Dreaming of a tropical adventure?
The Similan Islands in Thailand are a perfect choice. Known for clear waters and diverse marine life, these islands are a paradise for divers and nature lovers.
This guide will show you the best of the Similan Islands. You'll learn about top activities and how to visit responsibly.
Get ready to explore this fantastic destination and make unforgettable memories!
Discovering Similan Islands’ History
The Similan Islands is a group of oceanic islands off the coast of the Phang Nga Province in Southern Thailand. It is approximately 119 kilometers from Phuket mainland.
The name 'Similan' comes from a Malay word meaning 'nine' for the nine original islands.
- Koh Hu Yong (1)
- Koh Payang (2)
- Koh Payan (3)
- Koh Miang (4)
- Koh Ha (5)
- Koh Payu (6)
- Koh Hin Pousar (7)
- Koh Similan (8)
- Koh Bangu (9)
Later, these nine islands were added, with two more in 1998.
- Koh Bon (also known as Koh Talu) (10)
- Koh Tachai (11)
These islands have a long history, from being part of ancient Andaman sea routes to becoming a top tourist spot.
Getting to the Similan Islands
The two most popular starting points from the mainland are Phuket and Khao Lak. These coastal cities are the most accessible, and numerous tour operators offer various tour packages, including day tours and multi-day trips to the Similan Islands.
Speedboats or Ferries
Speedboats are the most popular choice for reaching the islands. Traveling from Phuket usually takes 1.5 to 2 hours and about an hour if traveling from Khao Lak. Speedboat tours are faster and more convenient but pricier than the ferry.
Long tail ferry boat is another standard option to get to the Similan Islands. These trips often take longer than speedboats. However, it will give you more space and a better opportunity to appreciate the scenic beauty of the Andaman Sea.
If budget is not an issue, private chartered boat trips will give you a more leisurely experience. Trust me, you don’t want to be crammed up like sardines in a can for over an hour. And if you brought tons of stuff or bulky diving gear, this can be a hassle for you and other passengers in the boat.
Best Activities in the Similan Islands
With plenty of islands to visit, island hopping is a MUST activity in Similan. Each of the islands offers its own unique charms. While you can't visit all in one day, selecting a tour that covers the most sought-after highlights is still best.
Better yet, plan a multi-day tour to maximize your vacation in the Similan Islands. The schedule is more relaxed, giving every stop ample time to be cherished.
Take advantage of Island #8 Koh Similan’s iconic Sail Rock and pristine beaches. Island #4 Koh Miang’s white sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters are ideal for water adventure enthusiasts.
When is the best time for island hopping?
Between November and April, when the weather is most favorable. During this season, you can expect calmer sea water and clearer skies, perfect for island and underwater adventures.
Our Tip: Book your tours in advance to ensure availability and to get the best package rates.
Snorkeling and Diving Adventures
The alluring crystal-clear waters of the Similan Islands make it a popular hotspot for snorkeling and diving enthusiasts. The island's vibrant underwater marine life and coral reef promises to give you a world-class snorkeling and diving experience.
The Christmas Point is one of the most notable dive spots on Island #9 - Koh Bangu. This spot is renowned for its colossal granite boulder formations and exciting swim-throughs of more than 20 meters deep.
The bottom is quite sandy. There are not many coral reefs to see, but there are plenty of large marine creatures to encounter, including black-tip reef sharks, barracudas, Napoleon wrasse, and manta rays (if you are lucky), to name a few.
Another popular dive spot on the island is the Elephant Head Rock, located between #7 Koh Hin Pousar and #8 Koh Similan. This spot is most suited for advanced divers as it tends to have stronger currents. So, make sure to check the water conditions first before deciding to jump.
Our Tip: Always snorkel with a buddy and stay within your comfort zone. Ensure that you book only licensed dive instructors as your guide.
The adventures in the Similan Islands go beyond the seas. The island is also blessed with lush jungles and hiking trails waiting to be explored.
The most popular trekking route is the Nguang Chang Bay to Horseshoe Bay on Island #8 Koh Similan. The trail is about 2.5 kilometers in total. Expect to encounter exotic birds, small monkeys, rare flower species, and many rattans and bamboo trees along the way, making it a perfect activity for nature lovers.
The Thai Navy’s abandoned lighthouse is a must-visit spot here. The viewpoint from the top gives you the most breathtaking scene over the turquoise-blue waters of Similan. Just make sure to seek permission from the park rangers.
Our tip: Apply insect repellant before embarking on your trail. Scratching an annoyingly itchy skin is not the most pleasurable way to get busy during a vacation.
For wildlife enthusiasts, bird watching in the Similan Islands is a delightful experience. The island has been classified as a "Grade A" park by Thailand's Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP).
So, it's no surprise that it is a haven for up to 120 bird species, some of which are endemic to the region. Keep an eye out for the Nicobar pigeon, Parasitic jaegers, and Roseate terns, among many others.
Island #3 (Koh Payan) is the primary nesting site of the Nicobar Pigeon. Their breeding season usually starts from mid-March onwards.
Our Tip: Early morning is the best time for bird watching. Observe silence, as birds can get easily distracted by unfamiliar noises.
If you want to chill and do nothing, sit back and relax on Similan's powdery, soft white sands and picturesque views. Spend undisturbed time sunbathing, building sand castles, or simply enjoying the tranquil ambiance. The beauty of these untouched beaches is a reminder of nature's unspoiled splendor.
Our Tip: Bring sunscreen, a wide-brim hat, and lots of water. It’s easy to get sun-scorched and dehydrated in the tropical climates.
Capturing the Sunset
The golden hour in the Similan Islands offers an exceptional canvas for photographers. As the sun slowly dips low, the island is covered with warm, golden hues that are just the perfect backdrop for stunning photographs.
Best Spots for Sunset Photography:
- Sail Rock: A hotspot for capturing the vibrant colors of the sky against unique rock formations.
- Koh Miang’s Beaches: Long stretches of white sand provide a serene setting for wide-angle sunset shots.
- Koh Similan’s Viewpoint: Offers a panoramic view of the archipelago, ideal for capturing the scale and beauty of the sunset.
Our Tip: Use a polarizing filter to enhance the natural colors and reduce glare from the water.
Accommodation in the Similan Islands
Unfortunately, staying overnight at the Similan Islands is not currently possible. It is part of the national park's effort to preserve the island by limiting the number of visitors. For accommodations near the Similan Islands, Khao Lak is the nearest famous tourist town, offering a variety of resorts.
For more updates, contact the Thai National Parks at +66 (0)76453272.
Responsible Tourism in Similan Islands
While the Similan Islands are renowned for their rich marine life and stunning coral reefs, over-tourism in the past years has left its ecosystem delicate. Even minor disruptions can have lasting impacts. Recognizing this fragility is the first step in responsible tourism.
What you can do to help preserve the Similar Islands:
- Reduce Plastic Usage: The ocean's health is threatened by plastic waste. Opt for reusable water bottles and bags. Many tour operators support this initiative, providing alternatives to single-use plastics.
- Coral Reef Protection: Never touch or stand on the coral reefs when snorkeling or diving. These living structures are easily damaged and take years to recover.
- No Litter Policy: Leave no trace. Ensure all trash is disposed of properly or returned to the mainland.
- Keep your Distance: Maintain a safe and appropriate distance from the islands' wild inhabitants. The island is their natural habitat - be respectful of their space.
Even as a tourist, YOUR ROLE MATTERS!
- When is Similan Islands open?
The park is open from October 15th to May 15th and closed during the rainy (monsoon) season. Visitor numbers are restricted to preserve the environment. During this period, the park's daily opening hours are from 8 AM to 4 PM.
- Is there an entrance fee at the Similan Islands National Park?
Yes, the Similan Islands National Park entrance fees are 500 Baht for adult international visitors and 250 Baht for children aged 3-14. Thai citizens pay reduced rates of 100 Baht and 50 Baht for adults and children, respectively.
- Is there a mobile phone reception on the Similan Islands?
Yes, there is mobile phone reception in the Similan Islands, but it is limited. Only certain service providers, specifically AIS, TrueMove, and DTAC, offer coverage in the area.
- Can I rent snorkeling or diving gear in the Similan Islands?
Yes, you can rent snorkeling and diving gear in the Similan Islands. Several tour operators and dive shops in the area, especially in nearby towns like Khao Lak and Phuket, provide rental services for such equipment.
- Are there any health facilities on the Similan Islands?
Unfortunately, there are no comprehensive health facilities directly on the Similan Islands. It's recommended that visitors bring basic first aid supplies and any necessary personal medications. In a medical emergency, assistance typically involves transportation back to the mainland, where medical facilities are available in nearby towns like Khao Lak and Phuket.
The Similan Islands, a tropical paradise near Phuket, offer an extraordinary blend of adventure and tranquility. Here, you can dive into crystal-clear waters, explore the vibrant marine and wildlife, or relax on unspoiled beaches.
As you conclude your visit, remember the importance of responsible tourism in preserving this natural wonder. Take the beautiful memories and leave only footprints behind, ensuring the Similan Islands remain a treasure for more years to come.