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10 Best Koh Tao Snorkeling Spots you MUST visit

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You might have heard of the beautiful underwater life you can find on Koh Tao Island. It’s surrounded by rocks and reefs covered in coral. Many different marine species call this place a home. Because of that, Koh Tao is one of the best places for snorkeling in Thailand!

Apart from being an incredible snorkeling destination, Koh Tao is also often visited by divers. In fact, this is one of the cheapest places to get PADI certified in the whole world! So if you’re not tight on your budget, it’s an option to consider.

However, if diving is not for you and you prefer to stay afloat, here’s your complete guide to the 10 best Koh Tao snorkeling spots. Both snorkeling and diving are some of the best things to do on the island!

We’ll cover all the different bays and beaches, how to get there, and include some of the best hotels to stay in. Also, we will share the best snorkeling tours on the island.

Where is Koh Tao?

Koh Tao is a small island located in the Gulf of Thailand. Koh Phangan lies 45 kilometers south and Koh Samui is also nearby. You can find Koh Tao east of the Surat Thani coastline. It’s surrounded by South China Sea.

You can also save the location of Koh Tao to your Google Maps app.

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How to get to Koh Tao

Since Koh Tao is an island without any airport, the only way to get here is by boat. If you’re traveling from Koh Samui or Koh Phangan, you have two ferry companies to choose from. Lompraya offer 5 different ferries each day, while Songserm only has one.

Optionally, you can also get here from Surat Thani or Chumphon. Also, read our complete guide if you’re traveling to Koh Tao from Bangkok.

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For more information about all the different options for getting to Koh Tao, read our complete guide.

Expect to pay around 700 TBH all the way up to 1,300 TBH. While you can book your tickets directly at the port, we recommend doing so online in advance. During high season ferries can get sold out easily.

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Book a ferry ticket using 12go.asia.

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If you want to travel to Koh Tao from any other destination in Thailand, you will first need to get to Chumphon or Surat Thani piers. From Chumphon, you can get to Koh Tao in 1 hour and 45 minutes. But from Surat Thani, it takes almost 5 hours.

Both Chumphon and Surat Thani have airports with direct flights from Bangkok.

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Check the flight prices at expedia.com.

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10. Mae Haad shipwreck

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Entrance fee: free

If you’re looking for a different kind of snorkeling experience, you should certainly visit Mae Haad shipwreck. The wreck sank in 1989 due to Typhoon Gaye. Despite being so close to the main pier, not many people know about this place. In order to find it just follow the road to Sensi Paradise Resort.

The shipwreck lies in a 3-meter deep water. You should also be able to see some parts of it sticking out of the water. Since it lies in such shallow water, it’s a perfect snorkeling spot!

You can expect to meet common reef fish such as angelfish, parrotfish, and butterflyfish.

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How to get to

Mae Haad is also the main tourist hub and the only pier on Koh Tao Island. Therefore, getting here is pretty easy. For example, if you’re staying near Sairee Beach, it’s approximately 2 kilometers. While you can possibly walk, we recommend renting a motorbike.

You can also use a truck taxi, but it will be more expensive. The price is between 50 TBH to 200 TBH per person, depending on the amount of passengers.

Save the location of Mae Haad shipwreck to your Google Maps.

Best hotels

Nadapa Resort - best hotels on Koh Tao

Nadapa Resort

Low budget

Sunrise Koh Tao - Best hotels on Koh Tao

Sunrise Koh Tao

Mid budget

Sensi Paradise resort - best hotels on Koh Tao

Sensi Paradise

High budget

Where to eat

  • Milk&Honey – Middle Eastern food, vegan-friendly, and good vibes.
  • Coconut Monkey – Amazing food in a restaurant located on the sea front. Prices are reasonable.

9. Haad June Juea

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Entrance fee: free

Haad June Juea is one of the less visited beaches on the island. Since it’s not so famous, it’s the perfect snorkeling spot if you want to avoid crowds. The beach is a beautiful strap of sand maintained by owners of the nearby bungalows.

Haad June Juea Bay - best Koh Tao snorkeling spots

You can see plenty of different fish swimming around the coral reefs. However, be careful since the water level is too low. To get the most out of your experience, swim southwest towards Cape Je Ta Kang. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a sea turtle.

Additionally, a small beach bar offers snorkeling gear and kayak rental.

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How to get to

Haad June Juea snorkeling spots can be reached easily on a motorbike. Roads are in good condition, but some sections are slightly steeper. But overall, anyone can manage this ride. You can also try to hire a truck taxi.

Save the location of Haad June Juea to your Google Maps.

Best hotels

Deishaview Jungle Hostel - best hotels on Koh Tao

Deishaview Hostel

Low budget

Tao Thong Villa - best hotels on Koh Tao

Tao Thong Villa

Mid budget

Assava Dive Resort - best hotels on Koh Tao

Assava Dive Resort

High budget

Where to eat

  • The Cape Restaurant and Cafe – Not directly on the beach. They offer both Thai and Western food. Occasionally, you can stumble upon a buffet. Slightly more expensive.

8. Mango Bay

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Entrance fee: 100 TBH

Mango Bay lies in the northernmost part of the island. The bay is lined up with palm trees and you’ll also find many boulder granite rocks here.

The most popular snorkeling area is the east side of the bay. The water here is a couple of meters deep up to 17 meters. This area is also marked.

Apart from snorkeling, Mango Bay is often used for PADI courses.

You can see parrotfish, damselfish, titan triggerfish, blue-spotted stingray, and schools of yellow-tail barracuda. It’s also possible to spot seahorses and mantis shrimp.

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How to get to

No roads lead all the way down to Mango Bay. While it’s possible to arrive on a scooter and climb down, it’s a dangerous and uncomfortable climb.

Therefore, we recommend using a longtail boat or joining a snorkeling tour. We will list some of the best snorkeling tours at the bottom.

For a longtail boat taxi, expect to pay around 500 TBH to 1000 TBH per person each way.

Save the location of Mango Bay to your Google Maps.

Where to eat

In Mango Bay there’s just one restaurant selling food, but it is slightly overpriced.

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7. Hin Wong Bay

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Entrance fee: free

Hin Wong Bay is a relaxed bay that is easy to reach on a motorbike. Apart from tasty Thai food and fresh drinks, it offers an incredibly diverse marine life. Therefore, it’s one of the best snorkeling spots on Koh Tao.

Hin Wong Bay has a small beach surrounded by huge boulders. Expect white sand and crystal clear waters. In addition, you can rent a kayak and discover the nearby hidden bays.

You can see colorful coral, damselfish, rabbitfish and if you’re lucky you might even spot a black tip reef shark.

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How to get to

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Parking fee: 20 TBH

You can visit Hin Wong Bay on a motorbike or a taxi. However, taxis from Sairee Beach will cost you around 500 TBH. When arriving on a scooter, keep in mind that the road leading down to the bay is rather steep.

If you don’t feel comfortable riding a scooter here, you can park earlier and walk down to the beach.

Additionally, it’s possible to visit this bay either by a longtail boat or by joining a snorkeling tour.

Save the location of Hin Wong Bay to your Google Maps.

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Best hotels

Hin Wong Apartments Dive & Snorkel Resort – The only hotel in the area. I would recommend choosing another place instead. However, this resort has no AC, poor services and the road to it is very steep and unsuitable for inexperienced drivers.

Where to eat

  • Hin Wong Restaurant – A lovely place with tasty food and great views. They also make amazing coffee.
  • Freedom Bar – A laidback chilled bar with refreshing drinks and occasional live music.
  • Secret Paradise Bar – Relaxed place where you can enjoy both tasty food and nice drinks.
Local Thai Food - Pad Thai

6. Lighthouse Bay

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Entrance fee: 100 TBH

Lighthouse Bay is located on the northeast side of Koh Tao, close to Mango Bay. Since the bay is sheltered, usually the water is calm with good visibility. While getting here might not be as easy, it’s certainly worth the effort.

The underwater life at Lighthouse Bay is just incredible! It’s definitely one of the best Koh Tao snorkeling spots.

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You can also find a lighthouse in this bay. While it’s not functioning anymore, you can still climb up for the views.

You can see longfin bannerfish, table corals, Christmas tree worms, and butterfly fish. Lighthouse Bay also offers big chances of spotting sea turtles. The variety of different corals is incredible, too.

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How to get to

If you don’t want to pay for a longtail boat, you can also climb down to the beach. However, this would take around 30 minutes and some people might find it difficult.

Save the location of Lighthouse Bay to your Google Maps.

Where to eat

You won’t find any restaurant on the beach.

5. Ao Leuk

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Entrance fee: 50 TBH

Ao Leuk is a spacious bay close to Shark Bay. It’s a very popular snorkeling spot, also due to its easy accessibility. Since the bay is officially a part of a resort, you must pay an entrance fee to stay on the beach.

A sandy strip passes the middle of the bay, but best snorkeling is at the right or left side along the rocks. As you get further from the beach, the water gets deeper.

Ao Leuk Beach - best snorkeling spot on Koh Tao - snorkeling Koh Tao drone

At Ao Leuk, you can see parrotfish, angelfish, clownfish, and pufferfish. Sea turtles are also often found in this area.

Additionally, Ao Leuk is an incredible snorkeling spot for meeting black tip reef sharks. They use this bay as a nursery, so it’s common to meet baby sharks here. In order to increase your chances of spotting one, try not to move around much.

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How to get to

Ao Leuk Beach is easily reached on a scooter. The ride from Sairee Beach takes around 15 minutes. Some sections are a bit steeper, but it’s nothing to worry about. Optionally, Ao Leuk is a stop on almost every snorkeling tour.

Save the location of Ao Leuk to your Google Maps.

Best hotels

Chabalay Resort - best hotels on Koh Tao Aow Leuk Bay

Chabalay Resort

Low budget

Aow Leuk Grand Hill - best hotels on Koh Tao Aow Leuk

Aow Leuk Grand Hill

Mid budget

Where to eat

  • Aow Leuk Grand Hill – A resort with a restaurant, where you can get Thai food. They also offer sunbeds for a fee.
  • Tree House Cafe – Not directly on the beach, but worth a stop on the way back. Tree House is a place with amazing food, huge portions, and moreover, with incredible atmosphere.

4. Japanese Gardens

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Entrance fee: 100 TBH to enter Koh Nang Yuan Island

Japanese Gardens can be found off Koh Nang Yuan coast. It offers a variety of colorful coral and white sand. It’s one of the most diverse snorkeling spots in whole Thailand! Moreover, Japanese Gardens are famous thanks to the unusual huge coral formations.

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To enjoy Japanese Gardens at their calmest, arrive in the morning rather than in the afternoon.

Once at Koh Nang Yuan, make sure to climb up to the viewpoint! Since it offers incredible scenic views over the island, it’s a very popular spot.

Expect to see sergeant fish, damsel fish, parrot fish, and much more.

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How to get to

Japanese Gardens is a snorkeling spot located near Koh Nang Yuan Island, just a few meters off the coast of Koh Tao. Because of this, it can only be reached by a boat. You can either pay for a longtail boat taxi or join a snorkeling tour. More information about snorkeling tours is below.

Save the location of Japanese Gardens to your Google Maps.

Where to eat

Japanese Gardens are often visited with a group boat tour, where food is provided. If you come on your own, you can buy something to eat in a small shop on Koh Nang Yuan. However, the prices are slightly higher. So make sure to bring enough water to avoid buying an overpriced bottle.

local Thai Food - cashew nut with rice and vegetable

3. Shark Bay

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Entrance fee: 100 TBH

If you’ve climbed John Suwan viewpoint, you could see Shark Bay on the left when looking toward the island. I remember when we climbed the rocks and saw Shark Bay. It literally looks like a paradise from a postcard. The water here is so incredibly clean.

Shark Bay is a stop on almost every snorkeling day trip. The water here is relatively shallow, which makes it perfect for black tip reef sharks. On a good day, you can see many of them swimming around.

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Apart from the sharks, you can also spot a Green Sea Turtle, which is incredible friendly and curious.

The best time to come here for snorkeling is early in the morning before 8 am or later in the afternoon after 4 pm, when all the tours have already left.

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How to get to

Shark Bay is easily accessible by road. You can park your motorbike for free up on a hill above the resorts. From the parking, it’s only 5-minute walk to the beach.

Another option is to join a snorkeling tour or pay for a longtail boat taxi.

Save the location of Shark Bay to your Google Maps.

Best hotels

Beach Club by Haadtien - best hotels on Koh Tao

Beach Club by Haadtien

Mid budget

Jamahkiri Dive Resort best hotels on Koh Tao

Jamahkiri Dive Resort

High budget

Villas del Sol - best hotels on Koh Tao

Villas del Sol

Luxury stay

Where to eat

  • Roccy Restaurant – Thai food that can be enjoyed on a terrace overlooking Shark Bay. The views are great, however some people didn’t have a good experience here. We haven’t tried this place personally.
  • Shark View Bar – A unique place you certainly shouldn’t skip. While you can’t get food here, stopping for a cocktail or two is worth it. The views are incredible and the owner is friendly.

2. Sai Daeng Beach

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Entrance fee: free

Sai Daeng Beach is on the east coast of Koh Tao, located between Ao Leuk and Shark Bay. Getting here is quite easy. Despite being one of the best Koh Tao snorkeling spots, you won’t meet too many people there.

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You can snorkel all around the bay to encounter interesting marine life and corals. Apart from large coral and typical reef fish, you can even meet black tip reef sharks and sea turtles here.

Additionally, the beach is full of trees offering a shadow on a hot sunny day. In the resort, you can also rent a kayak or snorkeling equipment here.

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How to get to

The best way to visit Sai Daeng Beach is by motorbike. The roads leading here are a bit narrow and steep, but manageable. You can park just a few minutes walk from the beach.

Optionally, you can also visit this snorkeling spot by boat.

Save the location of Sai Daeng Beach to your Google Maps.

Best hotels

Cape Shark Villa - best hotels Koh Tao

Cape Shark Villas

High Budget

The Fisherman's Villa - best hotels Koh Tao

The Fisherman’s Villas

Luxury stay

Villa Sabai Jai - best hotels Koh Tao

Villas Sabai Jai

Luxury stay

Where to eat

  • Coral View Resort – A great place to eat with sea views and excellent food.
  • Uncle Soon’s Restaurant – Perfect setting right on the beach, however, this place has mixed reviews. Prices are reasonable given the secluded area.

1. Tanote Bay

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Entrance fee: free

Tanote Bay was, without a doubt, the best Koh Tao snorkeling spot we visited. The water levels range from just around 1 meter deep all the way to 15 – 20 meters further from the beach. You can find the most stunning corals and marine life close to the huge rock sticking out of the sea.

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When swimming on the right side of the rock, there’s deep water with incredibly diverse corals. Explore the left side to see a school of barracuda. You can also swim between many rocks underwater.

If you’re lucky, you may even spot a sea turtle or a black-tip reef shark. There’s plenty of other colorful fish such as parrotfish, angelfish and even triggerfish.

If you’re an adrenaline lover and enjoy cliff-jumping, Tanote Bay is a great spot for you. Thanks to a rope, you can climb the huge rock in the middle of the bay. From there, it’s safe to jump to the water.

The climb is not as easy though. Once you get up, there’s no other way down than jumping.

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How to get to

Tanote Bay is easily reached on a motorbike. The roads that lead here are wide and in good condition. So even less experienced drivers will manage to come here on a scooter.

Optionally, this place can also be visited by boat.

Save the location of Tanote Bay to your Google Maps.

Best hotels

Mountain Reef Beach Resort - best hotels on Koh Tao

Mountain Reef Resort

Mid budget

Montalay Beach Resort - best hotels on Koh Tao Tanote Bay

Montalay Beach Resort

Mid budget

Tanote Villa - best hotels on Koh Tao Tanote BAy

Tanote Villas

High budget

Where to eat nearby

  • Jah Bar – amazing laid-back place offering food and cocktails, hammocks, chilled vibes, and incredible views
  • Mountain Reef Resort Restaurant – almost right on the beach, tasty food and not expensive
  • Sun Moon Thai Restaurant – all-you-can-eat buffet for 300 TBH, fresh every day, you can also get a cooking class here!
  • HoriZon Morn – breathtaking views, delicious food and cheap prices

Best ways to discover different snorkeling spots

Since there’s no public transport, you have five ways to visit the best Koh Tao snorkeling spots – walk, rent a motorbike, join a snorkeling tour or use a longtail boat or truck taxi.

Rent a motorbike

Renting a motorbike is by far the cheapest and also the most convenient way to discover Koh Tao’s best snorkeling spots. The rent starts from as low as 200 TBH per day.

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Remember that some roads are quite steep and narrow since Koh Tao is a hilly island. Some sections are not suitable for inexperienced drivers riding a motorbike for the first time in their lives.

While discovering Koh Tao’s best snorkeling spots by road gives you the most freedom, you won’t be able to visit all of them. Some of the bays and snorkeling areas cannot be reached by road. However, you can still visit most of the best places by a motorbike or using a truck taxi.

Rent Motorcycle Chiang Mai

Truck taxi

A truck taxi might cost between 300 TBH and 500 TBH for a one-way trip. The more people share the truck, the lower the price. If you decide to visit some of the more remote bays, you might need to pay even more.

I would not suggest using this option for visiting snorkeling spots. If you don’t want to ride a motorbike, join a snorkeling tour instead.

Additionally, you can join a land tour that will take you to some of the best viewpoints around the island. This private road trip to 8 famous places visits Love Koh Tao Viewpoint, Tanote Peak Viewpoint, John Suwan Viewpoint, Freedom Beach, and more.

Longtail boat

If you wish to visit snorkeling spots such as Mango Bay and Japanese Gardens, a boat is your only option. Renting the whole longtail boat for a day will cost you around 2,000 TBH. It can take up to 10 passengers.

If you’re only looking for a boat taxi, a one-way trip might start from 200 TBH up to 600 TBH, depending on the distance.

The more people share the boat, the cheaper it is.

How to get from Krabi to Railay beach

Snorkeling tour

However, if you want to save, you can simply join a boat tour around the island. The most popular company for snorkeling trips around Koh Tao is Oxygen. Their tours start from around 23€, while snorkeling equipment and lunch are included in the price. You will make 5 different stops.

Numerous other boat tours are organized around the island. They usually make the same stops and only vary in the quality of the services offered.

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If you want to discover Koh Tao’s best snorkeling spots on a boat trip, book your tour with Oxygen via Viator.

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Best snorkeling tours on Koh Tao

  • Tour by Oxygen – Oxygen is the most popular company organizing morning and afternoon snorkeling tours each day. A simple Thai lunch is included together with cofee, tea and snakcs. Their guides are professional and ethusiastic about what they do.
  • Insea Speedboat – A perfect day trip from Koh Samui. You will visit Koh Nang Yuan, the bays of Koh Tao, and even Koh Phangan. Expect a longer travel time though.
  • Wooden Vintage Boat – Expect a friendly crew and professional services. This tour departs later (10 am) than the Oxygen (9 am). Otherwise, it’s very similar.

Tour by Oxygen

Klook.com

Insea Speedboat

Klook.com

Wooden Vintage boat

Klook.com

Get PADI-certified

Koh Tao is known as one of the best and cheapest places in the world to get PADI-certified. You can get an open water PADI certificate for around 250€ – 350€. Additionally, the marine life is incredibly diverse, so you’ll have a lot of fun learning to dive here.

The island offers an incredible amount of dive centers and schools to choose from. Make sure to read the reviews properly before booking a course.

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Take a look at La Bombona Diving open water course! They offer a 4-day training which includes all the equipment and material needed.

PADI course 2

Things to keep in mind

Snorkeling on Koh Tao is very safe with few risks. Unlike at some other places, you usually don’t have to worry about jellyfish or strong currents. As long as you’re close to the bay, you should be safe. This makes it perfect snorkeling destination for non-swimmers or families with small kids, too.

However, there are a few things you should keep in mind when going on a snorkeling adventure.

Don’t touch the corals

I’ve seen many people touching and standing on corals when snorkeling. Please, avoid that if possible. Firstly, some corals are sharp and it’s easy to get cut. This might even lead to an infection, which is not something you want to experience.

Additionally, when you accidentally break off a piece of coral, it might not survive. By touching them, you are actually damaging the corals since they’re very fragile.

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Sea urchins

Sea urchins are a common sight in Koh Tao waters. They have long spines that often contain venom. Stepping on a sea urchin can be very painful. When you step on one, try to remove the spines as soon as possible and wash the injured area.

To avoid stepping on a sea urchin, use your goggles and watch the ground when walking in shallow waters.

Sea urchin

Stay hydrated

Staying hydrated is extremely important, especially when you spend all day swimming in the sun. It’s easy to forget to drink when you’re snorkeling for hours.

Protection from the sun

Getting sunburnt when snorkeling is extremely easy. Since you’re in the water all the time, you often don’t feel that you’re getting sunburnt. Use reef-safe sun protection at least 1 hour before jumping in the water.

But the best way to protect your skin from the sun while snorkeling is a long-sleeved shirt. Whenever we plan to snorkel for a longer time, we wear our surf shirts. This is the most effective way.

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Best time to visit Koh Tao

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Dry season: December – April

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Rainy season: October – December

Koh Tao has its dry season between December and April, together with the rest of Thailand. The weather is mostly sunny with almost no rain. However, since December is on the border between monsoon and dry season, you might still experience rainy evenings.

The period between February and May is known as a hot and dry season. April is usually the hottest month. Koh Tao is a relatively humid island, with around 80% humidity. Keep this in mind and stay hydrated throughout the day. The water visibility is the best in this season.

Best time to visit Thailand

While the west coast of Thailand is hit by southwest monsoon between May and October, Koh Tao is not very affected by this. The weather is mostly dry and windy. Therefore, the sea is not as calm anymore. But you can already expect some rainfall, mostly during late afternoons and nights.

The rainy season in Koh Tao usually starts late in October and lasts until December. November is experiencing the heaviest rains. If the monsoons arrive later, the rainy season may last longer.

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Best Koh Tao Snorkeling Spots – conclusion

Koh Tao is rightly on the list of the best places for snorkeling and diving in the whole world. The marine life is incredibly colorful and diverse. The biggest advantage is that anyone can have fun snorkeling around Koh Tao.

We have never seen such an incredible underwater world! With so many places to visit, you could easily spend a week discovering different snorkeling spots around the island. Koh Tao was our favorite snorkeling destination which we hope to visit again!

We hope you found this guide helpful. We’ll be happy to read more about your personal experience, so don’t forget to leave us a comment.

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