Surin Islands

The Surin Islands (Mu Ko Surin)

The Ultimate Guide

Who wants to visit beautiful beaches in a tropical paradise without the massive crowds of tourists?? We do! That was our motivation for visiting Ko Surin.  

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Ko Surin was recommended to us when we were deciding which of the beautiful Thai islands to visit. Since this place is a national park, and not an island covered in 5 star resorts or a host location of the famed Thai full-moon parties, information about the park is actually rather scarce. Or at least it is for English Google search results.

After some research online, we were sold. The island provides prime camping locations and even has lodges for those that prefer glamping. We were very excited by the idea that we could camp by the beautiful beaches, snorkel in some of the best waters in Thailand, and do so at a very affordable price.

Having made it to Ko Surin and back from Bangkok for a 5-day-5-night trip (2 nights on the overnight bus, 2 nights on the island, and 1 night in Khura Buri), we know the ins and outs of islands and how to get there and back. This article will cover everything you need to know about Ko Surin. Feel free to comment if you have any questions, or if we missed anything!

Ko Surin - Some Background Info

The Surin Islands are a tropical archipelago consisting of five islands. This group of islands is a top destination for Thai and International beach goers, snorkelers and scuba divers. The islands are located about 60km west of the Thai mainland and about 150km northwest of Phuket, and is a perfect getaway for those seeking an adventure.  Due to high precipitation in this region, the islands are closed during monsoon season (May 1-October 31).  

The group of islands, including Richelieu Rock, is one of 127 national parks in Thailand. It sees less traffic from tourists because it is more involved to get to compared to other nearby islands, and on top of that, there are no hotels. With these barriers to entry, Ko Surin has remained mostly off the beaten track and offers pristine nature with lots of marine life to explore.

Richelieu Rock area is one of the best diving sites in the world with great coral reefs, common sighting of whale sharks, manta rays, and barracudas. However, it should be noted that in 2010, the region was affected by water temperature increases during El Nino, as a result, a large portion of coral reefs were bleached. Since then, marine experts have continually observed the recovery of the coral and are optimistic that the bleached coral reefs will fully heal by 2022 (as per Bankok Post).

How to get to Ko Surin

Ko Surin is not located in the most accessible part of Thailand. In fact, it is pretty remote and a bit of a pain to get to - as a result, it doesn't get as much tourist attention as its neighboring islands, i.e. the Similan Islands. Which means the pristine beaches and snorkeling excursions come with less crowds!

The only way to access the Surin islands is via speed boat from the following locations:

From Khuraburi pier (pier to the islands)

  • Speedboat, operated by Sabina Tours, departs from the pier only once a day at 9AM. Depending on the weather, the 60KM boat ride is at minimum 1 hour long (this can get a lot longer with choppy waters, so have some dimenhydrinate ready or you will befriend the puke bucket aboard). The same boat makes a trip back from the islands at ~2PM.
  • Tickets can be purchased from Sabina Tours, or from Tom and Am Tours in town. Return boat ticket goes for 1700 THB.

From Phuket

  • Many day tours operate from Phuket, which lies about 160 KM southeast of the Surin Islands. Phuket is a great hub to get to many Thai islands, but not so much for the Surin Islands (unless you enjoy long car rides and long speed boat rides more than spending your time snorkeling and hanging out on the beach).
  • To get to Surin Islands from Phuket, the tour companies will need to shuttle you from your hotel to the pier (this can take a while) and get you on a speed boat. The boat ride is about 3 hours long (but of course, this can be much longer with choppy waters).
  • The tour companies generally take you to a few locations to snorkel, lunch is prepared for you on the islands, you may snorkel a little more after lunch before hitting the water back to Phuket.

From Thap Lamu pier near Khao Lak

  • Many day tours also operate from Thap Lamu pier near Khao Lak. Khao Lak is located between Khuraburi and Phuket, so it is a good in between point to access the Surin Islands depending on where you're travelling from.
  • Many of the tours departing from this pier are for scuba diving.

Khuraburi, Khao Lak and Phuket are all accessible by bus from Bangkok. Phuket is also accessible by plane, which is probably a more comfortable option. We chose to take an overnight bus from Bangkok to Khuraburi.

From Bangkok to Khuraburi (Bus)

Kuraburi (or Khura Buri) is pretty small district in Phang-nga province. It has a population of ~23,000 people and is located around 700KM south of Bangkok (a 10-hour bus ride) or around 200KM north of Phuket (a 4-hour bus ride away).

To get to Khuraburi by bus, we took an overnight bus operated by Lignite from the Southern Terminal in Bangkok. Getting to the Southern Terminal is not the easiest by public transit. It requires multiple transfers. Luckily, our local friend was able to give us a ride, otherwise we would've opted to hail a ride with Grab. We found Grab to offer reasonable rates (compared to public transit, taxis, and tuktuks) and can often be cost-effective and time-saving when travelling in groups of 2 or more.

Bus Information: The bus departs from the Southern Terminal at 7:05PM and arrives in Khuraburi around 5:30AM. Bus tickets can be reserved online through or in person at the bus station (if you are keen to save on service fees). Ticket price varies depending on bus type, but typically ranges from 700-1000THB. Lignite buses offer AC, reclining seats, blankets, USB charging ports, an on board toilet, complimentary snacks and a bottle of water. The bus will make washroom stops throughout the journey as well as check point stops where you may be asked to show your passport to a military attendant.

Getting to Khura Buri Pier from Khuraburi Bus Station

The overnight bus from Bangkok will drop passengers off at the Khura Buri District Transport Station. It is about a 12 minute drive (8.4KM) from the Khura Buri pier where speed boats depart to Ko Surin.

There are a few options to get to the pier:

  • Grab a taxi or tuk tuk
  • Get on the back of Tom and Am's truck to their travel agency office
  • If you booked a tour, your travel agency may arrange a pick up

For us, we didn't plan out how we were getting from the bus station to the pier. Only 6 people got off the overnight bus, and most had already booked a tour in advance. We were the only clueless ones.

Thankfully, Am (from Tom and Am Tours) approached us at the station to ask what our plans were. She spoke English well, which made us quite hesitant - we usually like to avoid interacting with locals who speak English near bus drop off areas to avoid tourist traps. Eventually with her persistence, we realized we could trust her. We got on the back of her truck and headed to her office.

Am and her husband, Tom, run a travel agency that sell tickets, rent camping & snorkeling equipment, and operate the Country Hut Riverside Inn.

Buying Speed Boat Tickets to Ko Surin

We got our round trip speed boat tickets from Tom and Am for 1700 THB each. In addition to boat tickets, Am offered to rent us snorkel gear and lend us bedding sets for our island adventure. Snorkel goggles and fins came out to be 50 TBH each per day. So we paid a total of 400 TBH for two sets of goggles, fins and bedding (free).

Alternative way to get boat tickets would be to purchase them from Sabina Tour.

Boat Departure and Arrival Times

There is only one sailing to Ko Surin a day. The speed boat departs Kuraburi Pier at 9AM. We were driven from Tom and Am Tour's office to the pier at 8AM. Like the sailing to Ko Surin, there is only one speedboat back to Kuraburi a day. Speed boat departs Ko Surin at 2:45PM.

Stock up on Food... Not Alcohol!

Between getting off our overnight bus at 5:30AM to getting driven to the pier at 8AM, we were able to get breakfast and stock up on some snacks. Tom and Am Tour's office is 150m from the Khura Buri Food Market and a 7-Eleven. This was super convenient for us to do some shopping and fill our tummies.

We recommend stocking up on non-perishable food/snacks as much as possible as food options on Ko Surin are limited and more expensive. We will talk more about this below.

Note that alcohol has been banned on the Surin Islands since December 2017. You will not be able to buy any on the island and you are not to bring any while visiting. We did see some tourists bring a few packs to enjoy discreetly. We do not recommend you do this! You can be fined severely with possible jail time.

Park Admission Fees

To visit or stay overnight on Ko Surin, visitors are require to purchase park admission. The fees can be paid on the island. The admission for adults is 500THB and 300THB for kids for a validity period of 5 days.

What to do on Ko Surin

Most people visit Ko Surin to relax on the beach, go snorkeling, scuba dive and/or experience the jungle. Snorkeling is great all around the island and that is what we did!

Snorkeling the Surin Islands

There are 2 daily snorkeling tours (one in the morning & one in the afternoon) that take you to different areas around the island. Each tour is 2 hours long, and the snorkel locations are determined based on weather and water conditions. Tickets are sold at the visitor check-in center and are 200 THB per person.  Snorkel gear is not included but can be rented on the island.

If you missed out on the tour, it is not the end of the world, the beach in front of the campsite (Ao Mai Ngam) and at the bungalow (Chong Khat Bay) are also great places to snorkel. Ao Mai Ngam was where we found Nemo and his family in an anemone.

Alternatively, if you have a specific location you want to check out, you can charter your own long-tail boat for 4000 THB per day, or 2000 THB per half-day for a group up to 15 people. Like the regular tours, this is also booked at the visitor check-in center.

Scuba Diving Around Ko Surin

We didn't look into scuba diving very much for our trip - mostly because Chris has never snorkeled before, so we thought we'd prioritize snorkeling first. But, we have been told that Ko Surin is the place to be for scuba diving, especially Richelieu Rock. Richelieu Rock is located approximately 18km to the east of Ko Surin. This are is popular for the amazing coral colors, as well as the diverse species of marine life that can be found in the area!

Animal Watching

The Surin Islands are home to many tropical animals due to a large percentage of the national park being covered in dense forest. You can often see monkeys, lizards, and herons along the jungle pathway.

This might be a strange thing to say - but beaches without seagulls are actually really nice. Those birds are always squawking at the Vancouver beaches, and it is rather annoying. We didn't see any in Thailand, which was a bit of a pleasant surprise to us.

Relaxing on the Beaches of Ko Surin

The Surin Islands offer pristine white-sand beaches that beat the beaches featured on vacation package ads. The sand is extra fine, and the water is crystal clear. They even have swings built into trees on the beaches for that perfect instagram photo! Can you tell that we loved it?

Money Coupons - The Island Currency

Don't ask us why but Ko Surin operates on "money coupons" - their own island currency! These coupons are used for purchasing food from the restaurant, drinks from the bar, and souvenirs from the visitor's shop. The coupons are matched at a 1:1 ratio with the Thai Baht.  

You can exchange Thai Baht for money coupons at the visitor check-in counter. It is ideal to exchange as much Baht as you need during your stay on Ko Surin, instead of exchanging the money  every time because the counter is not always open. You don't want to risk not being able to pay for food or snacks. You are also able to exchange any unused coupons for Thai Baht at the end of your stay on the island.

Facilities on Ko Surin

Ko Surin is very a well preserved and maintained national park. Rangers can be seen around the islands working throughout the day. The island is very safe and family friendly, we saw quite a few young families there while we visited. Facilities available include campgrounds, cabins, first aid room, restaurant, snack/drink bar, and bathrooms. Depending on what type of trip you are looking to do, there are two different accommodation options when staying on the island - you can either rent a tent, or stay in a bungalow (with AC). Being the avid campers that we are, we chose to stay in a tent.    


The tents are set up by Mai Ngam Beach on Ko Surin. To access this area, you will need to be transferred by a long-tail boat after the speed boat from Kuraburi at Chong Khad Beach.

The campsite welcomes walk-in guests and guests that have reserved online through travel agencies. We were able to walk-in and check into a tent. The tent comes in two different sizes, a small and a large. We opted for a small tent, but were very surprised by how big the small tent was. It could comfortably fit 3 people, maybe 4 if you wanted to be cozy.


Most of the bungalows are situated by  Chong Khad Beach with a limited few situated by Mai Ngam Beach. If glamping is more your style, definitely look to book these early! The following two sites provides good information and resources for bookings the bungalows:

Restaurant on Surin Island

Foooooooddddddd. Lots of people travel to eat. Other people eat to travel. I would say that we do a little bit of both. We want to eat the local food and try new things, but we aren't going to plan our entire trip around the dishes we want to taste. We are pragmatic when it comes to food. The only restaurant on the island of Ko Surin definitely falls into the category of "food you eat to travel".

The restaurant on Ko Surin is effectively the only source of food, unless you want an ice cream or a smoothie, which can be purchased at the smoothie bar right beside the restaurant.

I would say that we were a little under prepared compared to a lot of the other guests. It became very evident that a lot of the other guests on the island has been there before, or had access to information about the restaurant beforehand.

Food on the island costs ranges from 40 to 300 baht per meal. 40 being cup noodles, and 300 being a seafood dish. We normally spent about 120 per dish for a chicken/pork meal on rice/noodles. Seafood was always more expensive.


It is always best to travel with some water, especially in Asia. Fortunately, you don't have to bring a whole trip worth of water because bottled water can be purchased on the island. On top of that, cold (more like room temp) and hot water is available for free in the dining hut! You're welcome to drink as much as you like using the cups provided, but they don't like you filling up bottles. We also saw one lady who brought a cooler full of ice. If we ever came again, we would bring ice. It gets hot on the island.  

Showers and Toilets

Cold showers and flush toilets are available! Although a hot shower would have made camping much better, we can't really complain, the facilities were impressively clean.

Power and Mobile Service

Not a lot of people would expect a remote island to have any cell reception or power for charging electronics, but Ko Surin has both!

Our phone provider was Truemove and we were able to get some reception on the island, can't say it was great, but it was definitely better than what we had expected! No reception vs great reception didn't really matter much though, the island had wifi for visitors to use! It wasn't great wifi, you wouldn't be able to stream Youtube off of it, but it was sufficient for some Googling, Facebook, Instagram...

Power outlets are also available for charging electronic devices. They are located in the dining area. Note that charging is limited to certain hours only so expect the charging station to be very busy - it's not great to depend on these outlets if not necessary, having a battery bank will come in handy. We should also note that the outlets seemed to be under powered as it took forever to charge a phone.  

Locker Storage

Storage lockers are also available by the dining area for 30 THB a day. These are great for storing small valuable items if you're camping in tents. The tents come with a lock for the main door - but part way through the trip we realized that all of the giant windows on the tents opened, and you could crawl in through those.

The Cost of a Trip to Ko Surin

There are so many different factors to take into account when trying to determine how much a trip will cost you. Obviously, there are ways to travel for cheap, but it all depends on what your standards are. Nancy and I are pretty pretty adventurous and willing to experience new things, which allows us to keep our costs down. Our total expenses for this 5 day and 5 night trip in December of 2019 came out to be 11,527 THB for the two of us. The following is a breakdown of our expenses to give you an idea of what to expect:

  • 2x Overnight bus to Kuraburi (roundtrip) @ 1,306 THB/ticket = 2,612 THB
  • 2x Speed boat to Ko Surin (roundtrip) @ 1,700 THB/ticket = 3,400 THB
  • 2x National Park Fee @ 500 THB/foreign person = 1,000 THB
  • 2x Snorkeling Half Day Trip @ 200 THB/trip = 400 THB
  • 2x Snorkeling gear (fins & goggle) for 2 days @ 100 THB/day = 400 THB
  • 1x Small Tent Rental for 2 nights @ 300 THB/night = 600 THB
  • 2x Bedding @ Free (these were offered free of cost to us)
  • 7 Meals & snacks on Ko Surin*
    (2x breakfast, 3x lunch, 2x dinner) Avg. 115 THB/meal per person = 1,610 THB
  • 5 Meals & snacks not on Ko Surin
    (1x breakfast, 1x lunch, 2x dinner) Avg. 88.5 THB/meal per person = 885 THB
  • 1 night at Country Hut Inn, includes breakfast @ 290 THB/night = 290 THB
  • 1x Scooter rental @ 250 THB/day = 250 THB
  • 2.9L of regular gas @ 27.58 THB/litre = 80 THB

*Food on the island ranges from 40 to 300 THB per meal. 40 THB being cup noodles, and 300 THB being a seafood dish. We normally spent about 120 THB per dish for a chicken/pork meal on rice/noodles. Seafood was always more expensive.

As detailed by the table, our trip expenses came out to be 11,527 THB. This meant we spent an average of 2,305 THB/day for the two of us. This is the equivalent of ~100 CAD a day for food, activities, transportation and accommodation for two!

We definitely think there is room to save if we were on a tighter budget, but we're pretty happy with what we got!

Catching the Bus Back to Bangkok

There is one bus back to Bangkok from Khuraburi, and it departs at 6pm daily. Because we were not sure how smooth getting back to Khuraburi would be, we booked a night in town just in case we missed the bus.

In retrospect, it would've been very safe for us to assume we could make the bus even if we got delayed. The only speedboat back to Khuraburi pier departs Ko Surin at 2:45pm. This meant we would dock at the pier at around 4pm with a maximum of 2 hours of buffer time to get to the bus stop.

We played it safe - so we got full day in Khuraburi! Next time, we would skip the night in Khuraburi and go straight to the bus stop.

Advise in Retrospect

Bring food. We can't emphasize this enough. The restaurant on the island was pretty disappointing. We understand that everything has to be brought over to the island by boat, but we still felt like the food was pretty expensive given the quality/quantity. We also got hungry during times when the restaurant was not open, so snacks would have made a big difference.

Ice cubes. We mentioned earlier in the post that someone had brought a cooler with ice. We think this was very smart. Thailand can get very hot, and having a glass of ice water can really cool you down (I know, ice water is not good for the body as it shocks your system).

Bring a life-jacket snorkeling. This might sound strange. You are probably thinking "I can swim, I don't need that". But can you swim for 45 minutes straight? I sure can't tread water for that long. Having a life-jacket would have been nice to float on when tired.  

Would We do it Again?

Yes. But not anytime soon. It was a really cool destination to visit, but there are also a lot of places we still want to go in the world. If we happened to be in Thailand again and someone said "I really want to go to Ko Surin, want to come with me?", then we would likely say yes. We wouldn't make a special trip to Thailand just to visit Ko Surin again.  

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