The Phi Phi Islands are a tropical paradise with stunning scenery in the form of impressive limestone mountains, caves, cliffs and especially stunning beaches with white sand and clear water. It is not without reason that the beach scenes in the movie The Beach, in which Leonardo De Caprio found the world's best beach, were filmed here.
Before you read the rest of the article, please enjoy this video of Phi Phi Islands, made by Jrbazil. Do yourself a favour and watch it in full screen mode.
The Phi Phi Islands consist of six islands, of which the only inhabited island is Phi Phi Don. A little south of Phi Phi Don, you will find Phi Phi Ley, which is where the scenes for The Beach were filmed. The remaining islands are not very big, but a few of them have beaches that can be worth a visit or they have coral reefs that can be worth visiting for snorkelling or for a dive.
The Phi Phi Islands are a part of the province of Krabi; they are virtually placed halfway between Krabi and Phuket, about an hour and a half by boat from each side. This means that it is easy to visit The Phi Phi Islands for a day or for a couple of days if you are staying in for example Patong Beach in Phuket or at Ao Nang Beach in Krabi. You can of course also spend your entire holiday at The Phi Phi Islands, but unless you are very young or very interested in diving, it may get a bit boring after a few days. You can buy return tickets for the ferry for 600-750 baht in most tourist stalls in Phuket and in Krabi.
Please be aware that the last ferry from The Phi Phi Islands depart late afternoon, so if you settle for a day trip, you actually only have a few hours before you have to leave again (at best you can get 6-7 hours). It may be a good idea staying at least one night if you want to look around, enjoy the viewpoints, and take a swim.
Mainly tourists below 30 years of age visit the Phi Phi Islands, although the islands also attract tourists who have seen their first (and second) youth, like this writer. Many of the older visitors, couples on a honeymoon, and families prefer the more luxurious resorts on the northeast side of Phi Phi Don.
Phi Phi Don
Phi Phi Don is almost two separate islands, connected only by an isthmus, with beaches at each side.
Most of the city, Phi Phi Don Village is placed on the isthmus. However, Phi Phi Don Village is not a city in the traditional sense, but rather a small holiday village with very few roads, lined with stalls offering various tourism services and eateries.
The roads are not traditional roads either. Cars and other motorized vehicles are only used in order to transport goods from the main city to the small villages. In the main city of Phi Phi Don Village transport is done on foot, although you will see a few bicycles now and then. Trolleys are used for transport of goods, suitcases etc.
There is only one tall building on the island, Phi Phi Hotel, where I have been staying when I have visited The Phi Phi Islands. Partly because the hotel is just a stone's throw from the ferry landing, and therefore you do not have to lug your suitcases very far and partly because of the view:
The view at Phi Phi Hotel may be five-star for some of the rooms, but the hotel itself only has three stars, if you crave more stars, take a look at the four-star hotel Phi Phi Island Cabana Hotel. The hotel is placed just outside the city, and can, therefore, offer more peace and quiet, while still being close to the many restaurants and shops of the city. If you want even more stars, you will need to stay far from the city, at the north side of the island. See below for a couple of suggestions.
On the other hand, if you want to stay at a cheap hotel, you can get as low as USD 20 per night – and even less if you stay at one of the many hostels.
The relatively high proportion of young tourists is also affecting which shops you find in the city, which can be a good thing for the older visitors as well. I cannot recall having seen a single tailor with aggressive sellers here. In addition, the girlie bars are absent. In return, you will find one diving school after another, where you will find diving instructors speaking a wide range of languages, thus, you can learn to dive in your native tongue.
Phi Phi Don Village offers two beaches, one in each bay on either side of the narrow isthmus.
By far the most beautiful beach is on the north side of Loh Dalum Bay. Here you have a spectacular view of the bay and the surrounding cliffs. The beach is also very beautiful, but if you want to take a swim, you will need to walk quite a distance out into the bay, as the water is very shallow.
Most of the bay on the other side of the isthmus is used for the port and for fishing boats, but you will find a small, nice beach at one end of the bay. If you want to take a swim, this is the better choice than the more scenic beach at the other side of the isthmus.
You will find several other stunning beaches at Phi Phi Don, especially at the northwest side of the island where you will find several resorts. If you are on a honeymoon, you will probably prefer one of those places to the city. Check out Zeavola, located at Laem Tong Beach near Tong's Point, at Phi Phi Don's northern tip, and Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort, located further south in Loh Ba Gao Bay. The transport to the two resorts is by long-tail boat from the Phi Phi Don Village.
The long-tail boat is also the usual means of transport if you want to visit the other islands in the archipelago, for example, if you want to visit "The Beach", or if you want to perform activities such as snorkelling in the emerald waters around Phi Phi Ley.
You will find three viewpoints close to Phi Phi Don Village, offering you stunning views over the islands and the sea. The view is particularly beautiful at sunrise and sunset.
It will be a good idea to use clamped shoes instead of flip-sandals when you visit the viewpoints. The paths to the viewpoints are rather steep and especially on the way back down, flip-sandals are not very practical.
Viewpoint 2 is the most popular and well-known viewpoint. This is where you find the view that you will see on countless postcards and at websites about the Phi Phi Islands, it is the view you can see at the photo further up the page. Here you will also find a small shop that offers much-needed refreshments after your fight against gravity going up the mountain.
Be sure also to visit the other viewpoints, which is about a 10-minute walk from here. At those, you will have the same view of the two bays, but from a slightly different angle, and then you have this view over the sea and the other islands in the archipelago:
Phi Phi Ley
Phi Phi Ley is where you will find Maya Beach, better known as "The Beach". However, after The Beach hit the cinemas, the beach at Phi Phi Ley does no longer look as pristine and unspoilt as in the movie. There are no accommodations on the island, but you will find many day-trippers coming here from Phi Phi Don, meaning that it is only the view through the bay that is recognizable from the film.
However, you do have an opportunity to experience the beach in a more desolate version. You can buy a sleep aboard tour where you sleep on a boat in the bay, thus, you can enjoy the evening and the early morning on an empty beach alone with the other guests on the boat. The prices start at 3,500 baht. Please note that this is mostly for young people that like to party. A big clue to this: The tour company is providing a free bucket at the beginning of the evening - and then the bar opens.
Visiting the beach at Maya Bay, you will have to pay an environment fee at 200 baht. Usually, the day trips to the island are by long-tail boat, you can buy a trip at one of the tourist stalls at Phi Phi Don, or directly from the owner of a boat.
In addition to Maya Beach, Phi Phi Ley offers a few amazing snorkelling places with emerald green water, where you can enjoy the marine life. The bays Pileh Bay and Loh Samah Bay are popular spots for a swim from long-tail boats.
At Phi Phi Ley you will also find a large cave known as Viking Cave. There is not public access to the cave, but you can take photos of the cave. The bamboos you see in this photo are used by locals that collect birds nests to be used for swallow's nest soup.
Bamboo Island has a fine beach suitable for sunbathing, swimming or snorkelling.
The island got its name after swarms of mosquitos that appear at sunset. In the daytime they are usually not a problem, thus, you can safely visit the island's small beaches in the daytime. Mosquito Island is best known for a coral reef, which is an ideal destination for diving or snorkelling.
Bida Nok is a small island, which has no beach. In return, it has coral reefs with abundant wildlife, which is a popular destination for diving, both for beginners and advanced. On one side of the island is shallow water suitable for snorkelling, while on the other side is suitable for diving with depths of 30 meters.
Bida Noi is a small, rocky island. The island lies close to the slightly larger Bida Nok but offers a completely different environment below sea level. Here fallen rocks from the island has created small underwater islands, you can swim between. In addition, here you will find abundant wildlife.