The Phi Phi Islands in the south of Thailand are some of the most stunningly beautiful islands I have come across in my life. And although it’s a hugely popular tourist destination, there are a number of ways you can turn this into your kind of experience. Scroll towards the subtitles below to find out more about those areas. And feel free to drop a comment here at any point if you have any questions or reach out on my contact form.
Your experience of Phi Phi will depend very much on where you stay. Although Phi Phi has a reputation for being a party place, if you live on the quieter side of the island you can also find yourself in solitary paradise. The four main areas to stay in Koh Phi Phi include around Tonsai, Long Beach, the main market area, or resorts on the other side of the island towards the view point.
In Tonsai, you will find a string of hostels located along the beach. This is the main party area of the island. So don’t stay here unless you enjoy getting blasted by the distorted sounds of commercial EDM and drunken gap year students until the early hours of the morning. If you want to stay somewhere cheap and close to the parties, this is perfect for you. You can find hostels for as low as $7 a night. Tonsai also has a few resorts in the area which are quieter, though more expensive.
Long Beach is located further down the coast from Tonsai, and is about half an hour’s walk through the market and then a small jungle patch. The coastline towards Long Beach has a number of resorts. They have their own little patches of beach and this is probably the most picturesque and secluded area of the island. You can even get your own tree-house bungalow in the middle of the forest. Prices here start at around THB 2000 a night. I stayed in Phi Phi for three weeks and every day, I would walk towards Long Beach, have breakfast in Viking Resort, go swimming in ocean there, and work on my laptop. Life was good.
If you’re looking for some quiet but want to be accessible to the main market, then a good compromise is to stay in the area between Tonsai and Long Beach, just outside the market area. There’s a road that connects the main market at the port to the market at Tonsai and you’ll find all sorts of accommodation here. You can find a number of large resorts, but also individual rooms and hostels for as low as THB 500 / $15 a night for a private room. This is where I stayed for three weeks.
Apart from these areas, there’s pretty much just private resorts in the middle of nowhere for accommodation options. These are located in the other half of the island towards the view point (the main beaches are called Laem Tong Beach, Loh Bagao, Pak Nam Bay and Rantee Bay). These would be at least THB 2500 a night.
The island of Phi Phi is tiny, so if you’re looking for some flexibility in terms of price then your best option is to just go there and scout for accommodation yourself. Walk around the path that interlinks the different markets and beaches and just ask local guest houses for a room. It’s much easier to negotiate a price in person – I got a THB 800 a night room for THB 500 a night after negotiating that I was going to stay for five days. I actually ended up staying for 20. If the uncertainty phases you, then book a hostel for your first night and spend the day looking for better accommodation afterwards. I guarantee this is way better than booking something expensive in advance, unless you’re looking for something a bit more luxurious.
The main eating area can be found all around the main market street where the port is, all the way towards Tonsai and the market over there. There is literally just one road that connects the whole area in a circular fashion, shown on the map below. You will find a variety of restaurants including traditional Thai food, street food, fast food, and cafes.
If you’re looking for cheap fast food and cheap buckets of liquor then Tonsai is the place to go. More expensive and gourmet restaurants are in Phi Phi Don Village and also Tonsai village, branching out of the main streets. You can get really good Mexican and Italian food here but be prepared to spend at least THB 300 a meal excluding drinks (for example Unni’s restaurant shown above). This road has a lot of seafood and street food. A regular of mine was The Mango Garden which has literally the best mango based food items, including waffles, smoothies, sticky rice, and pancakes. This one is right near the main port.
Apart from this there are a number of grocery shops dotted around the island. You can get beer in the 7/11 shops and basic snacks 24 hours a day. There’s also a food market near the port area beach road. Apart from this, look out for fruit and vegetable stalls. You can get a bag of sliced mangoes for 30 THB. Street food can be as cheap as THB 100 for a plate of rice and curry. You can also get good food in the resorts around Long Beach which are fairly cheap for example in Viking, I would spend like THB 100 on pancakes.
Koh Phi Phi is deceptively small, given that you can spend a full week here and still not run out of things to do.
Here are the main things you to look out for here:
One of the main attractions here is diving. Thailand arguably the cheapest place in the world to dive or obtain diving certifications. Though the nearby Koh Tao is more famous for diving, Koh Phi Phi has better marine life. Phi Phi’s clear light turquoise shade of water can’t really be found on the Koh Tao side. You can do a ‘fun dive’ for around $60 which doesn’t need any prior experience. To do an open water course, which then allows you to dive anywhere in the world at a discounted rate. It will take 2-3 days and will cost you a total of $300. Compare this to around $500 in Bali and $800 in Australia. There are a number of dive schools on the island, the good thing being that they all have standardized prices so you don’t really need to go looking for a deal. So even if prices increase, they do so simultaneously.
One thing that you cannot miss on Koh Phi Phi is taking a full day boat trip around the various Phi Phi islands. Typically, a boat trip will cost around THB 600 per day if you book with a group. If you want to rent your own boat then find some people you can split the fees with. The boat trip will take you around Maya Bay, Monkey Island, Bamboo Island, and the Blue Lagoon. Some boat trips may also take you to snorkel with sharks. These smaller islands are like small paradise islands, and even if you’re there only for an hour it’s well worth visiting. You can also do a Maya Bay sleep aboard which will allow you to see Maya Bay in the morning without the crowds.
If you are here for a short time then be sure to visit Long Beach. There are two ways to get here; you can either take a THB 100 boat from the main beach, or you can walk through the forest which takes around 25 minutes. It’s not much of a hike but it is very beautiful. During low tide, you can even walk around the coast to get to Long Beach but I wouldn’t recommend it because I’ve stabbed my foot on sharp coral many times doing this. Walking is the best way, because along the way to Long Beach you’ll encounter a number of private resorts such as Viking. These all have their own private beaches and the water is incredibly clean and blue, as compared to the filth that is Tonsai Beach. Long Beach itself is fairly long, but anywhere around this coastline is a great place to snorkel. It’s safe to do on your own and the water is clear at high depths as well.
The Phi Phi viewpoint overlooks the intersection between both sides of the island and is a great place to watch the sunset. It will take you about 45 minutes to walk here from the main island. Here is the route drawn on the map. The walk is slightly steep but isn’t particularly strenuous. Here is a picture of the sunset.
Apart from this, you can take a couple of hours to wander around the market and stock up on island clothes. There are a number of boutiques located around the market, as well as street clothes. Most of the clothes and jewellery are imported from Bangkok. So if you are stopping in Bangkok then do your shopping there first before coming to the island, as it’s considerably cheaper.
Koh Phi Phi is located off the Western coast of Thailand. There are a number of other small islands along this strip of coastline that can offer similarly beautiful scenery with fewer tourists. To the north, you’ll find the two islands of Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi. There are very few tourists on both of these islands. You’ll find them to be considerably cheaper as well.
To the South of Phi Phi, you can visit Koh Lanta which is a lot bigger but more chilled out. Even further south you’ll find Koh Lipe which is quite removed from commercialization – it’s only a bit bigger than Phi Phi with a very similar vibe, but much less of a touristy crowd and some of the most beautiful marine life you’ll find in the area. From Lipe, you can visit Tarutao National Marine Park and also the bigger island of Koh Adang. Both of these offer some of the best and most remote diving in Thailand.
Towards the coast, you’ll find Krabi which is another well-known tourist destination. It’s only about 2 hour by boat from Phi Phi. And the north you’ll find Phuket. Lastly, there are some amazing national parks near Phuket, for example Khao Sok National Park which blew my mind. There’s plenty of information about these on the internet, but I will add a separate article related to Khao Sok at another time.
All the main nightlife is found along Tonsai Beach, and you’ll find all sorts of bars here; that play mostly commercial EDM, rock, or pop music. It’s more of a trashy scene then any genuine music. Like many places in Thailand, you’ll find an assortment of random performances like fire-spinners and dancers. Apart from EDM, there are some rock bars and one Spanish bar. In Banana Bar, you can easily buy weed. I think that’s the only place I went out to. Personally I don’t like the nightlife in Koh Phi Phi, for me I lived there because I loved the water and the lifestyle. My favourite party island is Koh Phangan, because they have a ton of solid techno, psy and deep house scenes. (Can’t do commercial crap). Apart from bars, there are other night activities like watching Muay Thai fights. More information on this to be added later otherwise it would take me another week to upload this damn article!
The island culture on Koh Phi Phi is incredibly warm and inviting. Locals are tourist friendly and you won’t feel like you’re being ripped off or tricked either because it’s more of a community feeling. There are quite a few travelers living on the island so it’s really a big mix of people. Many people come to visit and then end up becoming diving instructors or just working on the island and living there. No matter what you’re into, you’ll definitely find people you can relate to over here. (However in terms of community, I haven’t found anywhere in the world that I like as much as Koh Phangan. Nothing can even compare). It’s very easy to get lost into the idleness of the island life, day in and day out. Life moves slow; opposite to a big city. People start to recognize you within a few days of living on the island. After some time, it just starts to feel like big family. All in all, your experience on the island will be entirely different depending on whether you are going there to party, or to take it easy.