Why the island of Koh Samui is the best holiday destination for divers

Looking for where to go for the best dive trips in Thailand? You can’t beat the diving and snorkelling off Koh Samui.

An underwater scuba diver in Koh Tao
  • Georgina Roynan
  • March 2020

Get the lowdown on the best dive spots on the popular Gulf of Thailand island from local dive guide Dominic Konzelmann.

See spectacular coral in Koh Tao

To find the best dive and snorkelling sites in the Gulf of Thailand, cruise to the island of Koh Tao, about one and a half hours away by speedboat. Here you will find all kinds of tropical reef fish and an amazing diversity of coral – up to 10 different kinds in just one square metre. There are lots of boat tours and ferries, but Calypso Diving has two catamarans, which get you to the site faster and are more comfortable than a monohull.

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Discover secluded Taling Ngam beach

One of the quietest beaches on the island, Taling Ngam’s shallow waters are great for snorkelling.

Taling Ngam beach surrounded by palm trees
The shallow waters in Taling Ngam make it popular for snorkelling.

Dive Southwest Pinnacle to meet marine life

One of my favourite places to take guests for a dive is the Southwest Pinnacle, an underwater mountain range, also in the Koh Tao area. There are seven “pinnacles” – the biggest can be seen from five metres, the smallest requires a 28-metre descent. You can find big groupers, three kinds of barracudas, bat fish, trevalli and – with a bit of luck – the gentle giant that is the whale shark. A day at the Pinnacle finishes at Sail Rock, which ascends out of the water like a sail and is famous for its natural chimney.

A whale shark in the sea in Thailand
You can make friends with a whale shark in the Southwest Pinnacle.

Hang out at local ‘dive’ bars

After a long stretch out on the water, there’s nothing better than shoring up with a drink to debrief on the day’s dives. There are plenty of coastal bars on the island – you can’t go five minutes without bumping into a bar with a sea view and a happy hour. However, I love going to The Beer Masons, just off Chaweng Beach, for craft beer. Created by former underwater photographer Marek Novak, the bar offers a wide selection of IPA, stouts and lagers – the apple crumble cider is a revelation – and great Thai finger food. Just 20 minutes down the coast is Moonstone Bar, noteworthy for its live reggae band and resident local rooster.

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A crowd of people outside Beer Masons Bar on Chaweng Beach
Enjoy a post-dive drink at Chaweng Beach's The Beer Masons.

Try local restaurants

A favourite haunt of dive guides is a tiny eatery, BBQ Buffet. It’s on the so-called Ghost Road, a short cut through north-eastern Koh Samui, from Bang Rak beach to Chaweng. It’s an unassuming place – there’s no website or number – but it’s probably the best Thai barbecue on the island, which is why it’s always full. I also like Mr Doon in Bang Por – it’s a lovely restaurant on the beach with a great selection of Thai breakfast and lunch options. Try the Khao Man Gai, a Thai variation of Hainanese chicken rice, with a portion of Moo Crop (crispy pork belly).

A bowl of Khao Man Gai, a dish made of chicken, rice and vegetables
Refuel after a day's diving with tasty Thai dish Khao Man Gai.

But first, grab an organic coffee

Boy’s Organic Coffee, on the beach in West Samui, offers the island’s best brew, hands-down. The Mocha with Peaberry Bean is to die for and the beans come from organic farms in the highlands of Northern Thailand. That’s fair trade at its purest. About Café on Mae Nam’s Walking Street is also a cute place where you can pick up a book with your banana pancakes or chat to the owner, Koy.

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