Koh Phi Phi is arguably the most renowned dream destination among all the Thai islands. Since Alex Garland’s novel was filmed and struck the world in 2000, millions of adventure-seekers headed to the hidden gem of the Andaman to find their personal paradise on a tropic island of unparalleled beauty.
Since then Koh Phi Phi has changed a lot – mostly in the sense of number of tourists visiting the island every year and mushrooming modern resorts. Looming limestone cliffs, transparent turquois waters and postcard-perfect white sand beaches are still there, but the excessive development over the past decade remains a subject of heated arguments. Those who support the idea of preserving the natural character of the island and those who see only a great prospective for financial profit have not yet come to a compromise. In the meantime you can contribute to Koh Phi Phi’s preservation with your conscious behaviour and support of the operators who follow a sustainable model in providing services to tourists.
Getting to Koh Phi Phi from Krabi
The majority of travellers heading to Koh Phi Phi jump onto boats leaving from Phuket, but it is simply due to the fact that Phuket sees more guests in general and not because this route is more convenient. On the contrary, getting to Koh Phi Phi from Krabi saves you an hour of your sea journey and costs less.
From Krabi to Koh Phi Phi by ferry
Boats from Krabi to Koh Phi Phi leave from Klong Jilard pier located some four km to the southwest of Krabi Town. To get to the pier from Krabi Town use white songthaews (THB30 per person) or negotiate a taxi ride (about THB150).
There are at least four boats a day from Krabi to Koh Phi Phi all year round. Sometimes additional departures are added during peak seasons. Andaman Wave Master has two boats a day at 9am and 1.30pm, both at THB450. Chao Koh Group vessels ply the same route leaving Krabi at 10.30am and 3pm for THB600. Travel time is from 1½ hour to 1¾ hour with either operator and the service provided is very much the same, so choose pricewise.
Note that the price indicated does not include pickup from Krabi Town, Krabi bus station or Krabi airport. You will have to get to the pier by yourself.
Tip: Boats linking Krabi with Koh Phi Phi are relatively small local boats, so if you are prone to seasickness, take all the necessary medicines in advance as the sea is often choppy.
Note: All the passengers arriving to Ton Sai pier on Koh Phi Phi should pay a THB20 ‘pier’ fee which is supposed to be used on cleaning the island.
Getting around on Koh Phi Phi
The Phi Phi islands are 28 sq.km of forests fringed with white sand beaches in the middle of Phang Nga bay. Be ready to do a lot of walking as there are literally no paved roads on the island (well, some are under construction right now, but still). You can also charter a longtail boat for short trips around Koh Phi Phi Don and Koh Phi Phi Leh: there are plenty of them in and around Ao Ton Sai. In general the majority of accommodation and services – including Phi Phi Island Hospital – are found in Ton Sai Village which lies in the southern part of a narrow isthmus connecting Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Leh.
Some of the Koh Phi Phi beaches
Even if Ton Sai bay is the busiest part of the islands, it still remains a stunning place to enjoy the sea. A narrow path crammed with tour operator shops, restaurants and guesthouses to the east brings you to a pleasant Hat Hin Khom beach.
If you go northwards from Ton Sai bay to the other side of the isthmus, you will get to Ao Lo Dalam, which is a party animal’s paradise.
The best corals off Koh Phi Phi’s coast are found near Hat Yao (or Long Beach), which faces south and is the most swimmer-friendly among all the islands’ beaches.
Two long and picturesque eastern bays, Ao Laem Thong and Ao Lo Bakao, are the realm of high-end resorts.
Smaller bays, including Hat Phak Nam, Hat Rantee or Hat To Koh, cater for more budget travellers and offer low-key bungalows. These three beaches are much more tranquil than the overcrowded Ton Sai and Lo Dalam bays. The best way to explore them is to hire a longtail boat and organise some bay-hopping for yourself.
Tip: It is not possible to camp on Maya Beach on Phi Phi Leh (which was featured in The Beach movie) any more and you can enjoy it only during the daytime. If you want more privacy, hire a longtail boat and arrive early in the morning.
Where to stay
Rule #1: Book in advance – especially during the busy periods.
Rule #2: If you hate those pre-booked affairs, do not keep away from the touts who meet all the arriving boats. Yes, they are annoying, but they are helpful: finding an accommodation on Koh Phi Phi these days is not an easy task!
Rule #3: Budget accordingly. THB1000 on Koh Phi Phi means a very simple, no-frills dig, in most cases in the form of a Thai bungalow with a fan and no hot water.
For an island of such a modest size Koh Phi Phi has a lot of things to offer – and they are not at all limited to bucket drinking parties and lazy sunbathing. If snorkelling, diving, kayaking, rock-climbing, hiking and numerous viewpoints which let you take in all that stunning beauty are not enough, enrol to a yoga-on-the-beach course or go on an evening cruise to watch bioluminescent plankton off the shores of the islands. We are sure, you will enjoy your Koh Phi Phi trip: why would you not?
Other destinations from Krabi you may be interested in
From Krabi to Koh Lanta
Koh Lanta, two large islands southeast of Krabi, cannot boast picturesque white sand beaches of Koh Phi Phi or jaw dropping karst landscapes of Krabi. Yet Koh Lanta Yai remains a popular beach destination for Scandinavian package tourists, especially families. There is a good choice of accommodation on the island, great seafood restaurants, a National Park and Lanta Old Town which is packed with Chinese-style souvenir shophouses and is a perfect place for a pleasant stroll.
Boats from Krabi to Koh Lanta connect via Koh Phi Phi. It takes only one hour to get to Koh Lanta from Koh Phi Phi, but note that if you go from Krabi to Phi Phi first, you will have to wait from three to four hours for the next departure. So the total travel time from Krabi to Koh Lanta by boat is from six to seven hours. It makes sense to travel this route only in case you make a stopover on Koh Phi Phi for a couple of days; if you want to go directly from Krabi to Koh Lanta, consider taking a van. An overland trip is not as exciting as a sea journey, but you will reach your destination for less (about THB500) and just in two and a half hours.
From Krabi to Phuket
As in case with Koh Lanta, boats from Krabi to Phuket connect via Koh Phi Phi. It takes about two hours to get from Koh Phi Phi to Phuket. If you are not planning to make a stopover on Koh Phi Phi, take a bus from Krabi Provincial Transport Station to Phuket, which will deliver you to your destination in about four hours.