Photo: Sunset from Ao Phante Malacca.


Our rating:

The Malay word tarutao means "old, mysterious, primitive". With gnarly cliffs, former prison sites, immense beaches and old-growth jungle thriving on mountains that reach up to 700 metres, Ko Tarutao does indeed stir up a primeval sense of awe.

Hotels, food, sights, transport quick links

Keep reading to learn more about Ko Tarutao!

Despite being Thailand’s fourth largest island at 152 square kilometres, Tarutao has never really been settled thanks to its reputation as a place of criminals, beasts and ghosts. The Thai government sent 3,000 prisoners here in the 1930s and ‘40s; common criminals were banished to Ao Talo Wao while political prisoners, including a son of then-exiled King Rama VII, were interned at remote Ao Talo Udang. Supplies ran dry during World War II, when scores of prisoners died and others turned to piracy for survival. At both sites, you can now explore the ruins and learn some of the harrowing tales from the past.

A reputation as a hangout for criminals, beasts and ghosts has left Ko Tarutao undeveloped. Photo taken in or around Ko Tarutao, Thailand by David Luekens.

A reputation as a hangout for criminals, beasts and ghosts has left Ko Tarutao undeveloped. Photo: David Luekens

In 1974 the island was officially protected as part of Mu Ko Tarutao National Marine Park, which also includes Ko Adang, Ko Rawi and several other islands found near Ko Lipe, some 45 kilometres further west in the Andaman Sea. As the kingdom’s first marine park, its early rangers faced intense resistance from dynamite fishermen who occasionally attacked park boats. The eventual success of the preservationists at Tarutao was a crucial first step towards establishing Thailand’s network of ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 1,000 words.)

Get the full story.
Create an account.

Becoming a Travelfish subscriber costs A$35 for a year. Benefits include:
1) Full access to the site
2) 250+ PDF guides
3) Discount coupons
4) 50% off our travel planning service
5) And of course, our gratitude and a warm fuzzy feeling for helping us stay in business!


What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Ko Tarutao.
 Read up on where to eat on Ko Tarutao.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Ko Tarutao.
 Read up on how to get to Ko Tarutao, or book your transport online with 12Go Asia.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Ko Tarutao? Please read this.
 Buy a SIM card for Thailand—pick it up at the airport when you arrive.
 Browse the web securely while travelling with TunnelBear. Try with a 7–day free trial.

Onward travel

Ko Tarutao is on the way to or near ...