How much you enjoy Koh Phi Phi depends entirely on why you want to visit. Looking for an unspoilt Thai island where you can relax on stunning beaches all day? Don’t go to Koh Phi Phi! The beaches are OK (I guess), but Koh Phi Phi attracts people looking for a far different experience (mostly, drinking). So, are there any good things to do on Koh Phi Phi apart from partying? I attempted to find out on my recent trip to Thailand…
This post mostly refers to Koh Phi Phi Don, the bigger of the two main Phi Phi islands. The other island, Koh Phi Phi Lei (where you can find Maya Bay) is featured in the movie “The Beach”. Koh Phi Phi Lei is currently closed to public (to allow the island to regenerate), however you can still see the bay on one of the Phi Phi boat tours. Koh Phi Phi Lei is set to be tourist-free until at least June 2021.
Partying on Koh Phi Phi
OK, you’ll have to wait for the other stuff, because partying is obviously one of the best things to do on Koh Phi Phi and is probably the reason you’re considering a visit. There are so many options, from quiet drinks in classy bars to wild beach parties, drunken muay Thai fights, pool parties, booze cruises and everything in-between.
My last visit to Koh Phi Phi was with a couple of friends from back home in New Zealand, and we had a couple of big nights. We went to a pool party (Ibiza Pool Party), one of my friends took on a fellow tourist in a bout of Muay Thai and we drunk extremely potent (and cheap) buckets (which are about half local spirits / half coke etc).
We also checked out a beach party and considered, but never got around to, a bit of beer pong. Koh Phi Phi is a pretty happening place and whatever mood you’re in you’ll find something fun to do at night. I should point out that I’m 34 and was definitely at the older end of the spectrum at some of those places — Koh Phi Phi definitely caters to all ages and tastes though!
Not so long ago, the trip out to Maya Bay, where that little movie called The Beach was filmed, was at the top of everybody’s things to do on Koh Phi Phi list. Well, it’s closed now, due to overcrowding and environmental issues, so that’s off the list. You can still go there, but you’ll only see it from a distance. I went there a few years ago and it’s stunning — hopefully it’ll reopen (with some stricter rules) in the future.
Boat trips in 2019 seem to have a heavy focus on snorkeling and a weird little place called Monkey Beach. As it was my friend’s birthday we opted for a booze cruise, which didn’t go completely smoothly.
We visited Monkey Beach (and had to walk over heaps of sharp coral to get there), which is a bit of a tourist circus. Basically there’s hundreds of tourists on a beach interacting with (or trying to avoid) some pretty aggressive monkeys.
From there it was on to Maya Bay for some snorkeling, and then another spot for more snorkeling. I didn’t partake (not a massive fan of doing physical activity while drinking) but apparently there wasn’t much to see anyway
The good (or bad) old days of Maya Bay
The booze cruise wasn’t the best option — by the time we got back to shore we’d been drinking for around six hours in the Thai heat and were too exhausted to do much else. I’d advise doing some normal island hopping and leave the drinking for dry land!
I’d been to Koh Phi Phi’s main viewpoint on a day trip to the Phi Phi Islands few years ago, but seeing as it’s one of the most iconic things to do on Koh Phi Phi I thought I’d better drag my friends up there in the heat. It’s always worth it — such a nice view (although the early afternoon light wasn’t the best). You have to walk straight up some steep steps, and then along a path, to get there — luckily there’s a place to get drinks (non-alcoholic) and ice cream at the top.
Eat at Monster Burger
One of my favourite things to do on Koh Phi Phi (actually, probably my favourite full stop) was create, and then eat, my own burger at Monster Burger. You choose the meat, the sauces, the vegetables and the extras (bacon, avocado etc) and then enjoy the fruits of your labour (even ticking boxes can be exhausting in the midday Thai heat). These were some of the best burgers I’ve ever eaten — the meat was incredibly juicy and obviously my creations were awesome. I can’t promise your choices will be as good as mine, but let me know how it goes!
We ate some other great food on Koh Phi Phi, including plenty of 60 / 70 baht pad Thais (pretty much the cheapest meal you’ll find on the island) and the best massaman curry I’ve ever had. For cheap eats try the curry shop (where I got that massaman curry) and the place next to it selling 70 baht pad thais — you’ll find them just down from the famous Reggae Bar (where the Muay Thai fights are held).
The two main Beaches
Obviously, being an island and all, one of the best things to do on Koh Phi Phi is to get some beach time. The two main beaches (Tonsai Beach and Loh Dalum Beach) aren’t the best though, especially at low tide. It all gets a bit ugly and rocky, but at least the views are good!
Check out one of the other beaches
We walked to Long Beach as I’d heard it’s one of the best (if not the best) beach on Koh Phi Phi. It was much nicer than the other two and wasn’t as badly affected by the low tide. It was still quite shallow for swimming though — Koh Phi Phi definitely isn’t the best island for beach time / swimming!
Before visiting Long Beach we followed a sign for a viewpoint, excited by the fact we’d get to see another part of the island from above. We walked, and walked, and walked some more but only a small viewpoint near the start (which surely couldn’t have been it. We walked up forest lined roads, around a reservoir, past a water park and through a local village before meeting a Russian guy coming from the opposite direction who was also looking for the viewpoint. We then realised those signs were almost certainly pointing to the main viewpoint I mentioned earlier. Annoying, but at least I made that mistake so you don’t have to!
Walking the streets of Koh Phi Phi is like being in a city. There is so much going on, from bars to restaurants to dodgy massage places and plenty of shops. It’s like the Khao San Road area of Bangkok and it’s a great place to shop. Remember to bargain!
Have a fight
As I mentioned before, Koh Phi Phi is a good place to get a fight under your belt. Whether you want to challenge a friend or a random stranger, it seems like a lot of fun. You even get a free bucket of alcohol for participating and a medal if you win.
Go to Other Islands
After a few days on Koh Phi Phi you’ll probably want to go somewhere more relaxing. My advice would be Koh Lanta — it’s only an hour or so away and is a world away from the crazyness of Koh Phi Phi. Head to Long Beach for the best stretch of sand and some great value food and accommodation (it’ll be a relief after the high prices of Koh Phi Phi). The beach is perfect for swimming at high tide and low and the place has such a laid back atmosphere. Other options include Krabi (Rialay Beach / Tonsai Bay) and, a bit further away, the stunning beaches of Koh Lipe.
Are you excited to visit Koh Phi Phi or does it sound terrible? Let me know in the comments below!
My name is Jon, I like to travel and I have no imagination when it comes to naming websites. I've been travelling the world for two and a half years -- before that I was an English teacher in Asia. I've travelled overland from Mexico to Patagonia, explored most of Southeast Asia and recently spent a few months wandering around northern India. Want to know more? Read a creepy split personality interview here.