The Similan Islands have gained international attention for being some of the most beautiful in Thailand! While there are certainly no shortage of amazing tropical destinations spread across the country, we found the Similan Islands to be extremely unique. Here’s everything you need to know about taking a Similan Islands tour, helpful tips from our day trip, and exactly how to get to there!
About the Similan Islands
The Similan Islands are located 65 km off the coast of Southern Thailand. The 9 islands are known for their tropical white sand beaches, crystal clear water, turtle conservation, and colorful marine life.
You should know right off the bat that three of the Similan Islands are actually dedicated to the turtle conservation. This means you aren’t actually able to visit them on a normal day trip! The islands you can see are part of the protected National Park. For this reason, you’ll need to go on an actual Similan Islands tour to experience them.
Another fun fact you might not know is that the Similan Islands act as the maritime border between Thailand and India. Since 1982, the Similan Islands have served as a National Park that travelers travel to from Phuket, Khao Lak, and other popular holiday spots.
Similan Islands vs Surin Islands
When looking into the area, it’s important to point out that that Similan and Surin Islands are actually two different sets. You can’t do them in the same day trip, but it’s easy to book a tour boat to each from the beach town of Khao Lak.
After staying at La Flora Resort & Spa we found out they work with Wow Andaman to run Similan Island tours right from their beach! Personally, we visited the Similan Islands because we received glowing recommendations from our friends.
Yet, before our recent visit we had never heard them mentioned among the famous islands like Koh Phi Phi or Phuket. Hopefully, by the end of this article you’ll see that they’re totally worth the day trip!
How to Get to the Similan Islands in Thailand
Believe it or not, it has taken us 5 visits to Thailand before we did a Similan Islands tour! This is a massive mistake and one that you hopefully won’t make on your own trip now.
One reason that we never had visited the Similan Islands is because it’s an extremely far day trip from Phuket. Still, even if you are staying in the South in Kata or the popular Nai Harn Beach you’ll see tours advertised.
The problem is that the car ride from Southern Phuket to Khao Lak (where the tours leave from) is over a 2 hour drive. So in addition to the hour and a half speed boat ride from Khao Lak it’s an extremely long day of travel.
Staying in Khao Lak Thailand
This leads us to our next point! Khao Lak is the easiest place to visit the Similan Islands in Thailand from. This beautiful beach town is just north of Thailand’s largest island, and only an hour drive from the Phuket International Airport.
It’s known for its stunning beaches and as the jump off point for the Surin and Similan Islands. We actually did this trip as part of our 10 day route between Phuket, Khao Lak, and Khao Sok National Park.
Considering a holiday to Phuket, but want to add a little fun and adventure to your itinerary? A Similan Islands tour from Khao Lak is one of the best ways to do so!
Morning of Our Similan Islands Trip
We were staying at La Flora Khao Lak, a beautiful resort right on Bang Niang Beach. This was super convenient because it’s also where the private dock for Wow Andaman boat tours is located. Waking up around 7am, we got ready and headed off to have breakfast at the hotel before meeting our group!
One of the best things about staying at La Flora Resort & Spa is how easy it is to get to the Similan Islands! Definitely check this hotel out if you’re heading to the Khao Lak area.
Weather Warning & Ocean Crossing
Between the beaches of Khao Lak and the Similan Islands is roughly 65 km. Even though you’re on a speed boat, know that it still will take a little while. If the ocean conditions are perfect the trip should be about 1 hour and 15 minutes. However, if the currents or weather aren’t on your side it could take a bit longer.
The morning we took off it was rainy and overcast. The ride to the Similan Islands took just over an hour, while the ride back was closer to 1.5 hours. In all honesty this may not be a great trip for those who are prone to seasickness. Everyone on the boat was feeling the effects of the rocking ocean, but thankfully no one got sick!
Exploring the Similan Islands
We loved that our tour included multiple stops in the Similan Islands. The guide for Wow Andaman had the islands numbered so we could tell where we were headed next. The first stop was at Princess Beach which is extremely beautiful with soft white stand. When we swam in the water we couldn’t believe how clear the ocean was.
The first hour at the beach was the perfect about of time to relax, enjoy a dip in the water, and take a stroll after being on the boat. Unsurprisingly, one of the most popular things to do on the Similan Islands is snorkeling. Throughout our day we stopped at 3 different spots that were all fun and unique.
We love snorkeling in Thailand and always see amazing fish! At the second place, we even saw a HUGE sea turtle. As we mentioned, 3 of the islands are part of the turtle conservation site. So while it’s not uncommon to see a turtle you still have to be somewhat lucky. Besides the turtles, we saw a group of squid, clownfish, blue tang, and lots of other colorful sea creatures.
Lunch on Similan Island
While they are part of the Similan Islands, the most famous of them all is simply called “Similan” which was island #8. Our Similan Islands tour planned the trip so we were actually arriving here when all the other boats were leaving.
This meant we had about an hour and a half by ourselves before more groups arrived. Lunch was a set of mixed seafood items. All the food is prepared in advance, so if you don’t eat seafood make sure to tell them when you book the tour for a vegetarian option.
Similan Island Viewpoint Hike
The snorkeling was fantastic, but our favorite part of the day was the hike up to the Sailboat Rock Viewpoint. If you’ve ever seen photos of the Similan Islands then you may already know this spot! It’s the famous view over the beach where you can see the sparkling Similan Island water from above.
The steep climb took us around 10 minutes and is made up of a mixture of rocks, dirt, and manmade wooden steps. At the top we were surprised to see how slanted the rocks were and that there are no guardrails for support.
Due to this, it’s super important to pay attention to your guide and the park rangers. When it rains the hike is closed because it’s too slippery and we can easily see why. Still, if the weather is okay then don’t miss out on the quick hike up. These views are unreal and it will be the perfect end to your Similan Islands Thailand trip.
Have any questions about this article or want to share your own tips for visiting the Similan Islands in Thailand? Let us know in the comments below.
Brigitte & Jake
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Thailand Travel Planning
Transportation: While traveling through Thailand 12Go is where we find all our ferries, trains, buses, and transfers! You can find everything from island hopping speed boats to the night train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Tours: Check out Get Your Guide to find activities all over Phuket! You can find everything from a James Bond island luxury sunset cruise, to Phuket Old Town 15-taster food adventure, and 5-hour island tour!
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without protection. We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.
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