Ko Lipe – The “Maldives” of Thailand

Ko Lipe – The “Maldives” of Thailand

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Ko Lipe and its turquoise waters seen from neighboring Ko Adang island.

KO LIPE IN BRIEF

WHY GO: Ko Lipe is a beautiful but busy small Thai island in the midst of an archipelago full of inhabited islands. Ko Lipe is blessed with turquoise waters and exquisite coral reefs.

WHY NOT: Ko Lipe has already become a victim of its popularity. The small island is bursting with guesthouses, and the main beach looks like a parking lot of longtail-boats.

BEST FOR

BACKPACKERS: Ko Lipe is the newest island on the ever changing backpackers’  to do list.

ADVENTURES: The deserted islands next to Ko Lipe make great archipelago for those searching for their own island paradise.

PARADISE ISLANDS: Even with its popularity, Ko Lipe still has all the makings of a paradise island: white sand, turquoise waters and healthy coral frees.

DESERTED BEACHES: You will find them on the nearby islands like Ko Adang, which is only 15-minutes boat ride away from Ko Lipe.

DIVING AND SNORKELING: Ko Lipe might just be Thailand’s best island for snorkeling. Diving is great too; Ko Lipe get much fewer divers than the other famous diving destinations like Phuket, Ko Phi Phi or Ko Tao, and sightings of sharks are common.

 

Ko Lipe's Sunrise beach is known for it's beautiful views.
Ko Lipe’s Sunrise beach is known for it’s beautiful views.

Not long ago Ko Lipe was still a secret, small paradise island lying far offshore next to the Malaysian border known only to a handful of travelers. That has changed. Dramatically. Nowadays Ko Lipe is Thailand’s “hottest” island, whose name is on the lips of most travelers.

Ko Lipe’s main draw is its reputation as one of Thailand’s most beautiful islands, and the wonderful coral reefs that surround it and the neighboring uninhabited islands. Both claims are true enough, and Ko Lipe’s nickname as “The Maldives of Thailand” adds to the interest.

Ko Lipe’s rising popularity has had a big impact on the island. The small island has been built full of guesthouses, shops and restaurants. At times the island’s main beach, Pattaya Beach, can look like a parking lot of longtail-boats, and its soft, white sand almost fully covered with countless beach towels.

Don’t stop reading yet, though. Even with the downsides of its popularity, Ko Lipe is still a beautiful island worth visiting – as long as you know what to expect. Don’t come to Ko Lipe expecting a serene, untouched paradise island; come for its superior snorkeling and friendly atmosphere.

With the right mindset you’ll enjoy Ko Lipe: it’s still a beautiful small island without cars, and everything is within walking distance.

The best part is that even if Ko Lipe itself is far from being pristine, natural serenity abounds just next-door on Ko Adang, Lipe’s bigger neighbor, a large deserted island only 15-minutes boat ride away.

Together Ko Lipe and Ko Adang make an excellent travel destination; side-by-side you will find a lively holiday island with all the possible amenities, and a large and unspoiled deserted island with secluded atmosphere.

Nearby Ko Lope there are also other deserted islands, which can be visited on day trips or even on an arranged camping trip.

Ko Lipe’s Best Beaches

You can have a shower at Ko Lipe's Sunrise Beach.
You can have a shower at Ko Lipe’s Sunrise Beach.

Ko Lipe’s main beach is the long, sickle-shaped Pattaya Beach (not to be confused with the other Pattaya Beach close to Bangkok!) with soft, shiny white sand lined with deciduous trees and casuarinas. You’ll find plenty of people and longtail-boats, though.

On the edge of Pattaya Beach starts a lively stretch of shops and restaurants called Walking Street. Anyhow the atmosphere is still easy-going: Koh Lipe has not (yet) developed into party island such as Ko Phi Phi.

Another long and pretty beach is Sunrise Beach, which has a much more peaceful atmosphere than Pattaya Beach, especially towards its northern end, which is still dominated by casuarina trees instead of rows of bungalows.

Next to Sunrise beach is ramshackle sea gypsy village. The sea gypsies are the original inhabitants of the island, although most of the land has already been bought or tricked from them by businessmen who have come from other parts of Thailand.

The quietest beach on Ko Lipe is the Sunset Beach. There’s a couple of restaurants, and a shabby inn. People come to Sunset Beach mostly for, guess what, to admire the sunset.

Ko Andang – Deserted Island Next to Ko Lipe

Sun sets behind Ko Adand island next to Ko Lipe.
Sun sets behind Ko Adand island next to Ko Lipe.

Right next to Ko Lipe lies Ko Adang, a much bigger island, which is protected as a national park. The hilly island is mostly covered in forests; though you will find a camping site and a handful of bungalows operated by the national park rangers on its otherwise deserted beach.

Ko Adang is surrounded by wonderful coral reefs: you have a chance of seeing even reef sharks and eagle rays.

On Ko Adang you can climb up to the vantage point called Chado Cliff. The steepest walk is to the first level, where after the path gets easier. Spectacular views open onto Ko Lipe from the third level.

Another pleasant half an hour walk takes you to the Pirate Falls. The waterfall is not that special in itself, but on the way you can spot lizards, birds and strange looking insects.

Traveling between Ko Lipe and Adang is easy. Longtail-boats from Ko Lipe’s Sunrise Beach to Ko Adang cost about 100 Bahts.

Island Hopping and Snorkeling in Ko Lipe

Island hopping in deserted islands is the best way to spend days on Ko Lipe.
Island hopping in deserted islands is the best way to spend days on Ko Lipe.

It’s shouldn’t come as a surprise that there’s no museums or other attractions on Ko Lipe. People travel to Ko Lipe to enjoy the beach, the crystal clear water and the coral reefs.

And for those, Ko Lipe is one of the best islands around. Ko Lipe is definitely one of Thailand’s best islands for snorkeling.

Ko Lipe has good reefs just offshore from Sunrise Beach, but to enjoy the best of snorkeling, one should do boat trips to neighboring small uninhabited islands Ko Rokroy, Ko Hin Sorin, Ko Palia, Ko Sawang, Ko Sak, Ko Dong, Ko Lorquiy and Koh Peung.

Bigger islands, also good for snorkeling, are Ko Adang and Ko Rawi, which both have camping sites and simple restaurants kept by the National Park guards. Menus are modest: mainly fried rice with chicken or seafood.

Ko Rawi is further away, but it’s beach is prettier and the sand softer than on Ko Adang. Just like Ko Andag, Ko Rawi has a lookout point and a waterfall, which you can hike.

Diving in Ko Lipe

Beside snorkeling Ko Lipe is also a good destination for diving. As Ko Lipe is still relatively unknown as a diving destination, you can mostly dive without big underwater crowds around you. Ko Lipe has a few dive centers.

Ko Lipe’s dive centers also organize liveaboard diving safaris, which take from Ko Lipe to the famed faraway underwater pinnacles Hin Daeng and Hin Muang.

Ko Lipe’s Restaurants and Nightlife

Ko Lipe has some beach bars but it is not really a party island.
Ko Lipe has some beach bars but it is not really a party island.

Most of Ko Lipe’s restaurants and bars are along the Walking Street and Pattaya Beach.

For mouth-watering seafood try out the long standing Monkey Restaurant’s barbeque and gypsy style seafood salad on Pattaya Beach. Beware though that Monkey Restaurant is a really down to earth place, and might not look appealing to most sophisticated tastes.

Pattaya Beach’s acclaimed Italian restaurants are Pizza Italia and La Luna. The former server only pizzas, the latter also pasta.

For breakfasts Café Lipe is a sure bet, and the owner Darius is a real treasure chest of knowledge about the island.

Situated along the path between Pattaya and Sunrise Beach Pooh’s Bar is a true Ko Lipe classic. Mr. Pooh got tired of his life as a salesman on the mainland, and moved to Ko Lipe years ago, when the island was still out of most traveler’s radar. Pooh built his first bar from driftwood, and over the years the restaurant-bar has grown to a full service entertainment center. You’ll find a photo of the original beach shack on the wall of the bar.

On the island’s interior, on the road to Sunset Beach, you should visit Jack’s Jungle restaurant for its delicious and agonizingly hot fish curry (chu chee plah).

Ko Lipe’s Best Resorts

Waiting for the sun to set on Ko Lipe.
Waiting for the sun to set on Ko Lipe.

If there’s something good in Ko Lipe’s increased popularity, it’s the fact that Ko Lipe’s bungalow villages have become more comfortable, and one can find more upscale resorts too.

The busiest beach to stay is Pattaya Beach, which might have some noise in the evenings from the beach side restaurants and bars. A good alternative is the quieter Sunrise Beach.

If the resorts by the beach happen to be full, you may want to look for rooms along the Walking Street. It’s just a short stroll from be beach anyway – nothing is far from the beach in Ko Lipe.

In general accommodation prices in Ko Lipe tend to be a bit higher than in many other bigger Thai islands, since Ko Lipe is located far in the open seas, and electricity has to be generated from oil-powered generators. Check out discounts for hotels and guesthouses in Ko Lipe!

Ko Lipe’s Best Luxury Resort

Ambitiously designed Idyllic Concept Resort is a surprising sight amongst Ko Lipe’s otherwise mostly bamboo-made bungalow resorts. Idyllic Concept has stylish, modern rooms, and a swimming pool by the Surise Beach.

Ko Lipe’s Most Romantic Resort

Our pick for the most romantic hotel on Ko Lipe is Serendipity Beach Resort, which is located on the cliffs on Sunrise Beach’s southern end. Privacy is guaranteed, and the spacious bungalows have beautiful sea views, which you can enjoy while lying on the hefty beds.

Another romantic option is Anda Resort, which luxury cottages made of dark wood accompanied with elegant daybeds. No swimming pool, but who would need one, when the hotel is located just next to the sea on Surise Beach.

Ko Lipe’s Best Hotel for Families

The island’s largest resort, Sita Beach Resort & Spa, has a sizeable swimming pool, and a children’s playground. Even a Thai princess staid here while on her visit to Ko Lipe. Located on the western end of Pattaya Beach.

Ko Lipe’s Best Guesthouses

Nowadays yoga and paradise island go hand in hand.
Nowadays yoga and paradise island go hand in hand.

Ko Lipe still has a lot of bamboo made guest houses along its beaches. Two of our favorites are the Paradise Cottage amidst a edenlike garden, and the eco-minded Green View Beach Resort, both on Pattaya Beach.

Traveling to Ko Lipe

Ko Lipe's Pattaya Beach can get crowded of longtail boats.
Ko Lipe’s Pattaya Beach can get crowded of longtail boats.

How to Get to Ko Lipe from Bangkok?

The easiest way to travel from Bangkok to Ko Lipe is to buy a combo ticket either from Nok Air and Air Asia airlines, which includes flight to the nearest airport, bus transfer from the airport to the pier on mainland, and a boat-trip to the island. Altogether the journey from Bangkok to Ko Lipe will take approximately six hours.

Another option would be to take a night train (or a flight) from Bangkok To Hat Yai, Southern Thailand’s largest city. From Hat Yai you need to take a minibus or taxi to Pak Bara port. Minibuses leave from Hat Yai’s railway station (from the airport you would first need to catch a ride to the train station). Travel time to the Pak Bara port is approximately one and half-hours. A taxi directly from the airport to Pak Bara costs around 2500 Baht.

How to Get to Ko Lipe from Krabi or Trang?

If you are traveling to Ko Lipe from Trang or Krabi, you can catch a minibus directly to Pak Bara Pier.

The boat trip from Pak Bara to Ko Lipe takes around one and a half hours. On the way, the boats pass by Ko Tarutao, a magnificent deserted island.

If you miss your boat connection and get stuck in Pak Bara, there are guesthouses, restaurants and travel agencies next to the pier. The pier also has a national park office, where you can book accommodation to protected Ko Tarutao and Ko Adang islands.

Boats to Ko Lipe from Phuket and Ko Lanta

During the high season, roughly from November to late April, Ko Lipe is also accessible by boat from other islands on the Andaman cost, such as Ko Bulon Lee, Ko Ngai and Ko Lanta. The sea views are spectacular along the way.

The boat ride all the way from Phuket to Ko Lipe would take around seven hours. If you are traveling by boat from Phuket, you should consider stopping at least to some of the above-mentioned islands.

Since there is no pier on Ko Lipe, the boats leave passengers to a docking station, which floats on the sea close to the island. Longtail-boats take passengers to the island and charge 50 Bahts per person.

Ferry from Langkawi to Ko Lipe

Ko Lipe is also connected by daily ferries to Langkawi on the Malaysian side. Keep in mind that if you cross the border to Thailand via sea or land border you will get only two weeks of permit to stay in Thailand instead of 30 days that you get on airports.

Move on

Most of the boats to and from Ko Lipe pass by Ko Tarutao, an enticing deserted island. You can also catch a speedboat to little-known Ko Bulon Lee or all the way up to Ko Lanta and Phuket.

Good to Know about Ko Lipe

Ko Lipe had its first ATM in early 2014. The ATM is located next to 7/11 shop on the Walking Street. Nowadays there’s other ATMs on the island too.

Lipe’s modest health center is located on Sunrise Beach. It can help you through minor incidents, but to get proper treatment you have to travel all the way to the mainland.

 

1 COMMENT

  1. I went to Koh Lipe in June and the beaches were so beautiful. You’re absolutely right. It is one of the best places in Thailand for snorkeling. I’d definitely go back. Koh Lipe is an amazing island.

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