How To Beat the Crowds of Phi Phi 

I spent over a week at the Phi Phi Islands, a few days longer than expected on my month travels around the islands. when first arriving to Phi Phi Don, I was a bit underwhelmed and not that impressed. At first glance the pace is a bit dingy and grubby. An overload of tattoo shops, a dirty main beach and overpriced tours every direction you look.

in a bid to make the most of my time on Phi Phi Island, I slept on the floor of a boat with twenty others, spun fire rods on the beach and burnt my fingers, snorkeled with sharks, had a midnight swim with illuminating plankton.

Maya Bay

The single most famous reason tourists from all over the world flock to Koh Phi Phi? I’ll give you a hint; it’s beautiful, slightly rough around the edges but aging well…any ideas? No it’s not the Krabi coastline, its actor Leonardo DiCaprio, the man responsible for the huge influx of wanderers migrating to the Thai Islands in search of their own private paradise.

Sadly, Maya Bay is no longer the hidden gem it once was upon the release of The Beach. Google pictures of the crowded beah and you’ll see the reality. The only way to avoid this mayhem is to book a tour that is one of a kind. After much research and deliberation, I booked a once-in-a-lifetime trip with Maya Bay Sleep Aboard Tours. The tour is perfect for those who want to witness Maya Bay without the crowds. If you don’t mind a little discomfort/lack of luxury this one is for you!

Crowded Maya Bay on a sunny day (pic credit: themusescamecrashing.wordpress.com)

The boat departs roughly 3pm and sails all around the Phi Phi islands. Food and alcohol is supplied on board and sleeping arrangements are lax; basically sleep where you drop! Come evening time, when the crowds are dispersing and departing Maya Bay, the small group is taken on to the beach. Later that night, there is a campfire on the beach and a midnight swim in pitch black water with nothing but illuminating plankton lighting the way.  A full blog post on this trip will be available shortly on Sun Scribes..keep an eye out!

The beautiful empty Maya Bay that we enjoyed on our overnight tour. 

Monkey Beach

As I previously mentioned while chatting all things Phi Phi, our longboat trip to Monkey Beach was nothing short of a disaster. The stretch of sand is so tiny giving the illusion the place is packed with tourists. Hordes of peoples snap selfies with aggressive monkeys, tired of people teasing and tormenting them.

A packed Monkey Beach.

Instead, opt for the less known (and cheaper!) option of renting your own kayak and heading to Monkey Bay instead. From Loh Dalum Beach (the main beach with all the bars and parties), rent a kayak and paddle for about twenty minutes, turn left around the cliffs and you should see a gorgeous stretch of white sand in front of you. Be warned, do not bring ANY food on the island, or even plastic bags. The monkeys are used to finding food in bags and they will launch for you if you get to close!


Obviously no one needs to read a blog post to tell them how to party!! There is no way to avoid the partying crowds of Phi Phi, as it is no doubt infamous for its nightlife. However, if you wanna avoid the buckets, opt for a few 7/11 beers on the beach instead and see where the night takes you.

We had a crazy time here partying into the early hours on the beach every night. Be prepared for neon body painting, buckets of alcohol and a LOT of drugs! But Phi Phi here is only as crazy as you make it. Be mindful of what/how much you’re drinking and always stay with a buddy.The music here is unbelievable and the fire shows are insane! I sported blistered fingers for two weeks after a tried my hand at fire twirling!

….Oh and for the love of God, stay away from the flaming skipping ropes, I have a friend who can vouch that they only end one way: VERY BADLY!!!

Eat Local

As with many restaurants and bars in SE Asia, they’re pretty much all carbon copies of each other, all catering to the Western tourist. AND they’re crazy expensive compared to what you can find out there! Switch to eating in Tonsai villiage rather than the restaurants at the beach and you will get better food for a quarter of the price! We found ourselves sitting in a local’s kitchen more than once enjoying a delicious homemade Pad Tai for the equivalent of a euro!

Bamboo Island

This uninhibited island is a paradise lover’s dream come true. The sand is as white as flour and the water warm and turquoise. This is a great alternative to a beach day on Phi Phi. Unfortunately, as is the way with most things in Thailand, the best things are not free! A charted longtail to Bamboo is about 2,000BAHT, which is why it’s good to join up with a few friends and split the cost! Get chatting to a few people over buckets and extend the invite! Also, officials on the island charge a further 400BAHT once you step foot on the sand for the “upkeep of the island”.


How gorgeous in Bamboo Island?!

Shark Snorkelling

Forget snorkelling around the Phi Phi Islands. For any of those who are seasoned snorkelers, the coral here is going to be pretty underwhelming. Apparently a lot of dynamite fishing goes on here and the coral has suffered.

Instead, try shark snorkelling. Relax, they’re not dangerous! Phi Phi is home to leopard and black tip sharks, not harmful to humans. At the pier of Phi Phi walk left (left when facing the sea) toward Long Bay. At the far end of Long Bay you can hire fins and a mask for 150BAHT (bring extra cash to leave as a deposit). Swim about 100 meters out from the shore until you get to the coral bed. Here look closely around the reef to spot some sharks!

Phi Phi Viewpoint

Okay so this isn’t exactly off the beaten track, in fact it’s probably one of the most walked paths on the island! But I’m a sucker for a bit of a hike and viewpoint, and this looks good any time of the day. This is a tough enough walk, as it’s completely uphill for about 45 minutes.

The highest section of the viewpoint is situated in a Muslim area of the island so no alcohol is allowed at the top. My advice is go early evening to avoid searing heat, and on the way back down, stop in one of the viewpoint bars and enjoy a drink and watch the sunset from a height.

Low Season

This is probably the most obvious point to make, and not applicable to everyone, but time of travel is so important when exploring Thailand. We arrived on the Andaman Coast in mid-June. The weather was scorching hot, the beaches weren’t packed (half the time they were empty!) and the cost was low. However, that’s not to say low-season doesn’t come with a few drawbacks. Yes, the weather is still scalding, but with it comes horrendous midday thunderstorms and heavy rain. But look, I’ll take two/three hours of rain if it means I can beat the crowds and prices.

The empty beach of Phi Phi Don after a thunderstorm!

Keelin Riley
Keelin Riley

Keelin is an Irish travel writer with a degree in journalism and a background in the Irish media. Keelin’s travel writing has been published in various media publications, and when she’s not off gallivanting around the globe, she enjoys keeping Sun Scribes up-to-date for all those fellow budget travellers out there!

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