Greetings from Heavenly Koh Tao Island, Thailand


Viewpoint - Naang Yuan, Koh Tao, Thailand

Viewpoint - Nang Yuan, Koh Tao, Thailand (Photos by Lily Leung)

Snorkel mask rental: 50 baht
15 min longtail boat ride: 150 baht
Rock burn from climbing mini boulders in a swimsuit: 300 baht
A stunning panoramic shot of Thailand island paradise: PRICELESS

After 5 busy days of completing my PADI open water diving certification at Ban’s Diving Resort on Koh Tao (aka Turtle Island, “Koh” means island”), Thailand, I decided to explore this small 7km by 3km island for few days before crossing the border to Malaysia.

Myself and two travellers from my dive group, a Brazilian journalist and a Canadian lawyer, rented snorkelling masks and took a short water taxi ride to a small island called Koh Nang Yuan, just west off the main island of Koh Tao.

Koh Nang Yuan, famous for the sandbars connecting 3 mini islands, is one of the typical postcard shots of Koh Tao and was one of the top recommendations from locals for good snorkelling spots on Koh Tao.

The island lived up to the hype. The water was a beautiful torquoise blue with fantastic visibility, and was relatively shallow near the beach (you could stand up). I saw about six types of fish, though the only types I could identify were parrot fishes and honeycomb groupers.

The snorkelling, clear waters and beautiful beach were absolutely beautiful, but the highlight for me was taking a small hike up the mountain to the viewpoint.

Walk to viewpoint - Naang Yuan island, Koh Tao, Thailand

Walk to viewpoint - Nang Yuan island, Koh Tao, Thailand

The view was breathtaking. It was like love at first sight, when everything clicks and there’s a sense of stillness, joy and zen. It was as though I suddenly understood the inspiration behind passionate photographers or travellers who see to experience, capture and share beautiful moments.

Viewpoint - Nang Yuan, Koh Tao, Thailand

Viewpoint - Nang Yuan, Koh Tao, Thailand

Viewpoint - Sandbars of Nang Yuan, Koh Tao, Thailand

Viewpoint - Sandbars of Nang Yuan, Koh Tao, Thailand

A friend from Toronto once told me the first time he went to Thailand, he stayed 3 years. I thought it was odd someone would stay so long in one spot when there are many other places to see, but after today, I understand the feeling of not wanting to leave.

I found myself considering overstaying my Thai visa to see the other parts of Koh Tao island, the nearby islands of Koh Phangan and Koh Samui, or even head to the west side (Andaman Sea) to see Koh Phi Phi or Koh Lanta.

Having watched myself stay longer than planned in all the areas I’ve visited on this trip (India, north Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia), I was secretly relieved my visa was up in 3 days. Considering this just the first (and only) island I visited in Thailand, it wasn’t too hard to imagine how hard it would be to leave if I continued seeing more beautiful places like the one today.

I have a feeling I may come back in the future.

Lily and travellers, Nang Yuan island, Koh Tao, Thailand

Lily and travellers, Nang Yuan island, Koh Tao, Thailand

Lily - Longtail boat water taxi ride, Nang Yuan, Koh Tao, Thailand

Lily - Longtail boat water taxi ride at day end, Nang Yuan, Koh Tao, Thailand

Getting to Koh Nang Yuan

Koh Nang Yuan is a small island just west of the top of the main Koh Tao island. We left from Sairee Beach (Ban’s Diving Resort), but you get there from anywhere on Koh Tao.

  • Grab a water taxi from any of the beaches on the main Koh Tao island. There are signs all along the beach. The cost was 200 baht, but we haggled down to 150 baht ($5) around trip per person.
  • If you want to snorkel, rent a mask from one of the many dive shops (we rented ours for 50 baht, or $1.75, from our resort), or buy a mask and snorkel for 250 baht ($9).


  • Due to live coral, fins are not allowed when snorkelling. Plastic bottles and aluminum cans are also not allowed on the island.
  • There’s a 100 baht ($3.50) fee to enter Koh Nang Yuan.
  • The view point is worth the mini-hike/mini-climb. A bit tough with flip flops, but manageable. If you’re a lady, I’d recommend wearing shorts and not just a swimsuit bottom, as you may have to sit or slightly slide again/down some of the small boulders near the top.
  • Oh, and if you must overstay your Thai visa, the penalty for is 500 baht ($17) a day :)
  • See WikiTravel for info on getting to Koh Tao, list of beaches, dive centres, lodging, eating and other activities.

>> Have you been to Koh Tao or Koh Nang Yuan? What’s your favourite island in Thailand?

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  • Andakrabi

    Good information thank you.

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  • kostas

    Wonderful place!

  • kostas

    Wonderful place!

  • Awesome, loved Koh Tao. First “really amazing island” I ever visited. Great shots.

    • Thanks Rob. I thought it was an amazing island too, I was a bit in love with Koh Tao… might just have to go back at some point! :)

      – Lily

      • Yes yes yes I am going there in two weeks and I don’t plan to return!

  • peng

    Article very interesting,Kao tao lsland photos very beautiful.


    • Thanks Mom :) The islands were quite beautiful and the water was warm – warm enough I went scuba diving and snorkelling!
      – Lily

  • peng

    Hi lily,your Koh Tao lsland photos are vevy fascinating,I really want to go there.


  • Anonymous

    Woahhh nice. I really like your articles. I’m going to Koh Tao really soon, and I will definitely check out this island!!!! Thanks

    • Glad you enjoyed the article. Koh Tao certainly was gorgeous. If you get a chance to go scuba diving it was a great spot for that too (and wallet-friendly). If you like sunsets, there’s a lookout point called “Sunset View” point/restaurant, it had a gorgeous view of the main harbour during sunset!

      Have a great trip!

      • Anonymous

        Thanks for the advice, I’m going to be there Monday!!!

  • Girl, looks like you have arrive din Heaven. It’s so gorgeous there. I wish I have that kind of weather now. NYC still so cold. I want to have those warm weather and go to beach :)

    • Hi Sarah,

      The view of that island was very heavenly. I didn’t want to leave! Think you would have loved it there, especially since you like taking landscape-ish photos too. Hopefully NYC and that area in general warms up soon, spring should start anytime now!
      – Lily

  • Girl, looks like you have arrive din Heaven. It’s so gorgeous there. I wish I have that kind of weather now. NYC still so cold. I want to have those warm weather and go to beach :)

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  • We didn’t get down to the islands in Thailand, but wow your pictures are gorgeous! I’m so thrilled to read that they’re limiting plastic bottles and cans, I can only hope this catches on in more places!

    • Thanks for the compliments on the photos. I’m glad they limit plastic bottles and cans as well – nothing like plastic bottles/bags, cans and glass bottles to ruin the feel of a pristine beach and the aquatic life. I once saw fishes underwater trying to eat a plastic bag, it was sad and heart-breaking.

      – Lily

  • Nice to see that they are limiting plastic and aluminum here. Hopefully it can maintain its beauty.

    • Hi Ayngelina,

      Agreed. As a long-term traveller I’m finding myself generating a large amount of plastic waste because I don’t drink the tap water and kettles to boil water aren’t readily available.

      – Lily

  • Gorgeous! I’ve never traveling in Asia, but the more I read about it (and see gorgeous shots like yours!) the more I want to go.

    • Hi Christine,

      You should go! It’s great for budget travel as well, very beautiful, delicious food and friendly locals. *Hands you a mango shake* :)

      – Lily

  • Gorgeous! I’ve never traveling in Asia, but the more I read about it (and see gorgeous shots like yours!) the more I want to go.

  • Breathtaking! Aside from fish and coral what else can you see underwater? Turtles? Sharks?

    • Hi Grace,

      I didn’t see any turtles or sharks, but some of my traveller friends saw (and got photos of) bull sharks on one of the snorkelling trips. I was so glad I wasn’t with them that day, I’d have peed my bikini… but apparently there’s never been a (recorded) shark attack event in Koh Tao despite the high number of divers and snorkellers. Phew!

      Are you thinking of coming to Koh Tao? ;)

      • Yes, I am planning a trip to visit the Philippines and was deciding between Cambodia and Thailand!

  • We never made it to Koh Tao, but we absolutely fell in love with Koh Phangan island. Great photos!

    • Thanks! I missed Koh Phangan but really wanted to go. Any particular area of Koh Phangan you’d recommend? Did you got to a full moon or half moon party?

      – Lily

  • Kelly

    Wow, this is great! Thanks so much for this info, I’m heading to Thailand in 2 weeks and could not be more excited!

    • Hi Kelly, hope you have a great trip, I’m excited for you! Safe travels and keep us updated on your adventures :)

      – Lily

  • What a delight to read this whilst a fierce, cold wind is blowing outside. Water is my element and water sports is what I like best, so this story went right to my heart.

    • I’m so happy to hear that! My time on this island warmed my heart too. I cried with another traveller the night before I had to leave because I felt so lucky to have been there and with such great company (travellers and locals).

      – Lily

  • Beautiful pictures and what a view! I’ve been in Thailand off and on for 1.5 years and I have never been to Koh Tao or Nang Yuan, but your pictures and descriptions are making me want to find the quickest way down South! Thanks for sharing Lily.

    • You’re very welcome :) It’s gorgeous there, I’d highly recommend it. I really want to explore the other island in Thailand too now, especially on the west side like Koh Lanta or Koh Phi Phi.

      – Lily

  • Wow, that looks beautiful! Somewhere else to add to my ever-growing list of places to visit! :D

    • I highly recommend Koh Tao, especially if you’re going to do a PADI scuba course. There’s many large dive shops to choose from and it’s apparently one of the cheapest places in the world to get certified.

      – Lily

  • What a gorgeous place. I’d love to spend time on the sandbar. Great photos!

    • Thanks Cathy! The sandbar was great, you could snorkel on all three beaches next to the sandbar and see clear water :)

  • Beautiful photos; looks like a place I’d love to visit!

    • Hi Glen,

      It was absolutely beautiful. I had tears in my eyes last night thinking about how lucky I was to be here, to take my dive course, see the surroundings, and share the experiences with all the other travellers I’ve met.

      – Lily

  • Oh wow! That island looks fantastic!! Probably one of the best pics out of Thailand I’ve ever seen. Tsk… will keep this place in mind if/when we’re in Thailand.

    • Hi Jack and Jill,

      Thanks for the complement on the photo. Of course, it’s much easier to take a beautiful photo when what you’re photographing is inherently beautiful. It was even more stunning in person with sparkling blue water 360 degrees around you. Highly recommended if you come to south Thailand :)

      – Lily

  • Wow Koh Tao looks fantastic – yet another destination we have to add to our itinerary!

    Looks like you’re still having a blast too, btw! :)

    • Hi Amy & Kieron,

      It’s so great to hear from you guys! It’d definitely recommend Koh Tao – it’s a small island, lots of beaches and viewpoints, traveller friendly, lots of dive centres if you’re interested in learning/taking a dive, night life and good food. If you need any info later, just let me know :)

      – Lily

  • Great writeup Lily! After reading this and seeing these gorgeous photos I definitely want to go there. Can’t wait to head out for that region of the world later this year. And congratulations on your PADI open water diving certification! So awesome!

    • Hi Matt,

      Thanks for the scuba congrats and your complements words on the photos. You can probably imagine that the surroundings were even more beautiful in person!

      – Lily