Similan Islands consist of nine islands, located approximately 60 km (38 miles) west of Khao Lak on the west coast of Thailand, a few hours drive north of Phuket. The waters around the Similan Islands are considered one of the world's best diving and snorkelling sites, and the islands offer some of the best beaches in Thailand with white sand and crystal clear water.
The Similan Islands are part of Similan National Park with some restrictions for visitors. Koh Huyong has the longest and widest beach of all the Similan Islands; however, here, sea turtles lay their eggs in the beach sand, so the authorities forbid visitors on the island. Tourists are only allowed to visit two of the nine islands.
In addition, the authorities forbid access to all of the islands and the waters around them in the monsoon season, typically, from May 16th to October 31st. The ban is to protect the environment of the islands and to protect visitors as the monsoon wind makes it dangerous to visit the area. You may be able to find tour offerings to Similan Islands in the monsoon season – do not go on such a tour as the tour operator clearly has no respect for neither the law nor your safety.
Diving at Similan Islands
Although the two of the Similan Islands that you are allowed to enter do offer excellent beaches, the beaches are merely a bonus for most of the visitors. They do not come for the sand or the sun; they come to enjoy the sights underwater.
If you already have a diving certificate, you can easily explore and enjoy the coral reefs, sea turtles, Nemo, and whatever else you encounter below the surface around the Similan Islands.
If you do not have a diving certificate, you can get one. It is relatively inexpensive, and with around 28° Celcius (82° F), the water is comfortable to learn to dive.
Make sure that your travel insurance covers diving!
Although most trips to Similan Islands are for divers, there are also offerings for those who want to snorkel.
How to Get to Similan Islands
The tours to Similan Islands start in Khao Lak where you will find several beaches you can stay at for the rest of your holiday. The area is very relaxed and perfect for a family holiday. Khao Lak is two hours away from Phuket Airport if you take a taxi or minibus.
If you want more activities and better shopping opportunities, you can stay in Phuket for the rest of your holiday. Depending on where in Phuket you want to stay, it will take two to three hours to drive to Khao Lak.
From Khao Lak, you can get to Similan Islands in three to five hours in a liveaboard boat or one hour in a speed boat. Some of the tour operators have a liveaboard boat stationed at Similan Islands, and they transport you to and from Similan Islands by speed boat.
When you order a tour, typically, transport from your hotel in Khao Lak or Phuket is included. Fees to the national park are usually not included in the price. The admission fee is 500 baht, and there is an additional 200 baht fee per day for diving.
Please be aware that in high season from December through January, you may have to order a tour well in advance.
Staying the Night at Similan Islands
On a day tour, you will spend a lot of time travelling to and from the islands; you will get more time for diving or snorkelling if you go on a tour for several days where you stay the night at Similan Islands. The national park used to offer accommodation in huts and tents; however, to protect the environment on the islands, they have banned accommodation on the islands for now.
Instead, you can spend the night on a liveaboard boat. Check the offers from the tour operators and diving schools.