Located in the Andaman Sea, the Similan Islands are amongst the most beautiful islands in Thailand. With their turquoise water, fine white sand and rich marine wildlife, they fulfil every traveller’s beach paradise checklist.
If you’re planning a trip to these stunning islands, this is the guide for you! I’ve put together everything you need to know about doing a Similan Islands day trip, including prices, timings, what to expect and more.
About the Similan Islands
The Similan Islands are an archipelago of nine islands. They are part of the Similan National Park and are protect islands, meaning they are uninhabited and quite strictly controlled.
In 2018 they capped the number of people that can visit the National Park per day, as the islands were suffering from over tourism. Make sure you book your Similan Islands day trip online beforehand so you don’t miss out!
Besides their stunning natural beauty, the Similan Islands are particularly famous for their epic diving and snorkelling opportunities.
They’re one of the most popular spots in Thailand, and a must-see if you love the underwater world.
Similan Islands day trip options
To get to the Similan Islands you need to take a boat from the harbour in Khao Lak, on mainland Thailand. Even if you’re staying in Khao Lak most Similan Islands day trips will include transfer to the harbour.
There are a lot of different companies doing day trips to the Similan Islands. Generally speaking, they all offer very similar experiences. I have listed below some of the most popular tours with great reviews online.
- Similan Islands day trip by luxury speed catamaran
- Similan Islands snorkelling day trip
- Day tour to the Similan Islands with Love Andaman
- Early bird tour to the Similan Islands – skip the crowds!
The only thing you want to make sure of is that you chose a tour with a speedboat. Since you only have one day in the Similan Islands, you want to make the most of it! Not spend it cruising on the way there.
Our Similan Islands day trip from Phuket
I visited the Similan Islands on my first trip to Thailand, when I spent 10 days in Thailand. We were mostly based in Phuket and did day trips to the surrounding islands, as well as then travelling on to Koh Lanta.
Most people tend to visit the Similan Islands on a day trip from Phuket. While the Similan Islands are undoubtedly beautiful, it is quite the trip from Phuket.
We woke up at 4:30AM and were picked up at our hotel in Karon Beach at 5AM. We drove for around 1.5 hours in a minibus, picking up other travellers on the way and eventually reaching the harbour.
Here we were served a light breakfast before embarking on another 1.5 hour speedboat trip. I’ve been sailing my whole life and I’m used to being at sea, however there were a lot of people on the speedboat that felt sick.
However once you arrive at the first Similan Island you will forget about the last three rocky hours. The water is such a bright turquoise that you can’t help but marvel at its beauty.
We visited three different islands and spent most of our time snorkelling in the clear water, we even spotted turtles!
The first island stop was a purely snorkelling stop, a little bit far from the beach. At the second island we all disembarked on the beach and had a lovely rice and seafood lunch, served directly on the beach.
The final stop was at the main beach of Koh Similan, the biggest island of the archipelago. This is the beach you always see pictures of taken from the viewpoint overlooking it.
Even on a rainy day when the colours aren’t as bright, it was amongst the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen. If you’re visiting during the dry season, be prepared for it to be very busy.
We then got back on our boat and thus began our journey home, which ended up lasting forever. The waves were bigger so our speedboat was much slower, it took us at least 2 hours to get back to Khao Lak.
The drive back to Phuket was also never-ending. It was raining really heavily and the traffic was slow, meaning we didn’t get back to our hotel till around midnight.
This doesn’t obviously happen every day, however if you’re travelling to Thailand during the rainy season, it’s worth bearing in mind.
Is it worth doing a day trip to the Similan Islands?
Yes and no. I found the Similan Islands absolutely beautiful, but if I were to go back, I wouldn’t visit them on a day trip from Phuket.
The early morning start and the journey back that went on until midnight were just too much for me. If I were to go back I would do one of the following options.
Do a day trip from Khao Lak – On my second trip to Thailand I spent a night in Khao Lak and loved it. The town is much smaller and has a more relaxed vibe than Phuket.
The beach isn’t beautiful but from here you can go on a day trip to the Similan Islands, and cut out the long driving times to and from Phuket.
Do an overnight liveaboard trip – There are also a few companies that offer overnight trips to the Similan Islands.
You’re not allowed to sleep on the islands since they’re a protect national park, however you can sleep on a boat anchored off the shore.
These are pricier than doing a day trip, but you will live a much more magical experience! Imagine waking up in the morning to the sound of the waves and looking out of your window over the turquoise sea.
You will also able to appreciate the beauty of the Similan Islands all to yourself for a few hours before the crowds of tourists arrive.
Visit the Surin Islands instead – On my second trip to Thailand I visited the Surin Islands instead, and enjoyed them much better. These beautiful islands aren’t far from the Similan Islands, and offer a similar experience.
You can also camp on the beach in the Surin Islands, so if you want a longer experience but don’t feel like sleeping on a boat, it’s a great alternative. The Surin Islands are also still under the main tourist radar, and not as busy.
However all these options involve spending more than one night away from Phuket. If you don’t have long in Thailand then a day trip to the Similan Islands is the easiest option.
You have to decide for yourself whether pristine white sand beaches, clear turquoise water and rich marine wildlife are worth 6+ hours of travel time in one day.
Where to stay for a Similan Islands day trip
I’ve listed below a couple accommodation options for every budget in both Phuket and Khao Lak, as these are the main spots from which you would usually start your Similan Islands day trip.
Budget – Phuket is one of the biggest backpacker destinations in Thailand. You will find lots of hostels for all moods. I’ve heard good things about Bodega Phuket Party Hostel if you’re in a party mood, and BearPacker Patong Hostel, if you’re looking for something more relaxed.
Mid-range: The Crib Patong – On my second trip to Phuket I stayed at the Crib Patong. This lovely hotel is located just minutes away from Bangla Road, the main road in Patong. It’s far enough that you don’t get all the noise but close enough that you can just walk over if you fancy joining the party.
Luxury: Hilton Phuket Arcadia Resort & Spa, Karon Beach – On my first stay in Phuket I stayed at the Hilton in Karon Beach. Located right on the beach and away from the chaos of Patong, it’s the perfect place if you’re looking for a fancy stay.
In Khao Lak
Budget: Chating Guesthouse – We stayed at this guesthouse is located just minutes away from the beach. It’s not particularly fancy but has spacious rooms, lovely balconies and is good value for money.
Mid-range: Baan Krating Khao Lak Resort – This lovely resort has a pool and balconies that overlook the beach. What more do you need?
Luxury: Eden Beach Khao Lak Resort & Spa – If you’re looking for a bit of luxury, this is the place. Located right on the beach and with a beautiful pool, it’s the perfect spot to relax before or after your Similan Islanda day trip.
What to pack for a day trip to Similan Islands
I have a whole article about what to pack for Thailand if you want a full item-by-item breakdown about what to put in your suitcase.
I wanted to keep this guide brief so I’ve listed below a couple essentials you would need specifically for the Similan Islands.
A waterproof bag – The waves can get pretty big during the boat journey and it’s not uncommon for splashes to come overboard, make sure your essentials are safe and dry in a waterproof bag!
A GoPro or similar underwater camera – You are about to snorkel in one of the most beautiful seas in the world, don’t forget to capture it!
Seasickness tablets – Hopefully you don’t need these, but better safe than sorry!
A fast drying towel – Bring something to dry yourself with and that you can use to lie on the beach. I love these because they don’t take up much space and dry quickly.
Final thoughts on doing a Similan Islands day trip from Phuket
If you’re looking for a beautiful island escape then look no further, the Similan Islands can give you just that. However be aware that visiting the Similan Islands on a day trip can be pretty intense.
I hope this guide has helped you figure out whether a Similan Islands day trip is for you or not, and what alternatives you have to experience these stunning islands.
If you have any questions just let me know in the comments below!
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