It’s quite difficult to advise anyone on how long to spend here on Ko Tao. I would say, never leave but that’s probably not the most helpful answer! It does depend on why you are coming and then the overall length of your trip and what you like too.
Discounting your arrival and departure days, three days would be a good time to spend exploring and doing some activities too. Remember though that a snorkel trip will cost you a full day and if you want to try diving too, that’s really another day. To be honest though, if you are considering diving then you should make sure that you have enough time to take the Open Water Course which is 3 and a half days. If you arrive on a morning transfer then you can start that afternoon, you would need a further 3 days and be able to leave the day after. Ko Tao is one the cheapest places to learn to dive, so if you have the time then it’s certainly worth it. That said, if you are planning to come and take your open water course, then I would advise that you stay for longer than the 4 days planned for the course. Why? Well one of two things will happen. You will either fall in love with the ocean, want to dive more and possibly take your Advanced Open Water Course or you will wish you had more time to explore some of the island.
Ko Tao is one of the most renowned places for taking professional level training for scuba diving. While many plan to come here to undertake such training an equally large make their first dives and instinctively know that this is what they want to do as a way of life. It can be a fabulous way to spend a gap year and give a new slant to traveling the world. In as little as 4 months you could be a qualified dive professional ensuring you a whole new world of possibilities in tropical locations the world over.
If you are not backpacking and not looking to change your life then Ko Tao can happily be the destination for your two week annual break. You can slice off a few days at the end to enjoy some Bangkok culture, madness and shopping too. There are many beaches for you to explore and you could easily spend a week or more making trips to a number of different locations for the day. At the majority of beaches you can enjoy the snorkeling straight from the shore too. If lazing and sun baking isn’t really your thing then there is plenty to occupy you. There are some great hikes to some awesome viewpoints, you can kayak, play mini-golf, learn to fly through the air with the greatest of ease on the flying trapeze, rock climb, cliff jump, take cooking or massage courses or simply enjoy the food and pamper yourself in the spas.
If you are pushed for time or maybe you have chosen to stay on one of the neighboring islands of either Ko Samui or Ko Phangnan it is possible to do a day trip to the island. This will only give you a few hours on the island but enough time to have a little look around or visit one of the beaches for a little while. Both island run snorkel trips to Ko Tao too, taking you to some of the top snorkel spots around Ko Tao.
Regardless of what you decide though I would caution you that you will always want to stay longer and wish you had more time. So whatever you choose add a bit on – just to be sure – and if you are backpacking then leave your trip open ended and give yourself the most flexibility to avoid disappointment. This island seems to have a strange pull to those that set foot ashore, you have been warned!
This article was written for and first published on Travelfish.org. It is reproduced here with kind permission !