A tiny, remote cluster of five uninhabited islands some 10 miles off the coast of Koh Lanta in the Thai Andaman hides an underwater paradise. Here, striated granite pinnacles dotted with gnarly trees tower above some of Thailand’s clearest and bluest waters. Koh Haa’s shock of white sand beneath its central, protected cerulean lagoon affords a breathtaking backdrop for some of the best snorkeling and diving in the country.
Comprised of northerly Ko Haa Neung, central Koh Haa Sam and southerly Ko Haa Yai, as well as two tiny unnamed pinnacles guarding sentry at the mouth of the lagoon, the underwater landscape is just as rugged as the rocky islets themselves. Protected swim-through caves hide lobster, morays and schools of shimmering fish, while vibrant coral is littered with psychedelic nudibranchs (sea slugs), and drop-offs provide the occasional glimpse of deeper denizens such as sharks. Sixteen recognized dive sites with names such as Lost Pinnacle, The Cathedral, Lionfish Den and Cliff Jump Cove divulge some of what’s in store.
It’s not easy to get to Koh Haa, which means chances are high you’ll share this paradise with only a few other boats. However, as word has gotten out, tour operators from as far afield as Phuket—more than 50 miles away—have begun offering day-long snorkel trips to the area. These often involve long boat rides and can incorporate other island stops. An alternative allowing for more snorkel or dive time around Koh Haa is to leave from points on the island of Koh Lanta. Regardless of your point of origin, the open ocean crossing to Koh Haa can be rough even in the calmer seasons post-monsoons between November and March. Make sure that if you make the trip, you do so with a trusted outfitter.