Renowned as the best place to get scuba certified in Thailand, with the world’s cheapest diving prices, Koh Tao, also offers some of the best diving in Thailand, all round.
Located 74 KM off Thailand’s eastern shore, in the Gulf of Thailand, this stunning 21 KM square Island is part of the Chumphon Archipelago, which also includes Koh Samui and Koh Phangan.
Featuring an immense range of dive sites including stunning underwater wreck diving, jaw dropping wall dives and adrenaline soaked drift dives, Koh Tao is an incredible dive destination.
But with so many great diving schools in Koh Tao to choose from, which one should you sign up for a diving course with?
Where are the best places to stay in Koh Tao for divers? How about when the Diving Season in Koh Tao is?
With the help of this epic guide to diving in Koh Tao, you will learn the answers to all these questions.
By the time you are finished reading this, you’ll know exactly how to enjoy the best scuba diving in Koh Tao, the best Koh Tao Diving Schools, the right Koh Tao diving package for you, Koh Tao Diving Prices and more!
Ok Squad, let’s dive in!
Just what the fish is a Diving School!? A Diving School – also known as a dive centre, dive shop or diving resort is a certified facility, complete with certified staff, on or near a beach.
Here, people can enrol on any number of diving courses and/or sign up for day long fun dives (assuming they already have their scuba certification).
A diving school has its own diving equipment, which the vast majority of people end up using (this is included in the standard price) as a posse to bringing along their own.
If you do bring your own equipment however, prices will be cut.
Diving Schools in Koh Tao are almost universally critically acclaimed, with this island having one of the highest rates of successfully completed scuba diving courses in the world.
The calm water conditions around this beautiful island, make most of its dive spots ideal locations for beginners to learn to scuba dive!
This, combined with the fact that Koh Tao is the cheapest place to get scuba certified not just in Thailand, but in the entire world, means many thousands of Diving Courses have been successfully completed here.
Below, we have summed up the 6 best diving schools in Koh Tao – no matter what kind of experience you are looking for:
Master Divers are universally acknowledged for their immensely professional attitude towards safety, customer service and scuba diving in Koh Tao.
With highly experienced staff, meticulously maintained, non-rented, diving equipment and the status of a 5 star Padi Dive School, Master Divers commands respect as a dive centre.
Their dive courses run an extra day long compared to most other dive centres, so that learning does not feel rushed.
Furthermore, for divers who take a little longer to learn to scuba dive, Master Divers do not charge any additional cost, and provide free extra training where necessary.
They take a maximum of 4 pupils per class and aim for 2 – 3 for introductory courses. Private tuition is also available.
When I took my Padi Open Water and Padi Advanced Open Water Dive Courses here, I paid for a group class but had one on one tuition for the entire week!
At the same time as having the professional record that they are renowned for, Master Divers also attracts some of the most encouraging, friendly and all round fun dive instructors I’ve ever met.
I’ll never forget my gnarly Dive Instructor, Romina, whom as well as teaching me the ins and outs of diving, with legit patience and solid support, became a true friend of mine. We ended up partying in the Koh Tao bars more than once.
(Wherever you are in the world Romina, thank you! Seen any “big ass hermit crabs” lately?).
Master Divers is also one of the very few diving schools at Koh Tao to offer diving courses in all four sectors of diving – recreational courses, pro level courses, freediving courses and Tec Courses.
They offer some of the best diving prices in all of Koh Tao with PADI Open Water Diving Courses starting at 10,800 THB.
Koh Tao is already the cheapest place in the world to get scuba certified, with unbeatable diving prices! Maybe that’s one of the main attractions of this island for you.
If that is the case, and you’re looking for the lowest diving prices you can possibly find, whilst still attending a great dive school, then Koh Tao Phoenix Divers is the best diving shop for you.
Phoenix Divers offer the best diving package prices on all of Koh Tao, across the full range of Padi Beginner and Advanced Courses. Their Open water Course costs just 8,500 THB.
However, despite the exceptionally low price of their diving courses, Phoenix Divers frequently get reviewed as one of the best diving schools in all of Koh Tao, with divers preferring them to many of the more expensive dive centres.
Phoenix Divers are one of the smaller diving shops in koh tao, which equals small classes, no more than 4. This means their instructors are able to give students the full attention that they deserve.
Perhaps this is the reason for the huge pass rate of divers taking the PADI open water course at Phoenix Divers.
The Instructors at Phoenix Divers, receive huge high reviews on TripAdvisor (LINK), both for their highly professional demeanor as well as the immense knowledge they share about the local marine life.
Phoenix Diving centre is nestled right in the heart of Sairee Beach between an assortment of the best bars and restaurants of Koh Tao. They have a purpose built pool, 4 classrooms, 2 pink dive boats and an amazing team of dedicated staff.
Do not miss out on the amazingly cheap diving courses in Koh Tao that can be had with Phoenix Divers.
For those who are already comfortable diving and want to meet large groups of like-minded individuals to not just dive with, but also socialise with, Ban’s Diving Resort is the best diving school in Koh Tao for you!
They are the largest and most popular diving school – there is not a soul on the island who hasn’t heard of them.
They take groups of up to 12 divers, yet the highly experienced, multilingual and informative staff here run operations so meticulously, that every dive is unrushed and smoothly run.
Opened since 1993, Ban’s Diving Centre are one of the longest running diving schools on Koh Tao and they know all of the best dive sites in Koh Tao inside-out and regularly visit iconic dive sites such as Chumphon Pinnacles and Shark Island.
They teach the full range of Padi Beginner and Speciality Dive Courses such as Cave Diving and Deep Diving, as well as Rescue Diving and snorkelling, with the PADI open water diving course at 10,000 THB.
Ban’s Diving Shop is set within the centre of Sairee Beach, which is the social hub of Koh Tao. Here is where all of the best restaurants, bars, shopping and best Koh tao nightlife are found.
As a means for it’s guests to come together and socialise, Ban’s Diving Resort itself has 2 communal swimming pools, a beachfront restaurant, spa and even it’s own bar – the Fish Bowl, which attracts partiers from all over the island.
On top of that, they are situated on a beach front, where daily games of volleyball take place, as well as snorkelling, swimming and cocktail drinking. There is even a gazebo for divers to come together and unwind after a long day of diving!
For more info on this and other accommodation options, check out the “Where to Stay for Divers in Koh Tao” section below LINK
Truly, for those who want to experience some of the best Koh Tao Diving, whilst also socialising, partying and making friends for life, Ban’s Diving Resort is the Koh Tao Dive Centre for you.
A small, family run business, Alvaro Diving is located in the quiet area of Saan Jao Beach, in Chalok Baan Kao which is at the southern tip of Koh Tao.
Here, it could not be physically further from the crowds and vast majority of other dive centres which are located midway up the islands Western coast, on Sairee and Mae Head Beach, several km away.
Amongst the few other diving shops around Saan Jao Beach, Alvaro Diving is tucked the most out of the way, being situated off the main road, away from the other facilities.
With splendid views of Buddha rock, it is one one of the most scenic parts of Koh Tao, and within close walking distance of John-Suwan Viewpoin.
However to save commissioner fees we recommend doing this yourself – we recommend staying at View Point Resort, which is situated close by and perfect for quiet lovers.
There is a range of universally great restaurants and bars are within short walking distance of this dive centre, including Babaloo bar – a reggae bar and grill complete with hammocks.
A PADi certified diving school, Alvaro Diving Shop teach the full range of PADI beginner, advanced and freediving courses in addition to offering diving instructor internships as well as snorkelling, with the price of their PADI Open Water Diving Course at 9000 THB.
The laid back, professional and friendly approach of their instructors, combined with the small class sizes that Alvaro diving centre takes, means they have a high success rate for diving course completion.
In addition to avoiding overcrowded dive spots, Alvaro Divers use daily detailed weather forecast and moon cycle analysis to select and provide the very best diving locations for their guests.
At just 9000 THB their Padi Open Water Course, has the second cheapest diving price on Koh Tao, just 500 THB more than Phoenix Divers, with similarly second best prices on their other diving packages.
With passionate staff and an entire enterprise focused around showcasing the natural splendor of Thailand’s oceans, many diving schools are involved in marine conservation, taking part in vital activities such as beach cleanups and reef surveys.
For various reasons, the extent of involvement diving schools can have in marine conservation varies considerably.
At Koh Tao, Eco Koh Tao (originally started by Crystal Dive LINK), is THE leading group for marine conservation.
They take part in a vast range of activities, including coral restoration, underwater debri clean up, giant clam nurseries, coral surveys, baby turtle rehabilitation, mooring buoys and biorocks to name but a few.
The dedicated team behind Eco Koh Tao includes researchers, documentary makers, trainers and logistics personal.
Through direct action, education programs and influencing the environmental policies of all Koh Tao stakeholders, their aim is to preserve and restore the oceans of Thailand “through awareness, education and direct action”.
Assisted by a number of other dive centres on Koh Tao, and an active member of the conservation group AWARE, Eco Koh Tao also teach a number of Eco Diving Courses.
A favourite is the reef check eco diver course, a 4 day course qualifying divers to assist in crucial reef check surveys all around the globe.
Another is the Marine Resource Management Course which introduces it’s pupils to coral nurseries, biorack technology and other reef restoration projects.
For those who want to take things further, Eco Koh Tao also teaches Eco Internships which include participation in eco projects, creation of underwater structures and additional dive training – these are immensely useful for those seeking conservation oriented employment.
In addition to all this, Eco Koh Tao also teach the full range of standard Padi beginner (padi open water course = 11,000 THB), advanced and pro level diving courses.
A % of funds going directly towards funding their ongoing reef restoration work and marine conservation awareness education programmes.
Described as Koh Tao’s most exclusive diving experience, there are several reasons why the Jamahkiri Diving Club offers the most luxurious diving resort experience on Koh Tao.
Let’s start with scuba diving. Diving Course Class sizes are no bigger than 2 students per instructor, making this the smallest max class size anywhere on the island.
Jamahkiri teach the full range of PADI beginner and advanced diving courses, as well as rescue diving and speciality courses.
Their multilingual and highly trained staff have all the necessary requirements to make for a smooth and easy diving experience – manners, friendliness and a professional attitude.
With Padi Open Water Diving Courses at 14,400 THB, you know where your money is going.
Fun dive groups have a maximum guest capacity at 4 per master diver, with careful attention taken to ensure divers of differing abilities are never mixed.
Jamahkiri Diving Club only visits uncrowded dive sites and doesn’t bother with any other than the best diving locations.
On request special trips to the world famous site Sail Rock are available, and often those who dive with Jamahkiri have this truly special Koh Tao dive site to themselves.
Jamahkiri Diving school also pride themselves on being the only koh tao diving shop that provides it’s divers with balance regulators and exclusively uses open heel fins and boots.
In addition to this, their BCD’s have recently been upgraded to the Aqualung Pro HD model, which features integrated weights for the most comfortable diving experience imaginable.
Now let’s move onto the luxury accommodation option that this diving school offers.
Jamahkiri Luxury Resort and Spa offers breathtaking ocean views combined with luxurious architecture, comfort and lighting.
These, combined with traditional Thai themes, create a tranquil sense of harmony with nature.
Room facilities include, but are not limited to: a private balcony, possibility jacuzzi, VCD/DVD Player, Room Service, AC, Daily Room Maid, free WIFI, cable movies, hot water and minibars with complimentary wine!
Down the winding stairway, one will find a luxurious spa crafted around an immense rock. Featuring a steam room and outfitted with stunning water features that run through it, a range of sumptuous massage options are available here.
There is also a 5 star restaurant, wine cellar and pool bar. Truly, Jamahkiri Diving Club & Resort and Spa is fit for royalty.
Koh Tao Weather –
Water temperatures around Koh Tao are fairly consistent at around 27 – 31 degrees celsius, meaning many divers opt not to use a full body diving wetsuit, or going with none at all!
When I dived here, the only time I wore a wetsuit of any kind was for my deep dive. (That said I was born in the wet and the cold…moulded by it. I didn’t see the sunshine until I was a man, by then it was nothing to me but blinding! This is because I am British)
Koh Tao Diving Conditions –
Those who do wish to get their scuba diving license at Koh Tao, can rest assured, that the currents around most dive sites here are weak – to non existent. This is another reason it is a great place to learn to scuba dive.
(Further from the island however, there are several dive sites with currents that allow drift diving, for advanced divers!)
All in all, the dive conditions and weather at Koh Tao are ideal for beginners who want to get their scuba certification, whilst still offering a range of more challenging dive scenarios for experienced divers.
Water Visibility in Thailand – The spectacular shallow coral reefs for which Koh Tao is famous as a place to learn to scuba dive, along with the other stunning underwater features and marine life found here, can be effortlessly marvelled at…
…all thanks to the great water visibility at Koh Tao- which at certain times of year is as strong as 30 metres! For more info check the Koh Tao Diving Season Section.
EPIC Diving –
Being part of the Chumphon Archipelago, Koh Tao is situated within the Gulf of Thailand, which is home to some of the most versatile and visually spectacular marine biodiversity in the world.
Koh Tao Scuba Divers can enjoy adrenaline pumped drift dives, eerie deep dives, atmospheric wreck dives and even mind bending psychedelic UV night dives!
Some of the dive sites around Koh Tao, have a world wide reputation as some of the best places to dive in Thailand of all time, such as the aptly named Shark Island, Whale Shark haunted Sail Rock and red and purple coral adorned Chumphon Pinnacle.
Divers, prepare to be amazed by the phenomenal range of marine species that can be encountered at Koh Tao.
SPLASH! It’s important to remember that scuba diving is an extreme sport. Accidents can happen. Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble.
What’s more, because diving can take you all around the world, it’s absolutely essential you make sure you are properly covered by the best scuba diving insurance before leaving your home country.
We recommend going with Dive Assure. Why?
No lie. Koh Tao: Has. It. All. If you seek backpacker jostling hostels, liver obliterating bar crawls and psychedelic light displays that’ll make you question what was in your drink, you’ll find it all on Sairee Beach. And then some.
AND YET: One need only move a short distance away from all of this, inwards to Sairee Village or down a few hundred meters south to Mae Head Beach and the atmosphere takes it down a half dozen knothches. Phew.
Here you actually stand a half decent chance of being able to hear the gentle sigh of the waves lapping up the beach, the chatter of the tropical birds in the jungle further back or maybe even your own thoughts:
“Wow…I’m so glad I came to scuba dive at Koh Tao! Thanks Diving Squad!! I’m going to tell everyone about you =D”.
Still not enough? Maybe you don’t really like people at all?? Fish are so much colourful and they never answer back. We understand.
If this is you, you can head down to Thian Og Bay, where there are only a small handful of dive centres, resorts and restaurants.
With spectacular views across the Gulf of Thailand towards iconic features such as Buddha Rock, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, it is a place of tranquil beauty, situated right amongst the incredible nature of Koh Tao.
Those who come here find it hard to believe the island is populated by any more than a few hundred people. It is more like being on The Beach than one of the party island centrals of Thailand.
For those who don’t mind a small daily commute, possible by taxi or moped, there are a range of other beaches and resorts scattered around Koh Tao, that are even quieter and more peaceful still.
Here’s the truth. Koh Tao is a visually stunning island. Behind the beaches and resorts, it is coated in vibrant rainforest, home to countless tropical birds, monkeys, bats and monitors.
There are a number of great viewpoints to be had for those who don’t mind a short trek. The most famous, John-Suwan Viewpoint offers incredible mile long panoramic views of Chalok Baan Kao Bay and Shark Bay.
Other great viewpoints include Chalok Bay Viewpoint and Nang Yuan viewpoint
Or perhaps love sick couples will prefer the Love Koh Tao viewpoint... a terraced cafe serving pink milkshakes that overlooks Tanote Bay on the islands east coast.
It even has heart shaped signs…if that’s your jam…
After trying and testing an ocean of backpacks, we’ve come to the coralusion that the Dometool Waterproof Dry Backpack is the number one backpack for divers! Why? Well:
March – October, marks the entire diving season within Koh Tao.
July – September are considered the best months to dive in Koh Tao as during this time water visibility is at its greatest and waters are calm.
July – August = Tourist High Season in Koh Tao. This is when the most other divers will be present.
March – May = the best months to dive with Whale Sharks in Koh Tao. This is due to the large plankton blooms that occur in the water at this time, attracting Whale Sharks and other pelagics such as Manta Rays. This does reduce water visibility somewhat.
November – February is monsoon period in the Gulf of Thailand. With rain and choppy seas, water visibility is reduced and turbulent waters make conditions less than ideal for beginners.
Technically, good diving can still be had during the monsoon period in Koh Tao, however water conditions are less consistent and harder to predict, making this hit and miss.
At this time of year, it is better to dive in locations in Thailand’s Andaman sea such as Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lipe and Koh Lanta.
Some of the Koh Tao Dive schools are also resorts that provide a range of accommodation options – whether you are diving with them or not.
Those dive centres that do not have their own accommodation are usually happy to arrange a place to stay for divers through their website.
However, to skip commissioner fees it is cheaper to do this yourself. Below is a list of the best 6 places to stay in Koh Tao for Divers, taking into account all of your possible needs.
Sairee Beach vs Mae Head Beach: Sairee Beach and Mae Head Beach, despite having separate names, are technically part of the same beach, both being located mid way up Koh Tao’s Western Side, with Sairee Beach a little further up north.
You can walk from one to the other within about 5 minutes, and so for those attending diving schools at either beach, an accomodation option on the other is totally viable.
On site of all these cheap accommodation options there is also a dive pool, free wifi, restaurant and massage parlour to make your stay as comfortable as possible.
This is as cheap as koh tao accommodation gets – with a grand total price of nothing! It is also a great way to meet others from all over the world.
On top of that, they’re situated on the beachfront, where daily games of volleyball take place, as well as snorkelling, swimming and cocktail drinking.
Behind this, in the stunning garden area, there is even a gazebo where guests can come together and unwind after a long day of diving!
To sweeten the deal even more, discounted accomodation rates are provided for all those taking diving courses or joining fun dives.
Accompanied by the resorts stunning natural surroundings, Jamahkiri Resort is an all time favourite for nature lovers.
All of its rooms offer stunning ocean views and feature beautiful architecture combined with traditional Thai artwork and French sculptures.
Discounts are provided on all diving courses and packages for guests staying here, with special diving and accommodation combo deals being available.
A range of romance and activity packages are available here including sunset toasts, candle lit dinners on the beach for two, abseiling and rock climbing, snorkelling, yoga and thai cooking classes.
View Point Resort also features a free-form turquoise pool that is surrounded by stone features.
The Cape Restaurant & bar here serves premium food and beverages, sources from the best suppliers, organic and with a selection of locally grown herbs.
They also have their own dive school, which is what makes this the best backpacker hostel for Divers on Koh Tao as you are sure to meet like minded souls here.
Two garden terraces and a rooftop make this mellowed out hostel the perfect place to watch the sunset…whilst enjoying the delicious Mexican food for which it is famous
Getting to Koh Tao is as easy as one, two…four? No seriously, it’s really easy! Here’s what you need to do:
1 Quickest (and most expensive): Catch a flight to the island of Koh Samui. From here, head to the pier and catch a ferry to Koh Tao.
The two most popular ferries are Lomprayah Catamaran (slightly faster, smaller boats) and Seatran Discovery (best for those who get seasick).
Both take around one and a half hours to reach Koh Tao, with most boats leaving in the morning.
2) Next Quickest (and slightly cheaper): Catch a flight, bus or train to Koh Chumphon, on Thailand’s mainland.
Grab a bus or taxi to the pier and then get the Chumphon Koh Tao ferry to Koh Tao. This takes around 2 hours and 45 minutes.
…such as Reef Monitoring or Marine Resources Management in which you will learn a range of exciting, practical activities for protecting and restoring the oceans.
These include underwater debri cleanup and coral reef creation.
The best dive school to do this with are Eco Koh Tao (LINK), but several other dive centres including Crystal Dive (LINK), who originally founded the former.
Plastic is a colossal issue in the sea. Because it is essentially indescribable it never breaks down.
Instead it floats through the water, releasing toxic chemicals, being consumed by and choking sea animals like turtles to death and swamping coral, which depletes its symbiotic algae of sunlight and so kills both the algae and the coral.
Many beaches in Thailand such as those on Koh Tao are sadly swamped by plastic and rubbish. Weekly beach clean ups are held by organizations such as Eco Koh Tao, Master Divers, and Crystal Dives.
If you want to take action, make a difference and turn this problem around, you can volunteer to help out at these beach clean ups.
Whether you decide to rent scuba gear or buy your own, there are some essential items that won’t be provided for you. You would not want to go on your liveaboard adventure without:
Diving Camera – Any normal camera will break if taken diving – even if it’s waterproof it won’t be able to withstand high depth pressure and the focus will not be designed for underwater photography. To share your diving adventures with the world, make sure you have a proper scuba diving camera.
Full Face Snorkel Mask – In between dives, you’ll get countless snorkelling opportunities on your liveaboard trip. For snorkelling, it’s much better to utilise a full face snorkel mask for maximum comfort and 180 viewing! The best ones have an attachment mount for GoPros.
Reusable Water Bottle – Having a durable, reusable and recyclable water bottle that’ll keep liquids cold is essential for both eco awareness and hydration = scuba success! We love the TankH2O – It is all of those things and looks like a scuba tank!
Ok Squad! Here’s the deal. Scuba Diving requires a ton of gear. This should come as no real surprise, considering that the very nature of this sport is to breathe underwater – the exact opposite of what us humans are evolved to do!
When you go diving, you have two options on the gear front:
Below is a full listing and description of the entire inventory required to scuba dive. Let’s jump right in:
BCD – A BCD is the jacket divers wear to maintain optimum buoyancy, which they can adjust by operating the inflate and deflate buttons. This makes sure they neither sink to the bottom nor rise to the top of the water! As well as this, the BCD holds the divers regulator(s), dive gauge and air tank.
Regulator / Octopus – The regulator reduces pressurised breathing oxygen to ambient pressure and delivers it to the diver through a mouth piece. Remember, you need two – one for you and a spare for a buddy in case of emergencies!
Scuba Weight Belt – A diving weight belt assists with maintaining optimum buoyancy, by stopping divers from floating to the top of the water. How much weight you take will depend on your build, weight and diving ability.
Dive Gauge – Essential for keeping track of your air consumption and the depth at which you are diving. The best ones also feature compasses and can read the water temperature (useful for bragging rights when you go on extremely cold dives!).
Ultimate Combo Package – Whew! That’s a lot of gear we’ve covered. If you don’t yet have any scuba gear and want to bulk buy at great quality and value, this is the number one scuba starter pack out there.
Alright Squad! Splash some congratulatory water on your face. You have just completed this mammoth article on everything you need to know for diving in Koh Tao!
We’ve covered the best diving schools in koh tao, the best places to stay in koh tao for divers, diving prices, how to get to koh tao, diving season in koh tao, what it’s like to dive in koh tao and so much more!
What can we conclude from all of this? Koh Tao is one of the best places to dive in all of Thailand!
It is one of the best places to get your scuba certification, one of the cheapest to dive and with stunning reefs and immense biodiversity including iconic species such as Whale Sharks, it has some of the best diving in the world!
Phew. Now all that remains is for you to actually go.
To Diving Squad, the grizzly stats above are appalling, tragic and completely UNACCEPTABLE. That’s why we are working hard towards combating plastic pollution in the ocean.
How do we do this? Through spreading awareness, providing informative guides on eco friendly diving and donating 10% of all profits that we make towards combating plastic pollution in the Ocean.
So, how does Diving Squad make money? Through You! Every time you click on one of our painstakingly, yet lovingly researched liveaboard, gear or insurance links and spend money – we earn a % commission thanks to affiliate partnerships.
We then donate 10% of this towards Marine Conservation Schemes that target plastic pollution.
What does this mean? It means that if you book a Liveaboard through a Diving Squad link – some of that money goes directly towards Marine Conservation. Buy a piece of Gear through a Diving Squad link?
Nice! You’ve just contributed money towards Marine Conservation. Booked yourself Diving Insurance through Diving Squad? Go, go Marine Conservation!
So help us…help you…help the Ocean. Together, we can do this.
To which Marine Conservation charity do we donate, you might ask? Our squad is already hard at work selecting the ideal candidate. The winner will be announced at the end of 2019. Have a suggestion? We’d love to hear… If we pick your suggestion, there just might be something in it for you…
Contact us at: Alex Hatton: [email protected] (Grand Admiral at Diving Squad).