Koh Phi Phi Is Very Beautiful And May Kill You

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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 the Phi Phi islands expecting a pristine island paradise.

Unfortunately, they’re often met with a rude awakening upon arrival.

Koh Phi Phi is not paradise.

Don’t get me wrong – the island is beautiful.  Exquisitely beautiful.  But it’s been so overdeveloped and pushed to the brink that it’s extremely difficult to enjoy as a destination.

Overtourism has impacted many destinations. Sadly, overdevelopment has ruined the Phi Phi Islands.

This post was updated in December 2019 with accurate pricing and information.

Boats in the turquoise water on Phi Phi Island, Thailand.
Travel to Phi Phi Island and you’ll get to enjoy clear turquoise water like this.

Koh Phi Phi

Koh Phi Phi is one of the most famous islands off the Andaman Coast of Thailand (the west coast). The Phi Phi Islands consist of two islands: Koh Phi Phi Don and Koh Phi Phi Leh.

“Phi Phi” is pronounced “pee pee.” (Which is ironic, as the stressed sewage system means the island often smells like Koh Poo Poo.)

Koh Phi Phi Don is the only inhabited island, and it’s home to all the accommodation and amenities of the Phi Phi Islands. If you’re staying overnight on Koh Phi Phi, you’re staying on Koh Phi Phi Don. It’s a vehicle-free island and some hotel workers move luggage by dragging carts behind them, yelling, “Beep beep!” as they walk down the street.

Koh Phi Phi Leh is an uninhabited island to the south, home to famed Maya Bay, and it’s been closed to repair damage since 2018 (and will perhaps remain so through 2021). More on that below.

Koh Phi Phi was enormously damaged in the 2004 tsunami, where approximately 4,000 people on the island lost their lives. Roughly 70% of the island’s infrastructure was destroyed out. Looking at the shape of the island, where most of the development takes place on a narrow isthmus, it’s no surprise.

Looking back, this would have been the time to rebuild Koh Phi Phi in a sustainable way.

Sadly, it didn’t happen.

Koh Phi Phi was built up even WORSE than before. (And I can understand why — when you’ve lost everything, including your livelihood and possibly your loved ones, you’ll do whatever it takes to survive.)

Maya Bay Closed

Maya Bay on Koh Phi Phi Leh is where The Beach was shot. If you’ve seen the movie, you know that Maya Bay is almost unspeakably gorgeous.

But this is how Maya Bay looked when I went a few years ago. Today Maya Bay is dirty and crawling with tourists — up to 5,000 per day (!!).

Not exactly untouched. And much of the surrounding coral was destroyed as a result.

Thankfully, the Thai government stepped in and shut down the island in 2018. It was originally intended to last until late 2018, but now it may be closed until 2021.

But this closure is good! The Thai government has planted 10,000 coral plants in the surrounding area. While climate change remains a threat to the coral’s survival, this is a step in the right direction.

Drinking cocktails and holding up flames to the band in Koh Phi Phi.
Come to the Phi Phi islands if you’re here to party!

Is Koh Phi Phi Safe?

As safe as Thailand can be, which is generally quite safe, as long as you don’t drink too much and keep an eye on your belongings. Beyond that, Koh Phi Phi can be quite a dangerous place:

Dangerous for your wallet. Of all the places I visited in Thailand, Phi Phi was the most expensive by far. The cheapest lodging is about 1000 baht ($33) for an 18-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. 


How to Protect Your Belongings on the Beach

A view over Koh Phi Phi and its best hotels, a skinny piece of land in the middle that widens into two cliff-topped pieces of land.
Koh Koh Phi from above

Is Koh Phi Phi Worth It?

Should you visit Phi Phi? If you still want to go after reading this, at least you have that knowledge now. I’m glad I got a chance to see it, even though I doubt I would ever return.  Just make sure you go in knowing exactly what it is: an overpriced, overdeveloped island that is good for partying but little else.

A hammock and straw umbrella palapa on Relax Bay, Koh Lanta, Thailand, clear turquoise water and the beach.
Relax Bay in Koh Lanta is SO much better than Koh Phi Phi.

Koh Lanta is Better Than Koh Phi Phi

Koh Lanta is one of my favorite places in the world, and it’s a million times better than Koh Phi Phi. I first arrived in Koh Lanta from Koh Phi Phi and I was struck by how much better of a time I had.

Koh Lanta is a long, skinny island with beaches along the west coast, giving you prime viewing to some of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen. It’s home to several beaches, each with their own personality. It’s a great place to rent a motorbike and explore the island. It’s home to some excellent restaurants including one of my favorite restaurants in the world, Red Snapper.

And the people of Koh Lanta are some of the friendliest, most welcoming Thais I’ve met on my travels.

Most impressively, Koh Lanta has not fallen to the same fate as Koh Phi Phi. I’ve continued to visit the island and I’m impressed that it hasn’t fallen victim to overtourism. One reason is that Koh Lanta has ample land for development, but the other is that the locals guard it closely. It’s wonderful that it’s stayed this way and I hope it continues.

Koh Lanta doesn’t have the insane cliffs and views of the Phi Phi islands, nor those of Railay or other spots in Krabi. But you know what? That’s okay. Koh Lanta is still more beautiful than the vast majority of islands in the world!


Adventurous Kate’s Complete Guide to Koh Lanta, Thailand

Railay Beach, people walking in the distance with long tail boats on shore and cliffs the distance.
Railay Beach on Krabi’s mainland makes a great alternative to Koh Phi Phi.

Other Alternatives to Koh Phi Phi

If you’d like to go elsewhere on Thailand’s Andaman Coast, consider Railay Beach on the mainland, just off of Krabi. Railay is facing overdevelopment concerns, but it isn’t as severe as Koh Phi Phi and I still recommend visiting.

If you’re willing to head to the Gulf coast (Thailand’s east coast), consider Koh Phangan, home to the world’s most famous full moon party, or Koh Tao, a small but lovely island with tons of dive schools.

And if you don’t mind a trip to the northern edge of the Gulf coast, head to Koh Chang, which you can still enjoy on the cheap.

But if you’re willing to go to another country — go to Boracay in the Philippines! I found Boracay to be very similar in ethos to Koh Phi Phi but larger and much more peaceful (particularly around Station Three and further south).

Bungalows hidden in the trees offshore at Koh Phi Phi
If you travel to Koh Phi Phi, make sure to choose the best hotels Koh Phi Phi has to offer!

Where to Stay in Koh Phi Phi

Koh Phi Phi is one of the most expensive islands in Thailand, especially for budget accommodation. Even a bed in an 18-bed dorm room can cost you upwards of 1000 baht per night ($33).

On an island as small as Koh Phi Phi Don, choosing the wrong accommodation can leave you in trouble. Here are the best hotels Koh Phi Phi has to offer:

Best Luxury Hotel Koh Phi Phi: Zeavola Resort

If you’re looking for Koh Phi Phi’s best luxury resort, stay at Zeavola Resort. This incredible five-star hotel is hidden in the jungle with a private beach, infinity pool among the trees, and the most gorgeous wooden bungalows outfitted with traditional Thai decor. This is definitely the most romantic place to stay in Koh Phi Phi.

Best Mid-range Hotel Koh Phi Phi: PP Princess Resort

I stayed at the PP Princess Resort in Koh Phi Phi and this infinity pool alone makes it spectacular! It feels like a splurge but you can get it for a much lower price than the luxury properties on the island. It’s conveniently located right on the beach in the heart of the island, and you have easy access to everything.

Best Budget Hotel Koh Phi Phi: Panmanee Hotel

Panmanee Hotel is where to stay in Koh Phi Phi on a budget, and you get a lot of value for money at this simple guesthouse. It’s located in the heart of the island, close to the beach; it’s close to all the amenities on Koh Phi Phi itself; the rooms are a bit cheesy, but they’re clean and well-sized.

Best Hostel Koh Phi Phi: Dormsin Hostel

A lot of hostels in Koh Phi Phi are designed for partying. My recommendation? You can party anywhere on the island — so come back to something nicer. Dormsin is a VERY simple hostel — it’s basically 18-bed dorms, but it’s clean, quiet, and consistently rated the best hostel in Koh Phi Phi.

Find hotel deals in Koh Phi Phi here and see all Koh Phi Phi Airbnbs here.

A single Longtail boat on the turquoise water with Koh Phi Phi's cliffs rising around.

How to Get to Koh Phi Phi

Koh Phi Phi does not have an airport — you must arrive by sea.

Getting to Koh Phi Phi by Boat

You can reach Koh Phi Phi by boat from several departure points:

  • Krabi (along with Ao Nang and Railay): 1:45-2 hour journey
  • Phuket: 1:30-2 hour journey
  • Koh Lanta: 1-hour journey

These are real ferries with enough room for your luggage — no longtail boats necessary (unless you depart from Railay, where everyone arrives and departs by longtail boat).

Getting to Koh Phi Phi by Air

If you want to fly to Koh Phi Phi, I recommend flying into either Krabi or Phuket. If you’re coming from outside Southeast Asia, there are tons of cheap connecting flights from Bangkok. It may save you a lot of money to book this leg of the flight separately on its own.

I recommend using Skyscanner to find the best rates to Krabi or Phuket.

Krabi airport is on the mainland, and it’s a bit closer. From the airport you can get a shuttle to the pier in Krabi town and take the boat from there.

Phuket is a much larger island north of Koh Phi Phi. Phuket is a bit more of a connected airport than Krabi with more international direct flights. Again, you can take a shuttle to the pier and take the boat direct.

Getting to Koh Phi Phi by Bus or Train

If you’re traveling overland from elsewhere in Thailand, I recommend getting a bus to Krabi and taking the ferry from there. There are trains in Thailand but they only go as far south as Suratthani on the Gulf coast, and you’ll have to get an additional bus from there.

Kate enjoying a longtail boat in the Phi Phi Islands, Thailand

Should You Go to Koh Phi Phi?

Koh Phi Phi can be a lot of fun, but it’s not the greatest island by far. There are so many better islands in Thailand and if your time is limited, I urge you to concentrate your island time somewhere else (go to Koh Lanta!).

But if you choose to travel to the Phi Phi Islands, I urge you to keep your expectations in check. This is not going to be the paradise you’ve dreamed of.

Have you been to Koh Phi Phi? What did you think?

47 thoughts on “Koh Phi Phi Is Very Beautiful And May Kill You”

  1. 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. 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!

  3. 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!

      1. Really? Yes, that could be really helpful!! Do you mind sharing the secret of this place? Always searching for nice places in less touristic areas! Will check out your blog too!:)

          1. Thanks a lot for sharing the infos! The advices are always welcomed! I take good notes of what you said. Looks like a nice place to stay really! And not expensive!

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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. 🙂

  9. …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

      1. 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.

    1. 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!

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

      1. Thank you for Kate for updating this article as it confirms my suspicions that I should skip Koh Phi Phi altogether.! I want to include Thailand in my 2020 travels. When do you recommend visiting this region ? I have been watching Below Deck Thailand lately, I am not sure when it was filmed but they are all sweltering so I would like to stay away then

  12. Kate,

    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?


  13. 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!



    1. 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.

  14. 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

  15. 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?

  16. 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.

  17. RandomBqckpcker

    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.

  18. I visited Koh Phi Phi last year, and I am hoping to return again next year. I mostly agree with what you say, Koh Phi Phi is not the untouched secret paradise island that people imagine, and if you want somewhere chilled out there are much nicer spots like Koh Kradan or Koh Jum which are still untouched! But if you want to spend a few days partying surrounded by beautiful nature and beaches. Well, Phi Phi is an incredible place to be. And there is more to the island than the town, as soon as you leave the town (which most people don’t) thinks get a lot more natural and peaceful.

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