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Koh Tao has a reputation for being a dive and party island. And while both those things are true — and Koh Tao does them proud — there is so much more to this little baby island than that. We’ve got plenty to landlubbers busy during the day: a trapeze school, Muay Thai gyms, a Thai language school, and miles of beautiful marked hiking trails.

Er — okay, well, maybe they aren’t so much trails as dirt paths likely to be washed away at the slightest hint of rain, and maybe they aren’t exactly marked so much as known pretty well among the locals who might draw you a map if you ask nicely, and maybe they aren’t so much beautiful as slightly overgrown and unkempt. But gosh darnit, you can hike. And if you do, you’ll be rewarded — with a great workout, with a look into the raw jungle, with the thrill of being a bit of an explorer, and depending on what path you choose, with a tropical beach or a breathtaking viewpoint awaiting you at the other end. Here’s a look at two of my favorite routes.

Fraggle Rock, Koh Tao

Fraggle Rock

The hike to Fraggle Rock is one of the most popular on Koh Tao — it’s a moderate to hard trek, the route is easier than others to follow, and the payoff is spectacular. I’m embarrassed to say that I hiked here for the very first time upon my return to Thailand this fall. After years of staring up at the rock itself from Sairee Beach, I was ready to finally reach it! My friend Anna — who calls me Activities Meihoukai for reasons I simply cannot fathom — and I made a pact to wake up early one Sunday and start the day with our trainers on.

Map to Fraggle Rock Koh Tao

Like with most hiking adventures on Koh Tao, our first step was to find directions. My friend Linzi at knows the route well — they offer rock climbing in the area — and so she gamely drew me the above map. While some of it may be a tad unclear to someone new to Koh Tao, it actually was all we needed to find the way.

To start, leave the main road junction in Sairee and walk up the road past The Brother Restaurant, Banyan Bar, Asia Divers, Roctopus Dive and Koh Tao Gym and Fitness. If you have a bike, you may want to drive as far as the gym, but not much past — the road turns very steep and unpaved soon after. The road will curve and twist and you might be passed by a pickup or two on their way to Hin Wong Bay.

When the road flattens out at the crest of the island, you’ll reach the power station (marked on the above map as “antenna” and signs for Mango Bay. Slow down. You’ll be cutting in to a path to your right, which will lead you on the winding journey to Fraggle Rock! On the way, you’ll pass a turnaround circle for motorbikes (marked by the scribbled dark circle on the map), a concrete building under construction (marked on the map as Mek’s House), and eventually a big rock with a ladder up to a viewpoint over Hin Wong Bay. You’re almost there!

There’s really only one place you can take a wrong turn (marked on the map by despair, uncertainty, etc.).

Hin Wong Bay Koh TaoView over Hin Wong Bay

Hiking to Fraggle Rock

Hiking on Koh Tao

Along the way we spotted gorgeous wild flowers, brightly colored reptiles and insects, and a whole lot of our own sweat dripping in front of our eyes.

We got 90% of the way there with no issue — but once we arrived at the huge mess of boulders that contains Fraggle Rock, we had a comical misunderstanding of which rock was Fraggle and tried to scramble up the wrong one. Eventually we found our way, and with shorties like us the scrambling was indeed on of the hardest parts — but man, was it worth it.

Hiking to Fraggle Rock

Sairee Village, Koh TaoA look down at Sairee!

Hiking on Koh Tao

We were both blown away. We had fun tracing along the path we’d taken up, looking for each of our bungalows among the colorful roofs below, and profusely congratulating each other on having found such an idyllic slice of paradise to live on.

View from Fraggle Rock, Koh Tao

Hiking to Fraggle Rock

Hiking to Fraggle Rock, Koh Tao

While everyone goes at their own pace and we certainly took our sweet time with photos and victory high fives at the top, I’d leave at least two hours to get from the main junction in Sairee and back again. If you are parking at the gym, you can lop half an hour or more off that. Hiking on Koh Tao ideally requires an early start in order to beat the mid-day heat. We met at 8am and were feeling the heat on the way back, especially once we got back on the main road, where there is no shade.

It was clear I’d been missing out all these years on Koh Tao — don’t make the same mistake. Fraggle Rock awaits!

Hiking on Koh Tao

Flowers on Koh Tao

Hiking on Koh Tao

Hiking to Fraggle Rock

Laem Tien

Another very popular hike on Koh Tao, due to its easy access from Sairee and the sparkling beach on the other end, is the hike to Laem Tien Bay. One sweltering Saturday, Ian and I decided to dognap our friend Sadie and take her for a nice long walk straight across the island.

Koh Tao Puppies

Hiking on Koh Tao

This is an incredibly straightforward route to follow, no special map required — as long as you can find the start of the path. Again, starting at Sairee you’ll walk up towards the gym, following the main road up until the first really steep hill. There you’ll find a resort heavy under construction to your right (as of late 2014) — turn right and walk up the road with the construction on your left. Feel free to ask ask “Laem Tien?” with a pointed finger to anyone milling around, but don’t be surprised if you get a blank smile in return.

The road will soon turn from paved to a dirt path, and unlike the route to Fraggle Rock, which is incline all the way, this route will alternate between uphill and downhill sections as it brings you across the width of Koh Tao. I had done this hike once before about a year ago and it was harder than I remembered!

Hiking to Laem Tien

Hiking on Koh Tao

When you get to Laem Tien, kick of those shoes and go for a swim! This quiet bay has just one abandoned resort — which can be a fun to explore — and a popular dive site offshore. Often, you’ll have the place to yourself. While it’s a nice change of pace to be so deep in the jungle along the hike, for me the real reason to pick this route is this — the beach. We had so much fun watching Sadie frolic and play, and cooling off in the ocean. It took us about forty five minutes each way.

Koh Tao Puppies

Hiking_027

Laem Tien, Koh Tao

Laem Tien, Koh Tao

Hiking to Laem Tien

There is nowhere to stock up on fresh water along the way, so make sure to bring plenty for a a round trip journey. The beach is also a great place for a picnic — grab sandwiches from Zanzibar before you leave Sairee, and make a day of it! And if you’re going to stick around, you might as well bring a mask and snorkel for a little swim. Ideally if you can find a pup to lead you, that would be a great addition too. Sadie is in pretty high demand for her guiding services.

Koh Tao Puppies

Koh Tao Puppies

Laem Tien, Koh Tao

Hiking to Laem Tien, Koh Tao

Hiking to Laem Tien

. . . . . . . . .

You could probably get away with doing either of these hikes — as well as any others on Koh Tao, really — in flip flops, though I wore trainers and was very happy to have done so. As with hiking adventures anywhere in the world, it’s best to let someone know where you are going, and to hike in pairs. Plus it’s more fun!

Hiking on Koh Tao is an incredible way to see the island and work up a sweat (not that you’ll really need help with the last part most of the year, but you catch my drift.) Both these excursions were highlights of my time back in Koh Tao — I hope to share more routes upon my next return.

Have you been hiking in Thailand? Where should I go next?

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51 Comments...
  • becky hutner
    December 26 2014

    thanks for this very detailed guide, alex! i try to do a hike at every travel destination. the only one i’ve done in thailand is outside chiang mai to the highest point in the country, doi inthanon. a bit underwhelming i must admit, becaaaause i had just done perhaps my favorite hike ever in laos through tiger trail outdoor adventures. highly recommend!


    becky hutner recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 26 2014

      I am definitely going to check that out! I just did one hike outside Chiang Mai as well which I can’t wait to write about, to Doi Suthep National Park.

  • Ashley
    December 26 2014

    The scenery and views look beautiful on both hikes, and it’s nice to read about a different side of Koh Tao! I did a bit of an easy hike in Khao Sok National Park and loved it.
    Ashley recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 26 2014

      Oh my gosh I am dyyyyying to get to Khao Sok. One of those things I’ve been talking about for years but not gotten around to!

  • Leah
    December 26 2014

    That view from Fraggle Rock is spectacular! I have a hard time hiking in such hot places but as long as there is a reward at the end (a view, a beach to swim at) I would probably give it a go.
    Leah recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 26 2014

      I’m like, eh, I’m sweaty — might as well embrace it and get EVEN MORE RED AND GROSS! 🙂

  • Miquel
    December 26 2014

    Traveling has totally turned me into a hiking enthusiast. I’m going to hopefully be visiting Koh Tao in March. Keep the suggestions coming!
    Miquel recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 27 2014

      Nice! I will have plenty more good info coming up for you soon 🙂 Stay tuned!

  • Justine
    December 27 2014

    I feel like I totally missed out when I was on Koh Tao. I didn’t even consider the possibility of hiking but, man, those views from Fraggle Rock are spectacular! If I ever make it back to that little island I’m going to give that hike a go!
    Justine recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 27 2014

      Given that it requires a bit of nosing around for directions and a some willingness to get lost, it’s not exactly the first thing that springs to mind for travelers who arrive here 🙂 But I thought I’d share for those who might want to seek it out!

  • My kind of post! I find hiking trails pretty much everywhere I go as it is my fav hobby and these look great (especially Fraggle Rock!). I hiked up Table Mountain in Cape Town yesterday which was hard but very rewarding, hoping to do Signal Hill and Lions Head while we are still staying in the city 🙂
    Katie @ The World on my Necklace recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 27 2014

      Awesome! I didn’t really become a big hiking enthusiast until I got to Hawaii, now I do try to get and give it a go almost everywhere I do as well. With views like this, how can you say no!

  • Francesca
    December 27 2014

    Yet another reason to visit Koh Tao! I’d never think of hiking there but it looks fabulous.
    Francesca recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 27 2014

      That’s what I like to hear! 🙂 Glad I could share another side to Koh Tao!

  • Julia Nix
    December 27 2014

    ‘Wish upon a rock’ – Did you make a wish? I can imagine the rough traces one has to go through to catch a beautiful vista. Keep on doing your thing, Meihoukai! 🙂

    • Meihoukai
      December 27 2014

      Thanks Julia! Hm, no, I didn’t make a wish… maybe I need to go back and try again!

  • Laura
    December 27 2014

    Both look great, especially Laem Tien. I’ll be bookmarking this for my trip there next year. I’m digging all the Koh Tao Love on your blog at the moment, it’s getting me so excited for my trip!
    Laura recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 27 2014

      So glad to hear that… because there is a lot more coming 🙂

  • Sarah
    December 27 2014

    both hikes look great!
    I’ll be in Koh Tao in September and will definitely try them (love the map by the way)
    Sarah recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 27 2014

      Thanks Sarah! Well, actually the thanks for the map goes to my friend Linzi… I think it’s brilliant!

  • Julia Nix
    December 27 2014

    Is there any nice little shops in Koh Tao, like selling cute dresses or noteworthy collectibles? Maybe do a little fashion/shopping write up on Koh Tao if it’s worth it.

    • Meihoukai
      December 27 2014

      I’m not much of a shopper, but there are some cute boutiques that have popped up on the island over the years. Great idea for a post — maybe it will give me an excuse to actually go in them! 🙂

  • Janice Stringer
    December 27 2014

    Hi Meihoukai,
    I love Koh Tao and these hikes look like great fun. I’d like to live there for a few months to truly explore the island properly. My most exciting moment was having a golden tree snake drop in my lap out of a tree whilst at Sunshine at Chalok. I do think it was the most fascinating wildlife encounter I had there. 🙂
    Janice Stringer recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 27 2014

      I can imagine that must have given you quite the fright, Janice! Yikes! Well I’ve yet to see snakes on any of my hiking adventures 🙂

  • Stephen Schreck
    December 27 2014

    Koh Tao is one of my favorite spots in Thailand! I’ve never done any hiking there. Next time!!
    Stephen Schreck recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 27 2014

      You’ll definitely have to give it a go — you’ll see a whole new side to the island!

  • Chris
    December 27 2014

    So relieved you mentioned that flip-flops were fine for this.

    They’re my preferred ‘hiking’ footwear, even for volcanoes 😉

    That view was pretty stunning!
    Chris recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 27 2014

      I’m always amazed by the people I see doing serious hiking in flip flops… now I know you’re one of them! 😉

      • Chris
        December 27 2014

        I believe the easiest explanation is ‘No sense, no feeling’ 😉

        Others just pull no punches and call me an idiot! lol
        Chris recently posted..

  • Sky
    December 27 2014

    I am far from a hiker but those views are so spectacular I would probably consider it if I were in Thailand.
    Sky recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 29 2014

      It’s a really unique way to get to see the island. You can also get great views from the highest peak on Koh Nang Yuan, which is a much shorter trek than either of these 🙂

  • tammyonthemove
    December 28 2014

    That ladder looks terrifying, ha ha. What a beautiful view though.
    tammyonthemove recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 29 2014

      Yeah, my hiking companion chose to stay on the ground 🙂 I’m glad I scrambled up though!

  • Marie @ Marie Away
    December 28 2014

    Beautiful scenery–looks like an ideal setting for hiking! Thanks for the tips, I think this is too colourful to pass up!
    Marie @ Marie Away recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 29 2014

      You’re welcome Marie! Let us know how it goes if you decide to undertake any of them.

  • Stephanie
    December 29 2014

    Hello! I Love your blog thanks so much for all The wonderful info! I Am in Thailand Now and heading to ko tao in Two weeks im no into The party scene can you recommend good hostels or hotels near The beach but that are known to be more chill? Thank you!!

    • Meihoukai
      December 30 2014

      Hey Stephanie, unfortunately I am not at all familiar with the hostel scene on Koh Tao! I always rent apartments so have never stayed in one personally. Some friends of mine recently opened a place called The Loft in Mae Haad which I have had drinks at and is right near the pier… definitely worth checking out! Best of luck and sorry I couldn’t be more help.

  • Kacy
    December 29 2014

    Such gorgeous views! I’m surprised, with scenery like that, hiking isn’t a more popular activity on Koh Tao.
    Kacy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 30 2014

      Well, as mentioned, the trails aren’t really well marked or known… you have to have a pretty adventurous spirit to go for it 🙂 But I hope it does become more popular!

  • Katie
    December 30 2014

    I tried hiking near freedom beach in flip flops and it made it significantly more treacherous. I slipped several times trying to climb up the rocks to get to the view. But it was worth it! The hiking on Koh Tao is actually pretty great – one of the reasons I really loved the island!
    Katie recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 30 2014

      Glad to hear from another happy hiker, Katie! It is a hidden(ish) gem for hikes.

  • Camels & Chocolate
    January 2 2015

    Look at that standing bow pose! Killing it!
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 3 2015

      I made my girl Anna PRETTY NERVOUS doing that one… but methinks it was worth it 🙂

  • Lucy
    January 28 2015

    I dunno why I’ve been so lame at reading your blog recently….blame blog fatigue! I’m on Koh Tao now and as ever, use your blog as my Koh Tao bible so will be checking Fraggle Rock out soon.

    Did you get Sadie on loan from the animal shelter here? Oli and I are obsessed with dog walking (all the fun, less of the responsibility!)

    L x
    Lucy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 29 2015

      I got Sadie on loan from a friend 🙂 The animal clinic here doesn’t usually have many dogs living there, they prefer to treat them but keep them on the beaches and whatnot where they are happier than they’d be in a cage (obviously a home with a loving human would be the best choice!)

  • Arnd
    November 30 2015

    Hi Meihoukai,

    thank’s a lot for your guide to fragile rock! The “map” looked a bit naive, but it is simply perfect! I am a trail runner and I was up on the rock in short time. I decided to find out where the left path is going to: “There’s really only one place you can take a wrong turn (marked on the map by despair, uncertainty, etc.).” It is a nice path at the beginning with a bad surprise waiting for you after some hundred meters: you pass a small hut on the left and then the path is leading directly to a second hut. At this hut two attacking dogs waited for me…no person was around. And yes..after noticing me, they directly attacked me. They jumped on me and bitten me hard. After a short fight with the dogs I was able to disappear with five bleeding wounds…two of them were serious. I went directly to the doctor, who cleaned my wounds, made some stitchings and gave me an injection. Later I told the police what happened to me. To my surprise they just smiled and when I wanted to show them the place on the map, they where not interested. So: it is really “a wrong turn”! 😉 Don’t follow this path!

    • Meihoukai
      December 1 2015

      Hi Arnd! Thank you for the warning for your fellow travelers! I’m so sorry to hear you got attacked, though I’m not surprised that the police were uninterested 🙂 There are a lot of very unfriendly dogs here on Koh Tao!

  • Ruth
    May 3 2016

    Thanks so much for the post, hoping everything is still recognizable from the map. I’ll be heading to the beach first today to see how I go! Very excited, I love hiking but it’s hard to find any info as it seems to be too hot for most people to be bothered so thanks for sharing!

    • Meihoukai
      May 3 2016

      I’m planning on doing more hiking guides for Koh Tao soon, Ruth — I agree, it’s super hard to find information on!

  • ADEL ALSHAMLAN
    August 16 2017

    Hello,

    I will try walking on Koh Tao island soon I would like guidance from you and if there are maps I will be grateful ..!!

    And thank you

    • Meihoukai
      September 15 2017

      Hi Adel! I’m so sorry, but there aren’t really super specific or detailed maps of any of the hiking trails on the island, that’s why I’ve tried to be descriptive here! You can pick up some small booklets on the island that have maps in them — you might find those a helpful supplement to these posts! Best of luck!