Eco-friendly travel guide to Ko Tao advises how to be a responsible tourist. Learn how to explore the attractions in a sustainable way and how to respect the local people and culture. Make your trip green by supporting locally owned hotels, organic restaurants and other businesses. Read more on how to protect the environment by making conscientious choices and how to travel green in Ko Tao, Thailand.
- Air quality: 2 / 5
- Exploring by foot: 3 / 5
- Exploring by bicycle: 3.5 / 5
- Public transportation: 4 / 5
- Parks: 3 / 5
- Outdoor activities: 2.5 / 5
- Locals' English level: 3 / 5
- Safety: 3.5 / 5
- Accommodation: US$10 - $300
- Budget per day: US$50 - $600
- 1 Responsible Travel
- 2 Air Quality and Pollution
- 3 Respect the Culture
- 4 Top 10 Places to Visit
- 5 Explore
- 6 Eat
- 7 Drink
- 8 Activities
- 9 Accommodation
- 10 How to Get There
- 11 Moving Around
- 12 Sustainable Shopping
- 13 Recycling
- 14 Work and Study Abroad
- 15 See Also
Ko Tao is an island in the Gulf of Thailand. Thailand is a globally renowned tourist destination that is often on every travel enthusiasts must-visit destinations list. Ko Tao hailed as one of the most popular party destinations in the region, you will see many bachelors and bachelorette hosting parties here.
You get to see the real beauty of the city when you roam around and discover the hidden gems. One can also catch a public bus for traveling a long distance across the city. One should be careful while you travel and move around the city to pollute the city. The local hotel or the local area is the best place where you can move around while walking. The best part of the city can only be explored on the feet. The bus system in Thailand is one of the best ways to travel from one city to another. You can find a bus stop after walking for a few minutes. You can ask the driver where they are heading, and you can also ask them to drop you anywhere in between. Unfortunately, there are fewer train services of any kind in the city of Ko Tao, so one cannot travel through them.
Air Quality and Pollution
Even though Thailand faces the problem of bad Air quality and high pollution levels, the situation in Ko Tao is pretty great. The Air quality ranks good on the Air quality index so it is a safe place to travel. Most of the pollution is caused by the use of plastic and has led to an estimated 30 tons of waste being produced per day on the 19km2 island. Terrestrial development and growth of the local tourist industry has also resulted in severe problems regarding terrestrial waste management. Over the past 10 years, tourism numbers have been estimated to grow by 500% from 141,000 in 2006 to 700,000 in 2016. While efforts have been made to assess the direct impacts of tourism on the marine habitats, little to no data have been collected on the abundance of plastics and other debris being exposed to the marine environment at Koh Tao.
Respect the Culture
It would be best if you were culturally sensitive. Buddhism is the general faith practiced by most Thai people, so one must take exceptional consideration not to disrespect them. Thai people esteem maintaining their temper and having the best conduct in public for themselves and one another. It is recommended that you practice the "wai." Rather than shaking hands, the local people are known to practice a gesture known as the "wai" this is akin to the namaste in Indian culture or the bow in Japanese culture, as it is often used to welcome individuals.
Wearing suitable clothing before entering a sanctuary is one such act of cultural sensitivity. Try and keep away from sleeveless shirts, flip-flops, and extra short pairs of shorts or skirts on your visit to a sanctuary. Secondly, always remember that the local people are particular about the head and the feet; they consider the former to be cleanest and the holiest part of the body while the latter is the filthiest and the lowest part, so avoid being overly casual by touching a local’s head or by using your feet to point or touch another individual. Leave your shoes outside the sanctuary as you enter. These are small yet very much noticeable and impactful gestures.
Top 10 Places to Visit
- John Suwan's viewpoint: John Suwan's viewpoint is the observation deck in Ko Tao. It is situated in Ko Pha-ngan, Surat Thani, Ko Toa, Thailand. It is nowadays becoming a famous tourist spot.
- Ao Tanote Beach: This picturesque beach with pristine white sand is located off the east coast in Ko Tao. You can enjoy snorkelling or diving and discover the unique Marine life of the island.
- Sairee Beach: One of the most longest and busiest beach on the island. It is a very popular beach so if you feel like witnessing the hustle and bustle of tourists or want to socialise with people then this should be on top of your list. There are plenty of great parties hosted at this beach as well.
- Janson Bay: Known for being home to some rare marine species, Janson Bay is great for snorkelling and witnessing the true beauty of Ko Tao and Thailand in general. The turquoise waters and the greenery around the bay will soothe your eyes and calm your soul.
- Nang Yuan Island: This island is very close to Ko Tao and you can visit on a speedboat or a ferry. It is a very popular place for diving and snorkelling. It will make for a great trip and the boat ride will cost around a 100 Baht.
- Mae Haad Pier: Full of tourists, handicraft stores, eateries, hotels, hostels and bars. This pier is where the ferry will drop you off when you get to the island so all the important places are located within the same vicinity. Plenty of tourists around as well so you will have a chance to mingle and socialise.
- Ban’s Diving Resort-Official: One of the most popular resorts on the island. They offer diving courses so if you want to become a certified diver or are just a beginner and want to get into diving, this is the place to be. Accommodation like villas or superior rooms with access to the private pools is also available.
- June Juea Bay: The fresh and crystal clear waters of the beach are quite famous. One can swim on this beach because of the calm currents of water flowing most of the time. You can find food, drinks at a very reasonable price. It is a remote area so you will have some privacy and can enjoy a little peace and quiet time.
- Chaok Baan Kao Bay: Small, chilled-out beach backed by coconut palms, with open-air eateries & bars, plus dive centers.
- Sai Nuan Beach: For people who don’t like crowds and want to relax in silence, this beach is the perfect choice. It is at a distance of 30 minutes from the main town. The city is a fishing village with clean beaches, friendly villagers, and a fresh and calm vibe. Since it is one of the beaches that is not visited too frequently by tourists, you have to be extra careful and mindful about littering.
Ko Tao, the famous island in Thailand, is popular for its white-sand beaches, the bright sea, the calm and refreshing breeze, the culture, and many more interesting things. It attracts millions of tourists every year and there is so much to explore.
The city parks are the life of this city; you can find city parks of all types to visit in the city of Ko Tao. Beautiful city parks are available all over the city of Ko Tao. Here are some of the parks you should visit while you are in the city:
- Koh Tao Leisure Park
- John Suwan Viewpoint (Observation deck)
Here are some of the famous national parks in the city of Ko Tao:
- Ang Thong National Marine Park: This marine park is located in Ko Samui but it is just a boat ride away from Ko Tao as well. The limestone mountains, pristine beaches, breathtaking waterfalls and ancient caves are some of the most prominent features of this gorgeous national park. You will be left in awe of the stunning views and the natural beauty. You can choose to visit for a couple of hours or stay overnight (bungalows and camping options are available) to discover the park properly.
- Than Sadet-Ko Pha-Ngan Sok National Park: This one is located in Ko Phangan and is again very close to Ko Tao. There are a few waterfalls in the park, as well as fun adventurous activities such as zip-lines and ATV adventures. The views are breathtaking and it is so peaceful and quiet.
Ko tao is home to plenty of great beaches that are popular all around the world. Millions of tourists visit the island just for the beautiful beaches. While most of the beaches in Ko Tao are pretty crowded by tourists, there are some hidden gems as well where you can go for some alone time. Some of the beaches that are worth visiting in Ko Tao include:
- Songserm Pier
- Lighthouse Beach
- Tanote Bay
- Leuk Bay
Ko Tao is not a city where the ideal landmarks are just highrises, tall buildings, resorts, and water parks. There are numerous landmarks other than the basic ones.
Here are some of the famous landmarks given below:
- Sun Suwan 360 View
- Chalok Viewpoint
- Jp Resort Ko Tao
- Shark Bay
- Evasion Koh Tao
There are no museums in Ko Tao but there are some museums located in the islands near by like the Art Samui museum in Ko Samui.
Ko Tao truly reflects the essence of authentic Thai cuisine. While every city and island in Thailand offers its own twist to the unique Thai cuisine, the flavours you will find in Ko Tao will be unmatchable. Truly the best version of Thai cuisine is found on this amazing island. Not only this but there is amalgamation of different cuisines available as well so you will be able to try a little bit of everything on your trip to this island. There are plenty of restaurants available from traditional to vegetarian and organic ones. The street food scene is pretty great as well.
Traditional Local Restaurants
If you want to waste no time eating international food while in the city of Ko Tao and focus on trying the traditional cuisine, you need to try these famous restaurants in the city:
- Mama Piyawan’s
- The Gallery Restaurant
- Babalon Restaurant
- Lanta Restaurant
- Seafood By Pawn
Vegetarian and Vegan
Eating healthy vegetables and different vegan dishes helps travelers to stay healthy and fit. If you are a vegetarian, you do not need to worry when you are in this city as there are many restaurants to attend to your needs. Many tourists maintain their healthy diet by eating vegetables and keep the tour eco-friendly. With these places, you will get to enjoy traditional meals properly with your regular choices.
- Vegan Island Koh Tao
- Treehouse Café
- Living Juices
- I Love Salad Cafe
The street food scene in Ko Tao is pretty epic. It truly gives you an insight into the culture of this beautiful nation. From seafood to vegan to unique meat options, you will find everything here. Some of the street food options that are worth trying include:
- Kluay Tort (Banan Fritters)
- Som Tam (Papaya Salad)
- Pad Thai (Stir-Fried Noodles)
- Yellow Chicken Rice
From soft drinks to alcohol, there is a plethora of options to choose from. Thai drinks are famous around the world for their unique and refreshing taste. One thing you should know is that often drinks at the street stalls and night markets are sold in a plastic bag with a straw. That contributes to the problem of pollution and creating plastic waste. It will be a good idea to carry your own thermos or water bottle and ask them to pour your drink in that. Some of the drinks that you must try to quench your thirst are:
- Coco Yen (Iced Cocoa)
- Cha Yen (Thai Milk Tea)
- Nam Oy (Sugarcane juice)
- Oliang (Thai Iced Coffee)
The tap water that you will find in the city of Ko Tao is most certainly unfit for drinking. As a tourist, if you wish to enjoy a glass of water, it is suggested that you drink from a water purifier at a minimum. In places where you cannot get the bottled water, make sure to boil the tap water from the nearest places or carry one boiled tap water bottle with you as it is safe to drink once boiled. Many locals might suggest filtering the tap water before drinking it to get the bad properties out and make it clear to drink. But it is better to avoid the tap-water as you might still get sick after drinking the filtered water as a traveler. This can be ensured only at restaurants and at houses of the local people.
There are many different restaurants and cafes in the town that have organic dishes and other organic ingredients. Here are some of the cafes and restaurants that you need to visit on your tour to the city of Ko Tao for the best organic foods.
- Café Del Sol Guesthouse And Restaurant
- La Carotte Qui Rit
- Vegan Island Koh Tao
- Café Culture Coffee
- The Beer Masons Koh Tao
- Barracuda Rooftop Restaurant And Bar
- Cantina De Koh Tao
- Fishbowl Beach Bar
- Breeze Koh Tao
For most local people, weekends are all about relaxing after a long week of enduring traffic, work, and the city's hustle and bustle. You can be a part of endless activities like diving, swimming, zip-lining, kayaking, cycling, exercising, etc., when in Ko Tao. People think that the beaches and nightlife are the only important aspects of the island, but they are wrong as there are many other fun activities to do in the island.
Yoga and Retreats
With increasing awareness of the need for a healthy and fit lifestyle, the local people are gaining interest in yoga. The Island's calmness and its refreshing breeze all around makes it an ideal place for practicing yoga. Yoga is derived from a Sanskrit word called ‘Yuj,’ which means ‘to join’ or ‘to unite.’ There are many yoga institutes in the city where you can train under a qualified and experienced yoga teacher.
- Shambhala Yoga Centre
- Baan Talay
- Monsoon Gym & Fight Club
- New Heaven Dive School
- Koh Tao Crossfit
The island is heaven on earth if you like beach life. There are plenty of accommodation options present in the city from five star resorts to budget friendly motel rooms. One can experience everything in this small city. If you are planning to visit there soon, you might be wondering where to stay.
Green hotels practice environmentally conscious ways in any tourism industry. They work on solar and wind energy, have responsible waste management and cooperate with the local communities. Green hotels provide you with the best service and embrace the ecology of the place. You can book these kinds of hotels, so you will at least know that you are doing something good for the environment.
- Koh Tao Heights Boutique Vilas
- Mango Bay Boutique Resorts
- Charm Churee Villa
- Koh Tao Garden Resort
Hostels and Guest Houses
Here are some of the best, comfortable, and affordable guesthouses, as well as hostels, give below:
- Ac2 Resort
- Czone Hostel
- Star Hostel
- Koh Tao My Hostel
Living in the city could be amazing as you are provided with all the basic services 24 hours a day. The hotels are the most expensive place to buy an apartment. The city of Ko Tao is quite expensive. If you are looking to buy an apartment in the city, you need to check all the necessary details and request a reasonable price from the dealer. You can find houses in the downtown area of the city where you will get an adequate price. You can find all types of houses like a flat, a condo, a suite, a bungalow, etc.
Couch Surfing is popular as a concept here in the city of Ko Tao, but there aren’t many who are willing to participate. A handful of young adults who are comfortable will indulge, but the rest are either living in too small spaces or simply do not trust letting in strange foreigners into their house.
Couch surfing does not provide any safety to the host or the guest. It is risky to couch surf in an unknown city. You can also lookup online for houses that are couch surfing nearby and join them. Although there are some places, you can find houses where you can stay without paying anything.
Campers describe the experience as exciting, and it lures those who have never been camping before. The thing with camping is that there are particular areas for it; else, the whole purpose is defeated. Thus, it is right to know about camping sites. It helps you meet new people, and you get to do things you have never done before. If you a lover of nature and the outdoors, we know that you would wish to experience camping in whatever form when you are in a new city.
- Samui Caravans Hill Camp
- Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Camp
- Retro Mountain Koh Phangan
- Koh Tao Bamboo Huts
- Dontappmoon Farm
How to Get There
Getting to Ko Tao is not difficult at all. You can just take a ferry from Bangkok or Ko Samui. You can also take a bus and ferry from Bangkok or other cities. One thing you should keep in mind is that you will have to take a ferry at the last leg of your journey in order to get to the island.
Chumphon Airport and Ko Samui are the nearest airports in Ko Tao, which connects the nearest cities and provides most major carriers. The city center is towards the northeast of the airport. Traveling by air is the easiest and best way to get there because you will experience the city's real beauty from above. You will eventually have to take a ferry though to get to the island.
You can find first-class buses as well as second class buses for your travel. The bus terminals are chaotic, and you may have to take some local help to determine which bus to choose for your requirements. Buses to the town can be booked online.
The night trains heading down to Chumphon leaves from Hua Lamphong train station in Bangkok. If you’re not in a hurry, stay overnight in Chumphon and discover the tastes of local robusta, find out how the birds’ nests are harvested at the farms and prepare yourself to your island stay visiting some of the idyllic beaches in the proximity of the city (e.g. Hat Thung Wua Laen).
You can find a lift from the main highway, many drivers passing by, or you can find a bus on highway routes. Most drivers are naturally wary of picking up strangers, fearing robbers and carjackers. While there are exceptional cases of drivers who would be okay with offering one a lift, most of them would not, especially when driving at night. Most of the time, it will not cost you anything, but sometimes you will have to pay a little something for the ride. It’s easier to find a ride near a gas station or a speed bump.
You can also reach there by road in your private car or a minivan. The city of Ko Tao lies along major national roads that pass through and connect different countries on the continent. As a result of this, some of the visitors who get into the city are long-distance adventures driving their cars or even riding motorbikes.
Moving around in the Ko Tao is quite easy because you get all the efficient options. From a bus ride and taxis to walking around or renting a car. Ko Tao is said to be one of the most famous islands in the world with beautiful attractions, white sandy beaches, and various landmarks. This guide helps you with the most efficient ways to move around the city.
If you want to explore a city to its fullest, the best way is to walk around the city. You can walk around to find many street markets and nearby shops. You get to see every aspect of the city by walking. Downtown the city, or the area near the city's famous park, is the safest to walk around.
If you are staying a while and just want to use a bicycle to get around, then it is recommended you stay in the Chalok Baan Kao or Mae Haad areas as the roads are flatter and away from busy traffic There are plenty of hilly and adventurous roads for those who are experienced bikers and want to enjoy some mountain biking rides in Ko Tao. Extreme Koh Tao mountain biking trails to check out are around Tanote, Reservoir, Two View, Laem Thian and Mango Bay. The terrain is mainly loose pebbles over a hard surface. Also, some parts of the trail are heavily washed away making pedaling almost impossible, in these places just lift your bike and climb across or make a U-turn.
Electronic vehicles are in the shape of bikes mostly but those are also less in numbers. Most of the bikes and scooters run on gas. The most popular way of going around the island of Ko Tao is on these bikes and scooters. There is no other means of transportation that will get you around the island as easily as a scooter will.
It is not possible to move around the island of Ko Tao on a bus because there are no local buses and the city's infrastructure does not support the movement of buses. This is also a good thing because it means less traffic, less pollution which keeps the environment of the island relatively clean. You can opt for motor bikes, bicycles or just walking to get around the island.
Tram, Train and Subway
The island does not have trains that you can use to move around.
Sustainable shopping is a means of patronizing and buying the local craft of the people. In Asian economies such as that of Thailand, most local vendors are known to struggle to ensure a thriving business. Cut-throat competition and low margins make it hard for them to survive in the market ; hence, it is suggested that you always indulge in sustainable shopping and purchase local goods that are made using eco-friendly practices. Undeniably, there are always unique things that would catch your eyes when you visit a new city.
There are random night markets and pop-up markets that you will find around the island specially near the 7-Elevens. You can buy organic ingredients and fresh produce to cook a healthy and scrumptious meal or you can try the different local dishes vendors are selling in these night markets.
The flea markets in the city of Ko Tao are a great place to pick up a few knickknacks and souvenirs; given below are a few markets worth exploring:
- Wat Phra Yai
- Wat Plai Laem
- Wat Khunaram
- Lad Koh Viewpoint
Second Hand Stores
Second-hand stores are an excellent bargain sometimes, as they offer you almost as good as new goods at a fraction of the original price. There is a sizeable market for such goods in the city of Ko Tao, and given below are a few stores you can explore:
- Bitz And Pieces
- Ko Tao Forum
- Ko Phangan
Eco-fashion is a means of making clothes that are helpful to the environment. We always encourage foreigners to play a role in being eco-friendly when they visit any city and subscribing to eco-fashion is one way for anyone. The styles are also in vogue, so you do not have any worries. Everyone is always trying to be eco-friendly in different capacities, and designers make their effort in the clothes they make. However, it is left you to buy it and also play a part in the system.
Incentive-based recycling initiatives have been launched recently. Everything, including plastic, glass, metals, e-waste, and medical waste, is collected and recycled here. Recycling on the island of Ko Tao has recently been taken very seriously; the government has always been ramping up efforts to recycle as much as possible, but they trail considerably compared to other major cities across the globe.
Hazardous waste is carefully collected and transported as well. However, the waste collection system in poor areas and slums is in shambles, and you may see some inefficient methods being followed.
Waste disposal in Ko Tao is quite efficient and systematic in major residential areas as the awareness is quite high, and everything is separately collected, including wet and dry waste.
Work and Study Abroad
This is not a great place for studying and working due to a lack of educational institutes but it can still be a feasible place for remote work.
Being a remote island, there are almost no opportunities for exchange students.
The concept of an Au Pair living with local families has not gained popularity in this place for now. Since locals heavily rely on tourism industry themselves, it is not feasible for them to start paying tourists to stay with them to help with house hold chores. Even if it is done the money will not be a big amount especially if you come from Europe, America etc.
There are plenty of volunteering opportunities available in Ko Tao. From soup kitchen to NGO's working to eradicate plastic and working towards the conservation of Marine life. You can volunteer your time, money or any other resources through which you can contribute. It is a great way to actually help a cause on the grass root levels.