The islands of Koh Phi Phi may be the most famous of the +1400 islands around Thailand, thanks to the movie The Beach and Backpacking in Phi Phi is almost a must for most travellers.
I was not entirely sure to add it to my trip as I’m normally looking for nature and outdoor activities rather than party destinations, luckily I followed a friend’s advise to go and I’m very happy I did.
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If there is an obvious reason Phi Phi became famous initially is because it’s a beautiful place.
My days backpacking in Phi Phi started coming with a ferry from Phuket. It took a couple of hours to get there and we had a “mini tour” as we rounded and stopped a couple of minutes by Phi Phi Lee and its famous Maya Bay which is where the movie was filmed.
In 2018 the authorities decided to close Maya Bay as the mass tourism was ruining the ecosystem. It’s reported that more than 80% of the island’s coral has been destroyed and will take years to recover.
The good news is that shortly after the closure took place, fauna is founding its way back with sights of blacktip reef sharks around the bay, hopefully this will continue and strict measures will be taken if at some point in the future the island is open again.
As tourists that we all are, please always be respectful with our planet and consider bringing your trash back to mainland instead of leaving in the islands.
Arriving to Phi Phi Don
Yes, there’s a lot of partying in Phi Phi (pronounced Pi Pi), however I was gladly surprised as the crowds were not as huge as I feared considering that I went in peak season just a few days before xmas time.
I was sadly shocked to see a McDonalds in the island and even more disappointed to see it full of people (c’mon! if you can’t swap your big mac for Thai food for a few days you should consider your life choices!)
If you stay in this central area you MUST bring earplugs, as it will be incredibly noisy until 2am. I actually slept really well for two nights but gave away a couple of spare plugs to a friend as unsurprisingly she was not having a great rest.
What to do when backpacking in Phi Phi
If, like me, you’re a bit (or a lot) over the clubbing scene, the good news is that is really easy to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the island, whilst a mid size island, it has a few internal trails to cross it.
Lots of outdoor activities available!
You can go hiking for a good couple of hours, rent a kayak to go to Monkey Beach (or as I did, scramble by the rocks and then swim the final bit), there are rock climbing lines although I didn’t see anyone climbing. There are also lots of Scuba Diving agencies around.
Day 1 – The Viewpoints
As soon as you find a hostel, you will see signs to go to a viewpoint. This will take you to the Viewpoint 1 and 2 (there are 3), as this is a private property there’s an entrance fee of 30thb (around US$1).
As the views on these 2 are not the best ones, I’d recommend to skip this viewpoints completely and save that fee for a mango shake!
Ask in your hostel how to get to the viewpoint 3 as there will be a couple of options to get there.
The “longest” way for me it was about a 90min walk, you can also make this a circular hike for a longer day out and continue to Phak Nam Bay and return back to Tonsai beach on a different path, you will find all these options whilst walking the island as there are a few signs indicating this, use maps.me as well for further indications.
MY HIKING ESSENTIALS
Viewpoint 3 is also “private” and has a small restaurant at the top charging 20thb including a bottle of water, which is not bad.
However, I had plenty of water with me and having already paid the first viewpoint I didn’t want to do it again.
To avoid paying, on the left side of the restaurant you will see a small path which is just a few meters long, this will give you the exact same viewpoint pics opportunities as in the paid one.
If you decide to make it a longer day and go towards Phak Nam Bay, you will arrive to a beautiful beach.
This part of the island is more of expensive resorts but you will still find a couple of mini marts and places to eat cheaply in case your provisions ran out.
Day 2 – The other side of the island and Monkey Beach
On my second and final day in Phi Phi I started walking Tonsai Beach towards the west side of the island hoping to find a trail over the beautiful limestone cliffs.
We quickly found a small path at the very end of the beach, next to a resort, it got a bit rough very quickly and we found ourselves next to some rock climbing lines, there was no one there though.
Unfortunately, the path seemed to end right there which was a bit disappointing as we didn’t had even 15 minutes of trekking but we still got rewarded with nice views.
As we started the day a bit late it was already pretty hot so we decided to go down and take a refreshing swim. Later on, it was the turn of Loh Dalum Bay beach, which is the other main beach in the island.
Most people rent a kayak here to go to Monkey Beach, as it was low tide I decided to go walking around the shore.
If you do this I recommend to come with shoes as the rocks can be pretty sharp to walk them just with flip flops (not impossible, just slower to walk and you risk of breaking them apart)
Almost at the final turn before being able to see Monkey Beach, the rocks become quite steep and can be pretty dangerous to climb.
I decided to leave my backpack, clothes and shoes by a rock as there was no one attempting the same walk, and swim to the beach.
If you decide to do this, be aware of the sea urchins as I saw quite a few, try to swim and not walk even if you’re close to the rocks to avoid stepping on them.
I enjoyed a lot this short swim as even that I didn’t have any goggles I could see lots of fishes around me!
Monkey Beach was a bit crowded as all the kayakers were there but is still a nice thing to do in Phi Phi.
After 2 nights it was already time for me to move on towards more backpacking adventures in Thailand.
If you’re hesitant on whether to go backpacking in Phi Phi on your trip, I’d definitely recommend to stay at least one night, just ignore the party scene and enjoy this beautiful island! feel free to reach out if you need further details!