Best Diving in Thailand - Top 8

4.25
(6 REVIEWS)
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Koh Tao
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SCUBA DIVING IN THAILAND

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Thailand diving highlights

Hosting divers in both the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand from over 1200 miles of coastline, this scuba destination is a great fit for divers of any level. Scuba diving in Thailand is popular due to the opportunity to dive with whale sharks and manta rays. You can see many pelagics but also smaller fish and critters. Many dive sites have beautiful hard and soft coral and abundant marine life. Thailand dive schools have a great reputation, which is why it is also known as one of the best destinations to learn scuba diving or learn new skills as a certified diver. 

THAILANDS' BEST DIVING SPOTS

Pick a destination or scroll down to read the entire list:  

1. Koh Tao - Great reputation for dive schools

2. Koh Phi Phi - Many dive sites for spotting leopard sharks

3. Koh Lipe - Most beautiful soft corals

4. Surin Islands - Unique species and diverse hard and soft coral

5. Similan Islands - Great for spotting manta rays and whale sharks

6. Phuket - Variety of options for different tastes

7. Pattaya - Excellent wreck dives

8. Koh Samui - Calm waters, good visibility and good to see whale sharks

Can't wait to start planning your trip to Thailand? View the live availability of some of the best liveaboards in Thailand or get in touch with us to help you plan your trip!

 

 

Intro to Thailand

The Southeast Asian country with a tropical climate and warm waters is known best for its beautiful white-sand beaches, stunning temples, rich culture, and delicious food. It is not hard to guess why many people are attracted to visit Thailand. Most of the scuba diving sites are on the southeast of Thailand, in the Andaman sea. On the east coast, on the Gulf of Thailand, lies one of the most popular destinations for dive certifications, Koh Tao. All around Thailand you can find diverse marine life and beautiful corals. The destination offers many opportunities for divers to dive at beautiful reefs, explore wrecks, deep drop-offs, caverns, pinnacles, walls, and tunnels. Besides scuba diving, there are plenty of topside activities. Some of the islands offer great nightlife, while some others are quieter and great for relaxing. 

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Marine Highlights from Thailand's Andaman Sea  

 

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Diving Information 

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Thailand Marine Life

In general, the Andaman Sea boasts a larger variety of fish species and coral. As to what you can expect to see - the coastline and islands stretch over a large distance so it greatly depends on where you choose to dive. Manta rays, whale sharks, black/white tips, and turtles are just a few of the "big things" to expect. Not only a great destination to see big fish, but Thailand also has many macro photography subjects.   

Here is a list of the marine animals you are likely to see when diving in Thailand

  • Whale Shark
  • Manta Ray
  • Leopard Shark
  • Whitetip Shark
  • Blacktip Shark
  • Spotted Eagle Ray
  • Bluespotted Ribbontail Ray
  • Pufferfish
  • Trevally
  • Trumpetfish
  • Butterflyfish
  • Triggerfish
  • Lionfish
  • Moray Eel
  • Angelfish
  • Boxfish
  • Turtles
  • Barracudas
  • Ghost Pipefish
  • Seahorses

 

 

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top Dive destinations in Thailand 

Here are some of the best dive areas for scuba diving in Thailand. 

1. Koh Tao

Many people have actually chosen this destination to make their dive certification in the first place. Inexpensive course prices, easy conditions, and beautiful dives- it's hard to find a better place to start scuba diving. Koh Tao diving does not only offer great dives for beginners but also already certified scuba divers will enjoy their underwater experiences here. Having a great reputation of dive schools, it is also a great place to learn some new skills and upgrade your diving levels. The dive sites are located all around the island and accessible only by boat. There are many colorful reef fish to see, turtles, barracudas, and for macro objects, there are critters and nudibranch. If you are lucky, you also have a chance to meet some whale sharks. 

2. Koh Phi Phi

Shortly after the movie "The Beach", the island gained popularity among tourists having picture-perfect white-sand beaches and clear blue waters. Around the island, there are plenty of dive sites, wherein some you may spot the leopard sharks. Macro lovers can find some seahorses and mantis shrimp. For divers, who seek the big fish, there is a chance of seeing whale sharks and manta rays. Rock formations and beautiful corals are another reason the island is great for diving. The dives are done only by boat and the diving conditions are suitable for all levels. You find dive sites for complete novices but also deeper dives for experienced divers.  

3. Koh Lipe

Compared to Koh Phi Phi and Phuket, Koh Lipe island is less touristic and thus, it's coral is very well preserved which makes it a fantastic diving destination. It has some of the most beautiful soft corals in Asia. Koh Lipe is part of the Tarutao National Marine Park that has many opportunities for scuba divers with all levels. Many tropical fish species can be found here, turtles, dolphins, and even dugongs and sperm whales! Besides amazing marine life, it also has nice pinnacles and rock formations. 

4. Surin Islands 

Under the protection of the UNESCO environmental program, the Surin Islands are truly a pleasure to dive at. The island's dive sites have amazing hard coral diversity, much soft coral and are rich in marine life. The island is remote and not as popular among tourists, which is why you can find some species of fish here that you cannot see in other dive destinations in Thailand. You might spot some bumphead parrotfish, napoleon wrasse, tomato anemonefish, yellow-masked angelfish and barramundi. The Surin Islands can be explored by a liveaboard that mostly run from October to early May. The rest of the year the Mu Ko Surin Marine National Park is closed for divers. 

5. Similan Islands

A dive liveaboard is the best way to get the most out of Similan Islands diving. Abundant marine life, big pelagics, soft and hard coral plus easy diving conditions, warm waters and relatively good visibility are some of the reasons many scuba divers are fond of this destination. There are also plenty of macro subjects but most divers visit the islands to see the manta rays and whale sharks. Moreover, you can see a good number of shark species when scuba diving in the Similan Islands. You can read more about the destination from our Similan Islands Dive Travel Guide.

 mantis shrimp best diving in thailand

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Other dive spots in Thailand

 

6. Phuket 

Diving in Phuket gives scuba divers many options. You can find some secluded luxurious dive resorts or budget-friendly accommodations, make some day trips to the local reefs, or hop on a liveaboard to discover some of the best dive sites in Thailand. There are great sites for experienced divers and options for total beginners to start their diving journey. When diving in Phuket, you can find some great deep drop-offs, pinnacles that are covered with coral, some caverns and caves, and even some wrecks. The marine life around Phuket goes from big to small creatures. You can meet manta rays, whale sharks, and leopard sharks, but also anemone fish, harlequin shrimp, and ghost ornate pipefish just to name a few. 

7. Pattaya

Scuba diving in Pattaya is most known for its excellent wreck dives and offering nice coral dive sites. One of the most famous coral dive sites is at Koh Man Wichai, where the coral resembles a giant hand and thus has been named as the "fingers". While diving around the beautiful corals you can spot some pufferfish, stingrays, angelfish, and many more. The Pattaya wrecks are also covered with reefs, where you can spot some rays, barracudas, batfish, and even some sharks. The wrecks are most suitable for advanced divers, though, as they lay around 100ft (30m) or more. 

8. Koh Samui 

Being a very popular holiday destination and more crowded than some other locations, scuba diving in Koh Samui seems less appealing to many divers. Nevertheless, it offers beautiful dive sites not to miss and offers many day trips to enjoy them. Some of the best dive sites in Thailand, like the Sail Rock, are very closely located to Koh Samui. Whale sharks are often spotted when scuba diving around Koh Samui. You can also see many barracudas, turtles, jackfish, and various nudibranch and shrimp for macro lovers. Additionally, the diving conditions around the dive destination are great throughout the year, with calm waters and generally good visibility. 

 

best DIVE SITES in Thailand

Hin Daeng & Hin Muang -  Many scuba divers will say these are their most favorite dive sites as it offers great wall dives and caverns, as well as you can see big pelagics and lots of other beautiful marine life. You may even spot manta rays and whale sharks here. Colorful soft corals are all around and you can see many schools of fish. Be aware that the currents can be strong, thus it is recommended for more advanced divers. Both of the dive sites are located outside of the Similan Islands. 
 
Shark Point - If you love sharks, then this is the spot for you! Located about a 90-minute boat ride away from Phuket, the dive site is home to many leopard and bamboo sharks. Besides the sharks, there is lots of other marine life to see like moray eels, seahorses, snake-eels, mantis shrimp, and more. Plus, the dive site has three main pinnacles covered with both, soft & hard coral and anemones. 
 
Anemone Reef -  Like the name says it, you can expect to dive past beautiful blue and green colored anemones. As part of a marine sanctuary, Anemone Reefs' marine life is very colorful.  The site itself lies near to Shark Point, which is why you can encounter reef sharks and leopards sharks at the dive site. Besides the sharks, you can spot some turtles, giant moray eels, lionfish and even some seahorses, nudibranch and porcelain crabs for macro lovers. Along the anemones, you can see some beautiful soft pink and purple corals. 
 
Richelieu Rock - The dive site is located between Surin & Similan Islands and is the best place to see schools of barracudas, much tropical fish, whale sharks, and manta rays. Because of nutrient full planktons, there is a high chance to scuba dive with whale sharks. The dive site is a horseshoe-shaped rock covered with soft corals, anemones, sea fans, and sponges. The dive spot attracts lots of marine life and you may see cuttlefish, seahorses, pipefish, just to name a few. 
 
Chumphon Pinnacle - One of the most popular dive sites in Koh Tao, this huge pinnacle is covered with pink anemones, where pink anemonefish come around, as well as some scorpionfish, moray eels, crabs and shrimp. Besides them, along the pinnacle, you can see some barracuda, bannerfish, mackerels, trevally, big-eyed jacks and many more. Even whale sharks can make an appearance there. 
 
Sail Rock - Another popular dive site in Koh Tao with a rock wall drop. Being further from the main island and away from the masses, it attracts abundant marine life. Batfish, soldierfish, crabs, giant groupers, giant moray eels, blue spotted trout, nudibranch are just a few examples of marine life you might see. What is special about this dive site, is that you can actually dive inside a rock! There is an interesting swim-through called the chimney, which is very fun to dive but it is more suitable for experienced divers, who have good buoyancy control. 
 
HTMS Sattakut wreck - Laying at a depth of 100ft (30m), this wreck is surrounded by colorful marine life and is considered to be one of the best wrecks in Thailand. It has three canon guns, cabins, and rooms to explore and to see its many resident fish. You can spot groupers, snappers, sweetlips barracudas, blennies, moray eels, butterflyfish and more. 
 

Diving Conditions

  • Water Temperatures: 81-84 F / 27- 86 C
  • Visibility: 32 - 131 ft (10 - 40m) depending on the season and location.
  • Depth Range: 16 - 131 ft (5 - 40 m)

 

 

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Travel Information 

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How to Get There

Thailand currently has six international airports, with Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok being the main gateway to the country. It is easy to get anywhere from Bangkok.  

 

How to Dive Thailand

Liveaboards are available to explore the Andaman Sea and Similan Islands and reach dive sites you otherwise can't reach. Thus, liveaboard diving would be the best option to get the most out of diving in Thailand. Otherwise, there are also dive resorts available around Thailand. The best resort destinations are Phuket, Phi Phi islands and Khao Lak. 

 

Best Time to Dive

Within the Gulf of Thailand, diving is available almost year-round. November is the beginning of the monsoon season in which visibility drops and heavy rainstorms can occur but by the mid/end of December things typically have gone back to normal. On the Andaman side, dive times are more limited. Some areas are only available to dive parts of the year (like the Similians and Koh Lanta). In general October - April is the best time to dive the Andaman Sea.

 

Topside & Non-Diving Activities

You can try to "island-hop" to different destinations comparing their offerings. Every island has its own personality, so depending on what you are looking for, certain islands would fit best. Looking for a night out in the town? Koh Phi Phi on the Andaman side, or Koh Tao in the gulf would be a good start. Prefer a relaxing evening instead? The Andamans, Koh Lanta, or Koh Samui in the gulf could be better alternatives.

Thailand is known for its beautiful beaches and some impressive temples. Don't forget to visit the famous Grand Palace or Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Some of the other things to do are to see the muay Thai boxing match, visit a floating market, go hiking or discover their beautiful nature. Moreover, get all your tensions out with a proper Thai massage. In case you have never tried a Thai massage, then just a heads up, don't expect it to be relaxing but for sure it will make you feel much better afterward! 

 

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LIVEABOARD AVAILABILITY

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Please contact us for the latest availability of the following boats: Diva Andaman, Similan Explorer, MV Hallelujah, Dolphin Queen, Deep Andaman Queen, MV Giamani, DiveRACEMV Oktavia, and MV Pawara.

 

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Other Useful Information 

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Practical Information

  • Currency: Thai Baht (THB)
  • Language: Thai is the national and official language of Thailand
  • Main Airport Code: BKK
  • Time Zone: UTC+7
  • Electricity: The standard voltage is 220 V and the frequency is 50 Hz.
  • Vaccines: Please check the CDC website for updated information on vaccines, health concerns, etc. It is recommended that you are up to date with Typhoid, Tetanus/Diphtheria, Hepatitis and Polio for any trip to the tropics.
  • Visa: U.S. citizens carrying a tourist passport and in possession of an onward or return airline ticket do not require a visa to enter Thailand.

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Reviews (6)

5
4
4
5

Thailand is not on many seasoned dive travelers bucket list, but here are a few reasons why it should be:
- world class dive sites like Richelieu Rock in the Similan Islands, King Cruiser wreck in Koh Phi Phi, and the pinnacles of Hin Daeng and Hin Muang
- go in the right season (Dec to Mar) and you should see a ton of marine life including big schools of jack and barracuda, whale sharks, mantas and many more
- good for macro and wide angle
- really friendly people and amazing food
- great beaches, isolated islands, and fun cities to visit before or after diving
- very affordable and easy on the pocket
I was on a liveaboard trip and that is the best way to dive Thailand as most of the best dive sites are a long commute from land.

Visited on 01/2016 - Submitted on 03/24/2020
4
4
5
3

Hin Daeng and Hin Muang

Hin Daeng and Hin Muang are widely considered the best dive sites in Thailand outside of the Similans. Hin Daeng and Hin Muang are two dive sites on the west coast of Thailand that can be accessed by either live aboard or by day trips out of Ko Phi Phi or Ko Lanta. These two sites are best known for their frequency in Manta Ray and Whale shark sightings. Both sites are remote deep water pinnacles. Hin Deang just barely breaks the surface, where as Hin Muang is a submerged pinnacle with its base on one side leveling out around 60 meters, and the other side is a vertical wall that plunges into a deep abyss. Both sites are more advanced sites, and Hin Muang often has relatively strong currents. Both sites are right next to each and always dived together in one trip. At both sites you will see huge schools of fish, pelagics, lion fish, nudibranchs, Manta Rays, whale sharks, and reef sharks. Both sites are within the boundaries of a marine park and attract a massive amount of life. The ride out to the dive sites can be rough, and if you are doing a day trip out of Ko Lanta/ Ko Phi Phi it will take about 2 1/2 hours to make it out to the site. Diving these two sites on a day trip will take up an entire day. Due to the remoteness of these two sites, crowds are not something you have to worry about when diving here. Anyone diving on the West coast of Thailand should not miss these two sites.

Visited on 02/2012 - Submitted on 06/06/2015
5
3
3
5

Koh Tao, Thailand

I lived and worked on Koh Tao as a Dive Master for a year. Getting your open water certification is on the list of things to do for most young people back packing through Thailand. More open water certs are completed on Koh Tao than any other location in the world. Koh Tao is a small vibrant island in the Gulf of Thailand. Koh Tao has good diving, great night life, and plenty of topside activities to do.

The Diving: There are good things and bad things about diving on Koh Tao. First we will start off with some of the negative aspects of diving Koh Tao. Koh Tao dive sites can be very crowded. Some of the larger resort boats hold close to 50 divers. Dive sites like White Rock, Twins, Japanese Gardens can have a dozen boats onsite all at once. Sometimes dive sites look like parking lots. Also due to the fact that most people are on Koh Tao to learn to dive, there is a huge number of beginner divers everywhere. Now for the good things. Due to the fact there is a huge number of dive ops, all of which are very different, it's easy to find one that offers what you are looking for. There are small shops with small boats, big shops with big boats, etc. Also the diving is cheap, really cheap. Due to all the competition on the island, courses and diving prices are extremely low and affordable. There is also a variety of dive sites for both beginners and more experienced divers. Notable sites are Laem Thian with great swim throughs, and geographical features, frequented by black tips. Chumpon Pinnacle was my favorite site, which is frequented by bull sharks, whale sharks, huge schools of fish, tornadoes of barracuda, and giant groupers. White rock, which can be crowded at certain times, is a nice reef with lots of life, no shortage of morays and blue spotted sting rays. Sail Rock is also easily accessible from Koh Tao, and Sail Rock is without a doubt the best site in the Gulf of Thailand. Sail Rock is frequented by whale sharks, bull sharks, huge schools of fish, big schools of barracuda and Trevally, as well as a few resident giant morays. Turtles can be seen on the island but are surprisingly scarce, and also you WILL NOT see a manta ray in the gulf of Thailand. There are also a couple of wrecks on the island that were sunk to make artificial reefs. The diving on Koh Tao is good, but it is not world class, and is even not as good as the diving on the West Coast of Thailand. But it is a great island that is lots of fun and definitely worth visiting.

Topside: Koh Tao has a large variety of restaurants and resorts. Everything from 5 start luxury resorts, to dirt cheap hostels. Koh Tao also has a great night life and huge party scene. Lots of bars, and drinks are very cheap. Choppers is an Aussie owned sports bar on the island that opens early and they show NFL games, Soccer, Baseball, Cricket, everything, so you can still watch your favorite sports games while on the island. Rock Climbing is another popular topside activity on the island, companies like Good Times Adventures offers a variety of activities other than diving. Koh Tao is also a great place to learn free diving. There are a few free diving schools on the island with great instructors.

Getting to the island is also relatively easy. From Bangkok you can book transport down from a few different companies, such as SongSerm, and Lompraya. Buses run from Bangkok to Chumpon, where you board a ferry that takes you to either Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, or Koh Samui. You can also fly from Bangkok to Koh Samui, and then jump on a ferry or speed boat over to Koh Tao.

Visited on 10/2010 - Submitted on 06/06/2015
5
3
5
4

My review is for diving in Kohn Phi Phi.

The island is full of dive operations. Great choice prices are the same so pick one you like.
Unfortunately I was there during rainy season and boat rides were rough but once under water it is one of the prettiest places to dive. Visibility was not as good as during the winter time, so I was told but otherwise a really good experience.

The nice thing about Phi Phi is that once you are done diving seafood and beers are waiting on every corner

Visited on 07/2013 - Submitted on 10/23/2014
  • Top Reviewer
Brisbane, QLD
Australia
5
4
3
5

Similan Islands, Thailand.

The Similan Island National Park ( Named for ‘Sembilan’, meaning nine in a local dialect of Malay) is made up of 9 islands arranged roughly 80kms North of the heaving holiday mecca of Phuket on the Eastern seaboard of the Isthmus of Thailand. The Islands of the main group are generally referred to as numbers 1-9 – though also have Thai names – with numbers 1,2 & 3 in the South closed for diving to allow for turtle hatching. Diving in the group is characterised by two distinct environments:

The East coast with slopes down to 30 metres, plenty of hard coral and gentle-to-no currents. Large bommies covered in soft coral and schools of small fish dot the sandy sea floor with some such as ‘Hin Muan Daew (Roll of film) on Anita’s Reef attracting celebrity status for exhausting diver’s entire roll of exposures back in the days of shooting film. It really was that good, too.

The West coast is exposed to the Indian Ocean and features dramatic piles of enormous granite boulders covered in healthy soft corals and giant fans tumbling down to the sea bed at 30-45 metres. These exposed sites experience regular currents and offer a more adventurous dive. The currents feed the oversized corals and bring in larger and more numerous schools of fish. In addition to huge schools of smaller fish expect pelagics from Tuna to Sharks.

Visibility is superb on both sides of the islands with up to 30-45 metre on my trip, and though you will be regularly gazing out into the blue do not forget to look closer at the reef: the macro life here is fantastic with Frogfish, Harlequin Shrimp & a stunning array of Nudibranchs to found amongst a host of other critters, particularly on the Eastern sites.

No review of the Similans would be fair without mentioning the topside experience, which is what really sets off the whole trip. The weather in the diving season is generally warm, calm & sunny. My entire trip was bathed in sun with just the right amount of breeze for cooling down in the afternoon. And the beaches. It’d be fair to say these are some of the finest beaches I’ve seen in my time; go and sit at your computer and enter ‘Similans beaches’ into a search engine. Yep. Stunning.

Longer trips to the area will usually focus on the islands of the Similans and then move North to 2 Islands, Koh Bon & Koh Tachai and then the area’s masterpiece, Richelieu Rock. The former are highly regarded for more dramatic boulder diving and the chance of Oceanic Manta Rays. Richelieu Rock, closer to the mainland, is a photographer’s lens choice nightmare. Though the proximity to land and current up-wellings reduces the visibility somewhat this horse-shoe shaped reef, draped in soft corals and packed with great macro subjects, is famous for its Whale Shark encounters.

The area is best explored by one of the numerous liveaboards operating out of Khao Lak, though can also be visited as a day trip on enormous, over-powered speedboats from the mainland. I have read reports of accidents with these boats due to overconfidence in rough weather and heard first hand reports of long and uncomfortable journeys, though I imagine it would be great fun in fine weather.

In season there is a glut of operators offering liveaboards from cheap & cheerful through to all expenses paid luxury, anywhere from overnight trips up to a whole week. I was on a 5 night, 4 day cruise and would definitely pick this length of trip again. Any shorter would rob you of time in either the Similans or the Islands further North, while I feel any longer would have resulted in spending too long for the variety on offer.

Finally, though probably not superior to some of the trips I have taken further south in the ‘Coral Triangle’, you cannot look past Thailand for relaxing and enjoyable topside experience. I travelled from Koh Tao, on the East Coast of Thailand, and thoroughly enjoyed every second of the journey; particularly as the last 60-100kms travel through the stunning hills of the Khao Sok National Park.

Visited on 12/2011 - Submitted on 02/20/2014

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