If you’re going to Thailand, visiting one of the beautiful south islands is probably high on your list. The most common ones include Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, Koh Samui, Koh Tao and Koh Phangan. Each are different and have their own attractions. As a first timer to Thailand I chose to visit Koh Phi Phi. I came home and instantly wanted to book a trip back and visit more of these islands (if only I had the money).
Below are the highlights of Koh Phi Phi, including tips on where to stay and what to do.
How to get there
We arrived by ferry to Koh Phi Phi from Phuket. The journey from Patong Beach (where we stayed in Phuket) to the ferry port (Rassada Pier) was an hour by taxi, there was a line for the ferry and then the actual 2 hour boat trip. In total it took over 4 hours to reach Koh Phi Phi from Phuket. When you board the boat they take your luggage and stack it up so make sure your suitcase is recognisable and you remember which pile they put it in.
Keep in mind how far apart the islands are and how long it takes to get to them. People often use the term “Island Hoping” in Thailand, but in reality most of the islands are far from each other. For example, Koh Phi Phi to either Koh Samui, Koh Tao or Koh Phangan, takes at least 6 hours by high speed boat.
Where to stay
We stayed 3 nights on Koh Phi Phi and had 2 full days to explore. This is the minimum time I recommend staying there as there’s so much to do.
It was mid-January, high-season, and the weather turned from perfect sunshine to heavy rain showers.
We went for some luxury (compared to the usual hostels) and stayed at Phi Phi Island Cabana Hotel.
I really liked this hotel because of its beach and location. It’s expensive to stay on Phi Phi so budget for this in your Thailand trip. Phi Phi is more expensive than Bangkok and Phuket.
Phi Phi has a reputation for being a “party island” and if you’re staying in the wrong area it will be, unless you want this.
I recommend staying in the Ton Sai Bay area or on the west side of Loh Dalum Bay and off the main strips.
Phi Phi Island Cabana was next to the ferry port, which meant we didn’t have to carry our luggage a long way. It was also on the same side of the island as the long tail boat taxis. You can hire a boat and driver to take you to the nearby bays and islands.
It was near everything – shops, ATMs, and traditional Thai food places. There were also lots of places that did laundry, we used one of these services and they retuned our clothing clean, ironed and folded that same day.
It was in walking distance of the main clubbing area but not too close, at night the sound of the thumping music was only faint.
What to do
There are tour stands everywhere. The main tours offered are Maya Bay (where The Beach was filmed), Monkey Beach and Viking Cave. Other activities include scuba diving and snorkelling. If there’s something special you want to do or see, you can easily hire someone to show you. Tourism is the main industry on this island.
We went on the beach by our hotel on the west end of Loh Dalum Bay .
During the morning the area is busy with boat tours leaving. They closed off the areas so you can swim without any worry of boats but by mid afternoon there was barely any about.
Sunset was the perfect time to have a swim and mess around on the beach.
It was also warm enough at night to swim, the water was shallow and calm. Lights from the bars and shops on the island lit up the beach as well as a few flood lights.
We saw a couple of fire shows during our stay – they’re amazing. This is the number one thing I recommend you see while on Phi Phi. The energy is crazy and the tricks are incredible.
This video shows the incredible foot work the fire show performers have.
They take volunteers from the audience, picking on people sitting near the front so watch out if you sit there. The volunteers get very close to the fire… as shown in the video below from a show we saw at Carlito’s Bar.
Pineapple Thai rice, Thai curries, Thai noodles, coconut and melon ice cream…. all the food was great.
The prices for food varied. There were street cafes with Pad Thai for 200 THB and restaurants with Thai curries for 400 THB.
Drink drink and more drinking
Koh Phi Phi is a party island where you can party all night and alcohol is cheap.
150 THB cocktail buckets are very popular and I love them.
They’re full of alcohol and they off every cocktail you can think off. Buy one in the street and walk around checking out the clothes stores.
There were so many tattoo shops. They offered the traditional thai tattoos, where bamboo sticks are used instead of a tattoo gun. So if you get too drunk you might wake up with with a tattoo the next morning.
We walked along to Only Bar Phi Phi at the far east end of Loh Dalum Bay. This area is where all the clubs and bars are. It’s loud with neon lights everywhere. People spill onto the beach and you can party until the morning.
If this isn’t your thing you can avoid the area. Be careful not to stay too near as the music travels.
We didn’t go to Maya Bay where they filmed The Beach. We’d already done so much beach and bays in Phuket that I didn’t think it was necessary. Plus, it’s on Koh Phi Phi Lee which is a little far from Ko Phi Phi Don (the main island) so it takes at least half a day to do this trip.
Instead we went to Monkey Beach. It was only a 15 minute boat ride from Ton Sai Pier. We spoke to one of the long tail boat taxi guys and agreed on 800 THB to take us to Monkey Beach and go monkey spotting.
We had the whole beach to ourselves and the boat guy was really good at spotting the monkeys. Some of my photos are blurry as I had my phone in a water proof case. I strongly suggest buying such a case if you go to the islands in Thailand, you’ll be in and out of the water.
Tip – buy a coconut filled with coconut ice cream from a stall next to the boat taxis. When you get to Monkey Beach, the monkeys go crazy for the left over coconut. The monkeys are very cheeky and used to tourists.
Below is a video of the monkeys playing round:
If you have time and feel like being active, there’s lots of hikes to be done on Phi Phi. The most popular is through the jungle to View Point.
We didn’t have time to go but if you’re there for more than a few days and you can drag yourself away from the beaches and bars, then it’s worth a look.
Koh Phi Phi was a good introduction to Thailand’s islands. I enjoyed Phi Phi because it’s a small island where everything is convenient but it has two unique sides to it. Which side you stay on has an impact on your experience here.
It has its party reputation for good reasons. I wouldn’t stay on the east of Loh Dalum Bay side unless you want loud music and to drink all night. The place is literally rocking. From fire shows to alcohol buckets, everything is aimed at making sure tourists enjoy themselves.
I don’t regret missing Maya Bay because I had so much fun on the island and at Monkey Beach. The beach by our hotel looked like something out of a holiday brochure and lived up to expectations – blue warm water and the iconic long boats.
However, even in January – the high-season and recommended time to go, the weather wasn’t perfect and there were rain showers but it didn’t ruin anything except getting a tan.
My only regret was spending too long in Phuket instead of on Koh Phi Phi.
This blog post is written based on my experience there and what I would have liked to have known before going. If you had a different time in Koh Phi Phi, please comment on the blog below.