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Nestled between Mango Bay and Hin Wong Bay, Lighthouse Beach is one of the best snorkeling spots on the wild northwest coast of Koh Tao. This small open bay with sandy bottoms near the edge is home to pretty coral reefs in its center, particularly around its famous pinnacle. All the typical reef fish of Koh Tao, such as butterflyfish, parrotfish, clownfish and wrasses, can be spotted at Lighthouse Beach.

Harlequin sweetlips juvenile
Juvenile harlequin sweetlips have gorgeous camouflage patterns.

How to get to Lighthouse Reef snorkeling spot?

Lighthouse Beach, which hosts Lighthouse Reef, is a small bay on the northeast coast of Koh Tao. It is accessible either by road or on boat trips.

  1. Access by boat. Koh Tao snorkeling tours frequently stop at Lighthouse Reef. Make sure the spot is included in the itinerary before booking. You can also book a taxi boat or a fishing boat and make your own private tour. In this case, make it clear to the captain that these will be snorkeling stops and not simple “visits” to see the beach.
  2. Shore access. Lighthouse Beach can be reached in about 30 minutes on foot from the main road, via an arduous path through the jungle. You will arrive at a small beach surrounded by large rocks, from which you can enter the water.
Lighthouse Beach snorkeling map, Koh Tao
Lighthouse Beach snorkeling map, Koh Tao.

Water entrance for snorkeling Lighthouse Reef

If you are on a tour, you will enter the water directly from the boat. If you reach Lighthouse Beach by foot, enter the water from the small beach, then swim above the shallow sandy bottoms to reach the rocky and coral areas.

Lighthouse Reef snorkeling exploration tips

The most interesting areas for snorkeling at Lighthouse Reef are located around the rocks and corals. The depths are between 10 and 33 ft/3 and 10 meters depending on the area, with the deepest areas found next to the pinnacle.

Branching coral and damselfish in Koh Tao
The Lighthouse Reef features healthy, delicate branching coral.

Despite a fairly large number of visitors, Lighthouse Reef is home to quite healthy corals. Massifs of branching coral are present in the intermediate depth zones (↕10-12ft/3-4 m).

Closer to the surface, you will notice tabular coral, brain coral, and massive porous coral, some of which host hundreds of multicolored Christmas tree worms.

Pink skunk clownfish in sea anemone
A pink skunk anemonefish colony in a magnificent sea anemone.

You’ll see at Lighthouse Reef the usual fish living in Koh Tao’s shallows, and in particular large populations of parrotfish, spinefoot, pink-skunk clownfish, and butterflyfish (see species list at the bottom of the page).

Less common but very colorful, the Harlequin sweetlip is a regular visitor to the bay. Just below the surface of the water, hound needlefish are often seen feeding on tiny silverfish.

Vermiculated spinefoot in Koh Tao
A vermiculated spinefoot.

Encounters with small blacktip sharks and green sea turtles are frequent in the bay, but Lighthouse Reef is not the spot where you will have the best chance of seeing them. For encounters with these two species, head to Shark Bay, in the south of the island.

Restaurants and accommodation nearby

Lighthouse Beach is in a natural part of the coast, with no food options. If you visit this spot from land, take water and snacks with you.

 

  • Level required Beginner
  • Maximum depth33 ft / 10 m
  • Water entrancefrom a boat (if you reach the spot with a boat tour) or from the beach (if you hike to the spot)
  • Potential DangersSlight current
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersHigh
  • Access costsFree (from the shore) or cost of a snorkeling tour
  • Restaurants nearbyNo

MAP Spot

These snorkeling spots are accessible to beginners and kids. You will enter the water gradually from a beach, or in a less than 3ft. deep area. The sea is generally calm, shallow, with almost no waves or currents. These spots are usually located in marked and/or monitored swimming areas. It is not necessary to swim long distances to discover the sea life.

This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.