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The island of Koh Phi Phi (pronounced Pee-Pee) which is actually two islands, is reputed to be the most beautiful island in the world and made famous by several movies that featured some of the beaches.
Why Go to Phi Phi?
Stunning beaches, incredible rock formations, and inviting turquoise waters are all calling your name, beckoning you to Koh Phi Phi. If you enjoy rock climbing, diving, and a rocking night life, then you will love Koh Phi Phi even more. Don’t be deterred by the high number of visitors here. There are still secluded spots on this little piece of paradise. Your experience on Koh Phi Phi will be one to remember.
Phi Phi consists of two islands, Koh Phi Phi Don and Koh Phi Phi Leh.
Koh Phi Phi Ley is a National Park and can only be visited on a tour for a day trip. No overnight stays are allowed.
The other island is Koh Phi Phi Don, loaded with restaurants and hotels, which is the main island at which all the ferrie debark upon.
So the majority of this post will be about Koh Phi Phi Don, which I (and most everyone else) will simply refer to as Koh Phi Phi.
Koh Phi Phi has steep cliffs which rise to over 200 meters from the sea. The unusual shape of the island creates two magnificent bays, Tongsai and Loh Dalam, that can be visited by longtail boats. These bays are best visited at high tide to experience their true beauty. Maya Bay has a beach that you may have heard of before. It became famous after being featured in the movie The Beach starring Leonardo di Caprio.
Enter the 2004 Tsunami
Before the tsunami of 2004, this paradise between the two bays was covered in coconut palms and bungalows, all of which were washed away. Now it is a construction site of new resorts and businesses. The local people, twelve years later, have proven they are a resilient lot and are benefiting from tourism and the island and its people continue to prosper.
Tongsai Beach is completely rebuilt and offers a full array of services, restaurants, shops, internet cafes and diving schools. One of the most charming aspects of Koh Phi Phi is that there are NO cars on the island because there are NO roads. This ensures that the island will retain some of its traditional ways of life and culture. The distance between the two main beaches is easily covered by scooter or motorbike taxi. More about this in How to Get Around Koh Phi Phi.
When to Go
Koh Phi Phi is a Krabi Island due to its location between the big island of Phuket and mainland Krabi province. The island is sheltered from major storms and as a result, it is surrounded by calm waters most of the year, and is ideal for snorkeling and diving.
Average temperatures on Koh Phi Phi hover around 28 degrees Celsius, give or take a couple of degrees, so whenever you choose to visit, it’s pretty comfortable. When coming to the island, your main consideration should be rain, not temperature. April to June are the hottest times to visit, but even April’s average temperature is only 29 degrees.
Below is a description of the three tourist seasons on the island. They are truly tourist seasons because the island has visitors every month of the year.
March and April are high season, but not peak season, and may have some rain, but weather is still good even though temperatures may be a bit hotter than the average.
November to February is peak season with only an average of five days of rain per month. But rains usually start fast and are gone as quickly as they begin. You will want to book accommodation well in advance because hotels and resorts will fill up quickly. Excellent weather means more tourists, but with no cars on the island and plenty of restaurants, bars, and services, you won’t want for anything.
Local Tip: Phi Phi is insane during peak season. The so called world classes beaches have hundreds — even thousands — of tourists on them. If you are expecting a solo experience on the beach, consider choosing another island (such as Koh Lanta), as you will be sharing that Phi Phi beach with hundreds and hundreds of other tourists from around the world, especially during peak season. There are a few tour groups that you can sign on for that will camp overnight on some of the famous beaches (such as Maya Bay). If you want a more isolated, sunrise experience by yourself on that beach or with a few others, this might be the only way to achieve that.
Low (Rainy) Season
May thru October is low season, or monsoon season, but you won’t hear anyone on Koh Phi Phi use the word monsoon because it sounds scary, especially after 2004. These are the wettest months with an average of 19 days of rain per month on each of these months. There are few tourists on the island during this time, but there are still some sunny, beautiful days during these months, so if it is crowds you’re looking to avoid, this could be your time to visit.
How Long To Stay
This is entirely up to you.
Most tourist find that 2-3 days is plenty enough to see all that Phi Phi has to offer. If you are staying in Phuket, Phi Phi is only an hour away by speed boat. You can buy a full day tour package which will pick you up in Phuket in the morning, take you to Phi Phi for a full day tour of all the islands (which includes a lunch on the main island, and snorkelling + sightseeing on 3 or 4 of the major surrounding islands) and a return trip back to Phuket in the late afternoon.
If you want a more laid back experience, consider heading to Phi Phi for a full day and night — this will be enough to do a day tour of the surrounding islands and a night on the main island. If you are young and you want to go for the nightlife, plan on about 2 nights in Phi Phi.
While you can stay more than 2 nights, you’ll quickly run out of new things to see and do on Phi Phi, unless you just came for the nightly parties, in which case you might happly stay on the island for a week or more.
How to Get There
Koh Phi Phi can only be reached by boat, either passenger ferry or speedboat, depending on the time of year.
Phuket and Phi Phi ferries run every day unless there is severe weather, which isn’t often. The boat companies will keep you apprised of changes if this does happen. All prices are in Thai baht and are one-way fares. There is no difference in price between high and low season, but schedules do vary slightly.
Keep in mind there are no car ferries because there are no cars on the island. Insert smiles here. J
Option 1: Passenger Ferry
From Phuket to Phi Phi the ferry takes 1.5 to 2 hrs depending on departure time. The price is 600 baht. The 8:30 ferry makes a small detour so you can see Phi Phi Ley and Maya Bay for the views and that is why it takes 2 hours, weather permitting. There is a total of five departures a day.
Option 2: Speedboat Ferry
The speedboat ferry from Phuket to Koh Phi Phi departs Phuket at 8:30 and arrives at Phi Phi at 9:30. The cost is 900 baht and it departs from Rassada Pier, Phuket.
Option 1: Passenger Ferry
The ferry from Krabi to Phi Phi takes 1.5 hours and costs 400 baht. There are four departures a day, and five departures on Fridays.
From Ao Nang
Option 1: Passenger Ferry
The ferry from Ao Nang to Phi Phi takes 2 hours and there is one departure a day at 9:30AM. The cost is 500 baht.
From Koh Lanta
Option 1: Speedboat Ferry
This ferry does not run during low season. There is a high speed ferry from Koh Lanta to Phi Phi for 700 baht and it departs from the Cabana Tourist Center at the pier in Saladan on Koh Lanta.
When Arriving on Phi Phi
Upon arrival at the pier, you may experience some frustration at the amount of chaos and crowds amidst the heat. There will likely be touts calling out asking for 20+ baht to take you to your hotel. Unless you have arranged prior transport with your hotel, these touts will be your only transport to your hotel unless you prefer to walk, which is very doable since so much of the accommodation is in the village. The transport can be trusted and they are just trying to make a living, so they may be persistent.
Some hotels will send someone to meet you at the pier to carry your luggage and guide you to the hotel. Keep in mind you may not be walking on a smooth path and a backpack, rather than a rolling bag, can make the walk much easier. You should give a tip that you think is appropriate to the person who carries your luggage, although they may not expect it.
It is highly advisable to book accommodation before arriving on the island. It will make your arrival and your first day on the island much more pleasant and relaxed.
Best Things to Do in Koh Phi Phi
Here’s a list of recommended things to do on Koh Phi Phi in no particular order. You will not want for things to do if you’re looking for a day away from the beach. Beaches are not listed here. They have a section all their own called Koh Phi Phi Beaches.
#1 Koh Phi Phi Leh & Maya Bay
Phi Phi Leh is a popular island near Koh Phi Phi, although it is smaller, and it is not inhabited except for a few park rangers. This island is Hat Nopharat Thara-Mu Koh Phi Phi National Park. Try saying that three times fast. Or just three times. The famous Maya Bay is the only beach on Koh Phi Phi Leh. Despite the large number of visitors, it is truly beautiful and worth a visit. At the back of Maya Beach is a small bay that is perfect for snorkeling and diving.
Viking Cave is another amazing spot on Koh Phi Phi Leh, featuring ancient paintings that appear to be drakkars, which are Viking ships, which is the reason for the cave’s name. Swifts, a type of bird, live inside the cave and locals harvest the nests from February to April. They sell for thousands of dollars per kilo because they are used by the Chinese for bird’s nest soup, a delicacy in China. This does not harm the bird’s as the fledglings have already left the nest and it is empty.
#2 Phi Phi View Point
Koh Phi Phi’s unique shape makes me think of the letter ‘H’ and Tonsai village is on the bar in the middle. The Phi Phi View Point stairs are east of the village and it is signposted. From here you can see Tonsai village and both bays and any photo you take will wow your friends. In fact, they may think it is a postcard.
If you are a landscape photographer or you want that postcard picture of Koh Phi Phi, this is the best vantage point on the island.
The View Point is elevated at 186m and it takes about 20 – 45 minutes to get there, depending on how many photos you take along the way. The path has seen a lot of traffic, so there is no risk of getting lost. Mid-morning is the best time to take photos. There is a small store at the highest point.
#3 Moo Dee Bay
This 500-meter-long white sand beach is on the east coast of Koh Phi Phi and it is a great way to get away from the crowds. There are great Snorkeling opportunities here at both end of the bay. There is a Rasta-run shack that sells food and drinks. A longtail boat is the easiest way to get here. You can hire one from Tonsai jetty. Takes about 20 minutes and costs 150/200 baht if you have some good bargaining skills.
#4 Tonsai Tower Rock Climbing
It’s not my thing, but if it’s yours, Koh Phi Phi is a great place to do it. Krabi Province is the rock climbing capital of Thailand because of all the tall limestone cliffs. Tonsai Tower is located at the western end of Tonsai Bay. It’s famous in Phi Phi. It’s a 200-meter-tall limestone tower and there are 48 different bolted routes with all levels of difficulty from beginning to experienced.
For those with a bit of experience, Nui Beach has a rock climbing spot named Hua Ling that we highly recommend. Caution though, it is for more experienced climbers.
Various companies such as Spider Monkey and Ibex Rock Climbing have great reputations, and Deaf Gecko Rock Climbing on the west side of the island as well. All offer half or full day tours and instructors are highly trained.
#5 Pum’s Thai Cooking School
Almost every Thai island has one, and this is a good one. Its main school is located in Patong Beach and a second branch opened in Tonsai Village in 2008. There is also a branch in Chiang Mai. They offer quick 30 minute lessons or lessons up to three hours. The three-hour class includes learning three dishes and learning about various herbs, vegetables and sauces used in Thai cuisine. It’s open daily from 11:00 to 21:00, classes from 13:00 onward. Look for the orange restaurant.
#6 Captain Bob’s Sailing Booze Cruise
This cruise is exactly what it says it is. It’s an unhealthy and fun indulgence on a boat that takes you around to Maya Bay and Monkey Beach. You’ll also see Loh Samah and Pi-Leh Bay. Get your friends together and party on Captain Bob’s boat while having a few drinks. Cruises depart from Tonsai Bay at 13:00. You can go snorkeling, fishing, kayaking, cliff jumping and you can even feed a few monkeys.
Lunch, fruit and snacks are included as well as all-you-can-drink beer. How do you think this cruise got its name? Wang Long Cove is a great stop near the end of the cruise where you an watch the sun go down with drink in hand. You can book the tour from Phi Phi Cabana Booking Office. It’s 3000 baht for men and 2500 baht for women. I don’t know why. I guess men drink more? Fifteen and under are 1000 baht.
#7 Bamboo Island
Bamboo Island is one of six islands in the Phi Phi archipelago. It is only five kilometers northeast of Koh Phi Phi. It is only 600 meters wide by 700 meters long and it is surrounded by a strip of white sand. The center of the island is lush with vegetation and bamboo trees. It’s a great spot for a day trip with snorkeling and beautiful coral reefs. There is a small bar serving drinks and snacks. Day and overnight trips are available, and you’ll be sleeping in a tent if you choose to spend the night.
Best Places to Eat in Koh Phi Phi
Phi Phi has a fair share of crappy restaurants that offer bad food without needing to improve anything (due to the sheer volume of tourists passing through), but there are a few food gems on this island that make up for the bad.
#1 Papaya Restaurant $ – $$
By far, my top choice. Papaya is a local, unpretentious venue on the eastern side of the village, close to the Reggae Pub. The setting isn’t fancy and the décor isn’t expensive, but neither is the food. The focus here is on genuine Thai food prepared with the spice and strong flavors that the Thai people love. That’s why this is my top choice. Strong and spicy!
They have all the standard dishes everyone knows like pad Thai, tom yum, green/yellow/red curry, and so many others, but perhaps a bit spicier and more authentic than you’ve had them before. I bet there are a few things on the menu you’venever heard of either, but don’t shy away from trying them. Large portions, low prices, and authentic cuisine make this a place you’ll likely visit more than once during your stay on Koh Phi Phi. It’s so good, they opened Papaya 2 just a block away to accommodate all the traffic.
#2 Anna’s Restaurant $ – $$
Anna’s has been around Koh Phi Phi for what seems like forever. It is family-run and next door to the Moskito Diving Center on a narrow street that leads to Phi Phi Market. If you’re coming from the pier, turn left before the Italian Restaurant. The décor is a contemporary Thai style with local art featured on the walls. It has a relaxed vibe, chic atmosphere, and it is very clean.
Anna’s serves Thai cuisine and international dishes, but with the health conscious in mind. The Swiss rosti breakfast and som tam are highly recommended. The best part about Anna’s is that the food is tasty and the price is cheap.
#3 Unni’s Restaurant $$ – $$$
Unni’s opened in 2007 and quickly rose to the forefront of great restaurants on the island. It is a Scandinavian-run business and it is in the center of Tonsai Village on the main path that leads to PP Palmtree Resort. It has an outdoor wooden terrace and a large covered dining room.
This spotless restaurant has a fantastic choice of international dishes including Thai, Mexican, Swedish, British. Something for everyone. It is also famous for quality cocktails and the mojito comes highly recommended. Due to the happy hour from 6:00 PM onwards, it is pretty busy. It also has a free wifi connection.
#4 Aroy Kaffeine $$ – $$$
Aroy Kaffeine Café & Guesthouse is a little known gem that is making a big name for itself. It is situated in a lesser-known village in the north near Loh Bagao, although business is definitely picking up in this village. This unique café offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. They have an impressive drink list that features imported beers and delicious cocktails. If you just need a healthier pick-me-up, the smoothies are highly recommended. The coffee is rumored to be the best on Phi Phi. Better find this hidden gem before it gets discovered for real. The Thai green curry is also said to be the best on the island, competing with Paypaya. Open from 7:30AM to 9:00PM.
#5 Le Grand Bleu $$ – $$$
Le Grand Bleu opened in 1992 and is still one of the top restaurants in Koh Phi Phi. It’s only 50 meters from the ferry pier on Tonsai Village. The restaurant is built in an upscale local style with bamboo and wood walls, wooden furniture and floors, with plenty of flowers and tropical plants to help set the mood. There are three dining areas to suit everyone’s taste. There’s a small terrace with only two tables that is great for people watching. The main dining area has a terrace feel and appearance, and the back room dining area is set around the bar.
You probably already guessed that they serve Thai and French favorites, but what you might not know is that the daily menu is based on what is available at the Phi Phi market. The quality of the food is superb and consistent. The atmosphere here is elegant without being pretentious and the service is friendly.
#6 Phi Phi Bakery $ – $$
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Phi Phi Bakery. It has a bit of a cult following since it opened in 1989. Repeat customers to the island are always repeat customers to this bakery. It’s in a two-story Phi Phi-style house across the street from the Italian Restaurant on the main street. It’s spotlessly clean with green and white décor. You can’t miss it.
They have an incredible selection of breads, pastries, croissants, raisin bread, cakes, even sandwiches and pizzas. The donuts are addictive and the coffee is excellent and real. None of that instant stuff here. The price is right and the quality is the best on the island.
How to Get Around on Koh Phi Phi
Koh Phi Phi has no public transportation once you are on the island. There are no cars, very few motorcycles, and only a few bicycles on the island. Most people navigate the village on foot and take a longtail boat if they need to get to other parts of the island, and then they go on foot.
Your hotel or resort can tell you the best way to get to your destination. There are only two villages on the island and this is where most people spend their time when they are not at the beach or on a day tour. Koh Phi Phi is about the beaches, recreation, good food and entertainment. There is no need for public transportation because of this, and also because it is small and the center of the west and east sides of the island is rather dense jungle.
Here is some information about getting around the island using the longtail boats.
Using a longtail boat is a novelty and a fun way to get around the island. Boat staff are efficient and knowledgeable. Some may entertain and converse with you, and others may be all business, but either way, you will definitely get where you’re going.
The longtail boat is a great way to see the island from the viewpoint of the water. They are small and intimate, but might be a bit noisy for some people. The price for transportation on the boats can vary greatly, but whatever the going rate is, that’s what most captains stick with from 8:00AM to 6:00PM.
Longtail boats can be found for rent in Tonsai Bay. Actually, they are pretty much everywhere for rent, it seems. They hold about 6 – 8 people, but if you want a smaller one for a more intimate or romantic ride, you can charter a smaller one. Just make sure that you agree on a price before chartering a boat. After 6:00PM the prices are more flexible and you can haggle. Just remember that a few baht means more to them than it does to you, so be reasonable.
Where to Stay in Koh Phi Phi
Accommodation can be difficult to find on Koh Phi Phi, especially with no public transportation and particularly during high season. While it may be more expensive to book online, in my opinion, it is worth it to know that you can arrive at the chaotic pier and go straight to your hotel with minimal hassle.
These are our recommendations for the best accommodation on the island of Koh Phi Phi. Just click the link to be taken to each website.
Budget $10 – $60 per night
Blanco Dorm Rooms
If you are just in need of a cheap place to sleep and shower, and maybe meet some fellow travelers, this may be the place for you. Dorm rooms have 4,6 or 10 beds, are clean and minimally furnished, have little personality, but plenty of space for your bag. The outside space, however, is a real draw for those on a budget. With a welcoming restaurant and sitting area to relax outside, all overlooking the beach, this outdoor space is great. Lots of space for meeting up with new friends. It’s located on Loh Dalum Beach and is just a short walking distance from the main pier. Free wifi is available in common areas. You can also take advantage of a book exchange, beach bar, lockers, and they have a tour desk where you can book many tours and activities with all the money you’re saving by staying in a dorm. The restaurant serves Thai cuisine, and Italian if you need a little variety. That includes gelato and real coffee… At $8 to $10 dollars a night for a dorm bed, maybe even less during low season, you really can’t beat this place for budget and location.
Chong Khao Bungalow
This is budget at its best. These 26 colorful, spacious, and welcoming bungalows are comfortable and modern. Situated between Tonsai Beach and Loh Dalum Beach, you’re less than a five minute walk from each, as well as the pier. Unfortunately, you won’t have a view of the sea or the beaches from here, but the lush surroundings make for a pleasant setting where a drink on the porch of your bungalow will make you feel right at home. Amenities include free wifi, breakfast is available for an extra fee, free ferry terminal shuttle, terrace (porch), air conditioning, garden, laundry service, and a safe at the front desk for your valuables if you felt the need to bring any to the island. There is also a refrigerator in the room and the location is very convenient to beaches and the village. And did I mention this facility is adults only? Bungalows rent for as little as $46 a night during high season, and $54 a night for breakfast included. Each bungalow is suited for three people, so if you’re splitting the cost three ways, this is a fantastic bargain.
This property does not have a website but you can book through any of the popular booking sites.
Phi Phi Relax Beach Resort
Located on the east coast of Phi Phi on Phak Nam Bay, it has an ideal location and offers snorkeling, kayaking, fishing and boat trips. These beach bungalows have wifi in public areas, a bar, and a restaurant. These minimal bungalows do not have air conditioning or hot water, but how cold can the water really be when the temps are never below 25 degrees Celsius? No electricity from about 8:00AM to 6:00PM. For about $50 to $100 a night during high season, these perfectly located bungalows get you a bit away from the party scene and you will have a stunning view of the sea. Note that the price triples on one day of the year, Dec 31, and nearly doubles on January 3rd. Why January 3rd? I don’t know. Thai holiday perhaps?
Midrange $60 – $150 per night
Phi Phi Banyan Villa
Located right in the heart of Koh Phi Phi, this hotel is only 5 minutes from the pier and has easy access to secluded beaches and the village. With 40 rooms decorated in a traditional Banyan style décor, you have plenty of options. Rooms in the Garden Wing have air conditioning, hot and cold showers, a Western toilet, cable TV, and even a fridge. There is a sundeck terrace and even a roof top garden. Hmm, here for romance? A roof top garden might be just the unique spot you need for watching the sunset alone. Rooms are spacious, clean, and comfortable. There is also a beautiful pool, fitness center, and all rooms have balconies. During high season, rooms here start around $88 for Banyan Wing and $95 for Garden Wing rooms.
Mama Beach Residence
This hotel has modern, clean, spacious rooms and an outdoor space to die for. Large beach chairs with cushions look out over the ocean. This place has its own private beachfront. Rooms have flat-screen TVs and balconies with either a view of the ocean or the beach. And let’s not forget to mention that they have air conditioning and en suite bathrooms with hot showers. They can book your trips for you, including diving trips. The restaurant serves both Thai and French dishes. It’s a ten minute walk from the main pier and about 15 minutes to the village. If you booked in advance, which I recommend, there will be someone at the pier to help with your luggage. Mama Beach Residence is about $110 to $150 per night during high season, but with this location and amenities, it’s a top choice.
P. P. Erawan Palms Resort
This resort has 46 elegant and comfortable rooms and is situated on the northernmost part of Koh Phi Phi. You can see the Andaman Sea from both sides of this resort. Choose from restaurants that serve both Thai and international dishes, and if you’re with your sweetheart, you can have a romantic candlelit dinner on the beach at night. The spacious rooms (huge, actually!) are decorated with traditional Thi design and modern, Western touches for your comfort. Free wifi is available in all common areas. There is a stunning pool with a view of the beach if you’re not in the mood for sand between your toes. Massage tables are also ready and waiting for you with a stunning view of the sea. Rooms here range from $85 to $220 during high season.
High $150 + per night
Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort
This beach resort is a 4.5 Star property with bungalows that look out over the Andaman Sea. That’s right, you’ll have your own luxury bungalow on the beach with all the amenities you can imagine. This property’s bungalows are traditional Thai style with luxurious, spacious rooms with bamboo floors and minimal but comfortable décor. They have a stunning outdoor pool, lounge chairs and even outdoor covered beds. Each room has a balcony or terrace. You can choose from several restaurants on the property. Some have local cuisine and others have international dishes. Amenities include free wifi in the rooms, fitness center and spa, restaurants, bar, café, and currency exchange. Let’s not forget the babysitting service. Prices start around $175 per night for two people during high season.
Phi Phi The Beach Resort
Simply named, but so much to offer. Located on Long Beach, every room is an individual teakwood villa that looks out over the Andaman Sea. Every room has a balcony with lounge chairs so you can enjoy the view any time of day. The air conditioned rooms are spacious and minimally furnished in a traditional Thai style, while bathrooms are modern with huge walk-in showers. Free wifi is available in common areas. They have a spa for your Thai massage and a beautiful pool and poolside bar. The restaurant seating is right on the beach. You don’t even have to wear shoes to your elegant dining location. Prices here during high season range from $130 to $250 a night.
Best Place to stay in Koh Phi Phi
Zeavola Hotel Koh Phi Phi
For the best that Koh Phi Phi has to offer, stay at Zeavola Hotel. Luxury at its finest in Thailand. This 5 Star boutique resort is located at the northern tip of Phi Phi on one of the world’s finest white sand beaches. It takes about one hour to get here by speedboat from Phuket or Krabi if you make arrangements with the front desk at time of booking. You will pay about 2300 baht for this service, but you’ll also avoid the chaotic pier. The large rooms have accordion doors that open up to the beach. Each room is finely decorated in traditional Thai style with minimalist, modern décor and bamboo floors – and walls and ceilings. It’s stunning. You’ll have your own little bungalow of paradise here.
The best part about Zeavola? It’s a sustainable hotel. They work to protect the island with a self-sufficient lifestyle. It has been recognized with the World’s Best Sustainable Boutique Hotel Award.
Amenities include free wifi in all the rooms, airport transfer (2300 baht), private beach, tour booking, restaurants, bar, spa, salon, and water sports. The restaurants offer authentic Thai cuisine and international dishes as well.
The outdoor space is incredible. The hotel itself is set in the trees with lush surroundings making it feel very private and secluded. But it is also beachfront and has stunning pools if you need a change of scenery from the beach.
Rooms range from $225 to $500 per night during high season.
Koh Phi Phi Area Guide
This island is divided into three very distinct sections, but it is small enough that you can walk the entire island during your stay here. As I mentioned, there is no public transport and only a few bicycles and scooters can be found on the island. The island is easy to navigate on foot or via longtail boat water taxis. To circle the island, it only takes about 20 minutes of walking.
Here’s a description of the three sections of the island and what you’ll find on each. This might help you determine where you want to book your accommodation.
Tonsai West (Western Side)
If you are headed to Phi Phi to party it up, you’ll probably want to head east when you leave the pier. But if you’re here to relax and unwind, maybe have some alone time, you will definitely want to head west. The western side of Phi Phi is the quiet, calmer, not-the-party-girl side of the island. There are several large resorts on this side.
You won’t find stand-alone restaurants on this side of the island, but there are local vendors and a cool bar called Deaf Gecko, which is owned by an Irishman and books rock climbing tours. Mama’s Beach Resort, which is recommended in the Where to Stay in Koh Phi Phi section has a fantastic, classy bar that is worth visiting. It is 750 meters from the pier, but worth the walk. You can also get a great view of the sunset from just about anywhere on this side of the island and you won’t be bothered by others trying to push in on your romantic evening for two.
At the very tip top of the western side of the island is a popular cliff diving site. You shouldn’t go without a tour and start small. Jump from low heights until you’re comfortable with the depth of the water.
Tonsai East (Eastern (Longer) Side)
Tonsai East is the area past Chukit Resort that leads to Long Beach. It’s not as busy as the village in the center of the island, but there is plenty of accommodation here and numerous places to shop. Tonsai East is known for its many restaurants and nightlife. Many of the restaurants and bars offer nightly entertainment. There is a 500-meter-long stretch of white-sand beach here and it is about a 15-minute walk into Tonsai Village. That will give you some idea of just how small this island is. You can also take a water taxi (longtail boat) to the village if you’re not up for walking in the heat. There’s a path that leads to Phi Phi Viewpoint and Loh Dalum and I would recommend definitely visiting the viewpoint to get the best photos of the island. There is a hill that separates Tonsai East from the village and you’ll find the footpath at the base of the hill that leads to the viewpoint. It is well-marked.
Tonsai Village (Center)
The center of Koh Phi Phi is the crossbar that forms the ‘H’ of the island and gives it such an odd shape. This stretch of land is the isthmus. Tonsai Pier is here, on the southern side of the isthmus, and just to the east is Tonsai Village. There is ample accommodation in this center part of the island, along with restaurants, bars, and numerous places to book tours and dive trips.
Before 14:30, which is when the last passenger ferry leaves, the streets will be busy with people who are visiting the island for the day and may never venture any further than the village. But the afternoons are much more relaxed and less crowded here. In the evenings, people are out and about here looking for food, drinks, shopping, and nightlife. But with no cars or even many scooters, it’s a pleasant place to walk.
Best Places to See in and around Koh Phi Phi
This info has basically been covered in other sections – Beaches, Diving and Snorkeling, and Best Things to do in Koh Phi Phi
The Amazing Beaches
Koh Phi Phi has several beaches to suit different tastes, and for such a small island, there are a lot of differences between the beaches. You can easily walk or take a water taxi to the beach of your choice for the day.
Loh Dalum is only 150 meters on the opposite side of Tonsai Bay, basically just 150 meters from the pier (basically the north side of the isthmus), but the atmosphere here is completely different from Tonsai Bay. Loh Dalum is a tropical paradise. The nightlife here is very laid back and if you’re in a hurry to have dinner, this is not the place for you. There is only one shop on this beach, so plan to do your shopping in the village.
Laem Tong Beach
Laem Tong (also spelled Thong) means Golden Bay in Thai, and that is a very appropriate name for this beach on the northeast side of Koh Phi Phi. It has a secluded atmosphere for a quiet and relaxing holiday, but is just a short distance from the party scene if you need a night out. This beach is one kilometer long, so you’ll have plenty of space to spread your towel. Longtail boats and speedboats headed to Bamboo Island will be the only sounds to break the silence.
Sea gypsies were the only inhabitants of this part of the island for a long time, but they have now been joined by several resorts. In fact, the most desirable accommodation on the island, Zeavola Resort, is here. You won’t find chairs or loungers for rent on this beach, but hotels provide them free for guests. You can also find hammocks under the coconut trees if you’re in need of a bit of shade.
This is a quiet and serene beach, but activities are certainly available. The hotels can book them for you and you don’t have to be a guest. Water sports such as snorkeling, kayaking, and scuba diving are available. The beach is quiet shallow for about 100 meters out into the water, but go out to the drop off point for some amazing snorkeling. A Thai cooking class is also available and there are two dive centers if you want to book a diving tour, and they also rent equipment.
The hotels and resorts all offer great food, but at a price. But there is one restaurant on this beach that is not connected to a hotel. Jasmin Laem Thong is run by Sea Gypsies and they prepare fresh seafood at a fraction of the cost of the hotels. It’s popular for its simple décor, fresh seafood, and its prices.
There are numerous places here to enjoy a relaxing drink after sunset without the party vibe of the village. The best way to get here from the village is by longtail boat taxi, but this will be more expensive at night. Remember, prices are negotiable after 6:00PM.
Long Beach is at the southern end of the eastern side of Koh Phi Phi. It faces southwest and has incredible views of Koh Phi Phi Leh. The white sand here is fine and soft, making this beach a real pleasure to experience. It’s about a five minute longtail boat ride from Tonsai Village and you can even walk to Long Beach during the day. But the journey on foot involves walking over some rocks on short, jungle trails, so it is not recommended to walk at night.
During the high season, November to April, the sea is calm and water sports and swimming are excellent here. But from May to October the seas here can be a little rough and low tide exposes some rocks and coral that make swimming challenging.
Accommodation on Long Beach is almost exclusively bungalows. Some are high-end luxury and others are true budget bungalows with minimal amenities. One advantage to staying here is that not many day trippers visit this beach. It’s pretty hopping during the day, but at night it is quiet, so those wanting to experience the party scene go into Tonsai Village at night.
There are about six resorts near the end of Long Beach, which means you have restaurants to choose from. If the number of diners that come here is any indication of success, then these restaurants are doing something right. Perhaps the quality of food and a more reasonable price make these restaurants more desirable. They offer mostly Thai cuisine and seafood.
As far as facilities go, you can’t rent lounge chairs here, but there are deck chairs which cost very little. The resorts have toilets and not far from the beach, you can find internet access and a few mini-marts.
There are a full range of activities on Long Beach that you can book such as snorkeling, kayaking, Thai massage, volleyball, and Long Island Divers is based here and has an excellent reputation.
Five Lesser-Known Beaches You’ve Never Heard of on Koh Phi Phi
Koh Phi Phi may be one of the most famous islands in the world, but it still has some hidden spots that are not visited by most travelers. There are five small, beautiful, charming beaches that may take some effort to find and get to, but it will be totally worth it, especially if you want a secluded hideaway. All of these beaches are on Koh Phi Phi Don, the largest of the Phi Phi islands.
Nui Beach is located south of Lana Bay on the west coast. It’s a tiny cove surrounded by tall rocks that provide some excellent rock climbing opportunities. Snorkeling is also popular here. You can take a longtail boat from Loh Dalum, but the more adventurous might want to make the jungle-trek from Loh Lana or Loh Bagao. The trail is a bit steep and tricky, so wear proper footwear and carry your beach shoes.
Moo Dee Bay
I love the name of this beach. It’s a 300-meter-long stretch of sand near the southeastern tip of the island. There are coconut groves to the south and a thick rainforest to the north. There’s great snorkeling to be found here and even a Rasta-run bar and restaurant. They actually run a good business here in this remote location and profit from the secluded location. The lazy among us can get here via longtail boat from Tonsai jetty. It takes about ten minutes and they are available to take you back. Those that need a workout can walk on a large path that passes in front of the stairs to Phi Phi Viewpoint. The trek is easy but takes about 45 minutes. After that, you can justify some food and drink from the Rasta men in the restaurant.
Lana Bay is hidden in a square shaped cove on the west coast of the island. It is 500 meters long. Both sides of the cove have granite and limestone karsts that you’ll pass before arriving at the beach. The bay itself is shallow and great for snorkeling, as does the crystal clear water. There are no services on the beach and no structures except for an abandoned hotel that appears to be under construction at the moment. You can walk for ten minutes to reach a small village with good bars and restaurants, where you can experience Aroy Kaffeine, one of our recommended restaurants.
This beach is just a tiny piece of land between the eastern end of Tonsai and Long Beach. These two beaches are separated by a small, rocky cape and this is where you will find Viking Natures Resort and Viking Beach. The lush vegetation makes for a stunning tropical setting for this tiny beach. The restaurant at the resort is right on the beach and is the perfect – dare I say romantic? – spot for a quaint, quiet, lunch in the perfect setting. The beach is only 25 meters long. As with all the beaches on Koh Phi Phi, the snorkeling is great here. The vegetation means the beach is shaded and cool. How to get here? There is a short and easy trail through the jungle that starts at the back of Arayaburi Resort and ends at Tonsai East.
Phak Nam Bay (Relax Bay)
Located on the east coast of Koh Phi Phi Don, just south of Loh Bagao, this 400 meter long beach is the perfect off-the-beaten-path spot for your holiday. You have two choices of accommodation here and both are full service resorts. The beach is between the stunning turquoise water of the Andaman Sea and the lush jungle behind it. It is tranquil and few people find their way here during their stay on the island. The best way to get here is by longtail boat, but if you are staying in Laem Thong or Loh Bagao, you can get to this beach via a steep trail in the jungle. Wear proper footwear if you plan to walk here and carry your beach shoes.
Thailand’s west coast has a reputation for great diving because of its clear water and coral reefs that are in good condition. There are also relatively fewer divers compared to other places in the world. The Andaman Sea surrounding Koh Phi Phi has an incredible array of sea life and coral reefs.
Koh Phi Phi has many PADI diving centers. Discover Scuba Diving and Divemaster are two of them. They offer day trips to many world-class diving sites around Phi Phi. The most notable sites are Maya Bay, Koh Bida Nok & Nai, which are on or near Koh Phi Phi Leh. There’s also Shark Point, Anemone Reef, and King Cruiser Wreck which are between Phi Phi Don and Phuket to the west. It takes 40 minutes or less to get to all of them.
The beaches on Koh Phi Phi are pretty shallow, so they are fine for diving training or snorkeling, but to really have a good diving experience, you need to go out to the reefs further away from the beach. This means hiring a boat, of which there are many for hire on Koh Phi Phi.
Not everyone has a diving certificate so that activity is off limits to some travelers, but anyone can snorkel. Even if you can’t swim, you can snorkel. Koh Phi Phi is pure snorkeling paradise. The island is surrounded by colorful coral and a plethora of sea life. Here are some particularly great places to snorkel around Koh Phi Phi.
#1 Monkey Beach and Monkey Bay
During the right tide, the coral here is spectacularly close to the surface and brightly colored fish are everywhere. Monkey Beach is on the southwestern side of Tonsai Bay, only about 700 meters from the jetty. This 150 meter strip of sand is famous for the monkeys, which are quite tame, but the snorkeling is a far better experience than visiting the monkeys.
Monkey Bay is near the entrance of Dalum Bay and has a superb coral reef about 50 meters from the beach.
#2 Hin Klang
Hin Klang is in the middle of the sea, but not as deep as you might think. Floating on the surface here will provide amazing views of what lies beneath the clear waters here. It’s basically an underwater mountain of coral and is about 2km offshore. You won’t suspect anything this great is under the water until you get there, but when you do, wow. You won’t believe it.
#3 Maya Bay
The water here is exceptionally clear, but you can only enter from November to May. Water is too choppy during the low season. It’s busy here, so it might be best to go with an organized tour. Early morning or late afternoon is the best time to go.
#4 Pi Leh Bay
Pi Leh Bay is on the opposite side of Phi Phi Leh to Maya Bay. This long, straight bay has 100m cliffs on each side, which gives it a dramatic appearance and flat, calm water that is excellent for snorkeling. The other thing that makes it perfect is that at the entrance, there is an underwater shelf that makes it too shallow for larger boats to enter. Only longtail boats and speedboats can get in, so it’s never busy in this prime spot. Be sure to look for brightly colored parrot fish. High tide in the morning is the best time to visit.
#5 Shark Point & Long Beach
You don’t have to go very far off Long Beach for great snorkeling. You’ll see colorful fish and an amazing underwater habitat with lots of coral. Just 200 meters from the beach, you’ll see Shark Point, which is a huge rock that rises above the surface. There are loads of black-tip reef sharks, but these are little guys. The biggest shark you are likely to see is just over one meter long. The best time to see them is before 9:00AM and after 5:00PM.
From May to October, Shark Point can be dangerous because of rough waters. If it’s a calm day, take advantage of it, but always be aware of strong currents here. If you’re not an experienced snorkeler, it might be best to go with an organized tour.
General Tips for Koh Phi Phi Travel
Responsible and Respectful Tourism
Unfortunately, Phi Phi is suffering from the effects of party-hardy tourists who appear to be unaware of the negative effects of their partying and touring, and the locals don’t seem to care much either. Locals are perhaps not as educated as they should be about taking care of their island and the coral reefs around it.
Since suggestions to make tourism more sustainable on Koh Phi Phi would involve the government, I have tried to come up with some suggestions for making your time on Koh Phi Phi have as little negative impact as possible.
Waste disposal is a problem on the island. Creating the least amount of trash possible while you’re there doesn’t seem like it would make a difference, but it might. One way you can do this is to book eco-friendly accommodation before arriving. Do your research and find out what eco-friendly hotels are there.
Don’t drink bottled water. I know, that sounds crazy, but take a refillable water bottle with you with a built in filter, such as LifeStraw Go. You can also carry a steripen, which is also great for backpacking in the wilderness.
Avoid using plastic bags on the island. If you know you’re going to visit local markets or go shopping, bring a canvas bag with you. It weighs nothing and takes up no space.
Also, find out which tour companies use eco-friendly methods to avoid damaging the coral. For example, some companies make you walk on the coral when you arrive back at the island after a tour of nearby islands. There are other options to get back on land besides walking on and damaging the coral. Find a company that uses them.
Remember, you are a guest on Koh Phi Phi. Respect their customs and local culture.
Many upscale hotels and resorts now offer free wifi. Some even offer wifi in the rooms, but don’t expect this everywhere. Many internet cafes are scattered around and some restaurants offer free wifi as well.
Internet on Koh Phi Phi is not always reliable. It is an island, and weather can make internet service unpredictable, as can occasional loss of electricity.
Banks and ATMs are available in Tonsai Village and banks have currency exchange facilities. ATMs are on many streets, but only dispense Thai baht. There are no banking facilities on the east coast.
Electricity is 220v with a European or US style 2 pin plug. It may be either flat or round and adapters are sold in local shops.
There is a new hospital in Tonsai West that can treat any minor conditions, but if it is serious, you will have to go to Phuket. Pharmacies are plentiful in Tonsai Village and stay open late.
There are tourist police on the island as well as a post office where you can buy stamps and send postcards. Important mail should be sent from the mainland.
Culture and Customs
The pace of life in Thailand, especially the islands, is slower, so please be polite and try not to get frustrated and lose your temper if things don’t seem to make sense or are not going your way. You can expect to wait longer for your food in restaurants than you would at home, for example. They likely make everything to order, so keep that in mind.
Please dress appropriately in better quality hotels and restaurants. Don’t go to dinner in a bikini or board shorts. Topless sunbathing is frowned upon and considered very disrespectful to the local people, although it is not illegal. You will receive a lot of negative and unwanted attention if you do choose to sunbathe topless.
Thai people do not shake hands. They wai. They place their hands in front of them and bow slightly, but it is not necessary for you to do this. A smile and a nod is fine.
The Thai Royal Family is highly revered so please be respectful and do not make disparaging remarks about them. It is best to just not mention them. The Royal Family is not something that is likely to come up in conversation anyway.
You do not need to tip 10-15% on everything. In local restaurants, tipping is not expected, but it is appreciated. Always check the bill first to see if a service charge (a gratuity) has already been added in more upscale restaurants.
It is not necessary to tip the longtail boat drivers in addition to the fee they charge.
Please do not offer money to locals for no reason or for allowing you to take their picture. This contributes to the negative effects of tourism.
A Budget for Every Traveler
For travel on Koh Phi Phi, accommodation, dining, and activities will have the biggest impact on your budget. Even the luxury traveler can eat amazing local cuisine and keep their spending per day to a minimum. Accommodation is the biggest factor in determining a daily spending budget on Koh Phi Phi.
Budget Travel Cost Expectations
The budget traveler on Koh Phi Phi can get by on as little as $25 USD a day including accommodation, food, local transport, entertainment, communication, and alcohol. Keep in mind that if you do a lot of tours, use a lot of longtail boat taxis, or drink a lot of alcohol, then this budget is not realistic.
Budget accommodation can be as little as $8 USD a night, and food for an entire day can be around $5 a day if you eat like a local (I mean, why wouldn’t you? It’s so good!). Internet is free at many hotels in the common areas, and in many restaurants and cafes.
Mid Range Travel Cost Expectations
For the midrange traveler, the biggest expense will be accommodation. If you want lodging that is not quite budget not quite luxury, you have many options and can pay as little as $40 a night or as much as $100 per night. A midrange traveler could get by on between $60 to $100 a day. It depends on how much you want to spend on food, alcohol, and activities.
If you have a midrange budget, you can eat, sleep, and enjoy many activities on the island and have luxuries the budget traveler will not, and you will not miss out on anything. This budget, even on Koh Phi Phi where prices are higher than in other parts of Thailand, will still buy you way more than it would in Europe or other western countries.
High End/Luxury Travel Costs
The sky is the limit on Koh Phi Phi for the luxury traveler. You can get by on as little as $150 a day including accommodation, or you can spend to your heart’s desire and still not max out at $200 a day. Your budget per day depends on how much you indulge in luxury accommodation and activities, and what season you choose to travel in. Luxury accommodation is much cheaper in the low season.
Luxury accommodation means different things to different travelers. On Koh Phi Phi, even some midrange options qualify as luxurious. But if you want truly luxurious, top end accommodation like Zeavola Hotel, it’s going to cost you and you will definitely spend more than $200 a day to stay there, but you can get a great deal during low season.
Wrapping It Up
Phi Phi is perhaps the most famous and the most touristed island on Thailand. The sheer volume of tourists visiting and staying on Phi Phi is breathtaking. Despite the rampant tourism, Phi Phi is a place of startling beauty — you just have to share it with thousands of other people at the same time, all the time. However, if you come to Thailand, it would be amiss to skip Phi Phi — it’s one of those must see Thailand sights, if only once.
I recommend you plan on spending two days on Phi Phi — this is typically enough to fully sample the main island and do a full (or half day) tour of the surrounding islands, with some time to spare. If you are a backpacker looking to partake in the raucous nightlife, Phi Phi has that with various fire shows on the beaches, open beach clubs, and plenty of tourists eager to party. Plan on staying 2-3 days if you came for the nightlife.
Other Island Recommendations
If you want a smashing island nightlife and the biggest of all parties, consider going to Koh Phangan during the massive full moon parties held once (or twice) a month.
You might also want to consider venturing to Krabi, which offers similar (stunning) beach sights comparable to Phi Phi but with much more to do in the surrounding area and town. Krabi is also, depending where you go, a far more laid back, less touristed area.
Finally, if you tired all the crowd and want a relaxed, sleepy island where you can watch the sunsets by yourself on a beach, while enjoying a beer or five, consider Koh Lanta, one of the best islands in Thailand.
And if you tire of the rampant tourism and the beach life, consider heading to the north of Thailand in the Chiang Mai area which has much more of a cultural vibe. Venturing past Chang Mai offers some truly spectacular laid back mountain towns like Pai.