Koh Phi Phi is Thailand’s island beach vacation which you often see featured in heavily photo-shopped tourist brochures, but seldom spare any thought that such paradise exists in reality. Craggy limestone cliffs and lush green vegetation lead down to the powdery white sand beaches and crystal clear waters with coral gardens underneath that you can see and explore all year round.
Phi Phi comprises a cluster of islands which are located about 30 miles east of Phuket and an equal distance on the other side to Krabi, on the mainland off the Andaman Sea coast. Visitors travel to the Phi Phi islands (Koh means “island” in Thai) for an island beach holiday from all over the world during the first six months of the year.
Best Time to Visit
As a matter of fact, there’s no dearth of visitors during the rest of the year either, because these islands have only two seasons – hot and rainy. Take you pick. The water might be clearer during the hot season, which makes it better for diving. But otherwise it’s just as enjoyable all year long since the showers start and end quite abruptly even when it rains. But if your plan is to let the sun fry you brown while you laze on the white sand beach all day long, then you need to be here January to May.
The one time you do not want to be here is when there is a tsunami in the Indian Ocean. The tsunami in Dec 2004 nearly wiped out all signs of man’s presence on the island here. They have rebuilt everything from scratch since, and the facilities now are better and bigger. Before you ask, there is no tsunami season because tsunamis are triggered by underwater earthquakes which can happen anywhere in the world on any day without any warning.
Getting to Koh Phi Phi
The only way to get here is by boat, since it is an island without an airport. You can directly land at the international airports in Phuket or Krabi, and then take a ferry from there to Phi Phi Don. There are several ferries every day from both Phuket and Krabi. Note that you can also catch a seaplane from Phuket Airport directly to Phi Phi Don, if you don’t want any travel hassles.
Phi Phi Don
As a tourist, your only choice is to stay on Phi Phi Don, although there are six Phi Phi islands all put together. The main town on the island is Ton Sai, with all the bars and restaurants and other tourist facilities. Apart from the urban nightlife and natural beauty in Ton Sai Bay, visitors will want to see Yao Beach, Hin Khao Beach, Laem Tong and Monkey Beach. Phi Phi Don is the only inhabited island and the only one where you won’t be cut off from civilization.
Phi Phi Leh
Speaking of being cutoff from the world, if you have seen the 2000 adventure movie “The Beach” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, then you have seen the beach paradise which is Koh Phi Phi Leh, the second of the Phi Phi islands. Ever since the film came out, Thailand has received a steady stream of tourists who want to travel in DiCaprio’s footsteps to “discover” Maya Bay and the best beach on earth. This means a journey from Bangkok to Koh Samui and then to Koh Phi Phi.
Where to Stay
Unlike DiCaprio’s Richard in the film, not everyone who comes here is a backpacker trying to get away from the world and get lost in a weed-fueled paradise. In fact, most tourists these days are quite traditional and need the comforting presence of a hotel or beach resort with good food and modern facilities. Your two main choices are the Zeavola Resort on the northern tip of the island, and the Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort, which has two locations on the island, on Loh Ba Gao Bay and Ton Sai Bay.
You came all this way to discover the best beach in the world, so you don’t want to restrict yourself to Maya Bay on Phi Phi Leh and the beaches on Phi Phi Don. You can go island hopping and check out all six islands.
There’s nothing much else to see or do on the other four islands except beaches and dive sites to see the coral reefs, so you might actually have a beach all to yourself on one of these smaller islands. Two of the islands are Bida Nok and Bida Nai, and both are nothing more than limestone cliffs sticking up out of the water.
Koh Yung – Mosquito Island
Koh Yung or Mosquito Island has a stone beach in the east and an even smaller beach at the foot of the hill on the island. Fascinating coral formations, but you do not want to be here after sundown. As the name suggests, an army of mosquitoes will attack anyone still here in the evening.
Koh Mai Phai – Bamboo Island
Koh Mai Phai or Bamboo Island has several beaches on the island’s east and north. The coral reefs stretch from the north to the south. Note that Koh Mai Phai is a national park, so you are not allowed to stay overnight. It’s a perfect place for swimming and snorkeling, with crystal clear waters, lots of fish and beautiful coral formations.
All said and done, you have so many magnificent beaches and so much marine life to explore that the holiday will go by in a flash and you’ll wish you were indeed marooned here and cut off from civilization, on Koh Phi Phi – Thailand‘s paradise on earth.