No matter you are a hobbyist or professional underwater explorer, I’m sure you will see lots of beauty while snorkeling in Thailand. The countries’ both coastlines, the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea offer numerous places to stay at where ocean fanatics can enjoy rich marine life including vibrant coral reefs, turtles and sharks. From Koh Tao through Phuket to Koh Lipe, here we list the Top 10 spots that are worth to visit on your next holiday!
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Top 10 Thailand snorkeling places
Koh Tao is definitely our top recommendation if it comes to snorkeling in Thailand. This little island in the Gulf of Thailand is famous for its colorful coral reefs and various marine life. The secluded bays are important breeding fields of Hawksbill and Green sea turtles, moreover, there is a remarkable blacktip reef shark population living in the surrounding waters, so you can easily see one or even more while snorkeling. If this wouldn’t be enough, you may spot a whale shark too here!
Our personal favorites are the Janson Bay, Sai Nuan Beach, Shark Island and Hing Wong Bay, but thanks to the island’s characteristic, once can find corals at almost all beaches. To learn where to see turtles and sharks, read our complete Koh Tao snorkel guide.
Tip: If you are looking for more great snorkeling in the area, add the neighboring island, Phangan to your travel itinerary too! Koh Phangan’s snorkel spots are shallow and easily accessible, therefore are perfect for beginners and for kids too.
Thailand’s largest island, Phuket is still one of the most visited destinations thanks to the good flight connections and transfer options, excellent seaside resorts, various activity options and of course, great beaches.
Some might think that the corals get completely destroyed due to the tsunami in 2004 and mass tourism, but surprisingly there are still some excellent beaches to snorkel such as the Ao Sane or Ya Nui. To know exactly what beaches we recommend to visit, see our where to snorkel in Phuket article.
Phi Phi Islands
Koh Phi Phi Don, Koh Phi Phi Le and some smaller islands such as Bida Nok Bida Nai and Bamboo Island form Thailand’s most popular island group that became world-famous after the movie, The Beach starring Leonardo DiCaprio. The Phi Phi’s are reachable from Krabi and Phuket by long-tail and speedboats.
Unfortunately, the increased tourism resulted in environmental degradation and also the tsunami damaged the surrounding reefs, but the Phi Phi Islands still shouldn’t be overseen if it comes to snorkeling in Thailand. The general day trip tours beaches don’t have good corals, but the reefs are in better condition on the east coast of Ko Phi Phi Don and in the Had Yao – Long Beach area.
Ngai is a little island south of Koh Lanta that is famous for its pretty beaches and superb coral reefs. It is accessible with long-tail boats and speedboats both from Krabi and Trang.
Don’t except partying or shopping here, there is no roads, shops and bars on Koh Ngai but a few resorts with cozy restaurants that make the location perfect for family holidays and couple getaways. A great place to disconnect, relax, enjoy nature, hiking, kayaking and snorkeling!
A little south of Ngai, there is another small resort island, Koh Kradan that is worth to visit too! It is a quiet place with healthy corals that are easily accessible from the beautiful long sandy beach.
Most island-hopping trips departing from Koh Lanta include a stop at Koh Kradan, but we believe that the island is worth a longer visit too! If your travel itinerary allows, spend 1-2 nights in one of the friendly resorts and discover the reef that runs parallel to the main beach.
The twin Rok Islands, Rok Nok and Rok Nai lies 30 km south of Koh Lanta and are part of the Mu Ko Lanta National Park. Brilliant white-sandy beaches and clear waters attract thousands of visitors in each season and offer some of the best snorkeling in Thailand. The thriving underwater world welcomes divers and snorkelers with healthy coral reefs, turtles, moray eels, reef sharks besides the usual tropical fish species.
There is no public ferry service to Koh Rok, you can get there by speedboat or long-tail boat from Koh Lanta or from the nearby islands (Ngai, Kradan or Koh Mook).
This group of 5 small islands lies about 20 km far from Koh Lanta. They are also part of the Mu Ko Lanta Marine National Park and open for visitors in the dry season only (usually from November to May). Thanks to this strict protection, marine life can recover in the off-season.
The corals are in top condition here and one can observe rare species such as the leafy ghost pipefish. On top of these, there is a high chance to spot pelagic species such as whale sharks or manta rays too. A not to be missed snorkeling spot in Thailand!
Lipe island in the south near the Malaysian border is often referred as the Maldives of Thailand thanks to its pristine, white sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters. If your main priority is snorkeling in Thailand, you shouldn’t miss out visiting Koh Lipe! This dreamy destination is beautiful not only above the water, but also underwater.
There are numerous off-beach snorkel spots around Koh Lipe that are easily accessible. If you don’t mind taking boat rides, hop on a traditional long-tail boat and visit the surrounding islands too that also feature excellent snorkeling!
This little archipelago of 5 islands in the Andaman Sea is a national park with a total size of 142 km2 and can be visited only in the dry season between mid-November and mid-May.
The two biggest islands are Koh Surin Nuea and Koh Surin Tai that are separated by a narrow channel. Sun-seekers find here perfect white-sandy beaches, while snorkeling fanatics can enjoy swimming over shallow coral reefs that give home to colorful fish species and other sea creatures.
The Surin Islands’ most-known spot is the Richelieu Rock, a coral-covered pinnacle that is famous for attracting a large number of whale sharks to the region. It is accessible for divers only, but if you are lucky, you might also spot whale sharks while sailing through the area!
When searching for the best snorkeling in Thailand, the Similan Islands must come to mind! This archipelago in the Andaman Sea belongs to the Mu Koh Similan National Park and was rated as one of the Top 10 diving destinations of the world by National Geographic.
Sadly, the coral bleaching in 2010 greatly affected the area, but the Similan Islands is still proud to have unique wildlife above and under the water. On land, one can find tropical birds, critters and reptiles, while divers and snorkelers meet barracudas, sharks besides spotting various coral species. If you are looking to see some of Thailand’s best beaches and clearest waters, make sure to visit the Similans!