The sandy beaches are white, the sea is crystal-clear, and the scenery is spectacular. Swim with the most tropical and colorful fish you’ve ever seen, discover magical bays, and visit the dreamiest beaches. But the beauty that Koh Phi Phi is blessed is also its curse, as everyone wants a piece of the intense beauty of the island. To catch a glimpse of Thailand’s most exotic island group, we have 10 tips to ensure you have an unforgettable visit!
Party island Koh Phi Phi
After avoiding the Koh Phi Phi Islands for two years, we can finally tell you what it’s really like.
It’s hard to imagine that just decades ago, Koh Phi Phi was a quiet, unspoiled paradise inhabited by local fishermen. Today, the fishermen have been exchanged for Thai entrepreneurs who are doing everything possible to earn your money. And palm plantations have been transformed into a jumble of sleazy streets with ramshackle hotels, deafening bars and mediocre restaurants.
Every square centimeter of this island revolves around tourism.
In addition, Koh Phi Phi is ridiculously expensive if you compare it to any other Thai island. There are no affordable mid-range hotels to be found. Comfort, quality and good service at the hostels and hotels are non-existent. Tourists will come regardless, so why would you need to stand out?
So… is it all negative?
Thankfully, no! Against all expectations there is more to do in Koh Phi Phi than just drinking! What we also found surprising is that it can be a great family destination as well.
Granted, you have to know where to go and how to unravel the beauty and secrets of Koh Phi Phi – and not be swallowed by the masses.
Be smart and read our tips, because you’ll be doing yourself a great service.
1. Maya Bay, “The Beach”
Koh Phi Phi became world famous after filming ‘The Beach’; with Leonardo DiCaprio and Maya Bay in the lead. This secret lagoon on Koh Phi Phi Leh is perhaps the most popular attraction in Thailand. Everyone wants to see this piece of paradise with their own eyes, which means you have to share it – right?!
We were completely alone in Maya Bay. It was an unforgettable moment that you can also experience. How? By renting a long-tail boat at sunrise and organizing your own trip.
2. Ao Nui Bay
We’ve seen many Thai beaches but this beach really has everything! Ao Nui is unbelievably beautiful – so beautiful that we were totally speechless. The walk to get there is mildly adventurous, but the reward is huge.
You can reach Ao Nui Beach on foot from Loh Lana Bay. You have to hike over a hill, but it’s worth it!
Ao Nui Beach is also accessible by long-tail boat (or kayak) from Loh Dalum Beach, the center of Koh Phi Phi. It’s a short ten minute trip and the costs, depending on your negotiating skills, is about 500 baht for a single trip for two people.
3. Phi Phi Leh Lagoon
At least as beautiful (maybe even more beautiful) than Maya Bay is the Phi Phi Leh Lagoon.
It’s best to describe it as one large, crystal clear swimming pool surrounded by huge cliffs. What’s great is that if you rent a long-tail boat to Maya Bay, the boat driver will always take you to this lagoon on the way back.
You don’t know what you see!
4. Koh Phi Phi Viewpoint
If you go to Koh Phi Phi then you have to go to the viewpoint!
The climb up the steep staircase from Ton Sai Village takes about half an hour and has a 30 baht entrance fee. There is signage everywhere to guide you along, so you can’t miss it. At the top you will find a small shop where you can buy ice cream, water, fruit shakes and snacks.
After seeing thousands of similar ‘viewpoint selfies’ on the internet, we still found the view to be breathtakingly beautiful!
5. Bamboo Island & Mosquito Island
Two more beautiful must-sees for Koh Phi Phi are Koh Mai Phai (Bamboo Island) and Koh Yung (Mosquito Island).
And the same rule as for Maya Bay applies: arrange your own trip and leave early.
So rent a long-tail boat in the morning, which will bring you to these two islands north of Koh Phi Phi Don. On Bamboo Island you can enjoy the most beautiful, white sandy beach you have ever seen. The nearby Mosquito Island is recognized by the huge limestone cliffs that protrude above the island, and there is also some good snorkeling here.
The costs depend on the starting point. The boat drivers demand extremely high amounts in Ton Sai Village – 3,000 baht for a private long-tail boat. But if you depart from Long Beach you pay only 1,200 baht for a three-hour trip.
6. Party on the beach
Besides the Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan, you’ll find some of Thailand’s biggest in Koh Phi Phi. In Ton Sai Village, the central part of Koh Phi Phi Don, there’s a party every night.
Eventhough we are not really into partying, we did sat with a bucket at the Slinky Beach Bar to enjoy the different fire shows and upbeat music. You can party as hard, as you want because the parties last long into the night!
If you have any recommendations for a good night out on Koh Phi Phi please leave a comment!
7. Rent a kayak
If you want a cheap alternative to all the long-tail boat trips on Koh Phi Phi, then rent your own kayak!
You can rent a kayak (plus drybag) in Loh Dalum Bay on the other side of the Ton Sai Pier. From here you can paddle to Ao Ling (Monkey Beach) within a half hour, which is a hidden little beach northwest of your starting point.
An unspoiled beach that you share with dozens of monkeys who are looking for… FOOD!
Sounds cute, right? We’re afraid it’s not.
It can be dangerous, as some monkeys are aggressive and can bite. And that’s really the last thing you want, as you’ll have to go to the hospital several times to ensure you don’t contract rabies. It’s therefore best to view the beach from a distance, and then continue to Ao Nui Bay (highlight no. 2), which is an hours paddle from Ao Ling.
Hiring a kayak costs about 100 baht per hour and 500 baht for the whole day.
8. Snorkeling & Diving
Naturally you can go snorkeling around Koh Phi Phi!
Although the coral has been damaged in many places, we have seen that the underwater world around Koh Phi Phi is surprisingly beautiful. Each long-tail boat is equipped with a mask and snorkel, allowing you to regularly take a peek at an overwhelming amount of tropical fish.
Some beautiful snorkeling spots around Koh Phi Phi are Hin Klang, Loh Sama Bay, Mosquito Island, Ao Nui Bay, and Phi Phi Leh Lagoon.
9.Living the luxury lifestyle
If you don’t mind spending and don’t want to stay in the busy area of Koh Phi Phi, Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort in Lo Ba Goa Bay is the most beautiful base from which to explore the island.
We enjoyed walking around the beautiful grounds: hundreds of palm trees, luxury, free-standing bungalows, an insane swimming pool, beach beds, a private beach at your front door, various restaurants and so much more.
If you really want to relax and unwind in paradise, then this is the place to be!
10. Hit the road
Save the best for last, and… put on your hiking boots!
Koh Phi Phi Don has kilometers of footpaths, allowing you to reach the whole island on foot. It may not be everyone’s idea of an exotic vacation, but we thought it was fantastic!
After the well-known viewpoint you can continue hiking to the northern tip of Long Beach. Along the way you will pass various beaches and restaurants where you can rest and refuel. In addition, you will encounter lots of local activity, such as fishermen who cast out their fishing rods from their huts, and laughing children swimming in the river between the mangrove.
If you’ve had enough of walking, you can arrange for a long-tail boat to take you back to Ton Sai Village. But if you’re lucky, you’ll find a random tractor on the road to give you a lift. Haha!
Eating & Sleeping on Koh Phi Phi
The Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park consists of six islands – of which Koh Phi Phi Don is the largest and the only island where you can stay overnight. The nearby Koh Phi Phi Leh, where you can find Maya Bay and the Phi Phi Leh Lagoon is uninhabited.
The most popular part of Koh Phi Phi Don is Ton Sai Village, where the ferries arrive. There are no cars or motorbikes on the island but everything is within walking distance. Although this part of Koh Phi Phi is pretty small and narrow, it’s fully developed with hostels, hotels, bars and restaurants. It’s the ideal place for backpackers and party-goers – but not recommended for families.
We stayed at Garden Inn Bungalows on the edge of Ton Sai Village, which has small bungalows with a hammock and a balcony for 1,200 baht per night. It’s a quiet place run by a sweet family (quite rare for this location), and has air conditioning as well. Booking online is not possible, so you’ll need some luck to secure a bungalow!
The Freedom Hostel is a good base for solo travelers. The location is quiet and the air conditioned rooms are clean. However, it lacks a cozy communal space and could do with extra toilets and showers.
You can eat at Grand PP Arcade – which is where we found ourselves every day. The food was freshly prepared and the breakfasts (yoghurt with fresh fruit) were quite a feast!
The best place for families and rest-seekers
In addition to the above-mentioned Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort, there is also an outstanding ‘budget option’ for Koh Phi Phi.
On the other side of the island you will find the Phi Phi Relax Beach Resort located at Pak Nam Beach – where you can stay in a beach bungalow from 1,500 baht per night.
All of the trips mentioned previously can be made from here, by booking at the reception of your hotel. The disadvantage of this area is its location. Getting to the center of Koh Phi Phi (Ton Sai Village) is a 2 hour walk, but you can also rent a boat to get there (600 baht for a single trip). The advantage is that it’s very chilled and tranquil.
Koh Phi Phi is accessible from every corner of Southern Thailand by purchasing a bus and ferry combination ticket.
From the Rassade Pier on Phuket, the first ferry departs at 08:30 AM and the last at 3:00 PM. It’s a short two hour ride to the Ton Sai Pier on Koh Phi Phi Don.
If you are departing from Krabi Town, then take the ferry from Klong Jilad Pier. The first boat departs at 09:00 AM and the last at 4:00 PM. The journey takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes.
At 08:00 AM and 1:00 PM, ferries depart from Saladan Pier on Koh Lanta. At 09:30 AM, the ferry departs from Nopparat Thara Pier in Ao Nang towards Ton Sai Pier on Koh Phi Phi Don.
Best Hotels Koh Phi Phi
Viking Nature Resort - $$Koh Phi Phi’s best budget accommodation. You’ll be sleeping in a very spacious bungalow and dining on the restaurant’s private beach. Only downside (or upside, if you choose to see it that way) is that it’s a 20-minute walk to the center of town.
Relax Beach Resort - $$Without a doubt, the best choice for couples, families and those looking for a restful stay, Relax Beach Resort is far away from the island’s more party intensive parts. Located on a gorgeous private beach with crystal clear water!
Do you have any other tips for Koh Phi Phi?! Share them in the comments section!
Credit page header image: Michael Gillam