Updated September 4th, 2018.
Koh Phi Phi’s famous ‘Maya Bay’ is closing for 4 months from 1 June to 30 Sept 2018. The Department of National Parks, Wildlife & Plant Conservation have said that the “rest” is necessary because the bay’s fragile ecological system has been severely damaged due to huge numbers of tourist visits. Read this article in the Bangkok Post for more information.
Travel Guide to Koh Phi Phi
WHAT THE TRAVEL GUIDES TELL YOU:
Backpackers go dewy-eyed at the drop dead gorgeous island gem, Koh Phi Phi, with its translucent waters, jutting limestone cliffs and perfect white sandy shores. There is no doubting it is one of the most beautiful islands in Thailand!
WHAT THE TRAVEL GUIDES DON’T TELL YOU:
Such beauty comes at a price. Recently, Koh Phi Phi has become just another place for backpackers to get completely wasted.
The plastic waste, endless boat trips to Maya Bay and crowds of tourists have taken their toll on this tiny island and many travellers say in hindsight that they would have avoided it if they would have known the extent to which this island is fast becoming a lost paradise.
By day, beach towels cover every speck of sand. By night loud music, neon lights and backpackers attempting to jump the ‘fire rope’ will ruin any image you had of a tropical island Utopia.
Hotels are amongst the most expensive in the whole of Thailand unless you choose the very basic Phi Phi Backpacker Dorm (beds from 299 / night).
Koh Phi Phi is actually made up of two separate islands, Phi Phi Leh and Phi Phi Don. Phi Phi Leh is the uninhabited National Marine Park where you can take a long tail boat to explore ‘The Beach’ (Maya Bay) made famous by Leonardo Di Caprio in the Hollywood version of Alex Garland’s epic novel.
Phi Phi Don is the main ‘traveller’ hub packed to the seams with travel agents, overpriced hotels, tacky restaurants and bars. However, on the upside, there are parts of the island that remain unspoilt and you’re just a kayak ride away from a beautiful beach with fewer crowds!
Where to Stay in Koh Phi Phi
There are heaps of places to stay on Koh Phi Phi, from bungalows on the beach to hotels with pools for those flashpackers amongst us! (Don’t expect cheap rates though!)
As there aren’t any roads, just sandy paths, the minute you get off the ferry you’ll be received by a whole heap of people offering to carry your bags in a man-powered trailer and encouraging you to stay at their guesthouse.
It’s a small place and everything’s over-priced, so it’s hard to say which is the best place to stay in Koh Phi Phi for backpackers.
The best thing to do is dump your bags with a nominated lazy person, whilst the rest of you go and explore and check out all the options. But just in case, here are a few options…
Gypsy Village: About ten minutes walk from the main pier, these pink huts cost anywhere from 500-900 baht/night, depending on the season. They’re basic, but upgrades to air conditioning are available if you’re splashing the cash.
Advantage: free snorkels!
Seashell Hut: Found right in the heart of the town, on Phi Phi Corner, Seashell Hut is far from traditional Thai style! Far from the party beach, it’s a good option if you want to grab a decent nights sleep. Small rooms, but with lots of light, a wrap around balcony and TVs in the rooms.
Dee Dee Beach House: Think wicker huts, set around a quaint little garden and you’re on the right lines. Fifteen minutes from the pier, this is one of the cheapest options. And there’s a great Thai Masseuse next door!
JJ Residence: Want a little more luxury than a simple wicker hut? Then JJ is for you. Five minutes from the pier and from the centre of town, there’s even a pool here. Expect to pay around 1,500 baht per night.
Things to do in Koh Phi Phi:
There is so much to do on this beautiful little island. From rock climbing to cliff jumping, amazing snorkelling, awesome dive sites and many other adventures.
And, when the sun goes down it’s party time as the beach fills with revellers enjoying music, fire shows and buckets a-plenty!
Take a Longtail Boat to Bamboo Island: If white sandy beaches are clear turquoise waters are your thing, then be sure to spend a day at Bamboo Island.
Go early morning if you can, to avoid the crowds! Expect to pay around 200 baht per person, for the boat trip there and back.
Visit Maya Bay – The Beach: Take a boat to the famous Maya Bay. The best way to do it is to book a boat trip that includes snorkelling, kayaking and trekking on the island.
Expect to spend a whole day! But be warned, you won’t be alone at this tourist hotspot.
Trek to the viewpoint: If you’re an early riser, then trekking to the viewpoint is well worth the effort! With incredible views across the bay and all the way out to Koh Phi Phi Ley, it’s that picture-postcard view that will take your breath away (if the hike hasn’t already).
Drink buckets on the beach: Phi Phi is not only famous for being the setting of The Beach, but also for its notorious nightlife.
With bars lining the beach, dance floors, fire dancing performances and music heard from across the island, it’s the ideal place for a backpacker to let their hair down and make some friends.
Be sure to get a roti or a baguette on your way home to soak up that whisky. And if you must try your hand at Muay Thai fighting when you’re absolutely pissed out of your face – don’t say we didn’t warn you!
Learn to dive: Surrounding the main pier are dive shops galore. With resident leopard sharks, lots of wrecks and clear waters, this is the ideal place to get your PADI qualification! Trust us, you won’t regret taking the plunge…
It’s super easy to get to Koh Phi Phi, wherever you are!
From Bangkok: Any travel agent will arrange your trip down to Koh Phi Phi. The easiest/cheapest way is to get a combo ticket, for the bus and ferry. Usually around 1000 baht for the whole ticket. Or you can travel by train and then catch the ferry. A more scenic route, but also more expensive.
From Koh Phangan/Koh Samui/Koh Tao: Again, visit any travel agent on the island and they will organize your combo ticket. It’s a ferry to the mainland, then a bus across the peninsula, and one last ferry to the island. Around 400 baht.
Where to go next?
The Khao Sok National Park: For out of this world scenery, get a ferry back to the mainland and a minibus back over to Surat Thani. From there, take a minibus to Khao Sok. Take your hiking shoes, a snorkel and your camera… Read more about the Khao Sok National Park here.
Khao Lak: For uncrowded beaches and a little peace and quiet, head to Khao Lak. Get the ferry to Phuket and then grab a bus to Khao Lak, which leaves regularly throughout the day.
By Laura Davies.