Koh Tao, literally translated as Turtle Island, is an isle off the coast of Thailand. As part of the Chumphon Archipelago, the island is a popular destination for travelers from around the world. Koh Tao is known for its spectacular beaches, and it is also widely recognized as one of the top diving spots in Asia. If you’re planning a trip to Koh Tao, you’ll definitely want to know more about the island’s beaches. From snorkeling at Shark Bay to making sandcastles at Ao Leuk, the island’s beaches offer something for everyone. Dive into the best beaches in Koh Tao and start planning your next getaway in Thailand.
If you’re hoping to see entire shoals of colorful fish, the head to Hin Wong Bay. The fertile coral reef is home to countless types of fish, sea anemones and larger species. Divers and snorkelers love the color and diversity underwater. If you’re lucky, you can even spot some of the blue spotted rays that call the bay their home. Hin Wong Bay’s shoreline is quite rocky, so many visitors opt to get around on a kayak rather than on foot. If you want to stay at Hin Wong Bay, there are a handful of bungalows overlooking the bay, but no amenities right on the shoreline.
Sai Daeng Beach is another destination that is ideal for divers and snorkelers. Turtles and reef sharks can both be easily spotted, making it one of the best beaches in Koh Tao for those who want to get up close and personal with marine life. If you enjoy kayaking, Sai Daeng is a great home base, because you can kayak out to nearby Shark Island in under 30 minutes. You’ll need to walk through one of two side-by-side resorts in order to access Sai Daeng, which is a popular spot for travelers whether or not they happen to be guests at those particular resorts.
One of the more secluded beaches on the island is Freedom Beach. The small beach is located at the very southern tip of the isle, and that means constant water movement. That movement also means huge schools of fish that can be spotted if you swim just a few hundred meters away from the shoreline. From Freedom Beach, you can also look out and enjoy a spectacular view of Buddha Rock, one of the biggest natural attractions on Koh Tao. There are several hiking paths leading out of Freedom Beach, and you may want to explore the nearby beach of Taa Toh Yai or head up to the coastal viewpoint spot.
Sai Nuan is not one but two beaches that are separated by a rocky outcropping. San Nuan is the ideal place to visit if you’re eager to explore beyond the major tourist beaches. These beaches are only accessible via a hiking path from Mae Haa, although you can also get there by boat. Sai Nuan is a less developed and more natural destination, which makes it popular with plenty of travelers. Snorkeling and diving are excellent here, and you should be able to spot turtles, batfish and unicornfish right off the coast. A few beach huts and welcoming hammocks complete the picture of this laid-back beach destination on Koh Tao.
Arguably the busiest and most popular of all the beaches on the island is Sairee Beach. When you take the ferry from the mainland, one of the first things you’ll see as you arrive in Koh Tao is Sairee Beach. It is easily accessible, and it boasts countless amenities, restaurants and accommodation choices. The sandy shoreline makes it perfect for children, and the coral reef doesn’t start for at least 6 meter (20 feet) out into the water. You can swim in the sea, take a diving course or play a round of beach volleyball at Sairee Beach, and there are several excellent Thai restaurants where you can refuel afterwards.
One of the largest beaches on the island is Chalok Bay. It is easily accessible from the town of Chalok, and it is a place where you can find a wide range of amenities. Unlike many of the beaches in Koh Tao, Chalok Bay is not the best spot for snorkeling or diving. Instead, it is ideal for swimming or just for relaxing on the long stretch of white sandy coastline. If you’re interested in a longtail boat trip, Chalok Bay is where many of them are moored. This beach also boasts restaurants, bars and shops within easy access.
The name Shark Bay might sound worrying, but the bay is actually a very popular snorkeling spot. The sharks in the name are black-tip reef sharks, which are generally considered to be timid. Also living in the coral reef right off the shoreline of Shark Bay are a lot of green sea turtles. Some of these turtles are more than three feet long, and they are incredible to spot underwater. Also known as Ao Thian Ok, Shark Bay is next to a large resort but is still open to the public. The sand is a bright white, and the water a bold blue, making for exceptional scenery.
Just off the coast of Koh Tao is another island called Ko Nang Yuan. This small island is an incredibly popular day trip destination. You can get to Ko Nang Yuan by longboat taxi, but you can also zipline there from the mainland if you’re feeling particularly adventurous. Ko Nang Yuan is widely considered a diving destination, and snorkeling is a close second when it comes to the most popular pastimes. There is just one restaurant on the island, but it serves a range of traditional Thai and Western dishes.
This protected cove is one of the most scenic and beautiful beaches in Koh Tao. Although the center of the beach is sandy, and that sandy floor extends out into the water, both sides of the cove boast coral reef. That makes it yet another excellent snorkeling and diving destination on the island. This is one of the few beaches where you’ll need to pay an entry fee, but the minimal cost is well worth it. Keep in mind that the entry fee includes cold drinks, parking and complimentary use of the beach beds and lounge chairs. Ao Leuk is a great place to visit if you’re traveling with children.
One of the most popular diving destinations on Koh Tao is Tanote Bay, also known as Ao Tanot Bay. If you’re interested in scuba diving, but you aren’t certified, this is the ideal place to take a diving course. This beach is easily accessible by road, and it boasts several restaurants as well. Despite the impressive array of infrastructure, Ao Tanot Bay is rarely crowded. This makes it the ideal spot for those who want scenery, warmth and fun without venturing too far off the beaten track.