Welcome to my newest Koh Tao series! Hiking is one of my favorite things to do on Koh Tao, and I try to hit a trail at least once a week when I’m on the island. While in many ways Koh Tao is a hiker’s paradise, it’s also a secret one — there’s no trail map, routes aren’t marked, and most guidebooks and travel blogs gloss over anything that isn’t diving. I’ll be sharing my favorite routes as I find them in hopes of creating a resource for traveler’s to get out and explore the island on two feet!
Let’s kick things off with a very short but sweet wander — a quick trek up to the island’s Burmese Pagoda. This is a favorite of mine for when I’ve been inside all day, sunset is looming, and I’m looking to get in some quick cardio before nightfall. While the total distance may be meager, the steep incline gives you bang for your step buck, you can knock off some sightseeing at the same time, and a paved trail makes it nearly impossible to wander off course.
Start Location: Grounded Yoga Studio. Grounded, located next to Suksamran Villas, is easily located on Google Maps or on various Koh Tao maps around the island. It’s a good place to park a motorbike, or a very easy stroll from anywhere in Sairee. In fact, this hike would be the perfect warm up or cool down to a yoga class!
To get started, walk uphill in the opposite direction from which you arrived. The incline will gradually become steeper. After about ten minutes, you’ll see Star Villa on the left. Continue and turn left at the sign for the Pagoda.
After five minutes up a flight of small stone steps, you’ll hit the lower temple. There’s some weird signs here to entertain and/or horrify you, depending on your mood.
But don’t stop there, keep moving up! After less than five minutes, you’ll hit the upper temple, seperated from the lower by a paved road where you may find some bikes parked (so yes, technically, you could have driven here, but where’s the fun in that?) Depending on the time of day you might find monks, believers, other travelers, or absolutely no one at all.
When you’re ready to head back, head down to the paved road that separates the upper and lower temples. While you can always come back the same way you came up, I like to use the paved road to return to the starting point. It should take twenty minutes to go down.
Just 40 minutes round trip!
2 out of 5
Remember that this is an active pagoda. Remove shoes when you enter any of the sacred spaces, and it might be a good idea to throw a scarf in your bag in case the temple is in use or you just want to be extra respectful even when no one is watching! This can also be a super buggy area — I recommend sunscreen especially before sunset, when the mosquito go wild.
Need a Hiking Buddy?
Check out Hiking on Koh Tao, an open Facebook group where you can ask questions, look for hiking groups, and share your hiking experiences. It’s not always a very active group, but there are great resources in it and you might find a friend!
Other Hikes in This Series
More to come!
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Have you been hiking on Koh Tao? What’s your favorite route?
We spent a few days on Koh Tao last year but unfortunately didn’t make it on any hikes. I feel like the more I travel, my list of places I want to go just gets longer because I want to go back to all the places I’ve already been! I definitely feel like that about Koh Tao… it’s beautiful there and I hope I’ll return to that little island one day!
I know how you feel, Nikki — my list just gets longer and longer! Koh Tao is definitely worthy of a return visit 🙂
This almost happen to me (not going on any trail) but the kids didn’t want to stay put and we had to go. I was not sorry 🙂
Ha, I bet restless kids can be a great motivator for adventure 🙂
Thanks for this series, Alex. Really hoping to get to Koh Tao soon, so I’ll definitely come back to these posts. I love to hike / walk / run while on the road, so this is perfect. And great photos, as always. Cheers!
So glad to hear it Paul! I love to do the same. On Koh Tao, where driving a motorbike is far and away the most dangerous activity one could partake in, it’s particularly important!
What a great idea to write about hiking trails! It’s always a good thing to have when you’re planning a trip somewhere! Maybe you could include a little map of the route you’ve walked for the people with GPS?
Good idea! Some of the trails are totally out of cell service so hard to map with any real accuracy, but I probably could create a basic overview of where the trail is. I’ll work on it 🙂
This looks like an awesome trail! I’ll have to check it out when I finally make it to kao toa
Let me know how you like it when you do, Cate!
oh, and are there a lot of hikes on the island?
Absolutely! There are loads for such a small island! I’ve done about eight or so myself (many of them over and over again) and there are plenty more I’ve yet to explore.
I loved our time on Koh Tao. Although I don’t know if we could have survived a hike because it was SO HOT when we visited last June. 😉 I’m sure you get acclimated pretty quickly once you live the island life.
Love the photos.
Yup! Living without air conditioning in Thailand definitely changes your perspective on heat 🙂 But I do most of these hikes early in the morning or right before sunset to avoid the midday sun.
Great series idea! Hiking is one of my favorite ways to enjoy a place, whether it’s a far flung destination or my own city 🙂
A few years ago I never would have guessed I’d say the same but… here I am! It’s one of my favorite ways to get a workout in.
cant wait to hear about your little home in KT. always love a peek into your interior delight 🙂
Thanks for reading, Julia 🙂
Thank you for taking the time to post beautiful things to do for those of us who can’t dive. Koh tao looks stunning!
You’re so welcome Jessica! Koh Tao definitely has something to offer non-divers 🙂
Looks like a sweet hike to do … I’ll put it on my list of things to do when I get back to Thailand!
Let me know how you like it Tim! And stay tuned for the next installment 🙂
As I still have never been to Asia (which will change this year, thankfully!) these posts are huge wanderlust inspirations. I’m definitely more of a 2 out of 5 difficulty hiker ATM, sooo..thanks for including less strenuous hikes for us lazy people! lol
Absotootly, Eva 🙂 I’ll try to get something up there for everyone!
I’m so glad you’re doing this! The last time I went hiking up Mango View Point, I got directed to a completely different location even though it’s such a common trail. I’m really hopeless when it comes to reading maps. щ（ﾟДﾟщ）
Just a little suggestion, though: maybe you could add in a map of Koh Tao and indicate the starting and ending point so that people get a rough idea of where they’re going?
Ask and ye shall receive 🙂 I’ll work on this for the next edition!
Always wanted to get to Koh Tao for the beaches and diving but never thought about the hiking. Thanks for creating this database! I am excited to explore it someday soon!
You’re so welcome Megan! Really excited about this series!
Over the last couple of months I’ve began to really love hiking. I find it really breaks up my ‘hitting the pavement and visiting old towns routines’. It’s also great to get out of the hustle and bustle that is Europe tourism and head out onto a track.
I’ll be bookmarking these for when I’m in Thailand (hopefully mid next year!!).
I bet there are some amazing hiking opportunities in Europe — it’s definitely something I haven’t explored myself, so I hope you write about it 🙂
Beautiful pictures – it looks like a great place to relax
Definitely a great quiet place to have a think <3
Just finished this in the scorching Koh Tao midday heat! Nice little hike but be sure to bring water and go at a cooler time of day- she’s not kidding when she says it’s a climb!
Nice! Glad you enjoyed it Caroline! Happy hiking 🙂
I went here today but unfortunately the sign you linked (mama + papa) couldn’t be found! I looked for it everywhere! But the hike was still beautiful and definitely gave my glutes a workout!
The last time I went, it was missing too! I suppose someone has had second thoughts about it — maybe a good thing!