There are many fun festivals and events on Koh Tao, so why not plan your trip to be here for one of them?
Koh Tao really is an island with a community like no other. This is what makes us unique. The island is home to an eclectic mix of local and international citizens from all walks of life. The community doesn’t just embrace diving into nature; they are passionate about everything our slice of paradise has to offer – which includes coming together to celebrate national holidays, festivals, environmental causes, and other regular events throughout the year.
The biggest and most impressive Thai national holidays are Songkran (Thai New Year) and Loy Krathong (festival of lights). Suitable for visitors of all nationalities and ages, spending Songkran or Loy Krathong on Koh Tao is a great way to delve a little deeper into Thai culture and spend some quality time with local residents.
Songkran takes place on April 13th every year. It is a water festival, the original purpose being to rinse away sins from the previous year and begin a fresh new cycle. The original meaning has not been lost, but modern-day Songkran celebrations have intensified over the years. The best description of Songkran these days is the biggest and best water fight you’ll ever see! Stock up on sunscreen, and leave your valuables at home, because one thing’s for sure – you will get very wet! Get sprayed by giant hoses as you pass local businesses, slip your way down giant waterslides on the beach, and watch as the streets become filled with revelers carrying water guns and water balloons. Songkran is a fun-filled day not to be missed and a firm favorite among locals and visitors alike. So grab yourself a super soaker from the nearest store, and dive in!
Grab a super soaker and dive into Songkran on Koh Tao.
A more sedate festival than Songkran, but no less impressive, Loy Krathong is an important spiritual date in the Buddhist calendar. The exact day is dictated by the lunar cycle, but it usually falls sometime in November. Loy Krathong celebrations are dedicated to a legendary river goddess. Residents gather to mark the occasion by lighting a candle, placing it in a small handmade boat (Krathong), and sending it off into the water to give thanks and ward off bad fortune. On Koh Tao, there is usually a big party in Mae Haad in the evening, complete with food stalls, live music, and displays from local school children and community groups. Visitors are welcome to make their own Krathong and join the hundreds of locals on the shoreline as they send their prayers and wishes out to sea.
Immerse yourself in a cultural Loy Kratong experience.
Civilizations across Asia celebrate several Buddha days throughout the year. Typically, these are not open to tourist participation and are observed only by the resident Thai and Burmese populations. The days are marked by taking offerings to the temple for the local monks and attending sermons and processions.
On Buddha days and royal birthdays, the sale of alcohol is prohibited or restricted, so don’t be surprised if some bars and restaurants are closed. Also, note that as Buddha days are often public holidays, immigration services are likely to be closed. As most Buddha days are calculated by the lunar calendar, there are no set dates to note, but the royal birthdays of the king and queen are used every year to mark national father’s day and national mother’s day.
Regular festivals on Koh Tao tend to be centered around either environmental or music activities. Normally running throughout the day, into the evening, and often until the early hours, attending a festival on Koh Tao is a great way to learn more about community initiatives and meet lots of friendly locals.
Truly an unmissable event in the Koh Tao calendar, the Koh Tao Festival is normally held in mid-June and attracts crowds of over 3000 people. It’s the largest single event of the year and typically runs over 2-3 days. There is a strong focus on celebrating the island’s environmental and community achievements over the year. Daytime activities include games, workshops, clean-ups, turtle releases, the odd world record attempt or two, and competitive beach volleyball matches. In the evening, the festival ground comes to life. Food stalls, merchandise stands, and huge installations and sculptures made from plastic and other waste materials set the backdrop for the main stage, with live music acts and DJs playing well into the night.
The Experience Festival is well known as the highlight of the hippie calendar. Running for four days over western New Year from December 30th to January 2nd, the Experience Festival typically attracts a crowd of attendees over 1000 strong. With a particular focus on trance music and psychedelic art installations, dancing is constant throughout, although there is a ‘chill floor’ for anyone in need of a bit of downtime. There is one main stage, although the festival ground (known as the Magic Garden) is littered with funky installations, 3D environments, and an array of mind-bending sculptures.
As an island so steeped in nature with such a strong community vibe, it probably won’t come as a surprise to learn that our social calendar also includes lots of community-driven projects and special events. Conservation and fundraising initiatives are the most common. Some run on set dates annually, whereas others are organized ad hoc throughout the year. Examples include:
We appreciate it’s harder to plan for these than the other festivals and events on Koh Tao. But, if you happen to be on-island at the time, please feel free to come along and get involved.