Best Diving in Thailand | Don’t Miss These Dive Sites

Thailand’s waters are a diver’s sanctuary, offering visibility unparalleled in the tropical world, alongside reefs bustling with vibrant corals and marine life. The nation’s unique position, bordered by the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea, introduces divers to a diverse range of underwater landscapes, including fringing reefs, deep drop-offs, and intriguing wrecks

Protected areas, such as the Similan Islands Marine National Park established in 1982, safeguard these aquatic wonders, ensuring Thailand remains a top destination for divers seeking the extraordinary, from majestic whale sharks to the elusive seahorse.

So, if you are planning your next trip to the land of smiles and want to know which areas have the best scuba diving destinations, read on as we explore your options.

  1. Koh Dok Mai (Intermediate, Phuket / Phi Phi)
  2. Koh Lipe (All Levels / Tarutao)
  3. Koh Racha (Immediate / Phuket)
  4. Andaman Sea (All Levels / West Coast)
  5. Hin Muang and Hin Daeng (Experienced / Koh Lanta)
  6. Similan Islands (All Levels / Similan National Park)
  7. Sail Rock (All Levels / Koh Tao)
  8. Chumphon Pinnacle (Experienced / Koh Tao)
  9. Krabi (Advanced / Ao Nang)
  10. Richelieu Rock (Experienced / Similan Islands)

Best Diving in Thailand

Giant stride entry from boat in Thailand
From shore diving to boat diving, there is something for every level diver in Thailand

Thailand’s exotic dives are not just for experienced divers, but also for those explorers and holidaymakers looking to get close to local marine life. With a wonderful marine national park scene out here, there is lots to see.  

The National Parks are highly praised and as with any dive location, please treat the marine life with utmost respect, don’t touch anything and leave behind nothing more than bubbles.

Here are my top best dive sites in Thailand, by region:

Diving in Phuket

Phuket, Thailand’s largest island, is a magnet for divers drawn to its crystal-clear waters and rich marine biodiversity. The island serves as a gateway to some of the best dive sites in the Andaman Sea, including the renowned Similan and Surin Islands Marine National Parks.

Divers in Phuket enjoy a variety of underwater experiences, from exploring vibrant coral reefs to encountering large pelagics like manta rays and whale sharks. The area is also famous for its fascinating wrecks, offering advanced divers the thrill of penetrating historical sunken vessels.

Phuket’s appeal lies not only in its underwater treasures but also in its role as a center for dive education, with numerous dive shops and schools offering certification courses.

Some of the best dive sites on offer from Phuket include:

Koh Dok Mai

Koh Dok Mai, a limestone island off the coast of Phuket, Thailand, is a vertical wall diving paradise renowned for its vibrant marine life and dramatic underwater topography. This dive site is a magnet for divers keen on exploring the sheer walls that plunge into the depths, adorned with soft corals and anemones.

The site is celebrated for its macro life, including rare sightings of seahorses, ghost pipefish, and a myriad of nudibranch species, making it a haven for underwater photographers. Visibility at Koh Dok Mai can vary but often offers clear views, allowing divers to fully appreciate the intricate details of the wall and its inhabitants.

Unique to Koh Dok Mai are the small caves and crevices that punctuate the wall, providing homes for a variety of marine species and adding an element of exploration to the dive. This site stands out for its combination of dramatic landscapes and the opportunity to observe some of the Andaman Sea’s most elusive creatures up close, ensuring a dive experience that is both thrilling and rewarding.

Koh Racha Noi

Koh Racha Noi is an island celebrated for its rugged underwater topography and challenging dive spots. This destination is renowned for its deep drop-offs and large boulder formations, offering an exhilarating experience for advanced divers.

The clear waters around Koh Racha Noi boast visibility that can reach up to 30 meters, providing pristine conditions for observing the rich marine life. Divers can encounter large pelagic fish, including manta rays and, occasionally, whale sharks, drawn to the area’s abundant food supply.

A distinctive feature of Koh Racha Noi is its remote location, which ensures a less crowded diving experience compared to more popular sites. This isolation allows for intimate encounters with nature, making each dive a serene exploration of the underwater world.

Koh Racha Noi’s allure lies in its blend of challenging dive conditions and the opportunity to witness majestic marine creatures up close. It stands as a must-visit site for those seeking adventure beneath the waves, promising unforgettable underwater adventures.

Koh Racha Yai

Koh Racha Yai is a diving gem known for its crystal-clear waters and vibrant marine life. The island’s dive sites feature spectacular coral reefs and abundant underwater life, making it a favourite among divers of all levels.

The waters around Koh Racha Yai are renowned for their gentle currents and excellent visibility, often exceeding 30 meters. This environment provides the perfect conditions for both novice divers and those looking to enhance their underwater photography skills.

Unique to Koh Racha Yai are its underwater sculptures, which serve as artificial reefs, attracting a diverse array of marine species. These sites not only offer a unique visual experience but also contribute to the growth of the local marine ecosystem.

Koh Racha Yai’s appeal lies in its ability to provide serene dive experiences amidst breathtaking natural beauty. Divers are treated to encounters with a variety of marine life, from colorful fish to majestic rays, making every dive a memorable adventure.

Diving in Koh Lipe

If you’re anywhere near the spectacular Tarutao National Marine Park, you will likely want to take a dip out towards Koh Lipe all year round. It’s one of the most exciting scuba diving spots for colourful coral and interesting rock formations 

In fact, the experience makes up one of up to 20 dive sites around Tarutao, meaning if you’re looking for variety, come on in….

8 Miles Rock

8 Miles Rock, off Koh Lipe, Thailand, is an isolated pinnacle that rises from the deep, making it a magnet for pelagic marine life. This dive site is famed for its challenging conditions and the opportunity to see rare species in their natural habitat.

With strong currents and deep waters, 8 Miles Rock is suited for experienced divers seeking thrilling encounters. Visibility here can extend up to 30 meters, offering clear views of the surrounding marine biodiversity, including whale sharks and manta rays.

A unique aspect of 8 Miles Rock is its status as a cleaning station for large marine animals. Divers often witness intimate moments of marine life interactions, adding a unique dimension to the dive experience.

8 Miles Rock stands out for its adventurous dive settings and the exceptional variety of pelagic life it attracts. It represents a pinnacle of diving in Koh Lipe, promising memorable underwater adventures for those who venture to its depths.

Koh Adang

Koh Adang offers divers a serene underwater landscape marked by vibrant coral gardens and a rich tapestry of marine life. This dive site is known for its gentle currents and shallow waters, making it ideal for snorkelers, beginner divers and macro enthusiasts.

The clear, warm waters around Koh Adang boast excellent visibility, often up to 20 meters, allowing divers to easily observe the underwater biodiversity. Home to a variety of fish species, turtles, and colorful corals, Koh Adang provides a peaceful dive experience.

What sets Koh Adang apart is its untouched natural beauty, both above and below the water. Divers can enjoy the tranquility of the sea while being surrounded by the island’s lush, protected rainforest, offering a unique blend of eco-tourism activities.

Koh Adang’s allure lies in its ability to offer a calming dive experience amidst stunning natural surroundings. It serves as a reminder of the ocean’s gentle side, inviting divers to explore its underwater wonders at a leisurely pace.

Stonehenge

Stonehenge, near Koh Lipe, is an underwater spectacle named for its towering rock formations that mimic the famous prehistoric monument. This site is distinguished by its vibrant soft corals and sea fans that adorn the limestone pillars, creating a mesmerising underwater landscape.

The depth at Stonehenge varies, offering challenges for divers of all levels, with areas ranging from 5 to 25 meters. The clear waters around the site boast excellent visibility, often up to 20 meters, allowing divers to fully appreciate the rich tapestry of marine life.

A hallmark of Stonehenge is its biodiversity; the site is a haven for macro photography enthusiasts, home to seahorses, nudibranchs, and rare ghost pipefish. This diversity, coupled with the unique topography, makes Stonehenge a must-visit dive site for those exploring Koh Lipe.

It’s a great dive to end the day on if you have been at some of the deeper sites in your earlier dives. However, Stonehenge is exposed to the elements, and it may not be possible to dive at certain times of the month as the moon cycle changes and brings in stronger currents.

Stonehenge’s allure is not just its natural beauty but also its ability to offer a tranquil yet engaging dive experience. It stands as a testament to the underwater wonders of Koh Lipe, inviting divers to explore its depths and discover the vibrant life that thrives within.

Diving in the Andaman Sea

The Andaman sea is vast and its marine life abundant

The Andaman Sea, bordering the western coast of Thailand, is a diver’s paradise, renowned for its crystal-clear waters and abundant marine life. This vast body of water offers an array of dive sites ranging from shallow coral gardens to deep underwater canyons and wrecks, catering to divers of all skill levels.

A defining feature of the Andaman Sea is its biodiversity; the area is home to everything from the smallest nudibranchs to the largest pelagic species, such as whale sharks and manta rays. The sea’s warm temperatures make it an ideal location for both beginners and experienced divers seeking new challenges.

Unique to the Andaman Sea are the Similan and Surin Islands, protected marine parks, known for their pristine conditions and untouched beauty. These islands are a testament to Thailand’s commitment to marine conservation, offering some of the best diving in the world.

There’s just too much to see out along the west coast of Thailand – and while I’m going to highlight one or two of the best sites along this stretch a little further down, it is perhaps worth taking a trip to the Andaman Sea for your entire holiday.

Similan Islands

There is always something new to see on a dive in the Similan Islands

The Similan Islands, located in the Andaman Sea of Thailand, are acclaimed as one of the top diving destinations globally. This archipelago of nine islands offers divers crystal-clear waters and some of the most spectacular underwater vistas, characterized by massive boulders, vibrant coral reefs, and a plethora of marine life.

Diving in the Similan Islands is distinguished by the opportunity to explore intricate cave systems, swim-throughs, and the chance to dive at renowned sites like Elephant Head Rock. These islands provide an unparalleled diving experience, with visibility that can extend up to 30 meters, allowing divers to fully immerse themselves in the underwater world.

This is where I went on my first liveaboard and if I’m honest, it impressed me a lot. The life here is so diverse, it felt like a pristine environment.

Richelieu Rock

Richelieu Rock is heralded as one of the best dive sites in the world, famous for its horseshoe-shaped reef and vibrant marine life. This submerged pinnacle is a magnet for underwater photographers and biodiversity enthusiasts, offering a kaleidoscope of colors and creatures.

The site is renowned for its soft corals, sea fans, and anemones that blanket the rock, creating a mesmerising underwater landscape. Divers can expect to see a wide array of species, from tiny nudibranchs and seahorses to large pelagics like whale sharks, especially during the plankton blooms.

Richelieu Rock’s unique environment supports a thriving ecosystem, making it a hotspot for spotting rare and endangered species. The visibility varies but can stretch up to 30 meters, allowing divers to fully immerse themselves in the breathtaking beauty of the site.

Koh Tachai Pinnacle

Koh Tachai Pinnacle, nestled in the clear waters of the Andaman Sea, Thailand, is celebrated for its breathtaking underwater scenery and challenging dive conditions. This submerged pinnacle, known locally as “Twin Peaks,” features two main high points surrounded by deep blue waters, attracting advanced divers from around the globe.

The site is renowned for its vibrant soft corals and large sea fans that cling to the boulders, creating a kaleidoscope of color beneath the waves. Divers can expect to encounter a diverse range of marine life, including manta rays, whale sharks, and schools of barracuda, making each dive an unforgettable experience.

A unique draw of Koh Tachai Pinnacle is its dynamic currents, which bring in clear waters and a rich variety of pelagic species. This natural phenomenon ensures that no two dives are the same and highlights the pinnacle’s role as a vital feeding and cleaning station for large marine animals.

Koh Bon

Koh Bon is a magnet for divers seeking close encounters with manta rays. This island does not boast the sandy beaches typical of its neighbours but makes up for it with its spectacular underwater landscape, particularly the west ridge, a favourite among divers.

The waters around Koh Bon are known for their clarity and the opportunity to dive with manta’s, which are often seen gliding gracefully around the cleaning station. Aside from mantas, the vibrant coral walls and abundant marine life, including leopard sharks and moray eels, make every dive an exploration of biodiversity.

Koh Bon sets itself apart with its serene beauty and the thrilling experience of drifting along its steep walls, enveloped in a world of color and life. The site’s reputation as a go-to destination for manta ray sightings underscores its unique contribution to Thailand’s diving scene, offering a blend of adventure and the chance to witness the majestic dance of the mantas.

Elephant Head Rock

Elephant Head Rock stands as a majestic underwater marvel, named for its resemblance to an elephant’s head. This dive site is celebrated for its complex maze of swim-throughs, arches, and caverns, offering an exhilarating challenge for divers.

The site plunges divers into a world of dramatic rock formations, where visibility can extend up to 30 meters, allowing for clear views of the vibrant marine life that inhabits the area. Divers are often greeted by a variety of fish species, including trevallies and groupers, alongside the occasional sightings of larger pelagics like manta rays and sharks.

A hallmark of Elephant Head Rock is its biodiversity; the nooks and crannies within the rocks serve as a sanctuary for macro life, including nudibranchs and shrimp, making it the perfect place for underwater photographers. The dynamic topography and abundant life make Elephant Head Rock a standout dive site in Thailand, offering both beauty and adventure beneath the waves.

Diving in Koh Tao

sandy beach in koh tao with jungle and blue skies
Koh Tao maybe small, but it certainly offers a lot for divers

Koh Tao is a renowned diving destination, celebrated for its clear, warm waters and vibrant marine ecosystems. This small island in the Gulf of Thailand offers a wide range of dive sites suitable for beginners and advanced divers alike, including shallow coral gardens, deep pinnacles, and intriguing shipwrecks.

The island’s draw for divers is not just the variety of dive sites but also its reputation as a premier location for dive certifications, with numerous dive schools offering courses at competitive rates. The rich biodiversity, including sightings of whale sharks, rays, and a myriad of tropical fish, enhances the diving experience, making Koh Tao a must-visit for underwater enthusiasts.

Koh Tao’s unique charm lies in its laid-back atmosphere and the accessibility of its dive sites, many of which are just a short boat ride from the shore. It stands as a testament to Thailand’s beauty, offering an underwater adventure that captivates both novice and experienced divers, ensuring a memorable experience.

Sail Rock

Sail Rock, situated between Koh Phangan and Koh Tao, is an iconic dive site renowned for its solitary chimney-like structure that pierces the surface of the water. This natural pinnacle, extending from the sandy bottom at 30 meters to just above the water’s surface, offers a unique underwater experience unlike any other in the region.

The dive site is famous for the “chimney,” a vertical swim-through that divers can enter at 18 meters and exit at either 12 meters or 6 meters, providing a thrilling exploration opportunity. Encrusted with corals and teeming with marine life, Sail Rock is a haven for large schools of fish, including chevron barracuda, batfish, and the occasional whale shark.

A hallmark of Sail Rock is its ability to attract marine life from the surrounding area, making it a bustling hub of activity and a favourite among photographers and marine enthusiasts alike. It stands out as a must-visit destination for divers in Thailand, offering the allure of its unique topography and the rich biodiversity that congregates around this solitary pinnacle.

Chumphon Pinnacle

Chumphon Pinnacle is a beacon for divers attracted to its large underwater granite formation. Rising from the sea floor at 14 meters to just below the surface, this site is celebrated for its impressive biodiversity and the chance to encounter large pelagic fish.

The pinnacle is enveloped in a rich tapestry of marine life, including schools of trevally, barracuda, and the occasional whale shark, making it a thrilling dive location for enthusiasts of big fish encounters. Soft corals, anemones, and a variety of sea fans add to the site’s underwater beauty, creating a vibrant ecosystem.

A unique feature of Chumphon Pinnacle is its series of smaller pinnacles surrounding the main formation, known as “Barracuda Rock”, which divers can explore to discover more secluded areas teeming with life. This dive site’s allure is enhanced by its varying depth and the opportunity it provides for both novice and experienced divers to challenge themselves amidst the beauty of the Gulf of Thailand.

Chumphon Pinnacle’s reputation as a must-visit dive destination is well-earned, offering an underwater adventure that combines the majesty of its towering formations with the dynamic presence of its marine inhabitants. 

Diving in Krabi

Explore Krabi's national parks, above water and underwater

Krabi is well known for its diverse marine environments and crystal-clear waters, attracting divers from around the globe. This destination boasts a variety of dive sites, including vibrant coral reefs, fascinating caves, and intriguing wrecks, suitable for all experience levels.

The province is distinguished by its dramatic limestone cliffs, which extend underwater to form captivating caverns and overhangs rich with marine life. Divers in Krabi are treated to scenes of colourful coral gardens, bustling schools of tropical fish, and occasional visits from larger marine creatures.

Krabi is a prime location for accessing renowned dive spots such as the Phi Phi Islands and the King Cruiser wreck, positioning it as a key diving hub in the Andaman Sea. Efforts to preserve the region’s natural beauty ensure that its underwater treasures remain intact for future diving enthusiasts.

Krabi’s draw for divers is its combination of spectacular above and below water landscapes and the abundance of marine life that inhabits its waters. Serving as a portal to Thailand’s underwater wonders, Krabi offers memorable diving experiences amidst some of the most picturesque settings in the Andaman Sea.

Koh Yawabon

Koh Yawabon is a hidden gem among the country’s dive sites, offering a serene underwater environment distinct from the more frequented locations. This site is particularly noted for its intricate cave systems and overhangs, providing a unique diving experience that captivates both novice and experienced divers.

The underwater terrain at Koh Yawabon is adorned with a rich tapestry of soft corals and sea fans, creating a colorful backdrop for the diverse marine life that inhabits this area. Divers can expect to navigate through narrow swim-throughs and caverns, encountering schools of tropical fish and the occasional shy reef shark.

A standout feature of Koh Yawabon is the tranquility it offers under the sea, making it an ideal spot for those looking to escape the crowds and immerse themselves in Thailand’s natural aquatic beauty. This dive site embodies the essence of exploration and discovery, promising an unforgettable underwater adventure amidst the Andaman Sea’s hidden treasures.

King Cruiser Wreck

The King Cruiser Wreck, off the coast of Phuket, Thailand, is an artificial reef created by the sinking of a passenger ferry in 1997. This dive site attracts a wide array of marine life, making it a bustling underwater metropolis.

Sitting at a depth ranging from 12 to 30 meters, the wreck is accessible to divers with an Advanced Open Water certification. The structure is enveloped in soft corals and sponges, hosting schools of fish, lionfish, and occasional sea turtles.

The King Cruiser Wreck’s allure lies in its dramatic history and the opportunity it provides for exploration of a large, intact wreck. It serves as a captivating site for underwater photography and a haven for marine biodiversity, making it a must-visit destination in Thailand’s diving repertoire.

Is Thailand Good for Scuba Diving?

The great visibility and reliable conditions draw thousands of divers to Thailand each year

Thailand is renowned as an excellent destination for scuba diving, offering crystal-clear waters with visibility up to 30 meters and a water temperature averaging around 28°C year-round. The country boasts over 1,500 miles of coastline, featuring diverse dive sites that include vibrant coral reefs, fascinating shipwrecks, and unique underwater formations. 

With more than 700 species of coral and over 4,000 species of fish, Thailand’s marine biodiversity is a draw for divers worldwide. Furthermore, Thailand’s commitment to marine conservation, exemplified by the establishment of numerous Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) such as the Similan and Surin Islands National Parks, ensures the preservation of its underwater ecosystems for future generations. 

These factors, combined with the availability of a range of agency certified dive centers and courses for all levels, affirm Thailand’s status as a premier scuba diving destination.

Other Dive Destinations

Where is the Best Diving in Thailand?

The best diving in Thailand is often considered to be in the Andaman Sea, particularly around the Similan Islands, known for their crystal-clear waters, vibrant coral reefs, and diverse marine life.  

With dive sites varying from shallow coral gardens to deep underwater canyons and wrecks, the choice of the best diving location often boils down to personal preference, depending on whether divers seek encounters with large pelagic species, macro photography opportunities, or the thrill of exploring underwater caves and tunnels. 

The richness and variety of Thailand’s dive sites ensure that both novice and experienced divers can find spots that cater perfectly to their interests and skill levels, making the Andaman Sea a top contender for the best diving experiences in Thailand.

Which Qualifications Will I Need to Dive in Thailand?

Thailand is a great place to learn to dive, or expand on your scuba eduation

To dive in Thailand, divers need a certification from a recognised diving organisation, with PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) being the most prevalent. Beginners can start with the PADI Open Water Diver course, a gateway qualification that allows diving up to 18 meters deep, ideal for exploring Thailand’s shallow reefs and marine life. 

For those looking to advance their skills, the PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course is recommended, enabling dives up to 30 meters and access to a wider range of dive sites, including deeper wrecks and challenging drift dives. Thailand is recognised as an excellent location for diving education due to its warm, clear waters and the abundance of dive centres offering courses from beginner to professional levels. This makes it not just a destination for experienced divers but a perfect place for newcomers to earn their fins.

If you can, visit a few different dive centres and speak to the staff.  There are some great centres in Thailand and there are some not so great (and some that really, really aren’t that great), so go and get a feel before you book anything.  

If you are a beginner, you may find it helpful to read my what beginners should know about scuba diving blog!

Does Thailand Have Sharks?

Thailand’s waters are home to a variety of shark species, including the Leopard Shark, Blacktip Reef Shark, and the occasional Whale Shark, showcasing the country’s rich marine biodiversity. However, studies indicate a decline in shark populations due to factors like overfishing, the shark fin trade and habitat destruction, prompting increased conservation efforts.

In response, Thailand has implemented measures such as the establishment of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and promoting sustainable tourism practices to protect these majestic creatures. These initiatives aim to balance the ecological needs of shark populations with the interests of divers and marine enthusiasts, underlining Thailand’s commitment to marine conservation and the sustainable observation of its underwater inhabitants.

How Much Does it Cost to Scuba Dive in Thailand?

Diving from a liveaboard is a great experience to explore from the comfort of a boat whilst making new friends

The cost of scuba diving in Thailand varies, with Open Water Diver courses typically priced between $300 to $400, offering a comprehensive introduction to diving over several days. 

Fun dives for certified divers average around $25 to $50 per dive, depending on the location and depth of the dive sites. For those seeking an immersive diving experience, liveaboard trips range from $100 to $200 per day and more, providing access to remote and pristine dive sites over multiple days. 

You can also combine your liveaboard trip with a course, just as I did with my Advanced Diver Course in the Similan Islands.

These prices reflect the range of diving experiences available in Thailand, from beginner courses to advanced expeditions, catering to divers with different interests and budgets.

When is the Best Time of Year to Dive in Thailand?

The optimal time for scuba diving in Thailand varies by location and desired marine encounters, with the general peak season extending from autumn to spring on the west coast and from spring to winter in the Gulf of Thailand. Specific marine sightings, such as whale sharks in the Gulf, are more probable during the autumn and winter months

While most dive centres along the Andaman coast suspend operations in the summer due to the monsoon season, diving is possible year-round with varying conditions. For divers aiming to maximise their experience, visiting during the off-peak season can offer less crowded sites and the chance to witness a broader diversity of marine life, aligning with Thailand’s diverse and seasonally shifting underwater environments.

Thailand Water Temperature

Thailand’s water temperature remains hot all year round, offering the perfect dive conditions. The water has a high of 30°C and a low of 27°C.

Here is a chart showing the Thailand water temperature by month.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Thailand offers an unparalleled diving experience, with its diverse range of dive sites catering to all levels of expertise and interests. From the vibrant coral reefs of the Andaman Sea to the whale shark encounters in the Gulf of Thailand, the country promises adventure and discovery beneath its waves.

While diving can be enjoyed year-round, selecting the right season can enhance the experience with optimal conditions and marine life sightings. 

Thailand’s commitment to marine conservation and the availability of PADI-certified courses make it not only a top diving destination but also a place where divers can grow and learn. Whether you’re exploring the underwater wonders for the first time or seeking to advance your diving skills, Thailand’s underwater world awaits with open arms, offering memories that will last a lifetime.

I dedicated more than nine months to exploring Koh Tao, following a three-year stint in Khao Lak. Should you seek further insights into traveling and diving across Thailand, don’t hesitate to send me a message on Instagram

Written by Katy

Thank you for reading. I started KatyJaneDives.com to share my passion for diving. I am an environmental educator, scientist and now an MSDT diver.

This platform has been made to create, connect and share my knowledge in the world of diving.

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