The Phi Phi Islands: So Much More Than Leo and “The Beach”

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I giggled as I Skyped with Elliot from my hotel room in Ao Nang.

“Yes, that's how it's pronounced!” I exclaimed through my giggles. “I swear to God! You really do say it ‘Pee Pee'!”

I was talking, of course, about the Phi Phi Islands, a collection of islands in Thailand's Andaman Sea. I was just getting ready for a full-day tour of the island group, and I was assuring my boyfriend that, yes, you really did pronounce them in a way that made you giggle like a 10-year-old.

Immaturity aside, I was looking forward to the tour. I only knew these islands as being the place where the Leonardo DiCaprio movie “The Beach” was filmed.

Maya Bay, Koh Phi Phi Leh

Koh Mai Pahi AKA Bamboo Island

But I soon learned that this island group is about much more than Maya Bay.


After piling into a speed boat with a huge group of Thai tourists and a friendly Canadian couple, we set off across the turquoise water of the Andaman. Our first stop? Koh Mai Phai, or Bamboo Island.

Koh Mai Pahi AKA Bamboo Island

Despite the number of speed boats pulled up to the white sand here, an easy 10 minute walk along the beach brought me to silence and some of the most amazingly-colored water I've ever seen with my own two eyes. I easily could have spent the entire day on this little spit of land and been perfectly happy.

Koh Mai Pahi AKA Bamboo Island

But, after about 45 minutes, it was back onto the boat. Next stop: Monkey Beach. But first we stopped to do some snorkeling at Pileh Bay, off Koh Phi Phi Leh. The water here was a deep greenish-turquoise, and quite clear. And though I had heard that much of the coral and fish life here was still suffering after having been mostly destroyed in the tsunami 10 years ago, we were lucky to see quite a good number of colorful fish.

Snorkeling Koh Phi Phi Leh

Snorkeling Koh Phi Phi Leh

After some time spent splashing, we headed for Monkey Beach. This beach is famous for — can you guess? — its clan of very fat monkeys who are not the least bit afraid of people.

Monkey Beach, Phi Phi Islands

While it was fun to be able to get so close to monkeys here, it made me sick to see tourists (and tour guides!!) handing the monkeys junk food and cans of soda. YES, SODA. I saw one monkey tip back and entire can of Sprite. Please, for the love of God, stop doing this. It's wrong and not good at all for the poor animals.

Monkey Beach, Phi Phi Islands

When we finally left to monkeys behind, we went to Koh Phi Phi Don (the largest of the Phi Phi Islands) for a buffet lunch. Even though this island is one of the most touristy, I was still awed by the color of the water out in the bay.

Koh Phi Phi Don

Next up was the stop everyone was most looking forward to: Maya Bay, AKA “The Beach.” This small bay (not in fact fully protected like the movie makes it seem) can be teeming with tourists. Which is ironic, in a way, if you've seen the movie or read the book and realized that this is exactly what the main character wanted to escape from.

Maya Bay, Koh Phi Phi Leh

Irony and tourist crowd aside, though, I have to admit that Maya Bay IS pretty spectacular. The beach was clean when I was there, too, and the water clear and cool.

Maya Bay, Koh Phi Phi Leh

After exploring the bay a bit, we hopped back on the boat and went a little ways off shore for one more snorkeling dip.

Maya Bay, Koh Phi Phi Leh

Snorkeling Koh Phi Phi Leh

All in all, it was a fantastic day trip, and I would definitely recommend it if you don't have a lot of time but want to see a good amount of the Phi Phi Islands.


[stextbox id=”alert” caption=”If You Go…”]

THE TOUR: I booked this Krabi to Phi Phi Islands by Speedboat tour through Krabitrek.

WHEN: 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. daily

HOW MUCH: 1400 baht per person (roughly $43 USD)

WHAT'S INCLUDED: Pick-up/drop-off at Ao Nang and Krabi hotels; transport via speedboat; water and fruit on the boat; snorkeling gear; and a buffet lunch on Koh Phi Phi Don.



*Note: I received a complementary tour through Krabitrek, but all opinions, as always, are completely my own.

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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40 Comments on “The Phi Phi Islands: So Much More Than Leo and “The Beach”

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  1. The colour of the water is so soothing just looking at it. It helps that I was there once … almost enough to make you forget the crowds around you!

      Definitely! There were moments where I totally forgot there were tons of other people there too!

    What an incredibly stunning place and that water is so crystal clear. I don’t think I would care how touristy these places are, they are beautiful and worth a visit by the looks of them.

      Yeah, the tourists didn’t bother me a whole lot since the scenery was so amazing!

    Beautiful pictures and video! I stayed at Phi Phi Island one year after the tsunami, when it was still not fully rebuilt, and not that many tourists. Such a stunning area with turquoise coloured water and limestone cliffs! Can’t wait to go back! 🙂

      I’ll bet that was an interesting experience, to be there when hardly anyone else was visiting!

    This brings memories! Loved Phi Phi island though we stayed for a few hours! Would love to do that again! Wonderful that you had time to look around..

      Yeah I think it’s great for a short visit!

    I love Phi Phi Island – the waters around there are so beautiful despite how touristy it is. I stayed overnight on Phi Phi Don when I went, which was good to get a different view of the island. Hoping to back again a bit later this year!

      Yes, the water color just blew me away! So pretty.

    Ahhh, so cool (minus the soda drinking monkey!)! I’d definitely consider taking a tour like you rather than figuring it out on my own. Lovely pictures, as always.

    Happy travels 🙂

      You definitely CAN do this on your own. But it would definitely take longer than a day! I did Railay on my own from Ao Nang, and got myself to Koh Lanta, too. But since I wanted to see more than just Maya Bay, I decided a Phi Phi tour was the best option!

    So beautiful- its one of those spots that so touristy but there is a real reason why! Would love to swim and snorkel in those waters right now!

      Definitely! There’s a good reason so many people visit these islands.

    What gorgeous places! And thank you SO much for addressing that people should not be feeding junk food to the monkeys! It always infuriates me when I see people do this. Don’t feed the animals things they are not meant to eat! It reminds me of how you aren’t supposed to feed bread to birds/ducks/geese and yet I always see people do it. The bread expands in their stomachs. If anything, feed them some sort of seed or cut corn but not bread. Sorry for my little rant! 🙂 Anyway, amazing beaches…would love to visit here someday!

      Yeah it was a great tour and the beaches were beautiful, but the poor monkeys!!

    looks stunning. certainly on my list!

      Definitely worth a day trip at the very least.

    OMG the water is so clear. Looks like an amazing place to snorkel!

      I’m sure it will be even better 5 or 10 years from now when the reef grows back even more! (Assuming Thailand can keep its growing tourism industry sustainable… but that’s a conversation for another time haha.)

    I hated the Beach (never read the book). I was only 12 when it came out so that may have had something to do with it 🙂

    Beautiful photos, a paradise that does almost look surreal. I don’t care for monkeys (I find them a tad creepy) but what a shame that people don’t know better (or care enough) to not do those things to them.

      Monkeys kind of creep me out, too! At least, like this when they aren’t really afraid of people. I saw people getting chased by some mean ones in Phnom Penh and that completely turned me off them! But yeah, still sad that people do this to them – I’ll have to write about it sometime.

    I loved Koh Phi Phi even though it was super touristy! 🙂

      I’m glad someone else felt the same way! I mean, yes, Maya Bay was pretty crowded, but I could look past that and was still able to enjoy myself. Plus, this part of Thailand is just gorgeous!

    Sounds great and reasonably well priced! It’s disgusting that they’re are people giving the monkeys junk food and soda. I wouldn’t even let my self drink soda let alone an animal who doesn’t know better!

      I know! Monkey Beach was a big letdown on this trip. But luckily the rest of it was fun!

    So sad that people give the monkeys junk food and make them fat…

      Yeah it’s pretty terrible.

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