Hi, my name is Beth Em. Welcome to my article on Koh Phi Phi – a stunning paradise in Thailand. I grew up in a little town nestled between the mountains and the sea on the coast of North Wales. I always enjoyed being outside, at the beach and lakes, and in the forests and mountains.
My favourite time of year was always summer. I have always been happiest when the sun is shining and the temperature is warm. Unfortunately in the UK (even in summer), those warm sunny days are few and far between!
I first travelled to Thailand back in 2014 after a friend who had recently returned from a trip there told me about his experiences. It was the furthest I had ever travelled by far but I couldn’t wait to go somewhere completely different to anywhere I had been before. I spent two months travelling all around Thailand where I tried scuba diving for the first time.
I absolutely fell in love with the country, it’s people, culture, food, beaches – everything! Once I returned to the UK it wasn’t long before I was planning my next trip to Thailand the following year. The second trip was when I got into scuba diving. After returning home to the UK, I knew what I had to do.
Working two jobs in the summer and saving up money meant that I could fly to Thailand that winter to take my first steps toward a career in diving.
Falling in Love with Koh Phi Phi
I first came to Koh Phi Phi after getting recommendations from travellers. I visited Koh Phi Phi a few times during my trips to Thailand because I loved the islands so much! It was one of my favourite places from my travels.
The fact that there are no cars on the islands and you can pretty much walk everywhere (or hike, kayak and taxi boat to spots further away) was so appealing to me. I instantly fell in love! Koh Phi Phi’s landscape is absolutely stunning. Even now I’m still mesmerised by its beauty.
I knew that Koh Phi Phi was where I wanted to spend time doing my diving course. But at the time I didn’t expect that I would eventually call these islands home. My plan once I became a scuba diving instructor was to travel and work in different countries around the world. However, I always found myself back in Koh Phi Phi and would visit at least two times a year.
Life as a Dive Instructor for Blue View Divers
I decided to come back to Koh Phi Phi in October, 2019 to stay long-term and work as a Dive Instructor and Underwater Photographer for Blue View Divers, the same dive centre that I did my diving course with. Everyday is different. This is something that I love about my job and the islands.
If I’m not out diving with beginners, certified divers, teaching courses or taking photos – I will be at the dive centre of Blue View Divers working online with the bookings, social media marketing and various promotions.
When I have free time I love to be at the beach and we have plenty to choose from! I recently adopted a puppy from the mainland. I have been busy taking her to my favourite spots and even on kayaking adventures.
Why Koh Phi Phi should be on your Bucket List
Limestone cliffs, turquoise water and white sand beaches with traditional longtail boats – that is Koh Phi Phi! The islands are grouped in the Andaman Sea just off the Southwest coast of Thailand. There are two bigger islands – Koh Phi Phi Don and Koh Phi Phi Leh – and a few smaller ones: Koh Bida Nok, Koh Bida Nai, Bamboo Island and Mosquito Island.
The main Island is Koh Phi Phi Don where the accommodation, restaurants, bars and shops are located. There are no cars or motorcycles for public use and you get around on foot or by taxi boat. On Koh Phi Phi Don you can find many beautiful beaches, jungle hikes and viewpoints.
Koh Phi Phi Leh is the National Marine Park. It’s just 15 minutes by longtail boat from the main pier on Koh Phi Phi Don. Koh Phi Phi Leh is home to Maya Bay which was made famous by the movie: The Beach. There you will also find Loh Samah Bay and Pileh Lagoon – two truly beautiful spots.
Surrounding Koh Phi Phi Leh are shallow reefs teeming with marine life. There are some great spots for both scuba diving and snorkelling, with fantastic opportunities to encounter reef sharks and hawksbill turtles.
Koh Phi Phi has something for everyone as it’s packed nicely into a handful of small islands. Whether you are here for adventure or to chill, spend time in the water or hike in the jungle, wake up early or party the night away – the landscape is so breathtaking that you couldn’t possibly get bored.
My Favourite Place in Koh Phi Phi – Wang Long
I have a few favourite spots here in Koh Phi Phi but if I had to choose just one it would be a place called Wang Long. It’s a small beach and lagoon hidden in between the limestone cliffs on the west side of Koh Phi Phi Don.
Not many people know about it. You can only get there by boat and when the tides are right. We often go by longtail or kayak to spend the day there. At the right time of year the sun sets between the cliffs at the entrance!
Top 5 Things To Do in Koh Phi Phi
1. Scuba Dive with the Team at Blue View Divers
Koh Phi Phi is just as beautiful under the water as it is on the surface. With a huge variety of marine life, colourful corals and fish, and the opportunity to spot things like blacktip reef sharks and hawksbill turtles, and occasionally some bigger fish like leopard sharks and whale sharks!
These islands are awesome for divers of all skill levels. I would definitely recommend taking a look at the underwater world while you are here. If scuba diving isn’t for you, there are also many spots where you can snorkel and see similar things. Be sure to check out Shark Point, Viking Beach or Koh Bida Nok for the opportunity to snorkel with blacktip reef sharks.
2. Take a Longtail Boat to Pileh Lagoon
One of my top must-see places in Koh Phi Phi is Pileh Lagoon. It’s a big lagoon on the east side of Koh Phi Phi Leh surrounded by giant cliffs with beautiful turquoise water. I’m lucky to get the opportunity to visit quite often with my work and every time I go the views take my breath away.
Take a longtail boat and make sure you time it right as the lagoon can’t be accessed during low tide. The entrance becomes too shallow. Pileh Lagoon is a popular spot but go earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon for a more peaceful trip once the day trip boats have gone back to the mainland.
3. Check out the Views from “The Viewpoint”
The Viewpoint has an incredible view and is a must-do experience. A 20-30 minute walk up some steep steps will bring you to Viewpoint 1. Stop for a break but make sure you continue 10 minutes further to Viewpoint 2. Here you get an incredible uninterrupted view over Tonsai Town and the two bays of Tonsai and Loh Dalum, and even out to Koh Phi Phi Leh.
For those wanting to continue on, there is Viewpoint 3 that will take you higher into the jungle. The best time to go is early in the morning when it’s cooler or later in the afternoon for the perfect view to watch the sunset.
4. Visit the Beautiful Bamboo Island
Bamboo Island is a small island just north of Koh Phi Phi Don. On this island you will find turquoise water and white sand beaches. It’s a little slice of paradise where you can easily spend a few hours relaxing on the beach.
5. Go on a Hiking or Kayaking Adventure to Nui Bay
One of my favourite things to do on my days off is to visit Nui Beach. Kayaking will take you around 30-40 minutes from Loh Dalum Beach. If you opt for the hike, this can take over an hour across beaches and jungle.
Once you are there, you can relax on the pristine beach, snorkel or explore the small caves. Because of its accessibility, Nui Beach is not normally crowded and you can really relax and enjoy this beautiful spot.
Best Places to Stay in Koh Phi Phi
There are so many different options for accommodation here on Koh Phi Phi Don – whether you are looking for 5-star resorts, budget guesthouses or hostels. If you want to be close to all of the goings on stay in the Tonsai Town area. All the bars, restaurants and shops are within walking distance and everything generally is within 20 minutes walk of the main pier.
There are also beautiful secluded resorts further away from Tonsai Town. Most of which are all inclusive because it can be difficult to get to town from them (or expect to pay 1000 THB each way for a taxi boat). Whenever I have been here on holiday I like to stay at Tropical Garden Bungalow. They have a pool, bar and restaurant, budget rooms and a nice atmosphere.
Viewpoint Resort is in a beautiful location and has an infinity pool overlooking the bay with sunset views. You can find different rooms here to suit all budgets! This is also where the dive centre I work at is based. I’m lucky to get to spend my days in the office with this incredible view.
Another resort I love is Viking Nature Resort. It’s in a quieter area a bit further out from the main pier but you can walk here fairly easily or take a five minute taxi boat for 100-200 THB. They have beautiful tree houses built into the jungle just behind the beach and do an awesome buffet breakfast!
Currently there are not nearly as many hotels open as normal but still plenty of choices! Some others are: Cozy Seafront Resort, P2 Wood Loft, PP Charlie Beach Resort, Zeavola, Cliff Beach Resort and CoCo Beach.
Cherished Memories from Thailand
One of my favourite memories from my time in Koh Phi Phi was New Year’s Day 2020. Watching the sunrise from the beach and then heading out with friends to my favourite spot Wang Long bay was epic! We took a BBQ and drinks, and stayed there for the day celebrating the New Year – without a care in the world or knowing what the year 2020 had in store for us all!
Visiting Koh Phi Phi during COVID
Koh Phi Phi relies heavily on tourism and so the pandemic has certainly affected the island. Only a fraction of the businesses remained open during the initial outbreak. However, once the situation in Thailand was controlled and domestic travel was allowed, more businesses began to re-open.
The island is very much open and anyone can travel here from within Thailand. Although not as many hotels, shops and restaurants are open as normal, and there are considerably less tourists visiting the island. There are still plenty of places to eat, drink and sleep. In terms of activities, there is not really anything that you can’t do that you could before COVID!
Tourists can currently only enter Thailand from within certain countries, after obtaining a ‘special tourist visa’, providing a negative COVID test and completing two weeks of state quarantine when they arrive. There is still no word on when these requirements will be relaxed. We are remaining hopeful for the next few months but for now I can only speculate.
Need to Know Before you Go
The main thing is that there are no cars or bikes on Koh Phi Phi (or at least not for public use). Keep this in mind when booking accommodation if you want to be close to the main tourist hub. Anything in the Tonsai Town area will be close by and within walking distance. Always read hotel reviews too! Some resorts are built up onto the hills and can be tough to hike to.
Don’t just come to Koh Phi Phi for one day. There is so much to do on these islands! Unless you don’t have time, I would recommend spending at least three nights. Even then you would be leaving without doing everything!
The ‘green season’, otherwise known as the low season, goes from May until October. The islands are still beautiful with plenty to do but you can expect a higher chance of rain during these months and high winds that can restrict access to the other islands and National Marine Park.
That being said, our last green season had good weather conditions and if the weather is not a huge problem for you, most things including travel, hotels and restaurants offer cheaper prices during these months.
Maya Beach is currently closed. Since Maya Bay is famous, often when people read this they assume that all of Koh Phi Phi is too! At this time no one is allowed onto the beach and there is a buoy line stopping boats from entering. Over the last two years since it has been closed, hundreds of coral nurseries have been planted by the National Park and local volunteers.
You can still access the rest of Koh Phi Phi Le and enter Maya Bay and see the beach – which in my opinion is a better experience than it was a few years ago (you could barely see the beach since there were so many boats and people). Thanks for reading and I hope to see you here one day!