Koh Phi Phi is arguably the most beautiful cluster of islands we’ve visited since arriving in Krabi. We’ve heard a lot about Koh Phi Phi during our past visits to the province, but wrote it off as overpriced and full of parties. The beaches sounded stunning, but with two small children, it seemed unreasonable to pay top price for hostel style rooms when the patrons would be out all night downing buckets and partying until the early AM. You can trawl the internet for reviews and see a lot of negativity for an island they say doesn’t remotely resemble the scenes from Leonardo DiCaprio’s “The Beach.”
Enter 2021 and we have found ourselves having some of Southern Thailand’s most popular and well known areas all to ourselves. Locals and expats repeatedly suggested we explore Phi Phi. It’s now very quiet, predominantly closed, but more beautiful than ever. This not only sounded just right for beach lovers like ourselves but we thought when else will we get to go? Will we have missed our chance once tourists return? So we packed our bags and hopped on the next ferry to the place many describe as paradise.
As the ferry glider into the pier we knew we made the right decision. It was love at first sight. From the crystal turquoise waters to the quaint little streets, friendly locals, and stunning white sand we couldn’t believe our luck.
Where to Stay:
Under 20 hotels and resorts were available on Agoda when we looked up accommodation in Koh Phi Phi. It was January 2021 and many resorts were closed and were unable to reopen due to the lack of tourists. We found that if we contacted those that were open on Facebook, most places were offering discounts and weekly rates to guests who booked direct. Usually we would steer clear of Tonsai Bay, as it’s the most densely populated, but during this quiet period we wanted to be close to shops and restaurants so we would have easy access to necessities for the children.
This small hotel is only a year old and features spacious modern rooms, comfortable king size beds, contemporary design, and great air conditioning and wifi. Just what we needed during our time on Koh Phi Phi. They have double rooms and family rooms which feature two king size beds, big enough if you are traveling with multiple children. We were staying for a week and loved that they had plenty of storage space, and provided bath and beach towels for all their guests. They also have communal dining spaces, a terrace with hammocks, and 24 hour reception to assist you with questions. There isn’t an on site restaurant but a small cafe across the road serves delicious roti pancakes and western style breakfasts as well as cheap Thai dishes and fruit shakes. You are within easy walking distance to supermarkets, the local food stalls, and a few restaurants. We could walk to the pier and beach in under 10 minutes with both kids.
Phi Phi Cliff Beach Resort
We did not stay here, but noticed it on a few of our walks around the island. It’s located on a beach close the pier and offers pretty sea views, rooms with a balcony, and a sea facing swimming pool. This would be an ideal jumping off point for securing a longtail boat to explore the island and great if you want sand and sea right on your front step.
Most of the luxury resorts were closed when we visited, but there was Phi Phi Island Village Resort and Phi Phi The Beach Resort still open. These are both a longtail boat ride from the main pier, shops, and supermarkets, but you’ll experience luxury villas and a more secluded feel during your stay. The rates are pretty insane at the moment and I’m sure you’ll have the main facilities to yourself if travelling early 2021.
Where to Eat:
Our main concerns when traveling to a quiet island is whether food and restaurants will be easily available. Traveling with kids means you deal with picky eating moments and a different set of preferences, so we were happy to see that there were still a variety of dining spots open during our stay. 711 was our fail safe for toasties, easy microwave meals, and instant noodles, and there were a few local markets that sold fresh seafood, fruit, and vegetables if you have access to a kitchen. Here were our favourite spots to eat during our week on Koh Phi Phi. Most restaurants were offering 20% off during this quiet time.
Pirates House Restaurant
There are two on the island and they have a seriously large menu. You can get anything from hearty breakfasts to burgers and sandwiches as well as traditional Thai food and Indian dishes. Our favourite was their authentic and freshly prepared Indian food. If you are a vegetarian you’ll be happy to hear their veggie Indian menu was my absolute favourite during our stay. I highly recommend the palak paneer, chana masala, and vegetable jalfrezi.
Phi Phi Chukit Cafe and Restuarnt
This picturesque spot is perched above Tonsai Bay and offers the best sea views in the area. The large and inviting outdoor terrace is perfect for a fruit shake, cocktail, or meal and they also have a refreshing swimming pool beside the dining area. They serve mouthwatering authentic Thai food, delicious noodle soups, and even chicken and fries for the kids. A great spot for families if you want a view while you dine.
We are major seafood lovers so were very excited to discover this amazing beachfront restaurant. The selection is smaller than in busy times but they don’t skimp on quality or freshness. The prices are very reasonable and everything is freshly grilled after you choose the squid, prawns, or fish you desire from the ice display. We loved the freshly grilled prawns, spicy squid salad, and the kids couldn’t get enough of the omelette rice, grilled chicken, or freshly made rotis. Grab a table right in front of the beach for a picturesque setting and delicious Thai fare. There’s a swing for the kids right in the sand.
Tonsai Village Market
Set between Tonsai Bay and Loh Dalum Beach you’ll find a cluster of local stalls selling affordable and mouthwatering Thai dishes. Pick up Pad Thai for 50 baht, a variety of stir fries, and even fresh fruit and vegetables from the many stalls. The stalls came alive after 5pm and we found most of the locals working on the island got their dinners from these small stands. The best place to eat authentic Thai food in Koh Phi Phi.
Sights to See:
As soon as you step off the ferry you’ll be inundated with longtail boats eager to take you on a tour. If you’re visiting in early 2021 or while tourists are still lacking you’ll find the prices are much lower than usual. For just 1200 baht there are a variety of tours that will take you to the major sights or just to spend the day on a stunning beach. They have a map so you can point out specific places you want to visit or just let them recommend a list of sights and have them lead the way.
Maya Bay and Phileh Lagoon
This paired with Viking Cave are the most popular sights on must do lists and can be seen in one six hour tour. Maya Bay, made famous by the movie The Beach, is currently closed to protect the corals and marine life but you can drive to the entrance for that ubiquitous photo. Phileh Lagoon is one of the most stunning sights around Koh Phi Phi and you’ll find very few boats at the moment which is a rare experience for most that have visited in the past. Be aware of the National Park fees before booking your boat.
This was our absolute favourite beach in Krabi and feels like you’ve stepped into a dreamy postcard that doesn’t quite seem real. Surrounded by towering karsts and shallow caves you’ll find fluffy white sand and crystal clear waters. There are several snorkelling spots that even inexperienced swimmers can reach and the abundance of sea life was incredible. Instead of grabbing a longtail boat from Tonsai Pier, walk to the other side and stop at Loh Dalum Beach. Here the longtail boats will take you on a quick 10 minute ride to reach the beach and can pick you up again at your time of choice. It was 1000 baht round trip when we visited. There aren’t any national park fees for Nui Beach so we frequently visited during our stay. If you are fit or aren’t travelling with kids the other options are to hike to Nui Beach or kayak there from Loh Dalum.
Wang Long Bay
Our boat captain suggested this spot if we didn’t want to pay national park fees to visit Phileh Lagoon. We highly recommend a stop here even if you visit Phileh Lagoon. The narrow entrance is only a short ten minute drive from Tonsai Pier and creates a spectacular arrival. You’ll find yourself slowly gliding into a tiny lagoon surrounded by high karsts and abundant coral. The longtail boat can stop right at the tiny strip of sand where you can picnic in the shade and enjoy the picture perfect views. We really felt like this was a hidden secret when we arrived and the dreamy surroundings were something we won’t soon forget. A small friendly monkey even came to play while we hung out in the sand.
This popular beach is a 30 minute hike or quick 5 minute boat ride from Tonsai Bay. Longtail boat taxis charge 100 baht per person each way and usually don’t charge for children. The beach is lined with hotels and beach bungalows and a few minimarkets but most of this was closed during our visit. We had the entire stretch of white sand and crystal clear water to ourselves and there are trees to shade you if you are staying for a full day. We chose this option when the children weren’t into a full day of beach hopping and just felt like swimming and relaxing. It’s a quiet and beautiful place to sunbathe and would be a great option to stay if you want a very quiet and tranquil experience on Koh Phi Phi.
I’m not sure if this is the official name of the beach but it’s to the right of the Tonsai pier at the very beginning of the sandy strip. The sand is white and water is clear and and there are a few food stalls behind the beach where you can grab fresh fruit shakes and ice cream. We usually stopped here for a swim after island hopping, but it’s an option if you are staying longer on the island and don’t want to pay for longtail boats everyday.
Koh Phi Phi doesn’t have a sunset view unless you hike to one of the well developed viewpoints that overlook the bay. Head towards Loh Dalum Bay and you’ll find signs that point you in the right direction for the hike. The path is very well worn and it’s an easy 20 minute walk so even doable with kids if they’re used to walking. Once at the top you can enjoy views from the observation deck and grab a cool drink before you head back down.
We visited Koh Phi Phi during the pandemic in January 2021. Many things will differ once borders open and tourists start coming back to the beautiful island. This is an account of our unique experience. We highly recommend anyone who has the opportunity to visit during this time to do so and support the local businesses while you are there. I’m against those who describe it as a ghost town. If you are in search of loud parties and all night bars maybe it’s not the best choice but it is what I imagine the island may have been 30 years ago before tourism truly took over the little beaches.