Cliff jumping on Ko Tao

What we say: 3.5 stars

Arguably Thailand’s perfect all-round island, Ko Tao is best known for its outstanding diving and idyllic beaches and bays. On a recent visit we did both some scuba and beach lounging, but an unexpected highlight proved to be cliff jumping into a gorgeous emerald cove near Laem Thian point on the island’s east coast.

Before or after cliff jumping, Laem Thian beach is a not a bad spot to relax.

Before or after cliff jumping, Laem Thian beach is a not a bad spot to relax.

After some very brief research one morning, we set off for the rocky cove and small beach of Laem Thian, mainly because I had pre-booked a room several years back at a place called Laem Thian Bungalows but cancelled when my plans changed. I wanted to see what I had missed, and on the map it looked like a decent hike across the island to get there.

Just one of the views on the way down.

Just one of the views on the way down.

After trekking upwards through Ko Tao’s mountainous interior and enjoying soaring views of open ocean through breaks in the jungle on the way down, we arrived at Laem Thian. Whatever had been going on at the bungalow joint I had altogether missed — we found the place totally deserted apart from a couple curious German hikers and a Thai man fishing from the rocks nearby. There was, however, someone (or rather something) to greet us at the crumbling reception desk.

"So, how much for a room?"

Shaking off our encounter with the one and a half metre, slightly poisonous golden tree snake, not to mention the overall eeriness of the abandoned bungalow spot where I would have stayed three years ago, we went for a quick dip off the beach. Despite efforts of some local divers to keep it clean, the area is unkempt these days — we found a fair amount of garbage floating in the surf and scattered on the beach. Even so, Laem Thian is still a beautiful, tranquil spot to relax. Just don’t forget to bring some water since there’s absolutely nothing out here, and it didn’t appear the reception snake would be too keen to help.

The place would be perfect if not for the garbage and unsightly abandoned resort.

Perfect if not for the garbage and unsightly abandoned resort.

Despite our inkling that there was probably a family of snakes lurking in the area, and perhaps a ghost or two lingering behind one of the peeling doors that opened and shut with the wind, our curiosity won out and we went for a look behind the old reception building. There, hastily spray-painted on a rock we found the single word “JUMP” with an arrow pointing over a massive outcrop of boulders towards the north side of Laem Thian point.

Now this is an adventure.

Now this is an adventure.

Within minutes we were hopping from boulder to boulder and traversing makeshift footbridges (like the bungalow joint, these are no longer cared for so do use caution) before emerging onto a cliff that stands some eight metres over a glorious little cove. So clear was the water here that we didn’t need to test it for depth; it was obvious just by looking that it was safe to jump. On a side note, we forgot to bring snorkels but this area looks to be ideal for snorkelling and diving as well.

Just the picture brings a sense of

Just the picture brings a sense of "aaaahhhhhhhhhhhh...."

Seeing as I was the official photographer and had the all-important job of documenting the day, my travel companion took the first leap, but only after a moment of “reflection.”

"I own this!!!"

It had been a while since I’d gone cliff-jumping, and I admittedly needed a bit of psyching up, but after leaping I was reminded just how refreshing throwing oneself over a cliff into a perfect patch of clear sea can be. My companion and I both jumped again, he from a higher cliff the second time, and then sat on the boulders soaking up our precious discovery for a while.

From standing to flying to swimming in under two seconds.

From standing to flying to swimming in under two seconds.

To get to Laem Thian, take the high road heading due east near the north part of Sairee beach that passes Ko Tao’s fitness centre and a small developing village before turning into a dirt track and heading steeply up hill. Continue for a couple more kilometres and the path eventually emerges at Laem Thian. A few narrow dirt footpaths lead down to the beach, and another behind the abandoned building to the cliffs. A longtail boat can also take you here for a price from just about anywhere on the island. Have fun, but watch out for that snake!

Last updated: 11th December, 2014

About the author:
Usually found exploring Bangkok's side streets or south Thailand's islands, David Luekens is an American freelance writer & photographer who finds everyday life in Asia to be extraordinary. You can follow his travails here.
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