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Similan Islands: What Is It Famous For, What to Do, How to Visit

Similan Islands: What Is It Famous For, What to Do, How to Visit

By Chris QuanUpdated Oct. 28, 2022

The Similan Islands, the famous world-class diving site, is located in the Andaman Sea, off the west coast of Thailand, near Phuket. This island group is protected as Similan Islands National Park to maintain its original tropical beauty.

Similan is Malay, meaning ‘nine’, which refers to the original nine islands making up the Similan Island group. Later, two more islands joined Similan Islands National Park. Now, the following 11 islands make up the Similan Islands, offering ultimate natural beauty and diving experiences to their visitors.

  • Island 1: Ko Huyong (for turtle breeding)
  • Island 2: Ko Payang (for turtle breeding)
  • Island 3: Ko Payan (for turtle breeding)
  • Island 4: Ko Miang (the Visitor Center location)
  • Island 5: Ko Ha (diving nearby permitted; no landing on the island)
  • Island 6: Ko Payu (diving nearby permitted; no landing on the island)
  • Island 7: Ko Hin Pousar (diving nearby permitted; no landing on the island)
  • Island 8: Ko Similan (biggest island, can be visited)
  • Island 9: Ko Ba-ngu (diving nearby permitted; no landing on the island)
  • Island 10: Ko Bon (diving nearby permitted; no landing on the island)
  • Island 11: Ko Tachai (diving nearby permitted; no landing on the island)
Similan Islands Map

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What Are the Similan Islands Famous For?

With crystal sea, white beaches, a variety of precious marine life, and stunning underwater landscapes, the Similan Islands attract a large number of tourists every year, especially diving enthusiasts.  

A Diving Paradise

Diving in Similan Islands A sea turtle seen during a dive in Simian Islands

Regarded as one of world’s top ten diving sites, the Similan Islands offer excellent diving conditions.

The water is blue and clear, with good underwater visibility of up to 30 meters (100 feet). Under the water, huge granite boulders balance, one on top of another, creating spectacular arches and steep slopes covered with numerous gorgeous, soft, coral reefs.

The crystal-clear blue water is filled with a great profusion of marine life. Spotting turtles, various clownfish, batfish, bluefin trevally, tuna, and other tropical fish is not a problem. If you are lucky enough, some rare fish like harmless leopard sharks and manta rays are a diver’s treat.

Unspoiled Beauty

Similan Islands

The Similan Islands were designated a national park in 1982 and the Thai government continues to make efforts to maintain and protect these pristine islands.

You will be impressed by their charm of rough, rocky coastlines and white sandy beaches under bright blue skies. Piles of rocks, some of them as big as houses, lie on the shore. Dense tropical forests grow freely, surrounded by incredible waters.

To protect the underwater creatures, at each diving site there are fixed buoys set up by the Thai Navy for diving boats. Other ships are not allowed to anchor.  

What to Do

Diving and snorkeling are absolutely the main activities at the Similan Islands. Besides, you can also land on some islands for sightseeing and taking photos.

Diving and Snorkeling

Diving in the Similan Islands

Scuba diving at the Similian Islands requires an intermediate diving certificate. Ordinary visitors may only swim or snorkel. Each snorkeling spot is 5–10 meters (16–33 feet) deep, and you can clearly see the yellow and blue fish and beautiful coral below.

There are over 20 diving sites around the Similan Islands. East of Eden (near Ko Hin Pousar), Turtle Rock and Elephant Head (near Ko Similan), Christmas Point (near Ko Ba-ngu), Ko Bon, Ko Tachai are the best places for diving or snorkeling.

Visit Sailing Boat Rock

Similan Islands Sailing Boat Rock

Sailing Boat Rock on Island 8 (Koh Similan, the largest island in the group) is the landmark of the Similan Islands. You can get wide-angle views of it from the beach, or you can land on the island and hike up the mountain to get a 360-degree view from the highest point of the island.  

Best Times to Visit the Similan Islands

The best times to visit the Similan Islands are from December to March, when there is less rain, but they are only open from November to April. In order to protect eco systems on the Similan Islands, the Thai government closes the islands to tourists from May to October during the monsoon season.

Tours to the Similan Islands: Day Trip or Stay Overnight

Similan Islands

Day trips to the Similan Islands or staying overnight (on a liveaboard boat) are both feasible.

Spending a night near the Similan Islands is not a must-do. For most visitors, we suggest a day trip. It is enough to experience the fun of snorkeling and take in the island views during daylight hours.

If you are a diving enthusiast or want to join a diving class, you may consider the liveaboard option.

The Similan Islands are not open to independent travelers. The only way to visit is to join an approved travel group. Most travel groups depart from Phuket or Khao Lak.

You can book a trip to the Similan Islands by asking at the front desk of your Phuket area hotel, at a travel agency, or on the Internet.

Accommodation near the Similan Islands

Now visitors are not allowed to live on the islands. The original accommodation of tents and bungalows on the Similan Islands has been closed.  

The only way to stay overnight there is on liveaboard boats. This is popular among diving enthusiasts. Some diving outfits offer boat accommodation and meals while taking you to different Similan Island dive sites.

How to Get There

Similan Islands

Boats to the Similan Islands usually depart from Phuket or Khao Lak. As only registered (diving) trip providers are allowed to the Similan Islands, the most convenient way is to book a trip with hotel transfers. The island tour company will pick you up at your hotel and take you to their departing pier, returning you to your hotel after the trip.

From Phuket to the Similan Islands

Boats from Chalong or Patong (closer to the islands) bring you to the Similan Islands within 2–4 hours, depending on which island you visit. Koh Tachai (the furthest one) takes up to four hours and Koh Similan only two or three. It is possible to book a day trip from Phuket to the Similan Islands.

From Khao Lak to the Similan Islands

Khao Lak Khao Lak Beach

Boats from Khao Lak to Phuket depart from Tab Lamu Port. It takes about 3 hours to get there on a slow boat and about 70 minutes on a speedboat. A Similan Islands day trip from Khao Lak is very feasible.

From Bangkok to the Similan Islands

If you are travelling from Bangkok to the Similan Islands, the fastest way is flying to Phuket and taking a boat from there to the Islands.

The most economical way is by bus and boat. You can take a night bus to Khao Lak, and then catch a boat from there to the Similan Islands. However, this will take at least 12 hours.

Travel Tips

  • Only islands 4 and 8 permit land visits. Visitors are not allowed to wear shoes on the islands!
  • To protect its eco systems, nothing on the islands can be taken away, like shells, stones, sand, etc.
  • Mobile reception is limited on the islands.
  • Meal options are limited on the islands. There is the only one restaurant at the Visitor Center located on Island 4 (Ko Miang). If you join a day trip, we suggest packing some sandwiches, drinks, etc.

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