A trip to the Thai Islands is not complete if you have not visited Ko Phi Phi or the island made popular by Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie “The Beach”. Since the movie was based on a backpacker novel written by Alex Garland, Ko Phi Phi or “The Beach” is definitely on top of every backpacker’s itinerary. But there is more to the island than Maya Bay. It attracts all types of travelers not only backpackers, flashpackers and the like but also honeymooners, couples with young kids and other independent travelers.
(Unedited Ko Phi Phi water shot from my iPhone)
Ko Phi Phi, the most popular beach in South East Asia is also considered as one of the most beautiful islands in the world. And it is for a reason. The island is a home of natural beauty surrounded by turquoise waters, beautiful limestone cliffs, white sand beaches and spectacular scenery.
How To Explore Ko Phi Phi
Ko Phi Phi is an island and getting here is so simple and very easy to do. The best way to get here is to take a direct ferry from either Krabi, Phuket or Ko Lanta. Note that it is also the only Thai island that I have been to where I had to pay a THB 20 landing fee for “keeping clean” purposes.
The two major islands of Ko Phi Phi are Ko Phi Phi Don and Ko Phi Phi Le. Ko Phi Phi Don is the main island where all the accommodations, restaurants, bars and vibrant night life is. Ko Phi Phi Le is the much smaller island on the south of Ko Phi Phi Don. It is where the famous Maya Bay is, where the movie “The Beach” was filmed.
The best way to explore the islands are either joining a snorkeling tour or renting a longtail boat. I did both. A whole day snorkeling tour costs around THB 800 but I bargained it for THB 600 ($20) since I booked my room at the same resort. The tour goes around the whole island and includes snorkeling gear and lunch (can also be vegetarian if preferred). The tour ends in Mosquito Island for the most beautiful sunset. For a cheaper alternative, you can hire a long tail boat for THB 250 ($8) per person for a half day trip. I highly recommend the first one as seeing the sunset from the northern part of the island is one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve seen. Considering that it includes lunch, snorkeling gear and sunset tour, it definitely is good value for money.
(Long Tail boat going inside Maya Bay)
Maya Bay is such an idyllic beach but I find it quite ruined by tourism. It seems smaller in real life than in pictures and is overcrowded. Since I was on the snorkeling tour, I came here around 11 am and was a bit disappointed with what I saw.
The popularity of this beach has created a lot of downsides. Sure, it is beautiful but I found that there’s a lot of trash floating in the water and the beach has became a parking spot of long tail boats and speed boats carrying a lot of tourists. It is recommended to come here early in the morning to avoid the huge inflow of crowds of speed boats coming around 11 am from other islands in Thailand. The closest island that I could compare to this beach was Coron in the Philippines. I couldn’t help but make a comparison between Phi Phi and Coron. Both islands are stunning but Coron is undeveloped and not as commercialized as Phi Phi. I appreciated its beauty more now that I’ve seen Ko Phi Phi. It is more natural and untouched in terms of tourism. If you’re into real untouched and more natural beauty, I’d say go for Coron. Still,compared to its neighboring popular islands- Phuket and Ko Samui, Ko Phi Phi is still much less developed.
Another interesting experience you can try is an overnight camping inside the small jungle in Maya Bay. Other beach activities other than snorkeling include: rock climbing, scuba diving, and cliff diving.
(The small jungle inside Maya Bay)
The main island is small and easy to get around. Because of its narrow streets, the only form of transportation is by bike or by foot. The streets also get crowded with tourists and agents handling flyers to prospective clients. This island is also popular for parties and offers a very vibrant night life.
(Phi Phi beach at night)
My Solo Travel Experiences in Ko Phi Phi
I went to Ko Phi Phi and stayed there for a few days after Krabi and before going to Phuket. I actually went to this island twice. The first time was solo and the second time was with travel friends. The first time I was here needed a much alone time and treated myself for a good relaxing stay.
At first it wasn’t that easy looking for a good place to stay especially knowing that the accommodations close to the beach is not the best choice. Unless you plan on not sleeping you want to stay here. The accommodations here are close to the bars and are really loud at night. Just when I was about to give up, I was directed by a lady promoting a hotel that she has the best place for me. So I followed her. I was so tired and I couldn’t believe that I had to walk up to get to the bungalow. But lo and behold, after seeing the view from the bungalow, the only words that came into my mind is: “I am taking it!”
(The view from my room)
Staying in Phi Phi View point resort was a no brainer. Since I was traveling low season, I was able to really negotiate the price down to a more reasonable budget. The bungalow costs THB 1600 for peak season and THB 1200 for low season. As a very experienced haggler, I got my the room for THB 900 ($30).
(My bungalow in Ko Phi Phi)
When you’re traveling for a long time you want to treat yourself to something nice. For me it’s treating myself to a nice massage at a nice spa or getting a very nice accommodation.
Phi Phi Viewpoint resort is located in Ao Lo Dalam, which is in the north western part of the island. It is a5 minute walk to the beach, a bit secluded but also close enough to the action spots in Ton Sai beach. The infinity pool was also a great place to hang out and watch the sunset.
A cheaper and good alternative place to stay that I highly highly recommend is Garden Inn Bungalows. The staff of this place is one of the nicest staff that I have ever met in my whole travels. When I was on my way to Phi Phi, I sprained my foot when I jumped from the ferry to the ground. I hurt my foot so bad and couldn’t even walk to a pharmacy that was a 5 minute walk. The receptionist from this guesthouse helped me and bought me bandage, foot solution and even got me food. If I was visiting Phi Phi again, this is where I’ll definitely stay. I was so overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers in my travels.
I recommend going to Ko Phi Phi for a solo traveler only if you’re staying here for two days max. The second time I went here, I was with friends I met on the road and it was certainly a lot more fun as it is more of a party island than a beach bumming island. Surely Ko Phi Phi is a lot more expensive compared to the rest of Thailand but it is certainly cheaper compared to popular islands in the rest of the world. It is no wonder that it is considered as one of the most naturally beautiful island in the world. Definitely a must-see destination!