Thailand boasts some of the world’s most beautiful islands, and none more so than the Phi Phi Islands. Located in the Andaman Sea, the Phi Phi Islands are a group of six islands, of which Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Leh are the two most popular.
Famous for their stunning beaches and clear blue waters, the Phi Phi Islands have long been a top destination for travelers from all over the world. In this guide, we will explore what makes these islands so special and offer our recommendations on how best to explore them.
A Brief History of the Phi Phi Islands
The Phi Phi Islands have a rich history dating back thousands of years. Early inhabitants of the islands were thought to be sea gypsies, who lived a nomadic lifestyle and relied on fishing for their livelihood. In the 1940s, the islands were used as a coconut plantation, and it wasn’t until the 1980s that they began to attract tourists.
Since then, tourism has exploded on the islands, particularly after the release of the movie “The Beach” in 2000, which was filmed in Maya Bay on Phi Phi Leh. Despite the negative impact that tourism has had on the islands, they remain one of Thailand’s top tourist destinations.
Early Inhabitants and Culture
The Sea Gypsies, also known as the Chao Leh, were the first known inhabitants of the Phi Phi Islands. They lived a nomadic lifestyle, traveling between islands and living off the sea. Today, there are still a few Sea Gypsy villages on the islands, but they have largely settled down and adopted a more traditional way of life.
The culture of the Phi Phi Islands is heavily influenced by Buddhism, which is the predominant religion in Thailand. Visitors will see many temples and shrines on the islands, and it is customary to remove shoes before entering any religious buildings.
The Impact of Tourism on the Islands
While tourism has brought significant economic benefits to the Phi Phi Islands, it has also had a negative impact on the environment. Overdevelopment and lack of regulation have led to issues such as pollution, deforestation, and coral damage.
Thankfully, efforts are being made to mitigate the damage caused by tourism. For example, Maya Bay was closed for several months in 2018 to allow the ecosystem to recover.
Getting to the Phi Phi Islands
Transportation Options from Mainland Thailand
The Phi Phi Islands can only be reached by boat, and there are several options for getting there from mainland Thailand. The most common way is to take a ferry from Phuket or Krabi. The journey takes around 2 hours and offers stunning views of the islands along the way.
Another option is to take a speedboat, which is faster but more expensive. Private transfers are also available for those who prefer a more luxurious option.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit the Phi Phi Islands is between November and April, when the weather is dry and sunny. From May to October, the islands experience monsoon season, and many businesses may close during this time.
It’s worth noting that the islands can get very busy during peak season, so if you prefer a quieter experience, it may be best to visit during the shoulder months.
The Main Islands: Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Leh
Exploring Phi Phi Don
Phi Phi Don is the largest and most developed of the Phi Phi Islands. It’s a popular destination for backpackers and budget travelers, thanks to its affordable accommodations and lively nightlife.
While Phi Phi Don is known for its party scene, it also has plenty to offer those seeking a more relaxed experience. Visitors can rent a long-tail boat and explore the island’s hidden coves and beaches, or hike to the viewpoint for stunning panoramic views of the island.
Discovering the Beauty of Phi Phi Leh
Phi Phi Leh is the smaller and less developed of the two main islands. It’s famous for its stunning beaches and breathtaking landscapes, which have been used as the backdrop for numerous movies and advertisements.
The most popular attraction on Phi Phi Leh is Maya Bay, which was made famous by the movie “The Beach.” While the bay has suffered significant damage from tourism, it is still a must-visit destination for many travelers.
Must-Visit Beaches and Bays
Maya Bay: The Iconic Beach
Despite its over-tourism issues, Maya Bay is still one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Its crystal clear water and white sand beach are backed by towering limestone cliffs, making it a photographer’s paradise.
Due to the damage caused by tourists, visitors are no longer allowed to stay overnight on the beach. It’s worth noting that the bay is also closed during the monsoon season to allow the ecosystem to recover.
Long Beach: Perfect for Sunbathing and Swimming
Long Beach is one of the most popular beaches on Phi Phi Don. Its long stretch of white sand and crystal clear waters make it the perfect place to relax and soak up the sun.
Visitors can rent sun loungers and umbrellas and enjoy a cold drink from one of the nearby beach bars. There are also plenty of water sports activities available, such as paddleboarding and kayaking.
Monkey Beach: A Unique Experience
As the name suggests, Monkey Beach is home to a troop of resident monkeys. Visitors can watch them swing from the trees and interact with each other.
While it’s an incredible sight, visitors are urged not to feed the monkeys, as this can lead to aggressive behavior. It’s also important to keep a safe distance from the animals, as they are still wild and can be unpredictable.
Activities and Attractions
Snorkeling and Diving in the Phi Phi Islands
The Phi Phi Islands are home to some of the best snorkeling and diving sites in Thailand. Visitors can take a boat out to the surrounding coral reefs and explore the vibrant marine life below.
Popular dive sites include Hin Muang and Hin Daeng, which offer stunning views of colorful coral and schools of tropical fish.
Hiking and Viewpoints
If you’re looking for a great view of the islands, the Phi Phi Viewpoint is a must-visit destination. Visitors can hike up to the top of the hill and enjoy panoramic views of the islands below.
There are also several other hiking trails on the islands, which offer a chance to explore the jungle and discover hidden waterfalls and viewpoints.
Island Hopping Tours
One of the best ways to experience the Phi Phi Islands is by taking an island hopping tour. These tours allow visitors to explore the surrounding islands and hidden coves that are only accessible by boat.
Most tours include stops at popular destinations such as Maya Bay and Monkey Beach, as well as opportunities for snorkeling and swimming in the crystal clear waters.
The Phi Phi Islands are a truly special destination that offers something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for a lively party scene or a secluded beach to relax on, you’ll find it here.
We hope this guide has given you a better understanding of what makes these islands so special and offered some recommendations on how best to explore them. Happy travels!