One of Thailand’s most beautiful and popular destinations, the tiny Phi Phi islands host millions of backpackers and holiday makers every year. They rose to fame when Maya Bay was made famous by the 2000 film The Beach. Many say the islands are a victim of their own success but with the latest conservation efforts at Maya Bay could things be changing?
FIND YOUR WAY
Phi Phi is made up of two islands. Phi Phi Don is the inhabited island you’ll arrive at. Far from the rustic island hideway she used to be, the island has been hastily built up despite plans to protect it after the 2004 tsunami. Anyone who visited the island a few years ago will think they have arrived at the wrong place – I certainly did – as the ferry squeezes between literally hundreds of boats. There are newly completed apartments and a shopping centre.
Phi Phi Leh is now untouched by tourists. Pre 2018 this tiny island would be inundated with thousands of tourists keen to take the perfect picture of that beach. When The Beach hit the big screens Maya Bay became one of the most famous places in the world. This tiny bay is undeniably beautiful but it’s become of the most controversial sites in Thailand. Back in the 90s on a busy day around 300 people visited the bay daily, by 2017 there were over 3,500 in peak season. The toll taken on the environment was staggering, with about 90% of corals in the bay destroyed. The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation closed Maya Bay to tourism in June 2018 and it was due to reopen in the autumn. This has now been extended as conversation effort is allowing the fragile ecosystem to recover. At the moment the bay is due to reopen in the middle of 2021.
Maya Bay is just a micro version of what is going on in the rest of Thailand. Could the success of protecting Maya Bay influence how Phi Phi Don and other islands are managed? The balance between tourism and protecting the environment is tricky.
Phi Phi View Point
The best free activity is to walk up to the view point. It’s easily signposted and it’s worth the slightly steep trip. There is a little shop to buy drinks and ice creams.
Snorkeling & Diving
There are plenty of options for trips around Phi Phi and nearby islands.
Central location & parties
Like Patong and full moon on Koh Phangan, Phi Phi is known for it’s wild beach parties and cheap buckets of booze. All hostels are pricey and have absolutely terrible ratings. The high prices do not mean good facilities, you’re paying for the location. Expect uncomfortable beds …. but, let’s face it, you’re not here to sleep anyway! Blancos and Stones are the biggest party hostels and are directly on the beach.
Quiet & away from it all
If you’re not interested in staying up all night, you’ll need to book accommodation on the east side of the island to completely avoid it. Wherever you stay in the main area you’ll be able to hear thumping music all night long. To get here you need to take a boat or a very long awkward walk across the island, hence it remains relatively untouched.
Fly into Krabi or Phuket then take the ferry. Phi Phi Don is tiny so there is no airport.
Ferries arrive daily from Phuket, Ao Nang, Krabi and Koh Lanta which are easily booked through hotels and hostels.
On Lanta you can easily travel further south to the Trang Islands
Explore the rest of Thailand’s Islands and Beaches.
Visited July 2013 and February 2017