About Surin Islands
The Surin Islands are home to some of Thailand’s best snorkeling locations.
Wide stretches of coral reefs in crystal clear shallow turquoise sea and a rich underwater world make Surin Islands one of Thailand’s top places to visit.
The Surin Islands is an archipelago of 5 islands in the Andaman Sea in southern Thailand, near the Thai-Burmese sea border.
The five islands are Ko Surin Nuea, Ko Surin Tai, Ko Ri, Ko Kai, and Ko Klang.
The most famous and most visited islands of the Mu Ko Surin National Park are Ko Surin Nuea, where the park’s headquarters and accommodation are, and the Ko Surin Tai island, where the Moken Village is.
A day trip from Phuket or Khao Lak is the best way to see the highlights of the Surin Islands in a short time.
We visited on a day trip with a shared Surin Islands tour from Phuket. So here’s our review and everything you need to know for your visit.
TIP: Did you know you can also do a multi-day trip and stay on Surin Islands? It’s what we plan to do on our return!
Entrance fee for Surin Islands National Park
The entrance fee to Surin Islands National Park in 2023 is 500 THB (around $14) for foreign adults and 300 THB (around $9) for children.
Most day trips to the Surin Islands from Phuket or Khao Lak have a similar itinerary, so here’s what it generally looks like.
Surin Islands Day Trip itinerary:
- Early morning hotel pick up
- Breakfast and briefing at the pier in Khao Lak
- 1 hour and 20 minutes speedboat drive to the Surin Islands
- 1st snorkeling spot at Chong Kad Channel
- Moken Village visit
- Buffet lunch in the national park restaurant
- 2nd snorkeling sport at Bon Bay or Mae Yai Bay
- 3rd snorkeling stop at Pineapple Bay or Turtle Bay
- Drive back to the pier
- Snacks for the end of the tour
- Transfer back to the hotel
*Note that the itinerary might change slightly depending on the weather and sea conditions.
1. Snorkeling at Chong Kad Channel
Our first snorkeling stop at Surin Islands was absolutely amazing! So many schools of fish everywhere around.
We saw so many different fish that we hadn’t seen before, and before coming to Surin, we had snorkeled around Similan, Phi Phi, Krabi, and Koh Kood already.
The reefs weren’t too deep, and we had excellent visibility, so it was easy to snorkel around and see everything.
2. Visiting Moken Village
Moken people are the only inhabitants of the Surin Islands. Today there are around 95 families still living in Moken village, the only settlement of Surin.
Moken is an ethnic minority known as ‘sea gypsies’ or sea nomads living in wooden stilt houses at Ao Bon Beach at Ko Surin Tai. They speak their own language and have their own unique culture.
Interestingly, Moken people have fantastic swimming and water skills, especially children who can see underwater with their eyes wide open.
Today Moken people earn a living primarily by making and selling souvenirs to tourists and fishing.
If you want to support their community, consider purchasing some souvenirs they sell.
The stop at Moken village lasts only around 30 minutes, and you can learn more about their culture and way of life in the visitors center.
Tip: Although it’s common for people to visit in bathing suits, we would recommend putting some clothes on out of respect.
There are a lot of cute cats in the village, but we were warned not to touch them as they tend to bite sometimes, and they’re not vaccinated. However, they seemed really playful.
Our favorite moment was seeing them run towards the locals that were returning home from the sea. So cute! They seemed more like dogs than cats. 😁
3. Lunch at the National Park Restaurant
Thai buffet lunch is served in the national park’s restaurant at Ko Surin Nuea.
If you have any dietary restrictions, let your tour operator know before your day trip so they can arrange a special lunch for you.
We got a vegetarian meal which was basic, but good and filling!
4. Beach time at Chong Kat Bay
After lunch, you can enjoy the beautiful beach on the island’s Chong Kat Bay.
The beach at the headquarters is a bit different from beaches in the nearby Similan Islands as it’s not as “powdery,” and one side of the island has more emerald green water. However, the scenery is absolutely gorgeous!
And the beach was much less busy than the one in Similan!
We chilled on the other side of the island, which was super quiet with only us there. 😀
We loved our time here! And it was one of the best beaches in Thailand we’ve been to.
While on the island, you should also check out the chicken rock formation. It’s quite an attraction here. 😀
5. Snorkeling at Bon Bay or Mae Yai Bay
The snorkeling spots at Bon Bay and Mae Yai Bay are popular and loved by many, as you can spot many Nemos (clownfish).
We didn’t find many clownfish at this spot, but it was incredible either way.
Like our first snorkeling spot, it had many fish and beautiful coral reefs, and our time here passed quickly as we were constantly surprised to see something new and exciting.
6. Snorkeling at Pineapple Bay or Turtle Bay
The last snorkeling spot of our day trip was at Pineapple Bay, and it was incredible! It had so many different reef formations with many fish.
It combined shallow and deeper parts, which we loved!
According to our guide, this was the most beautiful snorkeling spot of the day! And we definitely agree!
7. Observing the wildlife of the Surin Islands
You can see plenty of wildlife and marine life on and around Surin Islands, like many species of fish, different corals, turtles, monitor lizards, flying foxes, squirrels, macaques, and more.
Surin Islands, like Similan Islands, are also home to the Nicobar pigeon, a magnificent bird.
We didn’t manage to see one in Surin, but we did see a few at the headquarters of Similan Islands on Koh Miang Island.
If you encounter them, please do not disturb them, as they may migrate otherwise.
And you can also sometimes see the monitor lizards, but we didn’t see one. So here’s a photo from Melaka for reference.
Pig-tailed Macaque is another exciting inhabitant of the island. However, the biggest chance to see them is if you stay overnight.
IMPORTANT: Do NOT feed wild animals! That changes their behavior and can cause problems in the long term.
What to expect on a Surin Islands day trip
A day trip to Surin Islands is perfect for anyone who loves beautiful beaches, snorkeling, and enjoys the underwater world.
Unlike the Similan Islands Day Trip, this one focuses almost entirely on snorkeling. So if taking nice photos on the sandy beaches is your preference, the Similan Islands day tour is a better option for you.
That being said, Surin Islands also have fantastic beaches, but they are a bit different, as the sand is not that powdery. But still very beautiful!
The trip was well worth it, and it was one of our most memorable experiences and favorite snorkeling trips in Thailand. But it was quite tiring. We got picked up from our hotel in Phuket before 6 am, returned to the pier in Khao Lak at 5 pm, and returned to Phuket around 8 pm. So it’s a lot.
An easier option is to go on the Surin Islands Day Trip from Khao Lak, as you don’t need to start your day as early.
Also, please note that the speedboat ride can be bumpy if the sea is rough. Surin Islands are pretty far from the mainland, so it takes around 1 hour and 20 minutes of a speedboat drive to reach the first stop.
Lunch is served inside the Mu Ko Surin National Park restaurant, and it is basic but tasty. It usually includes a seafood buffet, but you can inform them of any dietary restrictions beforehand so they can organize it for you. We had vegetarian meals.
Choosing between a private and shared Surin Islands tour
We took a shared Surin Islands boat tour from Phuket, and there’s also an option to take a tour from Khao Lak.
Shared Surin Islands snorkeling tours are the most affordable, and how 99% of travelers visit the islands.
There is also a private Surin Islands Tour from Khao Lak that you can book online. The private tour takes you first on a shared speedboat to the islands, and then you board a private longtail boat and explore around according to your preferred schedule.
Private Surin Islands tours allow for a more flexible schedule and private experience, but they’re pretty pricey and uncommon.
But if you want to experience Surin Islands to the fullest, we recommend the Surin multi-day tour, or if you’re a diver, a Similan & Surin Liveaboard trip.
The day tours show you all the highlights of Surin, but a multi-day tour would allow you to enjoy the area more. And see some more incredible snorkeling spots you don’t see on a day trip.
Are the Surin Islands worth visiting?
Surin Islands are absolutely worth visiting, as they have some of the best spots for snorkeling and diving in Thailand. The clear turquoise water, rich marine life, and some of the most stunning scenery make it one of the best places to visit in Thailand.
We highly recommend visiting Suring Islands, especially if you love snorkeling/diving! We loved it so much that the next time we want to go on a multi-day or liveaboard trip there.
What is the price of the Surin Islands day tour?
The price of the Surin Islands Day Tour from Phuket or Khao Lak is between 90 and 120 USD per person for the shared boat trip.
An overnight trip to Surin Islands from Phuket or Khao Lak costs about 230 USD.
A Surin Islands private tour costs around 250 USD per person, and the price drops as you add more people to the tour.
Do you need to book your Surin Islands tour in advance?
Yes, we highly recommend everyone wishing to visit Surin Islands book their tour in advance, as visitor numbers are limited.
What does the Surin Islands day tour include?
While there are some differences between the companies that offer day tours to Surin Islands, they generally include the same things.
Our Surin Islands day tour included:
- Return transfer from our hotel
- Breakfast at the pier
- Snorkeling equipment (mask & fins)
- Professional guide
- Fresh fruits onboard
- Water and soft drinks
- Lunch (vegetarian and vegan options available)
- Snacks at the end of the tour
We highly recommend taking the fins before departure from the pier. It will make your snorkeling so much easier, especially if the sea is rougher, as you can move around quicker and without getting as tired.
The hotel pickup for the Surin Islands Day Trip is around 6 am from Phuket and around 7 am from Khao Lak.
Return transfer to Phuket and national park fees may not be included in the price of all Surin Islands day tours, so please check that beforehand.
What to pack for the Surin Islands day tour?
The main things you need to pack for the Surin 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)
Most people were using waterproof phone pouches with their phones instead of action cameras, which also work perfectly fine.
We have a waterproof backpack that was very useful for our island hopping trips in Thailand and kayaking or beach days. We can fit our camera and drone inside and feel safe.
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.
Best time to visit Surin Islands
The best time to visit Surin Islands is anytime during the season, between the 15th of October and the 15th of May.
Surin 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.
Regulations of Mu Ko Surin National Park
We are happy to see the tour operators taking 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 Surin Islands to protect nature from even more plastic.
3. Do not feed the wildlife
No wildlife feeding is allowed on Surin Islands, as it disrupts the natural process.
4. Smoking is only permitted in designated areas
One of the best rules on Surin Islands is, without a doubt, that smoking is only permitted in designated areas on the island. This protects the beach from countless cigarette butts everywhere and people who don’t smoke from unwanted smoke exposure.
5. Do not fly drones
You can’t fly a drone at Surin Islands if you don’t get a permit from the National Park beforehand.
Can you stay overnight on Surin Islands?
You can stay overnight on Surin Islands at the Ko Surin Nuea island in a simple bungalow or tent.
The easiest way to stay overnight is on an organized multi-day Surin Islands trip.
We hope we inspired you to visit Surin Islands and that you will have a blast on a day of exploring this beautiful part of Thailand.
We absolutely loved our time there!
> Click here to book your Surin Islands trip <