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The Similan Islands are 9 small islands (similan derives from the Malay word sembilan, which means ‘nine’), an hour and a half from Khao Lak and not far from Phuket, which are lined up forming a chain of postcard tropical paradises.
These islands are part of the Mu Ko Similan National Park, and we can only get close to 6 of them. The first 3 islands are fully protected since their beaches are usually used by turtles to lay eggs, and the coral areas that surround them are not open to visitors.
We can snorkel and dive in the surroundings of the remaining 6 islands, but we can only step on and sleep on 2 of them: Koh Miang and Koh Similan, the two largest in the archipelago.
As you can see, Thais are not doing bad protecting their more than 1,400 islands. By the way, this National Park is considered the best place in Thailand, and one of the best in the world, for diving.
Koh Similan (island number 8)
Koh Similan only has one accessible beach, the most famous in the entire Park. A beauty of fine white sand and turquoise waters that would be the ideal cover image for any travel magazine.
If you go early in the morning, or are sleeping there, you will have this whole paradise almost to yourself. From 11am the day tour boats from Khao Lak start arriving, and the beach loses some of its charm, but not as much as Maya Beach on Koh Phi Phi.
There is a camping area on Koh Similan, just behind its only beach, Had Ao Kuak. It is possible to rent a tent for 570 THB, mat and sleeping bag included. Apparently there are also bungalows, although I did not see them anywhere. In principle it should be possible to book them at the website of the Thai National Parks department, but it may be quite complicated. I took the phone number of a girl who works there, and she assured me that it is possible to book accommodation by calling her (or at least to check if there are tents available). I share with you her number, hoping it will continue to work when you read this: 080 522 4175 (English/Thai).
When I went in November, the dozens of tents available to sleep in were almost all empty. However, I was told that in December (high season) they fill up quickly. Next to the tents there is also a restaurant.
Koh Miang (island number 4)
Koh Miang has two beaches, linked to each other by a road that crosses the island. They are also quite visited, but not as much as Had Ao Kuak in Koh Similan. I only visited one of them. I was there with my instructor, Gemma, doing the first confined dive of my Padi Open Water Diver course.
When to go to Similan Islands?
The website of the Mu Ko Similan National Park says that it is open from September 1 to May 30 (although if you go on September 1, you better call to confirm: Tel. +6676453272). However, the best time to visit the Similan Islands is from November to May 15.
How to go to Similan Islands?
The best way to visit the Similan Islands and their seabed is on a multi-day snorkeling or scuba diving boat trip. I will tell you about these boat tours in another article.
Another way to visit the Similan Islands is on a day trip, either returning on the same day or staying overnight. In both Khao Lak and Phuket you will find many agencies offering transportation, be it direct transportation to one of the few accessible beaches or a tour with stops at various snorkel/dive sites. Sometimes they do not include the 400 THB entrance fee to the Park.
Have a look at our list of the 30 Best Islands of Thailand.