Ko Tao is so big, we’ve split it up into areas, select one of the below for detailed accommodation and food listings in that area. Sights and general overviews for Ko Tao as a whole can be found via the icons above. Don’t know where to start? Read an overview of Ko Tao’s different areas.
Ko Tao's east coast holds some of the most terrific spots on the island. If you're keen to get away from the crowd, have a stash of good books, a penchant for all-day hammock-swinging punctuated with spots of snorkelling, then the east coast has your name written all over it. Across June, July and August in particular, the waters on this side of the island are calm and the snorkelling is nothing short of tremendous.
Idyllic it is, but paradise comes at a price. While the roads have improved somewhat in recent years, the concrete sometimes ends without warning, with a sudden drop onto sandy track. Little lighting gives you no warning of potholes or broken concrete and their overall state can change immediately after a downpour too. During monsoon, you can quite easily get rained in or simply stuck. If you're planning on spending many an evening over in the Sairee bars and restaurants, then you may want to reconsider staying in this area, or instead simply plan a night's stay at the beginning or end of your stay on Ko Tao somewhere closer to the action. All resorts offer some sort of daily transfers into town for you to stock up on munchies though, so you are not completely stuck, and in some areas you can easily kayak to the next closest beach to explore and have a change of scenery.
Running from north to south, the main bays are Hin Wong, Laem Thian, Ao Tanote, Ao Lang Khaay and Ao Leuk. All can be accessed by road, though some may also run longtails from Mae Haad.
Ao Hin Wong
Hin Wong Bay remains one of our all-time favourite spots in Thailand. If you happen to find yourself on Ko Tao when the prevailing winds are coming from the southwest (June, July and August) this can be a very special place as the waters are dead calm and ideal for snorkelling. The bay is home to two huge groups of fusiliers too which will send you dizzy watching them.
One of the most isolated bays on the island, Hin Wong has just a few very basic bungalow resorts, so even when it isn't calm, you can easily swing the days away in your hammock and just enjoy the peace and quiet.
Hin Wong attracts a few dive trips from elsewhere on the island who come to dive at Hin Wong Pinnacle -- a tabletop formation that sits in the middle of the bay. Given its distance from most dive centres though, there is never a lot of traffic. The pinnacle, with an average dive depth of just under 20 metres, is known for its soft corals and ample sealife, including the occasional hawksbill turtle.
This is a great day out if you are in the mood for a trek. The resort that made this beach its home closed a while ago so the road has not been maintained. The path is easy to follow though and it's easy to pretend you've been transported into an episode of Lost. Wear trainers and take plenty of water as there are no facilities when you get there. The resort looks like it was left in a hurry, lending it a ghost town feel.
The bay here is great for snorkelling and diving and is one of the best places around the island to see turtles. The beach is a mix of sand, boulders and dead coral in roughly equal proportions. And if you're having trouble getting started in the mornings, just across the rocks from the resort is an eight-metre high pinnacle from which you can jump off into the water below. Enjoy the bay but please remember to take all your rubbish with you â€“ there's no one there to clean it up.
This attractive bay has an outcrop of rocks at its centre and bungalows skirting right around its edge. It's a reasonably low-key spot suited to a stay of a few days or a month if you're in for some serious hammock swinging.
Out of season the bay can be too rough for safe swimming, but when the water is calm the snorkelling is excellent. Some people say the diving over this side of the island is better in the low season because the tide doesn't go out as much. It's one of the only places on the island where you can dive directly from the shore.
The road here is particularly bad and deteriorates even further in wet season.
Ao Lang Khaay
This quiet, isolated bay just to the south of Ao Tanote has no beach to speak of, but great snorkelling, lots of big fish and, when the weather is calm, a multitude of rocks to jump off.
Just one resort remains on this peaceful bay. No worries here besides deciding how to spend your days: swimming, snorkelling or just kicking back in the tropical seclusion. During the off season, strong winds make swimming rather difficult.
It's easy to see why Ao Leuk is frequently cited as the most beautiful beach on Ko Tao, with its sweeping whitesand beach dotted by two resorts offering a range of accommodation.
The beach backs onto a coconut plantation and there's ample space for lying around and taking it easy. The snorkelling is great here and if you are both lucky and patient you can see sharks too. This really is a beautiful spot and even if you're not planning on staying here, Ao Leuk is at least worth a day trip. The beach does enforce a strict policy of not allowing food and drinks brought from outside; bags have been searched and tempers have flared. Don't let this put you off though as it's simple enough to leave your foodstuffs behind and enjoy the bay and its couple of inexpensive restaurants.
The road to Ao Leuk is found off the main road connecting Mae Haad to Tantote Bay. The road down to the beach has been improved greatly but if you come on a motorbike it's advisable to leave your bike at the top and walk.
By Erin Wildermuth.