Updated on December 5, 2016
Exploring Maya Bay and the Phi Phi Islands
One of the main reasons for staying at the Holiday Inn Phi Phi Island on Koh Phi Phi Don during our brief time in Thailand was so that we would have easy access to Koh Phi Phi Leh, where Maya Bay is located. If any of you have seen the movie The Beach (then I’m really sorry, I’m sure you would like those 2 hours of your life back like I do…), than you have actually seen a lot of Maya Bay since that is “the beach” in the movie The Beach. To give you a little more perspective on where these islands are I have included some maps below with increasing zoom:
Maya Bay has become an extremely popular tourist destination and because of this it is usually overrun with people for the majority of the day, which I feel takes away a bit of the beauty and magic. Tour trips usually come from nearby Phuket with hundreds of people each morning and throughout the day. Speed boats take 60 to 90 minutes to get there from the docks near Phuket and usually leave between 7 and 8 A.M. So the key for me was to get there before it was overrun so I could enjoy the quiet splendor of it all.
To accomplish this, the day before, I walked up the beach and started talking to the Longtail Boat drivers who are parked all along the beach. We settled on 2400 THB ($68) to go out for 5 hours. I thought this price was pretty good because it also included the National Park fee for entering Maya Bay of 200 THB per person ($12 total), so the boat was then about $56. Besides Maya Bay, we also wanted to see all around the island, including the Viking Cave, and head back to Koh Phi Phi Don to see Monkey Beach!
The key to this excursion is that I wanted to leave 7 A.M. SHARP because I wanted to make sure we got there before it became overrun. So we woke up nice and early to meet our driver and headed over to the other side (west side) of the narrow island where our driver had parked his boat (the east side has extreme tides which are very low this early).
Our first stop was Maya Bay which took probably about 35 to 40 minutes to get to, but we were wowed by all the different rock formations on the way there. Once we arrived, we saw that there were a few boats in the bay but that the beach was largely empty!
One unfortunate thing about having to arrive so early is that the sun has not quite made it over the stone wall of the protected bay and therefore only a small portion of beach has sun, which gets larger and larger as the day progresses.
Since this area is a national park, there is a little place to buy snacks, as well as bathrooms tucked back off the beach in the vegetation.
If you go all the way to the back, there is a view of a second, much smaller, more open bay with very shoddy wooden walkways leading up to the opening to see it. Really not super exciting, but if there is no one there, as when I went, you might as well take a look.
After 2 hours at Maya Bay, it was time to go! We were ready to see other things and the throng of tourists was literally coming in by the boatload, making this quiet beach pretty crowded by 9:45 A.M.
After leaving Maya Bay, we traveled around the south side of the island and then up the east side to a second secluded cove named Pileh Lagoon where we went for a refreshing swim!
After our little dip, we continued our drive up the east side of the island to see the Viking Cave before heading back through open water to Koh Phi Phi Don again.
Making it back near Koh Phi Phi Don, we drove to the west side (the one we started on) and went over to Monkey Beach!
This is a very small stretch of beach and really has no place to lay out or relax, or really do anything other than watch the monkey…which are everywhere!
There are signs telling you not to feed them but people still seemed to be doing it. I would also recommend that you leave everything on your boat as these monkeys seemed to get into everything and take anything that was not nailed down! I was only carrying my camera so we didn’t have much to worry about.
Again, there were not a ton of people when we got there around 11:30, but it was PACKED when we left.
After leaving Monkey Beach we continued up the west coast of the island, around the top and then back down a bit on the east side to be dropped right in front of the Holiday Inn Phi Phi Island.
In the end we were probably gone for about 5 1/2 hours all together and I would have liked to go longer and to some of the other surrounding islands (like Bamboo Island), but our speedboat back to Phuket was leaving at 2pm so we wanted to make sure we were back in plenty of time.
This was an awesome last day in these Thai islands and it really just wet my appetite to come back and explore more. My advice (as much as I can give with only doing this once) is to try to stay at Koh Phi Phi Don and use that as a jumping off point to see these island and others in the area. Leave nice and early with some snacks! Don’t be afraid to go up to the Longtail boat drivers and haggle a bit on the price. Our driver was just one of the drivers on the beach but he was a really nice guy and a good guide.
Next we head back to Phuket for the night before a flight to Cambodia!
Here is the trip so far!