About Similan Islands
The Similan Islands is an archipelago of 11 islands in the Andaman sea off the west coast of southern Thailand.
The Similan Islands are part of Mu Ko Similan National Park and one of Thailand’s most beautiful places.
Did you know? Similan in the Yawi language (a Malay dialect) means the number 9 because the national park originally consisted of 9 islands. And the Ko Tachai and Ko Bon islands were only added to the list of a total of 11 islands later.
With its white sandy beaches, crystal clear turquoise sea, and beautiful granite rock formations, Similan Islands are one of Thailand’s top things to do.
Return transfer to Phuket and national park fees may not be included in the price of all Similan Islands tours, so please check that beforehand.
The entrance fee to Similan Islands National Park in 2023 is 500 THB (around $14) for foreign adults and 250 THB for children.
What to expect for your visit to the Similan Islands
In 2018, the Similan Islands’ visitor numbers were limited to 3850 people per day, and then further down to 3325 visitors per day. Before that, over 7000 visitors were seen daily on Similan Islands, which heavily affected the nature of the islands.
Please keep in mind that this is a VERY popular place in Thailand. And there will always be people around you, no matter where you go.
The only way to avoid the biggest crowds at the big Similan Island, where the Sailrock is, is to hire a private boat or go on the early bird day trip. We will talk more about this further down in the guide.
Other than that, snorkeling spots will be visited by at least 2 or 3 boats at the same time. But you can still avoid the crowd in the water, and it’s not as bad.
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Best time to visit Similan Islands
The best time to visit Similan Islands is anytime during the season, between the 15th of October and the 15th of May.
Similan Islands are closed from 15th May to 15th October, and it’s impossible to visit during that period.
This is to preserve the national park’s nature and for safety reasons, as monsoon season slowly starts and the sea gets rougher.
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How to visit Similan Islands: Day Trip, Overnight, Multi-day
You can get to Similan Islands from Phuket or Khao Lak on an organized day trip or multi-day trip on a liveaboard diving boat.
The return transfer from Phuket and Khao Lak is often included in the tour price, but if not, it’s not a high extra cost.
1. Day trip
A day trip to the Similan Islands is the most common and convenient way to see these beautiful islands above and underwater.
There are a few different options for a day trip, as you can join one of the well-known and trusted shared boat tours or book a private boat which gives you a bit more flexibility and a lot more comfort.
The shared boat trip to the Similan Islands costs between 80 and 120 USD, and you can do it from Phuket or Khao Lak.
A more comfortable way to enjoy a day around the Similan Islands is by booking a private boat for about 1500 USD, which can fit up to 15 passengers. Hence, it’s incredibly convenient and a great deal for families and groups.
We highly recommend the 5 Star Marine Private Similan Islands Trip.
2. Overnight trip
2023 UPDATE: You can no longer stay on land at any island part of the Similan Islands National Park.
Most articles online still have outdated information about being able to stay at different spots in Similan Islands, but it hasn’t been like that for years already.
There used to be bungalows and some tents available on the other islands. But they were demolished a few years back. And the bungalows on Koh Miang, which were the last operational accommodation options, are also no longer functioning.
You can only stay overnight at Similan Islands on a liveaboard boat anchored off the shore.
If you wish to stay overnight on an equally beautiful island, check out the Surin Islands Overnight Trip north of Similan.
Also read: Surin Islands Day Trip
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3. Liveaboard multi-day diving trip
Similan Islands are one of the most famous diving areas in the world, and there are a lot of liveaboard boats making multi-day diving trips from Khao Lak and Phuket.
Most of the liveaboard trips to the Similan Islands last between 4 and 6 nights and visit all the excellent diving spots of Similan.
While we haven’t been to one of these before, we can’t wait to finish our diving course to join one. We can only imagine how great it is to wake up to the sight of the Similan Islands.
Here are some of our recommended liveaboard trips:
While the liveaboard boats primarily focus on diving, most are snorkeling-friendly and can accommodate non-divers and beginner divers.
Please note that liveaboard trips to Similan Islands stop operating from May 15th until October 15th since they also have to adhere to the regulations of the national park.
How much does it cost to visit Similan Islands?
A day trip to Similan Islands costs between 80 and 120 USD, and a multi-day liveaboard diving trip costs about 900 USD for 4-6 nights.
Do you need to book your Similan Islands tour in advance?
Yes, we highly recommend everyone wishing to visit Similan Islands book their tour in advance, as the visitor numbers are limited.
Top things to do in Similan Islands
The top things to do in Similan Islands are snorkeling and diving in the clear waters while observing the magnificent marine life and bathing on the beautiful white sand beaches.
The excellent visibility in the waters of the Similan Islands means there’s plenty of opportunity for some great snorkeling.
There are many snorkeling spots around the islands, and you can visit a few on a day trip.
But remember, don’t touch anything, as it’s very delicate, and we need to protect as much of the underwater world as possible. And another thing to remember is that touching corals can give you some nasty rashes and allergic reactions. So yep, better not do it.
The Similan Islands offer some of the best diving experiences in the world with its warm, crystal-clear waters and moderate currents. With visibility up to 30 meters, Similan Islands are a paradise for divers.
The marine life is rich in Similan Islands, and you can see almost all the fascinating Southeast Asia’s marine species like whale sharks, manta rays, black tip reef sharks, turtles, rays, and lots more.
Though what you will see depends on the month you visit and your luck, as it’s never a certainty. But no matter your luck, you will see some fascinating marine life in the waters around Similan Islands. That’s for sure.
Hopping aboard a liveaboard trip is the best way to dive in Similan Islands.
3. Relax on the beaches
The beaches of the Similan Islands are something out of a dream, and we could see ourselves spending days on end just relaxing there (if it was possible).
4. Hiking to Sail Rock Viewpoint at Donald Duck Bay
There aren’t many hills to conquer at Similan Islands.
And the only hill you will likely be able to visit (if the weather permits) is the Sail Rock Viewpoint which you can hike up to from Donald Duck Bay at Similan Island.
Both Sail Rock Viewpoint and Donald Duck Bay are the icons of Similan Islands, seen on many postcards and most promotional material.
During our visit, it was raining in the early morning. So the rocks at the viewpoint were too slippery, and the hike up was not permitted.
Regulations of Mu Ko Similan National Park
While the coral reefs around Similan Islands aren’t the healthiest in Thailand, they are slowly improving. We love that there’s lots of effort and measures taken to protect the corals and nature of Similan Islands.
We are happy to see the tour operators take part in reminding visitors at the beginning of the tours not to step on the coral, touch anything, feed the fish, or take anything (like shells and similar). These basic guidelines are easily understood, but many people still don’t know this.
Below is a list of the most important things to remember for your visit.
1. Do not use sunscreen with harmful chemicals that damage coral reefs!
It is encouraged to apply only reef-safe sunscreen, and there are educational boards across the park about the damage regular sunscreens do.
The key ingredients you want to avoid in sunscreen are Oxybenzone and Octinoxate, which are known to be the most destructive to reefs. In addition, there’s also 4-Methylbenzylid Camphor and Butylparaben.
These ingredients are also harmful to you, not just marine life!
Read more: Environmental effects of sunscreen (Wikipedia)
Important to know: If you put sunscreen on your body right before entering the water, it can wash off completely, so you won’t be protected, and you can further damage ocean life. Doing it at least 20 minutes before getting into the water is advised.
2. Do not bring single-use plastic and foam boxes!
All national parks in Thailand enforce the rule about single-use plastic and foam boxes, and it’s the same in Similan Islands to protect nature from even more plastic.
3. Do not feed the wildlife
No wildlife feeding is allowed on Similan Islands, as it disrupts the natural process.
4. Smoking is only permitted in designated areas
One of the best rules on Similan Islands is definitely that smoking is only permitted in designated areas on the island.
This protects the beach from countless cigarette butts everywhere. And it protects people who don’t smoke from unwanted smoke exposure.
5. Do not fly drones
You can’t fly a drone at Similan Islands if you don’t get a permit from the National Park beforehand.
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What to pack for a trip to Similan Islands?
The main things you need to pack for the Similan Islands day tour:
- Reef safe sunscreen
- Quick-dry Towel
- Bathing suit
- Dry clothes (use code SHIPPEDAWAY for 10% at Unbound Merino)
- Waterproof bag
- Waterproof phone pouch
- Action camera (GoPro with a waterproof case or Osmo Action)
Boats, especially speedboats, get wet, if not from water splashing inside, then from constantly going in and out of the water, especially on snorkeling trips.
Most people were using waterproof phone pouches with their phones instead of action cameras, which works perfectly fine.
Are the Similan Islands worth visiting?
Similan Islands are a must-visit place for the powdery white sand beaches, clear turquoise water, rich marine life, and some of the most stunning scenery in Thailand.
While Similan Islands can be very crowded, and the trip from Phuket is quite tiring, we loved it! And we can highly recommend it.
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