Ko Tao is almost a year-round destination but depending on what you are looking for during your visit there are considerations to take into account when deciding which month to come, such as weather, crowds, visibility for diving and which critters are around in the ocean.
The busiest times are between July and early September, Christmas, January and February. The island is busy, the bars are full and it’s a great time to meet new friends and enjoy the beaches. In recent years the island has become very popular with families, so if you are restricted to school holidays, don’t let this put you off. Simply choose to stay at another beach than Sairee, where the largest concentration of bars, restaurants and resorts are. The weather in July to September is warm and sunny and the visibility is at the best for diving. Christmas, January and February can see changeable weather and dive conditions but on the whole it’s okay — certainly better than a European Winter.
The hottest time is between March and May. The island is noticeably quieter then and life gets significantly slower as locals and expats alike wilt in the heat. However, this is one of the best times of year to see whale sharks; the visibility isn’t often the greatest at this point, but if it was then the whale sharks wouldn’t come.
If you can get here in June, then I would say this is ideal. The island is quieter, the seas are flat calm, the temperature has returned to normal and the dive conditions are great too. Similarly September and into October, the island starts to quiet down again but the dive conditions and weather remain very good; September and October are good times to spot whale sharks too.
Come late October, the wind change heralds the start of the monsoon. Businesses start to close and visitors leave. November on Ko Tao is not recommended, yet there have been recent years where the monsoon didn’t hit. If you have no choice, then keep your eye on a reliable weather source and decide from there. Be aware that in big waves ferries don’t run, so leave yourself plenty of time to get off the island.
Do remember that Ko Tao is just a short ferry ride from Ko Pha Ngan, home to the notorious full moon party, so bear in mind these dates when booking transport and hotels. Ko Tao fills up straight after each party and is usually quiet in the days before, on the day and the day immediately after. Traveling to Ko Tao after the busier parties in July, August, December, January and February is foolhardy without a booking your ferry or room.
In recent years, more visitors have started to visit Ko Tao first before the full moon party and the even savvier travellers have simply started hopping on the full moon party ferry service from Ko Tao. This takes you there late afternoon and brings you back early the next morning; it’s a great way of avoiding the obligatory three- or four-night stay that most hotels and resorts are imposing on Ko Pha Ngan.
By Ayesha Cantrell
Last updated on 9th August, 2012.