You’ve heard Thailand is a hot destination spot so you decide to book a trip! You open up google & look for the top beaches in Thailand & there is no doubt Phi Phi Islands will be on that list. Ever since Leonardo DiCaprio starred in “The Beach,” Maya Bay (the stunning, untouched beach featured in the movie) has become a must-see for tourists. Maya Bay is part of a nature reserve so you can’t actually stay on the island but you can stay nearby & that place is Phi Phi.
So, that calls into question – Is visiting Phi Phi Islands worth your time? Is it overrated or really everything the hype claims it to be?
You have to take a ferry
To get to Phi Phi Islands you’ll have to take a ferry or boat ride to get there – it takes about 2 hours from the Phuket pier & will cost you about 700 baht ($20) if booked directly at the pier.
We booked ours beforehand at rassadapier.com & they actually picked us up & dropped us off at our hotel as well as booked our seats on the ferry for 1800 baht ($51) for 2 people. If you have cheap transportation to the pier I’d suggest just buying ferry tickets there. Our driver wanted us to pay cash before even entering the pier & it seemed sketchy. He didn’t speak english & we had to call the company because he refused to take us the rest of the way.
The ferry is pretty clean but seating is first come, first serve. They offer select food options & have bathrooms which was nice.
The view from the ferry is spectacular so don’t forget to step outside for a photo-op – this should be under the good stuff below. ?
Everything is expensive
With recognition has come expense – this is the one thing I noticed the most when visiting.
I didn’t actually stay the night on Phi Phi & I didn’t have time to visit all the surrounding islands. I took the ferry in for the day & left that evening (more on why in a minute).
To stay in even the dingiest bungalow or dorm you are looking at 1000 baht a night (~$30). Okay.. Okay.. that sounds cheap right!? It might be in American or European standards but you aren’t getting a nice hotel for this rate – you are literally lucky if you have a bathroom.
There is advertising on every corner for rentals (usually a bed in a dorm style building). The intention is you won’t be in your room much so this doesn’t matter, right? That’s not exactly my style & after checking the price of a hotel room which was incredibly expensive (especially for Thailand) I decided a day trip was enough for me. If you don’t mind this arrangement you can find something cheap-ish but still incredibly expensive for Thailand in general.
There are a ton of restaurants catered to tourist but they are pretty unauthentic with subpar food & a pretty expensive bill in Thailand standards. The one thing they have is cheap booze. They are known for their buckets – which for 200-300 baht you can a small bottle of liquor, a mixer & a red bull. These buckets represent exactly what Phi Phi is good at – partying.
Locals don’t live there
They are there to make money off tourism or to party with the tourist. It’s a fact. You will notice instantly everyone is a tourist, mostly European people in their 20s spending their summers on the island. The locals are their to make money & this is noticeable as soon as you get off the boat.
Koh Phi Phi Island is the island with all the main hotels, stores & food. You get off the ferry, pay a 20 baht entrance fee per person & literally enter a maze of outdoor stores – kind of like a run down market – but it includes shirts, tattoos, laundry services, etc.
From here you can track down a tour or taxi to get to any of the other islands – Maya Bay, Mosquito Beach, Monkey Beach, Bamboo Island – or you can book snorkeling tours or shark feeding tours. There are so many options of things to do but shop around because pricing can range significantly. If you simply want a water taxi it’s pretty cheap but remember your driver won’t be a tour guide – they are literally just getting you from point a to point b & probably don’t speak much english.
This should be considered a good thing for a beach, right? Well, it is but I only say this because it’s incredibly HOT – hotter than I expected. Well over 100° with the sun is blazing right down on you so take plenty of sun screen & don’t forget to drink water!
The beaches are crowded
During high season, the beaches are crowded with young Europeans partying & soaking up the sun. Everyone else is there wanting to see the beautiful, untouched, white beaches & crystal clear water so all the other islands are busy as well. You definitely won’t be the only one snorkeling in the remote Maya Bay & you probably have to wait a little bit to get the “perfect” photo without other tourist in it.
Maya Bay, once completely pristine, is the snorkeling hot spot nearby & the exact location where they filmed “The Beach” but if you are expecting beautiful untouched coral reefs … be ready to be disappointed. The longtail boats & other swimmers have almost completely destroyed them.
Although more crowded than I expected & definitely not the untouched islands I imagined, the water is clear & warm, the beach is white as can be & the limestone mountains in the backdrop of your pictures are picturesque.
Sure… there were more tourist there than I would’ve preferred, it was hot as hell & the island is more “touched” than expected… it’s still beautiful. Don’t believe me – see below!
There is so much to do
If you stay a few days, you can explore everything & island hop for a few bucks each way. You can feed sharks, dive the King Cruiser ship wreck, dive in Hin Muang, hang out with the monkeys on Monkey Island, snorkel Maya Bay, visit Bamboo Island & so much more. You will be sure to leave with once in lifetime experiences & also extremely tired!
Tours are relatively cheap but be aware when you enter other islands you’ll be asked to pay a National Marine Park fee – normally 400 baht per entrance.
If you are looking for an endless list of things to do or looking for a never-ending party Phi Phi has it. The parties are easily accessible too – flyers are floating all over the beaches during the day. One of the popular activities is Thai boxing. Local Thai boxing matches are scheduled as well as invitations for anyone who wants to (eek!) & if you win your alcohol is on the house. Not necessarily what I was on the hunt for but it appears to be a popular activity on the island!
No…. if you are already going to be in Thailand & only a hop, skip & jump over.
The beaches are beautiful & unlike anything you can see anywhere else so the short boat ride over is worth it. I personally don’t suggest planning a whole trip around Phi Phi Islands but if you are going to be in Thailand it’s a great addition to your trip.
Set appropriate expectations, don’t expect for it to be a reenactment of “The Beach” & realize the untouched islands have been touched over & over again. If you do this you will definitely have time to appreciate the beauty around you!