Thailand is home to some of the best snorkelling and diving sites in Asia. Whatever your level of experience, there are plenty of options if you’re looking for underwater adventures on your next holiday. And with a well-established infrastructure, snorkelling and diving in Thailand is excellent value for money and easy to arrange when you arrive. Thailand’s islands and warm tropical waters are ideal for snorkelling while serious divers are also well catered for with the chance to enjoy a live-aboard experience. To help inspire you for future trips, we’ve selected 12 of the best locations in Thailand for snorkelling and diving.
Sea turtle at the Similan Islands
Most tourists travelling through Chumphon are en route to the well-established locations of Ko Tao, Ko Pha Ngan and Ko Samui. But for those who are able to spend time in Chumphon, the colourful corals and diverse marine life found around the coastline and islands of Mu Ko Chumphon National Park make them a rewarding destination for snorkelers and divers. Ko Langka Jiew, Ko Ngam Yai, Ko Ngam Noi, Ko Ran Ped and Ko Ran Kai are all excellent choices for underwater adventures in Chumphon.
Ko Ngam Yai, Chumphon
Many of Thailand’s best-known diving and snorkelling locations can be found in the south of the country, but if you’re travelling to the East Coast there are some good options in the Ko Chang archipelago. Calm and relatively shallow waters around Ko Chang help make the island a solid option for novice divers. And for divers of all levels, there is the bonus of one of Thailand’s biggest wrecks with the Royal Thai Navy ship HTMS Chang scuttled here in 2012 to make an artificial reef.
Whale shark at HTMS Chang dive site, Ko Chang
The warm inviting waters of Ko Kradan are perfect for swimming and snorkelling. Part of the Hat Chao Mai National Park in Trang province, Ko Kradan is just over two miles long with a jungle-clad interior and soft sandy beaches. There are no roads on the island, but there are a couple of resorts where you can stay if you want to snorkel and enjoy the serenity. The island is also notable for its association with the Trang Underwater Wedding Ceremony with the waters near Ko Kradan being chosen to host this unique event in Thailand’s festival calendar.
The laidback island of Ko Lanta makes a great base to enjoy the abundance of diving and snorkelling options nearby. Stand-out locations in the vicinity of Ko Lanta include Ko Haa, a group of five small islands with a lagoon that is perfect for novice divers. There are also fantastic spots here for more experienced divers with the chance of seeing manta rays, leopard sharks, and whale sharks.
Leopard shark and yellowtail snapper at Hin Bida, Ko Lanta
One of the more popular snorkelling excursions from Ko Lanta is a four island tour which includes visits to Ko Chuek, Ko Kradan, Ko Mook and Ko Ngai. Ko Mook is the location of the famous Tham Marokot (Emerald Cave), a highlight for many travellers.
Ko Lipe is another fantastic Thai island to visit for anybody who enjoys snorkelling. In the clear waters around the diminutive island you will be able to spot lots of colourful marine life. And staying on Ko Lipe enables you to not only enjoy island life, but is also an ideal base to explore more of the Tarutao National Marine Park and snorkel in the waters at neighbouring Ko Adang and other nearby islands.
Ko Lipe as seen from the viewpoint on Ko Adang
Ko Pha Ngan
The shallow waters and reefs around Ko Pha Ngan are ideal for snorkelling newbies. The island is also a solid choice for anybody seeking to learn how to scuba dive. And with Ko Pha Ngan situated in between the other Gulf Coast islands of Ko Samui and Ko Tao, staying here gives you handy access to numerous diving and snorkelling sites including Sail Rock and Ang Thong Marine Park.
Had Khuad (Bottle Beach), Ko Pha Ngan
Ko Tao is one of the premier locations in Thailand for both diving and snorkelling. For experienced divers, Chumphon Pinnacle is a fabulous spot with frequent whale shark sightings. And if you would like to learn how to dive or get PADI certified, Ko Tao is one of the best places in Asia to do it. If you aren’t a diver but would still like to enjoy the underwater delights of Ko Tao, you won’t have to venture far from any of the beaches on the island to find excellent snorkelling conditions with a variety of marine life at locations including Jansome Bay, Mango Bay and Tanote Bay.
Learning to dive near Ko Nang Yuan, Ko Tao
Don’t miss the chance to visit neighbouring Ko Nang Yuan, a trio of small islands connected by a sandbar. The shallow reef here is formed of different corals and offers some good snorkelling. If you visit Ko Nang Yuan, take time out of the water to walk up to the viewpoint and appreciate the natural beauty from above.
With a number of dive schools in Ao Nang and proximity to the Phi Phi Islands and Ko Lanta, Krabi is another good choice for divers. And with a variety of picturesque islands dotted around the Krabi coastline, this area of the Andaman Coast is fabulous for snorkelling too.
Snorkelling at Ko Poda, Krabi
Phi Phi Islands
With dazzling beaches and sparkling seas, the Phi Phi Islands are one of the most scenic locations in Thailand for snorkelling. The islands have suffered from over-tourism in the past, but pre-Covid there were already plans to reverse the trend, limit visitor numbers and encourage more responsible tourism. The closure of Phi Phi Leh to tourists has been positive news for marine life with black-tip reef sharks spotted at Maya Bay.
Phi Phi Islands
Thailand’s largest island is a great base for snorkelling and diving excursions. On Phuket itself, Kata Beach is one of the best locations for snorkelling. A short boat ride away from the Phuket, the twin islands of Ko Racha Yai and Ko Racha Noi are another good option. And for divers, Phuket’s location offers convenient access to some superb dive sites including those around Ko Lanta in addition to the Similan Islands and Surin Islands.
Ko Racha Yai near Phuket
The Similan Islands are a group of islands which are part of the protected Mu Ko Surin National Park. The area originally included nine islands (Similan means nine in a Malay dialect), but the islands of Ko Bon and Ko Tachai are now also included within the boundaries of the National Park.
Snorkelling at the Similan Islands
The islands are perfect for snorkelling and diving and can be accessed from either Khao Lak or Phuket. Marine life regularly spotted amongst the corals around the Similan Islands includes barracudas, leopard sharks, moray eels, and sea turtles.
Five islands make up the Surin Islands with Ko Surin Nuea and Ko Surin Tai the two biggest. As with the Similan Islands, the waters here are regarded as some of the best in Thailand for both snorkelling and scuba diving with divers often able to see whale sharks amongst the angelfish and parrotfish at Richelieu Rock. If you are a keen diver, specialist dive companies such as Dive Worldwide can arrange trips for you, including live-aboards.
Snorkelling at the Surin Islands
Good to know
Different weather patterns affect the Gulf of Thailand and Andaman Sea, but it’s possible to find a location to dive or snorkel in any month of the year. In the Andaman Sea, the best conditions for snorkelling and diving are from November-April. Please note that some locations on the Andaman Coast (e.g. the Similan Islands and Surin Islands) are closed to visitors from mid-May to mid-October. However, over on the Gulf Coast (Ko Samui, Ko Tao, Ko Pha Ngan), May to August is regarded as the best time to dive or snorkel with calm sea conditions and excellent visibility.
Wherever you decide to go, please support responsible tourism and respect the marine life and don’t step on or touch the coral. Even seemingly small things like choosing a reef safe sunscreen can make a difference.