Koh Tao in Thailand may be a tiny island compared to its more popular neighbors, but it has everything you could ever want for the perfect beach holiday, and this complete Koh Tao guide will show you how to make the best out of this idyllic Thai island.
From the best things to do in Koh Tao, to where to have the best Thai food, or where is the best place to stay, we’ve got you covered!
Complete Koh Tao Guide: Where To Stay, Eat, And Best Things To Do
But before jumping into the complete Koh Tao guide, let’s get a little bit of background information:
Is Koh Tao worth visiting?
With incredible snorkeling spots, gorgeous turquoise water beaches, plenty of delicious cafes by the water, fewer crowds than the neighboring islands, and a chill island vibe, Koh Tao is an underrated spot worth visiting by anyone looking for the perfect beach holiday in Thailand.
If you need any more convincing check out our other post on why Koh Tao is one of the best islands in Thailand to visit right now.
The best time to visit Koh Tao
The best time to visit Thailand for a beach holiday is between the dry months of November and March, and Koh Tao is no different, making it the perfect winter getaway for anyone in the Northern Hemisphere.
How to get to Koh Tao
Koh Tao is a tiny island located north of Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Samui, so the best way to get to Koh Tao is by ferry or catamaran.
The best way to get to Koh Tao from Phuket is to book the whole trip with Lomprayah, which includes the bus ride from Phuket to Tapee Pier in Surat Thani, where you will catch Lomprayah’s high-speed catamaran to Koh Tao.
We did this during our trip and it made our trip to Koh Tao so much easier.
Best place to stay in Koh Tao
The best place to stay in Koh Tao is around Sairee Beach, where you will be within walking distance from all the cafes and restaurants, and the beach of course.
If you don’t mind having to rent and drive a scooter then you can also find more unique accommodations spread around the island, like our little mountain retreat.
We stayed at the beautiful Matina Mountain Resort, on top of a hill with breathtaking views of the ocean, just about 5 minutes away by scooter from all the fun in town, and we loved it!
Koh Tao Guide: The best things to do in Koh Tao
Even though Koh Tao is a tiny island, it has plenty of activities to keep all kinds of travelers entertained, and this Koh Tao guide will give you some ideas for your trip.
Take a yoga class at Shambhala Yoga
I tried three different Yoga studios during my stay in Koh Tao, but the winner for me was Shambhala Yoga, due to its location, the teachers, and the flow of the classes.
They offer different classes throughout the day but my favorite is always Vinyasa in the morning to get the body moving.
If you want to slow down and relax at the end of the day you could always attend their Yin-Yoga classes in the evening.
Definitely one of the best things to do in Koh Tao to add a little workout to your holiday, if like me, you are mostly just lying on the sand all day.
Get a massage at Majestic Spa
If you are in the mindset of having a relaxing holiday like me, then you cannot go to Thailand without visiting the famous Thai spas, and the best one in Koh Tao is the Majestic Spa.
Majestic Spa is a little bit more expensive than some other ones on the island but is also a more private experience where you get a room to yourself, instead of laying in the middle of an open room with someone else having a massage about an arm length away from you.
The staff at Majestic is also very lovely, and you get a tea after your massage. I was here almost every day and would highly recommend it as one of the top things to do in Koh Tao to pamper yourself during your holiday.
Get a diving license at Taco Divers
If you are way braver than I am and love to go deep underwater and see everything that lives at the bottom of the ocean, then you might be interested in getting your diving license, and Koh Tao is the perfect spot for that.
My boyfriend did his advanced diving certificate with Taco Divers and he loved his experience with them, the instructor was knowledgeable and friendly, and the dives, he said, were always amazing.
If you need some more adventure in your holiday then this is definitely one of the best things to do in Koh Tao to keep you busy for a few days.
Go snorkeling at Sharks Bay
One of the things this tiny island is known for is its incredible diving and snorkeling spots, and Sharks Bay is one of the top places to snorkel in Koh Tao.
By the name of it, you would think sharks are the main attraction here, but it was actually another fascinating sea creature that made a non-snorkler like me put my head underwater; beautiful massive sea turtles.
Snorkeling with these beautiful creatures became one of the highlights of my whole trip.
Without a doubt, one of the best things to do in Koh Tao for avid snorkelers, or even nervous snorkelers like me—this one is worth it.
Take a Muay Thai class
This one I wish I had done it while in Koh Tao because I saw a few open-air studios since arriving on the island and I was so excited about it, but I was in such a sad fitness state that I just couldn’t imagine enduring a whole cardio class like this.
But if you are in much better shape than I am and love to do sports, taking a Muay Thai class is a great thing to do in Koh Tao to try a local sport, learn a new skill, and have a good workout.
Rent a scooter and drive around the island
One of the best things to do in Koh Tao, both for fun and practicality, is to rent a scooter.
We rented ours from our hotel, but there are plenty of places to rent one in the town.
This will allow you to move freely around the island and visit different beaches, or even some of the island’s viewpoints, like viewpoint Mango.
PS: If you don’t want to, or can’t, rent a scooter don’t worry, you can always grab an island taxi—the back of a pickup truck—to get from point A to point B, for very affordable prices.
Relax on Sairee Beach, the best beach in Koh Tao
Now this activity is more up my alley.
If all you want is a quintessential beach holiday, then the best thing to do in Koh Tao is to find your favorite spot on Sairee Beach and never leave it. Kidding—kind of.
The best part about chilling on Sairee Beach is that you can spend hours here lying on the sand, and as soon as you get a little bit hungry or thirsty, you have cafes and restaurants about five steps away from you.
That is why I consider Sairee Beach to be the best beach in Koh Tao, you have everything you need at your fingertips.
My favorite spot on the beach is on the sand just next door to Blue Water Cafe. Thirsty? Walk over for a coconut. Hungry? Shrimp tacos are a few steps away.
Take a Thai cooking class
Another great thing to do in Koh Tao is to take a Thai cooking class.
My schedule while on the island wasn’t too busy, so it was fun to mix it up with a cooking class to learn something new and gain some knowledge that I would take home with me as a souvenir.
The class itself was informative about Thai cuisine and the ingredients that they use, as well as techniques to be able to recreate the delicious dishes back at home since at the end of the class you get the recipes sent to you.
Koh Tao Guide: Best restaurants in Koh Tao
Now, on to one of my favorite subjects whenever traveling anywhere, the food.
If you read Koh Tao one of the best islands in Thailand to visit right now post, you will know that one of my favorite elements about this small island is the fact that there is no shortage of incredible food options.
From a variety of tasty breakfast spots to convenient smoothie bars to delicious Thai casual eateries, there’s so much good stuff to try. So let’s start with the most important meal of the day.
The best restaurants in Koh Tao for breakfast
Living juices & yoga
Living Juices and Yoga is another yoga spot I tried while in Koh Tao, but sadly didn’t love it due to the classes being held on the second-floor terrace where it can get hard to hear the teacher with the sound of the street nearby, however, their cafe on the first floor, I loved.
They serve a variety of delicious cold-pressed juices, smoothie bowls, nutritious snacks, and little fruit boxes for you to take to the beach to snack on while you lounge by the water.
A great option to have a healthy start to your day, or pick up a smoothie on your way to the beach.
The factory cafe
The factory cafe is without a doubt one of the best restaurants in Koh Tao to have breakfast.
It might not be right on the water like other options on this post, but the menu is so delicious that I kept coming back here instead of going to the beachfront cafes.
This is your quintessential breakfast spot, serving everything from shakshuka to avocado toast to smoothie bowls, as well as delicious coffee and fresh pressed juices.
I think I tried half of their menu and everything was delicious, definitely one of my favorite spots out of the whole Koh Tao guide.
Blue Water Cafe and Restaurant
Blue Water Cafe is a great all-rounder, and probably the place I visited the most while in Koh Tao since I spent most of my time in Sairee Beach lounging on a stretch of sand just a few steps away from here.
This waterfront cafe has something for every hour of the day, and all of it is pretty good!
Their coffee is amazing, which you can accompany with their cheesecake which is also delicious, you can also grab fresh coconut water or a smoothie to rehydrate from days lounging under the sun.
For lunch, try some of their fish tacos, and in the evening come here to catch the sunset with a Sapporo or a gin and tonic.
Definitely a spot worth keeping in mind, since it is probably the best restaurant in Koh Tao to never have to leave the beach if you don’t want to.
Cafe Culture Coffee
Cafe Culture is one of the best restaurants for breakfast in Koh Tao if what you want is to have your coffee right on the water.
Their menu has something to offer for every hour of the day, but I mostly came here for a morning coffee by the ocean, I tried their eggs benedict with salmon once and they were pretty good—simple but tasty.
A good place to keep in mind, if you want to shake things up and try a new place by the water.
Sunrise Specialty Coffee
Sunrise Specialty Coffee is a little further inland, we got here by scooter just out of my cheer curiosity of trying a new coffee shop after visiting the same places over and over.
This is a straight-up specialty coffee shop and one that stood out to me for its very delicious coconut iced latte.
You will rarely find me having iced coffee, but it was incredibly hot on that day and the coconut one intrigued me, and oh my, it was so good!
Definitely worth stopping by if you are in the area.
Koppee Espresso Bar and Restaurant
Koppee Espresso Bar is another great restaurant in Koh Tao to have breakfast by the water—and also one that you will need some kind of transportation to get to.
We visited Koppee with our scooter on one of our last days, and it was the perfect last breakfast spot in Koh Tao.
The breakfast is delicious, the freshly pressed juice is so flavorful, the coffee is perfect, and the views are postcard-worthy.
Everything a beach holiday brunch should look like.
The best restaurants in Koh Tao for lunch, dinner and drinks
Charcoal bay wine and grill
Continuing with the theme of having meals with your toes almost touching the ocean, another great spot is Charcoal Bay Wine and Grill.
Here you can enjoy anything from the freshest catch of the day grilled whole, to charcoal oven-grilled chicken to a delicious burger, there are options for everyone.
If you are not hungry yet but would like to catch the sunset with a drink in hand, this restaurant is also a perfect spot for it, the tables on the sand are front-facing the sunset and their mojitos are pretty good.
Most of the restaurants on this list are around the Sairee Beach area since that is where we based ourselves, however, Pranees Kitchen is just a short scooter trip away.
Located close to the Mae Haad Pier—your point of arrival to the island—this airy restaurant offers an extensive menu of delicious local cuisine.
We tried the Pad Thai, of course, and some of their curries, and everything was amazing!
One of the best restaurants in Koh Tao for dinner with a view is Whitening Restaurant, located also right on Sairee Beach.
This all-white painted restaurant offers a variety of delicious seafood dishes as well as local Thai cuisine, and the perfect sunset views.
Grilled prawns, a glass of prosecco, and sunset right in front of you, it doesn’t get any more holiday than this.
Cattago! Fish restaurant
This unassuming open kitchen was one of the biggest surprises I had while in Koh Tao.
I walked past it every day, but it wasn’t until the last day that we decided to try it for the sake of trying something new, and now I’m sad I didn’t try it since the beginning of my trip so I could eat there more often.
Cattago! specializes in dry-aged locally caught fish, the menu is limited, but all options look tempting. We tried three different styles and they were all mind-blowingly good, which I feel is a strong statement for a fish dish.
And that’s why I was so shocked. I never had such strong emotions about a fish dish, but it was really that good, so flavourful, everything feels fresh and of great quality.
An absolute must if you are in Koh Tao and want to try high-quality local cuisine.
Infinity Restaurant is another casual spot close to the pier where you can find great local dishes for very affordable prices.
I had the pad Thai, as always—it’s for research purposes, okay?— I wouldn’t say it was my favorite on the island, but it was still good.
It’s just a good spot to keep in mind if you are in the area and starving.
Now, for one of our favorite places to eat on the island, the highly acclaimed Mama Tam—I even got this place recommended to me by locals.
Mama Tam is a humble restaurant, with plenty of seating space, but a very tiny kitchen where Mama Tam cooks all the meals on the spot, so food can take a bit of time, but when you get your meal you won’t even care, it’s that good!
This was without a doubt my favorite Pad Thai on the island, everything was so fresh and flavorful, just perfect.
So if you are in Koh Tao make sure to visit Mama Tam, one of the best restaurants in Koh Tao for delicious home-cooked Thai dishes.
Hope you found this complete Koh Tao guide useful, and I hope that it allows you to get a better sense of this tiny and beautiful island and everything it has to offer.
If you have any questions or think there are more things we can add to this Koh Tao guide, please let us know to keep this post as useful as possible for all readers.
Does this small and cozy island sound like the kind of beach holiday that you would like?