When we heard of Koh Tao, a little island in the Gulf of Thailand we heard it was a “Diving Island with a Drinking problem”. As we researched some more we found it is now known as a “Drinking Island with a Diving problem”.
So, dive and drink, drink and dive. But what if you’re not about tequila shots and blowing all your cash on adventures of the underwater kind. Maybe you have had enough of the diving or party scene on Koh Tao (travel from Bangkok to Koh Tao). Maybe you already spent all of the dollars you needed to fill those last few days with drinking and/or diving?
Well lucky for you, you found this post! We have more than a few things to get you out and about for free or on the cheap on Koh Tao. And no, they don’t include cozying up to that dive master for discounted dives or cheap Smirnoff from 7/11.
Visit one of the many viewpoints!
Enjoy the endlessly breathtaking views from one of these spots with a picnic:
Mango Bay View Point: 100 baht for entry, and the road up here is very sketchy, unless you are an absolute pro on a scooter or bike, I’d recommend taking a taxi. No picnics up here as they don’t allow food or drink.
I love Koh Tao: 100 baht for a photo with the sign over looking the east coast of the island. The road leading here is in great condition, and you can continue higher up the to get to…
Two Views: The road after I love Koh Tao is a little sketchy but you can always drive until you don’t feel comfortable, then park up and walk the rest of the way, or just get a taxi. This viewpoint is free and great place for a picnic. It is so named because it offers views of both Sai Ree beach and Nang Yuan.
Nang Yuan Terrace: Just follow the main road from Sai Ree to the North, it’s in great condition, and walking distance from town if you don’t have a scooter. This one is free, and not to be confused with the viewpoint that is actually on Nang Yuan! The platform area is accessed through a Resort but you can easily get away with bringing your own food and drinks if you’re not too obvious about it.
Fraggle Rock: Free entrance, views over Sai Ree beach. Food and drink is allowed as this is a public place, you can walk here in about 50 minutes from Sai Ree, but you can also drive part of the way.
John Suwan: Take a drive out to freedom beach resort on the south coast and you will see the sign for the viewpoint, and from there it’s a sweaty 10-15 minute scramble over rocks to the top. It is just a 50 baht entrance fee to our personal favorite Koh Tao view. From this point on the southern end of the Island you can see both Chalok Baan Bay and Shark Bay at the same time. This is also the best place to hang out and watch the sunset in my opinion. There are trees for shade, and you are allowed to bring food and drinks up here.
Hire a scooter if you are confident and explore the reefs right off the beaches! It is super rare to find such abundant sea life and healthy reef that is accessible without hiring an expensive boat.
Shark Bay: Good road leading here and easy access. Famous for it’s healthy population of black tip reef sharks.
Tanote Beach: The roads are steep but they are well paved on the way to this beach. The draw card of this beach is definitely the large central rock that, for the courageous, has become a cliff-jumping destination. There is a rope attached to a drilled in hook to help you scale the rock, and its height varies between 8-10 meters depending on the tide.
Hin Wong Bay: This bay is easily accessible as the roads are well paved, but they are very steep. There is no beach here to lounge on, only large boulders, but this is what makes the underwater world so enjoyable. This bay is easily accessible as the roads are well paved, but they are very steep. We left our things on the rocks to the right and then climbed into the water with the ladder off the jetty.
Sai Nuan Beach: The most beautiful beach on the island, and that’s a big call. Take your snorkel and swim out to the left and around the big boulders. That’s where you’ll find the best sea life.
Auew Luek: Is the only beach that you will have to pay entrance to (100 baht). While this stings a little when there is so much natural and free beauty around the island, you do get free Wi-Fi! The water remains deep enough to swim and snorkel at low tide; which is great, as no one likes smashing their knees into the reef while swimming!
Sai Daeng: There is a great reef offshore of this wonderfully quiet beach. You can also rent a Kayak and paddle out to Shark Island too. The road here is well paved but steep.
Sai Ree: It is super easy to access but doesn’t rank as high on our list of favorites as the other listed. There is a small reef not too far offshore from this popular beach.
There are so many volunteering options on Koh Tao if you just take a second to look.
Save the environment: Have a look out on dive notice boards for more information or just start asking the locals about opportunities! Most dive companies arrange some kind of island clean up, either weekly or monthly. These can include beach clean ups where you may be able to score a free ride to a new bay, or ocean clean ups where you can score a free dive or two in exchange for removing waste from the water.
Save the animals: If you happen to be more of an animal lover than an eco warrior, why not pay a visit to the Koh Tao Animal Clinic? They are always in need of helping hands, whether it be for a simple task of cuddling an animal in recovery, washing or walking a dog, or taking Happy to the beach for a swim. Every minute helps and it really is inspiring to see their great work first hand. Read more about Shatara’s volunteer experience.
There are a number of hikes that lead to beaches or temples on Koh Tao, just looking at that mountainous interior I know there must be even more than I have been able to list here.
Laem Thian: This hike will take you about 45 minutes each way, take a picnic to make it a lovely day trip. The beach is home to a deserted resort, and some beautiful snorkeling areas. For this one, from the main road in Sai Ree you’ll take the road towards Hin Wong Bay. Keep walking past Banyan and Asia Divers and once you reach the hill you’ll need to walk through the new resort on your right to continue. There will be a dirt road to follow after this that will take you all the way to the beach.
Burmese Temple: The climb will take you about 20 minutes, it’s quite steep but the reward is well worth it. You can see this golden monument from some parts of the island. This is a super easy one to find, and the pathway is paved the entire way so you can’t possibly get lost on the way. Start at grounded yoga, heading away from Sai Ree beach on the road to Hin Wong bay take the first right and the studio is a little way down the road. From there take the stairway up the hill and you’ll be there in a couple of minutes!
Sai Nuan I: As I mentioned earlier, this happens to be our favorite beach on the island. This bay is home to beautiful swings, a slack line attached to two trees so you can practice your balancing skills while listening to the soothing sounds of the coral wind chimes that hang from the bamboo shacks here. When we researched, we found that this tiny, out of the way beach could only be reached one of two ways. It was either by long tail boat, or by a 20 minute walk along a jungle path that winds through two other resorts, past Jansom bay, and over some rocks before opening up to the beautiful, sheltered, white sand beach. We walked this route and found that this paradise is well worth the effort of finding. If you feel likes a few days away from the hustle and bustle of Koh Tao, you can even stay in a bungalow with your own balcony and hammock over looking this beautiful beach.
Note: if you don’t feel like walking here… I have a secret! We actually found an easier way! If you drive down the road to Jun Chua all the way to Char Bungalows, you can actually follow a trail through to Sai Nuan II and around to Sai Nuan I in about five minutes.
Have you been to Koh Tao? Did you get stuck in the drink and dive cycle, or did you manage to tick a few of these off your list?
Guest author: Tara Harrison of Shataratravel