Ko Taratao lies approximately 30 km west off the coastal city of Satun. The island is 26.5 km long and 11 km wide. The highest point is over 700 m elevation. Rainforest covers over 70 percent of the island.
The name Tarutao comes from the Malay words "Pulau Tertua" (the island of old).
In the early 1940s Ko Tarutao was used as a prison because it was remote and hard to escape from.
The 5th season of the television show Survivor was filmed on Ko Tarutao.
There is a one-time national park admission charge upon arrival of 200 baht for foreign adults and 40 baht for Thai adults.
Speedboats operating between Ko Lipe and Pak Bara will stop at Ko Tarutao if the captain is notified ahead of time. An extra charge may have to be paid. The journey from Pak Bara takes 30 min. From Ko Lipe to Ko Tarutao takes 1 hr. minutes and costs 450 baht. You may be able to buy a ticket between Pak Bara and Ko Lipe and "stopover" in Ko Tarutao for a few days. Pak Bara offers bus and minibus connections to most of the major cities in Thailand, while Ko Lipe can be reached from Malaysia. If taking the bus to Pak Bara from elsewhere in Thailand, make sure that you will arrive in time to catch the ferry, otherwise you will have to spend a night in Pak Bara.
Ferries depart Ko Lipe daily for Ko Tarutao at 09:30 year round, with additional daily departures at 11:30 and 15:30 during the high season (Feb 2016).
Ferries depart Pak Bara daily for Ko Tarutao at 11:30 year round, with additional daily departures at 09:30 and 15:30 during the high season.
Walking is the best way to see the island. The speedboats drop off passengers near the park headquarters building on the north side of the island.
The south part of the island is generally unpatrolled and a report notes that it is run by gangsters and is the location of a human trafficking operation.
- Crocodile Cave (Tam Jorakae). Guided tours from the park headquarters building.
- Ta Lo Wow Bay is on the northeast side of the island.
- Pante Malakar Bay is on the northwest side of the island.
- Son Bay is the only bay on the west side of the island and is knows as a place where turtles come to lay their eggs. Its longest beach is about 200 m. There is a canal to divide the private beach and the public beach. Since it is on the west side of the island, it is a great place to watch the sunset.
- Makham Bay is on the southwest side of Ko Tarutao.
- Ta Lo U-Dung Bay is on the southeast side of Ko Tarutao and offers a view of the tiny Singha island.
- Beachcombing. Collecting shells is easy on the island due to the abundance of ocean wildlife and lack of visitors. Its legality is unknown.
- Birdwatching. Groups depart from the park headquarters building on the north side of the island early in the morning.
- Snorkelling. The calm, clear water makes the Tarutao Marine Park area ideal for snorkelling, with 25 percent of the world's tropical fish species found in the area. On the island Ko Tarutao itself there is not much to see when snorkelling, even though there is a good spot on the northeast side of the island which you can reach by longtail boat. According to the park staff, it is not worth going if you plan to go on to Ko Lipe or Ko Adang afterwards.
The national park runs and manages a restaurant that provides a considerable range of good quality meals: fried rice/noodles (70 baht), main courses (100-150 baht), all day with cold soft drinks, water and canned beer (40 baht). The national park also runs a small mini-mart for snack foods, soft drinks, and bottled water.
All accommodation on the island is park-owned and managed, and guests have the choice of bungalows or camping.
Bungalows are between 600 baht (two persons) and 1,000 baht (four persons). Bungalows have a varying degree of luxuriousness: some are a simple room with four beds, some have room dividers and some have outdoor toilets.
Tents can be hired from the park office for 150 baht per night, which includes the cost of the tent site near the beach. The tents are not waterproof, can comfortably accommodate two persons without luggage, and lack headroom for anyone over 178 cm. Luggage can be stored in the office to free-up space in the tent. Tent sites cost 30 baht per night if you bring your own tent.
Internet (of uncertain quality) is available at the park headquarters building.