In the far south of Thailand lies a small paradise. A tiny island that belongs to the Adang-Rawi Archipelago, that has become insanely popular over the last few years. We are talking about… Koh Lipe! An island surrounded by bright blue water, coral beaches and sand so white you’ll need sunglasses. This is Koh Lipe, the number one bounty island of Thailand!
First impression of Koh Lipe
For years we’ve travelled to all corners of Thailand to see the most beautiful, unique and well-known places.
But for some reason we never made it to Koh Lipe – until now. We packed our bags and finally made the trip via speedboat to admire Koh Lipe’s famous white sandy beaches.
Our expectations were high… but the reality was somewhat different.
We arrived at Koh Lipe’s biggest beach Pattaya around noon, but there wasn’t much beach to see. The water was packed with speedboats and rattling long-tail boats, and the beach was littered with… suitcases. And people. A lot of people.
Immediately upon disembarking we had to pay an entrance fee of 200 baht per person, because Koh Lipe is a ‘National Park’. While we believe it’s good to contribute to nature conservation, we felt that these fees have little to with conservation.
So to be honest, our first impression of Koh Lipe wasn’t all that great.
The development of Koh Lipe
Over a hundred years ago, Koh Lipe was inhabited by the Chow Lair Sea Gypsies who were able to live off the fish in the archipelago. In 1970 Koh Lipe was sold to a Thai developer who had big plans for the island.
It took another forty years before Koh Lipe was discovered by the general public. In 2009 the first nightclub was opened, and a year later the Walking Street was established. Since then, the concrete jungle further expanded across the island, and visitors now choose between dozens of restaurants, overpriced hotels, three ATMs and two 7-Elevens.
And once there’s a 7-Eleven, then you know how commercialized an island is. Even if it’s a tiny island in a corner of Thailand.
Nevertheless, we’ve also discovered beautiful places on Koh Lipe. Because Koh Lipe is very beautiful and we understand very well why Koh Lipe has become so popular. So come along with us and we’ll share our best tips for Koh Lipe!
The best beach: Sunrise Beach
Sunrise Beach is the most beautiful beach in Koh Lipe. The long, white stretch of sand covers the entire east coast of the island and continues all the way to the north. The northeastern tip is the most photogenic beach in Koh Lipe, and is called ‘Karma Beach’.
From the Koh Lipe Mountain Resort, you have the most beautiful views of Karma Beach and Koh Adang, the uninhabited island across the water.
Over the entire length of Sunrise Beach there are bungalows, restaurants, bars and resorts. There are many long-tail boats bobbing about; although they not as disruptive as at Pattaya Beach.
The atmosphere is cheerful and chilled. Rent a kayak and paddle to the two small coral islands on the east coast where you can enjoy the last sun rays. Or go snorkeling on the south side of Sunrise Beach where you can discover some hidden beaches.
Whatever you do, you have to book a bungalow on the beach (see our hotel tips at the bottom of this page). You won’t regret it!
Watch the sun go down on Sunset Beach
Sunset Beach is located on the northwest of Koh Lipe. Right before sunset, mats and cushions are rolled out on the sand as the sun slowly sinks into the sea. Grab a drink and sit down – what more could you want?!
Koh Adang Viewpoint
Now that you have read this far and are planning your trip to Koh Lipe, we have something you should not miss!
From the viewpoint on the uninhabited island of Koh Adang, you have an unbelievably beautiful view of Koh Lipe. You can see the entire island, including the reef, the white beaches and the azure-blue water.
Hire a long-tail boat from Sunrise Beach and tell the boat driver that you want to climb the Koh Adang (Chado Cliff) viewpoint. It costs 100 baht per person for a one-way trip, and the pickup time can be arranged with the driver. We started the trip at 3:00 PM and arranged with the driver to collect us at 5:30 PM.
The climb to the viewpoint (there are three in total!) is well marked and takes about an hour. The path is very steep and quite challenging, but it’s absolutely worth the effort. Remember to wear good hiking shoes and take enough water.
You’ll rarely come across other tourists during the climb. We have no idea why, but we thought it was brilliant!
Koh Lipe’s secret beaches
Koh Lipe also has a number of ‘undiscovered’ beaches.
For example, walk all the way down Pattaya Beach in a westerly direction, then go over a wooden walkway along the coast to the Sanom Beach Lipe Resort. Here you’ll find a hidden, private beach (outsiders are not welcome, but a quick photo is allowed) that is incredibly beautiful!
But the most beautiful beach is completely abandoned and – as far as we know – has no name. From Sanom Beach walk uphill and keep left. You’ll arrive on an abandoned asphalt road that quickly changes into a dirt road.
After about ten minutes turn left and descend to your own private beach. Welcome to the Secret Beach (the last picture)!
The Walking Street
Finally, we take you along Koh Lipe’s most famous street: the Walking Street.
Cozy and chaotic with trendy bars and restaurants where you can sample some delicious eats – from fresh, barbecued seafood to luxury pastas, burritos and Indian food. In the side streets you’ll also find cheap street food to cover all the bases.
The Walking Street gets busy in the evenings with a mix of Thai tourists, families, couples and backpackers.
- Elephant – Hot breakfast and bar
- Sunrise Beach Restaurant – Best Thai food on the beach
- Castaway – Good restaurant with nice atmosphere
- Bloom Bar – Nice coffee, breakfast and desserts
- The Box – Tapas restaurant on the Walking Street
- Tonkow Restaurant – Good value Thai food & Seafood
- On The Rocks Restaurant – Chic dining at the waterfront
- Bombay Restaurant – Indian garlic roti with butter chicken
The future of Koh Lipe
To compare Koh Lipe with Koh Phi Phi is a bit unfair, but it is clear that Koh Lipe has developed enormously in recent years.
And the development is still ongoing.
Fortunately, the beaches are kept clean (Trash Hero every Monday!) and there are a number of trash cans across the island where waste is separated. We also saw several places on the island where solar panels were installed.
Bottom line: as long as you accept that Koh Lipe is not an unspoiled paradise, you can still have a great holiday there!
The best way to reach Koh Lipe is by speedboat. During the high season (November to March), several speedboats depart daily from Phuket, Phi Phi, Krabi, Koh Lanta and the Trang Islands.
For example, we took the speedboat from Koh Mook (one of the Trang Islands) to Koh Lipe. The trip took two hours and cost 1,500 baht per person. Yes, it’s quite pricey to reach Koh Lipe.
If you travel outside of the high season (April to October), the speedboats depart less often, and there is a chance that all departures are canceled due to rough seas.
You can also complete most of the journey overland. Then travel via train or airplane from Hat Yai to Pak Bara Pier. From here ferry and speedboats leave for Koh Lipe all year round. Current departure and arrival times from Pak Bara Pier to Koh Lipe can be found on 12GO.Asia’s website.