Top 5 Best Liveaboards In Thailand

Written and Reviewed By

Pawara budget liveaboard boat on the ocean in Thailand

So you’ve heard that liveaboard diving is the only way to access the very best scuba diving in Thailand. After taking a look at the different dive liveaboards in Thailand, you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by the choices available. Should I go to the gulf of Thailand or the Andaman Sea? Which liveaboard boat goes to Khao Lak? There are a lot of questions.

We get it.

There are literally dozens of Thailand liveaboard options and it’s hard to know which are the best liveaboards that go to the best dive sites.

And that’s where we come in.

Keep reading to learn more about these options. Plus we’ll share all the essential information you need to plan your perfect Thai liveaboard/ dive safari experience.

But don’t forget about going from your departure destination to Bangkok and then the boat ride to the site, you want to make traveling as easy as possible. We would recommend reading our tips on flying with dive gear and seeing if a travel BCD is for you as well.

Table of Contents

At OtterAquatics, our ultimate goal is to help you book your dream liveaboard. We’ve assembled a team of PADI, SSI, and Molchanovs instructors, as well as liveaboard cruise directors to research all available options.

How We Pick

In order to create our best liveaboard lists, the OtterAquatics team starts off by researching the liveaboard landscape for a particular region of world, listing out all of the highest-rated choices.

Unfortunately it’s not possible to go on every single liveaboard, but we go on the ones we can.

Next, we identify 3-5 liveaboards per region that are distinct best choices for different scenarios. For example, on a list, we may suggest budget options, luxury options, or a liveaboard that exclusively hits a certain dive site.

How We Review

The OtterAquatics team reviews the liveaboards on our lists by researching information on liveaboard booking websites, review websites, and our social media communities of divers.

We also contact each liveaboard mentioned on our lists ensuring the information is accurate.

Our Team of Writers

Want to learn more about who our writers are? Head over to the OtterAquatics About Page.

At OtterAquatics, our ultimate goal is to help you book your dream liveaboard. We’ve assembled a team of PADI, SSI, and Molchanovs instructors, as well as liveaboard cruise directors to research all available options.

How We Pick

In order to create our best liveaboard lists, the OtterAquatics team starts off by researching the liveaboard landscape for a particular region of world, listing out all of the highest-rated choices.

Unfortunately it’s not possible to go on every single liveaboard, but we go on the ones we can.

Next, we identify 3-5 liveaboards per region that are distinct best choices for different scenarios. For example, on a list, we may suggest budget options, luxury options, or a liveaboard that exclusively hits a certain dive site.

How We Review

The OtterAquatics team reviews the liveaboards on our lists by researching information on liveaboard booking websites, review websites, and our social media communities of divers.

We also contact each liveaboard mentioned on our lists ensuring the information is accurate.

Our Team of Writers

Want to learn more about who our writers are? Head over to the OtterAquatics About Page.

Best Indonesia Liveaboards

Budget Choice

Pawara

4.5
From $146/d
Pros:
  • Free Nitrox
  • Plenty of entertainment options
  • Local and international cuisine
Cons:
  • No TV's in standard rooms
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The 35m Pawara is a custom-built, steel-hulled Similan Islands dive boat. Diving takes place from the spacious dive platform, which offers plenty of room for gear storage, and divers who are qualified can take advantage of the FREE Nitrox on offer.

When you are above the water the Pawara Liveaboard offers 2 budget cabins with shared bathrooms and 10 cabins with en-suite bathrooms. Each cabin is air-conditioned and provides towels, toiletries, and a safety deposit box.

For relaxation after the dives guests can choose from the entertainment room which is equipped with flat-screen TV, DVD, sound system, karaoke, games, and more, or the sun deck with comfortable soft mattresses. In the dining room, 3 delicious meals of Thai and International cuisine will be served, and cookies, fresh fruit, tea, coffee, and drinking water are available all day. This liveaboard dive trip has it all and dives year-round.

  • Max number of Guests/ Divers: 26 guests / 4 dive guides
  • Number of Dives: Typically 4 dives per day
  • Number of cabins: 13 cabins
  • Trip Length: 5, 6 or 7 nights
  • Wifi: Available for an extra fee
  • Nitrox: Available for an extra fee
  • Drinks: Free coffee, tea, water, and soda. Alcoholic beverages available for purchase.
  • Port: Chalong Pier, Phuket
  • Onshore Excursions: Visits to beaches and local markets are offered on some trips
  • Route/ Itinerary: Dives in the Similan Islands, Koh Bon, Koh Tachai, and Richelieu Rock
  • Camera Station: Yes, camera station and rinse tanks are available on the dive deck
Budget Option

Bavaria

4.5
From $163/d
Pros:
  • Thai massages on board
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Delicious food
  • Suitable for non-divers
Cons:
  • Snorkel gear is extra
  • Nitrox not included
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This modern yacht provides spacious cabins, unbeatable hospitality, and fantastic facilities.

The Bavaria liveaboard offers a variety of spacious cabin options to suit all budgets. On the main deck, you can choose between a deluxe double cabin or a comfortable twin cabin both with ensuite bathrooms. Or a comfortable double cabin with ensuite or standard twin cabin with a shared bathroom on the lower deck. All feature air conditioning.

The diving platform on this liveaboard is incredibly spacious and well organized making preparing for every dive effortless. The professional and attentive dive team is always on hand to make sure you have the best possible experience both above and below the water.

In between dives, you can relax in the air-conditioned saloon equipped with the latest entertainment facilities. Or head up to the enormous sun deck to soak up some rays as you cruise past the stunning Thai scenery.

One of the best things about this liveaboard is the food. Bavaria provides a wide choice of delicious dishes from local and western cuisine that are easily comparable to a 5-star restaurant. An impressive variety of fine wines is available to further enhance your dining experience.

What’s more, is that the Bavaria liveaboard offers additional activities besides diving and snorkeling including onboard massages and land excursions. So it’s a great option if you’re traveling with non-divers or are looking for a variety of activities. Non-divers also receive a 25% discount.

The Bavaria liveaboard offers 3/4-day trips to either the Similan or Surin Islands, as well as 6-7 day itineraries that combine the best sites from both island groups.

If you’re looking for a top-quality dive experience in Thailand, the Bavaria liveaboard is an amazing choice.

  • Max number of Guests/ Divers: 24 guests / 20 divers
  • Number of Dives: Up to 4 dives per day
  • Number of cabins: 12 cabins
  • Trip Length: 5 – 8 days
  • Wifi: Available for an additional fee
  • Nitrox: Available for an additional fee
  • Drinks: Complimentary water, tea, and coffee. Other drinks available for an additional fee Port: Phuket, Thailand
  • Onshore Excursions: Island tours available for an additional fee
  • Route/ Itinerary: Similan Islands, Koh Bon, Koh Tachai, and Richelieu Rock
  • Camera Station: Yes
Most Routes Offered

Smiling Seahorse

From $171/d
Pros:
  • Mares Technician on board
  • Photographer's Room & Blackwater dives
  • 1 to 1 staff-to-guest ratio
  • Nitrox/ PADI courses
  • Reef-friendly amenities
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The Smiling Seahorse is a luxurious liveaboard that has been around since 2012 giving “off-the-beaten-track” dive cruises on the Andaman sea both in Thailand and Myanmar.

It specializes in small groups and really takes care of the guests. It’s 1 to 1 guest-to-customer ratio ensures that you get the most out of your trip. They even have a Mares specialist on board to help you with your dive gear if an issue arises.

While diving in Thailand and the Andaman sea is amazing in its own right, this liveaboard offers Blackwater diving which is quite rare to do in a safe manner, and with specialists. They even have a fully specialized camera area to rinse, charge, take care of your gear, and go through your photos.

The boat boasts a rooftop on the top level of the boat and is the ultimate lounge area shaded area with an outdoor living room and hammocks.

The multipurpose common area is the main assembly point where you will be served your first-class meals inspired by French and Thais cuisine as well as international cuisine so there is something for everyone. You will have access to snacks and refreshments 24 hours a day in this space, meet for a pre-dive briefing, and consult the Marine life library when searching for that critter you saw.

Each room has a window and door that opens to the ocean so you can watch the waves from your bed and breath in the ocean breeze. The standard and deluxe cabins have the option to be configured in two ways: Twin or Double bed. The deluxe and master cabins also have private en suite bathrooms. The master cabins are in the front of the boat giving you a panoramic view of the route ahead in addition to the side windows all cabins have.

They have planned the boat to maximize space and provide specialized areas for every diver’s needs. Even the small dive groups are organized and have staggered setup and entry times to ensure the dive deck is never too crowded.

The boat not only has two Bauer compressors but can blend NITROX onboard custom-mixed to your next dive specifications with 15L tanks if needed. If you don’t want to bring your own gear or forget anything you can rent everything on board. DIN adapter or incert are available for free and will find reef hooks, clips, mouthpieces for sale if needed.

Routes: Similan National Park including Koh Bon and Koh Tachai, Surin National Park including Richelieu Rock, Koh Lanta National Park including  Hin Daeng and Hin Muang, and Tarutao National Park including Koh Lipe. As well as Mergui Archipelago in Myanmar/ Burma when it is opened.

Liveaboard Specs:

  • # Divers: 16
  • # Cabins: 8
  • AC: Yes
  • Wifi: Yes
  • Nitrox: Yes, blended on board
Mid-range Option

The Phinisi

4.5
From $197/d
Pros:
  • Spacious communal areas
  • High-end service
  • Elegantly designed cabins
  • Surprisingly affordable
  • Small groups
Cons:
  • Nitrox is not included
  • No Wi-Fi available
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The Phinisi is arguably the best liveaboard in Thailand. The Phinisi’s warm atmosphere, personalized service, and superior facilities create a truly unforgettable experience.

This elegant liveaboard accommodates a total of 18 guests across 7 luxurious cabins. Each cabin features individually controlled air conditioning, a private hot water bathroom, and a mini-safe. As well as twin and double cabins, there are also 2 cabins with 4 single beds, ideal for friends, families, or solo travelers.

With several spacious and comfortable communal areas on The Phinisi, you’ll have plenty of options to relax and soak up the breathtaking Thai scenery during your liveaboard trip.

Outside you’ll find a beautiful outdoor dining area, shaded lounge, and large sundeck, all offering panoramic views. Inside you have a large air-conditioned lounge, a wonderful place to unwind with a drink or watch a movie on the large flat screen entertainment system. On such a beautifully designed boat, it’s almost tempting to not go diving!

However, the incredible dive sites and highly experienced team ensure that you enjoy your time underwater as much as you do onboard. All diving is done from motorized tender dinghies that drop you right at the perfect spot. You also have the option to complete PADI diving courses onboard.

The Phinisi offers 3 or 4-day trips around the southern islands and 6 -7 day trips to the Similan and Surin islands. You also have the option to combine these 2 trips in a 10 day / 10-night trip and ensure you get to visit every dive site.

Liveaboard Specs:

  • Max number of Guests/Divers: 18
  • Number of Dives: 3-4 dives per day (including night dives)
  • Number of Cabins: 9 Trip
  • Length: 5-12 nights
  • Wifi: Available for an additional charge
  • Nitrox: Available for an additional charge
  • Drinks: Complimentary beer and wine with dinner, additional drinks available for purchase.
  • Port: Phuket
  • Onshore Excursions: Island visits and beach picnics may be available depending on itinerary and weather conditions
  • Route/Itinerary: Similan Islands, Koh Bon, Koh Haa, Koh Tachai, Richelieu Rock, Koh Phi Phi and the Surin Islands Camera Station:
  • Camera table and rinse tanks available for guests to use. No dedicated camera room
Luxury Alternative

Andaman Queen

4.5
From $182/d
Pros:
  • Free Nitrox
  • plenty of entertainment options
  • Local and international cuisine
Cons:
  • No TV's in standard rooms
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We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

The 35m Andaman Queen is a custom-built, steel hulled Similan Islands liveaboard. Diving takes place from the spacious dive platform, which offers plenty of room for gear storage, and divers who are qualified can take advantage of the FREE Nitrox on offer.

When you are above the water the Andaman Queen Liveaboard offers 2 budget cabins with shared bathrooms and 10 cabins with en-suite bathrooms. Each cabin is air-conditioned and provides towels, toiletries and a safety deposit box.

For relaxation after the dives guests can choose from the entertainment room which is equipped with flat screen TV, DVD, sound system, karaoke, games and more, or the sun deck with comfortable soft mattresses. In the dining room 3 delicious meals of Thai and International cuisine will be served, and cookies, fresh fruit, tea, coffee and drinking water are available all day.

Liveaboard Specs:

  • Max number of Guests/ Divers: 21 guests / 4-5 dives per day (depending on the itinerary)
  • Number of cabins: 9 cabins
  • Trip Length: 3-10 nights (depending on the itinerary)
  • Wifi: Available for an additional fee
  • Nitrox: Available for an additional fee
  • Drinks: Complimentary tea, coffee, and drinking water. Alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks available for purchase.
  • Port: Chalong Pier, Phuket, Thailand
  • Onshore Excursions: Depending on the itinerary, there may be onshore excursions available for an additional fee.
  • Route/ Itinerary: The Deep Andaman Queen liveaboard offers several different itineraries in the Andaman Sea and the Similan Islands, ranging from 3-10 nights. Itineraries may include diving at sites such as Richelieu Rock, Koh Bon, Koh Tachai, and the Surin Islands.
  • Camera Station: Yes, the liveaboard has a camera station available for use.

Why Go On A Liveaboard In Thailand?

panormaic of an inlet in Thailand

You might be thinking…

‘Can’t I just go scuba diving from one of those beautiful islands in Thailand?

While it’s possible to scuba dive in Thailand from most of the islands, all of the best scuba diving spots are accessed on a liveaboard. So if you only dive on day trips you’re completely missing out on the truly spectacular diving that Thailand has to offer.

The legendary Similan and Surin islands, arguably some of the best dive spots in the world, not just Thailand, can only be dived on a liveaboard. And a scuba diving trip to Thailand just isn’t complete without visiting at least 1, if not both, of these dive spots.

What’s more, is that even in the spots where there is epic diving accessible from an island base the sites are a long boat ride away. Think 2 hours or more each way.  And if you’re planning multiple days of diving with sunrise and night diving this can get really tiring.

Plus with all the day boats heading out at similar times the sites can get really crowded in the middle of the day. On a dive liveaboard, you arrive at the sites long before the day trips meaning you often get the entire dive site to yourself.

Not only is a dive liveaboard more comfortable, convenient, and less tiring but it’s also the only way to experience the best diving in Thailand.

When Is The Best Time For A Dive Liveaboard In Thailand?

While there is a diving season all year long the best time to go on a dive liveaboard in Thailand is between November and April, also known as the dry season. During the monsoon season, between May and September, the Similan and Surin islands are closed due to exceptionally choppy sea conditions.

December and January will be the most crowded as this is the peak season when the weather is at its best. Between February and April is the best time to see whale sharks and manta rays.

Still not sure when to go on a liveaboard in Thailand?

Let’s take a closer look at the dive conditions month by month:

January to February

For sea conditions, these are the best months for a liveaboard in Thailand. The water is beautifully calm and visibility is exceptional, both around the Similan and Surin Islands as well as in the south. However, this is also the high season for tourists so sites can be busy. And make sure you book early to avoid disappointment!

March to April

During these months the sea conditions are still calm but plankton blooms mean that the visibility is reduced. However, as every keen diver knows, plankton blooms attract those bucket list pelagics. So March is one of the best months to see manta rays and whale sharks on a liveaboard in Thailand.

May to September

The monsoon season creates rough sea conditions that force the Similan and Surin islands to close. The Southern islands, such as Koh Phi Phi, can still be enjoyed on a dive liveaboard. The water tends to be less clear and more choppy during these months.

However, the weather is often unpredictable and you can still experience some great diving conditions. Plus this is low season so liveaboards in Thailand are considerably cheaper than in other months.

October and December

This is the start of the dry season when liveaboards start returning to the Similan and Surin Islands. The water is mostly still and visibility is incredible again.

October is often considered the best time for a dive liveaboard in Thailand. The conditions are fantastic and as it’s still low season the dive sites are much quieter. 

November marks the beginning of the high season with exceptional diving throughout the region. But expect liveaboard prices to increase and dive sites to be busy.

What Are The Destinations For Dive Liveaboards In Thailand?

The majority, if not all, of the liveaboards in Thailand are found along the east coast in the Andaman Sea.

There are three main destinations for dive liveaboards in the Andaman Sea; the Similan Islands, Surin Islands and the Southern Islands around Koh Phi Phi.

Liveaboard trips will range from 3 to 10 days, offering itineraries that explore one or all of these locations.

Let’s take a closer look at each of the liveaboard locations…

Dive Liveaboards In The Similan Islands

speedboat on blue waters of the similan islands

The Koh Similan Marine National Park is a world-famous scuba diving destination located 52 miles northwest of Phuket. A dive liveaboard is the only way to dive in the Similan Islands.

Made up of eleven small islands the scenery here is spectacular. Lush rainforests cascade down dark granite cliffs, bright white beaches roll down into vibrant blue waters. And it gets even better when you descend below the surface.

From tranquil reefs to exhilarating drift dives and enticing swim-throughs, there’s a wide variety of dive sites to be explored. As one of the world’s top locations for scuba diving, the Similan islands are a must for every passionate scuba diver.

Here you’ll find carpets of psychedelic anemones, vibrant soft corals, and humongous sea fans. Encounter massive barracuda, jackfish and snappers darting after the smaller reef fish. Look closely and you can spot perfectly camouflaged scorpionfish, octopus and stonefish. There’s also seahorses, pipefish, nudibranch and a whole array of weird and wonderful macro critters for you to find.

And if that’s not enough, between February and April you’re almost guaranteed to find whale sharks and manta rays feeding on the plankton blooms that accumulate here.

Honestly, it’s impossible to describe how incredible diving in the Similan islands is with words. Or even photographs. You’ll just have to go and experience the magic for yourself.

Dive Liveaboards In The Surin Islands

beach photo of the surin islands in thailand

Travel another 100km north of the Similan islands and you’ll reach the Surin Islands. The Surin islands are less famous and less frequented than the Similans but just as spectacular. Many dive liveaboards in Thailand combine the best sites from the Similan and Surin islands in 1 trip.

Here is where you’ll find 1 of the top 10 greatest dive sites on the planet, Richelieu Rock. This is one of the best places in the world to scuba dive with whale sharks and is only accessible on a Thai liveaboard.

The crystal clear waters here are home to some of the most pristine and abundant coral reefs in Thailand. Combined with the frequent sightings of sharks, mantas, and turtles, the Surin islands deliver an unforgettable liveaboard experience.

Akin to the Similan, there’s a variety of diving conditions to suit all levels. From shallow to deep, calm waters to pumping currents, enticing caves, and steep walls, there’s something to suit every level and taste.

If you’ve got the time and budget we highly recommend a liveaboard that combines the Similan and Surin islands so you can experience the very best diving that Thailand has to offer.

As both the Similan Islands and Surin Islands are national marine parks you will be charged a daily entrance fee whether you’re diving or not. The national park fees (approximately $15 per person per day) are very rarely included in your liveaboard package.

Dive Liveaboards Around The Phi Phi Islands

boat on turquoise waters in Koh Pho Phi Thailand

In addition to the Similan and Surin islands, dive liveaboards in Thailand also offer itineraries to the southern islands around Koh Phi Phi. These 6 islands 45km east of Phuket are regarded as one of the most beautiful island chains in the world.

There are many incredible dive sites around the Phi Phi islands, including coral covered walls and enticing limestone caves. You’ll encounter a wide variety of reef fish, macro life and passing pelagics. Most of the dives here are suitable for beginners. However, there are some more challenging currents and deeper waters for experienced divers looking for some action.

What Is Diving On A Liveaboard In Thailand Like?

A liveaboard in Thailand offers a variety of diving experiences including wrecks, fringing reefs, deep drop-offs, caverns, pinnacles, walls, tunnels, and open ocean seamounts.

Dive conditions in Thailand are some of the most beautiful in the world. The water temperature rarely drops below 80°F / 27°C throughout the year and visibility is usually spectacular (20-40m).

Depending on the tide and location, currents can be a little on the strong side or completely non-existent. Most of the diving on a liveaboard in Thailand is relatively shallow (5-25m). However, you’ll also find several sites offering advanced divers the opportunity for deeper dives (25 -40m).

Diving with enriched air nitrox is recommended for divers wishing to explore the deep pinnacles and swim-throughs. Nitrox is available on the majority of liveaboards in Thailand for those certified.

What Can You See Diving On A Liveaboard In Thailand?

The Andaman Sea is home to Thailand’s most vibrant and healthy coral reefs. So expect an intoxicating explosion of color every time you jump into the water.

On a liveaboard in Thailand, you’re guaranteed to encounter an overwhelming variety of marine life including; colorful reef fish, schooling barracuda, patrolling tuna, turtles, octopus, cuttlefish, lionfish, sea snakes reef sharks and leopard sharks.

And if that’s not enough, manta rays and whale sharks are frequent sightings for liveaboard trips around the Similan and Surin Islands. Very lucky divers will also encounter a rare sailfish or even a pod of dolphins.

Although a dive liveaboard in Thailand is more about the big fish there are also some great spots for macro lovers. Divers with a keen eye will be able to spot seahorses, pipefish, stonefish, and an impressive array of nudibranchs.

Your logbook will definitely fill up fast on a liveaboard in Thailand!

Frequently Asked Questions

Some boats are happy with an open-water scuba license from any recognized training agency usually PADI and cost around 200-300 USD.

Increasingly more dive operators are asking for advanced or deep certification as a minimum level of experience. In this case, open water certified divers can complete the advanced course onboard for a discounted price.

For the more challenging dive sites an advanced certification is highly recommended.

Prices typically include a dive guide, 12-liter tank, weights, and belt, all meals and water/tea/coffee etc. Excluded are the marine park fees, dive equipment rental, Nitrox, alcoholic drinks.

Some boats include equipment rental in the price but most charge extra for equipment as many divers who join a liveaboard have some or all of their own equipment.

Some dive sites do have strong currents at certain tides at certain times of the year.

Experienced dive guides will know how to handle these dive sites and time swimming into a current should be minimal. Some dive sites have lines for ascents and descents. Reef hooks and gloves are not required.

Now you are fully equipped with all the information you need to plan your perfect liveaboard in Thailand. So all that’s left is for you to book it and get packing!

And if you go with one of the top liveaboards mentioned above we know you’re going to have an unforgettable trip.

Which liveaboard did you choose? Let us know in the comments.

Looking for other liveaboards in south-east Asia?

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