Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Leh beaches
A hidden tropical paradise until the movie ‘The Beach’ was filmed there, the Phi Phi islands are now a tourist mecca but still offer turquoise water, white sand and palm trees framed by delightfully craggy rock formations and over a million visitors a year!
The infrastructure is, however, third world and cannot support the tourist numbers so services such as power and sewage are unreliable on the core island of Phi Phi Don, rubbish litters some areas, coral is dying all around and longtails add their cacaphonic roar to the babble of foreign visitors.
However, if you stay well away from noisy, frantic Ton Sai bay – the transport hub – even just across the neck at Loh Dulum bay, you can find some serenity, lovely sand, turquoise water and those sensational views.
Phi Phi Leh is half an hour away by boat and has no accommodation at all but still suffers the ‘Curse of the Longtails‘ with roaring longboats coming and going endlessly.
If you hire a private longtail take a trip to Bamboo Island after Phi Phi Leh; it’s a tiny tranquil place devoid of structures and massed visitors.
Day trips by boat from Phuket to the Phi Phi islands are also popular. The Phi Phi region is best December-March.
Accessible from Ao Nang in a few minutes by longtail boat, West Railay (aka Rai Leh) is stunningly pretty, has restrained development, reasonable prices, soft white sand and clear water, tho’ longtail taxis still park there cluttering the view, impeding swimming and not helping the water purity. Still, it’s better than paying the extortionate prices at Thailand’s Rayavadee Premier on the next beach – Laem Phra Nang – and still getting the longtails and their day trippers swarming the beach. Best Dec-March.
Khlong Dao and Phra-Ae beaches, Ko Lanta island
Ko Lanta is a relatively unspoiled resort island in Thailand, with a fine combination of big, soft, sandy beaches on the upper west side, calm clear waters, relaxed locals and cheap accommodation, though the road running down the centre is an unnattractive mess. Beaches are only accessible via hotels.
The longest and the most popular beach is Khlong Dao – where the best hotels are – but Ao Phra-Ae (Long Beach), 2km south, has a more placid atmosphere, as has Kantiang beach.
The further south you go the cheaper the ‘hotels’ get and the worse the beaches.
Just south of Lanta is a small island called Koh Kradan with an attractive and quite unspoilt 2km beach.
Best December -March.
Ko Tarutao National Marine Park, Ko Tarutao
Ko Tarutao National Marine Park is a natural beauty, with about 50 mostly inhabited islands. The beaches in the park are considered the least spoilt and the most magnificent of all Thailand’s beaches. Some simple accommodation can be found at Pak Bara on the mainland, or three bigger islands (Ko Tarutao, Ko Adang, and Ko Lipe) have bungalows and restaurants.
The park is closed mid-May to mid-November, due to the rains. Best Dec-March.
Hat Farang, Ko Mook
Ko Mook, known for its Emerald Cave, is popular with budget travelers and not commercial yet. The island’s best beach is Hat Farang, extremely peaceful, with excellent swimming, snorkelling, and perfect for sunset slumping. Best Dec-March.