KO PHI PHI IN BRIEF
WHY GO: Ko Phi Phi is one of the most beautiful islands in the world. Beside its amazing scenery of white sand beaches and vertical limestone cliffs, Ko Phi Phi is known for its beach parties that continue night after night until sunrise.
WHY NOT: Tourism has cast a heavy toll on the island’s nature. This small island has hard time to try to cope with all the tourists it attracts.
BACKPACKERS: Ko Phi Phi became a backpacker Mecca after the movie The Beach was filmed here.
PARTIES: Ko Phi Phi is Thailand’s and maybe the whole world’s ultimate party island. Beach parties gather enthusiastic crowds every night.
DIVING AND SNORKELING: Ko Phi Phi has wonderful underwater scenery both for divers and snorkelers. Sightings of sea turtles are almost guaranteed, and you have good chances of seeing sharks too.
It would be an understatement to just call Ko Phi Phi as Thailand’s most beautiful island. Ko Phi Phi is a natural wonder. From the open seas two steep-sided limestone islands rise like gargantuan castles more than one hundred meters towards the sky. Majestic cliffs shelter stunning beaches.
One of the islands is Phi Phi Don, where you find all the tourist facilities. The other is uninhabited Phi Phi Ley, where the movie The Beach was filmed.
The largest concentration of hotels and restaurants are in Phi Phi Don’s Tonsai village, which is located on a dreamlike location, a narrow sand isthmus between towering limestone cliffs. All the travelers staying in the island look young and beautiful, and the dress code seems to be just bikinis for women and swimming shorts without a shirt for men.
Every night Tonsai’s beaches turn into a party mayhem. Fire artists do their tricks, and people dance by the warm, tropical sea.
Tonsai is a very busy place, but you don’t need to walk far from it to find almost empty stretches of sand. Ko Phi Phi has it all: both party beaches and deserted paradise coves.
Ko Phi Phi – The Places
Phi Phi Don has some half dozen beaches. Their atmosphere vary from party mayhem to almost a deserted island feel.
The center of the island is Ton Sai village, which is located between towering limestone cliffs. Tonsai is full of restaurants and bars, clothing stores, bakeries, travel agencies and mini markets. You can even find a Playstation game room.
Ko Phi Phi’s Most Popular Beaches: Ao Loh Dalum and Ao Tonsai
Both sides of the Ton Sai village are lined by beaches. On the northern side is Ao Loh Dalum, which curves in almost a full circle between cliffs. The sea is very shallow for a long way from the beach.
The beach on the southern side is called Ao Tonsai. A big junk of the beach is taken over by the island’s ferry terminal and longtail-boats, but on the edges you can find surprisingly calm swimming spots in beautiful scenery.
Long Beach – Ko Phi Phi’s Best Beach
From the eastern end of Ao Tonsai Beach you can walk in 15 minutes to Long Beach through a jungle path. Long Beach is beautiful and long – as its name suggests – and the island’s second most popular. Scenery to the neighboring island Ko Phi Phi Ley is wonderful. Not much parties here, though, so Long Beach gathers for families and travelers looking for a little bit quieter atmosphere.
From Long Beach it is a short but steep walk to the beautiful and peaceful beaches of Ao Poh and Loh Modee. Both are pretty good for snorkeling.
Ko Phi Phi’s Quiet Beaches
The other side of the island has more beaches. Beautiful little coves of Toh Ko, Rantee and Pak Nam can be reached by hiking over the island’s viewpoint or by chartering a longtail boat. Don’t forget to take snorkeling gear with you.
A great place to stay in these quieter beaches is Tohko Beach Resort, which has nice bungalows by the sea, and the restaurants is pretty good too.
Ko Phi Phi’s Luxury Beaches
Isolated from the rest of the island are Ko Phi Phi’s luxury beaches Ao Lo Bakao and Hat Laem Thong, which are only accessible by long-tail boat. Expect to pay almost 1000 bahts each way to reach these beaches from Tonsai Village.
Ko Phi Phi’s Best Sights and Attractions
There are plenty of things to do beside lying by the beach and partying in Ko Phi Phi.
Ko Phi Phi’s Viewpoint
Every evening, just before sunset, couples and groups of friends gather to Ko Phi Phi’s viewpoint to admire the magnificent geography and beauty of the island.
The scenery is simply breathtaking: Ko Phi Phi’s sand isthmus curves between towering limestone cliffs, and even Tonsai’s overbuild beach village looks pretty from above.
The viewpoint is at its most popular during the sunsets, but the best time for photos is the early morning, when the direction of the light is just perfect.
The bath to the viewpoint is steep but not too challenging.
Ko Phi Phi Ley of The Beach Fame
Almost everyone visiting Ko Phi Phi will make a trip to the neighboring uninhabited island Ko Phi Phi Ley, whose May Bay was the filming location of the movie The Beach.
Maya Bay is a stunningly beautiful, however, it hardly feels deserted, since thousands of people flock here everyday. It is hard to say whether the popularity of the bay is tragic or comical: masses of people come to Maya Bay to have a look at a beach, which became famous for presenting an untouched paradise.
Somehow it’s easy to imagine a sequel of The Beach, where Leonardo di Caprio’s already beer-bellied character comes back to the island, only to find Maya Bay full of drunken revellers and go-go-bars.
If you really want to enjoy Maya Bay as seen in the movie, you might want to join an overnight camping trip “Night on the Beach”, which takes you to Ko Phi Phi Ley late in the afternoon, and you’ll spend the night at the beach returning back to Ko Phi Phi Don just before the crowds arrive.
Diving and Snorkeling in Ko Phi Phi
Inspite of Ko Phi Phi’s tremendous popularity, the island’s coral reefs are in surprisingly good condition. You can often see turtles even while snorkeling, and Adventure Club’s Shark Watch snorkeling trip guarantees sightings of (harmless) reefsharks – otherwise you’ll get your money back.
Ko Phi Phi is a popular place to do varying levels of diving courses. There are several diving centers on the island, and they all have the same prices. Shop around, talk with employees, and choose a dive center of your liking be it the quality of diving equipment or the looks of the dive instructors.
Our recommendation for diving and snorkeling trips is the Adventure Club, which puts the nature and guests first, not the profits. Adventure Club keeps its group sizes small, and the employees educate guests about the marine environment.
Ko Phi Phi’s Restaurants and Nightlife
Ton Sai beach village has a plethora of restaurants to satisfy all tastes and desires. On the other beaches the restaurant scene rather limited, though, and most people eat at their guesthouses or hotels’ restaurants.
Ko Phi Phi’s Nightlife central is Ton Sai, which resembles a tropical Ibiza, when the night falls.
Some notable nightlife venues are Carlito’s, which has some of the best nightly fire shows in Thailand, and live rock music venue Rolling Stoned Bar (a welcoming change for all the beach parties).
Ko Phi Phi’s weirdest bar is, however, The Reggae Bar, where the atmosphere is nothing like you would except from a bar with such a name. Reggae Bar has a Thai boxing ring where drunken customers beat the hell out of each other. The winner of each match gets a free bucket of booze.
Ko Phi Phi’s Recommended Hotels
The most important thing when choosing a hotel in Ko Phi Phi is to decide, which beach you want to stay in. Most people choose Tonsai village, which has the most restaurants and action. A good alternative is the much mellower Long Beach, which is still a relatively short jungle hike away from the parties.
How to Get to Ko Phi Phi
Ko Phi Phi is located on the open seas between Phuket and Krabi. There are ferries going to the island year-round from both beach resorts, one in the mornings and another in the afternoons.
Ferries from Phuket to Ko Phi Phi leave from Ratchada Pier, which is accessible from Phuket’s airport by minibuses and taxis. The minibuses (around 150 bahts) operate if there are enough of passengers, otherwise you have to haggle with the taxis to get a reasonable price for private transportation.
Ferries from Krabi to Ko Phi Phi leave from Krabi Town’s harbor, as well as from Ao Nang Beach.
Phuket and Krabi both have airports and plenty of flights from Bangkok. If you don’t want to fly, your only option is a long bus ride (around 12 hours) to either Phuket of Krabi.
Get Around Ko Phi Phi
There are no cars or even scooters on Ko Phi Phi, so you will either end up trekking through jungle paths or chartering a longtail-boat to get from one beach to another. Negotiate prices for the boats in advance. Ferries to the island dock at Ton Sai Beach, where it is easy to catch a boat anywhere on the island.
Good to Know
Ko Phi Phi is a year-round destination; the island doesn’t get too quiet even during the rainy season. During the monsoon season the rain clouds tend to pass quickly over Ko Phi Phi.
The island has several ATMs and a small health center.
During the tourist season there are ferries from Ko Phi Phi to Ko Lanta, which is almost like a direct opposite of Ko Phi Phi. While Phi Phi is busy and party-orientated, Ko Lanta’s mellow beach life is a good antidote to Phi Phi’s party scene.