The Phi Phi Islands encompass an area of outstanding natural beauty. Situated in the Andaman Sea between Phuket and Krabi, this attractive collection of islands are characterised by inviting sandy beaches, turquoise seas and dramatic limestone cliffs.
There are six islands which form the Phi Phi Islands: Ko Phi Phi Don, Ko Phi Phi Leh, Ko Yung, Ko Mai Phai, Ko Bida Nai and Ko Bida Nok. All of the islands are uninhabited with the exception of the largest island in the group, Phi Phi Don. The islands are a popular day trip destination from Phuket and Krabi, but if you’d prefer to avoid the day-trippers, you can stay overnight on Phi Phi Don where you will find a good selection of accommodation covering a broad range of budgets.
What to see and do on the Phi Phi Islands
It’s Phi Phi’s natural attractions which are the main draw for tourists, especially Maya Bay, the most famous location in the archipelago. The sublime setting also makes the Phi Phi Islands popular for snorkelling and diving with Ko Bida Nai, Ko Bida Nok and Hin Klang amongst the best dive sites in the area.
Phi Phi Don
Getting around on Phi Phi Don means walking along the network of paved pathways and hillside trails or taking a longtail boat to different beaches. Kayaks can also be rented to explore the coastline. Whatever you decide to do on Phi Phi, do take time out to walk up to the viewpoint and enjoy one of the most famous views in Thailand.
Monkey Beach and the area to the north-west of Loh Dalum is a scenic spot which is home to troops of long-tailed macaques . The primates can look cute and playful, but these are still wild animals and they can scratch and bite. Many boat tours visit the beach, but sadly not all do so responsibly. If you want to support responsible tourism in Thailand, please don’t feed the monkeys.
Phi Phi Leh
For many people a visit to Maya Bay is the highlight of a trip to the Phi Phi Islands. The stunning bay is located on Phi Phi Leh and featured in the 2000 movie, The Beach. With the area suffering from over-tourism, the beach at Maya Bay was closed to visitors in 2018 to allow time for the ecosystem to recover. The beach was reopened in January 2022 with restrictions in place to help protect the island and natural environment.
Boat tours will also take visitors to Phi Leh Lagoon with its gorgeous clear waters and on past Viking Cave. Although tourists aren’t allowed inside the cave, you will be able to see the bamboo scaffolding which is used by the people collecting birds’ nests. It’s a dangerous job, but the edible nests made by swiftlets can raise eye-watering amounts of money. The nests are highly sought after by Chinese restaurant owners who use them to make bird’s-nest soup.
Ko Mai Phai (Bamboo Island)
The diminutive island Ko Mai Phai, better known to tourists as Bamboo Island, is located north of Phi Phi Don. The only things to do on this lovely little island are relax, walk along the white sand beach and swim or snorkel in the clear waters.
Ko Jung (Mosquito Island)
If you charter a longtail boat to visit Ko Mai Phai, make the short detour to visit the nearby island of Ko Jung (Mosquito Island) which is another excellent spot for snorkelling.
Ko Bida Nai and Ko Bida Nok
Ko Bida Nai and Ko Bida Nok are little more than large limestone rocks, but these two small islands are notable for the amount of marine life and corals found here. The twin islands are excellent for diving with the opportunity to see blacktip sharks, turtles, rays and a variety of fish.
Responsible travel in the Phi Phi Islands
Given the outstanding natural beauty of the Phi Phi Islands, it’s no wonder that so many people want to travel here. And the desire to visit was heightened following the release of the Danny Boyle movie, The Beach in 2000. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, the film used Maya Bay as one of the featured locations. The environmental impact of the movie, both directly and indirectly, led to lasting consequences for Phi Phi Leh. Over-tourism led to Maya Bay being closed to the public in 2018 and the Thai authorities have said future access will be strictly controlled. To visit the Phi Phi Islands as a responsible tourist:
- Only use reef-safe sunscreen
- Don’t feed the fish, monkeys or any wildlife
- Use tour operators who adhere to a responsible tourism policy
To learn more about the Phi Phi Islands and the diversity of marine life here, visit the Marine Discovery Centre at Saii Phi Phi Island Village. This is the first centre of its kind in Thailand and the positive impact of the Marine Discovery Centre was recognised in the Responsible Thailand Awards 2020. Interactive displays in Thai and English explain about the life and habits of the marine creatures found in the waters around the Phi Phi Islands. The facility is not only of benefit to the hotel and its guests, but actively involves the local community too. Saii Phi Phi Island Village was also recognised for the outstanding range of activities on offer for eco-conscious guests.
Where to stay
The only accommodation on the Phi Phi Islands is on the main island of Phi Phi Don. Much of the budget accommodation is located around the twin bays of Tonsai and Loh Dalum. For more comfort, head out to the quieter beach areas where you can find the luxurious Zeavaola and Saii Phi Phi Island Village.
Travel to Phi Phi
Phi Phi Don can be reached by boat from Krabi and Phuket. And during the high season, services also connect Ko Lanta with Phi Phi Don. Crossing time from Phuket and Krabi is approximately two hours by ferry and one hour by speedboat. The most frequent crossings are during the main season from November-April.
Good to know
Mu Ko Phi Phi is the local name of the archipelago which is in Krabi province. The islands are part of Hat Noppharat Thara-Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park and while you don’t need to pay a National Park fee if you are just visiting Phi Phi Don, you do need to pay if you are visiting any of the other islands. In 2022, the National Park fee was 400 Baht for non-Thai adults and 200 Baht for children. Phi Phi Don is open all year round and while there is no National Park fee, there is a local entrance fee of 20 Baht. The smaller islands in the archipelago are closed to the public during June and July.
The best weather is usually from December-April although you may still see the occasional shower in early December. Temperatures remain high all year round and even in the rainy season from May-October/November you should still see lots of sunshine.