The ultimate itinerary for Koh Tao

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The ultimate itinerary for Koh Tao

Planning a trip to Koh Tao and unsure of how much time to spend here? Of course you want to make the most of your time and not miss out on anything. How long you stay on Koh Tao will depend not only on the overall duration of your trip, but also on what you want to do while you are on the island. We have put together three schedules for you that can be the starting point for your holiday planning!

How long should you stay on Koh Tao?

One of the questions we receive on a regular basis is, how much time you should spend on the island? This is indeed a little difficult to answer, as this can be very different for everyone, depending on how much time you have and what you want to do while you are here. Our three sample schedules should give you a good guideline for your planning, but bear in mind that these could just be a starting point for you.

You can skip to our sample itineraries with these links:

Let's have a quick dip - 3 days, 2 nights
Goldilocks explores Koh Tao – 7 days, 5 nights
Become a seasoned Koh Tao pro and mingle with the expats – 14 days, 12 nights

The basics: How to get there and ferry schedules

The only way to get to Koh Tao is by boat. There are a few options to choose from: a high-speed catamaran, regular passenger ferries and the night boats, which generally brings both, cargo and guests to the island.

Schedules can change slightly with the seasons and due to weather or tidal changes. However, as a general rule of thumb you will have to plan at least 2-4 nights on the island to make your stay worthwhile. The regular ferries get in to Mae Haad (our main pier) around mid-morning and the last ferries leave mid-afternoon.

If you are the adventurous type, you could opt for the night ferry. They vary in size and level of comfort and you will either be given a bunk bed or a small mattress on the floor. If you are coming to Koh Tao with one of the night boats, make sure to keep your arrival day free of any plans and enjoy a resting day instead.

Let’s have a quick dip – 3 days, 2 nights

Day 1 – Arrive on one of the daytime ferries and check in to your resort or guesthouse. After a quick refreshing dip in the ocean, wander down to the main town of Koh Tao, Mae Haad. Take a stop along the way to sign up for your PADI Discover Scuba Diving for tomorrow and get the paperwork out of the way. Now it’s time to treat yourself to a refreshing juice or homemade iced tea at one of the beach side cafes – we highly recommend Coconut Monkey – and enjoy the view. Once it’s time for dinner, wander down to one of the local restaurants around the pier. You can find some fantastic Thai food in the area. Have an early night, because tomorrow is going to be exciting…

Day 2 – Have a good breakfast and head down to the dive centre of your choice (of course, this would be Master Divers…). For your one-day try dive you will spend an hour or so in the classroom and your Instructor will tell you about some of the basic rules of scuba diving. Have a quick snack for lunch and head out on the afternoon boat for your dives.  You will start with some basic skills in the shallow waters and then have the option to take one or two dives in one of the beautiful bays around Koh Tao. Get back to land, log your dives and celebrate the day with a sunset drink and treat yourself to dinner at one of our awesome restaurants.

Day 3 – Before or after breakfast, take a hike or a snorkel to one of the many beautiful spots around the island, relax on the beach before your final lunch. Unfortunately it’s now time to leave – but you could always scroll a bit down, look at our 7-day itinerary and extend your stay…

Already a diver? Excellent, don’t waste any time and get into the water as soon as possible. Make sure to email your dive centre of choice upfront and check with them if you need a Scuba Review, which dive sites they have planned during your stay and if you can maybe even squeeze in a night dive.

Goldilocks explores Koh Tao – 7 days, 5 nights

Day 1 – This is your arrival day. After checking into your hotel, you should head down to see the team at Master Divers and get the paperwork for your PADI Open Water Diver course completed. Pick up your study materials and be ready to start at 1pm. (Alternatively you could keep your arrival day as a resting day, but bear in mind that this shifts your schedule back by one day and you might want some time to explore the island at the end of your trip.)

Day 2 – Your first full day of your diving course is spent with a mixture of practical applications of how to assemble your gear, a classroom session and your first steps (or actually fin kicks) under water. We usually take you out on the boat in the afternoon, so you already get to dive with some of the wonderful marine life of Koh Tao. Don’t make any big plans for the evening of day 2 as you will most likely be hungry, happy and tired. Call it a day and be even more excited about day 3!

Day 3 – This is pretty much the same schedule as day 2. You will slowly progress into deeper waters during your dives and start getting the hang of this. Enjoy the feeling of being under water and swimming with the fish. You might already think about what your next diving adventures could be, so don’t forget to talk with your instructor about this… By now you probably know your evening routine?! If on day 1 you found a lovely Thai lady cooking the most amazing stir fries, it’s totally ok to have the same dinner 3 nights in a row…

Day 4 – We are sure that you are a good student and already finished the academic part of your course. Congratulations, your instructor treats you to a morning boat for the final dives of your PADI Open Water course. You get back to land around lunchtime, log your dives and are now officially a certified diver. Take the afternoon off, you deserve a little rest! You could hike out to one of the beautiful local beaches, go for a swim, read a book, have a nap and refresh yourself with an ice cold Mango shake.

Day 5 – You have signed up for the PADI Advanced Open Water course and your day starts with a relaxed classroom session. By now you should know that the best breakfasts come from the Coconut Monkey and the lovely staff will serve your food and drinks right to your table in the classroom. In the afternoon you head out for some shallow dives. This is followed by one of the highlights for many students: the night dive. You will get back to land, all buzzing with excitement, but make sure you have an early night to be ready for the next morning!

Day 6 – Your final dives of this trip will be two morning dives, usually a Deep dive and a Wreck dive. That’s it, you are now officially a PADI Advanced Open Water Diver. You’ll get back to land and have the entire afternoon to explore some other parts of the island. Head over to Sairee Beach and wander along the beach road, where you can do some souvenir shopping, have a lovely sunset drink and find a place to have your last dinner on the Rock! Enjoy yourself and make sure to take a taxi home. (Remember, don’t drink and drive!!!)

Day  7 – You might be in denial, but unfortunately it’s time to leave… Did you check your travel schedule carefully? Maybe there is an option to extend your stay just a little bit longer…

Already a diver? Fantastic, now is the time to extend your diving knowledge and take that Specialty course, you have always been dreaming about. You can explore the HTMS Satttakut, during the PADI Wreck Diver Specialty or book a bespoke photography course with one of our experienced pro photographers – whatever it is you are interested in, now is the time to do it!

Become a seasoned Koh Tao pro and mingle with the expats – 14 days, 12 nights

Congratulations, you have scheduled plenty of time to fully explore the island and enjoy the best Koh Tao has to offer. There is no point in writing down a sample schedule for the entire 2 weeks, but you can mix and match from the following:

Diving – Of course you wouldn’t want to miss some diving, while you are here. You can pick from the following options:

PADI Open Water Diver – 3.5 days

PADI Advanced Open Water Diver – 1.5 days

PADI Rescue Diver – 4 days (this includes 1 day for the EFR)

Fun dives – there are usually 2 half day trips each day, morning and afternoon, we also go out night diving every other night

PADI Specialty courses – usually between 1-2 days, depending on the type of Specialty training

Non diving – There are plenty of non-diving activities on the island. Pick up a local map and hike to some of the most stunning viewpoints, book a private cooking course and learn how to recreate your favourite Thai dishes at home or take a yoga class and relax with the sound of the ocean in the background.

If you need some more information for some land-based, non-diving activities, check out these blog posts:

Already a diver? Make sure you have some serious travel plans or other personal commitments at the end of your time on Koh Tao – or you will get stuck here and most likely sign up for your PADI Divemaster training. Don’t say we didn’t warn you…

What to eat and where to stay?

This tiny island has an exceptional restaurant scene and there is a huge variety to choose from: From sizzling street foods to fine-dining experiences. From healthy & vegan to indulgent & meaty. From authentic Thai food to Chinese, Mexican, Indian or French cuisine (just to name a few)… You get the idea. Make sure to check in with the locals about their recommendations as new eateries sometimes pop up and then suddenly disappear again. There are also some good Foodie groups on Facebook where you can find daily specials or new restaurant openings.

We also have a few recommendations for local hostels, guesthouses and resorts on our website and regularly keep these up to date. With that in mind, a firm favourite with many of our visitors is Utopia Guesthouse. This little boutique guesthouse has recently been refurbished and stands out with its cute, hand-picked decorations. The host is quite knowledgeable about the island and can also arrange some activities for you. And the best part about it? Utopia Guesthouse is located right by the beach and quite literally next door to Master Divers!


A few things to remember when planning your stay on the island: All these schedules are suggestions only and we can generally also work on some more bespoke scheduling options for you. All diving courses are performance-based and not time-based. Please also remember to leave 24 hours between your last dives and flying. 

How do you like to spend you holidays? Did we forget anything in our suggestions? Let us know in the comments!

Image credits: Danny Lee, unsplash, private

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