Want to experience some of the best scuba diving that Thailand can offer? Your best bet is to head over to the Similan Islands, a string of nine islands protected by a marine national park.
If you’re serious about your diving or are just looking for an unforgettable experience, the best and most popular way to experience the Similan islands is through a liveaboard.
With a range of itineraries and boats to choose from, we’ve put together this guide to help you choose the best Similan Islands liveaboard.
- 1 Our Top Similan Islands Liveaboard Picks
- 2 Best Budget Liveaboard Diving in the Similan Islands
- 3 Best Mid-Range Liveaboard Diving in the Similan Islands
- 4 Best Luxury Liveaboard Diving in the Similan Islands
- 5 Similan Islands Liveaboard Diving Highlights
- 6 Similan Islands Diving: What You Need to Know
- 7 Best Diving Itineraries in the Similan Islands
- 8 Best Dive Sites Around the Similan Islands
- 9 How to Get to the Similan Islands
Our Top Similan Islands Liveaboard Picks
Best Budget Liveaboard Diving in the Similan Islands
Rooms: 10 cabins / AC
Price Range: from €95/day
Alongside the rest of Manta Queen’s fleet of boats, the Manta Queen 5 is one of the best options for those on a budget.
Often running popular three-night trips departing almost every week, the 23m Manta Queen can host up to 20 guests in twin bunk cabins. When you’re not diving or snorkeling, relax on the open rooftop sun deck and gaze into the open sea.
Apart from the boat amenities (which include delicious buffet-style local meals), there are five dive staff and six boat crew who are ready to assist you throughout your entire trip. Nitrox is also available on board for those that are certified.
Most of the trips that the Manta Queen 5 runs are from the Similan Islands to Koh Bon Island from October to May. Full diving equipment can be rented for 400THB per day.
What’s Included: VAT, Accommodation, Tanks, Weights, Belts, Divemaster Services, All Meals, Towels, Transfers/pickups from Hotel
Click the button below to learn more and check the prices and availability for the Manta Queen 5
Rooms: 10 cabins / AC
Price Range: from €106/day
The Manta Queen 1 is a slightly larger liveaboard which offers four-night trips for both snorkelers and divers heading towards the Similan Islands, Koh Bon, Koh Tachai, and the stunning Richelieu Rock.
The boat has four double, five twin, and one quad-sharing cabin, making it an ideal pick for budget travelers. It has an indoor air-conditioned saloon with a flat-screen TV as well as a sun deck (with mattresses!) on the top deck.
In between dives, the boat also stops at some of the white sand beaches that the Similan Islands are known for. Full diving equipment can be rented for 400THB per day while snorkel gear is included in the package.
What’s Included: VAT, Accommodation, Tanks, Weights, Belts, Divemaster Services, All Meals, Towels Provided, Transfers/pickups from Hotel
Click the button below to learn more and check the prices and availability for the Manta Queen 1
Rooms: 8 cabins / AC
Price Range: from €113/day
Joining the 25m Similan Explorer is a great way to explore the best of the Similan Islands. Offering anything from three to five-night expeditions, travel with their experienced dive guides as you explore the vibrant underwater world.
The boat has eight cabins with four twin bunks and two quad cabins. The upper deck has two double cabins with sea views and air condition.
When you’re not diving, you can spend time in their entertainment dining area or up on the sun deck where you can keep your eyes peeled for manta rays and dolphins.
What’s Included: VAT, Accommodation, Complimentary Toiletries, Tanks, Weights, Belts, Divemaster Services, All Meals, Towels Provided
Click the button below to learn more and check the prices and availability for the Similan Explorer
Offering dive and snorkel trips to the Similan Islands, Richelieu Rock, as well as expeditions to the recently-opened Mergui Archipelago in Myanmar, the Dolphin Queen is a great choice for those on a budget.
This 24m boat has three decks, offering plenty of room for guests to roam and lounge. There are double, twin, and quad-sharing cabins, all with air conditioning and sea views.
Aboard the Dolphin Queen, you’ll travel to some of the most pristine dive spots in the Similan Islands, Koh Bon, and the Surin Islands, with the boat’s very experienced dive masters as your guides.
For those that are looking to do something more off-the-beaten-path, consider joining the Dolphin Queen for one of their six-night expeditions to experience the virtually untouched diving sites in Myanmar.
What’s Included: VAT, Accommodation, Complimentary Toiletries, Tanks, Weights, Belts, All Meals, Towels Provided, Transfers/pickups from Hotel
Click the button below to learn more and check the prices and availability for the Dolphin Queen
Best Mid-Range Liveaboard Diving in the Similan Islands
Rooms: 12 cabins / AC
Price Range: from €135/day
If you’re looking for a little bit of comfort and luxury while you’re on your diving expedition, the Pawara is the way to go. Divers who have taken this liveaboard have raved about the level of professionalism of the dive guides and crew.
In addition to the stellar service, this 35m steel-hulled boat offers four-night trips showing you the best of the Similan Islands as well as Richelieu Rock, Koh Bon and Koh Tachai.
The dive platform is spacious, leaving plenty of room for gear storage. The Parawa offers two budget cabins and 10 other cabins with en-suite bathrooms. When you’re not diving, you can relax in the entertainment room or sun deck where you can catch glimpses of the most beautiful sunsets.
What’s Included: VAT, Accommodation, Transfers/pickups from Airport, Tanks, Weights, Belts, Divemaster Services, All Meals, Free Nitrox, Towels
Click the button below to learn more and check the prices and availability for Pawara
Rooms: 15 cabins / AC
Price Range: from €145/day
The Sawasdee Fasai was renovated in 2016, making it a luxurious but still wallet-friendly option when exploring the stunning Andaman seas.
Sister ship to the popular MV Pawara, this boat can easily fit a maximum of 30 divers, with 15 air-conditioned cabins, ranging from budget to master cabins. The boat has a huge sun deck, as well as an outdoor and indoor lounge area.
The Sawasdee Fasai runs four-night trips to the Similan Islands, Koh Bon, Koh Tachai and Richelieu Rock. With around four dives scheduled everyday (night dives included), be prepared to see the best of what Thailand’s diving can offer.
What’s Included: VAT, Accommodation, Complimentary Toiletries, Tanks, Weights, Belts, Divemaster Services, All Meals, Free Nitrox, Towels, Transfers/pickups from Hotel
Click the button below to learn more and check the prices and availability for the Sawasdee Fasai
Rooms: 6 cabins / AC
Price Range: from €119/day
Running tours from November to May, The Junk liveaboard is a perfect pick to explore the stunning waters of the Andaman Sea as well as the unchartered pristine waters of Myanmar.
This boat used to be part of a small merchant fleet that sailed from Burma to Malaysia. After being renovated, this 33m ship has been turned into a full-time liveaboard dive ship. With six air-conditioned cabins and en-suite bathrooms, guests can get a full night’s rest after a fun-filled day of diving.
Previous guests have raved about how well-organized the trip is, as well as the food which is freshly prepared for every meal. All dives are done via dinghy so getting to and from the dive spots will be easy.
Apart from the stellar diving that you are bound to experience, bask in the grandiose feeling of sailing in a huge ship which, in fact, has been featured in multiple films (James Bond, Swiss Family Robinson) How’s that for cool?
What’s Included: VAT, Accommodation, Tanks, Weights, Belts, Divemaster Services, All Meals, Towels
Click the button below to learn more and check the prices and availability for The Junk
Rooms: 9 cabins / AC
Price Range: from €177/day
This custom-built boat is perfect for long dive expeditions as everything was built with diving in mind.
Equipped with nine en-suite AC cabins, the boat boasts of a huge dive platform where you can get geared up for your dive. There is ample room for dive computers, equipment, and other gear, making the whole process of gearing up hassle-free.
The boat offers delicious international, Thai, and Asian fusion meals, making sure you never go hungry — an important thing when you’re out exploring the underwater world. The staff at the Deep Andaman Queen are remarkable at making sure you’re comfortable and having fun.
What’s Included: VAT, Accommodation, Transfers/pickups from Airport, Tanks, Weights, Belts, Divemaster Services, All Meals, Towels
Click the button below to learn more and check the prices and availability for the Deep Andaman Queen
Best Luxury Liveaboard Diving in the Similan Islands
Rooms: 7 cabins / AC
Price Range: from €261/day
Although pricier than most of the other Similan liveaboards, the level of luxury in this 35m sailing yacht makes it worth it. The crew gives 100% of their attention to you, making sure you are enjoying and making the most out of your liveaboard experience.
This boat has everything from traditional Thai massages, refreshing cocktails, and some mouthwatering dishes by the executive chef. There are seven luxury cabins as well as a wine cellar, ensuring that you have a comfortable and relaxing stay.
Their boat trips, which are mostly six-night expeditions, run from October to May.
What’s Included: VAT, Accommodation, Complimentary Toiletries, Transfers/pickups from Airport, Personal Diving Gear, Tanks, Weights, Belts, Divemaster Services, All Meals
Click the button below to learn more and check the prices and availability for the Diva Andaman
Rooms: 5 cabins / AC
Price Range: from €169/day
You know it’s a great liveaboard trip when previous customers have consistently raved about the entire experience. The 24m MV Giamana is a Phuket-based boat which offers trips from two to six nights.
This exclusive boat has five air-conditioned cabins, ensuring that all the guests get lots of personal space. The boat has an air-conditioned salon and a large dive deck with areas for rinsing your cameras. Additionally, the crew prides itself on providing top-notch service to guests.
The food is noted to be plentiful, delicious, and a good mix of Thai and international flavors. If you’re looking for a comfortable and luxurious experience while exploring the best of what the Thai islands can offer, the Giamani is a great choice.
What’s Included: VAT, Accommodation, Complimentary Toiletries, Tanks, Weights, Belts, Divemaster Services, All Meals, Towels
Click the button below to learn more and check the prices and availability for the Giamani
Rooms: 8 cabins / AC
Price Range: from €276/day
There is no better way to end your diving day than soaking in a jacuzzi with a cold beer in hand. On the 35m Thailand Aggressor, you can do precisely that.
Offering eight lavishly-designed rooms with private bathrooms, the boat also has an air-conditioned lounge and a sun deck equipped with a jacuzzi, loungers and bar service. You’ll also experience great service onboard as the crew goes all out to help make your trip as comfortable as they can.
On top of the delicious American and local cuisine served, complimentary drinks (including beer and wine) are also served to guests.
On the diving side of things, you’ll get to explore the best of Thailand’s diving as you go on up to five action-packed dives daily, including magical night dives where you can chance upon rare sea creatures.
What’s Included: VAT, Accommodation, Complimentary Toiletries, Transfers/pickups from Airport, Tanks, Weights, Belts, Divemaster Services, All Meals, Alcoholic Beverages
Click the button below to learn more and check the prices and availability for the Thailand Aggressor
Similan Islands Liveaboard Diving Highlights
World-class diving, white sandy beaches on uninhabited islands, and crystal clear waters that stretch as far as your eyes can see. If you think that the Similan Islands are beautiful, wait until you start exploring underwater.
Similan National Park is made up of nine islands, all of which are referred to by their number rather than their name. Together with these nine islands, other nearby dive sites are the ones in Surin Island which encompass the islands of Koh Bon, Koh Tachai, and the famous Richelieu Rock.
In total, there are over 25 different dive sites to choose from.
As you can imagine, a place like this is rich in marine life. During your dives here, expect to see lots of sharks (reef and leopard), turtles, manta rays, giant groupers, and barracudas.
Elephant Head or (Hin Pusar) is known to be one of the best dive spots within this area due to its intricate maze-like rocks composed of swim-throughs, channels, and gorges reaching depths of over 40 meters. It is really something else and is pretty out of this world!
Other notable sites within the area are Christmas Point and Fantasea Reef.
Similan Islands Diving: What You Need to Know
Best Time to Go Diving in the Similan Islands
Although diving in Thailand happens all year round, the liveaboard season in Thailand runs from November to May.
The best time of the year to dive is in March as the Andaman Sea is at its calmest, with super clear visibility ranging from 25 to 40 meters.
Towards the end of February, the currents get stronger which increases your chances of seeing large marine creatures like manta rays and sharks. If you’re keen on seeing whale sharks, the best time to go is between February to May.
Similan Islands Diving Safety
Generally speaking, the Similan Islands are tide-dependent — if you time your trip during that of a full or new moon, you will most likely face strong currents.
You can find a wide variety of dives from sloping coral reefs to rocky gorges. Some dives are classed as challenging due to the depths and currents.
One key piece of advice is to trust your divemasters and listen to their advice. They have been navigating these seas and are all experienced in reading the changes in the water patterns.
A good practice is to ensure that you always have a neon dive flag or collapsible pole stowed in your BC pocket in case of the current sweeps you astray. Reef hooks and gloves are also advisable due to the strong currents.
For peace of mind during your diving adventures, we recommend having dive insurance in case of any medical emergencies.
Best Diving Itineraries in the Similan Islands
Short Similan Islands Liveaboard Trips
No matter what kind of diving experience you’re looking for, you’re sure to find it in the Similan Islands. With so many sites to choose from, with varying difficulties, it’s no wonder this is considered the best place to scuba dive in Thailand.
Most liveaboards in the Similan Islands offer itineraries ranging from two to five nights.
On trips that are four to five nights, divers often spend the first two days diving around the Similan Islands, and followed by diving around Richelieu Rock and Surin Island in the remaining days. This way, divers are able to experience the best of the region without having to pick and choose where to go.
On a typical short liveaboard trip in the Similan Islands, you can expect to dive three times a day, with a possible night dive as well.
Short trips to the Similan Islands are great for a quick diving getaway, or if you want to beef up your diving skills before going on a longer liveaboard trip. Short trips also tend to be reasonably priced (depending on the boat you choose), making them a great budget option when you want to take a diving vacation.
Extended Similan Islands Liveaboard Trips
There are select boats that offer longer trips around the Similan Islands lasting a week, give or take. These trips take you to the best of the Similan Islands but also give divers the opportunity to explore the waters of Myanmar.
Although Myanmar isn’t a part of the Similan Islands, taking a longer trip will allow you to kill two birds with one stone and essentially take two trips in one. This is special because liveaboards typically stick to one destination, rather than two.
On a week-long trip, you’ll have a hefty mix of reef and wreck dives, with up to four dives every day. Extended trips are generally best for more advanced divers as you’ll visit deeper sites with stronger currents.
Plan your dream Similan Islands liveaboard now!
Best Dive Sites Around the Similan Islands
Elephant Head Rock
Elephant Head is definitely one of the best dive sites in the Similan Islands.
It is essentially a maze made from giant boulders. It’s called Elephant Head because one of these giant boulders looks like an elephant’s head. Original, right?
Navigate through different swim-throughs, caves and arches while searching for the mystical creatures that live here. Be sure to watch out for the strong currents!
Located south of Island No. 8, you can expect to run into different species of sharks like blacktips, whitetips and leopard sharks. Swim around with barracuda and giant trevallies while discovering all that Elephant Head has to offer.
Christmas Point is another site made up of underwater boulders that are surrounded by rich corals and spectacular marine life. It’s just northwest of Island No. 9, and provides divers with tons of little swim-throughs and small crevices to explore.
If you’re looking for leopard sharks, this is the place to dive as they make frequent appearances. You may spot the occasional black and white tip reef sharks, if you’re lucky. At Christmas Point, you’ll also find tons of large fish like barracuda, tunas and Napoleon wrasse.
Visibility is great at this site, but it’s quite deep and currents can be strong so it’s best suited for more experienced divers.
East of Eden
East of Eden gets its name for a food reason. This site provides divers with glorious reefs and the most variety of marine life of any dive site in the area.
There is so much to see at this site that it’s considered to be an aquarium dive as you’ll be swimming among countless different species, with something new at every turn.
The current at this site is gentle, and provides divers with a slow drift dive. Turtles are commonly spotted in the shallow reef top and sharks even swim around the area!
If you’re diving in Similan, East of Eden should not be missed.
Beacon Point / Reef
This site is a great mix of reef and wreck, giving divers the best of both worlds.
Beacon Point is located near the eastern side of Island No. 8, which is a rocky area filled with boulders buried deep underwater. “Atlantis-X,” a ship that sunk in 2002, is a landmark for Beacon Point and provides great shipwreck exploring for divers.
Besides the wreck, you’ll find lush corals and tons of different reef fish that have made this area home. During your dive, you’ll see angelfish, butterflyfish, pufferfish, triggerfish and moray eels.
From surface level, Richelieu Rock appears to be a lone pinnacle, but once underwater it turns into a horseshoe shape grouping of rocks, overhangs, small caves.
Although it’s located northeast of the Similan Islands, it’s still considered to be one of the most popular dive sites in Thailand, as well as in all of Asia!
As this area is the only place of shelter between Surin Islands and the mainland, marine life is abundant and you’re sure to run into all types of creatures and soft corals while exploring.
If you’re lucky, you may catch sight of a mating octopus among the seahorses, pelagic fish, and big schools of fish. You may also spot a whale shark and the occasional manta ray! Don’t forget your camera because this is one of the best places for macro photography.
Richelieu Rock is a huge area that is impossible to explore in only one dive. Many liveaboards frequent this site, and give divers at least two dives to be able to see as much as possible before moving on to the next location.
How to Get to the Similan Islands
To get to the Similan Islands, you’ll have to fly into Thailand.
Generally speaking, most Similan Islands liveaboards depart from either Chalong Pier in Phuket, Phang-Nga Province, or Thap Lamu Pier in Khao Lak. Some airlines fly directly into Phuket while others may require you to take a connecting flight from Bangkok.
We often use Liveaboard.com to check prices or find last-minute deals. They have a cheapest price guarantee which is pretty awesome! If you’re looking for where to stay in Phuket, you can check out our guide for a few of our personal recommendations.
Choosing which liveaboard to go with can be a daunting task especially since there are so many options to choose from. There are liveaboards that do 1-night tours while others extend them up to 6 nights. It will all boil down to your budget and what type of experience you are after.
One last thing: make sure to read the fine print as most of the liveaboards have external fees such as National Park tariffs and equipment rental. Make sure you consider those when budgeting and deciding which a liveaboard to go with.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. That means that if you book any of the liveaboards above, we get a small commission at NO EXTRA COST to you. This commission will help us maintain this site so we can keep producing awesome free content for you.