10 Best Koh Tao Snorkeling Spots

Dive into a world of underwater marvels as we unveil the 10 best Koh Tao snorkeling spots. Discover the breathtaking beauty and diverse snorkeling opportunities that await in this tropical Thai paradise.

Best Koh Tao Snorkeling Map

Koh Tao is probably the best island in Thailand for those who want to dip their toe into the underwater world for the first time.

Its warm turquoise waters, easy access reefs, great marine life and overall good island vibes make it a heaven for snorkelers.

Beautiful reefs surround the entire of Koh Tao, so be sure to pack your best snorkel gear and enjoy this paradise island to its fullest.

10. Sai Nuan Beach

Aerial view of Sai Nuan Beach
The two sunset facing beaches of Sai Nuan, separated by picturesque rocks.

In reality, Sai Nuan Beach comprises of two beaches, Sai Nuan 1 and Sai Nuan 2. Both locations are excellent getaways with pristine white sand beaches and inviting shallow turquoise waters.

One of Koh Tao’s trademarks is its rugged coastline, and the big boulders surrounding Sai Nuan are no exception. They attract a wealth of fishlife and a few hard corals which fringe the rocks edges.

Whilst the least developed of the two beaches offers the best snorkeling, the second beach has a few rustic beach bars and bungalows – a great place for refreshments and home cooked Thai food whilst watching the sunset.

Admittedly Sai Nuan is probably not one of the best Koh Tao snorkeling spots, but its overall ambience and seclusion is not to be missed.

9. Sai Daeng Beach

Aerial view of Sai Daeng Beach
Sai Daeng Beach with a shallow reef that gets better further along the east cape.

Sai Daeng Beach is situated on Koh Tao's south shore. The palm tree-lined shoreline is only a short distance from vibrant coral reefs.

The best snorkeling can be found at east of the bay which surrounded by gorgeous, large round semi-underwater boulders. A typical location for blacktip reef sharks, as well as a variety of colorful corals.

You can swim around the cape to the east to reach Hin Ngam Bay, a fantastic snorkel and dive spot, but be cautious of the current there.

From Sai Daeng Beach you may also kayak to Shark Island, on a calm day it only takes around 10-15 minutes.

8. Shark Island

Aerial view of Shark Island with Koh Tao in background
The strong currents around Shark Island attract a lot of diverse marine life.

Shark Island is a tiny fin shaped island located 800 meters south of Koh Tao. It is frequently visited for its great snorkeling, especially around its northwest end, where shallow water can be found.

You can get to this snorkel site by boat or alternatively by kayak (15 minutes) from Sai Deng Beach. There is a floating buoy where you may tie off your kayak before donning your snorkel gear.

Due to the islands positioning, the currents at Shark Island can be quite strong, but staying close to the rocks will help shelter you and there you can admire colorful sponges, tubes, gorgonian fans, filefish, turtles and passing sharks.

7. Mango Bay

Aerial view of Mango Bay with Koh Nang Yuan island in background
Head north to Mango Bay for undisturbed snorkeling.

The sheltered area of Mango Bay can be found on Koh Tao’s most northern point. It is a less frequently visited snorkel and dive spot that is accessible by boat or a very steep (and rather treacherous) road. We recommend making this your second stop after the Japanese Gardens if you are doing a Koh Tao snorkeling tour.

There are some pretty epic schools of fish to be found lurking around the reefs dotted inside Mango Bay. Balls of yellow scad are a common siting, along with a large school of yellow tail barracuda which also like hanging out here.

The macro life around Mango Bay is also good, and the sandy seabed has some cute critter residents. Seahorses, mantis shrimp and nudibranchs can be seen if you look closely.

Mango Bay has a beautiful stretch of beach and two upmarket resorts, if you wanted to stay on this part of Koh Tao. Mango Bay Resort charges a 100THB fee per person to access the beach.

6. Shark Bay (Thian Og Bay)

Coastline view of Shark Bay and reef
Coral bleaching is quite noticeable in Shark Bay but there is still lots of great creatures to be found!

Thian Og Bay is also referred to as ‘Shark Bay’ since the waters here are known to be a nursery for baby black tip sharks.

With the Haad Tien Beach Resort at its heart, privately owned Shark Bay is probably one of Koh Tao’s ‘poshest’ spots.

In our opinion, the best stretch of reef runs from the Cape Shark Pool Villas. By following the cliffs around the bay, there are plenty of fish, pretty corals and sometimes even hawksbill turtles. The surge and current can be quite strong around the corner of the rocks, therefore a good set of fins are a must.

The warm shallows are mostly full of dead and damaged corals which in fairness is not the most welcoming sight, however the sharks seem to love it here!

5. Japanese Gardens

Aerial view of Koh Nang Yuan island and Japanese Gardens reef
The Japanese Gardens are full of beautiful anemone species.

This snorkel spot is situated on the east side of Koh Nang Yuan, a gorgeous string of islands just a short 20 minute boat ride away from Koh Tao.

The Japanese Gardens are well known to be a great dive site for beginners, however they also offer some of the best snorkeling in Koh Tao. The sandy shallows of this site are full to the brim with tiny fish.

Snorkeling out to the reef, beautiful corals begin to appear. There are gardens of anemones swaying to the tides, while brightly coloured clownfish in all shapes and sizes pop out from their homes to say hello.

If you plan on doing a Koh Tao snorkeling day trip, then we definitely recommend adding the Japanese Gardens to your itinerary – just make sure you get there early! We love snorkeling here, but only in the morning. Koh Nang Yuan attracts many day trippers from neighbouring Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, so we always try to arrive by 8am when the island is empty.

4. Ao Hin Wong

Ao Hin Wong coastline with jetty
Hug the south east coastline for the best marine life.

Hin Wong Bay is nestled between the signature cliffs of Koh Tao’s isolated north east coast.

Surrounded by rocks, a tiny beach can be found at Hin Wong Bays northern end. This is the best place to make entry into the water since there are many boulders making access quite tricky.

Submerged islets and pinnacles sit within the bays clear waters and are home to some of the best corals in Koh Tao. These excellent hideouts offer an abundance of marine life including huge schools of sardines, large groupers, a variety of anemone species and plenty of colorful reef fish.

If you’re an adventurous snorkeler, it is possible to arrange for an exhilarating UV night snorkeling experience at Hin Wong Bay with Good Time Adventures on Sairee Beach. Wearing UV glasses over a masks and using a special UV torch, you can witness an underwater disco of dancing corals in all kinds of fluorescent colors.

3. Tanote Bay

Tanote Bay Aerial view of coastline and reef
The famous boulders central in Tanote Bay shelters a huge variety of marine life.

Tanote Bay is an excellent place for snorkeling in Koh Tao. The reefs start almost immediately from the shore. At low tide, entry can be quite tricky since the corals are extremely shallow, so it is important to proceed with caution to avoid damaging the corals.

Around 30 metres out, there is a huge boulder which sits in the middle of the bay. The corals on one side of the boulder are very shallow but really interesting to explore. On the other side, staghorn, brain and table corals slope gradually to approximately 18 metres.

The warm shallows attract baby black tip sharks, which can even be spotted from the surface since the visibility at Tanote Bay is so good. They are also home to a wealth of marine species such as hawksbill turtles, octopus, angelfish, groupers and lots of lovely anemones.

Confident snorkelers can follow the southern edge of the bay, although the waves crashing against the rocks may look intimidating but the currents aren’t strong so it’s possible to follow the reef a very long way.

2. Aow Leuk Bay

Mountain view of Aow Leuk Bay
Both sides of Aow Leuk offer extensive and varied snorkeling.

Situated on the south side of the island, Aow Leuk is a large bay with gorgeous white sands and crystal clear waters. Beautiful reefs mostly made up of hard corals fringe either side of the bay.

The name Aow Leuk, which translates to "deep bay," refers to both the bay's deep concave shape and the depth of the water, which makes it suitable for snorkeling even at very low tide. Finding shade on the gorgeous beach can be limited so don't forget to bring your reef-safe sunscreen.

Both sides of Aow Leuk Bay gives way to rocky coastlines and shallow coral reefs. Just a few metres deep you’ll see all kinds of colorful reef fish, and Aow Leuk is one of Koh Tao’s best beaches for the chance to see blacktip reef sharks in the shallows. Sightings are not as guaranteed here as they are at Shark Bay (Thian Og), but certainly more likely all year round rather than purely in breeding season.

Between underwater boulders and large coral bommies covered in colorful christmas tree worms, tiny glass fish sway in and out of the reefs cracks and crevices. Many types of fish can be spotted here including butterfly fish, titan triggerfish, lionfish and the occasional bluespotted ribbontail ray.

1. Ao Hin Ngam

View of Ao Hin Ngam snorkel spot from Sai Daeng Resort
There’s something special about this protected bay with no beach.

We think that Koh Tao's Hin Ngam Bay, which means "beautiful rocks" in Thai, is the top snorkeling location in Koh Tao.

Often referred to as Aow Leuk II, Hin Ngam Bay is located on the Southeast corner of Koh Tao, in between Aow Leuk Bay and Sai Daeng Beach. It is easily accessible from Sai Daeng Resort, all you have to do is stroll to the pool and descend the stairs on the left-hand side to get there.

This must be one of the most pristine snorkeling sites around Koh Tao island, likely due to the fact that it is not easily accessible from a beach. Although it is possible to swim over from Aow Leuk Bay or Sai Daeng Beach.

The bay is surrounded by large boulders which continue under the water, creating shelter for an abundance marine life. We’ve seen adult black-tip reef sharks here and the biggest bonus is, we had the entire bay to ourselves.

Getting to Koh Tao’s snorkel spots

Scooter, motorcycle or car

Many people rent a scooter to help them get around Koh Tao, some hills can be very steep, so go for at least a 125cc engine. This can be a very affordable way to reach all the above snorkel spots with the exception of Japanese Gardens, Shark Island and maybe Mango Bay.

Private taxi's or boat

Taxi cars and longtail boats are options if you plan on doing a private snorkeling tour. Taxi's are expensive on the island, most destination will be charged at 500 baht. Private longtail boats can be chartered easily but you will have to negotiate the price, normally a full day will start at 3000 baht.

Snorkel Tours in Koh Tao

There are many organised Koh Tao snorkeling tours that will take you to some of the spots in this guide. Oxygen Tours offer full day tours which start at 9 am.

Kayaking in Koh tao

We found the most effective and enjoyable way of reaching Koh Tao’s snorkel spots was by kayak. Basing yourself on one of the southern beaches, such as Sai Daeng Beach or Chalok Baan Kao Bay, you can to paddle along the coastline to many excellent reefs including Shark Bay, Aow Leuk, Tanote Bay and Shark Island.

Recommended snorkel gear for Koh Tao

Recommended snorkel gear to bring to Koh Tao

Although there are many places to rent snorkel gear in Koh Tao, the quality will almost always be very low. Most of the beachside rental places will have a selection of cheaply made, old masks and snorkels available. Fins will be harder to find, if you're lucky to source a pair in the size you actually need, they will probably be incredibly floppy and bent out of shape.

Rental prices range from 50-100 baht per item so this can also add up if you plan on staying for more than a few days.

We advise you bring your own gear, few things are as bothersome as jellyfish stings, coral rashes, swimmer's ear, and sunburn while snorkeling. And, certainly, no one wants to discover they have a leaking mask or inefficient fins.

Check out our recommended packing list for snorkelers for trusted snorkeling equipment.

1 comment

Ko Tao was one of the first places I visited in Thailand back in 2001. At that time there were a few dive shops, some places to rent a hut on the beach, one small road and not much else. I did a dive course there (Scuba Junction) and it was quite good diving, although much of the time I spent just laying around on the beach. It was possible for tourists to extend their stay by having their passports taken to “Mr J” who managed to get them up to Myanmar for a visa run without you having to go along for the ride. It didn’t cost a lot and was very convenient for anyone wanting to stay in country indefinitely. This isn’t possible any longer because many things have changed with Thai immigration rules. I have some pretty good memories of that island and it was nice to read this blog post.

James May 12, 2023

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