Koh Tao is a small island in Thailand, renowned for being one of the cheapest places to get your Open Water diving certification in the world, but what else is there to do on Koh Tao that’s not diving?
What I love about Koh Tao is how small of an island it is! You can walk pretty much anywhere in this island if you’re an avid hiker. To walk the whole length of it (north to south) would probably take 2 and half hours. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to do this myself, but here’s what I did, and how you can get the most out of a short stop over.
Hike to John-Suwan Viewpoint
A must see view! It completely took my breath away (in combination with the humidity and the hike). From this viewpoint you can look north and see the vast jungle of Koh Tao stretch out in front of you, with beautiful turquoise bays either side.
The hike is fairly easy if you’re fit and well, they have provided ropes as assistance to climb the boulders, but I found they were not needed most of the time. It’s roughly a 15 minute climb from Freedom Beach, and entry is 50 baht per person. The second time I climbed there was nobody there to pay however, so you can sometimes get lucky!
I would recommend against wearing flip-flops; I wore Toms and the lack of grip on the gravel made my foot slip once or twice, so either wear something with a little grip or use nature’s footwear (you’re feet!), although the boulders can get very hot in the sun.
Top tip: Bring enough water for the hike. I ran out and had to buy a small bottle from the bar on Freedom Beach which cost me an extortionate 30 baht.
Speaking of Freedom Beach…
Visiting Freedom Beach in Koh Tao
Freedom Beach is located in the southernmost peninsula of Koh Tao. I walked from Mae Head pier in roughly an hour – with regular breaks to take photos. It wasn’t as mountainous as I expected either, as the land here remains relatively flat until the end.
It’s a little on the small side and was pretty crowded (40 people = crowded on this spot of land). There was a festival held here a few days prior to my visit, so neon ribbons still adorned the trees and the small stage had yet to be dismantled.
The location has definitely got a cute vibe, with handmade shell decorations hanging from the trees which line the shore and provide ample shade. There are numerous hammocks, but you would be lucky to find one that hasn’t been claimed yet.
The sand at Freedom Beach is less sandy and more like tiny little uncomfortable rocks, but the sea is a gorgeous clear turquoise and is popular for snorkelers. There is also a large bar situated on decking that reaches out into the sea, however like I mentioned above, it’s pretty expensive!
Shark Bay Koh Tao
Shark Bay is a beautiful white sand beach with crystal blue water which has been cordoned off to boats making it a haven for snorkeling. It’s a large beach with ample shade and was fairly quiet when I visited. Sadly, there is a lot of dead coral washed up on the shore due to the sea being consistently at a warm temperature.
Entry costs 100 baht but we accidentally took a route down from the road leading to Freedom Beach (towards Ok II Bungalows) and clambered over the rocks to get to Shark Bay… oops!
There are a few places to eat and drink here but it’s very very expensive. A juice would cost around 150 baht, whereas elsewhere on the island a juice costs 30 baht.
Where I stayed? I stayed only a 5-minute walk from the pier, in AVA hostel & guesthouse. It is a convenient location that remains quiet in the hustle and bustle of this busy little island. It’s pretty basic as far as hostels go, but it’s clean and comfortable (with the exception of the pillows which had corners?!). It’s not a very social hotel; the social area seems to close early, but the people I shared a room with were super friendly. It’s also cheap, costing around 300 baht a night.
Where I ate? Blues… The live music enticed me into this place. Outside on the beach there is a mixture of tables and elevated floor seating areas.
I had a falafel sandwich, which was fairly large and the falafels were delicious! Very limited options for vegetarians here though. Prices shocked me, as it’s more expensive than Koh Phangan. You’re looking at 250+ for any big meal… My sandwich was 180, coconut 90 and jucie 80.