The Best Places to Snorkel in Thailand

The warm turquoise waters of Thailand are a snorkeller's paradise
The warm turquoise waters of Thailand are a snorkeller's paradise | © swissmediavision / Getty Images
Photo of Kelly Iverson
6 August 2021

Travellers to Thailand don’t need to compromise their savings to explore below the surface of the sea. While diving gear, the price of a guide and the other purchases make carrying out a proper dive a pricey venture, the Kingdom is fortunately also home to a number of snorkelling sites just off its spectacular islands like Koh Tao and Koh Phi Phi. Here are the best places to snorkel off Thailand’s coastline.

Ao Mae Yai Bay, Koh Surin Nuea

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Beautiful False Clownfish in their host anemone on a tropical reef in Asia..
© RDW-Underwater / Alamy Stock Photo

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 snorkelling, 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 now-iconic clownfish (otherwise known as Nemo).

Koh Nang Yuan, Koh Tao

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FC5R06 Ko Nang Yuan Island, Koh Tao, Koh Samui, Thailand
© Cavan Images / Alamy Stock Photo
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 snorkelling. There is an entrance fee to the island since 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.

Ao Leuk Beach, Koh Tao

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FC5NE9 Aow Leuk; Koh Tao island; Surat Thani Province; Gulf thailand; South China Sea
© Cavan Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Another great snorkelling spot on Koh Tao, otherwise known as Turtle island, is Ao Leuk. It is located on the southeast coast, and snorkellers 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.

Maya Bay, Koh Phi Phi

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J5JMHX Sunset Phi phi Le island Maya bay Thailand
© Tetyana Kochneva / Alamy Stock Photo
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 favourite 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 200m (655ft) long, and it is surrounded by towering cliffs on three sides covered with foliage and greenery.

Ao Niang Bay, Koh Kradan

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2BR35YR Aerial drone view of beautiful tropical Koh Kradan paradise island in Thailand
© Panther Media GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

Koh Kradan, a small island southeast of Koh Lanta, is spectacular both in and out of the water. The island is part of the 89sqmi (230sqm) Hat Chao Mai National Park, making the reef here almost untouched by visitors. This is one of the quietest islands in Thailand, with very few tourists and an abundance of vegetation that will provide you with complete seclusion. The best bay for snorkellers to get their feet wet is Ao Niang, located on the southeast part of the island. It is here you will find some excellent off-beach snorkelling to see marine life and coral galore.

Kata Beach, Phuket

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G30C21 South East Asia, Thailand, Phuket, Kata beach view point
© robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo

Though Patong Beach takes the prize for the most popular of beaches in Phuket, Kata Beach provides snorkellers 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 1.5km (1mi) long, but regardless of its size, Kata Beach remains uncrowded and serene.

Koh Ngam Yai

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Koh Ngam Yai,chumphon Thailand
© kampee patisena / Getty Images

Located off the quiet town of Chumphon is Koh Ngam Yai, the larger of the two Koh Ngam islands. Many travellers make their way to Chumphon only to head elsewhere upon arriving – either the popular island of Koh Tao or Koh Samui. Because of this, Koh Ngam Yai is both quiet and secluded, offering shallow and colourful coral found in many places a mere 2m (6ft) below its clear surface. It takes little over an hour to get to Koh Ngam Yai by boat from Thung Wua Laen Beach in Chumpon.

These recommendations were updated on August 6, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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