Stunning karst islands rise straight out of brilliant turquoise waters. White sandy beaches fill in the space between their walls. With all of this beauty, it’s no wonder that Thailand’s Phi Phi islands are so popular with vacationers.
The Andaman Sea is host to some of the most magnificent islands including a group of islands called Phi Phi. The name ‘Phi Phi’ is pronounced ‘Pee Pee’ and ‘Koh’ translates to ‘Island’. Koh Phi Phi Don is the largest in this group and is the only one that is inhabited. It is the one referred to when people say they’re going to Phi Phi. The island is so popular because it has beautiful sandy beaches, warm water and dramatic karst cliffs.
Not far from town is a short hike to a viewpoint on the top of a hill. It’s a nice spot where you have a gorgeous view of the two main beaches, Tonsai and Loh Dalum. Between them is a thin isthmus that separates the two bays. A small cafe at the viewpoint allows you to linger and take in the views.
There is a picture posted nearby that shows the area immediately before and after the 2004 Tsunami. During the Tsunami waves crashed from both bays and met on the isthmus. Almost all of the large palm trees and buildings on the isthmus were destroyed. By 2018, many of the palms had regrown. Since that event several signs have been erected that indicate routes that lead to higher ground in case of a Tsunami.
There is a lot to explore in the area by kayak. We paddled by several rocky islands, into small coves and to a few remote beaches. It’s such a beautiful area and very peaceful when you can get away from the hectic town.
One beach we kayaked to is called Monkey Beach. As you would expect, monkeys came running to our kayak as soon as we got out, hoping we’d left food. We had learned by then not to leave unguarded food in the presence of monkeys. They were dissapointed when all they could find was our life preservers.
Early the next morning we hired a long-tail boat to go the smaller, uninhabited island of Phi Phi Leh. As we approached the island, we realized why there are no inhabitants and why it’s so special. The island looks like a fortress in a fairytale, surrounded by high, steep rock walls.
There are only a few openings in the fortress wall and they can’t be seen until you are very close. One of these openings leads to Maya Beach. It’s a white-sand beach inside a small, protected cove with clear, emerald water. It would be very picturesque if it weren’t for the hundreds of other people who went to see it as well. This is where scenes from the movie ‘The Beach’ were filmed so it is on everyone’s ‘must see’ list.
We continued around the island’s fortress wall and entered another couple of pirate-style hideaway coves. Protected by seemingly impenetrable walls, the coves’ entrances are small openings between the rocks. Once inside, they open up to pretty lagoons surrounded by massive shear walls. The water was warm and inviting so we jumped off the long-tail boat and went for a swim.
On the way back we stopped at another hidden cove in the outer wall of Phi Phi Don.
Rock climbing on Phi Phi is not as extensive as it is in Railay, but it’s also less busy. We spent an afternoon climbing on Tonsai Tower. It’s a beautiful rock face on the edge of Tonsai beach. From the climbs we had great views of the two beaches and town below.
The rock on Phi Phi is different from Railay. The hand holds are small pockets in the rock and there are more ledges and bulges to climb over. We did 2 climbs and then part way through the third, it started to rain. In complete Thailand style it didn’t just rain, it poured. We thought our climbing was done for the day but after 20 minutes it stopped raining. Since the climbing routes are under an overhang, the rock remained quite dry. In the end it was a perfect day for climbing.
There are no real roads on Phi Phi Don. Other than a very few motorbikes, most of the traffic is pedestrian. Despite this, the town is very busy. Tourists crammed into the 3 or 4 sidewalks which are lined with restaurants and bars as well as shops selling clothing, nick-nacks and tours. It made us yearn for the quiet vibes of Railay.
Getting to Phi Phi
Phi Phi is located off the western coast of Thailand. There are regular ferries between Tonsai Pier in Phi Phi and Rassada Pier in Phuket (2 hours) or Klong Jilad Pier in Krabi (90 minutes). Krabi has an international airport.
Coming Next – Bangkok
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