If you have spent more than 3 minutes Googling ‘Thailand’, you have likely come across pictures of the famous Phi Phi islands. This famous chain of islands is on every tourist’s destination list for a reason.
We will cover everything you need to know regarding your visit to the Phi Phi islands. By the end of this article, you’ll be a subject matter expert on transportation, ferries, restaurants, beaches, tours, diving companies, tour groups, accommodations, bars, and everything else related to these islands.
The Phi Phi islands were actually the setting of one of Leonardo DiCaprio’s breakout films (aptly named ‘The Beach’). The synopsis of the movie is quite fitting to reality – Leonardo finds an untouched paradise but grows frustrated as more and more people discover this remote slice of heaven.
How do you get to Phi Phi Islands?
The easiest way to reach the Phi Phi islands is by public ferry. Phi Phi is a little under 30 miles away from Phuket to the West. To the East, Krabi is also around the same distance from Phi Phi. The public ferry is the most popular method of transportation because it is the cheapest and runs on a consistent schedule.
The ferry will take about two hours and the seas can be rather rocky. If you’re seasick or had a late night at the bars, you probably won’t enjoy the ride. We recommend taking a seasickness tablet to avoid any nausea. You can buy them at any drugstores and the boats even stock them (or at least they try to). Be aware that you will instantly fall asleep if you take one of these tablets.
You can purchase your ferry ticket through your hotel or hostel. 99% of the time, these tickets also include a bus ride to the ferry’s pier. Depending on when you purchase your ferry tickets to Phi Phi, they can cost anywhere from $25 – $45. In Krabi, they will take you to Klong Jirad pier. In Phuket, there are a few departure points but the main one is located at Rassada Pier.
Try to get good seats for the ferry because it will be a bumpy ride. During inclement weather, the local government has the authority to shut down the ferry’s operations for the day. If you’re frustrated about that, just remember it’s in the interest of your safety.
The ferries are often quite big. One of the best places to have your own space is on the top deck of your ferry. Many people choose to lay down or sunbathe during their journey. If extra time in the sun might lead to sunburn for you, it’s always nice to sleep in the air-conditioned section downstairs.
If you don’t want to take a ferry, a speedboat can get you to the Phi Phi islands much faster. Many of the all-inclusive tours from Phuket use speedboats to take you island hopping, but it’s also an option if you’re interested in staying in Phi Phi overnight. However, it does cost a good bit more and prices certainly vary depending on the agency. If you’re in a large group, this is a good option as it saves time.
What to do on Phi Phi?
Phi Phi is the most sought-after tourist destination in Thailand for a reason. Whether you’re a young partier looking to meet like-minded alcoholics, an accomplished free-diver, a geriatric retiree, or a family with children, absolutely everyone can find their own version of paradise in Phi Phi.
There are a substantial number of bars and restaurants on the island so you don’t have to worry about finding a place to eat. In reality, you’ll probably experience paralysis by analysis in your attempt to choose a restaurant.
You can watch any number of fire-throwers and fire-twirlers perform their art when the sun goes down. It’s unlike anything you could possibly find in a Western country (probably because of the regulatory rules that prevent people from lighting themselves on fire). You can even play jump rope with a rope on fire!
The diving here is incredible and absolutely comparable to Koh Tao. People report seeing whale sharks, reef sharks, moray eels, turtles, and any number of exotic fish while underwater. For those without a PADI certificate, you can always try to snorkel instead.
In the Phi Phi islands (pronounced ‘Pee Pee’ – not a joke, but rather a cruel twist of fate), you can get beat up in a Muay Thai match, sail around in a speedboat, sleep on the beach, explore in a rasta-colored kayak, hike until you are pouring sweat, and above all else, find your next Facebook profile picture. The opportunities are endless here – you just have to know where to look.
Best Place to Eat
You will be pleasantly surprised by the number of restaurants on this tiny island. You can walk across the entire island in just 10 minutes, however, there are surely 100+ different places to eat on that short journey.
One of my personal favorites is the Grand PP Arcade. There aren’t any arcade games here, so we’re not actually clear on why it was named the Grand PP Arcade. But they have great food options, especially for breakfasts. It specializes in Western food so if repetitious Pad Thai is beginning to upset your stomach, this is the place to eat pancakes.
If you’re hungry for shwarma, you’ll find a vendor every few hundred feet. If you’re in the mood for pizza, they have a stand on every corner. Almost all the restaurants in town serve similar items. You can expect the majority of the menus to consist of western-centric food (a good thing if you get nauseous on your boat ride). You likely won’t find any Yen Ta Fo in Phi Phi, but Pad Thai and Tom Yum soup will be aplenty.
Best Diving Companies
It’s hard to have a bad time snorkeling, scuba diving, or free diving in the Phi Phi islands. The government has taken steps to ensure the maritime environment will be protected for years to come so you don’t have to worry about being unimpressed while underwater. Every outfitter offers the same general trip, so how are you supposed to differentiate between the companies?
While walking through town, getting from point A to point B can be quite confusing as there are no clearly defined street names. Located at the intersection of the two largest streets in Phi Phi sits ‘Island Divers’ – an Australian team. I have personally watched these kind-hearted individuals point numerous tourists in the right direction while joking around with them.
If you can’t differentiate between the different outriggers, we recommend these good samaritans. People who help others should be rewarded in this life. They’re beyond friendly there and you can ensure you’ll have a good trip.
Some of the most popular sites include Anemone Reef and Shark Point. If you visit during the right time of year and have a bit of luck, you might even encounter one of the world famous whale sharks during your dive. The two best places to spot these gigantic creatures are Hin Daeng and Hin Muang.
Both of those diving spots are a bit further out so it’s recommended for more experienced divers. Hin Daeng offers a huge drop off into a deep abyss while Hin Muang is well known for the bright purple color of the coral in the area.
If you’re looking for a dive spot that’s a bit more exotic, try to find a tour that offers access to the King Cruiser wreckage. King Cruiser was a ship built in Japan in the 1990s. She was quite a large boat that could hold a significant number of passengers but unexpectedly sank on a day with oddly perfect weather in the late 90s.
King Cruiser’s wreckage is not an extremely challenging dive spot when compared to other shipwrecks. Even newer divers can access the innards of the sunken ship. Coral has not yet grown atop this ship as the wreckage is still new (in coral years, that is). However, it is teeming with other types of underwater wildlife. Many say that the best part to explore is the old passenger section.
Despite being a rather small section of islands, there are myriad beaches for tourists to choose from. The majority of infrastructure in the main Phi Phi island is in an area named Tonsai Village. There are two giant mountain structures and a thin stretch of land that connects the two natural towers. Tonsai is that thin stretch of sand. There’s a beach on either side.
It is illegal to operate a motorized vehicle on the island (unless you are the police – which you aren’t). You will need to walk everywhere to reach the various beaches of Phi Phi Don. However, a longtail boat is necessary if you wish to access beaches outside the most popular island.
Phak Nam Bay is a quiet beach on the East side of the big island. You can get here by hike but most opt for a longtail boat.
Laem Tong Beach is another popular choice for those after seclusion. If you’re looking for a highly populated beach, go to Monkey Island. There are troves of locals that hang out here, however, none of them are humans. They’re all monkeys and somewhat greedy ones at that.
Bamboo Island requires an hour-long boat ride from Tonsai Beach. They only have one small bar that serves drinks and snacks so don’t expect to make this your home for the night.
The above beaches are the most popular among tourists. However, the beauty of Phi Phi can be dampened by the troves of tourists for some people. If you’re after a quiet place to spend the day, we have some great suggestions.
Nui Beach is gorgeous and surrounded by some excellent rock climbing opportunities. Moo Dee Bay will leave you feeling moody when it’s time to leave, as you won’t want to get on the boat to go back to your hotel. This long stretch of sand offers a bit of shade via sparse conglomerates of coconut trees.
Phak Nam Bay is also often referred to as Relax Bay. There are only two resorts that sit on this beach and both are great. The lack of hotel options here provides a rather relaxing atmosphere as you can ensure the beach will be far, far away from big crowds. You can get here through a steep jungle trek but if you have bags with you, just take a longtail boat.
Phi Phi Weather
Many people remember the terrible tsunami that hit Phi Phi just after Christmas in 2004. Waves reached heights well above the roofs of most buildings on the island. Approximately 70% of the island’s buildings were destroyed by the tsunami. At the time of the tsunami, approximately 10,000 people were on the island. Thai officials estimate that 40% of those individuals, locals and tourists alike, died.
The Thai community, local philanthropies, and transient backpacker community banded together to help those impacted by the destruction. Together they have built Phi Phi into something significantly stronger than it was before, though the lives lost can certainly never be regained. Today, a state-of-the-art early detection system exists and emergency plans are in place to prevent another similar disaster.
Tsunamis like these are few and far between. You should not worry about such an event happening while you visit. The Thai government is hyper-strict about entering the island during periods of inclement weather. Better safe than sorry.
The majority of the time, the weather in Phi Phi is exactly what you’d expect from a dream island. The best weather exists from November to March. The hottest time period in Phi Phi is from April to May. Temperatures during this time period normally range from the low 80s to mid-90s. If you visit outside of this time period, you’ll still be pleasantly surprised as the rain showers here are stunning.
The Best View in Phi Phi
One of the most iconic activities in Phi Phi islands is the classic and difficult hike to the various viewpoints. Aside from a drone, they’re the only way to reach an area that offers a bird’s eye view of the island.
The most popular viewpoint has a platform and a trendy coffee shop at the top. There are two separate ways to reach this area. One is a hike on a dirt road that is quite steep. This method takes about twice as long as the other option. Option #2 is a set of stairs that is even steeper than the first method. Pick your poison.
As the evening turns to night, locals and tourists alike flock to the top of this karst mountain to watch the sunset. We highly recommend this activity. An already incredible view becomes even more incredible. The entry price is rather cheap and shouldn’t cost you more than $1-2 USD.
Best Bars in Phi Phi
To put it bluntly, a significant majority of the people who come to Phi Phi are interested in alcohol at night. We’ll cover the best bars to enjoy a fun night out, however, many travelers opt to visit a ‘bucket stand’. What is that you might ask? Great question.
A ‘bucket stand’ is a place where you can buy mixed drinks by the bucket – a literal bucket. The most famous bucket is comprised of red bull, coke, and whiskey. However, you can choose whichever is most suitable for you. They have mojitos, tequila sunrises, and a ton more to choose from.
The most bizarre bar on the island is the Phi Phi Reggae Bar. This is a far cry from your traditional Asian reggae bar because it’s actually a boxing gym, too. They have a number of different bars to serve you because this venue becomes quite crowded on lively nights. You’ll know you’re at the right place because there is a sign out front that reads ‘Do you want to get beat up here?’.
There are professional Muay Thai fighters and drunk tourists can get involved, too. The intoxicated patrons won’t be fighting professionals, just one another. While some of these smaller Muay Thai fighters might not look that intimidating, it’s best to watch them in action before challenging a local. These men have been training since they were kids and most could land three punches before you could land one.
Stockholm Syndrome is another great bar in Tonsai village. It’s located just beside the Phi Phi Reggae Bar and the name has a tendency to lure travelers inside. This two-story bar has everything for a good night’s debauchery including beer pong, cheap drinking, and a dance floor. Most people say wonderful things about the extra friendly staff here.
Carlito’s Beach Bar & Nightclub is a favorite among backpackers. The two buildings that comprise this nightclub are right beside the beach shore which means a drunken, romantic midnight stroll is only seconds away. The night begins early here with people drinking at the beginning of the afternoon.
While somewhat dangerous, the staff here will let you spin fire at the end of a short rope. It’s called ‘poi’ and there is no blood alcohol content level limit imposed on tourists who wish to try. It’s certainly enjoyable to watch others attempt this – though, we recommend watching at a distance.
The Chill Out Bar is the perfect bar in Phi Phi to chill out. Chilling is the only thing that is done here. They play relaxing music so guests can lay back and (you guessed it!) chill. This bar offers a great view of the bay and is equally fun during the daytime. The staff here are especially nice.
Best Places to Sleep
The beauty of Phi Phi lies in the diversity of accommodations. If you’re a budget traveler who needs to sleep in paradise for $10/night, this is the place to be. If you’re looking for something more resort-like and upscale, then you can find hotels well into the $300-400 USD/night price range.
For those after something more luxurious, we recommend the Zeavola Resort. This private hotel is only accessible by boat so you can be sure that you’ll avoid the unruly crowds late at night. ‘Phi Phi The Beach Resort’ is another great place to sleep if your price range is higher than the average tourist.
Villa 360 is situated much higher atop the island. The prices are as steep as the hike up to this hotel, however, their friendly staff is more than willing to help you with your bags. After all, you’re paying for the luxury experience here. This resort offers an incredible view that is only comparable to that of the island’s highest viewpoint. This is a great option for those after a romantic retreat.
If you’re looking for something more affordable so you can spend the majority of your budget on cheap liquor, then we recommend ‘The Stones Bar and Hostel’. This crazy party hostel plays electronic dance music well into the early morning. It’s right beside Ibiza House, which plays electronic dance music equally loud until even later in the morning. Together, the noise pollution of these two bars can be heard for kilometers (if you’re into that sort of thing).
The specific beach used in the filming of DeCaprio’s ‘The Beach’ was closed indefinitely in late 2018 due to reoccurring environmental issues. Prior to Maya Bay’s closure, it was arguably the most popular tourist destination on the most popular tourist island in Thailand (the most popular tourist country). The government’s decision to close the space was huge and drew a significant amount of criticism.
However, if blatant disregard for the nature that made this area such an attraction continues, it would reach a tipping point that would ultimately turn tourists off indefinitely. The country’s department of national parks has implied that the ban on tourism will not be removed until the ecosystem has fully recovered. It’s unclear when that opening will be (or if it actually will occur).
The 5000 tourists and 200+ boats a day that visited Maya Bay had to find somewhere else to visit. An absurd amount of tourist-related plastic litter, boat anchors, and general reckless disregard for the environment had destroyed about 80% of the coral around Maya Bay.
Local environmental activists had been making the case for increased protection in the area when the local fisherman came back empty-handed week after week. However, the Thai government refused to make changes as the area brought in more than $10,000,000 a year for the local economy.
However, locals have expressed gratitude in the recent months after noticing that blacktip reef sharks have returned to the region for the first time in 10+ years. This implies that the underwater ecosystem has recovered quite well as these creatures only visit areas with an abundance of fish to prey on.
One could certainly make the argument that closing the region for a year has revitalized the area to a point that will bring even more tourists in the future. This is something worth celebrating! Maya Bay is really a rather small fraction of Phi Phi so don’t be too turned off by its closure. If you visit Phi Phi, don’t litter and chastise those who do.
The island does a good job of avoiding excess plastic bags. However, there aren’t a large number of public trash cans throughout the island. This is true in all of Thailand. Make sure you hold onto your waste, or walk into a restaurant and ask if you can dispose of it there.
All in all, you can expect to be pleasantly entertained and awe-struck by the Phi Phi islands. If you’ve reached this far in the article, it’s a sure thing that you’re more prepared than the average traveler in Thailand. Make sure you use some of this knowledge when exploring the region and most importantly, don’t forget to wear sunscreen!
The Phi Phi islands are world famous for very clear reasons. Now it’s time for you to see why the island is so world-renowned for yourself. Experience Phi Phi firsthand!
How do you get to the Phi Phi islands?
The Phi Phi islands can only be reached by boat. There are no planes that will take you to the area as the main island is too small for an airport. Most tourists ride a public ferry from Krabi or Phuket. If you’re in a larger group, you can rent a speedboat to cut the travel time to Phi Phi in half.
What are the best islands in Thailand?
Thailand is world famous for its natural beauty, beautiful beaches, and friendly smiles. One of the most popular islands in Thailand is Phuket, which also happens to be the largest. Other famous islands in Thailand include Phi Phi, Koh Tao, Koh Samui, and Koh Pha-ngan (the home of the Full Moon Party).