Koh Phi Phi Travel Guide
Buddha in Phutthamonthon © Tevaprapas
Koh Phi Phi is an extraordinary holiday destination. The twin Phi Phi islands, 25 miles (40km) east of Phuket, are world-renowned, particularly since the making of the Leonardo di Caprio film, The Beach. Phi Phi Leh, the smaller of the two islands, was the setting for this movie, and now draws scores of day trippers from Phuket, just a 45-minute boat ride away. The island has no accommodation and is accessible only by boat, but offers sensational snorkelling and trips to the Viking Cave with wall paintings.
Phi Phi Don, the larger island, has idyllic tropical beaches lining its shores and Ton Sai Bay, the main tourist centre on Phi Phi, may be a little overdeveloped for some visitors wanting a relaxed beach holiday. Although overrun by tourists, the islands retain their spectacular quiet beauty.
Koh Phi Phi's larger island of Phi Phi Don has plenty of souvenir shops, clothing stores and shops catering specifically to travellers' holiday needs. Local shops offer everything from jewellery and clothes to sports equipment and CDs. There are also mini-marts and a supermarket.
There is an abundance of dining possibilities on Phi Phi Don, the larger of the Koh Phi Phi islands, offering both local and international cuisine. Many restaurants are located on the beach, and there are also numerous food stalls selling pancakes and fruit shakes. Most restaurants are in Ton Sai, but each holiday resort has its own restaurant. Pee Pee Bakery has good sandwiches and cheap Thai food. Seafood buffets near the pier are the best place to find the fresh catch of the day, and Mama Resto is a popular option on Phi Phi Island.
Despite its small size, the nightlife of Koh Phi Phi is pretty legendary, and after sunset the sleepy island of Phi Phi Don comes to life with a selection of activities. There are parties at most beach bars and clubs, and bars offer anything from reggae to jazz music. The Reggae Bar is a longstanding favourite, with late night dancing, five different bars and pool tables. There are also fire shows on the beach, cabaret shows and Thai kickboxing competitions for variety.
Koh Phi Phi is a snorkelling and diving paradise with its aquamarine waters, offshore reefs, rich coral gardens and variety of tropical fish. Ranked as one of the top five scuba diving destinations in Thailand, the waters around the islands are framed by dramatic limestone cliffs that provide a perfect environment for soft corals. Located in the national Marine Park, the dive sites around Koh Phi Phi are full of spectacular marine life like glassfish, seahorses, hawksbill turtles, squid, black-tipped sharks, and black and white banded sea snakes. The best time for scuba diving in Koh Phi Phi is between February and May, though you can dive all year round. The monsoons from late May to October reduce visibility by about 25 percent.
Other popular activities in Koh Phi Phi include camping in Maya Bay, a picturesque beach on unhinhabited Phi Phi Le; cliff diving off the dramatic cliffs of Phi Phi Island; kayaking among the small islands surrounding the main tourist areas; trips to see Phi Phi Island's monkey population, located mostly on the thin beaches of Hao Ragoate on Phi Phi Don and Yung Gassem (now called Monkey Beach); and rock climbing at the Viking Cave and Tonsai Towers.
There are no cars on Koh Phi Phi, so people with walking difficulties will find the hills and lack of transport trying.