Recently I wrote about my number one recommendation to travelers coming to Koh Tao: take a day trip to Koh Nang Yuan! There is a close runner-up in that race though, and it’s taking a longtail trip around the island. My two recommendations have a lot in common- they both involve snorkeling, beach-bumming, and beautiful scenery. Yet despite dozens of attempts thwarted by poor weather, scheduling mishaps and plain-old bad luck, my first true longtail-island-circumnavigation was with Zoe and Olivia during my family and friends’ visit in January. (There was one mini-longtail trip a week earlier where we made it a quarter way around the island.)

Koh Tao Longtail Trip


A longtail trip around Koh Tao includes one non-negotiable element: the longtail boat. You can find tons of eager boat drivers along the length of Sairee Beach. The price of the outing will vary depending on your driver, your itinerary and your bargaining skills, but Koh Tao longtail trip enthusiasts tell me they pay an average of 2,000 baht ($60usd) per boat. Therefore, the more people you bring along for the day, the cheaper the per-person price.

Koh Tao Longtail Trip

The Scenery

Taking a longtail trip means you will get to see gorgeous vistas from your wooden bench seat. If you’re a cartography geek like me, bring along a map of the island and try to identify the various beaches, bays and mountain peaks you’re passing by.

Koh Tao Longtail Trip

You’ll see a side of the island that never would have during the typical tourist’s stay on Sairee Beach. Here’s my sister in front of Shark Island, so named for it’s supposed fin-like shape. Still, I let Olivia believe it was named for what swims in the surrounding waters, hence her grateful grin at being safely ensconced in a boat.

Koh Tao Longtail Trip

Simply riding in a beautiful traditional boat, cutting through the waves and soaking up the sun is a major part of the day’s enjoyment.

Koh Tao Longtail Trip

The Beaches

Some of Koh Tao’s most beautiful beaches dot the East and South coasts. However, the East coast beaches especially can be difficult to reach. The roads are rough and dangerous for motorbikes yet pickup taxis can be pricey. That makes these beaches the perfect destinations for a longtail trip!

Koh Tao Longtail Trip

On our trip we stopped at the beautiful Thian Og Bay, one of my favorite stretches of sand on the island. Other highlights to consider are Sai Nuan, Ao Leuk and Tanote Bay.

Koh Tao Longtail Trip

The Snorkeling

Koh Tao is famous in Southeast Asia as a diving mecca. But you don’t have to go all that deep to understand why- the snorkeling here is also fantastic. And anyone who has ever been on an over-crowded big-boat snorkel trip will understand the luxury of exploring the reefs in private via your own longtail.

Koh Tao Longtail Trip

On our trip I had one firm request- we had to stop and snorkel in Hin Wong Bay, where I earned my Open Water Diving certification years before. I remember this secluded, beach-free bay so fondly and wanted to share it with my sister and best friend.

Koh Tao Longtail Trip

The longtail driver brought us to a shallow corner of the bay and told us to jump in. The fish immediately swarmed beneath us and we shrieked with surprise.

Koh Tao Longtail Trip

I couldn’t believe the variety of fish and the health of the coral in such a shallow spot. I’ve been snorkeling in water all over Thailand and in countries all over the world but I will look back on this day as the best of them all.

Koh Tao Longtail Trip

The longtail drivers will usually supply you with snorkels and masks, but if you want to make sure you have something that fits you well and is of good quality, you should probably bring along your own. I was also happy to have brought along my underwater camera (a Canon PowerShot and the Canon Underwater Housing system). I had so much fun with our underwater photo shoot!

Koh Tao Longtail Trip

Hin Wong Bay is my favorite snorkel spot on the island, but other hot-spots include Shark Bay, Mango Bay, and Koh Nang Yuan (possible to visit as part of a longtail trip!)

Koh Tao Longtail Trip

The Refuel Stops

With all the exhaustion of the sightseeing, sunbathing, and snorkeling, you’ll need to stop to refuel along the way. We stopped for lunch in the newly constructed restaurant at Mango Bay. The views were unbelievable! This is also a popular bay for snorkeling and diving.

Koh Tao Longtail Trip

Other good places to stop for food and a few drinks are Freedom Beach, Tanote Bay, and Hin Wong Bay. All have good restaurants, decent prices, and stunning views.

Koh Tao Longtail Trip

Sunset Drinks

If you time it right, you can get back to Sairee in time for sunset drinks on the beach! The perfect end to a perfect day in paradise.

Koh Tao Longtail Trip

  • Dana de Brito
    April 4 2012

    Looks gorgeous – I love the underwater shots 🙂

    • Alex
      April 5 2012

      Thanks Dana! They are some of my favorite. It’s so much easier to take nice photos in shallow water… there is so much light!

  • Your pictures are making me insanely jealous as I stare at a cubicle wall (don’t tell my boss).

    • Alex
      April 5 2012

      Today while I am actually trying to get work done… I am jealous you have a desk! (As I try to work on my bed….)

  • Kathryn
    April 5 2012

    Clearly I need to return and make it all the way around the island.

  • Michael Davis
    April 5 2012

    Hi Alex at first thanks for such an awesome travel blog. You described one of the most beautiful place in this earth.Great post! Very informative. Thanks so much.

  • Dad
    April 5 2012

    My last day at work will be next Thursday 4/12….will you be in Koh Tao long enough for me to come back?

  • Jenna
    April 9 2012

    Yes! This is so perfect for us. It’s so fun reading your posts and getting a little preview of what’s to come this fall.

    • Alex
      April 10 2012

      I’m so glad! This is exactly the kind of stuff I look for when planning a trip, so I’m glad it could help someone….

  • Mag T.
    November 23 2014

    Can I do the Koh Nanyuan and Koh Tao in one day with one long tail boat trip?

    • Alex
      November 24 2014

      Definitely, Mag! The islands are small, and the days are long 🙂 Plenty of people combine them.

  • ND
    December 8 2015

    Your blog is so fun to read and full of helpful tips! May I ask, if you remember who your long tail driver was or where he was located? It’s a long shot I know

    • Alex
      December 10 2015

      Sorry, I don’t know 🙂 You can just chat to anyone on the beach, there are plenty of great drivers who’d be happy to take you!

  • Irina
    September 29 2016

    Thank you for the tips, Alex!
    And I loved your pix <3

    • Alex
      October 14 2016

      Glad they helped Irina! And thank you!

  • Sharon
    November 7 2017

    Hi Alex,

    looks like a really fun spot, well worth the excursion. Hin Wong Bay looks really perfect. A must visit.

    • Alex
      November 10 2017

      It really is — thanks for the reminder to get back there again someday soon 🙂

  • Abhay Mehta
    May 3 2022

    Thanks for all the enlightenment Alex! Our second trip to Koh Tao in 5 years. Hoping to introduce our grandkids to snorkeling. Did a Longtail boat run in Phangan earlier, but will take your advice and do it around Koh Tao this time. Do let me know when you plan to do India. We’ll be happy to become your local guardians 🙂 Meanwhile, Happy Travels! Cheers, Abhay – New Delhi

    • Alex
      December 14 2022

      Aw, you’re too sweet! India is absolutely on my list for someday!

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