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Koh Tarutao: Travel Guide to the hidden gem of Thailand

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Koh Tarutao: Travel Guide to the hidden gem of Thailand

During our travels in Southeast Asia, we travelled extensively in Thailand, one of our favourite countries in the world. We particularly loved visiting the popular islands of Koh Lipe and Koh Tao. However, after a while, we were craving a remote island experience, cut off from it all. This is why we choose Koh Tarutao, a remote island, completely untouched and protected by the Thai goverment.

Koh Tarutao, a former concentration camp for political prisoners is one of the rare islands in Thailand which are unspoilt and spared from mass tourism. We've put together this comprehensive travel guide to Koh Tarutao to help you uncover the secrets of this beautiful island.

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How to get to there?

Koh Tarutao island is located in Southwestern Thailand in the Andaman Sea, just before the Malaysian border. It is the main island belonging to “Tarutao National Marine Park”. As we were at the time based in Koh Lipe, we took a direct speedboat from Koh Lipe to Koh Tarutao. However, depending on where you're based, there are several ways to reach Koh Tarutao from several departure points in Thailand:

  • Koh Lipe to Koh Tarutao: you can reach Koh Tarutao from Koh Lipe by speedboat. The journey takes around an hour and cost around $20. You can book your tickets online here.
  • Satun (Pakbara pier) to Koh Tarutao: Pak bara is the closest port in Thailand mainland where you catch a boat to Koh Tarutao. Speedboats take around 30 minutes to reach Koh Tarutao and are quite frequent. You can check fares and timetables here.
  • Krabi to Koh Tarutao: You can get a pickup from Krabi airport or any hotel in town. It is not a quick journet as it includes minivan + ferry. In total, it takes 6 hours to reach Koh Tarutao from Krabi. You can check fares and timetables here.
  • Hat Yai to Koh Tarutao: Hat Yai is the main airport in Southern Thailand and the quickest way to get to Koh Kipe and Koh Tarutao islands from anywhere in Thailand. The journey from Hat Yai airport to Koh Tarutao takes 4 hours. Check fare and timetables here.
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Where to stay on Koh Tarutao

You can either rent a bungalow or a tent space. We stayed in one of the bungalows huts for 2 nights at Ao phante Malacca, which costs 600 bahts (£12/$18). You can also rent a tent for 200 bahts (£4/$6) a night. They come with mats and mosquito nets. If you have all the equipement with you, you can pitch your own tent for 30 bahts a day. To book accommodation in advance you can do it online or call the National Park on: 074783597 or 074783485.

Travel advice for LGTBQ community

Advice for LGBTQ travellers to Koh Tarutao

Thailand is one of our favourite places on our planet and in our opinion, one of the most gay friendly countries in Asia. The Thais have long been accustomed to dealing with LGBTQ travellers and we only ever felt welcome here. Koh Tarutao is extremely remote, with mostly foreigners visiting. We felt very free and open here and highly recommend it to all LGBTQ travellers.

Map of Koh Tarutao

Ao Phante Malacca is where the boat pier is and where the national park headquarters are. This is the area where more people stay, as it has a few bungalows, spaces for tents, a decent restaurant and clean bathrooms and toilets. Ao Molee also has some bungalows but is not so popular as a place to stay. Ao Son is where you will find the best beach on the island.

Koh Tarutao map
Map of Koh Tarutao island

Entrance fee to Koh Tarutao

Koh Tarutao is the largest island in the Tarutao National Maritime Park. To keep this island protected and untouched, the Thai government requires visitors to pay a small entrance fee which helps them protecting the island and maintening the facilities. The entrance fee to Koh Tarutao costs 200 bahts (£4/$6) and is  valid for 5 days across all the Tarutao National Marine Park islands.

Pro tip: if you have a student card, you pay the half price “children's fee”.

Facilities on Koh Tarutao

There is a really nice restaurant at Ao Talo Phante Malacca and an even better one at Ao San, around 6km from the headquarters. The camping areas at Ao Talo Phante, Ao San and Ao Molee each have clean public bathrooms with shower facilities. There is no electricity from 6:00 to 18:00 everyday.

Things to do on Koh Taruatao

1. Best beaches on the island

There are many beautiful and remote beaches on Koh Tarutao. Our favourite was the beach at Ao Son. Although it's far from the bungalows/camping ground area at Ao Talo Phante Malacca, it's definitely worth the journey, and you'll most likely have it all to yourself. The sunsets here are stunning and the water is everything you dream.

Ao Son beach is the best beach on koh tarutao
The beautiful and secluded beach at Ao Son on Koh Tarutao


2. Mountain biking

You can rent excellent sturdy mountain bikes for 250 bahts (£5/$8) for 1 day and go from Ao Talo Phante Malacca to the more remote and pretty Ao Son, around 6km away. The trail goes through the Tarutao mainland jungle and took us around 40 minutes each way, which included a few stopovers for photos.

koh tarutao offers a lot of biking opportunities
Biking through the mainland jungle of Koh Tarutao

3. Hiking in Koh Tarutao

There are some excellent trails on Koh Tarutao, which take you through the vast thick jungle inland. The most famous is the trek to the Lu Du Waterfall near Ao Son as well as the hike up to the 400m Tob-Bob cliff at Ao Talo Phante Malacca.

4. Kayaking on Koh Tarutao

Our favourite activity on Koh Tarutao was renting a kayak and paddling through a mangrove forest to a crocodile cave towards Ao Rusi in the northeast side of the island. This is a really fun day trip, a work out, gorgeous natural environments and a unique cave experience all in one. Just remember to bring head torches for the dark crocodile cave!

We rented paddle boats from the National Park head office, which cost 500 bahts (£10/$15) for the whole day.

Adang or Tarutao activities kayaking
Kayaking through the mangrove forest to the crocodile cave

Happy travels are safe travels

We recommend you always take out travel insurance before your next vacation. What happens if you suffer from illness, injury, theft or a cancellation? With travel insurance, you can have peace of mind and not worry. We love World Nomads travel insurance and have been using it for years. Their comprehensive coverage is second to none and their online claims process is very user friendly.

For more inspiration planning your trip, check out this awesome 3 weeks Thailand itinerary.

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Sebastien Chaneac

Sebastien is the co-founder, editor and author of He is a tech geek, a total travel nerd and a food enthusiast. He spends the majority of his time planning Nomadic Boys' travels meticulously right down to the minute details. Sebastien has travelled to over 80 countries with his partner in crime and the love of his life, Stefan. He regularly shares his expertise of what it’s like travelling as a gay couple both on Nomadic Boys and on prominent publications ranging from Pink News, Matador, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian and many more. Originally from France, Sebastien moved to London in the early 2000s where he pursued a career as a computer programmer for Thompson Reuters and Bloomberg. He subsequently left it all to explore his passion for travelling around the world with Stefan to hand, and thus Nomadic Boys was born. Find out more about Nomadic Boys.


Friday 31st of January 2020

Thanks for this. Was the snorkelling good here?

Stefan Arestis

Friday 31st of January 2020

Yes! It was incredible, subject to the current of course.


Thursday 24th of October 2019

Excellent review and advice. I greatly appreciate all the added information as well as cautions. This sounds like a place that I need to visit. Thank you

Stefan Arestis

Thursday 24th of October 2019

Our pleasure :)

Nan Kaouthai

Tuesday 13th of March 2018

Why not you choose Koh Lanta? The most common way to get to Koh Lanta is by boarding a ferry from nearby islands. And I personally know a ferry service who offer quality services and their ferries are well maintained to ensure safety.

Nomadic boys

Tuesday 13th of March 2018

Agreed! Koh Lanta is beautiful and definitely worth visiting :)


Saturday 23rd of December 2017

Hi, do you know if its possible to get to koh Adang straight from Pakpara? I've only got one weekend, so I need to choose between the 2. However, most info i see regarding transport to Adang is from Lipe.

Nomadic boys

Saturday 23rd of December 2017

We never went to Pakpara so not sure, sorry :(


Monday 16th of January 2017

Im really happy I found this post, its so helpful! I'm going to Thailand in March and also want to explore Koh Tarutao,Koh Adang and Koh Lipe.Can you tell me about the beaches on Koh Tarutao? Are they as pretty as on Koh Adang or Koh Lipe? Im thinking of going for 1 night to Tarutao, 2 nights on Adang and 3 nights on Lipe :)


Monday 16th of January 2017

Dear Maja,

We're so glad you're going there. In our opinion, these are the most beautiful islands in Thailand. Koh Tarutao is more of an adventure island, where you go for kayaking, trekking, biking, snorkelling etc but it is not so much of a beach destination. Koh lipe (make sure you stay on sunrise beach) and Koh Adang have the most beautiful beaches. We think 6 nights is great to explore those 3 islands. And Koh Tarutao is kind of mid way between Koh lipe and the mainland so it makes an easy overnight stop. Enjoy your time there, it will be unforgettable!