Off the west coast of Southern Thailand, located in the glistening waters of the Andaman Sea, are the beautiful Similan Islands.
Composed of eleven islands, each one as magnificent as the next. With its crystal clear waters teeming with marine life and spectacular rock formations and coral reefs, it’s no wonder that this destination is a haven for diving enthusiasts and explorers alike.
Is exploring remote and desolated places full of wildlife your thing? Escape the bustling crowds of Phuket and discover these exotic gems for yourself.
In this Similan Islands travel guide, I will walk you through everything you can see and do in the area including information on how to get there and more.
- 1 The Similan Islands
- 2 Top Things to Do in The Similan Islands
- 3 How to Get to Similan Islands
- 4 Best Time to Go to the Similan Islands
- 5 Map of Similan Islands National Park
- 6 Where to Stay in the Similan Islands
The Similan Islands
There are some incredible islands in the waters that surround Thailand’s mainland, such as the dramatically scenic islands of Krabi and Phang Nga Bay.
So what exactly makes the Similan Islands so special? What is it about them that is so attractive to travelers?
Put simply, the Similan Islands are natural wonders, full of low-lying formations covered in plush, dense forests and surrounded by the clearest waters imaginable.
This is a sight to behold in itself but then you as soon as you delve beneath the waters, you will discover why Koh Similan is one of the top 10 most interesting dive areas in the world!
Convinced that this is a location that deserves to be explored yet? If not, read on to find out more.
Top Things to Do in The Similan Islands
Snorkeling and Scuba Diving in Similan Islands
Obviously, we have to talk about snorkeling and diving first after making the bold claim that it is one of the best scuba diving destinations in Asia.
Offering warm, clear waters with weak to moderate currents and 20 to 30m visibility, the Similan Islands provide more than ideal conditions for a fantastic diving experience.
Throughout the diving season (late October through to May), you can explore the abundant marine life that lives just below the surface and admire the dizzying landscapes.
Whether gently sloping coral reefs, deep rocky gorges, or challenging depths and variable currents are your preference, the waters surrounding the Similan Islands provide something for every diver.
Here, you will find the most incredible submarine rock formations, huge granite boulders, swim-throughs and giant fan corals that you may ever see.
While scuba diving is much more popular, snorkeling can easily be done all over the islands.
Snorkeling gear can be rented from the Similan Islands Marine National Park Headquarters. Travelers who go for day trips from nearby Phuket or Khao Lak can also bring their own gear to avoid having to rent some when you get there.
Similan Islands Liveaboard
With endless diving options and so much marine life to see, it can be overwhelming to choose what sites you want to explore! If you want to make the most of your time in the Similan Islands, a liveaboard would be a great option for you.
Similan Island Liveaboards leave both Phuket and Khao Lak regularly. Four-day trips that visit both the Similan and Surin Islands are the most popular.
We highly recommend liveaboard diving if you want to get the most out of your diving experience. These tours take you to all the main dive sites and offer a mixture of dives ranging in difficulty as well as night dives!
If you’re looking for the best liveaboard for you and your budget, check out our article which outlines a range of options. Click the button below to get information on our top Similan Islands liveaboard boat picks which you can sort by price range and type of trip.
Scuba Diving Video in the Similan Islands
If you want proof on how amazing the Similan Islands really is and why a liveaboard is the best way to explore the area, watch this video by It’s better in Thailand.
Hiking in the Similan Islands
Although the islands are not large, you can spend some time out of the water exploring the dense forests and discovering hidden places that not many have ventured too.
Whether you like to follow the hiking trails go full-on off-road, you can take your time and discover some beautiful sights along the way. Just make sure you take some insect repellent and a bottle of water before you set off.
Relax by the Beach
The white sandy beaches of the Similan Islands provide the perfect setting for you to relax and unwind.
Yes, you could go snorkeling, diving or swimming if you want to, but why would you when the suns rays are streaming down on you and the soft sound of waves are lapping the shore? Answer: you wouldn’t.
With so many divers heading to the Similan Islands, this little archipelago has become quite the destination for yachts and tour boats.
Due to its popularity, you should expect a few boats and people during the day. If you opt to stay on the island, once the day boats leave, you have the beaches all to yourself again.
Admire the Wildlife
If you love animals, the Similan Islands are home to some amazing wildlife that you can feast your eyes on. With so many ironwood and gum trees lining the islands and rattan and bamboo forming part of the denser undergrowth, you will see many crab-eating monkeys, squirrels, bats, lizards and rare and exotic birds.
If you like to bird watch or just see animals living life to the full in their natural habitat, a trip here might be well worth it.
How to Get to Similan Islands
Getting to the Similan Islands is not the easiest, especially as there is no regular boat service to the island. During the low-season months (May to October), boats may even stop running altogether so bear this in mind when booking your trip.
When boats are running, the nearest launching point is Thap Lamu Pier in the Thai Muang district of Phang Nga. Boat trips take about three hours and the cost can vary a lot (1,000 Baht for a space on a fishing boat, 1,500 Baht for a space on the National Park boat, 2,000 Baht for a speedboat or 5,500 Baht for guided trips).
Other options include taking a day trip from Phuket or Khao Lak, joining a liveaboard boat trip, or taking a taxi or bus from Phuket bus station to Khao Lak and then a boat.
As mentioned, day trips from Phuket and Khao Lak are common and take anything from 45 minutes to 3 hours depending on the type of boat. To check exact boat schedules, take a look at Bookaway or 12Go , which we use to book transport tickets all over Southeast Asia.
Best Time to Go to the Similan Islands
As the Similan National Park is a nature reserve, it can’t endure the massive tourist industry all-year round. Therefore, in an attempt to protect the Islands, the Government of Thailand closes them to the public during the monsoon season (May to October).
This makes the best time to visit between the months of October to May. The most popular time to visit tends to be in the months of December and January but we’d say that the best time to visit is from February to early March.
Map of Similan Islands National Park
Where to Stay in the Similan Islands
As we mentioned, the unique ecosystems on the Similan Islands are quite fragile and need to be preserved so you can only actually stay on three of the islands.
These are Koh Miang, Ko Similan and Koh Tachai. Fortunately, private development hasn’t ruined these islands yet, so the only accommodation that is offered is in the form of guesthouse bungalows or camping tents. The tents are quite spacious, enough to fit two to three people comfortably. In some campsites, there is even a small restaurant.
The accommodation on the islands are usually part of packaged tours so make sure you know exactly what you’re getting when you get there.
You can’t stay the night on the majority of the Similan Islands, and you are even prohibited to set foot on some of them all-year round (due to the unique species of nesting turtles!), so many people stay in Phuket or Khao Lak. This works out extremely well especially if you plan on doing liveaboard diving while you’re there.
If you’re planning on not staying on the islands, we recommend checking our articles on best places to stay in Phuket and if you’re staying in Khoa Lak, here are the best things to do and see while you’re there.
So what do you think? Are the Similan Islands now on your list of amazing places to visit or were they always on your list but now we’ve convinced you to make the plans to go?
Hopefully, this guide has convinced you to visit Similan Islands so you can take in the beauty of this place for yourself.
Looking for more information on Thailand and diving? Check out a few of our articles
- Best Scuba Diving in Thailand: Dive Sites You Can’t Miss
- Diving in Koh Tao Thailand: Everything You Need to Know
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