Best Snorkeling Spots in Thailand

Under the Sea in Thailand: The Best Snorkeling Spots in Thailand

Are you looking for an unforgettable holiday destination that offers world-class snorkeling? Look no further than Thailand! Whether it’s the crystal clear waters of Koh Tao, pristine coral reefs in the Andaman Sea, or breathtaking marine life off the west coast of Phuket, there is a snorkeling spot to suit every type of traveler. Join us as we explore some of the best snorkeling spots around this picturesque country – with so much natural beauty and an abundance of sea creatures to discover, let your adventurous side out and book your trip today!

Thailand is a great destination for those who love underwater exploration. You can experience vibrant marine life while snorkeling at Similan Islands, Phi Phi Islands, Surin Islands, Koh Tao, and Koh Lipe. Each location boasts unique underwater wonders, making it an unforgettable experience.

Key Takeaways

  • Thailand offers a unique snorkeling experience due to its rich marine biodiversity and clear, warm waters that attract snorkelers of all levels.
  • The top snorkeling spots in Thailand include the Similan Islands, Phi Phi Islands, Surin Islands, Koh Tao, and Koh Lipe, each offering unique marine sights.
  • Snorkelers should practice responsible snorkeling by following certain guidelines to protect marine life and ensure their own safety.
Best Snorkeling Spots in Thailand

Why Thailand for Snorkeling?

Thailand, home to a great variety of marine life, stands as an exceptional snorkeling destination that has earned global attention from avid snorkelers and marine enthusiasts alike. To begin with, Thailand’s marine biodiversity is nothing short of spectacular. In fact, the Andaman Sea, which borders Thailand’s western coastline, is a part of the Indo-Pacific, known to be the world’s largest and richest marine biogeographic region. Therefore, Thailand shares a part of the 3,000 different species of fish and hundreds of coral species that live within this vast expanse.

One of the aspects that set Thailand apart from other snorkeling destinations is the abundance and variety of its coral reefs. Vibrantly colored and teeming with life, these coral gardens are biodiversity hotspots, providing habitats for countless marine organisms. From the iconic clownfish sheltering among the waving tendrils of anemones to the elusive moray eels hiding in the nooks and crannies of the reef, each scene beneath the water’s surface is a visual spectacle.

Moreover, snorkelers in Thailand have a great chance of spotting larger marine life such as the majestic whale sharks, the graceful manta rays, or even the rare hawksbill and green turtles. Locations such as Richelieu Rock, Koh Tao, and the Similan Islands are famed for these encounters. Let’s not forget the macro life too. Tiny and often overlooked, nudibranchs, sea horses, and shrimp provide an equally intriguing spectacle for the more observant snorkelers.

Thailand’s underwater visibility is another crucial factor that contributes to its popularity among snorkelers. The country’s coastal waters typically offer good to excellent visibility, often reaching up to 30 meters on good days. This superior visibility is largely down to the warm tropical waters that encourage the growth of tiny, single-celled phytoplankton, which serve as a primary food source for a plethora of marine creatures. However, unlike colder regions, these warm waters do not encourage the growth of large plankton blooms that can reduce visibility. Thus, snorkelers can look forward to crystal-clear vistas of the underwater world.

In terms of water temperature, Thailand truly shines. The average sea temperature hovers between a comfortable 28-30 degrees Celsius year-round, offering a pleasant and inviting snorkeling environment. This warm, tropical temperature not only ensures comfort for snorkelers but also supports the growth and sustenance of coral reefs and tropical fish species.

So, when you combine the astonishing diversity and abundance of marine life with superb water clarity and comfortable temperatures, it becomes apparent why Thailand has earned its reputation as a world-class snorkeling destination. Whether you’re a seasoned snorkeler or just starting out, Thailand’s underwater realm promises an unforgettable aquatic adventure.

Top Snorkeling Spots

Similan Islands

The Similan Islands, a cluster of nine stunning islands located approximately 60 kilometers from Thailand’s western coastline, have secured a reputation among the global diving community as one of the world’s most breathtaking dive spots. Recognized as a top ten dive site by the esteemed National Geographic Society, the archipelago lures divers from around the globe, who are drawn to its awe-inspiring underwater landscapes and marine biodiversity.

Each of the nine islands that make up the Similan Islands group is typically referred to by number, rather than by individual names. This naming practice stems from the local language, in which “Similan” translates to “nine”. The islands’ numerical monikers provide a simple and effective way to navigate through this mesmerizing island chain.

Reaching the Similan Islands necessitates a journey by boat from the mainland. There are a couple of options at your disposal. Fast speedboats, which can reach the islands in slightly over an hour, offer a swift and thrilling ride. Alternatively, slower vessels offer a more leisurely trip, typically taking around three hours.

To streamline the process of visiting the Similan Islands, it is recommended to engage the services of a reputable tour company. Such companies can handle all aspects of your trip, including sorting out transportation to and from the Thab Lamu pier, arranging overnight accommodation if you wish to extend your stay, and coordinating all your meals and activities. This holistic approach ensures a hassle-free and memorable experience exploring the wonders of the Similan Islands.

Phi Phi Islands

The Phi Phi Islands, situated between the large island of Phuket and the western Strait of Malacca, are arguably one of the most iconic snorkeling destinations in Thailand. Known for their stunning limestone cliffs rising out of the emerald green sea, these islands offer an enchanting natural beauty both above and below the water’s surface. Snorkelers are treated to an abundance of marine life, including colorful coral gardens, schools of vibrant tropical fish, and even the occasional turtle or reef shark. The water clarity around these islands is typically excellent, making it an ideal spot for underwater exploration.

Surin Islands

The Surin Islands, located closer to Thailand’s border with Myanmar, offer a somewhat off-the-beaten-track snorkeling experience. They form part of the Mu Ko Surin National Park, which ensures a high degree of preservation and protection for the marine environment. Snorkeling in the Surin Islands is akin to diving into an underwater paradise, replete with diverse coral reefs and abundant marine life, including manta rays and leopard sharks. The Islands are also a habitat for the endangered hawksbill and green turtles. This less frequented snorkeling spot is perfect for those looking to escape the crowds and experience an unspoiled marine ecosystem.

Koh Tao

Translated as ‘Turtle Island,’ Koh Tao is a premier destination for snorkeling and diving in the Gulf of Thailand. Its name derives from the many sea turtles that inhabit its waters, although the island is equally famous for its vibrant coral reefs and teeming marine life. From the shallow, calm waters of Ao Leuk Bay, perfect for beginners, to the deep underwater pinnacles frequented by whale sharks, Koh Tao caters to all levels of snorkelers. Its clear, warm waters, diverse marine life, and stunning coral formations make Koh Tao a must-visit destination for any snorkeling enthusiast.

Koh Lipe

Situated in the far south near Malaysia’s border, Koh Lipe is a small island in the Andaman Sea. Known as the ‘Maldives of Thailand,’ Koh Lipe’s vibrant coral reefs are easily accessible from its white sandy beaches, making it a paradise for snorkelers. The island’s surrounding waters are teeming with more than 25% of the world’s tropical fish species.

Highlights include the Rainbow Reef and the Yong Kasem (Sunrise Beach) area, where snorkelers can encounter everything from small colorful reef fish to larger species such as blacktip reef sharks, whale shark, and rays. Its incredible underwater diversity coupled with its clear and calm waters makes Koh Lipe a top-notch snorkeling spot.

Each of these snorkeling spots in Thailand offers unique underwater experiences and landscapes, from the bustling marine life around the Phi Phi Islands to the tranquil, untouched beauty of the Surin Islands, the turtle haven of Koh Tao, and the stunning coral diversity around Koh Lipe. These islands have rightfully earned their status as some of the best snorkeling spots not just in Thailand, but in the world.

Koh Lanta

Well, strap on your fins and fasten your oxygen tanks, because we’re about to plunge into the big blue world of Koh Lanta, Thailand! Koh Lanta, a seductive archipelago in the Andaman Sea, is basically the supermodel of the scuba diving world: wildly attractive, universally admired, and always camera-ready. It’s not just famous for scuba diving, it’s practically the Hollywood Walk of Fame for fish!

Why, you might ask? Well, I’ll let you in on a few of the reasons:

  1. Technicolor Seascape: Imagine, if you will, diving into an enormous, swirling rainbow. That’s what it’s like to explore the vibrant coral reefs around Koh Lanta. The reefs are so colorful, they make the Northern Lights look like a black-and-white TV show.
  2. Diverse Marine Life: If the corals are the canvas, then the marine life is the masterpiece. The waters around Koh Lanta are so teeming with life, it’s like being in a bustling underwater metropolis. There are elegant manta rays, playful dolphins, regal whale sharks, and more varieties of fish than there are flavors at a gourmet ice cream shop. Not to mention the cute sea turtles – they’re practically the local celebrities of Koh Lanta’s underwater world.
  3. World-Class Dive Sites: Koh Lanta boasts some of the best dive sites in the world. It’s like Disneyland for divers! Hin Daeng and Hin Muang, Koh Haa, Koh Bida – these are not just random names, these are diving hotspots that would make even Jacques Cousteau weak at the knees. With visibility that rivals a high-definition TV and conditions suitable for all levels of divers, it’s no wonder divers around the globe flock to Koh Lanta.
  4. Conservation Efforts: Koh Lanta is not just famous for its marine beauty, but also for its commitment to protect it. The locals understand that the allure of their home lies beneath the waves, and they’re determined to keep it that way. So when you dive here, you’re also supporting their sustainable practices. It’s like being an eco-warrior but with a wetsuit and snorkel!

I recently wrote an engaging article titled “Thailand’s Beautiful Beaches: A Comprehensive Guide to Discovering the Best Ones.” In this piece, I take you on a virtual journey to explore the breathtaking beaches of Thailand. From the pristine shores of Phuket to the hidden gems of Krabi, my article provides detailed insights, insider tips, and stunning visuals that will leave you longing for a tropical getaway.

Responsible Snorkeling

Responsible snorkeling is crucial to the preservation of our marine ecosystems and ensuring your safety. Let’s discuss some guidelines and safety measures that snorkelers should adhere to.

Guidelines to follow to protect marine life:

  1. Avoid Touching Marine Life: It’s important to remember that shallow coral reefs are delicate ecosystems, and any contact can damage them. Similarly, touching marine animals can disturb them and may lead to harmful situations for both the animal and the snorkeler. Therefore, always maintain a safe distance and avoid touching any organism underwater.
  2. Do Not Feed the Fish: Feeding wildlife disrupts their normal feeding habits and can make them dependent on human interaction. It can also alter their behavior and make them more vulnerable to predators. It’s best to observe marine life in its natural state.
  3. Control Your Buoyancy: Good buoyancy control is essential for protecting the reef and its inhabitants. A lack of control can result in accidentally kicking or touching coral. If you’re new to snorkeling, consider taking a course to improve your swimming and buoyancy skills.
  4. Don’t Collect Souvenirs: While it may be tempting to take a piece of coral reef or seashell as a souvenir, it’s important to remember that these are part of the marine ecosystem. Removing them can have detrimental effects on the environment. The best practice is to leave only bubbles and take only memories.

Safety measures to take while snorkeling:

  1. Know Your Limits: Never push beyond your comfort zone. If you’re not a strong swimmer, stay close to shore or consider using a flotation device. Also, avoid snorkeling in strong currents or rough water if you’re not experienced with these conditions.
  2. Use a Buddy System: Always snorkel with a partner. It’s safer and more fun to share the experience with someone else. Your buddy can help you if you’re in trouble, and vice versa.
  3. Stay Hydrated and Protected from the Sun: It’s easy to forget about dehydration when you’re surrounded by water. But it’s crucial to stay hydrated before and after snorkeling. Also, protect your skin from sunburn by using a rash guard or applying water-resistant sunscreen.
  4. Be Aware of Your Surroundings: Always keep an eye on your location relative to your entry/exit point. Be aware of boat traffic and avoid snorkeling in busy boat lanes. If you see any marine life acting aggressively, calmly and slowly back away.

By following these responsible snorkeling guidelines and safety measures, you will help to preserve our precious marine ecosystems for future generations to enjoy and ensure a safe and enjoyable snorkeling experience.

Best Snorkeling Spots in Thailand

Best Snorkeling Spots in Thailand FAQs

Which snorkeling spot is recommended for beginners in Thailand?

Koh Tao is a great snorkeling spot for beginners due to its shallow, calm waters and diverse marine life.

Can I rent snorkeling equipment in Thailand or should I bring my own?

Most of the snorkeling spots in Thailand offer rental gear. However, it’s recommended to bring your own equipment for a better fit and increased comfort.

Are there any safety measures I should be aware of while snorkeling in Thailand?

Yes, it’s important to be aware of your own limits and not push beyond your comfort zone. Stay close to shore or consider using a flotation device if you’re not a strong swimmer. Additionally, always snorkel with a buddy and be aware of boat traffic in your area.

Can children participate in snorkeling in Thailand?

Yes, children can participate in snorkeling in Thailand as long as they are old enough to swim and understand the safety measures. With a properly fitted life jacket, snorkeling is suitable for most children over the age of 5.

What other attractions can I visit near these snorkeling spots in Thailand?

Each of these snorkeling spots in Thailand offers an array of other attractions, from white sandy beaches to stunning waterfalls and lush jungles. For example, the Phi Phi Islands are known for their vibrant nightlife while Koh Tao is home to Sairee Beach, one of the best beaches in Thailand. Meanwhile, Koh Lipe has a vibrant market and stunning sunsets.


To wrap up, snorkeling in Thailand can provide a beautiful experience for anyone looking to explore the country’s expansive marine life. From the superb Similan Islands to the picturesque Koh Lipe, there are numerous spots to continue an underwater journey. It is of utmost importance that snorkelers practice responsible scuba diving by being mindful of their surroundings and following certain safety guidelines. Understanding and respecting the environment is crucial for the sustainability of Thailand’s marine life. 

Whether you are a first-time snorkeler or a seasoned pro, remember to take in all of the breathtaking sights up close and personal! So if you’re an aquatic enthusiast, grab your gear and jump into Paradise with us! For more information on both living and snorkeling in Thailand, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.

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