So you're thinking about going to the Phi Phi Islands!? We say, DO IT!
The Phi Phi Islands are made up of island clusters off the Southwestern coast of Thailand. Phi Phi Don is the larger island and where you will stay. Phi Phi Le is a Thai National Park and is home to Maya Bay, where the movie The Beach was filmed with Leo DiCaprio! Phi Phi Don does not allow any motor vehicles on the island, so it caters to a very laid back island lifestyle many of us tourists are looking for. It is a bit more expensive than other areas of Thailand, but that is pretty standard considering all of the imports needed to function normally on an island. We stayed on Koh Phi Phi at the beginning of our trip, so cost was less of an issue, but there's definitely ways we could've cut back even more than we did.
AVERAGE DAILY COST FOR ONE: $25-30
GETTING TO KOH PHI PHI:
-There are ferries that run almost all day from Krabi or from Phuket. We recommend leaving from Krabi if possible as Phuket is a more expensive area of Thailand (expensive to get to, and expensive to get out of). The ferries will cost between 350-500 baht ($10-15 American dollars) and take 2-3 hours. You'll more than likely have your ferry ticket bundled with your mainland transportation. But if you're already in Phuket or Krabi, we encourage you to buy your ferry tickets directly at the piers. You will save a lot of money by avoiding the travel agencies. Beware that some ferries end service at 4-5 p.m. on certain days.
WHERE TO STAY:
-There are a number of different types of accommodations on Koh Phi Phi ranging from luxury ($50+ per night) to budget travel ($10-20 per night). When you arrive at the pier, you will be at the heart of Tonsai Village and there will be dozens of locals telling you about their hotels and guesthouses. They will also tell you that all of the other rooms are booked on the island. That's not true, and you can be as critical in your search as you'd like. Our recommendation: you're on a beautiful island, stay in a bungalow if you can! We had a place booked before we arrived using our Hostelworld app, but ended up following a local man who led us to a great place pretty far off the beaten path. Keep in mind Koh Phi Phi is known for its nightlife, so if you'd like quiet nights, choose a place away from the main drag, near the beach where the bars are.
Our recommendation: you're on a beautiful island, stay in a bungalow if you can!
Where we stayed: Golden Hill Bungalows
We knew we were staying for at least a week so we were able to negotiate a better rate, which ended up being about $20/day split between the two of us. We stayed in a private fan room, which was hot, but we acclimated quickly. The resort had a pool, which ended up being amazing for the hot island afternoons we didn't want to trek to the beach. We also met a lot of young backpackers at this resort. WiFi was spotty, but pretty consistent in their lobby area.
Things to know about the accommodations: Golden Hill did not have hot showers when we stayed there. That may have changed, but really, it's so hot already, you don't really need them anyways. There is also a water reservoir directly next to the resort which isn't the most gorgeous thing to look at, but it really didn't affect our stay whatsoever.
Where we considered staying: Phi Phi Four Season Sea View Hotel
If/When we get back to Koh Phi Phi, we will probably stay at this hotel at least for a few nights. The average room was about $32/night. The view from the rooms facing Tonsai Bay is absolutely amazing. We found this place because we regularly ate breakfast there. The food was amazing and they have great WiFi!
The cheapest we found: The Rock Backpacker
The dorms here averaged $4-7. It's your standard dorm style with shared bathrooms.
1. Long beach is one of the most pristine beaches we've ever been on. The water is as warm as a bath, bright blue and crystal clear. There are various resorts along the beach to grab food and anything else you might need for a day at the beach. You can get there via long boat taxis from the pier, but that will cost you up to $6/person. We recommend the hike from the Tonsai Village. The path is clearly marked with signs the whole way.
It is important to bring water and comfortable shoes though, as there are some areas that get a little rough. The hike takes about 30 minutes from the pier. It's a great way to get some exercise and to see areas of the island most people don't!
2. The viewpoint is one of the highest (about 550 feet), accessible points on the island. The trek up to the top is about 20-30 min at a regular pace, but keep in mind, it is entirely uphill. There is a point where you will be asked to pay 30 baht ($1) to continue; don't stop there, keep going! We recommend doing this hike for either sunrise or sunset as the view at the top is straight up magical. On a clear day, you can see all of Phi Phi Le and Phi Phi Don. There are shops and other hotels and guest houses on the way up to the viewpoint where you can stop and grab food and drinks (we recommend on the way down; hiking on a full stomach is not fun). Bring comfortable shoes, a water bottle, and definitely your camera.
3. The nightlife on Koh Phi Phi is pretty amazing. Any night of the week provides beach parties comparable to Full Moon Parties on Koh Phangan, just a bit smaller. There are amazing fire shows that kick off the night around 8-9 p.m. There are bars along the beach and also further into Tonsai Village. Most places are trying to get as many people in their bar as possible so drink/food specials happen all the time! There is also AMAZING late night street food at vendors all over. If you're looking to get an ever-popular bamboo tattoo, it's probably best to avoid doing it at midnight just off of the beach. Not only will you pay infinitely more money, you'll probably regret it.
Definitely check out:
Slinky Bar: 2 for 1 buckets, fire shows, dancing, partying on the beach
Stockholm Syndrome: European style bar, beer pong tournaments, pool, buckets
Banana Bar: Downstairs is a Mexican restaurant, upstairs is a club atmosphere with chill out areas, "space cakes"
Chill Out Bar: Lazy bar, cushions available right on the beach, cheap drinks
Raggae Bar: Muay Thai kickboxing, challenge another tourist and the winner gets a free bucket, professional fights, more expensive drinks
4. There are boat captains all over Koh Phi Phi who will ask you as you pass if you'd like to visit Maya Bay and Phi Phi Le. This snorkeling day trip is available through many of the island's travel agencies, but we highly recommend going straight to one of these captains and negotiate a price with them. We never took the first price and ended up getting a half day trip for four for about $35. Be sure to bring some snacks and water with you, as well as GoPros for underwater shooting! You can also negotiate what stops you'd like to make on your day trip. We recommend the following:
Monkey Beach: There is literally a beach so filled with monkeys, they outnumber the tourists. But beware, they are rascals and enjoy stealing your stuff! Hold on to that GoPro at the end of a selfie stick. And please, don't let your group feed the monkeys junk food like this poor guy chugging a Coke given to him by a tourist.
A good snorkeling spot: Depending on the day of your trip, your captain will be able to take you to a good snorkeling spot to avoid choppy water. Most of the boats will have equipment on board you can use. The fish are so colorful and beautiful.
Maya Bay & the Thai National Park: While it's free to visit Maya Bay by boat, it costs about $3 to get out and go explore the national park beyond Maya Bay. The walk through the island is cool, leading you to the other side which opens up into another small bay. It's definitely worth it to explore a bit. There are bathrooms and some small concessions on the walk.
Pileh Bay: Whatever you do, don't skip Pileh Bay! Your boat can anchor and let you jump in and swim in this beautiful bay surrounded by limestone cliffs. We were there with only one or two other boats so we were able to listen to our music and swim for almost an hour. The water is shallow, so you can see directly to the bottom.
Viking Cave: Tourists are not allowed to enter the cave, but your captain will slow down nearby to let you get a good look inside. Our captain never told us this, but we found out later that many of the locals who utilize the cave are looking for the ingredients for Chinese Bird's Nest Soup, and they will climb up the bamboo scaffolding to retrieve them. The name Viking Cave came from the cave drawings of Viking ships inside.
And if you're lucky, on your way back to Phi Phi Don, you'll catch an incredible sunset like we did!
THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT KOH PHI PHI:
BUGS-You should be ready for bugs. It's tough to remember sometimes you're still staying on the edge of a tropical forest. Purchase bug spray as soon as you get to Thailand and use it liberally if you want to avoid bites.
TSUNAMI MEMORIAL-The tsunami memorial is something I think all tourists should stop and see. It is a short walk from Tonsai and really helps give you perspective on how the locals have rebuilt their lives since the tsunami changed Koh Phi Phi drastically in 2004.
LOH DALAM BAY IS NO GOOD FOR SWIMMING-Most of the nightlife borders Loh Dalam Bay (the opposite side of the main pier). We were told numerous times to avoid swimming in this bay due to poor sewage. I believe we waded up to our knees but never actually went swimming there.
RAINY SEASON-The rainy season is late May to late September. You may get a few rainstorms, but you will pay much less during this time. We were on the island during the transition from low to high season and our accommodations would have went up about $10/night if we had not negotiated early on.
SAFE PARTYING-Be safe when partying. There are a lot of people on Koh Phi Phi and a lot of scenarios that can go from really fun to not so fun. Stay with friends and be smart!
THERE'S MORE ISLAND TO EXPLORE-As with all of the islands we visited, if we had time, we went to explore the less popular areas. Many times you will find amazing spots with very few tourists. It may be harder and take longer to get there, but you won't be disappointed when you get a secluded beach chair all to yourself.
AND HEY, CHECK OUT OUR PHOTO ESSAY ON THE PHI PHI ISLANDS: As We Dash: Phi Phi Islands, Thailand