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Maya Bay is Thailand’s most famous tourist attraction. Every day hundreds, maybe even thousands of tourists visit the bay in Koh Phi Phi for its astonishing beauty. Everyone wants a piece of Maya Bay, including us! Nevertheless, we had the privilege of seeing a completely different side of Thailand’s greatest pride. We were there… ALONE!

Update 22 April 2017: Maya Bay is likely to be closed to the public from June to October due to nature conservation.

You can also be the only tourist on the world-famous beach of Maya Bay.

We’ll share the secret to achieving this this in a moment. But first we’d like share what the ‘Maya Bay experience’ is like for the average, unfortunate traveler:

Tourists everywhere. A small stoke of white sand between the towels. Speedboats sail back and forth, the noise reflected by steep rock cliffs. A long row of colorful long-tail boats bob innocently on the water with. Anchors in the sand. The coastline is littered with people. “Look, an empty spot!” People start to run. Selfie sticks are quickly extended. “Smile!” Click click click.

This is Maya Bay…

Crowds at Maya Bay

…at 01:00 PM in the afternoon. Fortunately, Maya Bay at 06:30 AM in totally different!

06:30 AM in the morning. Status: deserted.

Maya Bay at 06:30 AM in the morning is peaceful and beautiful. It has snow-white sand where you can jump, dance, and sing to your heart’s content. The only ones watching are the black and white birds who pluck fish out of the water. And the immense limestone formations that overlook the bay with their awesome green peaks and ochre-colored stalactites.

Simply amazing.

Maya Bay at 06:30 AM in the morning is so beautiful that you will feel teary-eyed. This is the Maya Bay we want everyone to see!

Early mornings in Maya Bay - Koh Phi PhiMaya Bay - Koh Phi PhiMaya Bay - Koh Phi Phi

Maya Bay on Koh Phi Phi Leh

The world-famous Maya Bay is located on Koh Phi Phi Leh, an uninhabited island with huge limestone rocks that is overgrown with jungle. The bay is a protected nature reserve and belongs to the ‘Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park’.

The party island of Koh Phi Phi Don is around the corner and is a popular base camp for tourists. Many tourists also visit Maya Bay from Phuket.

Although the bay has always been a major landmark, its popularity has grown massively since 2000 after the famous movie “The Beach”, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio. Interesting fact: In the film they digitally added an additional rock formation, which made the bay seem more secluded.

Maya Bay - Koh Phi PhiMaya Bay - Koh Phi Phi

The Lagoon and Viking Cave

Besides Maya Bay, there are more great sights to see around Koh Phi Phi Leh.

Like the Phi Leh Lagoon, a huge ‘swimming pool’ surrounded by cliffs, where you can swim and snorkel in the clearest waters you’ll ever see.

Koh Phi Phi Leh Lagoon

You’ll also come across the Viking Cave, where highly valued, edible bird nests are harvested from Asian swifts. The nests are made from the bird’s saliva, and are mainly used in Chinese cooking to make birds nest soup.

The cave is protected and cannot be entered. However, from a distance you can see how the locals climb – without any safety equipment – over makeshift bamboo scaffolds to collect the nests.

Viking Cave - Maya Bay - Koh Phi Phi

Getting there

It’s time to let you in on the secret of Maya Bay. Can you guess what it is?

Get up early – very early! Jump on a long-tail boat around 06:00 AM from Ton Sai Pier on Koh Phi Phi Don. We boarded at 06:15 AM and arrived first, and had the beach to ourselves for half an hour. Before setting foot ashore, you can watch the sunrise from the boat – which is a wonderful bonus!

The first speedboats full of tourists arrive around 08:00 AM, so make sure you arrive before then!

Book a private long-tail boat a day in advance. You can do this via a travel agency on the island or you can negotiate directly with drivers at the Tonsai pier. There are plenty of boats so there is always someone willing to take you!

Catching the sunrise - Maya Bay - Koh Phi PhiCatching the sunrise - Maya Bay - Koh Phi Phi

Fee to visit Maya Bay

Because Maya Bay belongs to a national park, you have to pay 400 baht entry fee per person to disembark on the beach. You hand the fee to your boat driver, in addition to the agreed price.

A private long-tail boat in the early morning will cost about 1,500 baht, which should include a three-hour tour along Maya Bay, Loh Samah for snorkeling (free snorkels onboard), the Phi-Leh Lagoon and the Viking Cave.

If you wish to extend the tour, you’ll pay an extra 500 baht per hour to the boat driver.

Organized tours to places other than Maya Bay, such as Monkey Beach, Mosquito Island and Bamboo Island, are much cheaper: only 450 baht per person. However, we do not recommend this because you’ll be on a crowded boat that will arrive at unfavorable times – when the beaches are filled with tourists.

In addition, you also have to pay 400 baht to explore the beaches of Maya Bay and Bamboo Island.

It’s best to organize everything yourself and to depart early!

On our way to Maya Bay - Koh Phi Phi

Sleep Aboard: Sleeping in Maya Bay

You can also do an overnight tour sleeping on a boat in Maya Bay. When the last boats leave, you can relax on the beach with some other passengers. Once the sun has set you can swim with luminous plankton – an unforgettable experience!

More information about this tour can be found here: http://www.mayabaytours.com/

Unfortunately we were too late to secure a reservation, so be sure to book this trip a few weeks in advance!

The rainy season: Take note!

Due to turbulent weather during the rainy season (May to October), it’s common for you to reach Maya Bay in the morning via the back entrance of Loh Samah. This can be really challenging, because when the boat has anchored you will have to swim(!) in rough waters before you reach a rope ladder that you have to climb.

So make sure to wear good hiking shoes and take a dry-bag for all your valuables!

The rear entrance at Loh Samah looks like this:

Entrance to Maya Bay - Koh Phi Phi

Photo by: Vera Donkers

Best Hotels Koh Phi Phi

Viking Nature Resort, 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, Koh Phi Phi

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!

When are you going to Maya Bay? And if you’ve been there: what did you think about it? Let us know!


Author Mariska

Traveler, entrepreneur, book lover, foodie. In Thailand, you'll find me driving around on my motorbike, on the lookout for new hotspots.

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