With the turquoise blue waters, white sandy beaches, and laid back island vibe, Koh Phi Phi is a sought after destinations for backpackers, families, and travellers young and old. Located between the large island of Phuket and the west Strait of Malacca coast of the mainland, Koh Phi Phi is a small archipelago of six islands in the Krabi province in Southern Thailand. Of the six islands in this archipelago, Koh Phi Phi (or Koh Phi Phi Don) is the largest and only populated island, but the other islands can be easily visited.
I visited Koh Phi Phi on a trip to Southeast Asia with my sister in December 2014. We toured around Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos for 28 days, and with all these countries being rather large, with lots to see, it’s pretty obvious that 28 days is never going to be enough to see everything. We strategically picked out places that worked into our itinerary and that were on our “must-do” list, and Koh Phi Phi obviously made the cut.
So what do you do when you have limited time in a gorgeous paradise like Koh Phi Phi? Here’s a sample itinerary to make the most of your stay that was inspired by our trip there. We wanted to have the perfect mix of activities to do, and also time to relax and enjoy the beaches.
Day 1: Arrival & Beach Day
Arrive in Koh Phi Phi via ferry. Ferries can be taken from Phuket, Ao Nang, Rai Leh, Krabi Town, and Ko Lanta. It really doesn’t matter which area you arrive from, so work out what fits into your schedule beforehand and what’s easiest to get too. Keep in mind that ferries from Phuket and Krabi Town have the most frequent departures throughout the day, where as Ao Nang, Rai Leh and Ko Lanta only have one or two.
Once you arrive, it’s time to check-in to accommodations. Keep in mind that the hostels and hotels right on the main beach are party places. If you’re visiting to party, and get minimal sleep, these are for you. But since Koh Phi Phi is small, and everything is walkable (there’s no cars on the island), opt to stay up a bit from the beach so you can get some peace and quiet. We stayed at the Phi Phi Dream, which was great, quiet and fairly inexpensive. It’s important to also look at a map when booking your accommodations because some of the hotels and resorts are really far from the main centre.
Take your first day to get your bearings and relax on the beach. Along the main beach you’ll find several little restaurants and “fast food” places to grab a good bite to eat. Since the islands are known to be more expensive, we often opted for pizza, sandwiches and fruit shakes for our lunches and spent more money on getting a great Thai dinner. You’ll also find several little shops and stalls set up along the streets that are fun to go in and out of, but keep in mind that most of the stuff being sold can be bought in city centres for much cheaper than the islands.
After your beach day, head out for some dinner at a great local restaurant, my suggestion is Anna’s Restaurant, a restaurant that was recommended to us by our hostel and has great traditional dishes to try. Once you’re full from your meal, take a stroll down to the main beach to see it completely transformed into a party destination. Even if you aren’t looking to party, just walking along the beach, looking at all the bars, grabbing a bucket of alcohol to drink, and watching the competing fire shows is worth a visit! There are a few bars like Chillout Bar that are way more low-key and perfect people watching spots.
Day 2: Island Hopping
As mentioned above, although no one lives or stays on the other islands of Phi Phi, there are several day and half-day trips that will take you island hopping to visit them all. This is a must-do in Koh Phi Phi because it allows you to see so much more than just the area that all the tourists stay.
Trips can be booked at any of the many tourist offices around the office; there is no need to book weeks in advance, as these tours are constantly running. On the tour you’ll visit Maya Bay (famously known from the movie The Beach), Monkey Beach, the Viking Cave, Pi-Leh Bay, Loh Samah Bay and Bamboo Island. In between each stop you’ll have plenty of time for snorkeling, and kayaking. Keep in mind that if you’re not into swimming, this tour isn’t for you, as many of the stops the boats are too large to dock so you’ll need to swim to shore.
Most tours only cost around $30 USD, unless you opt to go on a private tour or a speedboat.
At night, visit the Raggae Bar, which is famously known as the bar that lets tourists box each other in traditional Thai boxing gear. It is pretty ridiculous to witness, but one of those things that are so bizarre, you have to do it!
Day 3: Viewpoint & Maya Bay
Wake up early before the hottest point of the day and climb up the many steps to the Koh Phi Phi Viewpoint. From the top you’ll get excellent views of Koh Phi Phi and the two major bays. Back in 2004 the tsunami hit Koh Phi Phi from both sides of these bays, wiping out basically the entire island. Keep in mind you’ll need a small amount of money to go to the viewpoint.
After your viewpoint visit, I suggest going on a Maya Bay Sleep Aboard tour. These tours book up quick, so book it in advance. You’re probably thinking, “but we saw Maya Bay on the island hopping tour” but this is a whole other experience, and really the only real way to see this beautiful bay that is surrounded by 100-metre high cliffs on three sides. Since the filming of the movie, The Beach, Maya Bay has exploded with tourists, and when you visit in the day you’ll be overwhelmed with the amount of people that it takes away from the sheer beauty of this area, so that’s why I suggest seeing it in a different light that most tourists don’t.
You can read my blog post on the Sleep Aboard tour of Maya Bay here.
The Maya Bay Sleep Aboard tour will depart in late afternoon and take you around to do some snorkelling, and swimming before you head to shore while all the rest of the tourists are leaving. There will only probably be around 20 of you left on the beach, which will be an amazing opportunity to truly see the beauty of this place, and take amazing photos. Your guide will then set up a mini campsite for a BBQ, games and enjoying this now empty bay. Once you’re back on the boat you’ll then have the opportunity to swim with the bioluminescent plankton and then sleep in the bay. In the morning you’ll have one last chance to hang out on the beach before anyone else, and embrace the non-touristy version of this usual tourist trap.
Day 4: Long Beach & Depart
Many people don’t steer off the beaten track a bit while in Koh Phi Phi and just end up staying on the main beach, which is often filled with hungover college students trying to come to terms with what they did last night. Little do most people know, about a 40 minute walk away, you’ll come across Long Beach, a little quieter beach that is located in front of many of the resorts but is open to anyone.
This beach is a bit of a trek to get to but well worth it, as the sand is whiter and the water is even better for swimming here. You’ll be able to follow signs that will lead you uphill, downhill, through forests and dirt paths, and eventually lead you to the beach. The walk alone is an adventure and worth doing. Bring along a picnic and something to drink, as there are less places to buy that sort of thing over there, other than restaurants.
Once you spend another day on the beach, catch the ferry back to your destination to head home or on to your next leg of your journey.