Sunday, June 25th, 2017

Ko Phi Phi Is Very Beautiful And May Kill You


Koh Phi Phi, an island off Thailand’s Andaman Coast, is most famous for being the setting of the Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Beach.  Most people come to Koh Phi Phi expecting a pristine island paradise.

Don’t get me wrong – the island is beautiful.  Exquisitely beautiful.  But it’s so bloody overrun with tourists that it’s extremely difficult to truly enjoy.  Sadly, overdevelopment has ruined this island.

Go to Maya Bay, the beach from The Beach, and this is what it looks like now:

Not exactly untouched.

Beyond that, Koh Phi Phi is quite a dangerous place:

Dangerous for your wallet. Of all the places I’ve visited in Thailand, Phi Phi was the most expensive by far.  The cheapest lodging is about 500 baht ($17) for a 16-bed dorm.  And I had to pay 10 baht to use a SQUAT TOILET.  (THEY SHOULD HAVE PAID ME!)

Dangerous for your feet. While visiting Maya Bay on Koh Phi Phi Leh, where The Beach was filmed, we climbed on some rocks – and my shoeless friends nearly killed their feet on their needle-like surfaces.  What shocked me was that there were tours leading tourists, many of them older and ill-prepared, across these slippery, sharp rocks while holding onto ropes for support.

Dangerous for your nose. The sewage treatment isn’t the greatest, due in part to the overwhelming volume of visitors.  Expect quite a few odd smells.

Dangerous for your liver. The party scene here is insane and it seems like everywhere offers 2-for-1 buckets.  I thought I partied hard in Ao Nang – Ao Nang has NOTHING on Phi Phi.  I’ll leave it at that.  Dangerous.

Dangerous for your body. If you don’t burn yourself while jump-roping with fire, like a friend of mine did, you’ll get punched in the face until you bleed from the eyeball in an amateur Muay Thai fight.  I did that, and it was one of the biggest mistakes of my life.  More on that later.

Should you visit Phi Phi?  By all means.  I’m glad I got a chance to see it.  Just make sure you go in knowing exactly what it is: an overpriced, overdeveloped island that is good for partying but little else.

If you do go to Phi Phi, build in time on another island as well.  I’m currently on Koh Lanta and I am absolutely in love with the place.

Koh Phi Phi is worth a brief visit, but it absolutely should not be the standard by which beaches in Thailand are measured. Find hotels on Koh Phi Phi here.

That said, when you’re on your iPhone in an infinity pool overlooking the Andaman Sea and gorgeous limestone cliffs, it’s hard not to think that this is the greatest place you’ve ever been.

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48 Responses to “Ko Phi Phi Is Very Beautiful And May Kill You”
  1. Amanda says:

    Sounds like a place worth visiting, but probably not one worth hanging around for very long. Glad YOU didn’t get burned playing fire jump rope! But sorry about the bloody eye… How’s that healing up, by the way?

  2. Christine says:

    Last picture=me EXTREMELY jealous. Live it up!

  3. Sean says:

    Very sorry to hear about the eye, but it certainly makes for a good story! I never did make it down to Lanta, but hoping to on the next trip!

    Thanks for the mention, and let’s catch up soon!

  4. AudreyDez says:

    Going in Thailand next May and I’m still not sure if I wanna go to Koh Phi Phi. Dilemma! Sure seems nice, but as you mentions, so overdeveloped…And your last picture doesn’t help! Infinity pool with view on the Andaman sea…Must be really great! I’ll take the advice and maybe do a quick stop, Koh Lanta sure seems awesome too!:) Keep enjoying Thailand!

  5. I am puzzled. Reading about how dangerous Koh Phi Phi is in so many aspects and yet looking at the photos which are amazing though reflecting how much the place is not exactly the untouched world you would expectit to be, or shall I say the untouched world we would like such a place to be.

  6. Candice says:


  7. Matt says:

    “Bloody expensive” eh? I think you’ve been spending too much time with me!

  8. Elise says:

    I totally agree with your point of view on Koh Phi Phi. Expensive for what you get compared to other islands. Although, we really enjoyed hiring a kayak for the day and set off by ourselves and found some other great little deserted nooks and crannies off and around the island which was a peaceful and pleasant way to spend a day with no one else around!

  9. Andi says:

    Hahaha, I thought that was a bear in your hand, it’s an iphone!?! My gosh, I know it may kill you, but I have to see that Paradise in person 1 day.

  10. Ashlea says:

    Awww I still want to picture it the way it was in the movie.

  11. Love Koh Lanta- Phi Phi was overrun when we were there in ’02. Can only imagine now

  12. Rease says:

    It’s nice to see an honest, albeit slightly negative review. Sometimes places just aren’t as amazing as you hope. Tourist traps happen to the best of us!

  13. Erica says:

    Looks gorgeous! Even if there are tourists everywhere.

  14. Alicia says:

    I’m so new to the idea of hostels – thanks for travel blogs. But, you have to pay to use the bathroom? Ugh… Just got a visual from the movie “Slumdog Millionaire.” And, I’m into adventures (just not fighting) so I can’t wait to read about how you got roped into the ring for a fight. 🙂

  15. Sonja says:

    …ALSO tourists who try and fight Thai guys when they’re drunk, OR even men who are quite big and burly that tha Thai guys don’t like the look of, will get stabbed or zapped with tasers. All the Thai’s carry weapons: guns, knives, tasers, they ALL carry them at ALL times. Be on your best behavior

    • They ALL carry weapons at ALL times? That’s a bit hyperbolic, don’t you think?

      • Sonja says:

        Ok ok, slight exaggeration. Women not so much, but every Thai male over the age of like 14 working in a tattoo shop or beach bar carries a knife at LEAST. This is only Phi Phi mind you but i assume it’s the same with Koh Phangan, wherever there are tonnes of party-goers.

    • Mav says:

      Hang on? They don’t like big burly guys? If that is the case I’d better stay far away from Phi Phi as I do not wish to get shanked whilst on holiday!

  16. We went for a day trip while we were in Thailand a few years ago. You’re right; it was over run with tourists (we were some of those tourists) and there was barely an inch of beach available to sit on.

    We want to go back to explore Thailand more thoroughly (we were only there for 4 days) so I think we will avoid going back to this area.

    Can I ask – Which areas did you enjoy the most and why? Hoping to get some ideas for our trip later this year, thanks Kate.

  17. Owen says:

    I came here for some advice, but this is some of the dumbest shit I’ve ever read…… “we climbed on some rocks – and my shoeless friends nearly killed their feet on their needle-like surfaces.”

    Also getting your ass kicked in a Muay Thai fight, and your complaining? How long have you been training? I’ve been training here for 3 months in Phuket, +12 years (on/off) back home and I’m not getting in the ring over here. If you wanna take the risks, deal with the consequences.

    “If you don’t burn yourself while jump-roping with fire,, like a friend of mine did”.. Just like a Mastercard commercial, F’ing priceless! Take some responsibility for your actions, sounds like you need someone to hold your hand to venture around the globe.

  18. Elaine says:

    What is the name of the place you stayed in with the infinity pool? I want to go 🙂

  19. Brandy says:


    I’m headed to Thailand for 10 days in December for some much needed R&R. I’ll be on the Andaman for about 3-4 days. I’m looking for beach time mixed in with some good partying. I’m a solo female traveler as well. I had picked Phi Phi for this part of the trip, but your post is making me rethink it. What would your recommendation be?


  20. Kate, we are planning to cover Phi Phi (apart from koh Samui and Bangkok) on our Thailand trip. Koh Phi Phi is a new addition on our ever-evolving travel list (this June), but after reading your post, I’m not sure how I feel about the place!

    Is it worth for 2 days? Cause we would really like to spend more time just soaking in the sun on the lovely beaches that Koh Samui has to offer, and I guess Chaweng is anyway famous for its nightlife, so really not excited about the party scene on PhiPhi!

    Your two cents please!



    • Hi, Anya — You could do it for two days if you wanted to, but keep in mind it will be a 90-minute ferry ride each way plus the time of getting to the ferry terminal and waiting, so it does add up to a lot of time. You could also do a day trip to Phi Phi if you’d like, and you wouldn’t have to worry about schlepping your bags or finding a place to stay.

  21. rizka says:

    Hello Kate, I’m wondering where did you stay in phi phi island? the infinity pool looks so amazing 🙂

  22. Mark says:

    Have to say that was worth the read, about to go to PhiPhi tomorrow and see what thailand (PHUKET) has to offer, I enjoyed chiang mai but Phuket seems alright 🙂 at this time (january) definitely a lot of tourist way to popular that sorta ruins a paradise. Im from New Zealand so very clean and nature. I am filipino from philippines and if you want to go visit the Philippines we have one of the best beaches in Asia and in the world. “BORACAY” Island currently 7th best beach island. Lately recommend PALAWAN. You will fall in love with either both. Watch my we love boracay video on my YT PAGE 🙂 I’ll let you all know about PHUKET and PhiPhi etc in couple days. Coool blog btw

  23. Sarah says:

    Hey lady! Great article 🙂 I’m about to head to Koh Lanta to check out a volunteering situation and really want to go dancing….. not necessarily drinking or partying, just dancing! Any ideas for places to dance? Or do I need to go to Phi Phi for that?

  24. Mark J Hill says:

    I think there are ways to enjoy. its not the robinson crusoe island just enjoy.
    yes expensive.
    you can do tours at sunset or overnight on a boat- not as many tourists
    go to Long Beach instead of the main beach if staying on Island- or other beaches more remote.
    stay in a place that says you cant hear the party noise at night- read the reviews.

    in other words you need a few days to figure it out
    you cant see all of Thailand in one short trip so just accept Phuket / phi phi as the touristy Thailand. the amount of activities on these 2 places are nonstop.

  25. RandomBqckpcker says:

    If Phi Phi is dangerous to you then what isn’t. And I don’t like Lanta. The beaches there are full of rocks and very shallow.
    And if we are on the topic ‘dangerous’… when I was in Lanta I saw an motorbike accident every couple of days.
    Btw. I’m sitting in my aircon room in Phiphi. Super spacious room and bathroom for 550. but hey, it’s low season so it’s very easy to bargain a good price.
    But ye, it’s very touristic – I don’t like it either. But this is thailand and not Sulawesi – everything is super touristic.


Check out what others are saying about this post...
  1. […] whose opinions on travel I place above all of the other blogs I read; labelled Phi Phi an “overpriced, overdeveloped island that is good for partying but little else.” Nomadic Matt even stated, point-blank, that he hates Phi Phi. Again, they’re just […]

  2. […] I never really had huge expectations for Ko Phi Phi, the small island about an hour away from Phuket that seemed to be so popular with backpackers. As always when travel planning I turn to the blogging world for advice and all of the advice about Ko Phi Phi was telling me to run in the other direction. Nomadic Matt said it was the most overrated island in Thailand and Adventurous Kate, while acknowledging its beauty labelled it dangerous. […]

  3. […] whose opinions on travel I place above all of the other blogs I read; labelled Phi Phi an “overpriced, overdeveloped island that is good for partying but little else.” Nomadic Matt even stated, point-blank, that he hates Phi Phi. Again, they’re just […]

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