Pearly white beaches, the greenest trees and crystal clear blue water with impressive sea life. The Surin islands are the paradise and the pearl of Thailand. My visit to the Mu Ko Surin National Park was without doubt the highlight of my tour of Thailand.
Curious about the entire Thailand itinerary? Check it out here!
When I arrived by boat I saw the green hills protruding from the water getting closer. The closer we sailed to the islands, the clearer and bluer the water became. I could even see the coral from the boat! Wow!
At sea we switched to a longtail boat that took us to the coast. To reach the beach where the tents are located, we had to walk on a sandy path to the other side of the island. The tents are located on Ao Mai Ngam Beach, which is a paradise beach! With a little luck you can have a beach view from your tent. Fantastic right?
The first thing I did when my stuff was in the tent was running to the beach. The sand is so wonderfully powdery and the water so nice and warm and beautifully clear! Here I’m going to have a great time.
Activities on the Surin islands
Of course you come to the Surin islands mainly to relax. Chill in one of the hammocks between the trees or put your towel on the soft sand. And float around in the lovely water during the day. Surin is a place where you can completely relax. These are the best activities on the Surin islands:
Mu Ko Surin National Park is known for its fantastic underwater world and the great diversity of animals and plants. Think of the most colorful fish, sea turtles, puffer fish, barracudas, moray eels, lionfish, squids and even sharks. There are also some fantastic diving spots around the islands.
The best way to discover the underwater world of the Surin Islands is on a liveaboard trip. The dive trip often starts at Koh Bon and then Koh Tachai and Koh Surin. It ends at the dive spot Richelieu Rock. Richelieu Rock is labeled as one of the most beautiful dive spots in all of Asia!
The best way to discover the underwater world around the Surin Islands is via a 5 to 7 day liveaboard trip. For longer liveaboard trips you can also dive at the Similan Islands. As far as I know it is also possible to dive at the Surin islands from Khuraburi and Khao Lak by means of a day trip.
If you don’t want to dive, just like me, then snorkeling is also incredibly beautiful! Two snorkeling trips depart every day for which you can register. One in the morning at 9:00 AM and one in the afternoon at 2:00 PM. To register for the snorkeling trips, write your name on a list in advance. You can also see where you are going to snorkel that day. A snorkeling trip costs ฿ 200 and lasts two hours.
While snorkeling around the islands I saw the most amazing fish. Such as parrotfish, clownfish (Nemo), surgeonfish (Dory), coral butterflies, pennant fish, moray eels and even a sea turtle that came to take a breath of air. You can see sharks swimming at one of the snorkeling spots. Unfortunately I haven’t seen any sharks, but luckily I have already seen them while snorkeling at the Coiba National Park in Panama.
Even from Ao Mai Ngam Beach you can already see the most beautiful things under water. The water on the beach is still shallow enough to stand hundreds of meters from the coast, allowing you to reach the beautiful strips of coral by foot. From this beach I saw beautiful sea anemones with clown fish and other colorful fish. I was so excited that I saw the Nemo fish in real life! I even spotted two lionfish that are partly hidden under the coral. How cool is that ?!
Unfortunately, the traces of the 2004 tsunami are still visible. Before that, the coral was much more colorful and healthier. But the coral is still recovering. In order not to get in the way of this recovery, you are advised not to stand on or touch the coral.
You can rent a snorkel for ฿ 40 for half a day and if you like it you can also rent a life jacket for ฿ 40 or flippers.
As I said, the sea life is really fantastic around the Surin islands. But there are also different types of animals on the islands. For example, there are hundreds of small and larger hermit crabs walking around on the beach. I’m madly in love with those little creatures. I can watch for hours how they walk on the beach. Never take shells home, because this way the crabs no longer have a house!
The islands also have macaques that make the necessary mess around the trash cans. Giant Indian monitor lizards also roam the island, which occasionally come to snack on the residual waste.
There are more than 100 different bird species on the islands, including eagles, hawks and owls. Frogs, lizards and various snakes also have their habitat here.
On the beach where you moor on the Surin islands by boat, there are the so-called mud skippers at the mangrove above special animals in the water. These are fish that can live in water as well as on land. And it can get even crazier, because these fish can ‘run’ over the water. Very special to see! If you walk along the coast, you can see the fish running over the water one by one. It is very nice to make a slow motion movie of this. Of course you need a bit of patience for this!
Curious what such a slow motion movie looks like? Then watch the video on the travel video page or at the end of this article!
Have you relaxed enough in your hammock? On the Surin islands there is a 2 km long nature trail to Ao Chong Khad Beach. While hiking this nature trail, there’s a significant chance of spotting macaques.
From Ao Mai Ngam Beach you walk via the sandy path in about 10 minutes to the beach on the other side of the island in the south where you arrived by boat. When you arrive at the beach, walk to the left until you come across a trail. There is also a sign on the beach indicating the trail.
The nature trail is quite tough due to steep stretches of path and rickety wooden steps and bridges. I therefore recommend that you put on good shoes or very sturdy sandals. Flip-flops are far from ideal for this hike.
After about a 30 minute walk (depending on your pace) you will arrive at a vast paradise beach. It’s highly recommended to visit this beach in the late afternoon. This is the best place to watch the sunset. Leave on time and bring a light, because the same route back is no fun in the dark!
There is a restaurant on Ao Mai Ngam Beach, near the tents. Every day there is breakfast (7:30 – 9:00), lunch (12:00 – 14:00) and dinner (18:30 – 20:00) at set times. There’s a small shop where you can buy some things like sunscreen and toilet paper, but no food. So make sure you don’t miss the meals.
The menu mainly consists of rice or noodles with meat or fish and some soups. There are also a number of vegetarian meals. You can also order fresh pineapple and watermelon so that you still get your daily portion of fruit.
It is also possible to order a set menu in advance where you get different dishes for at least 2 people. This menu varies from day to day and is often announced in the morning on the sign in the restaurant. The breakfast menu costs ฿ 120 per person, lunch ฿ 250 per person and dinner ฿ 280 per person. We once took such a menu and the three of us were able to share it.
Coupons allow you to get food from the restaurant. The whole coupon system just doesn’t really make sense to me. You exchange your Baht for coupons at the reception that both have exactly the same value. Sometimes you can also simply pay with your Baht at the shop and the rental. Useful? Not really.
There are charging points in the restaurant. In the evening until early in the morning, the only time during the day is when there is electricity. Everyone uses this, of course, which makes it very difficult to find an empty socket. It is therefore quite handy to take a power bank with you. There are also lockers in the restaurant that you can rent for a small amount of money. You get a lock with a key for this, but you can also bring your own combination lock, so you don’t have to carry a key with you.
Costs Surin islands
The Surin islands can be a bite out of your budget. But it’s definitely worth the money! Here and then you can save something and I’ll tell you how.
Because the Surin islands belong to the Mu Ko Surin National Park, you are obliged to pay an entrance fee at the reception. Adults pay ฿ 500 per person per 5 days and children cost ฿ 300. This money is used to preserve the national park.
A tent on the Surin islands costs ฿ 300 per night per tent. These cannot be reserved in advance, but can simply be arranged at the reception on the island. You do not have to worry that the tents are full, because there may be a hundred. At the tents you get a padlock with key so you can just lock them.
Would you like to sleep in a bungalow (฿ 2000 per night)? Then you are advised to reserve it in advance. These bungalows are located on a different beach, on Ao Chong Khad Beach.
The food on the island costs a little more than average in Thailand, but is also quite similar to the south of Thailand. For a meal you pay between ฿ 100 – ฿ 150.
Would you like to rent a boat with a captain to go to other snorkeling spots or to cruise around the island? You can! You pay ฿ 4000 for a full day and ฿ 2000 for half a day. Nice if you’re with a large group. It can accommodate up to 15 people.
Options for a trip to Surin islands
In concrete terms, there are two options for a trip to the Surin islands: an open boat ticket or an organized tour package.
The open boat ticket from Khuraburi costs ฿ 1700 per person. That sounds a lot and unfortunately it is. That amounts to about € 47. But don’t be put off by this, because on the islands it’s not all that expensive. With this ticket you decide when you go back to the mainland. The open boat ticket is only available from Khuraburi, not from Khao Lak. You can buy this ticket at Tom & Am Tours. They will pick you up at your ho(s)tel and take you to the port.
It’s also possible to purchase an organized tour package from Khao Lak. For such a tour package of 3 days, 2 nights you pay ฿ 7500 per person. This includes: boat trip to and from Khao Lak, overnight in a tent, 6 meals (set menus), entrance to the national park and snorkeling trips every day.
I have made a calculation to see which option is the most advantageous. You will be the cheapest if you buy / arrange everything yourself included in the tour package (so an open boat ticket to and from Khuraburi, 3 nights in a tent, 6 meals (set menus), entrance to the national park and snorkeling trips + material). You end up with an amount below ฿ 5500 per person for 3 nights and 2 days.
Of course you can also choose not to take a set of menus, but cheaper dishes from the menu to save costs. You also don’t have to do a snorkeling trip every day.
Duration of your stay
If you visit the Surin islands, I definitely recommend staying a minimum of 2 nights. I stayed 3 nights which was perfect for me. I honestly couldn’t take the thin mat in the tent any longer.
The boat to the islands leaves in the morning, so you arrive in Surin before lunch. You can also plan an afternoon snorkeling trip on that day. The boat back to the mainland leaves around noon, so you only have the morning on that day.
Fortunately, the costs on the Surin islands are not very high. Especially the boat ticket makes it all expensive. You pay entrance fees for the national park per 5 days. So you can decide to stay for 5 days, so you don’t have to pay extra costs.
Best time to visit Surin Islands
The best travel time for the Surin islands is from November to March. The rainy season in Thailand runs roughly from April to October. Mu Ko Surin National Park was also closed for several months during that period. The Surin islands are not accessible between May and the end of October.
How to get to the Surin islands
You can reach the Surin islands with the open boat ticket from the town of Khuraburi. The boat departs every morning around 9:00 AM to 10:00 AM. It is therefore not possible to travel to the Surin islands from another destination in one day. You should stay one night in Khuraburi anyway. There is not much choice and the options are very basic. Preferably stay in the center of a guesthouse in Khura Buri.
As far as I know it is not possible to buy an open boat ticket from other places. Only organized tours depart from Khao Lak.
- From Khao Sok: Before I visited the Surin Islands, I was in Khao Sok National Park. To reach the islands I had to take the bus to Takuapa and then change to the bus to Khuraburi. In theory this trip is possible in 1.5 hours, but in practice I took 4 hours including waiting time. I spent the night in Khuraburi and left for the Surin islands the next morning.
- From Krabi: There is a direct bus from Krabi to Khuraburi (and vice versa) which takes about 4+ hours.