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A Guide to Diving in Koh Samui, Thailand.

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Disclosure: I was invited by Amari Koh Samui for a 2-night stay and a dive trip to Sail Rock.

One of the most asked questions in the diving community online regarding Thailand is: can you go diving in Koh Samui? The honest answer is – no! There simply is no scuba diving in Koh Samui. 

However, you can still get yourself to a beautiful resort with a dive center, jump on a speedboat, and head to Koh Tao or Sail Rock for some beautiful dives. How to organize your trip, where to stay in Koh Samui, and which dive center to use in this post. 

The Ins & Outs of Diving in Koh Samui

So why write a guide about diving in Koh Samui if there is no diving in Koh Samui? Good question and one that is frequently asked hence this article. 

I spoke to a few people who live in Koh Samui and who told me that the water around the island is simply too shallow and the visibility too bad to dive. In fact so shallow and so bad that dive centers in Koh Samui rather take a long boat trip to Koh Tao. 

Personally, I love diving in Koh Tao and would probably choose to stay there and be closer to all the dive sites. That said, Samui definitely has its advantages, and if you are after more of ‘big boy’ island, a beautiful honeymoon resort, or more activities for the whole family it will be the better choice. And how fortunate that you can combine that with some very well-organized diving adventures. Not diving in Koh Samui but from Koh Samui…

More great spots for Diving in Thailand

Which dive sites to visit from Koh Samui

Good news if you are diving from Koh Samui because the fastest dive site to get to is famous Sail Rock – Hin Bai. If you were to come from Koh Tao you usually have to find a dive center that will take you on a special and quite expensive trip as Sail Rock is closer to Koh Phangan. But if you are coming from Koh Samui and take a speedboat you will get there in about 50 minutes. Oh, and have I mentioned that Sail Rock is pretty much the best dive site in the Gulf of Thailand?!

Diving Sail Rock in Thailand

That said, many dive trips from Koh Samui will also take you to Koh Tao. You can see favorites like Chumphon Pinnacle, the HTMS Sattakut, Japanese Garden, Green, White, and Red Rock, and many more. The trip will take you a bit longer though so personally would make sure something good is on the agenda. While some dive sites are great for beginners and training dives, a seasoned diver may not want to sit on a boat for 1,5 hours just to dive at Twins. Then again, in whale shark season any dive site can become a great dive site.

Occasionally there will also be trips from Koh Samui to the Mu Ko Ang Thong National Marine Park. While there is no diving allowed in the marine park itself you can dive around it. And while I was told it can be nice, visibility is also often an issue. Rather visit the marine park above the surface as it is stunning and then head to Sail Rock or Koh Tao for diving. 

Best time to go diving in Koh Samui

As you can tell by the pictures, I did not choose the best time to go diving in Koh Samui. Diving season in the Gulf of Thailand runs from March to October with peak diving in July and August and inofficial whale shark season from March to May. 

I didn’t realize that June is known as “windy June” in the area and this means bad visibility and rough crossings. Admittedly if you are coming from Europe you could find cheaper flights as school holidays have not started yet but once you get to Samui you will already pay high season prices. I would wait and come in July or in April after Songkran and Easter to avoid the crowds. 

Water temperatures were at an all-time high when I was there (there was talk about 34 °C in the water!!) which brought an unfortunate case of coral bleaching. That said, you won’t have to worry about getting cold ever when diving in Koh Samui.

Koh Samui Dive Center Recommendation

If you come to dive in Koh Samui look no further than Discovery Divers which is conveniently located right on the main road in Chaweng Beach. It is part of the Amari Koh Samui and a PADI 5-star IDC Center, always a great sign, as this accreditation means they are not only training new divers and students but also instructors to be (read all about becoming a PADI instructor here). And it has also been around for over 20 years, another great sign. 

The office in Chaweng Beach is where you sign up for your dives (or online here). For those looking to do a course, they have a bunch of great instructors and to make life really easy, confined water sessions are done in the ‘village wing’ pool of the Amari. 

Their second location is by the pier in the bay south of the Big Buddha Temple. Here you will get your gear and meet in the morning to do paperwork and briefing. A huge advantage when diving with Discovery Divers: they have four very comfy 2- and 3-engine speedboats that make the journey as quick as possible. Even if the ride gets bumpy you will be reasonably comfortable. 

Dive days usually start at 8 am and depending on whether you are diving at Sail Rock or Koh Tao you will be back around 2.30 pm or 4 pm. This will obviously also depend on conditions and how many divers there are. Groups are kept wonderfully small which is awesome if you catch a day like I did with not-so-great visibility and a diver doing a refresh. 

While diving at Sail Rock is always a pleasure, I will be honest and admit that the boat ride was anything but. It was rough and chances are you should take that seasickness tablet when offered. That said, our captain was stellar! And as long as he didn’t blink an eye I knew we were just fine but yeah, next time I will wait for July or August to dive in Samui. 

A big shout out also to Discovery Divers for accommodating me on sidemount. Since this is a speedboat, tanks are refilled on land and have to be brought on board, and they were nice enough to get me a third tank so I could balance those between my two dives. The crew was also absolutely amazing getting me in and out of the water with my tanks – I honestly don’t take that for granted from a non-tec dive crew but they were wonderful. Me and my tanks felt very safe, no small feat considering the surface conditions we had. 

Another shout out to my wonderful dive guide Margaux – it is always lovely to dive with people who get as excited about a little yellow boxfish as myself! 

How much is Koh Samui scuba diving? 

Doggie cuddles are free!

Here comes the bad news: scuba diving in Koh Samui is a bit more expensive than when you are on Koh Tao because the way is simply longer. More fuel = higher costs. It is what it is. That said, prices are competitive and compared to many other destinations still very reasonable especially when you consider the manpower and working hours of the crew and the fuel costs. 

A 2-dive trip to Sail Rock with Discovery Divers currently costs 5,080 THB (ca. $140) for certified divers. This includes hotel transfer from hotels in Chaweng Beach, dive gear, weights, tanks with airfill, dive guide, soft drinks and water, boat trip, and lunch. And do not worry – the captain will usually find a sheltered spot for lunch! 

Trips to Koh Tao cost between 5,220 and 5,544 THB (up to $150) for certified divers. You can check the prices for refresher dives, Discovery Scuba, and all other courses here. Nitrox fills are 500 THB ($13.50) extra. 

Where to stay in Koh Samui

There are plenty of affordable Koh Samui 5-star hotels but for your dive trip, you want to make sure that your accommodation has a dive center either on site or close by. Even better if it is situated on the north coast for easier access to the dive sites. And if you are coming by plane, more on that later, you want to be close to the airport. 

Chaweng Beach is the perfect location and I was thrilled when the Amari Koh Samui agreed to host me for a couple of nights and a day on the water. While Samui often lacks that certain island feeling, walking into the Amari you get an immediate tropical island vibe – perfect for a diving holiday!

I had previously stayed at an Amari in Bangkok and in the Maldives so I knew I was in for a treat. The Amari Koh Samui has three wings, each with a pool. They are on opposite sides of the road with the beach wing being the only one by the beach as the name implies. The other two wings are definitely a bit quieter and more secluded. And don’t worry, a traffic guard will help you cross the road if it gets too busy.

They have different room categories for each budget. The rooms away from the beachfront will offer more privacy. Only some of the junior suites have ocean views. I don’t think it is worth it as the ocean is still quite far from the rooms so I would forgo the view, simply spend more time on the beach and my money on more pizza. That said, all rooms have enough space to dry your dive gear!

Chaweng Beach in front of the hotel is not perfect for swimming due to lots of sea glass but nice enough for lounging. And if you wanted to get your mermaid on, you could always head to one of those three pools. 

For non-divers, the hotel has an in-house spa, a gym, a generous happy hour, loungers around the pools and on the beach, and yes, a kids club! They also have lounge facilities that you can use if your room isn’t ready yet or have time to spare until your flight. You can even use the showers from the gym. Honestly, this is a great feature and something I wish more hotels would offer! 

Book a room at Amari Koh Samui here or on booking.com

How to get to Koh Samui & other tips

Koh Samui has an international airport with a handful of flights from Singapore and Hong Kong. Domestically it is a Bangkok Airways hub so you won’t find any low-cost carrier flights to Samui. That would be all well and good if it didn’t mean crazy prices. While Bangkok Airways is a great airline even flying Bangkok to Koh Samui or Phuket to Koh Samui will be quite pricey compared to other domestic flights. On a good note – they do offer a generous lagguage allowance, great if you are brining your own dive gear

Also, Samui Airport is my favorite airport of all time. It is an open structure with classic Thai buildings and a little tram that takes you to your plane. Bangkok Airways also has a Courtesy Corner where you get free coffee, cookies, and other snacks. This way you can make up for your pricey flight by eating ALL the red velvet cookies.

You can find the best offers for Bangkok Airways on AirAsia or 12Go

There are of course alternatives, however, those require more travel time and are not the most comfortable. 

You can for example take an Air Asia flight to Surat Thani, hop on the Lomprayah transfer bus, and then take the ferry. Make sure to check with Lomprayah beforehand what time your flight has to arrive in order to get to your ferry on time. The bus ride takes almost 1,5 hours to Donsak Pier. However, if you can align the times this might be a less expensive option if you are not in a hurry and coming from Bangkok or Chiang Mai. 

Powered by 12Go system

Lomprayah also offers combo tickets for vans & ferries from various places like Phuket or Krabi to Samui. Keep in mind that these offers are usually cheap and your connections will be guaranteed (if booked on one ticket) but you will be in for a long travel day. A great option for budget backpackers who don’t mind a bumpy bus ride, but otherwise I recommend you fork out the money and fly direct. 

Getting around on Koh Samui // Coming from the airport you will need to get a taxi or ask the Amari (or whichever hotel you are staying at) to organize a transfer for you. Unfortunately, Samui taxi prices are crazy so even if you are staying in Chaweng Beach which is as close to the airport as it gets, you will pay around 500 THB ($13.50). Amari charges the same so I’d recommend a hotel pick-up!

If you are coming by ferry it will depend on which pier you arrive at. Actually no, scratch that, book your hotel transfer with the ferry company regardless of your arrival pier. 

Lomprayah has a fleet of minivans that will take you from the pier to your hotel (and vice versa). Coming in you can book your transfer on the ferry and it will only cost you 150 THB ($4), a bargain compared to the taxis. If you are leaving by ferry, you can contact them on Facebook after you have booked your ticket and arrange for a hotel pick-up. I tried that and it was incredibly easy. They even sent me a credit card payment link as well as a slip with my booking and picked me up with plenty of time to spare from the Amari when I departed. 

To move from A to B while you are on Samui you can either rent a motorbike if you are a prolific driver or use songthaews, the Thai pick-up-truck-like taxis. They ride along specific routes and pick up/drop off people as they go along. Prices are significantly lower than regular taxis though I have heard about tourists getting ripped off as well. 

While I usually swear by Grab it won’t help you much on Koh Samui. They are hard to find, not allowed to go to the airport, and pretty much as expensive as taxis unless you dare to hop on a motorbike Grab. 

Money // As in most places, I prefer using my credit card to draw money from the ATM. At many high-end restaurants and of course, hotels you can use your card to pay, no problem. Smaller businesses might charge an extra fee for credit card payments. Since ATM withdrawals are usually 220 baht you should do the maths before to see what the better option is.

Where to eat in Koh Samui

Whenever I go to Koh Samui whether for diving or because I am in transit I usually stay as close to my hotel as possible. Only because I don’t drive a scooter and the taxi prices make me mad. That limits my food choices and so it was just my luck that the Amari has three different eateries. They are all very reasonably priced especially considering that this is a 5-star hotel in Koh Samui. 

The Amaya Cafe is a bistro with some lovely pastries, à la carte breakfast, and a delicious light lunch menu. Think deconstructed Nicoise Salad, chicken satay wrap, and avo whole wheat toast. 

At the Amaya Food Gallery, you will have your breakfast and you will be spoilt for choice. There is an Indian corner, a hawker stall with noodle soup, dim sum, and Asian classics, an egg station, a fruit and salad bar, English breakfast options, and so much more. As per usual I went for my beloved noodle soup and finished it off with some bread pudding – just because I could. 

The all-day dining menu sees pool and beach favorites like burgers and salads as well as a lovely selection of Thai dishes. I had an incredible Caesar Salad as well as a whole deep-fried seabass with spicy green mango salad, a wonderful change from my regular pad krapao. 

If you are staying in Koh Samui longer, chances are you may want to switch it up after a few days of Thai food. What could be better than a really good pizza accompanied by a Negroni? Look no further and head to Prego, Amari’s Italian restaurant. Most of their guests are actually local islanders so you know it must be good. In fact, it is probably the best Italian restaurant in Koh Samui and part of the success is charming headchef Piero. He was recently on Hell’s Kitchen Thailand! Even though he didn’t win and there is no Gordon Ramsey this had me a bit starstruck. And he can cook…

On the menu are various Italian classics like carpaccio, woodfire oven pizzas, and delicious pasta dishes. If you are a sardine fan, I recommend you offer his special sardine pasta before you even arrive in Samui – it needs to be preordered 7 days in advance and I unfortunately didn’t know that. That said, my homemade saffron pappardelle with ragu was delicious as well. 

Since you are almost in the center of all the action there are plenty of other restaurants around as well as a Tops wine shop and the Central Festival mall with a food court. Then again, if you are lazy like me you will just get a takeaway pizza from Prego and eat it in your room after a long dive day.

Want to dive somewhere else in Thailand? Check out these posts:

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE FOR DIVING IN THE SIMILAN ISLANDS.
A GUIDE TO DIVING IN KOH LIPE, THAILAND.
A GUIDE TO DIVING IN KOH Lanta, THAILAND.

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