Can’t dive? Lucky there are plenty of fun things to do in Koh Tao Island for non divers that will make your time worthwhile on this paradise island.
Koh Tao is a small island located in the south of Thailand. It is pristine and unspoiled with rugged terrain. Most of the coastline is crowded with huge rocks which nestle several small bays with white sand beaches and crystal-clear waters.
Very close to the coastline are a myriad of stunning marine life – from big and colorful school of fishes, to sharks, manta rays, to stunning coral reefs – the island is not short of things to offer in its waters.
The amazing diversity and beauty of the seascapes have drawn thousands of divers and divers-to-be to the island who rated the diving conditions and the marine life as world class. Diving is definitely the top thing to do in Koh Tao Island.
But what if you don’t dive?
I had come to Koh Tao looking forward to a great dive. It’s the top thing to do in Koh Tao anyway. But alas! My allergic rhinitis flared up more frequently while I was there. That means stuffy nose and problems equalizing underwater. Bummer, right? Instead of sulking during the 12 days I spent on the island without diving, I found some top amazing and fun things to do in Koh Tao Island for non divers like me. Let this list help you to find options on Koh Tao Island.
1. Explore Koh Tao on a Scooter
Koh Tao is a very small island with a land area of 21 square kilometers. You can basically drive on the island and visit north to south and east to west in just half a day! The roads on the island are mostly concrete, running over steep trails with sharp curves. The scenic drive offers great views of the beaches and bays and the stunning waters around the island. Although there are new smaller roads built that go to Koh Tao’s hidden bays and viewpoints, some parts are still riddled with potholes and thick dirt and mud making the road difficult even for experienced drivers. We were able to rent a scooter for 150 baht per day.
2. Visit the Koh Tao Viewpoints
One of the best things to in Koh Tao for non divers is visiting its viewpoints There are a couple of viewpoints on Koh Tao Island, but the best one is definitely the John Suwan Viewpoint on the south of the island. The 360 views from the top are truly breath-taking. From there, you’ll see the white sand beaches of Chalok Baan Kao Bay on the left and Shark Bay on the right surrounded by wonderfully-hued sea. On a clear day, you’ll see the island of Koh Phangan on the south. From the entrance, we hiked up huge rock boulders and steep sandy trails for about 20 minutes. It may sound difficult but it was actually okay for us and we don’t even exercise that much. Get ready to pay 50 baht to the lady guarding the entrance and don’t forget to bring water.
3. Snorkle the bays of Koh Tao
Koh Tao is one of the best places to snorkel. Imagine just sitting in shallow waters in Hin Wong bay on the eastern side of the island, while dozens of colorful fish curiously swim around you.
In Tanote Bay, prepare to swim with hundreds of fishes in different shapes, sizes, and colors, just a few meters from the beach.
Another favorite of ours is Aw Leuk Bay, which is gorgeous not only for its white sand beach and crystalline waters but also because of the underwater scenery teeming with life that you’ll find few meters from the bay. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see baby sharks lurking among the corals. The three bays are easy to get to since new concrete roads have been made.
Many tour agencies offer snorkeling trips for 600baht on a huge boat going to 5 different snorkeling stops that include the three I mentioned plus Mango Bay and Nang Yuan Island. It may seem tempting to join these tours but after hearing that often they carry a couple of dozens of tourists in one go, we were immediately discouraged. You can opt to rent a boat taxi that will take you to the best snorkeling stops without the usual crowd.
4. Swim and lounge by the beach
There’s a dozen of beaches on Koh Tao, the most popular and the longest is Sairee Beach on the West. The beach promenade is lined by restaurants with lounges giving a spectacular view of the sea, especially during sunset.
But if you truly want to relax and have a quiet time on the beach, a drive or a hike to certain bays is truly worth it. My top favorite beach is Aw Leuk. The water is just crystal clear and the sand is soft and fine. You’ll get a bonus of having small colorful fish swimming with you.
Sae daeng beach is great for when you want to chill on a hot day as the beach is lined up trees. Sai Nuan 1 beach is definitely worth an hour hike from Sairee. It is mostly empty and the views along the way are incredibly stunning.
There’s no direct road going to Sai Nuan and the only way is to hike from three directions. You’ll get a taste of adventure which is rewarded by a beautiful white sand beach at the end.
5. Hike along the coastline or through the island
When Martien was out diving one day, I ventured on my own
hiking the coastal trails instead of sulking and feeding my misery over my
inability to dive. That was my best decision ever. It is definitely one of the
best things to do in Koh Tao for non divers. There are hiking trails to various
points on the island. The hikes to the viewpoints are especially difficult
because of the steep trails.
I opted to hike to Sai Nuan Beach and followed a trail along the coast. The properly-maintained trail passes through a couple of resorts, along huge rock boulders, steep cliffs, hundreds of stairs, and through forests before getting to Sai Nuan 1. Along the hike, the view is just crazy amazing – the blue waters crash onto undulating rock formation and steep cliffs, tree leaves hover over your head protecting you from the harsh sun. It takes about one hour of hiking from where I stayed KoTao Regal Resort on Mae Haad Beach to Sai Nuan!
6. Enjoy the lively nightlife
I am a big fan of lively nightlife and since I can’t dive, I have the excuse of enjoying the night and not worry about waking up early the next morning. Thankfully, there’s always something going on in Koh Tao at night. I kept coming back to Fishbowl Bar and Restaurant as they always have live music going on every night and their talents are amazing. Every Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, there’s a Pub Crawl that starts in Chopper’s Sports Bar and goes to different bars each night. Fridays are big of course with many bars opening ‘til late with great music and fire dances on the beach for entertainment.
Important things to remember when visiting Koh Tao:
Bring lots of sunscreen and water when hiking.
When snorkeling, instead of using sunscreen, opt for long
sleeve clothes. Sunscreens harm corals.
Snorkeling gears are available for rent. Flippers re not
encouraged but still allowed because of potential harm to the corals.
Bring your own bag when shopping. 7/11 shops stopped using
Take photos of the motorbikes before driving it out. Owners
might charge you for scratches that are already there before you even rent it,
according to some travelers.
Bring extra cash since many places ask for entrance fees.
Don’t bring valuables with you when necessary.
Always respect local customs and refrain from arguing with
Driving on Koh Tao is not advisable for complete beginners.
Many parts of the road are accident prone.
Don’t leave your drinks unattended.
Take precaution as you would in any country.
Book your accommodation here to get great discounts:
Overall, I still had an amazing time in Koh Tao. It is such a beautiful island that there’s just so much to see and do even when you don’t dive. I could’ve easily stayed another week there just snorkeling, hiking, or lounging around. I hope this list of things to do in Koh Tao Island for non-divers will help you in your future travels.
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