Rediscovering Thailand, one marine national park at a time

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I hadn’t seen the land of smiles for 10 years. Thailand saw me becoming a certified diver and a divemaster, so the Southeast Asian country will always have a special place in my heart. This is where my life took a different turn. I was excited and anxious at the same time. Would I still love it? One sure thing, I had to do things differently this time. The three first times, I got stuck on Koh Tao, as I fell in love with the vibe of this tiny island in the Gulf of Thailand. But with so many exciting places to visit and reefs to scuba dive, how to decide on a new itinerary?

Did you know the land of smiles was also the land of national parks? 156, to be exact! Thailand is the second country in the world for its number of national parks, behind Australia. While many are in mountainous areas, 14 include coastal areas, mangroves and coral reefs, and you can go scuba diving in 9 of them. So, that’s how I set sail for the Andaman coast, home to most of these protected marine areas. I flew from Bali to Bangkok in early January and then used a mix of buses and boats to reach the Similan, Surin, Phi Phi and Lanta marine national parks.

The story of this one-month voyage in the south of Thailand can be used as a 2-week itinerary if you land at Phuket or Krabi Airport, and stay between Khao Lak and Koh Lanta. In my case, the only direct flights from Bali are to Bangkok. Anyway, I really fancied spending time in the bustling Thai capital again. As I try not to take domestic flights whenever there are reasonably good land or sea alternatives, I took a night bus from Bangkok to Khao Lak via Surat Thani for a total journey of 16 hours, a speedboat between Phuket and Koh Lanta in only 2 hours, then a bus and a ferry from Koh Lanta to Koh Tao for a total trip of 10 hours. In the end, I returned to Bangkok via Chumphon after taking the ferry (1h30) and a bus (8 hours). Here is how it went…

Map of my itinerary

Plan your underwater adventures in Thailand with the interactive map below. It showcases the best dive sites, the most beautiful beaches and the ferry terminals besides the different available airports to organise your trip. I did most of this itinerary by booking buses and boats. The only exception was my night taxi between Khao Lak and Phuket Old Town.

The Similan Marine National Park

Similan marine national park Thailand

It was the number one objective of this trip and the reason why I decided to travel to Thailand in January. The Similan Islands are the spot I heard over and over again, every time I went diving in Thailand. It was time to see if it deserved to be named Thailand’s best dive spot. There are two ways to explore the Similan Islands: with a liveaboard cruise from 3 to 7 days with up to 4 dives a day or with a speedboat for a day trip with a 90-minute bumpy ride each way, leaving time only for 2 dives. In any case, the gateway to the Similan Islands is Khao Lak.

I chose the liveaboard option because there are many dive spots within the Similan archipelago: 9 islands (named Similan no.1, Similan no.2, etc.) plus Koh Bon and Koh Tachai. I wanted to see a little of everything, so the liveaboard was the most economical option. As someone who did her first liveaboard in the Galapagos, the price difference was quite a shock: Thailand is one of the most affordable places in the world to experience a scuba diving liveaboard. It is especially true since you don’t have to go for an entire week. I chose a 4-day/4-night cruise with a total of 15 dives for less than 700€, which obviously included accommodation but also 5 meals a day and unlimited soft drinks and snacks.

I took the time the days before the liveaboard departure to explore Khao Lak, famous for its long sandy beaches. But it is such a vast area that it took me some digging and being back driving a scooter 10 years after I learnt during my divemaster in Koh Tao. The advantage of the size of Khao Lak is that people are spread out along its 40 km main road, so you never feel overwhelmed. But while this 3-lane road left me a bit puzzled at first, from the moment I took the side roads through coconut groves, Khao Lak beaches didn’t disappoint.

Not only are Khuk Khak Beach, Coconut Beach, and Nang Thong Beach some of the most stunning I have seen worldwide, but each has a different topography and vibe. I loved how wide and wild Khuk Khak was. Coconut Beach was a pretty sheltered bay, looking like a lagoon. Nang Thong Beach was the most scenic at sunset, with its lighthouse, surfers and collared kingfishers flying around.

I boarded my scuba diving boat at Tap Lamu Harbour the night before we started diving. I smiled when I saw a name written in Thai beside mine on my cabin door. It wasn’t long before Wan, a Thai diver from Bangkok, and I became friends. The time to prepare my scuba diving gear and my underwater camera, I fell asleep rocked by the waves as we set sails for the Similan Islands.

Waking up at sunrise in the Similan Islands with a cup of real coffee before the bell rang was the best possible start. The next three days followed the same organisation: breakfast at 7.00 am, 1st dive at 8.00 am, breakfast/lunch at 9.30 am, 2nd dive at 11.00 am, lunch at 12.30 pm, 3rd dive at 3.00 pm, snack at 4.30 pm, night dive at 6.00 pm and dinner at 7.30 pm. We were 22 divers on board, so we got organised into 4 groups, taking turns each day on who was going first.

The dives on the first two days were in the Similan Islands per se, including a sunset stop at the Sailrock viewpoint to take a few pictures. The dive sites were a mix of shallow gardens with an impressive diversity of healthy hard corals and many large sea anemones with clownfish, steep walls with scattered yellow gorgonians which feather stars seemed to love, and giant pyramid-looking smooth rocks. We enjoyed hour-long relaxing dives as the dive sites were sheltered from the currents initially, but once we reached Similan Island no.9, the currents started to peak.

During the day, thanks to the excellent visibility, I focused on wide-angle pictures to capture the underwater landscapes teaming with schools of glassfish (note their real name is pygmy sweeper), Randal’s fusiliers and blue-stripped snappers. No shark in sight, but we got the visit of a sizable green turtle on one of our safety stops. It stayed around us for a few minutes and came right to my camera as if asking me to take its picture.

Night diving gave us the opportunity to search for nudibranchs and other macro critters, such as ornate ghost pipefish. Still no shark in sight, but we spotted a couple of giant cuttlefish mating while joining their tentacles. It was more than enough to make our day!

On the third day, things got exciting when we reached Koh Bon and Koh Tachai. The currents were stronger but nothing too crazy. It is always the underlying price of meeting bigger fish. Enormous schools of trevally and emperor fish welcomed us, swirling all around. Closer to the surface, the batfish were both timid and curious but didn’t mind me taking a few pictures. The size of the gorgonians was easily double compared to our first dives, forming elegant bouquets of different colours, punctuated with the red whip coral and pink soft corals.

The highlight was, without a doubt, our encounter with a manta ray in Koh Bon, but my favourite dives remained Koh Tachai. I loved its dense gorgonian gardens, the giant barracudas swirling around me, and the “lobster condos” below its shallow reefs while having fun managing the currents with my best fin kicks.

From Similan Island #4 to Koh Tachai, the Similan Marine National Park delivered epic dives in a pristine environment with great visibility and reasonable currents. I found the dives manageable and even maybe a great opportunity for beginner divers to gain confidence in drift diving. Koh Tachai was my favourite, while the Similan no.4/7/8/9 were nice dives without being incredible. I understand better now why some liveaboards in Thailand focus on the northern part of the Similan Marine National Park.

The Surin Marine National Park

Surin marine national park Thailand

Our liveaboard kept heading north until we reached another marine national park for our final diving day: the Surin Islands. Right below Myanmar (Burma), the Surin Marine National Park is home to one of Thailand’s most famous dive sites: Richelieu Rock. As the dive guide announced at the dive briefing, you can find 80% of the Indian Ocean Fish ID book at Richelieu Rock. That sounded quite promising, so I prayed for whale sharks.

On the last day of our liveaboard, we had the time for 3 dives at Richelieu Rock before heading back to Tap Lamu in 8 hours. While no whale shark came to say hi, everything I saw during those 3 dives clearly put Richelieu Rock on the list of the best dive sites worldwide. The small rock you see at the surface is actually a giant underwater pinnacle. Each dive was quite similar in that we went around it from the deepest to the shallows, making u-turns halfway, depending on the currents. However, on each dive, I saw something new.

The amount of giant trevally, blue trevally and emperor fish forming giant and powerful waves was staggering. There were so many of them that I almost stopped paying attention after the first dive, as they were everywhere. Batfish were there, still curious, and giant cuttlefish, too, still busy mating.

I was so surprised to see there were also many macro critters to look for: There were two harlequin shrimps busy eating a starfish tentacle and many more nudibranchs I had never seen before. I loved the bright orange tomato anemone fish in their green sea anemone, as they are not as common as other anemone fish.

Among the divers diving regularly in the Similan Islands and Surin Islands, there are #TeamKohTachai and #TeamRichelieuRock. Honestly, I couldn’t choose, I loved both, and I recommend having them both on the itinerary of your Similan diving liveaboard.

The Phi Phi Marine National Park

Phi Phi marine national park Thailand

To get from Khao Lak to Koh Lanta right after my diving liveaboard, the best solution was an overnight stay in Phuket and take the boat to Koh Lanta via Koh Phi Phi. Despite my initial doubts, I discovered there is more to Phuket than Patong Beach. It is actually a big island with many different sides. This is especially true in Phuket Old Town’s colourful old Chinese shophouses and multitude of adorable cafés.

The added benefit was being only 20 minutes away from Rassada Pier, where you can board for Koh Phi Phi and Koh Lanta. After a morning of photographing the colourful heritage architecture and drinking the best coffee of my trip, I boarded at 12.30 pm the last direct speedboat for Koh Lanta.

The boat was packed. However, I quickly realised that of the many people on board, I was the only one with the pink Koh Lanta sticker. It was a first hint. I consciously skipped Koh Phi Phi when making my itinerary due to the overtourism it suffers from (especially Maya Bay). Only 3 couples joined me on board in Koh Phi Phi, so we all had plenty of space to enjoy the last 30 minutes of the boat ride.

I was glad to have 2 nights in a stylish resort to rest from the past week before getting underwater again. I couldn’t choose a better place than the Avani+ Koh Lanta. Only a short ride from Saladan Pier, its rooms and private villas are distributed on two hills with a private beach on each side among lush nature. And the cherry on top is meeting its resident family of thornbills! Luckily, the pool of my villa was right in front of their nest, so I had many opportunities to watch them quietly.

Whereas it was about the healthy breakfast as a picnic on the beach, floating in my private pool while snacking on local sweets, the hour-long essential oil massage at the spa, or tasting the best Thai cuisine in a vegetarian version, everything was on point to recharge my batteries.

On my third day, as OK Club Diving picked me up at 7.15 am at the hotel, I discovered we were heading back to Koh Phi Phi! I understood then that the bay formed by Phuket, Krabi and Koh Lanta is a fabulous underwater playground for scuba divers, and the Phi Phi islands being in the middle, you can access it from any point. The archipelago includes Koh Phi Phi Don (the main island with the hotels), Koh Phi Phi Lee (where Maya Bay is) and Koh Bida Nai & Koh Biba Nok. The two last ones, the southernmost tip of the Phi Phi Islands, are the scuba divers’ paradise of the Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park.

When we arrived, I quickly recognised the high karst limestone islands that made Koh Phi Phi internationally famous. They are like rocky towers floating above the sea. Koh Bida Nai and Koh Bida Nok are no exception. So it’s by the impressive cliffs of Koh Bida Nai that one giant stride later, I was back underwater.

The cliff continues underwater, reaching a reasonable depth of 21 m. The amount of fish was incredibly dense. Massive schools of yellow snappers were swirling around us, sometimes completely engulfing us. While I already had a taste of colder thermoclines pushed by currents in the Surin Islands, this is where I felt the biggest temperature difference, with a minimum temperature of 25°C at 20 m. I actually enjoyed the 3°C difference with the surface, as I often felt too warm with my 3/4mm full wetsuit. But the thermocline is also murkier, meaning it is full of nutrients. While it lowers the visibility and the brightness level sometimes, there is no doubt it makes the fish thrive here.

I spent most of the dive photographing in wide-angle the giant orange gorgonians punctuated by elegant red harp coral while the yellow snappers put on a show in the background. But towards the end of the dive, Sebastien, my dive guide, showed me to have a closer look at the wall. We found whip coral goby, coral banded shrimp and a desirable flabellina (Flabellina Exoptata), which remains one of my favourite nudibranchs with its deep pink colour with a touch of yellow on the tips of its cerata.

After an hour of surface interval, we headed to the neighbouring island of Koh Bida Nok for a much shallower dive in its lagoon. Seconds after deflating my BCD, I was welcomed by a dense, shiny school of diamond fish. After passing a few half-closed purple sea anemones where pink anemone fish played peekaboo, we arrived at a 5 m deep natural rocky pool. My attention was immediately drawn to a squad of bigfin reef squid. Right below the surface, their translucent body reflected the sun in shimmery colours. And while trying to get a closer shot of the squids, I heard a loud “Humph!” next to me… black tip sharks!

A whole shiver of young black-tip sharks! As chasing is never the way to get a good shot, I tried to analyse their swimming pattern and position myself strategically, but no, they always turned before being at the proper distance to my camera. A least I finally saw sharks in Thailand!

When I thought I already had a good day, we continued along a shallow wall (maximum depth 16 m) and found only meters from each other, hiding in a cavity, a yellow tigertail seahorse and an ornate ghost pipefish! The seahorse got me the most excited as they tend to be extremely camera shy, and finally, I got my best shot of a yellow seahorse. Imagine how thrilled I was after such a day.

The Lanta Marine National Park

Lanta marine national park Thailand

I might have found the most underrated scuba diving spot in Thailand. Like most divers, I mostly heard about the Similan Islands and Richelieu Rock over and over again. Never, ever did the name of Koh Haa reach my ears or my laptop screen before. I had the opportunity to scuba dive there 2 days in a row, just to be sure I had found my favourite dive spot in Thailand!

Koh Haa is a group of 5 islands, as its name states in Thai. It belongs to the Mu Ko Lanta National Park, together with the south of Lanta Yai Island. Almost all scuba diving boats in Koh Lanta leave from the harbour of Saladan, north of Koh Lanta Yai.

I could try the two options to get to Koh Haa with OK Club Diving. You can go by either a regular boat (a former fishing boat) or a speedboat. The first one is slower as it takes 2 hours to reach Koh Haa and the same time to return. It only takes 40 minutes with the speedboat, so not only do you sleep more in the morning, but you can also be first on the dive site. There is a price difference (300 BHT/ 8€), but both have advantages. It depends on whether you prefer having time to nap with plenty of space onboard or are eager to explore the island in the afternoon after diving.

Among the 5 islands of Koh Haa, 3 are extraordinary dive sites :

  • Koh Haa no.1 “Chimney”
  • Koh Haa no.3 “Lagoon”
  • Koh Haa no.5 “Cathedral”

The reason I loved diving in Koh Haa so much is due to its tremendous diversity. Shallow, deep, walls, coral gardens, caverns, swim-through, you name it! On both days, we started by “Corner Lagoon” in Koh Haa #3 as we went to the deepest point (26 m) to hopefully see some bull or leopard sharks. Unfortunately, no sight of a shark fin on both dives but a peacock mantis shrimp crossing the sandy bottom over to the nearest den. You know the story with nature…

While keeping an eye on the blue, I admired the soft coral reefs coming in all shades of red, purple, pink, yellow, orange, and enveloped in a mesmerising layer of pygmy sweepers. This is also where I found some extraordinary nudibranchs like the mosaic halgerda (Halgerda Indotessella) and the twin chromodoris (Goniobranchius Geminus) that I mistakenly took for the Kuniei type from New Caledonia – the only difference, a white line!

The 5th island is rightfully nicknamed “Cathedral”. Its two interconnected underwater caverns, 10 to 15 m high, reminded me of Malta last year, except this time, the water was 27°C, and the cave entrance was covered in corals. As often, when making a U-turn at the cavern’s end, the view of its glowing blue entrance is an enchantment. Next to the exit, I met the resident giant grouper of the islet. This 2 m long baby kept its distance but showed friendly and curious behaviour. Approaching gently, step by step, it let me take a few close-up shots I was delighted with.

Island No. 1 was indeed my #1 dive site. Nicknamed “Chimney” due to its narrow tunnel, one part being vertical, through the coral reef, where you must display your best buoyancy control and move forward with gentle frog kicks. Many more swim-throughs, arches and canyons were decorated with colourful bouquets of soft corals. We also passed clownfish playing hide and seek, schooling trevally and emperor fish, and a turtle came to say hi before our final safety stop.

It’s important to note that there are, a bit further, two other islands belonging to the Lanta Marine National Park, Hin Daeng and Hin Muang. Some say it’s even better than Richelieu Rock, with high chances of seeing whale sharks and manta rays in March-April. Unfortunately, an intense jellyfish bloom put off most operators from going at the time of my visit due to divers coming back stung even in full wetsuits. I’ll have to come back!

Before leaving Koh Lanta, I took the time to explore its inland side on a scooter road trip (my longest ever, about 65 km, yay!). I absolutely loved driving on the quiet roads of Koh Lanta, lined up with colourful hibiscus, while monkeys jumped above our heads between palm trees and electric poles.

There are beaches all along Lanta Yai western shore, but the most stunning are located in the south, especially the part that belongs to the Lanta National Park (200 BHT entrance). My favourites? Relax Bay, Kantian Bay and Laemtanod Beach in the national park. The latter was by far the most scenic with its lighthouse (make sure to climb up the nature trail after the lotus pond for a breathtaking view from above).

Wandering around the streets of Old Lanta Town on the East Coast was then the perfect combination with the lush nature of the national park: the old wooden houses, the red Chinese lanterns swinging with the wind, the view from the piers above the water, and… the food!

Old Lanta Town is where I had the most delicious Thai food in my entire trip. I had lunch at the Shine Talay restaurant, which offers fresh seafood and even seagrapes, the seaweed called umibudo in Japanese, which I used to love in Okinawa. I ordered a spicy seagrape salad and a pad see ew, my favourite stir-fried fresh wide rice noodles. It was so tasty that I wasn’t surprised when I heard the restaurant was a favourite among local families who would come together once a month for a treat.

Back to Koh Tao

Koh Tao Thailand

While January is a great month to dive in the Andaman Coast, it’s not the case on the other side, in the Gulf of Thailand. But I couldn’t resist going to Koh Tao after 10 years without visiting Thailand. I had to see how it had turned. Koh Tao being halfway to Bangkok from Koh Lanta was the perfect excuse. Would it have changed too much?

So that’s how I embarked on a 10-hour trip doing bus-ferry-bus-ferry. A breathtaking sunset welcomed me when I arrived at Mae Haad, Koh Tao’s main harbour. My fear of finding it too changed immediately vanished. Of course, the island is more built up than before, but I saw more changes between 2009 and 2013, than between 2014 and now. This is especially true in the case of Chalok Ban Kao, the beach in the south of the island which remains my absolute favourite spot to stay.

I was pleasantly surprised with an improved road network allowing me to explore secluded beaches and viewpoints on a scooter. On top of this, while my favourite local food institutions were still there (Tukta, Dee Dee), there were new cute cafés (Kopee, High the Moon, and Culture Coffee) and many international food options (Personally, I stick to Asian cuisine – Chinese with Gemini Dumplings, Japanese/Korean with Asia Moods).

Diving-wise, I knew what I was into with low visibility in January. I was surprised that the prices have remained affordable in Koh Tao, with fun dives still starting at 800 BHT (about 21€). Going diving still consists of transferring from the beach in a small boat to a big former fishing boat with plenty of space and a compressor on board. Dive sites are 15 to 45 minutes away. This is why dive centres can offer up to 5 dives a day (night dive included). Koh Tao is diving made easy. I now realise how much I was spoiled to start my diving career there and how hassle-free it is. Small but not too small, Koh Tao has it all, besides a close-knit diving community and the opportunity to make new friends every day just as passionate about the ocean.

After 22 dives in the Andaman Coast, there is no denying that Koh Tao cannot compare with the beauty of dive sites like Koh Tachai, Richelieu Rock or Koh Haa. But on the other hand, the price tag is not the same. Despite the challenging visibility in January (we are talking about 10-15 m), I could see that Chumpon Pinnacle still deserves to be my favourite Koh Tao dive site: hundreds of sea anemones covering the rocks, giant barrel sponges, massive schools of barracudas and yellow snappers, and always the shy but curious giant groupers. An excellent surprise came as I rediscovered Green Rock with exciting swim-throughs and many nudibranchs to look for. Kudos to French Kiss Divers instructors and divemasters for showing me nudibranchs I had never seen before in Koh Tao!

This trip was everything I could hope for and more. Besides Koh Tao, I have a new favourite place in Thailand, Koh Lanta. Next time, I want to return in March, explore new areas such as Krabi and Koh Lipe, and hopefully see leopard and whale sharks. The options as a scuba diver in Thailand are almost endless. Now that I am not far away, I won’t have to wait 10 more years!

Things to know before you go diving in Thailand

Scuba diving in Thailand

Here are a few extra useful tips to go diving in Southern Thailand and make the most of your trip. Let’s look at the diving seasons, the marine park fees you need to budget, and the coolest dive centres and hotels to book.

When is the best season?

This is key information: in Thailand, the rainy season isn’t all over the country at the same. There are two rainy seasons. While the part of Thailand from Chiang Mai to Phuket via Bangkok (Northern, Central and Andaman Coast) has its rainy season from May to October, the Gulf of Thailand (Koh Samui and Koh Tao) has its rainy season from October to January. So, if you do the math, the best season to do a scuba diving tour of Thailand on both the West and East coasts is from February to April.

Regarding the best diving conditions, water is at its clearest in the Andaman coast from January to April and Koh Tao from March to June. If you consider that the peak season to see whale sharks is February-March, especially in Koh Tao, where there have been more sightings in recent years, that leaves us with a sweet spot in March. However, you can dive all year long in Thailand by choosing the area wisely. Regarding water temperatures, you can always expect warm waters, usually between 26 and 30°C. I recommend a 3mm full wetsuit (the full wetsuit being in case you run into a jellyfish bloom).

In any case, because of the conditions at sea, the Similan and the Surin Marine National Parks are closed from the 16th of May to the 14th of October every year, and so are the dive sites of the Lanta Marine National Park from the 1st of July to the 30th of August. These annual closures allow the ecosystems to recover from the tourism pressure at a time when it’s not ideal to visit anyway. Well done, Thailand!

How much are the marine park fees?

The fees only apply to the marine national parks of the Andaman Coast. Koh Tao is not a national park; there is no additional fee when diving there. Make sure you have some spare cash when diving in the Similan Islands, Koh Phi Phi or Koh Lanta.

Here are the different fees to add on top of the price of your dives:

  • In the Similan Marine National Park, the entrance fee for liveaboards is 900 BHT (23€), to which you need to add 200 BHT (5€) per day for scuba divers (scuba diving day trip fees are 700 BHT).
  • In the Surin Marine National Park, you pay 500 BHT (13€) for the entrance and a 200 BHT (5€) daily diving fee.
  • In Mu Ko Phi Phi Marine National Park, scuba divers pay 400 BHT (10€) on the first day for a ticket, allowing them to dive for 200 BHT (5€) per day on days 2 and 3.
  • In the Mu Ko Lanta Marine National Park, fees are 600 BHT (16 €) per day for scuba divers, and there isn’t any discount for consecutive diving days, unfortunately.

Who to go diving with?

Regarding the Similan Islands, the liveaboard was much cheaper when I compared the cost of staying in Khao Lak and a diving day trip. Besides, this is the best solution to enjoy a bit of everything when you have never dived in the Similan Islands before. On top of 4 dives a day (instead of 2 for the day trip) and all the delicious Thai food we were fed on board (including Mukata Thai barbecue dinner), I calculated each dive to be around 25€. It is just unbeatable.

There are quite a few scuba diving liveaboard touring the Similan Islands, but they are not at sea all the time and the cruise duration varies. Check liveaboard.com to find what suits your dates and budget. Most boats look similar, and it’s hard to be disappointed with the food in Thailand. In any case, I loved feeling like I was camping at sea and meeting the Thai diving community.

In Koh Lanta, I cannot recommend enough OK Club Diving. Not only is it an excellent training centre for all levels up to tech diving, but the knowledge of André and Sebastien of the dive sites blew my mind. They showed me marine species that would delight any underwater photographer. At the time of my visit, their speedboat was still in maintenance, so we joined other dive centres’ boats. I cannot wait to return to dive from their beautiful boat (I had a sneak peek at the dockyard). Last but not least, as the diving season in the Phi Phi and Lanta marine national parks is limited, they offer cave diving for tech divers in the rainy season.

In Koh Tao, I remained loyal to the dive centre that saw me becoming a Divemaster, French Kiss Divers. In 10 years since my last visit, they have now moved to Mae Haad, the main harbour of Koh Tao, in a beachfront facility including a chilled café, the “O’rendez-vous”, offering plenty of juices, smoothies and light food options for relaxing with your dive buddies. If you are an experienced diver, you’ll prefer diving in the morning: the dive sites are usually deeper and more interesting (especially Chumpon Pinnacle). If you’re looking for a cheerful vibe with the bonus of croissants at the surface interval, look no further.

Where to stay?

Khao Lak beach Thailand

Here is the list of 6 hotels I used throughout my trip in the south of Thailand:

  • In Khao Lak, I was glad I found the Chu’s Boutique Hotel, as most hotels were fully booked in January. The brand-new hotel looked like a small tropical motel with rooms around the pool just big enough to cool off. The private rooms were modern and spotless and included a kettle and a fridge, which, thanks to the 7-Eleven around the corner, was perfect for breakfast and even dinner once. For those who want to splurge, I also had the opportunity to spend the day at the Avani+ Khao Lak, whose restaurant had the best modern Thai cuisine I had tasted on my entire trip. Their premium offer includes front beach villas and suites with private swimming pools.
  • In Phuket Old Town, I stayed overnight in a small boutique hotel, Xinlor House, in the middle of the heritage shophouse district. Since I had only a morning to explore before boarding a boat to Koh Lanta, it was perfect to be 10 minutes walking from everything.
  • In Koh Lanta, I had my splurging moment, like I do in any adventure, to recharge my batteries. I spend 2 nights at the Avani+ Koh Lanta in a one-bedroom villa with a private pool overlooking the Phi Phi Islands. Everything was perfect, from the comfort of the room to the delicious food. With lush gardens, private beaches and a modern spa, staying at the resort for a full day wasn’t a problem. It is only 5 minutes from Saladan Harbour, where scuba diving boats leave. I spent the rest of my stay in a one-bedroom bungalow with a kitchen.
  • In Koh Tao, I stayed first at the comfortable superior room of the Assava Resort by the beach of Chalok Ban Kao. I finished with a more budget-friendly option at the Dearly Hostel to meet up more easily with fellow scuba diving travellers while staying in a private single room. The room was minimalistic but much bigger than expected, and the shared bathroom next door was always spotless.

Is something still missing from this article? Do you have any questions?

Please let me know in the comments, and I’ll do my best to help!

This article was written in partnership with the Tourism Authority of Thailand. As always, all my views and opinions are my own and reflect my experience honestly.


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