Imagine Koh Phi Phi before The Beach – only smaller, harder to get to, more beautiful! The Similan Islands, group of 11 islands (originally 9 islands plus 2 recently added ones) around 50 miles to the northwest of Phuket, have some of the most arresting island landscapes that Thailand has to offer. The islands are no longer the secret adventure they used to be, but they still offer secluded beaches, uninterrupted photo chances and spectacular diving trips.
What do they offer?
The Similan Islands feel like the Thailand of a few decades ago. With its breathtaking landscape both on land and under the clear turquoise waters of the Andaman Sea, the Similan Islands are a perfect place to roll out your beach towel and soak in the sun, park your boat or yacht, snorkel the rich reefs, or dive below the surface and swim with amazing colorful marine life.
From a topographical aspect the most eye-catching characteristic of these islands are the massive rocks that are scattered on the western and southern coasts. These towering boulders, some as big as houses, are a marvel unto themselves. However, the island’s best feature is the mostly deserted, spectacular white sand beaches. There are no lines of lounge beds, no gaudy umbrellas interrupting the natural shades of sea, sand and jungle, no uniformed wait staff with trays of cool towels and cold water. The most sophisticated buildings in the entire archipelago are the handful of wooden bungalows for overnight stays, a few local restaurants and the ranger stations, all set back from the beach mid-jungle. It is a total contrast to the popular getaway of Phuket!
Despite combining 11 islands, you can only step foot on the white-sand beaches of Koh Miang (known as island #4), and the largest island Koh Similan (known as island #8). Close to the Burmese border, Richelieu Rock is one of the world’s best dive sites and whale shark territory (February-April is the best time to spot them).
How and when to get there?
Getting to the islands are a bit challenging but worth the effort. Having no regular boat service, the best bet for visitors is to hire a boat from Thap Lamu (Tablamu, Tap Lamu) port, just south of Khao Lak in Phang Nga province, which is the closest launching point to Similan. Expect about a 3-hour trip! Alternatively, for people who want to save time for a day trip, speed boats are available. It’s fun for 5 minutes while you are still in the calm waters but it might become a real roller coaster ride during the rest of 65 minutes so you might want to take some motion-sickness pill in advance.
During the diving season liveaboard boats also head to the Similan Islands. These dive boats depart and return from Thap Lamu, Ko Lanta, Phuket, and Ranong and stay for several days at Similan National Marine Park.
The Similan Islands are usually from November 1st to May 15th. Time varies each year so always check before planning a day out there.
Staying overnight instead of a day trip?
If the long transfer to Similan Islands is too much for you to return in the same day, Island #4 is where you can choose to spend the night in a tent or in an air-conditioned bungalow. Nothing really fancy, but you get your own (cold) shower and bathroom, a balcony with possibly a sea view, and the luxury of cool air in the hot days. Please note that you have to book in advance for both tents and bungalows, it would be unwise not to.
Feeling tempted? Check out our inspiring journeys to Similan Islands and more trips across 10 Asian countries.