Offering everything from striking wrecks, remote reefs and challenging pinnacles to coral-encrusted walls and easy shore dives, Thailand is a classic dive destination. Whether you want to swim with whale sharks and manta rays, relax on pristine beaches or find prized critters in the deep, you can’t beat Thailand. There is something for every dive experience level, preference and budget. Read on to discover why people flock to this amazing destination every year and start exploring the 15 best places to go diving in Thailand now.
DIVING IN THAILAND – THE ANDAMAN SEA
The Andaman Sea is the jewel in Thailand’s diving crown, where you will find jaw-dropping marine life and some of the most vibrant reefs you will likely ever see.
Strong currents wash the Andaman Sea’s idyllic offshore islands, attracting pelagics to the area, and creating exciting dives for advanced divers. With numerous islands to choose from and an array of world-famous dive sites, it is fair to say diving in Thailand does not get much better than this.
Experience needed to dive the Andaman Sea.
There are dives for all experience levels in the Andaman Sea. That said, it is best to visit as an advanced diver to make the most of the deeper and more challenging dive sites there.
Best time to go diving in the Andaman Sea.
November to April for the best visibility at Phuket, Koh Lanta and Koh Phi Phi, or January to avoid the crowds.
November to May to dive Richelieu Rock, the Similan and Surin Islands.
Top tips for diving in Thailand’s Andaman Sea.
Wherever you dive in the Similan Islands, look closely. Many of the dive sites host ghost pipefish, mantis shrimps, pretty porcelain crabs and more.
Dive Richelieu Rock from February to April for encounters with whale sharks.
Love mantas? Koh Bon and Koh Tachai are Thailand’s top destinations for manta ray encounters.
Get your SSI Deep Diving certification before visiting so you can enjoy all the Andaman Sea’s remote islands have to offer.
The best diving in Thailand’s Andaman Sea.
Made up of 9 granite islands in the Northern Andaman Sea, the Similan Islands were declared a national park in 1982 and offer some of Thailand’s best diving.
There are over 500 hard and soft coral species tucked among the huge granite boulders, caves, reefs and swim-throughs this diverse destination is known for. Leopard sharks, stingrays and numerous reef fish are just a few of the highlights of diving at these stunning islands.
If you like pelagic action, you have come to the right place. Elephant Head Rock, the largest pinnacle in the Similans, is a challenging dive with strong currents that bring in whitetip reef sharks, trevally and barracuda.
Make sure you also go diving at Donald Duck Bay. This popular night dive spot hosts plenty of critters, including decorator crabs and emperor shrimps.
Sitting between the Similan and Surin Islands, Koh Tachai might be tiny, but it has two impressive dive sites. If you can take your eyes off the rainforest-draped island and gorgeous white sand beaches, you will find the waters offer easy snorkeling and great diving.
Koh Tachai Plateau is a coral-covered plateau surrounded by huge boulders and gorgonian sea fans. Explore the sandy bottom for zebra and nurse sharks and keep your eyes open for passing banded sea snakes.
If you like drift diving, make sure you dive at Koh Tachai Pinnacle. This fun dive site has plankton-rich waters that attract whale sharks and manta rays. The strong currents there also draw in barracuda, trevally and other sharks.
Sitting proud and isolated in azure seas, Koh Bon is exposed to the elements and has two well-known dive spots; Koh Bon Ridge and Koh Bon Pinnacle. This is a relatively quiet place to go diving in Thailand, where you can enjoy less crowded waters and encounters with numerous manta rays.
As well as mantas, there are clams, vivid anemones and soft corals at Koh Bon Ridge, plus frogfish, mantis shrimps and other prized critters. Koh Bon Pinnacle is more exposed but is another excellent spot for critter hunting and for diving along coral-encrusted walls.
No dive trip to Thailand is complete without visiting Richelieu Rock. Often quoted as one of Thailand’s top dives, this pinnacle sits just southeast of the Surin Islands and is stunning.
Richelieu Rock is an advanced dive site with changing currents and swell, but the rewards of diving there are well worth it. Imagine walls of yellow anemones, coral-covered shelves and swirling schools of pelagic fish wherever you look.
Fat scorpion fish sit just below the surface, there are numerous critters and black coral bushes as you dive deeper down. Added to that, whale sharks and manta rays visit this special dive spot from February to April each year. It is a remarkable highlight of diving in Thailand.
Tucked away from the crowds, the Surin Islands are perfect for laid-back shallow reef dives in the Andaman Sea. If you go liveaboard diving at the Similan Islands, you will likely dive these beautiful islands.
Warm calm waters make it easy to explore the hard coral fields and gently sloping sands that typify this area. There are numerous reef fish at the dive sites, which are often visited by passing green and hawksbill turtles as well.
As an added bonus, the dive sites are usually quieter than the Similan Islands, often with no other boats in sight.
With numerous offshore highlights scattered throughout the Andaman Sea, you might not consider Phuket when you go diving in Thailand, but you will be surprised by the excellent diving there. Phuket’s coast is dotted with limestone karsts and dramatic underwater landscapes teeming with colourful fish.
There are protected reefs, limestone walls, caves, crevices and more, hosting tiny critters and cute bamboo sharks through to turtles, mantas and whale sharks. With water visibility reaching up to 40 meters and easy conditions, Phuket is a great Thailand dive destination for less experienced divers.
Koh Phi Phi
Sitting east of Phuket, the jungle-clad cliffs and white sand beaches of the Phi Phi Islands are a veritable playground for divers. Made famous by The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, this is a popular destination for new and experienced divers, offering healthy reefs and limestone walls swathed in corals.
The Phi Phi Islands are an ideal place to practice your skills and go exploring without needing to be an experienced diver. There are fringing coral gardens, caverns and swim-throughs, plus calm bays for novices.
Deep dive sites further afield will tempt experienced divers and Koh Lanta is within easy reach. Make sure you dive the King Cruiser wreck on your way there. This 30-meter-deep wreck is a thriving artificial reef that advanced divers will no doubt enjoy.
Established in 1990, the Mu Koh Lanta National Park has some of west Thailand’s best and most diverse dive sites, including caves, wrecks, pinnacles and whale shark dives. There are numerous dive sites on Koh Lanta’s doorstep, with Koh Haa offering amazing visibility and calm waters ideal for new divers.
Kon Lanta’s two most-famous dive sites, Hin Muang and Hin Daeng, are unmissable highlights of diving in Thailand. Together they host Thailand’s highest vertical wall and a stunning boulder pinnacle, which are renowned for their rainbow-hued soft corals and anemone carpets.
DIVING IN THAILAND – THE GULF OF THAILAND
Home to Thailand’s wreck diving mecca, as well as protected marine parks, thrilling deep dives and idyllic islands, the Gulf of Thailand has countless dive highlights. Especially popular with new divers and families, it is renowned as the place to learn to scuba dive or upskill before exploring Thailand’s advanced dive sites in the Andaman Sea.
With sheltered calm waters, the diving is typically easy, and the protected reefs are thriving. Whether you want to swim with whale sharks, explore imposing wrecks or spend your days lazing on white sand beaches, the Gulf of Thailand will meet your needs.
Experience needed to dive the Gulf of Thailand.
The Gulf of Thailand has abundant dive sites for every experience level.
Best time to go diving in Thailand – the Gulf of Thailand.
May and June for comfortable air temperatures and fewer tourists.
May to August for the best dive conditions.
Top tips for diving in Thailand – the Gulf of Thailand.
If you visit during December to March or July and August, book early. This is peak tourist season.
To avoid monsoon weather, do not dive at Koh Tao, Koh Phangan and Kom Samui during November.
Dive Koh Phangan from March to April for encounters with whale sharks.
Love wreck diving? Visit Pattaya, Thailand’s premier wreck diving destination.
From Koh Phangan to Koh Tao and Koh Samui, the islands in the Western Gulf of Thailand offer wonderful diving, with easy conditions, vibrant reefs and the chance to swim with whale sharks.
As well as hosting whale sharks, Koh Phangan has easy access to some of the Western Gulf’s best dive sites. You can explore local dive sites all along Koh Phangan’s west coast or take a quick 15-minute boat ride to dive world-famous Sail Rock.
Hop over to nearby Koh Ma Island for excellent snorkeling and to surround yourself with colourful angelfish, lionfish and sea turtles. At nearby Haad Yo you can stroll along soft white sand beaches and dive extensive fringing coral reefs in the company of groupers and stingrays.
Offering all of this and more, Koh Phangan is a firm favourite for diving in Thailand.
Just a short boat ride from Koh Phangan, Sail Rock is a partly-submerged rock pinnacle that has so much to offer that you will undoubtedly need more than one dive there.
The main rock is the central point, but there is also an eastern pinnacle, batfish pinnacle and much more. Sail Rock is offshore and exposed, so expect numerous big pelagics at this special site, including schools of trevally and barracuda, plus passing whales sharks and even bull sharks.
Chumphon Marine Park
Stretching across the Gulf of Thailand, the Chumphon Marine Park contains 41 picture-perfect islands that attract divers and snorkelers every year. Being less well developed than other areas of the coast, it is one of Thailand’s hidden diving gems.
The rich waters of this marine park are busy with fish and have coral reefs that almost reach the surface, making it an ideal spot for novice divers. In contrast, Chumphon Pinnacle off Koh Tao is one of the best places to go deep diving in Thailand. There are also swim-throughs and caves, and wrecks still being discovered in this unique area.
Sitting in the azure waters of Chumphon Marine Park, Chumphon Pinnacle has amazing rock formations, where giant barracuda, grouper and snapper shelter.
After just a 20-minute boat ride from Koh Tao, you will arrive at this large pinnacle, which looks like a long undersea mountain range running from north to south. The waters there are always busy with pelagic fish and the shallower reaches are covered in dense anemone beds.
Dive down to 40 meters and work your way upwards to make this most of this impressive dive site. With typically fantastic visibility, this huge granite pinnacle is an awe-inspiring sight.
Koh Tao or ‘Turtle Island’ is a perfect place to get your SSI Open Water Diver certification before exploring the highlights of diving in Thailand. With around 36 dive sites, there are plenty of different dives for novices and experienced divers to enjoy.
Koh Tao’s palm-fringed shores, dramatic cliffs and endless beaches are enough to tempt any traveller. Head underwater and the scenery is just as eye-catching. With pinnacles, swim-throughs, Shark Island and the famous HTMS Sattakut, there is enough to keep any diver busy without needing to go far. When you have had enough of diving – if that is ever possible – you can unwind at the peaceful yoga studios this destination is known for.
The HTMS Sattakut, a Royal Thai Navy warship, lies submerged close to Koh Tao and is one of Thailand’s most popular and photogenic wrecks.
Lying mostly at around 30 meters deep, the Sattakut’s bridge sits at a shallower 18 meters, where there are red kingfish and Yato grouper sheltering within. Schools of snapper surround the wreck and there is also a diverse array of macro critters.
The HTMS Prab, sister ship to the HTMS Sattakut, is another scuttled wreck just off Koh Tao. Lying at a shallower depth, the HTMS Prab is much more accessible for less experienced divers.
With calm waters, good visibility and excellent beaches, Koh Samui is a great base to combine diving in Thailand with a beach holiday, and is ideal for families.
There are good shore dives, with Crystal Bay on the east coast offering both snorkeling and diving along a coral reef and among granite boulders. That said, hop on a day boat to make the most of the numerous dive sites in the area. You can spot everything from whale sharks and sea turtles to schooling fish just offshore.
As well as offering excellent diving, Koh Samui also has a great range of hotels and restaurants, which families will no doubt appreciate after a full day of diving and entertaining the kids.
The Eastern Gulf of Thailand offers a rich and varied dive experience, with excellent wreck dives, as well as breath-taking reefs and pinnacles at Mu Koh Chang National Marine Park.
Pattaya, a beach destination with resorts, malls and a vibrant nightlife, is Thailand’s wreck diving mecca and offers access to wrecks at three different island groups; the Near Islands, Far Islands and Samae San Islands. If you love wrecks, this is the place to go!
The three Near Islands are the most popular to dive and host the HTMS Kood, a former US warship busy with sharks and turtles. There are six Far Islands, where you can dive the HTMS Khram – arguably one of Thailand’s best wrecks, whilst the Samae San Islands offer quiet dives and plenty of macro life.
There are also a handful of wrecks scattered throughout the gorgeous Mu Kho Chang National Marine Park.
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