Thailand Beach Vacation: Similan Islands VS Koh Phi Phi Islands

Home ¬Ľ Thailand Beach Vacation: Similan Islands VS Koh Phi Phi Islands

Thailand Beach Vacation: Similan Islands VS Koh Phi Phi Islands

Before we talk about the islands of Similan and Phi Phi, let me give you an overview of Phuket which is a gateway to both islands. About the same size as Singapore, Phuket is Thailand’s second wealthiest province after Bangkok, the capital of the land of smiles! ūüôā

I love Phuket more than Bangkok because it has¬†more to offer. Of course, I’m not a shopper to begin with, hence my lack of interest in Bangkok. When it comes to natural attractions, Phuket has a lot to offer, fair pearly white beaches, amazing mind blowing¬†coastlines, gigantic¬†limestone karsts, never mind the beautiful national parks teeming with marine life and rainforest habitat.

The Land of Smile - Thailand

The Land of Smile – Thailand

Phuket’s Bangla street at Patong beach district is popular due to many reasons. . So much buzz and energy from morning to¬†evening, its a fun place to just relax at a nice bar and do some people watching. Or just chill out in some restaurant with live bands. This provides a very good balance for any beach vacation¬†trip. A day out at the beaches or in the sea sea, and night out at the busy night life streets.

Patong Beach

Patong Beach

The Anadaman sea where Phuket is surrounded by, housed many beautiful gorgeous paradise islands in the world. Modern day marketing did Phuket a huge favour, especially the Hollywood movies such as The Beach by Leonardo DiCaprio featuring Koh Phi Phi Islands,  and Khao Phing Kan aka James Bond Islands is one of the main attractions for people visiting Phuket.

There¬†is an upcoming rising star (island) from the Northern part of Phuket that is going to challenge the usual tourist island hotspot destination and that is – The Similan Islands. Just off coast from¬†Phang Nang province lies this¬†natural beauty that is less touristy and therefore more pristine and clean. They are coming up very strongly to snatch the hard earned title from Koh Phi Phi Islands!¬†National Geographic even placed the Similan Islands as”One of the Top Ten Destinations to Visit in the World”. ūüôā

Koh Phi Phi Islands VS Similan Islands

I’m pretty sure everyone is keen in checking out Koh Phi Phi islands. The breathtaking beaches, stunning rock formations and tranquil turquoise waters teeming with colourful marine life,¬†popularised when the movie “The Beach” were filmed there. I personally have checked out Koh Phi Phi 3 times, and I just can’t expressed how much affection I have for the Koh Phi Phi islands.

Koh Phi Phi Islands

Koh Phi Phi Islands

So I revisited Phuket recently after¬†6 years. This time, I was looking out for a new place or check out some off beaten track and that is when I discovered Similan Islands! It is not really that “off beaten” but definitely worth the effort and money to check out this beautiful paradise in the Andaman.¬†Similan Islands National Park¬†covers 140 square kilometres in total, comprising 9 granite islands covered in tropical jungle, washed by a clear blue tropical ocean and blessed with fine beaches, the Similans are currently Thailand’s most popular and beautiful diving destination. For simplicity they are named¬†by their number 1 to¬†9 starting from the south island.

Similan Islands

Similan Islands

After¬†being to both islands, I decided to write this review to list down the strengths of¬†Koh Phi Phi vs Similan Islands, so that my lovely readers can judge which island wins your heart, and probably a ticket booked for your next visit! ūüôā

Maya Bay, Koh Phi Phi

Maya Bay, Koh Phi Phi

Similan Islands Diving Site

Similan Islands Diving Site

Challenge 1: Accessibility

Similan Islands

Getting to Similan Islands is not as straight forward as Koh Phi Phi Islands tour. It is a long day trip and requires a 2 hours drive from Phuket to Thap Lamu Pier. An hour of at the waiting area at the pier where you can get a restroom break and get your gears. Then another 2 hours by speedboat is required to get to the Similan Islands. A day trip from Phuket will start around 5am in the morning and you will be back to Phuket around 8pm. Is a super long day, but is totally worth it! ūüôā

Early Morning Phuket to Thap Lamu Pier

Early Morning Phuket to Thap Lamu Pier

Similan Islands is not open throughout the whole year. The Islands is closed in the monsoon from May to last day of¬†October yearly. These dates are subject to change. I remembered when I was on the speedboat returning from Similan Islands back to Thap Lamu Pier, the waves get stronger and higher in the late afternoon, my guide was sharing with me that they have to cross the sea before 5pm, or else the waves will make it impossible and dangerous for the speedboat to return. So, is always better to make sure you plan well your visiting schedule to avoid¬†disappointment. ūüôā

Please note: The National Park is closed from 1st May 1st until 31st October each year. This means there are NO emergency services, phones do not work and it is ILLEGAL to visit. Do not risk your life by going on tours during these months. There are several nefarious dive and snorkel companies that will offer tours during these months Рyou are risking your life by joining their tours.

Koh Phi Phi Islands

Getting to Koh Phi Phi Islands from Phuket is easy breezy. Just 46km from Phuket and you basically have two options. Either the 90 minutes ferry or 45 minutes speedboat ride. Hassle free and easy. ūüôā

At Koh Phi Phi

At Koh Phi Phi

Koh Phi Phi Islands is open all year round. You can visit anytime you wish. The thing is, during the monsoon period from May to October, the weather can be totally crap! The beaches are terrible and the waves make it impossible to even snorkel.

Is it definitely worth checking out Koh Phi Phi’s beauty, it is like a large chunk of alluring islands, when approached, it rises from the sea like a fortress. Gigantic sheer cliffs tower, mixed perfectly with the¬†beach-fronted jungle.¬†It is truly an amazing sight¬†as¬†seen in¬†the movie “The Beach”.

Chillax at Maya Bay, Koh Phi Phi

Chillax at Maya Bay, Koh Phi Phi

The beautiful limestone mountain and rainforest at Maya Bay

The beautiful limestone mountain and rainforest at Maya Bay

Winner: Koh Phi Phi Islands

Keith’s Verdict: Phuket has amazing nightlife. Such as Patong, Karong or Kata beach. Many shops closed at the wee¬†hours and you are spoilt for choice with the variety of restaurants and eateries. Waking up at 5am seems a bit of effort, hence accessibility wise, Koh Phi phi definitely has an edge over Similan Islands.

Khai Island near Koh Phi Phi

Khai Island near Koh Phi Phi

Challenge 2: Crowd

Similan Islands

How many times you were like OMG I got photobombed, oh god… I need to photoshop all these tourists away! haha Well, I need to disclaim, I actually¬†think tourists are¬†inevitable just like me. Honestly,¬†I’m pretty okay with people as part of background. Foreground? No! haha But, occasionally I do appreciate “silence” from my photos too. haha As for the question on crowd for both islands? Need I say more? See the following photos¬†you will know. haha ūüôā

Similan Islands #4 Koh Miang Beach

Similan Islands #4 Koh Miang Beach

The Similans are uninhabited except for the national park facilities. No hotels, no bars, no noise. There is talk of limiting the number of tourist to the islands, but I don’t reckon it will happen. These days there are lots of speedboats heading out to Similan Islands¬†on day trips for snorkeling and that “remote island paradise” experience. I must say, aside from the beach at Island 8 aka¬†Donald Duck Bay, I have never encountered¬†a problem with crowds. Isn’t it great to have a perfect beach view and you won’t have problem taking nice beautiful background with no “noise”! haha ūüôā

Similan Islands #4 Koh Miang Beach

Similan Islands #4 Koh Miang Beach

Koh Phi Phi Islands

Most likely¬†you may be spending¬†more time in a crammed¬†speedboat with more than 40¬†tourists instead of relaxing at¬†the beach.¬†While the beach is lovely and the water is clear like water at home (depending where your home is), it is spoilt by too many tourists and locals out to get a quick buck.¬†Another¬†disappointing fact, the tour to Koh Phi Phi Islands seems to be very commercialised to me. I was a little annoyed with the¬†fact that the “guide” kept pushing everyone¬†to rent the fins for 100 baht. Honestly,¬†I don’t mind forking out for the fin, but¬†I resented the fact that he wasted a good 10 minutes pitching his grandfather and grandmother stories about¬†the fins before everyone¬†started the¬†tour.

Maya Bay, Koh Phi Phi Islands

Maya Bay, Koh Phi Phi Islands

Taking a nice photo with no people is impossible. Having lesser people is tough too! haha So that’s how congested Koh Phi Phi Islands is today.

Maya Bay, Koh Phi Phi Islands

Maya Bay, Koh Phi Phi Islands

Winner: Similan Islands

Keith’s Verdict: Having a beautiful place with no crowd gives you a magical experience and a perfect photo for many people to be jealous for. So, gotta give Similan Islands a vote for this. haha

Similan Islands #8 Donald Duck Bay

Similan Islands #8 Donald Duck Bay

Challenge 3: The Scenery

Similan Islands

For me, the Similan Islands is¬†a special and magical place. A¬†home to some amazing beaches, great snorkeling and the most famous dive spots in Thailand.¬†The scenery will provide stunningly beautiful white sandy beaches with small forested areas.¬†The islands’ tropical rain forest consists of mainly large rubber trees, several species of palm, bamboo and vines. There are also some amazing creatures in the island. ūüôā

Similan Islands #4 Koh Miang Beach

Similan Islands #4 Koh Miang Beach

Similan Islands #8 Donald Duck Bay

Similan Islands #8 Donald Duck Bay

Similan Islands #3

Similan Islands #3

Koh Phi Phi Islands

The breathtaking beaches, stunning rock formations and turquoise waters teeming with colourful marine life. A vibrant night life (maybe a little too commercialised), rock climbing, world-class diving and just the sheer beauty of Koh Phi Phi is enough to tickle everyone’s dream and fantasy! Such amazing island paradise, need I explain more?¬†Despite the high number of visitors here, the island is still quite stunning, and the surrounding sea¬†and islands are spectacular. I try not to visit the same place twice, but Koh Phi Phi made me visited the island thrice! haha

Koh Phi Phi Le

Koh Phi Phi Le

Viking Cave, Koh Phi Phi

Viking Cave, Koh Phi Phi

Koh Phi Phi Le

Koh Phi Phi Le

Winner: Similan Islands

Keith’s Verdict: No doubt both islands are amazing. Similan Islands hands down kick Koh Phi Phi’s off my chart¬†based on scenery. It’s like comparing Africa safari and World Famous Singapore Night Safari Zoo. LOL You get to see what you wish to see in Koh Phi Phi, but the feeling is more natural in Similan Islands. Ridiculous as it may sound, but somehow, the natural beauty in Similan Islands has captivated my heart.

Similan Islands #8 Donald Duck Bay

Similan Islands #8 Donald Duck Bay

Challenge 4: The Marine & Wild Life

Similan Islands

Under the surface you may see amazing marine lives such as Leopard shark, blue spotted stingrays, clown fish, rabbit fish, scorpion fish, emperor fish, giant trevally and angelfish. The underwater world offers a underwater paradise filled with amazing coral gardens, bommie and boulder formations are wonderful to dive.

Similan Islands #6

Similan Islands #6

Similan Islands #6

Similan Islands #6

Similan Islands #4 Koh Miang Beach

Similan Islands #4 Koh Miang Beach

Hermit Crab @ Similan Island

Hermit Crab @ Similan Island

Hermit Crab @ Similan Island

Hermit Crab @ Similan Island

Koh Phi Phi Islands

Sadly, in my opinion, an over-development may be the culprit for ruining Koh Phi Phi Islands. ūüôĀ There were¬†soooooo many tourist and the water left¬†me no mood to dip my face and hair into the chalky water. LOL Maybe I exaggerated a bit haha, I heard there are many great diving spot and marine life in Koh Phi Phi, just that i didnt went for diving trips there. So, all I saw was a bunch of hungry tiger fishes,¬†wishfully thinking¬†that¬†I will be giving bread or crumbs to them. LOL

Tiger Fishes @ Khai Island near Koh Phi Phi

Tiger Fishes @ Khai Island near Koh Phi Phi

Fishes at Koh Phi Phi Don

Fishes at Koh Phi Phi Don

Monkey at Koh Phi Phi Don

Monkey at Koh Phi Phi Don

Winner: Similan Islands

Keith’s Verdict: The water in Similan Islands was¬†sooooo clear! The visibility of the water is a good 80meters I guessed. Saw so many marine life and bigger fishes than Koh Phi Phi Islands. Hence, my point in this segment¬†goes to Similan Islands as well. ūüôā

Challenge 5: The Damage (Price)

Similan Islands

A day trip to Similan Islands from Phuket: 3500 Thai Baht approximately $108 damage.

KJS @ Similan Islands

KJS @ Similan Islands

Koh Phi Phi Islands

A day trip to Koh Phi Phi Islands from Phuket: 1500 Thai Baht approximately S46 damage.

KJS @ Koh Phi Phi Islands

KJS @ Koh Phi Phi Islands

Winner: Koh Phi Phi Islands

Keit’s Verdict: Straight to the point, cheapest wins! LOL

Maya Bay, Koh Phi Phi Islands

Maya Bay, Koh Phi Phi Islands

Overall Winner: Similan Islands 3, Koh Phi Phi Islands 2

Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to say Koh Phi Phi is not worth going. It is truly an amazing place and I will not hesitate to visit again. ūüôā Both offers different but definitely great experience of a lifetime!¬†The question is, if you want crystal clear water, white beaches and good snorkeling to see beautiful marine life, based on the above, it makes it quite obvious to me that you would¬†actually loved Similan Islands a bit more. Yea, just a bit more than Koh Phi Phi. haha ūüôā

Similan Islands #8 Donald Duck Bay

Similan Islands #8 Donald Duck Bay

The sight of the corals and fishes at the Similan is far way better than the ones I saw around Koh Phi Phi. In my humble¬†opinion, Similan Islands is¬†nicer because there aren’t many people there, and you will find that you can¬†generally see more marine and wildlife¬†than around Koh Phi Phi Islands. If you are thinking¬†about a day trip,¬†the Similan Islands is definitely a very long tiring day, with¬†an early rise and you gotta pay more for it. Though tougher, it is definitely worth it! If my words cannot convince you, I hope my photos would. haha ūüôā

Selfie in the deep waters @ Similan Islands

Selfie in the deep waters @ Similan Islands

‚ÄúWe live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.‚ÄĚ ‚Äď Jawaharial Nehru

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By | 2018-04-23T20:37:56+00:00 February 6th, 2015|Asia, Thailand|6 Comments

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6 Comments

  1. Khao Lak Explorer September 20 at 9:00 pm

    Amazing pictures and adventures you ve got here. Really represent the Similan islands national park and the nature surrounding it.
    Worth the read!

  2. Miles of Happiness - Marie March 22 at 8:01 am

    They are both fabulous. The only thing to enjoy the place is to stay overnight. Too much tourists during the day, it doesn’t worth it at all.

    • Keith Yuen March 22 at 9:35 am

      Yea agree. Still missing the Thai beaches! ūüôā

  3. Chris August 23 at 12:33 pm

    What tour did you take to the similan islands?

    • Keith Yuen August 30 at 3:10 pm

      Hi Chris,

      I went on a 2D1N tour from Phuket to Similan Islands. It was awesome! ūüôā You can walk around Phuket and source for those tourist booth and sign up! ūüôā

  4. Dewi September 16 at 8:12 pm

    You are lucky Keith, i been to Phuket many times but not yet go to Smilan Island. Last time i was booked to there but flooding at the day i will go Smilan ūüôĀ Nice to reading your story and enjoyed your photo around Smilan. That all your photo is so wonderful and amazing. Nice to meet you and wramth greeting from Indonesia

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