developed nearby islands of Koh Samui and Koh Phagnan.
Renowned for its shallow reefs and clear cerulean waters, Koh Tao is a divers' paradise with the surrounding ocean averaging 20 metres visibility year-round. Sea turtles, stingrays, barracudas and reef sharks cruise the deep while the serene shallower tides teem with kaleidoscopic fish darting amongst colourful coral. With white sandy beaches lining the water's edge and granite boulders speckling the mountainous ridges inland, the island is as postcard tranquil as it is exciting.
Other than world class diving and snorkelling, visitors can spend their days hiking to one of the many small secluded bays around Koh Tao, rock climbing, abseiling over sheer rock faces, dangling from an overhang above the ocean, or cliff jumping into warm waters below. If you'd rather stay on the water rather than in it, kayaking, wakeboarding, game fishing, and sailing are also on offer at this island in the sun.
For families travelling with children, paintball jungle games and mini golf cater to the less adrenaline-inclined. Cooking courses and yoga retreats are also popular choices for short term visitors and long term residents alike. A 15-minute boat ride away and a highly recommended day excursion is Koh Nangyuan, a captivating cluster of three tiny islands interconnected by pristine sandbars.
Haad Sairee is the Koh Tao's longest and most popular beach and is lined with beach bars, restaurants, and dive centers. Running along the west coast, this beach boasts one of the most picturesque sunsets on the island. As the main entertainment stretch, the general rule of thumb for overall rowdiness is: 'quieter towards the top, and progressively louder as you head south'. The southwestern bay of Chalok Baan Khao is also increasingly sought after for its laid back feel and serene surroundings.
A villa holiday on Koh Tao offers a unique opportunity to lavish in the comforts of a private residence while nestled in the heart of nature. Activities abound, and with the sea just a pebble's throw away, Koh Tao offers visitors to its shores a paradisiac vacation they'll never forget.
Suratthani, Chumphon, Koh Samui, and Koh Phangan all offer ferry services to Koh Tao. Once docked, transfer services can be arranged through accommodation providers. Motorbikes and long-tail boats are the most convenient ways to get around the island.