Visitors to Thailand should not have to compromise their savings in order to explore below the sea. However, this is often the case due to costly diving gear, the price of a guide, and the other purchases needed in order to carry out a proper dive. Fret not, the Kingdom is home to a number of cheaper snorkeling sites just off its islands. Here are the best places to snorkel off Thailand’s coastline.
The five spectacular islands that make up the well-known Surin Islands in the Andaman Sea are home to some of the best dive sites in the world. Under the protection of the Mu Koh Surin Marine National Park, the beaches and surrounding coastlines remain pristine, with an abundance of wildlife both in and out of the water, found throughout. Though many of the bays found on the Surin Islands are perfect for snorkeling, one of the most revered of them all is Ao Mae Yai Bay, found on the island of Koh Surin Nuea. The striking coral is the home to an abundance of marine life, including the notorious clownfish (otherwise known as Nemo).
Koh Nang Yuan consists of three different islands found just off the northeast tip of Koh Tao. The islands are connected to the popular island by a gleaming white sandbar. The coral reef here, made up of both soft and hard coral, is protected and relatively shallow, making it a great location for snorkeling. There is an entrance fee to the island as it is privately owned, but it is a small price to pay to explore and snorkel in some of the most stunning, sparkling water in the Gulf of Thailand.
Another great snorkeling spot on Koh Tao, otherwise known as Turtle island, is Aow Leuk. It is located on the southwest coast, and snorkelers can grab their gear and explore the area right off the beach. The coral reef is relatively shallow, so swimmers do not have to venture far to get an amazing view of what lies just beneath its crystal clear surface.
Leonardo DiCaprio put Maya Bay on the maps of tourists all over the world after the premier of the film, The Beach. The movie was filmed on the islands in 1999, and since then tourists have flocked to this particular bay to relive some of their favorite scenes. The bay is a great place to snorkel, as it is made up almost entirely of coral reef. The main stretch of beach is about 200 meters long, and it is surrounded by towering cliffs on three sides covered with foliage and greenery.
Koh Kradan, a small island southeast of Koh Lanta, is spectacular both in and out of the water. The island is part of the 89-square mile Hat Chao Mai National Park, making the reef here almost untouched or destroyed by visitors. This is one of the quietest islands in Thailand, with very few tourists and an abundance of vegetation which provide visitors with complete seclusion. The best bay for snorkelers to get their feet wet is Ao Niang, located on the southeast part of the island. It is here visitors will find some excellent off-beach snorkeling to see marine life and coral galore.
Though Patong Beach takes the prize for the most popular of beaches in Phuket, Kata Beach provides snorkelers with some of the best underwater views on the island without having to break the bank for a dive certificate. Its white sand beach is hugged by sloping palm trees, offering beach-goers ultimate seclusion. The beach is about a mile long, but regardless of its size, Kata Beach remains uncrowded and serene.
Pattaya is a cesspool of sexpats, with places such as Walking Street giving the beachy city a somewhat seedy reputation. Venture off its sketchy shores to one of its offshore islands and visitors will find some really nice areas for snorkeling. Koh Lan, otherwise known as Coral Island, is the largest and arguably the most stunning one. It is a little under an hours ride to get there by ferry, and its beaches are equipped with an abundance of coral reefs right off its beaches.
Located off the quiet town of Chumphon is Koh Ngam Yai, the larger of the two Koh Ngam islands. Many travelers make their way to Chumphon only to head elsewhere upon arriving—to either the popular island of Koh Tao or Koh Samui. Because of this, Koh Ngam Yai, off Thung Wua Laen Beach, is both quiet and secluded, equipped with shallow and colorful coral found in many places a mere six feet below its clear surface. It takes little over an hour to get to Koh Ngam Yai by boat from Thung Wua Laen Beach.