Ko Tao for non-divers guide

Jump to story list

Updated on 1st September, 2014. First published 25th July, 2006

Long gone are the days when Ko Tao was just for divers. The past few years has seen a flurry of new ventures offering all sorts of land, sea and even air based activities for visitors without the time or the inclination to take a diving course. Here's just a few...

Underwater aficionados with lungs of steel can get a different take on the deep at Apnea Total, Thailand's first "freediving" school. This Sairee Beach operation teaches people breathing exercises and how to hold one's breath long enough to dive down 30m and deeper, without the aid of Scuba equipment.

Other water-based activities on offer include windsurfing, sea kayaking and of course, snorkeling. For the best snorkeling you have to venture away from the main centres of Mae Haad and Sairee Beach and head to the island's rocky backside. Sites such as Laem Thian, Mango Bay and Ao Leuk each have a cornucopia of underwater attractions to explore, all accessible by a quick wade out from the shore.

A popular method for exploring Ko Tao is to rent a motorcycle. Motocross bikes and lower-powered mopeds can be rented from almost anywhere there is a bungalow. Take care, though, in the built up areas pedestrians have to share the road with these two-wheeled beasts, and the more isolated areas are often filled with steep hill climbs and rocky paths.

Ko Tao for non-divers

Visitors in need of serious relaxation could spend an afternoon at a health spa. These can be found in Sairee beach, Mae Haad and Thian Ok, and pamper with treatments such as aromatic baths, lymphatic drainage massages and body scrubs.

Take the road up the hill past the bustle of Sairee Beach to reach a mysterious cluster of caves hidden amongst the slopes of the island's highest peak. Some locals claim the pools in these caves contain diamonds, glittering away in a series of fresh water pools. While its far more likely that these minerals are just diamond-like, you may want to take the trek up there yourself just to check.

Further up, Here & Now bungalows is home to the island's only Taijiquan centre. A Chinese art-form based on yoga-like stretching, Taijiquan - Qigong is intended to create a balance between harmony, breath and mind. No longer on Ko Tao

Ko Tao for non-divers

A jungle-based activity that appeals more to the boys is Ko Tao's paintball circuit, where you and a few friends can dress up in camo-gear and run around the bush shooting each other with tiny coloured balls. It's based in Mae Haad. Closed

Straight out of the textbook for a fun night out comes the Ko Tao Bowling and MiniGolf centre, on the way to Chalok Baan Kao from Mae Haad. Another new venture, the centre offers 10-pin bowling, minigolf and petanque.

The new Ya Ku Zen Japanese bath centre in Mae Haad offers a decidedly Oriental, soothing way to chill out. Built onto the side of a hill, you too can follow the Japanese tradition of taking a daily bath amid a well-designed Zen rock garden, looking out to sea. Just next door is one of the island's rock climbing centre.

So, you see, there's much more to do on the "turtle island" than strapping an air tank to your back and jumping off a boat.

Story by

Read 7 comment(s)

  • This is the best review of Koh Tao for it's non-scuba diving activities! Thanks for putting this together!

    I've been living on Koh Tao for the last 5 months and have been loving it. I just wanted to add a few things to the list:

    1. Take Muay Thai kick boxing classes at the Muay Thai gym.

    2. Yoga classes at Blue Wind

    3. Get a Bamboo Tattoo at Siam Tattoo near the Monsoon Gym

    4. Hiking! 98% of Koh Tao visitors have never even seen the other side of the island. It only takes an hour to trek to the other side and it's beautiful.

    5. Check out all the fantastic restaurants on the island. My goal is to eat at every restaurant on the island before I leave, check out my food blog at http://www.eatkohtao.com


    Posted by Johnny on 22nd March, 2009

  • your food blog doesn't exist mate. wasn't expecting much from it anyway.

    Posted by paddy on 23rd April, 2010

  • This is really out of date:

    Here and Now bungalows moved over two years ago to central Thailand.

    The Flying boat crashed about 4 years ago.

    Zen gecko also closed 4-5 years ago.

    MV Watersports opened years ago and provide windsurfing, min cats and a range of watersports.

    Goodtime Adventures opened 3 years ago and run rock climbing (up to traditional lead climbing) bouldering, abseiling, cliff jumping, speed boat diving and snorking.

    Flying Trapeze Adventures have been opened over a year and you can fly through the air on a trapeze.

    I think a update of you article is required!!


    Posted by Timsahb on 18th June, 2010

  • This above post is a complete waste of time in no way related to Koh Tao
    don't even bother to visit, this sort of post should not be tollerated or induluged by Travelfish or Members! I can only assume that this one has slipped the net.

    Posted by taffyted72 on 25th July, 2011

  • Probably best to avoid Siam Tattoo. Used needles, rabid dogs, and the 'artist's' crazy wife are a bad combo.

    Posted by john on 15th March, 2012

  • The rock climbing centre mentioned above is closed. However, there's now a small shop at sairree beach that's dedicated to rock climbing. They have crash-pads, and topo-guides for hire. Bouldering is the main thing for climbers who come to Koa Tao, mainly because all of the island is strew wich large, amazing boulders. Koa Tao has still great potential to set out new lines.

    Posted by bart cockx on 15th September, 2012

  • I'm not really that in favor of commercializing tourist destinations like Ko Tao (I've been there years ago and like you've said, it was still only for divers). Exploitation and pollution are just two of the things that can happen to a tourist spot and I dread the day when those things happen to Ko Tao because I fell in love with the place the first time I got there.

    Posted by Jeanette Conner on 4th June, 2014

Add your comment

Feature story quicklinks

Newsletter signup

Sign up for Travelfish Burp!

Our weekly wrap on Southeast Asian travel.
Click here to see a recent newsletter.

We respect your email privacy